Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary
















June 30, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 23 to June 29, 2012:

1. An Italian news paper publishes an unfortunate cartoon about one of its national soccer team's stars.

2. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund sends $10K to Ryan Matheson for more relief on the financial burden imposed on him by overzealous, irresponsible prosecutors; this throws a spotlight on the continuing financial needs of an institution like the CBLDF and just how long the damage from a poorly-conceived legal assault can last.

3. The writer Ed Brubaker becomes the highest profile mainstream comics creator to talk at length about this summer's renewed attention to creator's rights issues; both actions and words indicating a series of complex, shifting attitudes amongst today's professionals.

Winner Of The Week
SAW

Loser Of The Week
Gazzetta dello Sport

Quote Of The Week
"The basic acts of publishing are printing and promotion. If you are a publisher but you can't print or promote, are you still a publisher? Some very smart people say yes, and I'm honestly not sure, because you're unable to fulfill your basic roles and are counting on others to do that, and that's where my conflict is." -- Chris Butcher

*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s

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If I Were In Fairbanks, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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12 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Mister X

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I think Mister X may be the most 1980s comics series of them all, for a variety of reasons. It certainly seems that way to my memory. Mister X existed as a series of compelling advertisements before it ever became a comic book. Those single images by Paul Rivoche -- working with series creator Dean Motter -- may be my primary memory of that title, presaging a time when the discussion about, previews of and speculation concerning all items of pop culture may have sway over the object itself. That I just had to qualify a series of advertisements in terms of their provenance gives us an entry point into the feature's panoply of creative talent. The initial issues were executed by Los Bros Hernandez; later installments featured work by a number of super-quality creators including Seth (!) and D'Israeli. A variety of artists working on a single title was the exception rather than the rule in that realm of comics, and the baffling provenance of who created what and when and to what extent made Mister X seem to me like some sort of avatar of old industry issues, like it was being sacrificed on an altar of how maybe not to do things now.

The Mister X story as I remember it in the early issues was that a man claiming to be an architect of a futuristic city, now slightly to severely broken in a way that makes its citizens go mad, returns with aims to rid the place of the psychological cruelties that are being inflicted on those people. He does this by accessing elements of the design known to him and by staying up all the time through the ingestion of a drug. He has an adorable, sort-of to yes-very-much-his girlfriend; there are direct obstacles in the shapes of outsized gangster-type people. I'm sure I'm missing 80 percent of it, but that's what stuck. That seems to me now a perfectly serviceable plot, more than enough for a prestige cable-TV series, say. That said, my other memory is they kept resetting the title's reality, reveal after reveal trotted out like the work some late-1990s wrestling booker determined to swerve his audience. The flexibility provided by hinted-at secrets and to-be-revealed character realities has always been a crutch for serial comics writers; in Mister X this was wielded like a blackjack. Mister X has to offer the smallest number of total issues for any comics character in which I've ever been interested to totally lose me. I suppose the titles has been reset since, maybe to fine effect. Comics is good at that, too.

I read Mister X for such a short period of time that if I were to consume those same issues today the same way I bet it would feel like a single encounter. Everything makes more of an impact on you when you're 15, even the stuff that ultimately doesn't stay with you in more than tatters of memory. Mister X represents on this list of 1980s comics all the series that faded or flamed out -- at least for me, in fact just for me -- by not ending, or switching creative teams, or never quite settling into a creative run I could hold onto, or leaving the field with its publisher, or being a memory for its creator when they go on to better things. If there's one difference between the way I read comics 25-30 years ago and the way I consume them now, it's that sense of mercy felt for the whole, mad mess of it: the unrealistic hope to see a new world through new eyes, the knowledge that in most cases it wouldn't work, the certainty that in other it wouldn't last, and an appreciation of the minor miracle that occurs when everything falls into place. I miss that.
 
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June 29, 2012


Go, Look: Reuben Weekend Photo Array

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Go, Read: Really Good New Eleanor Davis Comic

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Go, Look: Vampirella Gallery

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Not Comics: Spacemen Covers

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* the effort to fund the off-site independent comics social and retail hub Trickster at the forthcoming Comic-Con International has pushed past the halfway point with 12 days left for funding. I think those $300 contribution in exchange for working with a pro on one of your projects sounds like a pretty good value if you're at the point you could use something like that, and it doesn't cost too much relative to the cost of going to San Diego in the first place. I'm also sort of glad they've avoided VIP leveling at the place itself; they could raise some money that way, but it would give the whole effort a different air.

* not comics: hey, a Wayne White documentary effort.

* they are heading into the last few hours on the Cerebus: High Society fundraiser. Dave Sim promises details on how the money will be spent, which I think is a good thing and should be instructive, besides.

* finally, projects involving Micah Wright and P. Craig Russell are in that halfway-there zone that seems crucial for a lot of efforts.
 
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Go, Look: The Blonde Woman (Now Completed)

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CBLDF Disburses Another $10K To Ryan Matheson

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced yesterday that a wave of contributions has meant the organization has been able to give another $10,000 to Ryan Matheson to help him pay off the $75,000 in legal fees incurred when Canada Customs brought charges against him involving manga on his laptop. The charges were dropped earlier this year. The Fund has now provided $30,000 to Matheson's legal costs, while the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund in Canada has kicked in $11,000. The remaining $34,000 is still being sought.

Matheson released a grateful statement to CBLDF supporters in the linked-to piece.
 
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Missed It: Newest Kate Beaton

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Sequential Artists Workshop Institutes Micro-Grants

The Sequential Artists Workshop has committed to giving out grants of $250 to "practicing artists" that "must be developing and dedicated to a current project" according to their press release. Two grants will be given out on September 15 of this year; two more will be awarded next year on April 15.

A form is available through the above link. The deadline for the September grants is August 15; the deadline for the 2013 grant is March 15. A committee made up of SAW's Tom Hart and Leela Corman, the publisher Annie Koyama and a small group of working cartoonists will decide on who gets the awards.

I'm all for money getting out there and into the hands of artists, and I'm all for the recognition that in comics a minor amount of money judiciously distributed can do a major amount of good.
 
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Go, Look: Pogo #2

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Collective Memory: HeroesCon 2012

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this article has been archived
 
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If I Were In Vermont, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Another Round Of Great World Cartoons

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* new R. Fiore is always worth celebrating.

image* Patrick Meaney on St. Swithin's Day. Stephen Carlick on Ed The Happy Clown. Austin English on a bunch of different comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Are You My Mother? Jeet Heer on The GNB Double-C and Are You My Mother? Matt Seneca on Light Comitragies.

* not comics: I'd feel better about this Spider-Man ramen if I could tell what those little Spider-Man heads are made of.

* Graeme McMillan agrees with me that DC promoting its creators is worth noting, although he emphasizes different elements of the campaign than I did. Also, Image's publisher responds with a well-deserved zinger. Speaking of McMillan, he picks up on some MorrisonCon news I didn't get included in my festival round-up today. Basically, the top tier stuff has sold out. Like I said, given trends in concert, convention and sports arena buying habits, this doesn't seem like a shocker. I'm sort of surprised no one's tried elite packages within someone else's Comic-Con framework.

* Daryl Cagle shares the sketch he was working on regarding healthcare that a twist in yesterday's news meant he did not end up completing.

* Meredith Woerner talks to Marc Webb. Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner profile the great Peter Bagge.

* Gary Tyrrell breaks down the webcomics presence in San Diego.

* not comics: Fantagraphics has been putting a lot of individual on-line effort into its Significant Objects project, which indicates to me at least someone or a few someone there at the publishing company is very taken with that book.

* he's our favorite Houston arts blogger, too.

* not comics: that sounds like a good property to launch as a movie franchise, although which version of the team is anybody's guess. I always wondered if that concept didn't have some unreached potential in the funnybook shops, too.

* that Captain Marvel makes me want to punch someone in the face, so it has that going for it. They can spend all that energy reverse-developing Alan Moore's characters instead of working with the rich vein of comics that is Captain Marvel?

* finally, this preview of Spider Monkey #2 has been sitting in my bookmarks for a few days now.
 
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13 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Richie Rich Million Dollar Digest

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We had enough comics around the house when I was a kid in the 1970s that reading comics could be said to be a primary kids activity within the house. When other kids came over to visit, they might read comics with us. When we were bored, we might be told to read comics. When we were in front of the television watching a movie or a favorite show, that might also mean we were reading comics. We had to be told not to take them to the dinner table, and only if there was something going on that made that meal something other than a standard one -- otherwise, we read them there, too. In terms of our generally paying attention to comics, the 1980s changed little. But comics shops and our becoming adults and their increased price and even quality meant we placed more significant attention on each individual comic book as something we might read in a very specific way.

Harvey Comics were the last comics in our house to resist that transformation. Those things were just around, it seemed like, well past the time when we might have been interested in the content of the comics themselves as anything more than a goof or way to pass a few minutes. If the Marvel and independent comics we owned were read the moment we got home and then re-read over the next couple of days before being put with the other comics of that type we had, the Harveys were read whenever the hell we got to them and spent the time between readings in giant piles that sort of changed and sort of didn't; they were comics that seemed to exist without our ever having purchased them. They didn't live in bags and boards; these were the comics in cabinets and drawers, perhaps piled on top of the Fisher Price stuff that somehow avoided the annual family garage sale. It's a very different reading experience, just having a bunch of comics that you might power through, completely oblivious to when they came out or in what order they existed or, really, to anything inside the covers other than the temporary distraction they provided. I would like to say that my brothers and I had a highly refined aesthetic palate when it cames to these comics, but that would be a total lie. I sure hope there was no Good Richie Rich Artist whose sussing out was dependent on the Spurgeon household, because if that's the case we have done the art form a grave disservice.

This particular series whose covers I recall were digests, which was an interesting form for comics at that time: a sign, I think, of the bottoming out that almost famously cracked the industry into not-to-be-recovered pieces. I think of digests in terms of Archie, but both DC and Harvey put some effort into publishing books like these, better-bang-for-buck and more-bucks-per-racking-exposure-inch issuances that could be sold in newsstands with Reader's Digest and TV Guide. It was a nice format for little kids and for really forcing one to focus in on the work; it wasn't always easy to tell what was going on with comics at that size, even ones as clear as the Harvey stuff. If there's any hangover to taking in so many comics of this type in addition to those from the mainstream model that was slowly transforming itself in the 1980s, it's that it maybe made humor comics easier to parse later on, not such a break with the "established" way of doing things. You don't get new comics that serve this particular function anymore, at least I don't think you do, but that function didn't depend on the comics being new. I imagine there are piles of comics out there in more homes than we think, and that some of those stacks may include these exact same books.
 
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June 28, 2012


I Like This Gallery Of CAKE-Related Photos Enough To Single It Out

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* just about everything in comics is focused on Comic-Con International, which begins two weeks from today. The updates are coming hard and heavy at the site, such as the beginning of the programming which went up the same day this was posted. As always, I'll be keeping a strip-mined comics programming list here for me to look at when I'm in San Diego. Take it for what you will. I'm on there a few times, two moderating gigs and a sit-on-a-panel one.

* that doesn't mean there aren't shows between now and then; here's one in Louisville. Louisville's a fun city, with interesting regional cuisine.

* Heidi MacDonald notes a tightening up of press credentials at the New York Comic-Con. I know people have fun at that show and it's very popular, but it almost seems designed to not interest me in the slightest. And I adore going to New York. But anyway, I'm totally behind all the shows having more realistic press-pass policies, because that's something that gets abused to death by tons of folks.

* MacDonald also digs up a story on what looks like random badge checks at San Diego. I've said this a bunch of times, but that makes total sense to me. The fact that the badges sell out more quickly every year makes the badges more and more valuable in a way they're going to want to protect against a market for fake badges. I liked the wackiness of the loose-with-badges years, too, but I don't begrudge this at all. I hope their enforcement goes as smoothly as possible.

* I'm not sure if this is new or not, but I guess the shuttle service at San Diego is way more extensive than it used to be and the buses run 24 hours to some locations now. Speaking of San Diego, I guess some of the major movie studios are sitting this one out. I feel bad for anyone that made plans on the certainty of seeing one thing or another when that thing doesn't show up. It makes sense that studios would reconsider these efforts, though, given the hit-and-miss success of hyping movies there.

* no one had more fun than Will Eisner at comics shows.

* probably the most interesting story of the last couple of weeks is the announcement of an "old-timey" comics convention in San Diego this October to celebrate Comic-Con's past and the fan culture from which it spawned. Original SDCCers Mark Evanier and Jackie Estrada are among the guests. I'm all for comics shows, and this sounds like one with a directed purpose that could be very fun for those interested and those that were there.

* don't be alarmed, but SPX is less than three months away.

* I don't read the Bleeding Cool site as much as I probably should, but this is an awesome post stringing together a bunch of the weirder hiring-type notices related to San Diego's forthcoming Comic-Con. Good work on that one.

* finally, Paul Gravett reports on the 2012 edition of Kapow!
 
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Go, Look: Blazing Combat Cover Gallery

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Vermont, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Some Gene Fawcette Work

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Chris Butcher wonders after established publishers using Kickstarter. I think there's an opportunity for everyone to use that service as a pre-order service, but I think once you get into "this won't exist unless you fund it" territory it starts to feel like a total abandonment of what many of us feel is a publisher's basic responsibility to bring capital to the table, not just acumen and relationships. It's going to happen, though. A lot. Soon.

image* David Brothers on Amazing Spider-Man #122. That's a nice page. Rob Clough on Black Blizzard. Greg McElhatton on Dare Detectives: The Snow-Pea Plot. Mercer Finn on Sandman. Alan David Doane on David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil Born Again Artist's Edition. Sean Gaffney on Alice In The Country Of Hearts Omnibus Vol. 3. Grant Goggans on The Jikan Chronicles Book Two. J. Caleb Mozzocco on a bunch of comics-shop comics.

* not comics: Bret Easton Ellis used to write letters to Warren magazines. (via Rodrigo Baeza)

* Sarah Glidden drew some people in Brooklyn. I quite like this drawing by Max. That forthcoming Jordan Crane comic looks like a lot of fun. Matt Madden is posting a lot of sketches here these days. Renee French is always awesome. I like this Roman Muradov piece. This is a different style from Matthias Adolfsson.

* not comics: this article on terrible Batman reboots through existing film/TV properties is hilarious only that it's impossible to tell how seriously it's to be taken.

* Chris Marshall talks to Pete Crowther.

* I don't have time this morning to sort this out and attest to its authenticity, so I ask you not to pay attention to the specifics as much as the general shape of the story and take it all with a big grain of salt -- I'll also be happy to run a correction/update if some outside source can attest to something wrong there. I'm linking to it anyway, because I think we should always pay extra, solictioius attention to word of exploitation in comics because comics is soaked in the shameless, casual abuse of creative people up and down the line. Seriously. Like I'm 80 percent sure that what cave drawings we've seen are probably swipes of someone else's cave drawings.

* my apologies to Scott Kurtz for the non-direct aspects of the following, but I have not read the Matthew Dow Smith posts that Johanna Draper Carlson recommends here, and that seems like a pretty good launching point to those pieces if they sound interesting to you.

* I was hoping without much hope that Fantagraphics would pull the trigger on a Spike cover for their Peanuts volumes at some point before it started to be "Oh crap; we only have a few covers left." Well, all right. The line for the Spike resurgence begins over here.

* here's a story on similarities between that horrible-looking movie Ted and a comics effort. I imagine there could be something to it, but at the same time there are concept that are so broadly generic that it's hard to imagine that anyone would need to borrow directly from another iteration of that idea. Like vampire gangsters or something. I noodled on something for years that sounds a lot like the forthcoming movie Looper; it happens.

* D+Q pays tribute to The Montreal Mirror.

* I think the conventional wisdom on DC doing creator-focused ads will be a combination of 1) defense vs. a criticism that it's not a creator-friendly place right now (or perhaps ever), 2) a reaction against Image's successful promotion of individual creator in their similar-looking ads, 3) the fruition of social media, where personal connections count for a lot and it really doesn't work the way would want it to for Snapper Carr to have a twitter account. I have to admit my first though on seeing their first one is Scott Snyder is that they've decided he's their first New 52 era A-list emergent talent, and they want you to know that, too.

* finally, Steven Heller on fumetti.
 
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14 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Mai, The Psychic Girl

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I'm not up on my translated-manga history, so I don't know where Mai, The Psychic Girl stands in terms of bringing that material to US audiences or why that project was selected by Viz and Eclipse for their foray into doing those kinds of series. I suspect it's an important early, sustained effort, particularly for "non prestige" material, but for all I know maybe people don't count Mai because it was flipped for this version. That's a tough world, one I don't always understand. I think Mai was a good choice, though. Mai featured the artwork of Ryiochi Ikegami; you couldn't grow a more idealized version of what North American action comics fans hoped that these manga artists were like if you had a futuristic laboratory with comics artist ingredients clearly labeled on the shelves. Everyone in Ikegami's work is super-appealing looking, a full commitment to being gorgeous that American superhero comics only ever embraced in oblique, occasional fashion. He's also one of those guys that can seemingly draw anything in his style, which is something that you'd only reserve for about 10 North American veterans even if a gig allowed them to do so. Throw a fine set of action-depiction chops and Ikegami was a perfect initial delivery system for the kind of studied, storytelling hooks manga offered after years of a wider appeal to their audiences than North American comics ever had to have: 1940s comic-strip pleasures, 1960s Disney Studio crowd-pleasing acumen. North American audiences were doomed.

The comic book series version of Mai was also attractively designed -- it stood out against an increasingly dreary cover landscape, at least -- and came out with military precision that you didn't see except in comics in which a lot of fans my age were losing interest at a noticeable rate. The story of a nice, ridiculously adorable girl's development of massive psychic abilities, the evil suits that seek to control her, and the scruffy, attractive and/or noble people that try to protect her, Mai or echoes of Mai can be seen in different stories or films about once a year. I have no idea if that's because Mai was influential or if it was drawing from a pretty standard pool of plot device and narrative approaches; my guess is both, favoring column B. As far as Mai starring a girl rather than a guy, I had no problem staring at the character for issue after issue, to the point I wonder if that's really a thing for comics audiences as is claimed for it. When it comes to Mai being a harbinger of asian pop culture chic... well, maybe. I can't really connect it to the appeal that manga later had because that seemed to start again from a zero point, but reading Mai and the other books out there at the time did seem to have some sort of continuity to watching Japanese cartoons, particularly the promise that there was all this slightly better stuff over there just waiting to be accessed. Reading Mai also wasn't that different in a way than watching the first wave of Asian action cinema that hit North American art houses like Chicago's The Music Box two, three years later -- that also seemed to favor material that did North American genres in a slightly grander, more ruthlessly effective way, art reflective of broadly mainstream taste that you could still feel exclusive taking in.

Dragging movies into this discussion seems appropriate because I also remember Mai as one of the first comics I read where there seemed to be fevered, near-irrational interest in seeing a film version, almost like it didn't exist as perfectly enjoyable comics but needed to find its way onto screen in order to justify itself. This was still the case some years later when Ikegami appeared in San Diego and received a barrage of questions to which his response was mostly the same: "I don't know anything about a movie version; I just drew the thing." I imagine Mai looks hoary and square to a lot of readers now, particularly manga readers, but that's only a hunch. I do remember I made it all the way through from beginning to end, and that this was a solid contributor to the pleasure I derived visiting the comics shop in the late 1980s. It did the job.
 
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June 27, 2012


Go, Look: Chris Sims' Jack Kirby Character Sketchbook Updated

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Go, Read: Chris Butcher's First Comics Shop Experience

The retailer, convention organizer and general industry advocate Chris Butcher writes about his first experiences with comic books and a comic book store in a way that should be familiar to a lot of readers who enjoy and rely on such outlets. Butcher reminds that one of the great things about comic books stores as they came along a generation ago is that they had all the comics -- it was seriously difficult relying on a newsstand distribution for the basic feature of getting serial comics from month to month in reliable fashion. As Butcher points out, this also extends to past issues with something like MAD. Can you imagine being a kid into MAD and discovering a place where you might be able to buy decades of MAD? Oh man, that would be great.

Direct market shops can be aggravating both individually and as a collective unit, but the collapse of retail in so many areas of consumption that I enjoy has made me stop and realize anew what a great thing it is that there are places to buy so many comics. I hope they never go all the way away.
 
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Go, Look: Massive, Image-Stuffed Jess Fink Site

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Italian Newspaper Apologies For Unfortunate Euro 2012 Cartoon

imageWell, there it is. Not sure I have much to say about that. This is the soccer player Mario Balotelli, a very talented and I'd say charismatic player -- I know who he is, and I get lost with those guys all the time -- who plays in the Premier League for current champions Manchester City and is part of the Italy team currently playing (last I checked) in the Euro 2012 tournament. As one of the spokespeople quoted mentions, his being on the Italian team at all is a big deal, and symbolic, and encouraging for a lot of people, which makes this depiction a bit tragic, really. The usual course of dialogue is taken, it looks like, which makes me think we need a new way to talk about this kind of thing. I wish there a way to cop to the ugliness of depicting someone in that matter that didn't turn on there not being a machine out there that lets us know what's in someone's heart. I don't see that happening any time soon, though.
 
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Go, Look: 2000AD Production Art

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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt largely accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here. I might not buy any. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

MAR121193 LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF HC $14.95
New Eddie Campbell is always a joy, and I know next to nothing about this work except its subject matter is money. I'd read Eddie Campbell on anything, to be honest with you.

imageAPR120536 FATALE #6 (MR) $3.50
APR120024 BPRD HELL ON EARTH EXORCISM #1 (OF 2) $3.50
APR12004 RESET #3 (OF 4) $3.50
APR120189 BATMAN INCORPORATED #2 $2.99
APR120290 SPACEMAN #7 (OF 9) (MR) $2.99
APR120010 FATIMA THE BLOOD SPINNERS #1 (OF 4) HERNANDEZ CVR $3.99
APR120545 MANHATTAN PROJECTS #4 $3.50
APR120553 PROPHET #26 $2.99
APR120644 FF #19 $2.99
This is a super-strong week for comic-book comics, one of those Wednesdays you could drop $30 without even getting into the more peculiar parts of your particular comics-buying jones. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are launching the second Fatale sequence today; I enjoyed that comic. It's joined by Peter Bagge, Gilbert Hernandez, new Mignola-verse stuff, one of those new Liefeld-verse comics that everyone likes, and projects featuring high-profile writers above the title. It's a bit pulpy, but that's a good little pile of funnybooks right there. I'm super-looking forward to seeing the Gilbert Hernandez.

APR120439 FATALE TP VOL 01 DEATH CHASES ME (MR) $14.99
APR120451 MORNING GLORIES TP VOL 03 P.E. $14.99
APR120720 DEFENDERS BY MATT FRACTION TP VOL 01 $19.99
APR120706 FF BY JONATHAN HICKMAN PREM HC $19.99
This is also a good work for the ongoing trade collection of well-regarded mainstream/indy comics efforts, and that's assuming I got everything worth looking at listed here which I likely didn't. The serial trade paperback -- one of these is a hardcover, but there's a point still to be had -- operates more and more like comic books. You're not waiting for the trade as much as following the trade.

MAR120029 USAGI YOJIMBO LTD HC VOL 26 TRAITORS O/T EARTH $59.99
MAR120028 USAGI YOJIMBO TP VOL 26 TRAITORS O/T EARTH $16.99
FEB120047 TALES O/T BEANWORLD HC VOL 03.5 $14.99
It's always great to see veteran cartoonists with efforts out; Stan Sakai and Larry Marder definitely qualify as veteran cartoonists. I recently dumped all my Usagi trades to buy that work in comics form whenever I encounter it, but it works well in trade. The texture and quality of Sakai's cartooning flatters a longer exposure.

MAY121422 BILL THE BOY WONDER SECRET CO-CREATOR OF BATMAN HC $17.95
If you're feeling bad about buying that Batman, Inc. comic -- and guilt is a terrible platform from which to buy things, seriously -- you could also purchase this storybook profile of Bill Finger, the patient zero of comics exploitation.

FEB121041 MR TWEE DEEDLE RAGGEDY ANN COUSIN GRUELLE HC (RES) $75.00
This is a staggering-looking book of work from the cartoonist Johnny Gruelle that I think ran concurrently to the Raggedy Ann stuff that found more of a place in the pop-culture firmament. You could see this as a way of exploring where someone like Tony Millionaire came from, or as a precursor to the Peter Wheat book someone out there has to be doing.

APR121306 DROPS OF GOD GN VOL 04 $14.95
There are a few pretty good-looking upper-end mainstream (in that other sense of the word) manga efforts out this; Vertical's latest in this all-time feature-article generating wine series would be my pick.

APR121232 LOEG III CENTURY #3 2009 (MR) $9.95
Okay, this week is so stuffed that I totally missed this comic the first time I posted this list. This is the Alan Moore Kevin O'Neill ending to the latest League Of Extraordinary Gentleman series. Come for the Harry Potter equivalent; stay for the clever insights into franchise making and the modern imagination. I am vastly entertained by these Moore books, so getting a new one is a real summer highlight for me. It's the kind of book I'd make a trip to the comics shop just to buy, and my comics shop is three hours away.

FEB120281 GET JIRO HC (MR) $24.99
This is the Anthony Bourdain project, which looks like it's tapping into the "Ramones reading Thor" part of the author and television personality's interest in comics as opposed to "writing elegant obituaries for Harvey Pekar" part. Still, I like his writing, and I'd look at this if I were in a store for sure. Bourdain's also one of those guys like Louis CK and maybe Neil Gaiman that seems uniquely suited to make use of social media opportunities by having a body of work and appealing to a wide demographic at an age where his fans are going to want to interact that way. So maybe there's an opportunity for DC there.

MAY121017 SONG OF ROLAND GN $20.00
I almost feel bad that the latest Paul book from Michael Rabagliati comes out this week, because this week offers a ridiculous number of books to people that might be that book's natural audience. Even if you're going, say, Sacco and Huizenga and Mazzucchelli this week, take note that this is out and return to it in a light week ahead. I thought this was very attractive, but you already know that if you're familiar with that work at all.

JAN120442 BERKELEY BREATHED OUTLAND COMP COLL HC $39.99
I had no idea this was coming out, and I look forward to getting into it at some point just to make some sort of historical-perspective appraisal of the work, which I've only seen in the original syndicated-in-my-paper form. It was always kind of sad to me that of the 1980s newspaper heavy hitters Breathed was maybe punished for using his bump to continue working but in a different vein.

MAR120352 DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI DAREDEVIL BORN AGAIN ARTIST ED HC PI
Well, you're not likely to see a better-looking volume this year than this oversized (it's the size of the original pages, so it's really not... oh, never mind) collection of David Mazzucchelli's finely-tuned art for one of the most attractive runs of superhero comics maybe ever. Seeing the work like this is enough of a revelation and pleasure that I can recommend the book despite the fact that two years ago in Muncie, Indiana I found the entire run of comic books for $1 each and I'm told this isn't a rare thing. Make a retailer that carried this really happy by rewarding that risk.

APR120987 ANNA AND FROGA WANT A GUMBALL HC $14.95
This is a very well-liked series for kids in the French market -- I think it routinely gets nominated for kids-oriented comics honors -- about which I know basically nothing other than it looks charming. Here's a cartoon adaptation. I'd be dying to look at this, for sure.

DEC111050 GLORIANA HC $19.95
Oh, hey, we're two-thirds of the way through our list and it's a new, attractive, hardcover version of one of the best modern comics. I'll buy this book no matter how it's put out there -- it's kind of like works from Chester Brown and Los Bros Hernandez and Jack Kirby that way. I'm not sure how to describe it except as a series of thoughtful meditation on a collection of small moments. The execution is what makes this, obviously.

DEC111124 JOURNALISM HC $29.00
And here's another hardcover edition of some of the best works going, Joe Sacco's magazine work from the last several years now all in one place. I thought this was satisfying, really fun comic from a thoughtful cartoonist. I'm going to read my copy three more times before it goes back on the shelf. Journalism using the comics form is a popular thing right now, even when it's given an unfortunate name, but Sacco is in a class by himself not just as a journalist but as a comics-maker.

APR121374 ALTER EGO #110 $8.95
APR121375 BACK ISSUE #57 $8.95
APR120741 TERRY MOORE HOW TO DRAW #4 FUNNY $4.99
I'm not sure I'm the audience for any of these effort, but I was tickled by the novelty of there being three magazine on the stands in the same week to which I'd pay at least some attention. That may not have happened in the world of comics for 20 years.

APR120988 BIRDSEYE BRISTOE HC (MR) $19.95
But forget expensive hardcovers, new work by long-established talent, and tons of new and worthy comic books: you go to the funnybook shop for done-in-one efforts by promising talent with whom you're not all the way familiar. There's no better example of that breed than Dan Zettwoch's all-to-himself D+Q debut. Zettwoch is a unique, joyful cartoonist who doesn't make books like anyone else. I'd be so, so happy to see this in the stores if I didn't know it was coming. I'm pretty happy, anyway.

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Access: Popeye Panels Daily

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If I Were In Vermont, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: A Leonard Starr Western

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* when I'm 75 years old, I want to be writing articles like this RC Harvey piece on Zack Moseley.

image* here's a news story (or, if you prefer, a "news story") that developed from a snippet release from the forthcoming TCJ interview with Marice Sendak. Here's an appreciation of the artist that ran in the New York Review Of Books. I suppose I could get a whole post out of Maurice Sendak wishing death on the previous president and vice-president, but treating it like a big story just because we live in silly enough times this is so seems dispiriting.

* Augie De Blieck, Jr. on Daredevil: Born Again Artist's Edition. Brandon Soderberg on Bowman 2016. Rob Clough on Take What You Can Carry. Kristian Williams on Too Much Coffee Man #1 (Facsimile Edition).

* I beg your forgiveness in advance if this gets stuck in your head.

* I love these old L&R advertisements.

* not comics: Ira Glass writes about the decision facing NPR programmers faced with the decision whether or not to run re-runs of the immensely popular program Car Talk, now ending first-run program with its hosts retiring. I think he's right -- hanging onto re-runs in what are essentially primetime slots is a failure of their mission as public broadcaster and bad business in the long term. I feel that a similar short-sightedness existed in comics when Peanuts retired and went into reruns after the death of its creator. I thought that should have had a limited shelf life and then the popular comics feature should have been used as a way to test new technologies and alternative platforms. We live in a hyper-capitalist world that demands immediate and maximum reward, though, so this kind of thing is almost impossible.

* did you know that the Comics.org people are putting together a birthdays resource? Well, now you do.

* not comics: no idea where these two pictures of New York's Time Square came from, but they're sort of interesting. Which building did Luke Cage work in?

* a reader whose name I can't remember wrote in to say that they enjoyed these three webcomics. I like that someone sent me that kind of note. Thank you!

* Dean Haspiel talks to a bunch of people. Bernard Crowsheet talks to Frank Cho. Robin McConnell talks to Nicolas Mahler.

* Kiel Phegley talks to the new Team Valiant about their rollout. There's a lot of weird stuff going on in the Direct Market right now in terms of retailers taking chances on stuff just a degree or two off of hardcore mainstream. I'm not sure why that is. It could be that there's simply more of that stuff right now, or it could be that there's some dissatisfaction with the content being generated by the two major players.

* finally, Big Planet Comics is running a preview of Xoc. Here's the book that will be coming out.
 
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15 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Border Worlds

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This was a science fiction title I consumed during what seems, in retrospect, like a mini-explosion of science-fiction and science-fantasy books that came out in the 1980s. It reminds me a lot of the science fiction game Traveller, although I'm not all the way certain why. It could be the broadly generic world with specific flourishes on display here is something that I equate to role-playing scenarios, this kind of flattening and universalization of effect. I could also be accessing some memory that makes that link for me. I also figure that any story where people spend their time applying their skills to problems of grave import and great intractability is going to have a gaming element. While that wasn't the focus of these comics, there was certainly an element of watching people do things under pressure. Border Worlds featured work by the cartoonist Donald Simpson. At the time of the first issue's publication, he must have been ten to a dozen issues along in the publication of his parody title Megaton Man. I wouldn't be surprised to find out I first saw Border Worlds as a back-up story in Simpson's superhero comedy book. I also pair it in my mind with another Kitchen Sink title, Alien Fire.

In contrast to both his earlier work and to a lot of the illustration and comics he's done since, Simpson kept Border Worlds a more serious affair. It was a handsome comic. I thought the basic design approach of this book and the comics pages inside were plenty attractive. It also had that wonderful quality a lot of 1980s comics shared where certain peccadillos of the artist found their way into the publication. For Simpson, one thing following your muse seemed to mean was drawing the female figure in an attractive way. My memory is that the art became increasingly lurid as the series progressed, although it was never not a presence in those comics. By the last couple of issues, though, drawing sexy pictures seemed to be a main driving force in the book in a way that other concerns were subsumed to that one. The skills developed here would serve Simpson well a few years later as the creator of some of the more memorable early Eros Comics, but at the time it was baffling to have one of your comics rolling around on the front seat of your car being kind of naughty.

The other thing I can recall about this book is that the fact that it had that female lead registered on me not at all. Why not have a female lead? It seemed perfectly natural to those times to make that choice, even if it was a comics era not exactly overflowing with similar series and heroines.
 
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June 26, 2012


Go, Look: Dean Trippe's Moonbase A

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All Thoughts And Prayers With Comics-Maker Roger Slifer

The longtime mainstream comics writer, editor and colorist Roger Slifer is apparently in intensive care after being struck by a hit and run driver on Saturday morning in Santa Monica. He is in critical condition at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Slifer was reportedly hit by a white sedan.

Slifer is perhaps best known as a co-creator of the Lobo character, one of the rare post-1970s characters at DC Comics to actually generate wider media interest and drive publishing sales for the company.

Friends of Slifer are calling for widespread attention to the matter, including some sort of vaguely defined media and direct pressure to be put on a specific group of public officials such as the officers in charge and a civic official or two in an effort to help locate the perpetrator of the crime more quickly and/or any witnesses involved. As a one-time police reporter I'm not comfortable linking to or publishing phone numbers without knowing a lot more about the particulars. (I'm happy to run letters from anyone disagreeing with me or calling me names for not stepping up in this fashion.) I imagine you can certainly google Slifer's name and some combination of the facts above if you want to find an article with these kinds of opportunities to do something.

My thoughts and prayers are with Slifer, his family, his friends and all the folks working on his behalf; I hope his recovery and the wheels of justice both progress quickly and smoothly in his favor.
 
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Go, Look: Virginia

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Dave Sim has announced details on a digital collection of his Glamourpuss. Having Sim in the game as far as figuring out some different models for digital comics publishing might be a huge boon for that segment of the market.

image* hey, it's a new Latvian magazine about illustration called Popper. If the Latvian illustration scene is half as interesting as their comics community, that could be quite the magazine. I'm certain there will be a lot of cross-pollination, too.

* because major announcements from mega-corporations always deserve to be right below the latest in Latvian publishing, DC Comics announced that it will have material available on the Nook now. The Nook is the Barnes and Noble digital device. There was some grumpiness back and forth between B&N and DC over DC making a bunch of its books exclusive to Amazon.com's Kindle last Fall in time for the Christmas shopping season. No one on planet earth expected DC was doing anything more than temporarily aligning itself with the Kindle because they had a new device out and they'd get a bit of Christmas boost for some books and PR generally; no one I've talked to thought B&N was really mad at DC but needed to fire a shot across their bow so that smaller publisher might not choose to really go with one device over the other. All this stuff will be as widely available as possible in the near future; right now it's just about pumping the press for incremental announcements. You can read the full PR here. I guess it's worth noting that the Nook is employing a focused-panel reading system, because all of those device are doing that now.

* speaking of the glorious digital comics frontier, here's a profile of group of artists making comics I believe primarily for the iPad called Madefire. They have a bunch of work up for you to sample. They're playing with how comics are presented. I don't necessarily think that anything different is a virtue, but I think doing different things is a virtue right now. Once this stuff settles in, there won't be much playing around with format.

* in other DC news, all properties on deck.

* here's word on a project to collect the early works of Albert Uderzo. The other publishing news thing that caught my attention over at that news clearinghouse site for French-language works is this one about an exhibit featuring works related to the Holocaust and how it talks about three works I've never heard of, indicating the depth of that market.

image* not comics: I'd buy stock in a Kate Beaton calendar. Holy crap is that going to sell like gangbusters at San Diego. They may have stacks of that thing viewable from space and it should sell out. I imagine it will be good, too. Who wouldn't want that?

* hey, this could be pretty good.

* missed it: Mark Anderson has a book of business cartoons out via one of the digital book services.

* new comics by Hellen Jo and Calvin Wong available at Wow Cool. Or comics newly available, I can't quite tell. Either way: comics.

* Dark Horse will publish Sam Humphries' Sacrifice when that series goes to collected form.

* Box Brown brings word that soon really budget-conscious Christians can leave jump drives instead of pamphlets in lieu of tips.

* one of the things I thought Marvel had to do with their Avengers Vs. X-Men event comics is really nail the execution of it: present a compelling story with clear stakes and have the fights be mostly satisfying. I don't think they've done that according to my reading of a lot of those reviews, but at the same time I was way overstating things to say they had to do much of anything other than provide just enough of a promise of certain things that fans wouldn't be turned off from reading these comics. In other words, I think Marvel's readers are looking to be told what's important to buy, and I think that provides Marvel with a certain amount of breathing room when it comes to execution (and you may disagree with my reading of the bulk of these reviews, or be reading other reviews, and feel they're nailing it outright). At any rate, a second but still-positive outcome for them would be for the storyline to start to pay off once expectations where lowered a bit from the outset -- that would keep interest in the series up, and fuel some positive thoughts that the company can make good comics in a way that will lift some of the not-great parts of their sales profile right now.

* here's a preview of Scott Campbell's fall release of The Great Showdowns. That's a nice get on the introduction.

* Sean Kleefeld enthuses over the number of comics-creator biographies out there right now or about to hit the market.

* this release on the imminent book publication Jaime Hernandez's Ti-Girls storyline from the new Love & Rockets offers a bit more than your standard "collection coming out" announcement. Thirty more pages? Holy smokes. Plus one of those of minis that Fantagraphics has been doing. I hope they bring a bunch of those to conventions, although that may run counter to what they're doing with them, I don't remember.

* finally, I receive very few webcomics-related, launch-notice press releases, so here's one: Detective Honeybear, from Alex Zalben and Josh Kenfield.

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Go, Look: More Of That Sex On Campus

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If I Were In Columbus, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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Sam Henderson Looks At More Classic Esquire Cartoons

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it's convention season and Scott Allie has some 101-style advice for those of you seeking a portfolio review.

image* Abhay Khosla on Saga. Rob Clough on A Drifting Life. Greg McElhatton on Wonder Woman #10, Astonishing X-Men #51 and Fallen Words. Don MacPherson on a pair of comics-related publications. Brian Hibbs on various comics; his comments about their scripting a superhero fight in a superhero fight comic in Russian made me laugh. The fact that they did that made me laugh, too. Dan Morrill on Blue Estate Vol. 1. Sean Gaffney on Sunshine Sketch Vol. 6. Grant Goggans on The Zaucer Of Zilk. Sean T. Collins on Annie Sullivan And The Trials Of Helen Keller. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Wolverine By Greg Rucka Ultimate Collection. Sterg Botzakis on Marathon.

* someone stole this nice-looking art from Domingos Isabelinho.

* Tim O'Shea talks to Mike Dawson. Chris Arrant talks to Brandon Graham and Rob Liefeld. Joe Sergi profiles Ray Bradbury. Michael May talks to Jason Golden.

* Robot 6 tugs at recent reports of a George Perez convention appearance where he talks about working on one of the New 52 projects.

* this survey questionnaire article about why comics aren't funnier is an odd one. The question is weird and loaded, and a lot of what you get from the respondents is a march through their various pathologies. Also, because it's comics, the content isn't discussed as much as market acceptance.

* these comic store shows all sound awful. The one thing that's sort of interesting to me is how wholly these shows seem to capitulate to a standard model of consumption-shows out there: the model itself isn't as interesting as the capitulation. In fact, the model kind of confuses me. I've been in comics shops in about a dozen cities on a regular basis since 1982 or so, probably 2000 visits or something like that, and I think I've seen people show up with detailed questions about product once or twice. I've also never looked at a preening comics shop employee and thought, "I'd sure like to know about what makes that guy tick." I don't say that in a mean way, and I think people all have a story, but the reflected glory of the comics shop doesn't seem to me an interesting one even as much as I like comics shops. The guy who runs my local sweeper shop fascinates me about 100X more than all the non-owner comics shop employees put together, just about. The only thing I've seen close to something that made me want to watch it was a bunch of photos and videos that showed up on-line a few years back from various NYC shops in the 1980s, and that was "I'd watch that for a 90-minute documentary I'd take in on Hulu.com one morning when I was super-bored" watch it, not "bring on a weekly series" watch it. Baffling.

* #0 issues are deathly stupid and the short-term gains are not the worth the long-term frustrations it gives that core audience.

* another episode of worst cover to best cover.

* finally, the writer about comics David Brothers writes about his changing consumption patterns, including how this has an effect on what he writes and the fact that even if you really, really, want to it's almost impossible for you as a North American comics fan to consume 2000AD in paper form. Alan David Doane performs a similar buying-habits inventory. Sean Kleefeld does something similar, although his is more of an autopsy.
 
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16 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Myth Adventures!

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My comic shop didn't carry Myth Adventures!. The local gaming store did. A version of this establishment or at least one bearing its name still exists on the campus of the college settled into the heart of my hometown: it's clean as a whistle, full of games I've never heard of outside of articles written by Milton Griepp, and everything seems to cost $75. It almost looks like a set for a show about a shop rather than a shop. Two locations earlier, when it was on the same second story balcony walkway with where I bought my comics, The Wizard's Keep was a rat's nest full of strange and often very cheap things. In lieu of actual public space in which to waste time, a lot of kids my age would spend hours in any retail establishment that wouldn't toss them out and gave them things to dig through: bookstores, record stores, magic shops, thrift stores. A lot of those stores did double- or triple-duty. The gaming store in town before the one opened where I bought Myth Adventures! sold beads and yarn. Among the items of frequent perusal at the gaming shop was a run of fantasy comics, including these books and something that I think was called The Realm. If there were TSR-licensed comics back then, they had those, too.

As I became aware of focused fandom in the 1990s and started to make part of my living in comics, I'd encounter a certain kind of comics reader that would get beet-faced and incensed about having to buy their books in a place that also sold dice and miniatures and things with goblins on them. I always thought that ungenerous. First of all, I'm not sure why any customer gets to vote on how somebody runs their store beyond choosing to shop there or not. Second, it seems to me that so many comics are fantasy-oriented that offering other items that fit that basic fan profile seems like a workable idea, particularly in a small town -- the way a store near a campus might sell music. I wish there were a greater industry-wide ethos that stores that choose to organize themselves around a specific flavor of the comic book experience could also easily help those customers that have an interest in other kinds of comics, but that to me is a whole different issue. Retailing is a hard road, and it doesn't seem right to complain about the model and make of someone else's car.

I remember Myth Adventures! being pretty amusing, and liking the slightly ridiculous design of its lead demon character. He looked like a beanbag with eyes and lips plopped on top of a pez dispenser, or someone who was faking a Halloween costume around a track suit. Myth Adventures! strikes me as the kind of comic book where a significant number of its fans might have secretly wished for it to show a bit more seriousness at its core. Fans of fantasy material want to laugh but usually not if it means being part of something being laughed at (if I have to explain that distinction, you're probably not one of those people). I get that. As I recall, both Tim Sale and Jim Valentino worked on Myth Adventures!, but it's most affiliated in my mind with the cartoonist Phil Foglio. I still see Foglio at conventions every now and then, where he's supporting Girl Genius. He seems like a nice man; friends speak well of him. I'm happy for his success using a web-based model to drive readers to his print trades, and note with some degree of pleasure that he's still working his imagination. That can't be a bad place to spend a big chunk of your working life. I don't see his comics anywhere else now the way I used to see these. I'm still a tiny bit thrilled when I run across comics where I don't expect them.
 
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June 25, 2012


Go, Look: Jack Kirby Double-Page Spread Gallery

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Missed It: Rob Tornoe On Big Changes At WPWG

I completely whiffed on this story from Rob Tornoe about a couple of major moves at the Washington Post Writer's Group, for a long time the solid second-tier syndicate behind the big three/now the big two. Luckily, they seem to be straight-forward stories. The first is an administrative combination of the WPWG and the Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News, which should provide some administrative savings and perhaps create some weight behind a few of the product offerings that may have been seen to lack some force in the current market. The second is that they're going to work with the conservative editorial cartoonist Mike Lester, who will now to three cartoons a week for the new media group. It seems to me that there's a big surge of interest in conservative editorial cartooning offerings. That makes a certain amount of sense given the age of the Reagan Republicans, although I'm sure there are like 18 billion reasons why increased attention to such cartoons seems to be the case.
 
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Go, Look: Ward Sutton's Mitt Romney Comic Book Riffs

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Go, Read: Two Clues As To Marvel's Way Out

Here are two recent Internet-accessible articles that are perhaps worth putting together in a think-about-it way. First, Axel Alonso explains to Kiel Phegley how the publisher is mixing up their story arcs within various series to include more one-shots and two- and three-issues stories. Second, Todd Allen over at The Beat speculates on an expected writer/creative team shake-up at the publisher that may seek to energize things at the publisher in more of a line-wide fashion.

These are potentially interesting glimpses/possibilities for a bunch of different reasons. One is I think both moves if they play out as describe come from Alonso's strengths as a systemic-style editor -- someone who tweaks and improves and reinforces existing models rather than creates new ones. Mixing up a potentially routine story structure seems like a progressive move to me in the context of the way those companies usually operate. Another thing that intrigues me is that I think Marvel has been forced by virtue of wider company orientation to react to the surprise degree of DC's initial New 52 success at a time when they seem creatively happy with a lot of what they do at the company. It's my perception that they like a lot of their writers as long-term creative partners, for instance. Given their success in building various comics back up to the top of the DM charts over the last seven or eight years -- books that at one time seemed like box-office poison taking turns in the top five -- it's easy to see why they'd think this. And while that's a very specific kind of comic book that I know not everyone likes, I happen to agree that Marvel has a good team in place in a general sense. To use the now-ending Ed Brubaker run on Captain America as the example so as not to irritate anyone who thinks I'm fond of the wrong ongoing, it's hard for me to imagine a more solid treatment of that character if I were inclined to suddenly want to read Captain America comics (and yes, I realize the critical opening that statement provides) than what Ed and his artistic partners provided on a regular basis. I think a lot of Marvel's books are pretty good, in other words, certainly far better for what they're trying to achieve than a similar group of Marvel's book from the 1990s, say. I realize that's arguable.

The flipside of Marvel's moves intrigues me as well. While it would be gratifying to see the company double-down on its current creators, it could be argued that Marvel has structural problems that solid work can't solve, not with a bunch of folks switching chairs and maybe with nothing short of direct, sustained attention away from editorial. My hunch is that increasing prices on their books was a terrible move for them, and one that's going to be hard for them to ever see as damaging because it plays out in much more subtle ways than wholehearted market refutation of one book over the other. I think Marvel also suffers like everyone suffers from a lack of direct market coverage they themselves kickstarted in the 1990s when they raised minimums in a way that some stores were bled to death, a digital strategy that isn't quite all the way locked in yet and a trades program that doesn't funnel people back into the serial comics. My dad would call creative moves in the face of some of those kinds of things "moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic" although I'd have to inform pop were he still around that this frequently works in comics, at least in the short term. We'll see if anything long-term comes of these moves, and the shape of what's to come, soon enough.

tweaked to reflect accurate provenance of quotes; my apologies
 
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Go, Look: The Face Behind The Laugh Self-Portrait Gallery

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Not Comics: More On Shary Boyle's Involvement With Venice Biennale

Being named your country's representative at the Venice Biennale is a wonderful opportunity for an artist like Kramers Ergot contributor and all-around startling artist Shary Boyle, but it's also a sublimely challenging one.
thx, Diana Tamblyn
 
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Not Comics: Lee Elias And Graham Ingels Pulp Illustrations

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* I assume without knowing that the fundraiser to avoid a pauper's burial for the late writer and creator Robert Washington was successful enough to foster a more proper service; I hope his comics-making peers will attend if they're able.

image* here's one I can get behind from a content standpoint: a collection of Don Rosa's Captain Kentucky and Pertwillaby Papers comics. I remember those being fun comics and Rosa's an important enough cartoonist I think as much of his work should be in print as possible.

* these people were nice enough to write in and ask that some attention be given their comics-related Kickstarter. I'm almost always happy to do that, as little as that may help.

* totally missed that Steve Lafler was raising money for his tour; if you can find some way to send him money, that would be a nice thing for one of comics' old-school alt-comics warriors.

* I like the modest amount requested here. As you can see from projects like this one, there's really no set strategy for deciding what to ask in terms of what people might get paid for working on a project. At least not all the time. Even on that one, with a set amount and explicitly making paying a bulk of the creators a part of their proposal, there's a basic promise that most people will get paid but not, say, a set amount -- or at least one I could see. With the number of people involved, you'd think those things could be made explicit -- it seems like someone working on the thing would have enough time to do that. I'm a little unclear about that stuff, and need to educate myself.

* finally, here's a look-in on a project to fund a comics store through kickstarter.
 
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Go, Look: DC's Summer Of 1977 Cover Gallery

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Go, Look: Alex Ross Designs For Flash Gordon

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Go, Look: More Sam Henderson Illustration Work

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Caleb Goellner found a graphic that tracks the comics-related efforts over at Kickstarter. That's like an entire Tundra's worth of material paid for through that service.

image* Chris Mautner has several thoughts on Life In Hell, a key comics work for a lot of comics readers of a certain age.

* not comics: here's a tweeted photo of Neil Gaiman buying a couple of Smurfs. Smurf toys, that is, not actual Smurfs -- his life isn't quite that awesome. Also, two people from completely opposite ends of my life both sent me a link to this picture.

* Caitlin McGurk profiles John Milton Morris. Ira Wolfman talks to Stan Lee. Danno Klonowski talks to Matt Chic.

* I think it's great when people ask this kind of question, because sometimes we assume that one person in in control over a project and right now there's a tendency to see various books as their writers' no matter what the division of labor is like. At the same time, I think there are some books that can be described that way and there's no reason to give it a second thought, and there are also times -- say when contrasting the writing on a book to another book and another writer -- that this is a fair descriptive, period.

* getting stuff in your convention sketchbook is fun.

* I disagree with the notion expressed here by the artist Guillem March that some kind of line is crossed when an artist or creative professional publicly criticizes another. In fact, I prefer public criticism because I think that 99 percent of work done in comics is done publicly. I mean, I get what March is saying, but I don't think it's a big deal for someone to say they don't like someone else's art for X, Y, Z reasons no matter how they do it, particularly when there's a cultural element to the criticism -- in a recent case involving March, that issue was the depiction of women. I'm also a little leery that there's a segment of the comics community more concerned with decorum than substance. I suspect that's a pile of sand on which to build any sort of meaningful professional community. I'm not saying that March believes this, because I think he's clearly coming at this from seeing virtue in a certain standard he feels that's part of professional conduct. It's more that I feel this notion also appeals to people that find more importance in being nice to one another than co-existing in a professional community where certain standards and ideas are important and debated and part of the public conversation. If you don't think that's a part of comics culture, or find that line of thinking upsetting, let me assure you that I really love your work.

* missed it: Bert Witte, RIP.

* Doug Zawisza on Planet Of The Apes #15.

* finally, I'm not all the way certain why it seems Jeff Parker is the only mainstream comics writer with a consistent license to amuse himself, but I'm not going to question it.
 
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17 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Three Late, Great Comics-Makers Had This Date As Their Birthday

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Rose O'Neill, in 1874...

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... Peyo, in 1928...

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... and Alex Toth, also in 1928.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Legion Of Super-Heroes

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Legion Of Super-Heroes is another comic that predates -- maybe entirely -- my shopping in comics stores. The one flash of memory I have of purchasing an issue of LOSH during this era is at a drug store one summer, at a place that carried may eight to ten comic books at a time. As I've probably made nauseatingly clear by this point, the mode by which I was buying a lot of comics at this time and then into my first regular comics-shop experience was getting my favorites and then spending the money I had left up to a set amount on books that looked interesting or that I'd heard about. I wasn't locked into buying habits. The thing is, I'm not sure if today's fundamental market strategy of "getting the kid that buys one comic with his favorite character to buy eight with that character" would have kept me in comics for as long. There was something that was very useful about not being tied into one set of purchases in terms of extending how long I wanted to do this. If I hadn't been encouraged in that subtle way to migrate, and the market hadn't also been really good at putting out series that kind of met me at my point of interest as a I grew older (not a direct, linear relationship, but close), I doubt I'd be reading comics today except maybe the occasional talked-about graphic novel and the even-more-infrequent nostalgia buy.

A couple of things I remember about Legion Of Super-Heroes. One is that it seemed very exciting even though I had no interest in the Legion beyond what I was reading. I did not find new or freshened-up permutations of my favorite characters to be a hook, because I had no favorite characters. I did not have a fangasm when Darkseid arrived on the scene (um, spoiler alert?) because I did not read too many comics when I was a younger kid that had Darkseid in them. So reading this comic was like turning on whatever the latest teen TV soap or police procedural or three-camera sitcom might be and recognizing all the basic types and storyline strategies and getting to enjoy them without having bought in, if that makes any sense. For me the strength -- and this is really my second memory -- was in the sturdy, old-fashioned things like there were a lot of superpowered folks with neat skillsets and costumes performing superpowered feats and doing so in a story that generated drama between them and between the group and other folks. Things like the fact the fans voted on the team leader were to me clever flourishes, and I could enjoy them that way. They weren't the point. The weight of where this story stood in the constellation of all the other Legion stories I was better off not feeling at all; ditto any expectations I might project on such characters. As both of those things became what felt like more of a presence in the book I was reading, I grew bored and eventually left. I've read some Legion comics since then, off and on over the years as free copies have fallen into my lap, and they always seem divorced from those basic strengths and either needlessly high-concept or dreadfully insular or a response to the basic set-up without a strong establishment of the basic set-up. That's the comic that always, always reads to me the most like what I imagine fan fiction to be.

At the time, though, this did the trick, and helped pass that half-hour on a summer day between when you ate lunch and when you were allowed to swim again, and provided some basic superhero-ing thrills in an easy-to-parse manner. In my mind's eye I can see these comic books with that wonderful curve on the corner spine that says it's been opened a bunch. I also enjoyed a brief run later on with Keith Giffen's art at this almost abstract point where it was hard to tell what the hell was going on, like everything was being depicted from the point of view of someone who could barely open their eyes. Of course, I sort of enjoyed those because they seemed willfully obtuse rather than as objects themselves. Today I love the idea of this superhero team that's been hugged to death by its fans much more than I want to spend additional time reading their adventures. It used to be that you were expected to get in and then get out on superhero comics; now it seems unkind to say you're done with anything. But I think I'm done with the Legion Of Super-Heroes.
 
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June 24, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Ed Brubaker

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imageI've known Ed Brubaker for almost two decades now, and have had the pleasure of tracking his career from his member as a key player in Seattle's post-alternative scene of the mid- to late-1990s to his place today now as one of North America's top mainstream and independent comic book writers, with film and television work soon to follow. This week sees the publication of both the first trade paperback collection of Fatale and its latest serial comic book issue. Fatale is the latest of Brubaker's collaborations with the talented artist Sean Phillips, and mixes horror with a more typical Brubaker preoccupation: noir. I very much like the Brubaker/Phillips comics and Brubaker's work more generally, up to and including his superhero comics Captain America (just concluding) and Winter Soldier (just getting started). I think this latest project in particular is extremely well-conceived and smartly presented in a market that sometimes just tosses work out there. I hope you'll give Fatale a try.

In the following conversation, Brubaker and I talk about new projects and old ones and engage some of the creator's rights issues on everyone's mind right now. I am deeply grateful that Brubaker chose to speak with on some of those issues in a forthright manner. These are contentious items for which one imagines there's all sorts of potential downside. It's also extremely difficult to talk about a set of issues so rife with landmines of misunderstanding and which folks have been talking about at much greater length over a three-month period. I think he handled it with aplomb. I learned a lot from what Brubaker had to say. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: It's my understanding that the book is coming out this week, that we're going to see the first collection of Fatale.

ED BRUBAKER: The trade comes out on the 27th. We're doing a special midnight release thing at Meltdown on the 26th.

SPURGEON: Let me ask you about that, the way you know when your book is dropping. You're doing a store event in support of it, and you're doing a bunch of targeted press including talking to me. Is how you approach a release like this, is that reflective of what you've learned over the years in terms of all the books you've had out? Are you able to apply lessons learned in terms of how you put a book out now?

BRUBAKER: I think it's a combination of my experience and Image's experiences. Image has been really successful with Walking Dead and Chew -- probably several other series, Morning Glories -- where with an ongoing series they'll put a collection of the first arc out the same day as the first issue of the next arc. That to me always seemed like, "I don't want to make retailers angry by not giving them enough time to sell the previous arc's single issues." But I talked to [Image Publisher] Eric Stephenson about it, and he was like, "Look, all of these issues are going out of of print immediately; we're back in second, third and fourth printings. This trade will be the thing that people want when issue #6 comes out. They'll help sell each other." That's what they've seen with their books, so I'm trusting that they know what they're doing. They seem to know what they're doing so far.

As far as my experience, me and Sean have sort of independently been doing our thing for six or seven years now. You have to do a bit of press when you announce the book. At that point I try to tell as little about the book as humanly possible. You want to excite people about the idea. That's why we do those sort of "movie trailers on paper" rather than showing a bunch of pages from the book. I want to tease people on the idea and what it might be.

So that's been our way of announcing projects since Criminal. Then a month before the book actually comes out, you want to tell people more about it and release more artwork before the final order cutoff for all the retailers. Then when the book is out, you sort of pray that people will write about it and review it, that word of mouth will get around or that your friends will twitter about it. [laughs] Wil Wheaton and Warren Ellis, these guys that have a reach I don't have.

I always like to read interviews with authors when their books are coming out. I kind of model that on the way standard book publishing has gone. Image will help me. I work in tandem with them. They'll help set up stuff.

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SPURGEON: How important is it to you to nail that first trade, particularly in terms of the overall success of a project? Is that as key a moment as I'm guessing in getting a series over -- that in order to be a perennial, the first trade has to hit pretty hard?

BRUBAKER: I don't know, actually. [laughs] I kind of always do this stuff instinctively. I want to make sure they're good no matter what they are. This one is weird because it's the first of three. But it's meant to be a self-contained thing that builds what comes next.

It's a struggle, too, to fit as much in. Originally it was going to be four-issue arcs. We do 24-25 pages an issue, so I thought we could do three four-issue arcs and this could be a 12-issue project. I got halfway through issue #2 and I felt completely pressed for space to tell the story. There are so many characters in it, and it goes in so many different directions. I realized that, "Wait, there's nobody telling me that this thing has to be 12 issues other than me. I'm going to add one issue to the first arc." I'm considering adding even more to the second arc, because I like the epic-ness of it. I don't want to have to skimp on anything.

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SPURGEON: You mentioned the artist Sean Phillips and how long you've been working together. How is it working with him now as opposed to at the beginning of the creative relationship, when there was perhaps a feeling-out process? Is it different when you have a long relationship with an artist? Is there a shorthand, or a greater sense of comfort, or can you write more to him? How is it working on something like this with someone with whom you're that comfortable?

BRUBAKER: It's like any long-term relationship. Sean and I have been working together 12 or 13 years pretty steadily.

SPURGEON: Wow. Okay.

BRUBAKER: We've had breaks, but mostly I've done 10 or 12 comics a year with Sean for a decade now. It's weird. Every now and then I look at my bookshelf and I see all these books we've done together and I flip through them and I'm like, "Wow, that was amazing." Whenever anyone asks me if Sean's available for anything, I'm like, "Shut up!" I jealously hoard Sean, but I also probably take him for granted half the time. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Is there something he does that you wish more people appreciated? Do we take Sean for granted?

BRUBAKER: I think he's an incredibly strong storyteller. I think sometimes people lump him into a certain category that I don't think he's actually in. Artists that do this stiff, photo-y kind of stuff. Sean's stuff... what distinguishes him from a lot of those photo reference-y guys is that there's a looser artistic sensibility to what he does.

You can empathize with characters that Sean draws. For a lot of artists are in that same school of drawing, you can't empathize with the characters. There are a lot of artists I really like that I look at their stuff and I feel nothing for their characters. You know?

imageAnd Sean's design sense is amazing. His covers... every now and then we'll go back and forth on a cover sketch. He'll send me the little color roughs and we'll go back and forth and we'll get to the one where we're like "Oh yeah. That." We were going back and forth on the last cover he did for a while. It wasn't clicking for some reason. I wasn't giving him the right sort of feedback on it. We do these covers before the issues are written usually, and I have only a vague idea of what's going to be in the issue. He drew this one and I'm like, "That's really good, but what if we cropped it closer?" And he just sort of did that. "Oh yeah, that's it." And the next day he sends the inked and painted version of it and it's like the best cover he's ever done. [laughter]

SPURGEON: One basic design choice that links all of the book I wanted to ask you about, a choice I think is really smart and sharp-looking, is the use of the white background and lettering and borders. I think that really distinguishes the comics.

BRUBAKER: That's all Sean. At first when we started talking about the idea he started sending me various cover design ideas. They all had that white border around the edge and logo in white. He really wanted it to look like an old magazine from the '30s or '50s. He was finding these old photos of pin-up girls and putting that design around these old black and white photos, showing me the basic idea. We're always trying to make sure our book looks different than everything else on the market.

I always say I want to work with Sean for the rest of my creative life. It's just such a simpatico relationship in my mind. I'd love to get to a point where our books were selling well enough that I only ever had to work with Sean. It'd be a lot easier to only have to write one comic a month. [laughter]

SPURGEON: You have a really well-established pedigree with the crime material, which is an element of Fatale, but maybe less so with the series' horror aspects.

BRUBAKER: Oh, yeah. I've written maybe one thing that would be considered any kind of horror at all.

SPURGEON: Has that been difficult at all, bringing in this rich tradition that's not one with which you have worked a lot?

BRUBAKER: [laughs] It is. It's different. Noir and crime stuff there's such an inevitability to your stories once people see how the groundwork is set. I wanted to do something that wouldn't do that. There's inevitability to certain things in the story, but you don't necessarily know what the fuck was going to happen next. I wanted to challenge myself to sort of not know. Can I do this for sure? Am I going to fail dramatically? Some of my favorite books that other people have done I think the writers and artists would consider well-intentioned failure. So I figured it was smarter to do something I'm unsure of and fail as opposed to coasting on what I know I can do.

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SPURGEON: Was there any way the genres fit together that pleased you? Do you think you've been successful in adding that element of uncertainty?

BRUBAKER: It's so hard to say you're happy with it while you're still working on it. We're only about a third of the way through the story at this point, so it's hard for me to judge. I think the way we've done it so far has worked. Certainly writers I respect have told me so far they like it, and that makes me happy. But I don't know how good I am at it yet. I do notice that I have to, when I'm working on my outlines go, "Oh yeah. Horror stuff, too." [laughter]

I write so much through character. The second arc is already one of the strangest things I've ever written, and I think that's partly because I got a lot of establishing stuff done in the first arc. Establish the world and the rules of the story a little bit. Now with the second arc I get to play around with my own obsessions like growing up in the '70s. '70s Hollywood is really an interesting time for Hollywood, and America generally. Moving towards punk rock. Reagan's coming. The Manson Family had happened. Son Of Sam. That's a horrific time for America just in terms of our culture. I think a lot more of my real-world research comes out in that aspect, even though I'm fictionalizing everything.

And the nice thing is, much like noir, good horror comes from following characters through a story. They really do fit.

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SPURGEON: The structure with the different time periods. I thought that contributed directly to the mood of it, even the horror aspect of it. There was the difficulty of putting the information together over different periods of time -- I thought that was an aid, the structure you chose?

BRUBAKER: Yeah. And I kind of love the idea of immortality being a tragic horror -- that you live forever. I think that part lends itself to adding something more to the story. At the end of the first arc when the guy goes to see his father and you realize that his father is in the insane asylum because of this woman somehow. It's nice to give hints of things to come that you may or may not learn. But I'm really into the fact that it's multi-generational and that these things are all linked.

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SPURGEON: There's something terrifying about something with the force of history. Something 30 years in the making, 50 years in the making seems scarier than a lost weekend. Seeing entire generations messed up by something, it adds dread.

BRUBAKER: Sure. One of my favorite things about the process of doing this book the way we are, monthly, is that the end of the prologue part of issue one when the guy is sitting there and he's had his leg chopped off and he's reading the book. Everyone assumed that the next part of the story, that took place in the '50s, was the book he was reading. I knew that everyone was going to, and I knew when they got to issue #3, the opening when you learn what the book he's reading is, that people would be like, "So wait, this is all what really happens?"

SPURGEON: One other question about the basic look of Fatale is that this comic has really worked as a serial package -- you have supplementary material in there, too, generally smart, high-quality stuff. That's something you've done for a while. Is it important that Fatale work as a serial? I know that's sort of a rote question, but I think you execute that aspect of comics publishing as well as anyone out there.

BRUBAKER: Well, that's our thing. It's not cheap to pay these guys to color and draw the comics. And I love serialized comics when they're done right. I've felt for a long time that as the price started to go up that you needed to give people extras to make them not just excited that they're getting a good comic, but that they're getting a package that's worth owning. That's been our modus operandi on our singles since Criminal started, really, because we're living in the world of the "waiting for the trade" people. Now we're even living in the world of the "waiting for the deluxe hardback edition" people. There's literally a contingent of people that say they're going to wait five years from now.

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SPURGEON: Now, you told me that you're wrapping up on Captain America.

BRUBAKER: Yeah. By the time this interview comes out, I will have written my last issue.

SPURGEON: Congratulations. And that's... eight years on Cap?

BRUBAKER: A little less than eight years. I think I started in August or September of 2004 writing my first issue, which came out in November of that year.

SPURGEON: So why now?

BRUBAKER: Partly, it's the beginning a shift from work-for-hire to books I own, instead. I hit a point with the work-for-hire stuff where I was starting to feel burned out on it. Like my tank is nearing empty on superhero comics, basically. It's been a great job, and I think I found ways to bring my voice to it, but I have a lot of other things I want to do as a writer, too, so I'm going to try that for a while instead.

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SPURGEON: Now are you keeping Winter Soldier?

BRUBAKER: Yeah, I am. That's going to be my only Marvel book soon. I'll do The Winter Soldier as long as it lasts... or, I'll do it for as long as I can. [Spurgeon laughs] Because I don't know if it'll last, but I'm really proud of that book and the second and third storylines on it are some of my favorite stuff I've done for Marvel, ever.

SPURGEON: What's the nature of your attachment to the Captain America comic, then? Is it just pride in a job well done? Certainly you've done well with the character in terms of when you look at all the creators that have spent time with that book your eight-year run seems like a success. And you have had success sales-wise, particularly with the "Death of Captain America" issue and some of the issues around there. So certainly you've done well with the book. Do you have a pride in the job, do you like the character, do you like the platform...?

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BRUBAKER: It's a mix of stuff. There's a nostalgic aspect to it. I can vividly remember buying my first issue of Captain America when I was like four years old at the PX in Gitmo. I remember the exact issue. I still own it to this day -- not the exact copy but that issue -- I've never spent more than 20 cents. Every time I've bought it I've been able to get it at cover price.

SPURGEON: Wait, which one is it?

BRUBAKER: #156. Two Caps rushing at each other. The Cap from the '50s fighting modern Cap.

SPURGEON: So [writer Steve] Englehart, I'd guess.

BRUBAKER: It was like the third Englehart issue, I think. So there's a certain nostalgia to it. I grew up on military bases reading Captain America comics and always kind of liked Captain America regardless of the spottiness of the runs that would happen. A Captain America fan in the '70s, you had the Englehart run which was great at the time and then there were a lot of other comics and then you had the [John] Byrne and [Roger] Stern run which was great and then there was a bunch of other comics [Spurgeon laughs] and there was a [J.M.] DeMatteis run with Mike Zeck, which was pretty great for a while. That was probably the end of buying the book as a kid for me, the end of that run.

There's a certain amount of pride in wanting to follow in those guys' footsteps. And let's face it, when you're doing a book like that and you're successful, you pretty much get to do what you want. I never had anybody ever order me to do anything on Captain America. I never had to do anything I didn't want to do with that book. When you're on a character for that long, you sort of have proprietorship of it. You know that Marvel owns the character, but you lie to yourself to a certain amount that you're the one in charge. And if you lie effectively enough and do good enough stuff, you are the one in charge. [Spurgeon laughs]

That's the nature of comics. They have to come out every month. Sometimes, if you just do a good job, no one will fuck with you. [laughs] The deadline that is your enemy can also be your friend. As long as your books have to ship every month and you're doing something cool... the worst thing that ever happened to me was being told I couldn't use some character because they were in Thunderbolts or something.

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SPURGEON: Monsters. [Brubaker laughs]

BRUBAKER: So there's a certain amount of that. Honestly, it was to the point I'd take on other projects here and there, like Secret Avengers, and I'd get three or four issues in and I'd be like, "What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This is so not in my wheelhouse."

It's just kind of funny: writing Cap became second nature to me. And I think about 90 percent of the stuff I did I would hold up to any other comics that were coming out.

SPURGEON: What do you like about it? What do you think is laudatory? Are you in that place where you can say, "I did that, and I did that very well."

BRUBAKER: I think I got to tell a long story. In the early days, I got to create a big soap opera about Steve Rogers and Bucky and Sharon Carter and keep this thrilling adventure ride going. And each arc bled into the next. Then we did the "Death of Cap" thing and I go to really do an 18-part story that still didn't end with Cap coming back to life yet. [laughs] I got to do some stuff that was really challenging. I got work with some great artists. Steve Epting, he probably drew 35 issues of my run in the early days. I think we developed a really great collaboration. And I always liked that kind of epic storytelling.

"The Death of Captain America" turned out to be the best thing that happened to the book in ways because everything we were able to do after that, because the main character wasn't in the book, was so much more interesting than when he was in the book. It was a total curveball and you didn't know what was going to come next. There was a lot of fun to be had in it, and at the same time it was driven by these characters that were characters I had an attachment to from childhood.

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SPURGEON: When I read a bunch of your Captain Americas recently, I was surprised how somber it was. [Brubaker laughs] I don't mean that it was depressing or sad, I mean serious and sober... kind of moody, which is weird for a big, bright comic book character like that. How did you get there? When you write Captain America, do you end up thinking about America all the time?

BRUBAKER: You think about it a lot more than you should. [laughter]

SPURGEON: So did you feel like America needs to be depicted with a frowny-face for a while? This would be one of those downer BBC series if it were on TV, Ed. It's not a happy place, Cap's corner of the super-universe.

BRUBAKER: That is the tone I wanted to bring to it, that kind of 24 meets Tom Clancy aspect. That really for me came from those Englehart issues and the Steranko issues. Captain America in those comics was always doing the right thing and it was always costing him. He carries the weight of a country on his shoulders.

imageSPURGEON: Don't they team you up with a writer to transition out of these titles? Like baton pass it to them?

BRUBAKER: That's not on purpose for this one. That was a situation with scheduling. Marvel is trying to do this thing now that with some of their better-selling books they want to get out more copies per year than 12. They want to get out 15 or 18 issues. Amazing Spider-Man's been doing more than one a month for a while now; someone I know does Uncanny X-Men or one of those books, and that comes out 18 times a year.

I couldn't keep up with that schedule, honestly. I knew I was getting to the end of my run. I wanted to wrap up my run earlier. And [Marvel Senior Vice President Of Publishing] Tom [Brevoort] was like, "Well, you're going to leave a bunch of plot lines dangling... do you want to go out like that? It'll seem like you threw up your hands and said 'I can't keep up with this schedule.'" I was like, "No, I don't want to go out that way." So we brought in Cullen Bunn to write an arc with me. I gave him a list of a bunch of stuff. "Here's all the dangling plot threads and here's where we need them all to be by the time I get to my last issue." And then we figured out a storyline together.

It's strange. I did all these issues as an uninterrupted run. Then there's four issues co-written by someone. Then there's a last issue. [laughs] It's a little odd.

SPURGEON: Hey, they usually bring in a second showrunner on the last couple seasons of hit TV shows, right?

BRUBAKER: He's the John Wells of my West Wing. [laughter] It's not a hostile thing, certainly. I was involved in choosing him and stuff. It was just down to I was doing two monthly books at Marvel both of which needed multiple issues per month because of the way the scheduling had gotten. And I was writing a screenplay at the same time that was due. I was like, "My screenplay is due in three weeks. And I have all of these comics to write. There's no way this will happen without me dying." I didn't want to die. [laughter]

SPURGEON: Tell me this. You've worked this specific period for Marvel. I don't follow the mainstream books as closely as I would if this were the main focus of the site. It seems to me, though, that this period has been distinguished by a pretty deep writer's bench for Marvel. There are a lot of you guys that are talented, that are working on those books for Marvel.

BRUBAKER: I definitely think... they've got Jason Aaron, and Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction and Rick Remender. Obviously Brian Bendis, who writes so many comics I can't understand how he possibly keeps up. Kieron Gillen... all of these guys are talented guys. I'm leaving some out -- Jeff Parker. There's a lot of really good writers doing multiple books a month up there.

And it's such an interesting time in mainstream comics to me because of how in flux it feels. DC had a massive shake-up. Marvel's ramped up production on everything. It seems a little crazy sometimes. [laughs] I wonder from the outside if it looks as much like as it feels like it on the inside.

SPURGEON: Is there something you see we don't? We certainly saw the result of those changes at DC.

BRUBAKER: When I was at DC... sales weren't necessarily great, but they were fairly stable. There was a certain amount of stability. Both DC and Marvel had stability, it felt like. But two years ago there started to be what seemed like freefall for a lot of books. My personal theory -- This happened to coincide [laughs] with the books suddenly costing $3.99 as opposed to $2.99. I think that was when you started to see some books really fall. On the other side, there's the argument that the best-selling books for the past ten years have been the $3.99 books.

It's hard to say who's right or who's wrong on some of this stuff. But sales on these books were going down below what DC and Marvel would have found acceptable even a few years ago. So that stability just feels like it's missing all of a sudden.

I mean, imagine how lucky I was to write the same book for eight years. That doesn't happen a lot anymore. Brian Bendis has been writing Avengers for like nine years now. He's written more issues of Avengers than any other person. It's rarer and rarer to have these long runs on books.

imageSPURGEON: Is it that they can't do this, or that they don't do this? Does the infrastructure no longer match up with these traditional strengths? Do you have any hunch as to the cause of this discombobulation?

BRUBAKER: I can only talk for myself and my friends. Matt Fraction is one of my best friends. Brian Bendis is one of my best friends. They've both done really long runs on Iron Man and Avengers. Brian's done Ultimate Spider-Man for 12 years or something. It can happen.

I think it comes down to finding that chemistry with a character or an artist. Brian had Mark Bagley on like 120 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. It becomes rarer and rarer to find that kind of artist. I think that's when you find that groove, when you get a regular team. If not for Epting on Captain America, I don't know that I would have been successful on that book. The ideas I brought to it, they jibed with what he wanted to draw. So finding that artist you really click with... that's why I've been going back to the same artists over and over again. Michael Lark and Sean and Steve Epting... I can't wait to work with Steve Epting again on something.

SPURGEON: It seems like in the model you're proposing, you can trace that when we were kids, and it seems like that when you were waiting for the creative teams to click there was nothing like a freefall when it didn't happen. Titles sold a certain amount automatically. You could wait for a Frank Miller to show up on Daredevil because the title was never going to sell that poorly. Now it seems unless you luck into that formula, there's a real chance that it drops all the way out of the marketplace.

BRUBAKER: And then it's gone for a few years until there's a new number one. Yeah, I miss the way it used to be. [laughter] Obviously I do because I'm obsessed with comics and nostalgia. My favorite era of mainstream comics was when every character had just one comic, or the odd character that was really popular had two. They had the same writers for years and years and years. They had the same artists for years and years and years. The occasional fill-in. These people got to tell a story. There were no events and crossovers.

SPURGEON: Now, do a lot of your peers think about this stuff, this industry in flux?

BRUBAKER: It's hard to speak for other people. I do kind of want to [Spurgeon laughs] but I don't. But I think there's a certain amount of anxiety that I didn't feel as much two or three years ago. Maybe I didn't feel it as much because I was in this rarefied air of doing some of the better-selling books at Marvel. I'm pretty well-established in the field, so maybe things felt stable to me when they didn't to people who were getting their books axed.

But I don't talk to too many people about this because I've been moving in my own direction, knowing that I was winding down the superhero work-for-hire part of my career.

SPURGEON: For you to say it like that really puts it into perspective, but this sounds like a key transitional period for you, maybe as key as they come. Can you talk about the decision to move in that direction?

BRUBAKER: It was less of a decision and more just following my instincts, trying to make sure I'm only writing things I really want to write. I used to have a lot of ideas for superhero stories, and they scratched a real old-fashioned pulp writer itch for a long time. But the past few years, I've wanted more and more to just focus on my own projects, and most of my ideas have been for new things, or things outside comics. I remember just sitting there with my Cap notebook, trying to figure out what to do after the next arc was finished, and suddenly I just was like, "I think I'm done here" and it was this huge relief. I talked to Dan Buckley at Marvel, and told him what I was thinking, and he was really supportive of me, really great about it. I mean, I know I'm still going to be doing the Winter Soldier for a while, potentially a long while, but this feels like a major change, anyway.

SPURGEON: How much do the opportunities you're seeing now in Los Angeles particularly with film work play a role in this? For that matter, how much a part of that has been your ambition all along? I know you're about as comics of a guy as they come, but I have to imagine that for a writer there's a natural desire to work in other areas, too.

BRUBAKER: They definitely played a part, because the movie gig and some TV work really helped me worry less about the risks. But I've been going down to L.A. for about ten years, writing and pitching, having things almost happen. But about two years ago, I wrote a pilot for FOX, and that was kind of a turning point. Then things started happening, and eventually the movie deal for Coward went through, with me attached to write it. So all that, along with how well me and Sean are doing with Fatale, all of that played a part. But, you know, I have no desire whatsoever to leave comics. Like you said, I'm a comics guy. They're one of the constants in my life, so I'll always do comics.

SPURGEON: What does a move towards working on your own material mean in terms of where you are creatively? What satisfies you about working on the material over which you have greater control than the idea of writing where there are prescriptions and limitations? Because sometimes the freedom can be paralyzing, too.

BRUBAKER: I've got no problems with the limitations of mainstream comics, really. Limitations can help you. And it's not even really about the control, because I've always been good at lying to myself that I own Cap and Bucky. It's just literally following my creativity where it wants to go. I'm happier when I'm writing Fatale, even when I'm agonizing over every word of it, so I have to follow that path. I wish this were a more dramatic story for you, but Marvel have treated me really well over the past 8 years. I'm just ready for a change.

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SPURGEON: The natural progression from us talking about you moving away from company-owned work is to engage this recent spate of creator's rights talk. You're working with a Jack Kirby character -- the original Kirby character...

BRUBAKER: Well, Joe Simon would say he co-created Captain America.

SPURGEON: He would? [laughter]

BRUBAKER: Simon might actually take full credit, depending on his mood when you asked. It's just funny that everyone refers to him as Kirby-only, when it's Simon and Kirby.

SPURGEON: My bad. The reason that Kirby gets mentioned, I think, is because talk of Kirby can pivot to the Kirby family lawsuit.

BRUBAKER: Sure.

imageSPURGEON: There's been a lot of attention paid to Marvel's deals with various creators, and whether or not these are ethical. Do you have a perspective you want to share, as someone who's in there working on these kinds of characters? Do these issues matter to you?

BRUBAKER: They do matter to me. I also worked at DC for a long time on characters that were probably co-created by Bill Finger without him getting anything for them. You know when you work on these company-owned characters that there's a history there, a lot of it ugly and unfair to the creators. So you go in eyes wide open to that past. And that's the problem, poor treatment of creators, that's supposed to be the past, not the present.

And now with Before Watchmen you're seeing people weighing in on Alan Moore, saying he's a hypocrite. "He's mad about this, but he used to work on Swamp Thing or Superman." But if you actually read interviews with Alan Moore, he'll talk about the fact that the more work he did on that stuff, the harder a time he had with doing it. So obviously, his views evolved through his personal experience, as views tend to do.

But apparently there's some kind of moral absolutism where he's now not allowed to have an opinion. But I mean, murderers can still think murder is bad. Not really an apt comparison, I know. [laughter] But I remember I said something on Twitter -- something sort of snarky about Before Watchmen. Someone said, "Well, you're hardly in a position to judge, since you're living on Jack Kirby's stolen properties." [Spurgeon laughs] So apparently I don't get an opinion, either.

SPURGEON: Now, as I understand it, you see the Moore stuff differently because of his outright objection to exactly what is being done, in addition to how the deal was set up.

BRUBAKER: Yeah. To me, there's a difference between working on something like Watchmen, and creating characters for a company that you know are going to be owned by that company going forward. I don't recall a time when Jack Kirby was standing there saying, "They promised me I'd own The Avengers; nobody should be doing this."

What I remember, from when I was becoming aware of this stuff in the '80s, is that Jack wanted his art back and he wanted a percent of the money generated from his creations. I don't recall Jack Kirby ever suggesting that someone shouldn't do Captain America. And I can't recall Marvel Comics ever holding up the Avengers as a victory for creator's rights like DC did with Watchmen.

So I think there's a clear distinction between the Jack Kirby thing and the Alan Moore thing. And I want to be very clear, I'm not trying to diminish Jack Kirby's contributions to Marvel Comics, which are immense, or say that he shouldn't have gotten more for his creations and co-creations, because I think he should have. But I don't think the situation is the same as what's going on with Watchmen.

At the same time, I've always felt good about the fact that the credits for Captain America say, "created by Simon and Kirby" and that Marvel had settled with Simon and Kirby -- not Kirby himself, but Kirby's heirs -- over Cap. So they are getting something from the Avengers movie, because of that. But the other stuff is all tied up in that huge lawsuit, so Marvel can't even publicly discuss any of these issues.

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SPURGEON: Were you surprised with the Moore part of the situation, not so much that some people had principled reactions to what Moore might or might not want with these books but that there was a reaction on the level of "Screw that guy"? Because that kind of reaction surprised me. I get some of the arguments against what Moore is claiming; I may not agree with them, but I get them. The summary dismissal, though, I found dismaying. Were you surprised at all by the violence of the reaction?

BRUBAKER: Yeah, completely. Partly because even four or five years ago, Alan Moore was revered in comics, regardless of any fights he had with publishers or fallings out he'd had. He's been nominated for more awards than anyone in the history of the medium, I think. And then he gives a few cranky interviews about the mainstream comics market from the point of view of someone who clearly wasn't aware of what was going on in it, and people were suddenly like, "Fuck that guy."

I was surprised by the bloodthirstiness, and I was surprised how much I cared about the issue, too. But the PR that came out... Some of the stuff JMS was saying in preemptive defense of the project... A lot of it made me kind of vomit in my mouth. The way that fans attacked Alan Moore -- "screw him, he signed a shitty contract!" -- and the debates back and forth about how he's done the same things with League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen so he can't complain... which just... that makes no sense. An author always has the right to complain about the treatment of their work. You don't forfeit that when you write an issue of Superman. To see that reaction from the fan base was disheartening. You expect them to be on the side of the creator.

But the thing that really bugged me was when Watchmen was announced it was, coincidentally, that same summer the entire industry rallied around Jack Kirby against Marvel. It was the era of the "Creator's Rights Revolution" and DC really used Watchmen at the time. Part of the PR was that it was creator-owned, that these guys would get this property back. DC used it to position themselves against Marvel as the more creator-friendly company.

I was at the San Diego Comic-Con the year that Alan Moore was there. I saw him talk about Watchmen and what a revolutionary thing it was that they'd gotten this deal for it. Part of it felt like a promise to the industry that things were changing. That this was different. And so while the book never went out of print and they never got their ownership, I always felt that on some level Paul Levitz seemed to respect the spirit of the deal: that they had created this thing and while DC officially owned it, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had moral ownership of it, at least.

So to see this happen over the objection of the guy who wrote it, and then to see the responses, "Well, Alan Moore didn't really create those characters anyway; they're just the Charlton characters." Or "He did the same thing with Lost Girls. Would the people who created those characters be happy with the way Alan Moore treated them?" I don't think he was positioning Lost Girls as an official, in-continuity sequel to those author's books, for one, but I think two of them are on the record as saying they don't give a shit what anyone does with their characters. And clearly DC doesn't think the Watchmen characters are just the Charlton heroes, because they copyrighted and trademarked them as totally different characters.

Batman began as The Shadow but he's clearly a different character. Where a character begins doesn't take away from what they end up becoming. Creation is a process. Lots of our favorite things began as some writer doing their take on some idea or character. And you don't know until they tell you -- "yeah, this character is like Punisher crossed with Tigra but with my views on animal rights" -- just like with Watchmen it wasn't until Moore and Gibbons revealed the process, that it had begun as a pitch for the MLJ and then the Charlton heroes, that anyone made the connection.

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SPURGEON: There's this assumption that corporations are going to do evil things, and we scramble to find a justification along the lines of what's allowable or arguable. We don't argue best outcomes. We argue what people can do rather than what they should do.

BRUBAKER: Yeah. You're naïve if you want people to do the right thing. "Get over it, man. The Tyrell Corporation makes replicants. That's life."

SPURGEON: Which seems even odder to argue in this case because we've just gone through 25 years of this corporation not doing this.

BRUBAKER: Yeah, it looks especially bad that Watchmen was this special thing they left alone, they let it be a novel, which is what it was.

Really, though, the saddest part for me is the "fuck Alan Moore; he signed a shitty contract" thing. That's really, really sad. When JMS at the Chicago Comicon -- or wherever that was -- said, "Did Alan Moore get a shitty contract? Yes. Jack Kirby got a shitty contract, too." That really, to me, when I was reading that I was like "Holy shit." Siegel's and Shuster's and Kirby's shitty deals are now being used to defend a project as opposed to...

SPURGEON: ... indict a company.

BRUBAKER: Yeah. Usually, that would be the opposite. Are we living in opposite-land now? "So and so got a shitty contract, too, so just get over it." Like I said, the poor treatment of creators by "the Big Two" was supposed to be part of the past. They'd changed their policies to be more creator-friendly, so things like this weren't supposed to happen anymore. And yet here it is, the only time during my entire career where we've seen the writer of a book standing there saying "I don't want this thing to happen." And people are just giving him the finger.

imageSPURGEON: Do you think the situation with Steve Gerber and the Omega The Unknown property was similar?

BRUBAKER: You're right. He was angry about that. He said Jonathan Lethem had made an enemy for life. Jonathan Lethem called him up and talked to him about it because he didn't know Steve Gerber wanted to do more Omega. They ended up talking amicably, from what I gathered. There wasn't a big controversy over it. But yeah, you're right. Gerber is kind of the outlier of all this stuff.

The thing is, I'm glad JMS said what he did, because while it appalled me at the time, there's an inherent truth to what he said. And it actually sparked a lot of people thinking about these issues more than they were doing. I think they had written it off. "Dave Gibbons is okay with it, and Alan Moore is a cranky old man, so fuck him." Then JMS said that thing, and people started re-examining the whole thing. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Isn't that the hopeful part of this? That this is a stop-and-reconsider moment for a lot of creators and interested fans? Because you couldn't get a conversation going about creators rights a year ago. People thought that all of those issues were taken care of.

BRUBAKER: Yeah. They seemed like settled issues and now suddenly the entire industry is talking about them again.

But that all feels naïve, too. I mean, once you get established in comics, you know to create your own material and not give up ownership to a publisher. I don't know any established pro that isn't currently planning or doing a project they have complete ownership of. That's one of the reasons Sean and I started Criminal at Icon way back when, because we were at a point where we didn't need to give away anything to get it published. So it's not like comics needed this reminder, or like the next Alan Moore was waiting in line to give his next big thing to DC. You know giving away half the ownership and all the control isn't a great deal.

Something that I was thinking about was what DC could have done when the market changed and they realized Watchmen was never going to go out of print? Because they could have altered the deal if they wanted, to be more fair to Dave and Alan. I mean, the book was in profit when the single issues were coming out, so it's not like DC took some huge risk on Watchmen. Alan Moore was their best writer and it was one of their bestselling things. The trade paperback was immediately a perennial best seller. They could have said, "Okay, we've made ten times our initial investment back, so we're going to give you guys 50 percent of profits from now on." They could have said they'd keep it in print and give them control over what happens to it. And who knows, Before Watchmen might have still happened. Because Dave Gibbons signed off on it... He made that one public statement.

imageSPURGEON: No one can speak to his intention, but that was one bleak endorsement.

BRUBAKER: Well, I don't know how Dave Gibbons feels, but in my own experience, with Sleeper, you kind of get used to the fact that you don't own your work when you realize you've made a bad deal. [laughs] If I'd owned Sleeper, my whole life would be different now. Other opportunities would have opened for me long ago.

But that's all hindsight. It's really easy to look at things and say, "Wow, I should have done this; I should have done that." Whereas in '99 when Scott Dunbier asked me to create a monthly comic for WildStorm, nobody else was asking for me to create something like Sleeper. So it's easy to look back and go, "I wish I had made a different deal."

Still, Dave did give them an okay, and I think if Dave Gibbons were objecting the same way Alan Moore is, it most likely wouldn't exist. At least, I don't think so. Although, I don't know, maybe they wouldn't care? It's hard to imagine, but the whole situation is.

SPURGEON: It's hard to talk about Before Watchmen because it's an absurd thing.

BRUBAKER: It really is. I feel like this is the weirdest, most surreal thing that's happened since I've been in comics professionally.

And I want to be very clear here, too, that I have no ill will toward anybody who's working on this project. I have friends working on this and I don't begrudge any of them doing it. It's a tough industry to make a living in, and it's a pretty scary time to be a professional in this industry. And they don't have to view it the same way I do. They don't have to make a distinction between this and any other company-owned job. And I assume they knew going in that not everyone would view it the same way they do.

But what I can't get beyond is the way DC is sort of rewriting history here, and pretending like they didn't say Watchmen was this great new deal. It was supposed to be the thing that was different than Superman, different than Howard the Duck, and in the end, it wasn't at all.

******

* Fatale Volume One: Death Chases Me, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Image, softcover, 144 pages, APR120439, 9781607065630, 2012, $14.99.
* Fatale #6, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Image, comic book, 32 pages, 2012, $3.50.
* Ed Brubaker on Twitter

******

* the cover to the new trade
* a photo of Brubaker by Tom Spurgeon
* a panel from pretty early on in the new book, I think
* a couple of arresting single panels from Sean Phillips
* the cover in question
* one of the overt blendings of supernatural and crime/noir: these terrifying thugs
* two scenes where the sense of scope and time is called upon and used
* from Brubaker's Captain America
* from Brubaker's Winter Soldier
* the first issue of Captain America Brubaker bought -- he still has a copy
* issues from the runs Brubaker liked on the title as a young man
* a somber moment -- among many -- in Brubaker's Captain America run
* from one of the issues recently written in partnership with Cullen Bunn
* Steve Epting art
* a panel that harkens back to the character's origin/first appearances
* three panels from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
* the original Omega The Unknown
* from Sleeper, not owned by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
* the latest issue; you should try it out -- things get weird (below)

******

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******
******
 
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Go, Look: Philippe Petit-Roulet

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Go, Look: Premonitory

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Go, Look: PatLoika.com

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Go, Look: Matthew Allison

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Comics' Giving Heart Sunday Special -- Bughouse Campaign

I totally missed that Steve Lafler was trying to raise money for a tour. Lafler's an old-school comics warrior of the most honorable and worthy kind; I hope that any of you out there seeing this today will consider sending him a few bucks or getting on board with a premium. I think he's using one of the services where he'll get to keep whatever money is raised.
 
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If I Were In Charlotte, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This

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18 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Hup

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The first time I saw a Robert Crumb comic was in the town of Syracuse, Indiana, where my family spent its summers, on the front-room table of a couple of college guys who rented a house down the way to sail and smoke pot. I remember being impressed by its lurid weirdness. Crumb was the one underground cartoonist whose work was strong enough and distinctive enough and popular in the general culture enough that most comics fans -- hell, most kids my age -- had an idea who he was and that he was the underground guy and that at least some if not all of his comics were naughty. If you weren't familiar with the name or the comics or even "Keep On Truckin'" you'd probably heard of the Fritz The Cat movie -- it was one of those movies that got talked about constantly whether or not anyone doing the talking had ever seen it (right up there with Debbie Does Dallas, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Exorcist.)

Nowhere I shopped for comics when I lived in Indiana had any Robert Crumb, at least not to my memory. If they had underground comix, even, I didn't see them (we had a place called Stonehenge Records that would have had them if anyone did.) The overground stuff was all over the place in the Indianapolis and Chicago comic book shops, those places were like Richard Corben fan clubs, but something like Weirdo I don't think I saw until I turned 20. I bought Hup at a comics shop in Syracuse, New York, when I visited my older brother, a college student there in the post-McCloud/Busiek era. I knew enough about Crumb when I was 17 or 18 to know that I should be reading the guy even if he didn't make the kinds of comics I liked the most. People remember The Comics Journal as a place where belligerent arguments took place about what comics one should be reading, but the more effective tool they had where my taste was concerned was this kind of matter of fact, "you should probably be reading this unless you're a loser" approach -- kind of like the cover to Hup #1 up there but with more rolling of the eyes than calling out. Because comics-buying in series form was such that you actually tended to have money left over -- at least we did -- for random purchases week to week, a lot of the comics you heard about in places like the Journal or by hearing about them from other comic books could be the beneficiary of your extra dough. Hard to believe now, I know.

Memories of Hup itself aren't colossal in my mind, but I'm pretty sure this is the first place I encountered quality autobiographical comics -- one of the "My Trouble With Women" stories was in of these books, and the one where Crumb is in the baby carriage I'm pretty sure is in one of these issues. The idea that comics could be used to tell any kind of story was a perfectly reasonable one to me -- Sick, Sick, Sick and Saul Steinberg were as big a part of comics in my house as Thor and Andy Capp -- but to see a serious narrative or two done as well as Crumb could do them was an eye-opener. By the time the fourth issue of Hup came out, my reading habits had completely changed, and these comics were maybe 1/10 of the Crumb I owned. That takes us out of the 1980s, though, much like these comics took me.
 
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FFF Results Post #299 -- And Then There Were None

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name The Last Five Comics-Buying Impulses/Strategies You'd Give Up." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

5. New Serial Comics From Jeff Smith
4. Old Hardcover Cartoon Books At Used Bookstores And Library Sales
3. New Issues of King-Cat Comix And Stories
2. Old Jack Kirby Comics For $2 Or Less
1. New issues of Love & Rockets

*****

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Jason Michelitch

5. Buying any autobio comics by Eddie Campbell.
4. Buying magazine-size paperback collections of Love and Rockets from used book stores.
3. Buying small-size paperbacks of Doonesbury and Peanuts at flea markets.
2. Dollar-bin diving for weird anthology comics I've never heard of at unfamiliar comics shops.
1. Buying comics of any kind, but particularly pamphlets and mini-comics, direct from artists at SPX or other small-press friendly conventions.

*****

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Will Pfeifer

5. Any hardback volume from Seth, especially if it focuses on some sort of fictional history of comics
4. Old DC 80-Page Giants or 100-Page Super Spectaculars from the 1960s or 1970s in a bargain box
3. Anything by the team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
2. New work by Daniel Clowes
1. Any sort of book about comics, preferably some forgotten and/or weird corner of comics history. The perfect example would be "The Sincerest Form of Parody" or that book about Joe Shuster's strange bondage drawings.

*****

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Chad Nevett

5. Hellblazer trade paperbacks.
4. Random back issues of What If...? for cheap.
3. New Warren Ellis-written comics.
2. Anything cosmic by Jim Starlin, writing or drawing or writing and drawing.
1. New Joe Casey-written comics.

*****

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Shannon Smith

5. DC Showcase Presents collections for $5 or less
4. Marvel Essential collections for $5 or less
3. New comics from Robert Crumb
2. New Comics from Paul Pope
1. New comics from Chester Brown

*****

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Michael Grabowski

5. Comics my kids enjoy like the new Peanuts or Langridge's Muppets
4. Comics direct from artists' and small press publishers' websites like Uncivilized Books
3. Books published/sold directly by Fantagraphics, D + Q, Top Shelf at end-of-year deep discounts
2. new comics by Dave Sim
1. Books collecting Alex Toth work in black & white

*****

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Kiel Phegley

5. Checking out whatever's going on in DC's Batman title, which I was subscribed to by mail from around #488 until #660.
4. Picking up whatever odd comic piques my interest at Jellybean's in my hometown of Flint, Michigan. [ http://www.jellybeansonline.com/ ]
3. Buying alternative comics direct from the artists at shows like SPX, APE, MoCCA and now CAKE.
2. Participating in the general "Let's see what serials are on the racks on Wednesday" experience.
1. Buying whatever comics my close friends are involved in creatively or editorially (i.e. Justin Aclin, Alejandro Arbona, Sean T. Collins, Ben Morse, Ryan Penagos, Rickey Purdin)

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

5. Sampling series about five issues in and liking it so much I not only buy that series from that issue on, but go on a frantic back issue search as well, or at least get trades of what I missed
4. New serial Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers comics by Jeff Parker, Declan Shalvey, and Kev Walker
3. New issues of Love & Rockets: New Stories (You'll get this one a lot, I think)
2. New issues of Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta's Starstruck, in whatever format they care to release it
1. New serial comics that guest star Cameron Chase as illustrated by J.H. Williams III

*****

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Dave Knott

5. New serial comics from Paul Grist
4. Comics from creators based in Vancouver
3. Translations of comics from creators connected to L'Association
2. Short-form work from indie/alternative creators
1. Random/unexpected finds from dealer tables at conventions

*****

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Marc Sobel

5. Browsing my local library's graphic novel section
4. Jim Hanley Universe's box sales - fill a box of comics for $20
3. New work by Chris Ware
2. Scanning Ebay listings for discounted '80s comics
1. New work by the Hernandez brothers

*****

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Andrew White

5. Serial comics by Brandon Graham
4. Sci-fi albums by Frederik Peeters
3. Sports serials by Takehiko Inoue or Mitsuru Adachi
2. Minicomics obtained through trading
1. Anything by Kevin Huizenga

*****

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Justin J. Major

5. Comics Reporter's Best Book of the Year
4. Used TPB Collections for $5 Or Less
3. Comics From Benefit Auctions
2. Runs of Ten or More Issues From Quarter Bin
1. New Achewood Collections

*****

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Tom Bondurant

5. DC anthologies of the '70s and '80s, especially Dollar Comics
4. Peter David's Incredible Hulk
3. Micronauts
2. Batman series from the "New Look" forward
1. Justice League of America Vol. 1

*****

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John Platt

5. Mini-comics
4. Mignolaverse comics
3. Warren Ellis anything
2. Alan Moore anything
1. Comic strip collections

*****

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William Burns

5. Out of print trades on Sequential Swap
4. Batches of Kenzer comics on Ebay
3. Marvel Hardcover collections for under $3 on Abe books
2. JH Williams III comics at the comic shop
1. Dark Horse and Vertigo Trades on Ebay

*****

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Michael Dooley

5. New issues of the Comics Journal.
4. Treasuries of Victorian murders.
3. Monographs of favorite comics artists that are mostly – or completely – well written texts rather than simply "picture book" reprints.
2. New Spiegelman and Ware.
1. Visually well designed and well illustrated comics and graphic novels.

*****

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Mark Coale

5. Back issues of 1950s Danger Trail and The Phantom Stranger
4. Old DC digests
3. New issues of roger langridge comics
2. New issues of brubaker/phillips crime comics
1. New issues of casanova

*****

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Douglas Wolk

5. Romance comics of any vintage priced at $2 or less
4. Assembling runs of recent superhero titles from quarter bins at conventions
3. Tracking down John Wagner comics I haven't read yet, new and old
2. Anything Jim Woodring draws
1. I'm right there with you on the new issues of Love & Rockets front

*****

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Niel Jacoby

5: Uncollected Joe Casey Comics
4: First Comics' prestige-format releases of Lone Wolf and Cub
3: new Mark Waid comics
2: Old Prestige Format miniseries or one-shots
1: Back issues of Ann Nocenti's Daredevil

*****

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Buzz Dixon

5. Superhero comics of any kind
4. Hard copy collections of American comics
3. Open ended manga serials (will still buy open ended series of stand-alone stories)
2. Anything by Alan Moore
1. Marvel Comics of any kind -- past, present, or future

*****

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Douglas Mullins

5. New Issues of B.P.R.D.- / HellboyRelated Comics
4. Using the Excuse of Midtown Comics' Frequent 25% Off Back Issue Deals to Buy Jack Kirby Comics.
3. Using the Excuse of New York Comicon to Spend a Bundle on Back Issues and Half-Off Marvel Master Works.
2. Using the Excuse of BCGF to Spend a Bundle on Picturebox Books.
1. Buying Something From Frank Santoro Anytime I'm in the Same Room with him

*****
*****
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade




Three Interviews With Cartooning For Health And Peace Cartoonists


Profile Of Naji Al-Ali


This Isn't Comics At All, But Sure Classes Up The Joint

Pro
Profile Of James Kemsley


Part Of A Panel From CAKE 2012


Another Steve Brodner Video I Haven't Watched Yet
 
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June 23, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 16 to June 22, 2012:

1. Matt Groening ends his Life In Hell strip, a titan of 1980s counter-culture and one of the most under-appreciated efforts of fall time.

2. Industry begins to round on the reality that Walking Dead #100 is going to sell something like a kabillion copies.

3. Continuing world attention on Syria means continuing world attention on Syrian cartoonist Al Ferzat, whose ability to draw was assaulted last August by pro-government thugs. In a new round of media engagements, Ferzat reveals that he was thrown out of a moving car after beaten, and draws on camera for I think the first time. I'm not all the way certain, but he may also have hinted that he's part of Batman, Inc.

Winner Of The Week
Shary Boyle

Loser Of The Week
Ohio geeks.

Quote Of The Week
"Girl, 8 or 9, sees @brubaker's 'Death of Captain America' book and whispers to her mom: 'I looove murder.' Only customer this week I've liked." -- Colt Duncan

*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Charlotte, I'd Go To This

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19 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Miracleman

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I have a hard time remembering much of what happened in Miracleman, the transplanted-from-England Alan Moore-written superhero story, in the sense of there being an extended narrative. I couldn't tell you what the thing was about, other than the fact that like most of its ilk it was about superheroes, too. I can sure recall any number of individual moments in these comics. There's a birth. There's the way the character initially puts together his "magic word." There's a scene where they're reading comics for clues. There's a man with scary teeth. There's one where they talk about sex education as something that should involve having sex as part of that education. There's a bunch of stuff with the creepy Kid Miracleman character, a wonderful bad guy. There's the arch-villain that looks like the late Joe Paterno. And then there's the single issue with all the killing, which I remember mostly in terms of its visual texture, one giant smear of pain. That was one of the actually rare comic books of its day, incidentally; I had two or three interns at TCJ that asked to read the office copy the day they arrived.

Did the story even end? I get the sense that it didn't, that it transferred over to Neil Gaiman and the artists with whom he was working and then kind of went away after one or maybe two issues. There was a big lawsuit and multiple claims of ownership and finally the character found purchase at I think Marvel Comics, although who the hell knows, really. I like to imagine him out there as a threat of rolling back into comics existence maybe more than I'll like whatever comic book of theirs he inhabits. He's a curious 'tweener, in a way, kind of perfectly suited to this specific story but also a character that could be used over and over again much like its source character, Captain Marvel.

Miracleman was well-executed, at least to my just-indicted memory. Because the story is about this (mortal) guy being this other (superhuman) guy, Moore's allowed to get into how that might feel or seem to those on the ground -- fast and terrifying, mostly. For all of Moore's ambitions as a writer and as much as a lot of his work is held in esteem, and as much as it can be an awesome thing to behold the way he structures his books, he's also really good at pop problem solving and always has been.

I haven't even looked at these comics since the day I bought my last of them, and if you had asked me at the time I would have thought I'd have read them a half-dozen additional times by now. A lot of comics are like that, instant friends of the dormitory hallway variety and then suddenly you're both decades older and you haven't spoken in years and years.
 
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Shary Boyle To Represent Canada At Venice Biennale

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Congratulations to Boyle on a stupendous honor. My goodness.
 
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June 22, 2012


Go, Look: Summer 1977 Marvel Comics Covers

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Brigid Alverson Ferrets Out A Couple Of Digital Market Numbers

She posts her findings over at Robot 6 and thoroughly links up her sources. A 4X growth this year sounds about right to me given the state of various comics initiatives and platform launches as they might have an impact on increasing comfort with the idea of digital comics both from new consumers and old.

It still feels to me -- and if there's anything to which a sense of feel should be applied, it's a kind of comics reading I don't do -- that we're not at the total end point/starting point for how that market should work. Then again, from what we learned with the comic strip syndicates and the digital availability of the comics they represent, it's entirely possible there's no magic set of gears that needs to lock into place no matter how much it feels there should be.
 
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Go, Look: The Deck Hands

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Go, Read: A Tim Kreider Interview

I sort of feel that Tim Kreider should get every link possible for the "Babies Are Assholes" cartoon the same way that the Apollo astronauts should always get a round of applause when they enter a restaurant with their families. Anyway, there's some material in there about the differences between Kreider the essayist and Kreider the cartoonist that sounds pretty dead-on.
 
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Not Comics: Tiger Illustration Gallery

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I'm Pretty Sure Jog's The Only Writer About Comics Out There...

... that could get me to read a bunch of footnotes to a podcast I haven't listened to yet.
 
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Go, Look: More Great Cartoons Of The World

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Collective Memory: CAKE 2012

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this entry has been archived
 
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If I Were In St. Louis, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Charlotte, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: The Sneak Attack

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* all eyes to Charlotte. Actually, all eyes won't be going to Charlotte in the traditional sense of big publishing announcement -- HeroesCon isn't that kind of show. What it is, though, is a fairly sizable gathering of mostly mainstream folks in a year where talk of Creator's Right and generally what it means to work in comics are fevered topics. So... all ears on Charlotte. As for the show itself, I'd say you could do much worse than walking around this section like 50 times.

image* Tom Bondurant writes on Paul Kirk and Manhunter. I always thought that early '70s favorite was intriguing for the fan mechanisms that made it a well-known thing. I mean, I was in Indiana, didn't follow DC books at all, and, for that matter, was a child, and somehow I still learned that that was supposedly one of the good ones and I needed to read it.

* the Bleeding Cool site has a list of books they say are being put into the Direct Market system as kind of a unofficial liquidation of that particular stock. Lot of good books there to check for in your local store. I have no idea what it would mean for a company like DC to be reducing the size of their list in this fashion, whether that's routine or this should send up some sort of colored flag.

* Alex Dueben talks to Joseph Remnant and Jeff Newelt. Ron Marz talks to Darryl Banks. Alex Zalben talks to Caitlin R. Kiernan.

* not comics: Marc Arsenault stumbles across some Gary Panter art and would like to share it with you.

* not comics: not sure why I bookmarked this photo of Jesse Pearson with Dwight Gooden, but there you go. I'm also unclear about what exactly I intended to do with this picture.

* Rob Clough on a bunch of various comic-book comics.

* finally, the nice folks at Casablanca Comics have scanned/photographed the 1971 NYT Magazine article on relevant comics, one of probably ten big, popular articles from that era that focus on comics. It's by Saul Braun, one of those names that turns up every so often in stories about New York publishing in the 1960s: I think he was probably getting at the Marvel stuff through a relationship to the Martin Goodman magazines and their writers, although that's a hunch. I always liked that photo of Stan Lee.
 
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If I Were In Brooklyn, I'd Go To This

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
20 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

image

This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Epic Illustrated

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The mystery for me looking back on my comics consumption from my return to the form in late mid-1979 and through my college years is piecing together exactly what the heck it was I was buying from 1980 to about 1984. A lot of the comics I thought were published 1981-1984 consistently end up having been released three years later than my original guess. One complication is that these years constituted my back-issues phase, where I bought the comics I had missed during my brief time away, bought the comics I had as a younger child, and then bought as many comics all the way back to 1961 that my allowance and all the extra work I could find would allow. (Granted, this was an era when the most expensive X-Men other than #1 -- #94 -- cost $13.) It's hard to recall what I was buying new and what I was buying old. It could very well be that I was buying very few new titles and a lot of old ones. Considering my hometown of Muncie had no comics shop as of yet, but I was buying my back issues from a pawn shop in the winter and about a half-dozen back-issues dealers set up in Shipshewana in the summer, this seems likely. Focused selling beats grocery store every time. At one point I became so enamored of older comic books, mostly Marvels, that I taped them above where I slept, making my bedroom the first place I encountered the terrifying Wall Of Comics so well known to every direct market shopper.

I know I bought Epic Illustrated, though. I assume without knowing that Epic was Marvel's stab at some of those Heavy Metal or Warren Publishing dollars, or perhaps a general rowing against what looked like the shudder and collapse of the entire comic book enterprise. Epic seemed like a big deal artistically, too, although definitely within the narrow parameters of providing a platform for slightly off-key genre material as opposed to formulaic superhero work. While I was familiar with Heavy Metal and bought it with friends whenever we could find it, Epic was much more widely available. You could find it at the drugstore in the town I spent my summers growing up, on the bottom shelf near the spinner rack. Heavy Metal they sold near or even with pornography, at least in my stated. Epic was a good deal because that could be your "get one thing" when your parents allowed it. My first issue was #2. I was enamored of the fantasy material, particularly the Roy Thomas/Tim Conrad adaptation of Almuric (full of bat-people; I was inordinately fond of bat-people) and Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis. The former plugged right into that part of my brain that figured I was destined for greater things in some kind of world one went to on a ray beam or by scrambling through a wardrobe or going biking with the Powell children. The latter I liked because I understood the rudimentary parable unfolding in front of me and every smart kid loves that first meal at the adult's table, no matter what's being served.

I read the first several issues religiously and continued to read Epic off and on for several years. The place where I bought my comics eventually changed, but I still needed to go to the drugstore and buying a comics magazine when there was a new one seemed like a great thing more often than not. I remember finding the Marada serial skeevy (the rape stuff) and the Elric material fascinating (the decorative art and somber tone), but mostly I held onto the smaller glimpses that flashed in and out of the various issues. Cholly and Flytrap. "Shiny Beast." By the time Galactus showed up, I had checked out -- at least emotionally. For one thing, I was pretty sure no one was going to whisk me away to fight Evil Lord Anything.
 
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June 21, 2012


Go, Look: Don Kenn Gallery

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Ali Ferzat Profiled, Filmed Drawing, Releases New Cartoon

It's hard not to get a little choked up to see the Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat draw in this video over at the Guardian. Pro-government thugs assaulted Ferzat last summer and tried to end his ability to draw, a talent that he was putting to service criticizing the increasingly embattled regime. He has since continued that work. The continuing horrible events in that country have kept Ferzat in the news. Here's a profile; here's a new cartoon.

I've since watched the entire video, and I hope you will, too. I thought it was really good. I found it moving. There's something about how ebullient he is about the effect his art can have, and also how witty and urbane he seems in general in contrast to his treatment in the incident last year. Ferzat goes from describing his beating in matter-of-fact details -- the one that always kills me is they used the word "masters" -- to describing the tough road back and the attention he receives as an honor. An honor. He apparently still suffers from what sounds like nerve damage.
 
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Go, Look: Ben Dale Art

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CR Newsmaker Interview: Rico Renzi Of HeroesCon

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*****

imageIt's the 30th anniversary of the Charlotte-based HeroesCon this weekend. I believe HeroesCon to be North America's premier regional show -- and I mean regional in the most complimentary way possible. It's a show I relate to the south: it's not the only show down there, but certainly it's a major show of interest from New Orleans to Chicago to DC to Miami and all points in-between, as well as for anyone who simply wants to visit a unique part of the United States. It's a show for which a number of professionals have a great deal of affection. It's also one of the shows that's smart enough to have built a specific identity, mostly based on drawing culture -- sketchbooks and commissions abound, and it's not uncommon to see an artist booked solid from morning to night making art that they've arranged ahead of time. I had a great time both times I went. (They're an advertiser here, if you want to believe the worst of me; I don't mind.)

I wanted to find some way to throw some special attention onto the show the day before it gets underway. At the moment this rolls out, it's likely that the convention's vans are shuttling back and forth between airport and the downtown Westin that will serve as informal hub and all around drink-and-talk central. I asked cartoonist Dustin Harbin, who used to be formally aligned with the show, to whom I might speak. He suggested Rico Renzi, someone with whom I'm familiar as a colorist rather than as convention support staff. I'm grateful he was able to find the time in a busy, busy week.

I tweaked a bit of the following to avoid a redundancy or two based on my lousy questions. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Can you describe by way of introduction what it is you're actually doing for the show? Because I think as much as readers of CR are familiar with how things work at HeroesCon, they're familiar with how they worked when Dustin Harbin was running things.

RICO RENZI: Well, when Dustin resigned, Casey Jones, a mutual friend of Shelton and I, gave me a call and suggested I might be a good fit in the Creative Director role. After a few months of phone tag and negotiations, I packed up my wife and daughter and we moved down here from the Baltimore area. I was hired as Creative Director but within a couple months of starting, our Events Coordinator resigned so I had to take on a few more responsibilities. I've attended HeroesCon many times as a fan and guest since 1997 and it has always been my favorite con since that first visit. I'm not trying to reinvent anything here, Shelton has a great thing going and I'm just here to help continue that friendly, comics, and art-focused tradition. If you want a difference between Dusty's methods and mine, I'm not as comfortable being in the spotlight. Shelton is the face of HeroesCon and he's great at that.

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SPURGEON: I'm aware of some of your color work... how much is comics work a part of your overall vocational profile? Does that help, at all, do you think, having that perspective when dealing with what pros and the like want out of a comics show?

RENZI: I'm usually working on about three coloring jobs at any given time. I work on that stuff after I get home from a day of work at Heroes and after we have dinner and put my 7-year old to bed. My comics career and past life in the printing industry prepared me for most of what I deal with on a day-to-day basis at Heroes. I'm familiar with most of the guests so I do my best to arrange the floor so that creators are either sitting next to their friends or someone I think they will have a lot in common with. If all your guests are happy it will do wonders for the atmosphere of the show and how attendees perceive you convention. So yes, I think it helps!

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SPURGEON: Heroes has this wonderful and I think deserved reputation as a big art show, a show where the fans and the pros in attendance are maybe a little bit more into original art and buying sketches than the average show. There's also the big art auction. Do you have any idea how Heroes developed this particular aspect of the convention experience? Are there artists at the show that you particularly look forward to seeing?

RENZI: I've always thought of Heroes as a comic art show but working here I've learned about some the other aspects of it like the great panel discussions Andy Mansell helps coordinate. The Discussion Groups that he organizes for the store throughout the year are amazing too. Andy isn't even on staff, he's a volunteer!

The Annual Art Auction and the availability of the artists to their fans was what made HeroesCon unique to me. I first came here as a sketch hound and got amazing art from guys like Adam Hughes and Brian Stelfreeze for the price of a steak dinner! The auction was originally a charity event. After a few years though, several of guests of the show saw that Shelton [Drum, the show's founder and owner of the Heroes retail operation] was putting the show on at a loss and asked him to consider rolling the auction proceeds back into the convention's hospitality fund. So, it's kind of like a self-contained convention Kickstarter. The generosity of our guests is what keeps us afloat and allows us to put on a comic book show without having a bunch of movie and videogame companies here.

imageArtists I look forward to seeing? Bill Sienkiewicz is coming to the show this year and watching that guy paint is awesome! He attacks the board with utter confidence and creates something gorgeous every time. Dave Cooper and Jaime Hernandez would have to be the guests I am most excited about, though. They are truly two of my favorite artists. Dave's never been to HeroesCon, I'm hoping he has a great time and starts getting the itch to make comics again!

SPURGEON: Does Heroes have goals and the like that it tries to meet in a specific year? Like I remember attending in 2010, and they had moved halls since the previous time I'd been there, and that seemed like a big deal to me. Is the show as healthy and generally successful as it seems like from the outside-in? Where are there improvements to be made, development to be had?

RENZI: Stan Lee's attendance to this year's show has definitely caused a spike in advance ticket sales from what I can tell. I honestly like the show at just the size it is; it's just right. I used to hop on a bus from Baltimore to go the NYCC and I loved it for the first couple years. It just got too big for me too enjoy it, you couldn't walk around without rubbing up against strangers. It's a great alternative to San Diego now I guess. If you're looking for a pure comic book show though, HeroesCon is where it's at. We're been trying a few new things between this year and last year. On Friday night we have a Drink and Draw event across from the convention center where creators draw on coasters and we sell them to benefit Richard Thompson and Chris Sparks' Team Cul de Sac efforts on behalf of Parkinson's Research. This year we're going to attempt our first HeroesCon Fun Run. Eric Canete spearheaded it and did artwork for our shirt. He even offered to do portfolio reviews of any aspiring artists who participate!

SPURGEON: You guys have a reputation as a premier regional show... one for which guests and pros have a lot of affection. I know that a number of shows are kind of getting to a similar point in their development. Is ther any advice you'd have for show that would like a similar, solid place in the convention calendar? Is there something that smaller shows overlook as they grow, do you think?

RENZI: I think Shelton has done a great job of branding his convention. It's known for specific things. To me it's art and hospitality. Smaller conventions skimp on design, someone who knows how to use Photoshop or Powerpoint designs their postcards and their websites. Their logos change each time they put out a new postcard! I'd say sit down and think about what you want to project, hire a designer, invite a few great guests and build a relationship with them and your attendees. Then find your niche.

SPURGEON: We talked about guests, and you mentioned Dave and Jaime, who are two astounding artists -- are there other guys that you want to see, maybe someone with whom you have a relationship tied to show? I know that when conventions work they all seem to work that way, where you're not just seeing artists you admire but also seeing guys with whom you have a relationship based on the show itself or getting to spend the weekend with some pals with whom you share comics or other comics endeavors.

RENZI: Definitely excited to meet Mike Zeck! He was one of the guys at the first HeroesCon. My buddy Chris Brunner who I do Loose Ends with is coming up from Atlanta, it's always great to hang out with him.

SPURGEON: Do you even have hang out time? How much of the show do you get to attend, Rico?

RENZI: I attend the entire show, Tom; I speed walk that floor from open until close everyday, putting out fires and making sure everyone is having a great time. I'm looking forward to Saturday afternoon right now so I can exhale.

*****

HeroesCon is Friday, Saturday, Sunday at the Charlotte Convention Center. It's a good thing about comics, and I hope if you can, you'll attend.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Keiler Roberts

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Thomas Jane + Thomas Ott = Comics Is Really Weird Now

I wouldn't have caught this in 100 years, so I'm glad Heidi MacDonald was on patrol.
 
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Not Comics: Avon Fantasy Reader Cover Gallery

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Is This Superman Birthplace Thing Legal Or Nerdly?

So I guess Warners is against an Ohio license plate declaring that Ohio is the birthplace of Superman. Is that as this article suggests for the reason that they'd prefer to maintain the illusion that Superman was born on Krypton, or is it because they don't want the legal reinforcement that the character existed as a creation before Cleveland natives Siegel and Shuster were contracted to deliver the property to DC Comics? I honestly don't know, and my Internet searching skills are being foiled by virtual kryptonite or something.
 
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If I Were In Paris, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Colonel Potterby And The Duchess

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* TCAF 2013 has dates: May 11 and May 12.

image* Matt Seneca on Wayward Girls. David Brothers on Star*Reach Classics #1. Rob Clough on The Wrong Place. Philip Shropshire on Prophet #25. Greg McElhatton on Double Barrel #1. Ng Suat Tong on The House On The Borderland. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Green Lantern Corps: Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns. Johanna Draper Carlson on a variety of comics. Greg McElhatton on Saga #4. Jeet Heer on Cruisin' With The Hound.

* Domingos Isabelinho went to the Oslo Comics Expo.

* I quite liked Heidi MacDonald's tribute to Life In Hell. Here's LA Observed, USA Today and one of the NYT blogs. I'm confused by this analysis -- it's not like Groening shut it down because it wasn't making with the cash. Heidi unpacks that notion a bit here; hey, maybe it was the cash. Everybody likes to feel their work has value.

* Kim Jarvis talks to Joe Quesada. Vaneta Rogers talks to Robert Kirkman. Jim Rugg and Jasen Lex talk to Box Brown.

* Johanna Draper Carlson provides advice on how to pursue a kickstarter campaign from her point of view as a consumer and potential donor. My advice to get me to donate to a Kickstarter campaign is to be related to me or provide a premium so awesome and not available anywhere else it's worth the risk of giving you money without knowing if I'm going to get it back or not. Basically, though, I'm a buy-something-well-after-it's-out guy, usually via the act of placing my hands on it and exchanging money with a person. Even Amazon.com makes me nervous. Seth Godin, who probably has no problem ordering stuff he hasn't seen yet, talks about tribes and stuff.

* the CBLDF will be offering a new, cute t-shirt starting this weekend.

* it's bad enough that Bully's mind works like this. It's worse that he has access to all that material to scan. I have a hard enough time finding a cover when my text calls for a specific cover.

* I like that future Riverdale visitor George Takei has assumed control of the phrase "Oh My" just by saying it in that funny way for a long time and the culture just deciding he should have it.

* ICv2.com follows up on news of a massive-selling issue #100 for Walking Dead by reporting that retailers to whom they spoke have sold their regular customers for the Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard zombie series on buying sets featuring all the covers.

* who wouldn't want to have a drink with Jim Rugg after putting eyes on this photo?

* wish I were in Charlotte. Lot of good comics there, too.

* finally, a sneak peek of Pippi Moves In.
 
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
21 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Reid Fleming, The World's Toughest Milkman

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David Boswell's Reid Fleming work was, with Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot and Matt Groening's Life In Hell collections, the pinnacle of agreed-upon, first-rate, not-exactly-everywhere comics humor -- those three together something of a reverse trinity to the more popular Calvin & Hobbes, Far Side and Bloom County group of mass-market newspaper strips that were widely available and had to be shared with peers and parents. Reid Fleming was one of ours. My memories of Boswell's work may be unique to every comic on this list in that I hardly recall the comic books themselves. I think there were a couple of different series, at least one of which collected newspaper work, and the magnificent Heartbreak Comics one-shot fit in there somewhere. It's like Reid almost had a life distinct from the comics page as a collection of shared ideas and one-liners, not just repeating lines like "78 cents or I piss on your flowers" but enthusing over set pieces like Reid's adherence to the various, bizarre Ivan TV shows. Steven worked that way, too. We told stories from Flaming Carrot. We sort of told stories about Reid Fleming, like he was some dude that lived downtown.

What's odd about this kind of second life for the character is that Boswell's work benefits greatly from the clear, unadorned representation of Fleming's oddball world. That's my obtuse way of saying I like these comics. I enjoy Boswell's art in those books. I think it suits the character and is intermittently attractive on its own in a way that can be appreciated all by itself. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but the Fleming comic books always felt on some level like the assistant to the guy that did the Heartbreak Comics book was getting his chance at the big time. This is completely insane, of course. But so was Reid Fleming, that good kind of crazy that kind of knocked you out of the intense boredom of being a teen for a few moments.
 
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June 20, 2012


Congratulations To Matt Groening On Ending His Life In Hell Strip

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Rob Tornoe has a fine article up on Matt Groening ending his long-running Life In Hell, his original mass creative outlet and the work for which he was best known before creating the television animated program The Simpsons. Despite Groening's continuing fame and despite the fervent reaction the original collections of the (mostly if not solely) 1980s material received, the Life In Hell work has remained somewhat inexplicably under-appreciated. A most recent collection, 2007's Will And Abe's Guide To The Universe, made many critics' best-of list for that year including my own but also may point to one of the reasons why that work has always been a little under the radar -- there simply aren't many collections of the material post-Simpsons despite its high quality and Groening's devotion to the format, and the format itself (alt-weekly strips) has become less prevalent with the growth of the Internet.

Life In Hell first made its appearance in self-published comic book form in 1977 and in a magazine called Wet in Fall 1978. Its last episode was June 15.

I am deeply grateful for this work. Life In Hell was one of my favorites during a time I wasn't able to read a lot of comics. The work was an enthusiasm shared by myself and a lot of my college friends -- Groening's books were along with RAW and the occasional strip collection one of the few comics efforts routinely available in campus bookstores. I thought it a very sweet strip in a lot of ways, and not just the later ones focused on his children. There was a very solicitous element to Life In Hell in the way it gently assayed both the surge of undeserved egotism and the wail of head-against-the-wall despair/dismay inflicted upon most of us by the rampant absurdities of consumption-obsessed modern culture. Also, more simply, the gags were routinely great and the drawings almost always made me laugh. Thank you, Mr. Groening.

Groening showed up for a while at last year's Brooklyn Comics And Graphics Fest, and the notion of why this work wasn't the subject of a complete collection became an item of discussion for some of us as we stood within eyesight but not earshot of the creator. I received no official story, although it wasn't for lack of people telling me they had tried to see such a project done. One publisher described Groening's dedication to his alt-weekly outlet like Walt Disney himself doing Feiffer with nobody stopping to point out how wonderful and odd it was.
 
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Go, Look: Miles Hyman

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Missed It: Paolo Rivera Ends Exclusive Contract With Marvel

I missed this incredibly gracious blog post from the artist Paolo Rivera on the first go-round, thinking it could go in the next installment of this site's publishing news column when it appeared. I think Rivera's announcement of ending his exclusive deal with Marvel after a decade of working at the company is worth pulling out, though, because of the reason he gives: basically, he wants to reorient his career on creator-owned material. While this doesn't put him in the same group as cartoonist Roger Langridge and writer Chris Roberson who have left work with the two big mainstream North American companies because of their dissatisfaction with creators rights issues and specific actions on those companies' parts -- to be absolutely freaking clear, Rivera is definitely still working for Marvel, and doesn't rule out working for anyone or even indicate the barest hint of a critical factor involved in his latest decision -- it's actually worth noting him in that context because seeking out personal opportunities for expressions and a more direct control over one's career output seems a positive formulation of the quandary that a lot of creators face these days. I think that's important.

At any rate, he's a talented artist who's done some fine work for Marvel and that post is so nice it'd be super-churlish not to wish him the best whatever he wants to do and however he wants to do it, or, for that matter, however we choose to take notice of it.
 
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Go, Look: Emmanuel Kerner

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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt largely accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here. I might not buy any. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

MAR120722 TEAM CUL DE SAC HC $29.99
This is the very worthy and attractively-mounted Parkinson's-related charity book featuring the characters of the great Richard Thompson drawn with the Reuben Award winner's permission by a variety of well-wishers and fellow cartoonists, including Bill Watterson with a great painting of Petey whose original recently sold for $13K. That strip is very dear to me, and it's certainly a great cause.

imageAPR120681 CASANOVA AVARITIA #4 (OF 4) (MR) $4.99
APR120652 DAREDEVIL #14 $2.99
APR120026 BALTIMORE DR LESKOVARS REMEDY #1 (OF 2) STENBECK CVR $3.50
APR120023 BPRD HELL ON EARTH DEVILS ENGINE #2 (OF 3) $3.50
APR120537 GLORY #27 $2.99
APR120555 SAGA #4 (MR) $2.99
APR120563 WALKING DEAD #99 (MR) $2.99
APR120957 ROGER LANGRIDGES SNARKED #9 $3.99
APR120647 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #519 $3.99
APR120628 WINTER SOLDIER #7 $2.99
APR120950 ADVENTURE TIME #5 $3.99
A big week for traditional-format comic books in what is looking like a big summer for creator-owned, independent genre work. This includes some of those fancy new Image books that people are liking, more from the Mignola-verse, the hip based-on-a-property comic of the moment, Roger Langridge's latest book, zombies, and three of the better-received Marvel superhero books of the moment. It also includes the latest in the Casanova saga, which would be the one of these I'd buy if I could only buy one. The fact that I'd probably be happy leaving a comic shop with a single comic book makes me wonder how many good comics are really necessary to reinstitute that form of comics buying for some of us, or if there isn't some wider disconnect there. Anyway, I really want to see how that one ends.

APR120013 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #13 NOTO CVR $7.99
APR120014 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #13 SEELEY VAR CVR $7.99
There's probably a joke to be had by meaner people than I am about Dark Horse Presents as the perfect comic book in the summer they brought Dallas back, but I like that these creators are getting work, there are some young'uns involved, and it's a virtue of modern comics that there's not a lot of ageism relative to other fields. I think this is another one of those comics I can see people going to the store and just buying that.

FEB120400 BLOOM COUNTY COMPLETE LIBRARY HC VOL 05 LTD SGN ED $50.00
APR120404 X-9 SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN HC VOL 04 $49.99
Your intimidating-from-the-bookshelf collections of the week. Everything I've said about these works and these projects in the past still applies: I'm glad to see the Bloom County work again because of the deep affection with which it's held by a bunch of folks, and Corrigan is underrated and would at least be Don Draper-handsome if it didn't work on the page at all.

MAR120394 RIO HC $49.99
APR121091 MESKIN OUT OF THE SHADOWS TP $26.99
Two collections I'm dying to get my hands on, including a surprise for me: a bunch of Doug Wildey's western comics, which I've always found to be pretty solid and fun. The Mort Meskin book is a must-have simply because of the way Meskin has muscled his way into the conversation about great and influential mainstream craftsmen -- I think maybe through a door left ajar a few places by Art Spiegelman, although I honestly couldn't tell you the exact provenance of his rediscovery.

APR121088 MARATHON GN $16.99
If you go to the comics shop to find new work by people with whom you're not entirely familiar -- or new work just generally -- surely this book by Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari is on your radar. I'm kind of unfamiliar with it despite it being advertised on the site. Here are the posts on Infurnari's blog that relate to the book; I'll be reading those myself some time this morning. Anyway, why wouldn't you pick this one up if it were sitting in your store? Why wouldn't you be grateful if you shop at the kind of store that carries the First Second books?

FEB121158 LOST DOGS GN (MR) $9.95
This is a nicely-packaged -- by which I mean it's a handsome book at an accessible price and someone thought to do it in the first place -- reprint of an early Jeff Lemire work, most striking for its employment of the color read. It's staring at me from the bookshelf as I write this; it's a moody-looking thing. If I were in Charlotte this weekend at HeroesCon, this is one I'd seek out for a pick-up and look-at, for sure. If my comics shop carried it, I'd look at it there. Lemire seems well on the way to locking into a lengthy, foot-in-multiple-arenas comics career, so a book like this should be of some interest moving forward.

OCT111038 ART OF HOWARD CHAYKIN HC (MR) $29.99
This is one of those books that slips into the merchandise section that I usually miss. I'm an unabashed fan of Chaykin's work and I'd be the perfect audience for an art book. I really want to see it before I buy it, though. I'm very jealous of those of you in full-service comic shops today.

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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Go, Look: Le Blog Du Crayon

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Go, Bookmark: Alex Segura, Jr.

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site, tumblr, twitter
 
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Totally Missed This Faith Erin Hicks Comic On Prometheus

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this seems like a smart, classy way to get around the dilemma of not wanting to draw Marvel or DC characters at a convention, particularly one like Heroes Con where a significant part of the culture is drawing, period, including sketches of mainstream comics characters. Then again, it shouldn't surprise considering the source.

image* Rob Steibel compares some original Marvel Comics color to some re-colored collection and the original comic beats the newer page half to death it's so not even a contest. We really need to switch our entire culture to orient itself to rich, scanned-in work for all but a few exceptions, and the Fantagraphics/Barks strategy when we don't.

* not comics: pretty sure I'm going to hell for laughing when I saw this.

* Johnny Bacardi on a bunch of different comics. Rob Clough on Paying For It. Bob Temuka on Midnight Surfer. Greg McElhatton on Only Skin. One of the Trouble With Comics guys reviews Supreme #64. Sean Gaffney on Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1. Grant Goggans on Slaine: Lord Of Misrule. Sean T. Collins on Jerusalem. Rob Wells on Champions Classic Vols. 1-2. Brian Hibbs crushes a lot of comics here. Ed Sizemore on NonNonBa.

* not comics: Dean Haspiel walks through the correspondence for an illustration assignment that didn't work out. This is actually a fairly genial exchange, and there's a 50 percent kill fee, and it's still depressing.

* this is slightly adorable.

* Dan Morrill talks to Micah Baldwin.

* not comics: hearken back to the days of commercial art empires. Those probably weren't great days, but they sure were different. I bet some nice-looking work came out of those places, too.

* David Brothers wants to know if you want a new comics interview podcast.

* finally, I love this early '60s Marvel stationery, plus that their phone number had the word "Templeton" in it. That is a wonderful-sounding word.
 
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22 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Elektra: Assassin

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I'm not sure that I can completely unpack the way I operated in the 1980s as a political creature, something that had to have an effect on my reading works like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's Elektra: Assassin. I was a young conservative of the Alex Keaton variety, although less from a hard-won set of principles than in unrestrained delight in irritating my poor teachers. I worked for the second Reagan campaign before I could vote, and my major goal in life not related to panties was to attend America's most conservative university that wasn't owned by a church. At the same time, I was a child of MAD Magazine and Monty Python. There was a certain political orientation that's all but disappeared now that embraced certain ideas but didn't throw a hissy-fit at their satirization. The best way I can describe it is that my closest friends and I liked Pink Floyd but were totally down with Johnny Rotten wearing a "I Hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt -- except, you know, a politics version. We could carry both ideas in our heads, that we might support something but that its excesses needed to be savaged, and would be whether we liked it or not. We could laugh either way.

Elektra: Assassin is a super-crude hate letter to both ends of the political spectrum, a take as broad as anything Miller would create subsequently, this time aimed at the two sides of the American political divide that basically said they were the same thing heading for the same result: our total destruction. I take it as seriously-intended, because I'm not sure Miller has ever done anything not seriously intended. The series is distinguished mostly by Bill Sienkiewicz's throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it art, the high point of an entire approach to illustrating superhero comics. It's not a set of stylistic choices I ever enjoyed all that much, although what I generally don't care for proves to be the best stuff here: the slightly unhinged quality, the way it doesn't really care if it's easy or difficult to follow, the decorative look of many of the pages, the lack of flow. From the safe remove of two and a half decades, I also appreciate some of the more nerdly aspects of this series' existence. Elektra was dead, only here she was not. The story took place in Marvel continuity, only it didn't. Elektra had a rigorously defined set of abilities, except when the comic called for her to be a ludicrous force of nature. Was it Bob Fiore who compared Elektra in this series to a sexualized ninja Bugs Bunny? That sounds about right. As far as a publishing project, we'll never know if a series like this could have been a foundational volume for an ambitious Marvel trades program, because despite collecting its fair share of everything including this work Marvel refuses to have a meaningful trades program with targeted, foundational volumes the way a four-year-old refuses to wear a tie. That makes Elektra: Assassin seem more lost than even its bold look and board-to-the-head satire might indicate, an extravagant journey down a side road, one long lost weekend and in many ways a series of comic books forever.
 
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June 19, 2012


Go, Bookmark: Haunter

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What Walking Dead #100 Selling A Lot Of Copies Will Mean

Industry speculation is rampant that a multiple-cover driven anniversary issue of the Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard series Walking Dead is going to crush the July periodicals sales charts. I don't know if there's still time remaining for a massive over-ship by one of the two majors to prevent or ameliorate, but at the levels they're talking I don't think the amount of time remaining matters all that much. I suspect the rough outlines of what we're hearing is true; the fact that I've even heard about it from a trio of different folks indicates just how common-knowledge this sales breakout has become.

imageSo what would that mean?

Usually when something like this happens the two ways comics culture processes the story are 1) Treat it as an abstraction and 2) Treat it as symbolic. I actually mean two different things by this, although you could say they're two sides of the same coin. By the first I mean that the numbers -- such as they are, with the estimating involved because some companies see a strategic advantage in not releasing numbers -- are treated as an automatic important thing in comics to the point that companies that should know better will fight over percentages of a small pie as fervently as working to increase the overall size of the pie. So it's likely that Walking Dead #100 will be treated as a big thing for simply "winning." By the second, I mean you're likely to see think-pieces and Internet postings about how this is a coronation moment for the title and its creators, or what this means for Image Comics that they're able to get a book like this to chart that high, or what it means for a non-superhero book to be put into this position, or the growing importance of cross-media promotion. I think all of the symbolic stuff is worth talking about, particularly as we've entered a phase in which people are branding business moves for PR benefit. Image and Walking Dead and Kirkman and Adlard and non-superhero comics and getting your stuff on TV should all get some juice out of this.

I think there are going to be some specific elements worth appreciating, though. The symbolism of Image's ability to sell a big issue like this may not be as important as their actual ability to do so. That takes some doing, both in terms of the company's efforts and the willingness of retailers to buy into the moment and into the company providing the moment. I think it's fair to point out the massive, multiple-cover stunt aspect of this issue's release makes its numbers not as wholly impressive as this many sales of a copy without these kinds of efforts would be. At the same time, I think there's a lot of truth in the potential rejoinder that this kind of effort wouldn't be possible without massive baseline desire for the content. The Walking Dead series has begun to move up the charts in a very healthy way, reminiscent of Sandman at the end of its run, except this time there's no ending in sight. In addition, a lot of Image's comics are selling well right now, really good independent comics numbers, including similar high-profile writer working with talented, well-regarded artist projects Saga (Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples) and Fatale (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips). So you can't put this all on the stunt.

Another thing I think is worth noting is that if you analyze the chart placement in terms of the inside-sports aspect you miss out on the crucial factor that a comic book for Image that crosses these thresholds favors the creators to a far, far greater extent than a Marvel or DC book selling at that level. So it's not just about an Image book usurping the place usually held by a DC or Marvel comic; it's also about what that means in terms of financial reward and who sees it. Unless it's somehow changed drastically, the Image deal is ideally suited to maximize profit for individual issues that take off -- that was what happened to the Image founders way back in the day; it wasn't TV deals and opportunities to score other gigs that got that crew their homes and the ability to more or less call their own career shots from that point on. That Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard are likely to do really, really, well with this issue of a comic book is what is going to underline the potential in the Image model for a lot of creators at a time when seeking your own way seems like an important thing to do. It's also a simple, basic good when creators benefit from their work, or at least I think so.

You probably also shouldn't forget the potential hangover. There are likely to be positives to that. There should be interest around that specific series and others like them for a while that will mean more units sold or at least a greater chance for same. There may also be negatives in that the project may lead to other efforts that replicate the sizzle without the meat -- a dozen covers, say, for a book with less appeal content-wise than this one. A lot of the positives assume that sell-through matches anticipation here, which we don't know yet. I also think there may be a long-term lesson in that Walking Dead is a consistent comic book at a time when a lot of Marvel and DC efforts aren't -- almost the opposite of the original Image to Marvel/DC relationship, although that was at a time when abbreviated runs and comics-series-as-events had a greater currency than they have now, or at least could be seen in terms of the DIY charm of that era. Now matter how you feel about the comic itself, there are worse things that could happen to that market than for it to start taking on some of the virtues of Walking Dead.
 
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Go, Look: 12 La Douce Preview

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via a tweet by Jog, maybe?
 
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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* it's my understanding that they're still raising money to avoid a pauper's funeral for the late writer Robert L. Washington III. Please consider donating even if you've never heard of him. Nearly everyone who works in any form of media -- nearly everyone that works, period, but especially those that work in untethered professions -- is Robert Washington or two steps away from being Robert Washington, and that's not two steps that are usually anyone's fault. The scariest thought may be this: this is someone that crossed the mainstream comics-career threshold and stayed there for more than a half-decade. There a ton of folks at risk that don't get that far, folks that stand to lose just as much or more than what that cost Robert Washington. Heidi MacDonald has a fine write-up here about some of the issues involved.

* it looks like the fundraiser on behalf of the ailing artist Oliver Nome will reach its goal with several days to spare, although it hasn't yet and you never know.

* Lea Hernandez is in the last 50 or so hours of her Kickstarter campaign. So is this comics project that features comics work by the great Spain Rodriguez.

* the multi-pronged Dylan Meconis campaign is successful with lot of overtime to come.

* hey, it's Micah Wright.

* hey, it's Jim Lawson working with Ernie Reyes, Jr.

* the Hamilton, Ontario Indy Comics Art Space fundraiser wasn't very successful. I like the idea of these mechanisms being used for more than publishing initiatives, but it may be a while before one of these gains traction.

* finally, it looks to my eye like the Trickster fundraiser is beginning to stall a bit, albeit with plenty of time left to go. They're using one of the mechanisms where they get any of the money raised, so it's not a concern on that end. I think that one's an interesting fundraiser because the premiums are pretty unique -- particularly the project coaching ones. If you were a prospective writer or artist with a project that needed a kick in the butt, and you already have the cash necessary to find your way to San Diego these days, it seems like that could be a pretty good investment depending on the individual artist with whom you're working. I'm pro-Trickster; I think that city events during Comic-Con weekend are an inevitability, and I'd like to see independent comics efforts make a go of it along with the movie and TV show stuff.
 
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Not Comics: A Frank Frazetta Illustration Gallery

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Secret Acres debuted Gabby Schulz's Weather at last weekend's CAKE.

* just a reminder that there are all sorts of comics and comics-related products about which I know nothing.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco notes the thoroughness with which Marvel puts out more than 12 comics a year in their more popular series. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, it seems like a smart idea for them; on the other hands, it seems like you're really running the risk of burning out a certain kind of reader and also making it so more series are about disjointed runs rather than the solid, lengthy creator pairings that have worked so well for Marvel over the last decade.

image* the Columbus based magazine 614 has comics now. Columbus is a vastly underrated comics town.

* I'm not sure how this ended up being posted in this column rather than an earlier one, but I opened up this post a couple of days ago and ehre it was. The writer Warren Ellis previews Casanova: Avaritia #4. I enjoyed the two issues of that comic I read. I guess that's the final issue in this latest cycle: out in June. Here's a more recent preview.

* not comics: I think a Stan Sakai game might be a lot of fun.

* I don't know that I'm all the way aware of what Dave McKean's travel sketchbooks are like, but all those words pushed next to each other seems exciting to me.

* Julia Wertz has finished her next big book -- at least that's what I think that means -- and is apparently releasing a Fart Party omnibus in January.

* this Farel Dalrymple art for a forthcoming Dark Horse book cover looks pretty astounding to me.

* I'm not sure I was all the way aware that Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt had gone away, but okay.

* Mat Johnson and Andrea Mutti have a book from Vertigo coming out called Right State. Here's a preview.

* IDW is going to adapt A Fine And Private Place into graphic novel form. I remember liking the novel when I read it 1000 years ago.

* Lucy The Octopus has announced a launch date.

* Calvin Reid profiles the incredibly ambitious-sounding Anomaly.

* finally, about six hours after this column went to bed last week Fantagraphics announced it had acquired two works from Charles Forsman: The End Of The Fucking World and Celebrated Summer. The works should appear in different 2013 seasons for the Seattle-based publisher.

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Go, Look: The Rock Solid Virtues Of Doug Wildey

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Go, Look: A Different Jim Aparo Than I'm Used To

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OTBP: Malaria: The Battle Against A Microscopic Killer

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* via Alan Gardner comes the latest lawyerly response in the battle between the cartoonist who owns a web site and the web site that wants to make that cartoonist work for his own web site, for free. Start with Gardner for a fine summary; you may or may not want to continue. Sheesh, though. Here's a bit of context.

image* Petey Otterloop is the patron saint of comics critics.

* Richard Bruton on Back Alleys And Urban Landscapes. Chris Brosnahan on League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009. Hayley Campbell on Jerusalem. Jog on Gloriana in 2005. Grant Goggans on Palooka-Ville #20. Don MacPherson on a number of books. Greg McElhatton on Crogan's Loyalty. Philip Shropshire on Prophet #24. Rob Clough on The City Troll.

* Graeme McMillan calls attention to the tragedy that is no Hostess Ad omnibus.

* my life is better because Frank Santoro and I cross paths every so often, but I'm not quite sure of the point of this essay. I know I've done shittier things and there are people in comics that think I'm an asshole, and I've spoken out against the Before Watchmen project. Does that make my criticism less valid? I hope not.

* don't let comics ruin your life.

* I'm not much for previews but I went and looked at this Paul Pope preview.

* the writer and comics historian Mark Evanier tells a four-part bedtime story featuring science fiction/comics luminaries Al Feldstein, Ray Bradbury and Julius Schwartz.

* sometimes I just put in a link for my pal Gil Roth.

* somebody I can't tell who it is talks to Marc Bell and Amy Lockhart. Gaius Publius talks to Tom Tomorrow. Jackie Estrada profiles Dave Stevens. Bart Croonenborghs profiles Franquin.

* finally, the nice folks at the FPI Blog would like to drive your attention to the CCS summer slate of classes. And the nice people with the BPRD camp would like you to know about that as well. Kids get everything these days.
 
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23 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Anything Goes!

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Here's a thought to put into perspective the 1980s' adherence to the comic book series as the standard mode of publisher: the 1980s were a time when a publisher might put together a run of six comic books to raise money, as opposed to going into such a project hoping to lose as little as possible. Such was the case in 1986 when Fantagraphics published this series to support its then-current, Michael Fleisher lawsuit-related legal bills. Anything Goes! was an anthology of short comics by sympathetic friends and faithful publishing partners gathered into one place and framed by exhortations/humble thank-yous from Gary Groth. While Anything Goes! features some sterling work, it may be most useful for the snapshot it provides of the alt-comics landscape a bare six to eight years before that milieu locked in as its own thing. In the mid 1980s, alt-comics was more of an aspiration than a scene. Genre artists stand more than comfortably beside those working in what we think of as more literary modes. Working in color seems a tremendous novelty. There are a few artists, including holdovers from the late underground period, we don't think of at all anymore.

Anything Goes is probably most famous for the second issue's Alan Moore/Don Simpson (with Pete Poplaski and Mike Kazaleh) short story "In Pictopia" -- a mournful, "Roger Rabbit"-style look at the comics world that makes its points by placing various characters' overlapping lives into abstract, careerist terms. It's a smart, tight, mournful work, although once people start to do comics this unabashedly nostalgic and despairing, there are soon enough comics of this type it's difficult to see work like "In Pictopia" with fresh eyes ever again. The sentiment, if not the rigor of its craft and its relative elegance, feels of the time. Other highlights include work from Los Bros Hernandez, covers from Stan Sakai and Neal Adams and Frank Miller, a smart-looking, classic contribution from Gil Kane, and short entries from Dave Sim and Bob Burden. There's a Dan Clowes comic in here, and one from San Antonio radio and television broadcaster turned Charlton workhorse Pat Boyette, and neither feels out of place.

I was surprised when looking at this series to discover that I read -- and still own -- every issue. My memory was that I bought one or two and left the others on the stands. In fact, I bought issue #2 three times somehow; it's a really good book, but that seems a bit much. I had little to no interest in whatever specific predicament Fantagraphics found itself, although I remember the backstage gossip aspect of the comics industry was always fun to see whenever it seeped out in those pre-Internet times. I generally supported free speech the way just about every kid in high school does, and didn't like the thought of any comics publishers I liked going out of business for any reason. I believe this was the comic that put Los Bros back on my radar in terms of paying closer attention to what they did (I was already buying Love & Rockets, but it hadn't yet captured my attention the way it would a few months after this series' final issue); it was also the comic that got me buying The Comics Journal on a devoted basis. It more than served its purpose.
 
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June 18, 2012


Your 2012 Russ Manning Award Nominees

imageThe Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award nominees were named earlier today by Comic-Con International. They are.

The 2012 nominees are:

* Craig Cermak, artist of Voltron, Year One (published by Dynamite)
* Martin Cóccolo, artist of Helldorado (published by APE Entertainment)
* Tyler Crook, artist of Petrograd (published by Oni Press) and B.P.R.D. (published by Dark Horse)
* Teagan Gavet, penciler of Norgard: Across Thin Ice (Published by Sofawolf)
* Dave Wachter, artist of Night of 1,000 Wolves and That Hellbound Train (published by IDW)

Nominees are picked by a committee consisting of representatives of the West Coast Comics Club and Comic-Con International. The winner will be selected by a group of past Manning award winners and various assistants to Mr. Manning.

The winner is named as part of the Will Eisner Comic Industry awards, to be held this year on July 13.

The award is named for the strip and comic book cartoonist Russ Manning. Past recipients include Dave Stevens, Cathy Malkasian, Eleanor Davis, and Marion Churchland.
 
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OTBP: Street Comics Vol. 1

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via Robert Boyd; thanks, Robert
 
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Go, Read: Dave Sim On His Kickstarter Project, Publishing Generally

Michael Grabowski sent CR this link to a Dave Sim commentary post about his publishing plans on the heels of his successful -- 700 percent funded thus far -- kickstarter for an enhanced version of the High Society graphic novel. It's fascinating in that Sim is one of comics' original thinkers about publishing and is now dealing with entirely new paradigms for doing so. It's not exactly like the recent kickstarter has exhumed a self-publishing Buck Rogers, but in Internet time it almost seems that way.
 
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Go, Look: Ray Bradbury At EC

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Go, Look: Malang, Alfredo Alcala, Tony DeZuniga In The '70s

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* that charitable fellow and all-around good man of comics Neil Gaiman has a number of new items up for eBay auction that will benefit that fine charity the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. You should go stare at some of that stuff. Bid if you like.

image* Gary Tyrrell pays tribute to the achievement of Kris Straub. We add our congratulations as well.

* well, it doesn't get much cuter than this. Also, it's weird to think that Sam Henderson and I were hanging out near one another some 15 years before we met.

* not comics: so people are going to the movies less frequently. Really, things have been dying and changing since forever. People don't buy Big Little Books anymore; people don't walk on the promenade anymore; people don't go to roller derby. Actually, they do all of those things; they just don't do them in great numbers. One of the wonderful things about treating art as an art rather than as a public commodity is that you focus on the quality of the experience and benefiting the artists directly; you don't worry about the size of something for the sake of worrying about the size of something. Also, just to say: I watched all those Avengers ads coming out and I don't think it ever once crossed my mind that it was being sold as an event. Avatar was sold as an event. I think that's projecting on the writer's part.

* Mason J. Moray on Detective Eye. Lauren Davis on Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether.

* I'm usually fan of Eric Stephenson's mini-editorials, but I think this one is more a germ of a good idea than a well-executed piece. It's right to say that there shouldn't be summary dismissal of comics that work out of a desire to cross into multiple platforms. It's also right to say that making comics a place where people can make a living doing comics is a fine goal for us to have. At the same time, there are just a shit-ton of awful comics out there that read like bad movie or TV show treatments in a way that I don't think there's anything close to a similar group of comics that read like a bad something else that's not a comic. I also think it's really generous to say that the majority of such creators are comics-first people.

* finally, congratulations to Brad Mackay and family.
 
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24 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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All Apologies For The Last 36 Hours Of Downtime

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We had some server difficulties of the Three Mile Island variety. I moved the truncated interview off of Sunday rather than swapping in a newer piece because I don't think it's fair to run someone's work in that kind of late fashion. Today's blogging was truncated. Everything should be back to normal tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Dalgoda

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Dalgoda was probably the first Fantagraphics comic book series I followed; it was certainly the first Fantagraphics series I saw in the comic book stores on a regular basis. It featured writing by former Warren and DC writer Jan Strnad and art by Dennis Fujitake, an illustrator who had contributed to Gary Groth-related publications since they were being made in Gary's bedroom by counting out the characters in each line of type and spacing accordingly. My memory is that it was superior genre work -- or at least better than 95 percent of what was on the stands -- and reasonably accessible to fans of general, light-hearted science fiction. It was leisurely paced, and had a genial tone; it was neither pompous nor self-loathing. The art featured that somewhat peculiar, can-still-spot-it-across-the-room Fantagraphics coloring from that era. In fact, Fujitake's art, with its blend of mainstream rendering values, meticulous environmental detail and humorous exaggeration, is what lingers on in memory.

Dalgoda was distinguished by a second run of issues under a different name (Flesh & Bones) with a new #1 -- one supposes for the reason that was always done, although I wonder after it coming back under an imprint and the effects of that period's boom/bust -- and two quality back-ups: the fondly remembered Kevin Nowlan-drawn, elves-in-decline fantasy back-up feature "Grimwood's Daughter" in the first series; "The Bojeffries Saga" in the second. Both comics series were essentially Dalgoda to me; I was either unwilling or unable to make such distinctions as a high-schooler, and I defer to him now. "Grimwood's Daughter" was also written by Strnad, and as far as I know remains a potential get for any of you movie-development types out there looking for obscure properties that aren't already aligned by group fiat or collective arrangement. Back-up features were a part of what gave independent comics perceived value: in that era, those comics routinely cost more than the average super-effort. The back-ups were also a sign, I think, that the independent and alt-companies had more material they wanted to publish than they could publish -- something we may think of as a modern affliction.

I mentioned to a friend who still occasionally reads comics that I was going to write about Dalgoda soon and he said he'd buy that comic today. It's kind of odd to imagine, but I wonder if that exact content came out this summer if it wouldn't have the same position in the marketplace that these books did 28 years ago. That may say a lot about those comics, and even more about the market.
 
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June 17, 2012


Go, Look: Steve McNiven & R. Kikuo Johnson Illustrate The Mexican Drug Trade For The New York Times

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Go, Look: Comic Book Art Gallery

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Go, Look: Boston Metaphysical Society

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Go, Look: Comics By Sid Check

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Go, Look: Open 24 Hours

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Go, Look: Love Those Classic Romance Comics

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there's some sort of quiz involved here, but I just like looking at the comics
 
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Go, Look: The Art Of Kyle Strahm

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Go, Look: Jim Lee's Tweetpic Account

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don't know how I ended up poking around in there, but I had fun
 
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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Denver, I'd Go To This

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25 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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FFF Results Post #298 -- Momentism

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name A Character Or Characters Or Title And Then Name Four Iconic Visually-Driven Single Moments For Your Choice." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. X-Men.
2. Wolverine in the sewers, proclaiming "Now It's MY Turn."
3. Neal Adams cover of Cyclops on a Sentinel helmet.
4. Colonel Logan of the Canadian Resistance Army buys it mid-Cannonball Special.
5. Jean Grey commits suicide after Imperial Guard/X-Men fight on the moon, shouting out "Scott!"

*****

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Patrick Ford

1. Silver Star.
2. New born babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, Darius Drumm meets his wife beating father's gaze and laughs, "Progress--? Change--?--Or perhaps the 'Ides of March,' O' Caesar..."
3. The full page splash of the Angel of Death in issue #6.
4. A madly spinning circus carousel sending deadly debris in every direction as it is torn apart.
5. The young Drumm whistling merrily as a walks away, leaving The Foundation For Self-Denial behind him in flames.

*****

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Michael May

1. Bone
2. Fone Bone on the tree limb with the rat creatures. "Stupid, stupid rat creatures!!"
3. Fone Bone's hat catching on fire when he sees Thorn stripping for a swim.
4. Fone Bone's first snowfall in the valley. "WHUMP!"
5. Fone Bone and Smiley Bone (who's in a cow suit) being chased by an army of rat creatures that's about to merge with a stampeding herd of racing cows.

*****

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Sam Henderson

1. Cerebus.
2. Cerebus jumps through a window, gold sphere under one arm like a football, gritted teeth, deadly shards of glass suspended in air. Subsequent splash pages will rotate w/r/t the spine of the comic about 720 degrees, mimicking the rotation of the ascending black stone tower/rocket Cerebus has barely managed to grab hold of of. No other aspect of any Thomas Pynchon novel will ever again so thoroughly/partially/possibly-inadvertently intrude/permeate into "popular" comics again, ever (prob'ly a good thing).
3. In formatted text only, Cerebus (riding a riverboat with his lover and, uh, F. Scott Fitzgerald) spots a castle on the riverbank where he beheaded his first Borelian, then squints, then realizes he's mistaken. Then the entire sequence is repeated, art only; except the images are increasingly interrupted by flakes and cones of what the reader understands to be red frozen methane: specifically from the surface of Pluto. This artistic decision will make literal, symbolic, and emotional sense to any reader of the comic up to this point without help from any known reference literature. No, really! The reader can/will make NO CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO SEQUENCES until s/he encounters a page depicting only Cerebus, a stone tower, and Cerebus dubiously squinting.
4. Random panels from the entire 300 issue run of the comic are reproduced in a tight grid, interpolated with Cerebus' left eye, as "the light" goes out in said eye and the character (finally) dies. Anyone who has ever watched something (anything: a fish, a beloved pet, a parent) die may gasp in recognition of the phenomenon; captured in the pages of an unpopular Funny Animal Comic with a disturbing, utterly unexpected authenticity.
5. Moe from the Three Stooges slaps Curly from the Three Stooges. The sound effect is "Smek!", rendered in an Eisner-y-quasi-Hebrew font. This moment will quietly, elegantly, but forever blow the reader's mind w/r/t the always-dicey convention/idiom/practice of graphically representing sound. No previous/subsequent hate speech/crackpot/autodidactic arrogance on the part of the artist(s) can/will ever diminish the power or effect of this particular Funny Animal Comic page (not from lack of trying).

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Batman
2. First page of Detective Comics #475: preparing to confront Silver St. Cloud
as storm clouds threaten (and, unbeknownst, the Joker lurks)
3. Bursting into Ra's al Ghul's tent, bellowing "RA'S!"
4. Confronting the White Martians with a confident "Ready when you are."
5. "The rain on my chest is a baptism ... I'm born again."

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Dr. Doom
2. FF #200, where he looks up at an infinite set of reflections of himself without his mask (The Milk Duds ad from the same issue comes close in iconicness, but I don't know if it really counts as a "story moment.")
3. FF #5, where he's petting a tiger from his throne
4. Splash page from FF #247 proclaiming "This land is mine!"
5. The cover from FF Annual #2

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Animal Man
2. The Coyote Gospel cover
3. The psycho pirate cover
4. "i can see you"
5. Buddy's family alive in the doorway

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Thriller
2. Dan Grove to Angie Thriller, when asked if he will behave during their first meeting: "No.I'm gonna act up!"
3. Beaker Parish to Salvo, slamming him against the wall as Marietta lies dying: "Get you ASS off this train!"
4. Angie to Dan, manifesting herself as Salvo's bandages and informing him that "You WILL help us to save our mother!"
5. Kane Creole, Sr. confesses to Beaker Parish the reason why he murdered his promoters: "I had to murder them- they robbed my grave."

*****

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Adrian Kinnaird

1. Batman
2. A near-death Batman faces Ra's with a spade sticking out of his chest from 'Birth Of The Demon'.
3. Silent panel of Batman carrying Jason Todd's body from the rubble in 'Death In The Family'.
4. Batman punches out Prometheus in 'JLA', proclaiming "Professor Stephen Hawking!".
5. Batman and the Joker sharing a laugh at the end of 'The Killing Joke'.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Cerebus
2. Elrod's first appearance: "Pay attention, son. I got, I say I got a tall pointy hat."
3. Jumpeen Princes Mick and Keef: "I should think I should like to buy drugs with my share." "Coo, nuthin' wrong wi' 'is 'earing, is there?"
4. Lord Julius: "You won't score any points if you keep feeding me straight lines."
5. Cerebus throwing a baby

*****

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Josh Lambert

1. Yamagata's body flying into Kaneda after Tetsuo explodes his head
2. Akira's psychic explosion that destroys Neo-Tokyo
3. Kaneda's return to Kei to tell her her forgot something
4. Tetsuo's arm mutating out of control in the hallway of the Olympic stadium
5. Tetsuo bringing Kaori down into the chamber beneath the stadium

*****

yeah, I'm guessing on a couple of these

*****
*****
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: The Saga Of The Swamp Thing

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Of all the comics I've been thinking about from the time period when I bought them almost exclusive in comic book form, Saga Of The Swamp Thing is the one I'd most like to re-read. I don't have any idea how good it is. Alan Moore played such a different game than the bulk of his peers that it was hard not to be wowed. While there were certainly fans of previous iterations of DC's muck creature -- there are probably fans of all of them, that's how comics works -- I was one of the young people having a hard time believing that I was anticipating this comic that much. It was certainly an odd-looking thing: everything had a mossy appearance, even the people, some of whom looked outright crazed -- all despite this kind of faded coloring the sight of which today causes instant, voluntary, sense-memory time traveling for any person that bought comics in that era, like every comic was left out in the sun for a day before being racked. Swamp Thing had the same visual quality as a smeared bug on a window screen, a kind of texture that I can't remember seeing in a lot of places before and maybe fewer since. Swamp Thing had more in common with S. Clay Wilson and with various collage-type artists than with Justice League and Team Anatomy. It was a deserved career-maker for Steve Bissette and John Totleben, although to say that in comics always implies that comics then provides a suitable career.

While the art on Saga Of The Swamp Thing was odd and likely under-appreciated, the star of these comics was Moore's writing, at least for me and I suspect most others. It was a very self-conscious star turn in which the audience was more than complicit, in the same way we might take in an HBO prestige series after buying into the buzz surrounding its writer/creator. I think I watched Alan Moore's writing on Swamp Thing more than I read it, if that makes sense. That is a terrible thing to do to a writer, although it's a fine way to tease out moments and place them in mylar in some memory longbox. The scene I remember telling people water-cooler style -- by which I mean I was so excited about it I thought I could maybe communicate enough of it to impress others even though I wouldn't come close to the full effect -- was a few pages where Swamp Thing goes to hell and sees a tortured Anton Arcane who asks our hero how many years he's been in his current state to which the answer is... well, you either remember the scene yourself or will recognize it now. My point is that I don't know that I've ever so self-consciously read a comic book as a performance -- my choice, I think, not Moore's. When I scrambled for interviews with the writer I wanted to find out about Moore, not the characters he wrote. With Swamp Thing, it's difficult for me to remember on overarching point to the Moore run or even a specific kind of horror being explored in a way I could begin to tell you what Moore and the artists achieved in a grander, more rigorous context. Various story moments (the swordfish, the bug in Matthew Cable's car) and the occasional tightly-disciplined single (like the one above), I recall quite a few of those. It's the way we started watching performances from method actors when Brando showed up. I'm not certain it's all the way healthy.
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Gary Groth Interviews Joe Sacco


Not Comics: What Former Fantagraphics And Devil's Due Art Director Evan Sult Is Doing These Days


French Beasts Of Burden Trailer
via


Al Jaffee Speaks
via


Leigh Rubin Interviewed

\
Liza Donnelly Interviewed
 
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June 16, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 9 to June 15, 2012:

1. Massive layoffs at the New Orleans newspaper Picayune-Times, including well-regarded editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley.

3. The Swedish Supreme Court overturns a conviction made and previously upheld against a manga translator for material he had on his hard drive.

3. A money-soaked month of May for the comics Direct Market.

Winners Of The Week
Your 2012 Bill Finger Award winners.

Loser Of The Week
New Orleans

Quote Of The Week
"Given how much I've had to drink by this point, I stick to water for the rest of the evening. A wise move, because after chatting to various people I wander onto the dance floor and before I know it I'm sweating like a loon and looking very much like a 45-year-old man in the throes of the biggest mid-life crisis of all time (which is, of course, exactly what I am), flailing my limbs and swinging my hips like a good 'un. Thea, Theresa, some other editorial bods whose names I'm blanking on (Manya?) are already on the dance floor and don't seem to mind my ridiculous company. I somehow manage to keep up this nonsense for a good couple of hours. I'm not the oldest person in the room by any means, but I'm pretty sure I'm the oldest person dancing. I am a sad, sad man." -- Roger Langridge

*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s

*****
*****
 
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I Need Eight More Five For Fridays To Finish 2012

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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Denver, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Dearborn, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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26 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: The Badger

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I have a much closer relationship to the Badger comic books than a lot of the 1980s series I'm writing about this month because I still have access to them. While I share an elaborate collection with my older brother, with all the bookshelves and books-with-spines and fancy slipcases that entails, my younger brother collects comics he keeps in a couple of empty case of beer boxes near the TV. They have either Black Bolt, Namor or The Badger in them. No exceptions. It's my favorite collection.

I don't know anyone that would call The Badger a first-rate comic book series, not even my younger brother. In fact, I think these comics put on display many of that format's negatives. The need to have them out on a regular basis and the fact I imagine this wasn't a prominent gig means a revolving door of creators of varying quality. The title's overarching narrative moves forward in fitful start and stops. There's not a whole lot of "there" there to sustain the amount of work done on the lead character's behalf, leading to a kind of shaky foundation adventure to adventure. There's even a classic "and that's when I stopped reading" moment that involves the lead getting married.

Still, The Badger has its moments, and you probably learn more about the way comic books appeal reading a bunch of issues from a series like this one than a dozen American Flagg!-level efforts, the same way that random episodes of She's The Sheriff appear to hold greater mysteries than entire seasons of Hill Street Blues. The pleasures are -- surprise! -- pretty simple. There's a lot of fighting, there are a lot of jokes, jerks are beaten up, the Badger's basic awesomeness is confirmed for anyone out there (god help us) projecting feelings of self-worth onto him, animals perform rudimentary shtick, and there's a touch of libertarian critique that falls well short of pressing on events in an unseemly manner but still gives everything a cranky edge. If there were regional comics the way we used to have regional soda, no one would have even seen this book on either coast. The Badger himself is a fine idea, movie-ready, taking the superheroes-as-crazy idea that probably everyone in comics collectively owned at this point and tweaking it a few volumes upward, then scoring it Von Dutch-style with a few, strong lines of regional quirk. It also has the wonderful comic-book thing of taking that movie-ready central concept and pairing its embodiment with... an ancient, spell-casting druid turned financier, one of the great nonsensical secondary lead character choices of a decade stuffed with them.

While I'd like to say my comics purchasing ages 12-22 was dominated by first-rate, compelling works of art, honesty forces me to admit that my buying habits entailed picking up a few such comics if they were out, taking a flier on a couple more, and then working my way up to a set dollar amount with just about anything I could toss in my bag. You could do that back then. When the bulk of your comics consumption depends less on a quality artistic experience and more on making sure you'll have something to read when you work your through a bag of Arby's, something like The Badger is a fine, fine companion. I can't hate him. I went to high school with that guy.
 
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Comics Is Weird Now

Scroll down to the M's.
 
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June 15, 2012


Go, Bookmark: Incidental Comics

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Stan Lee Settles POW! Entertainment Legal Battle

Team Stan Lee has rid themselves of one of the legal matters over the head of iconic comics writer and editor, with settlement of a lawsuit against his current company POW! brought by former employees. It's a pretty straightforward write-up by Kevin Melrose, although I have to admit claiming a PR victory in getting someone a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame doesn't strike me as a PR get as much as an administrative one. This and the Comikaze arrangement announced earlier this week would seem to signal the post-Arthur Lieberman era with Lee's advisors.
 
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Go, Look: A Bunch Of Adventure Time Cover Art

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Swedish Supreme Court Overturns Manga-Related Conviction

In news breaking on the wires this morning, the Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a manga translator and expert for the images in his possession. Simon Lundstrom was acquitted of child pornography crimes earlier today after being found guilty in two lower courts. One of the drawings was found to be pornographic, but as a group the court held the fact that they are clearly imaginary figures means they can not be mistaken for real children -- I'm a little unclear as to whether or not drawings aren't people is an element of this finding or if the nature of the depiction is the sole important factor, but it sounds like the law's not exactly clear there. Lundstrom was also acquitted of the single pornographic image as its possession was found to be defensible given his profession.

Lundstrom had apparently been found with 51 total images on his hard drive, 39 of which the original indictment said were pornographic. He explained the images were part of his efforts to keep up with the field. Some of the elements of the initial conviction had been reduced as the case found its way to the Supreme Court. The initial conviction came in 2010 and was upheld on appeal last year. A drive to change the related law to better encompass this employment of such images is being pushed by free-speech advocates.
 
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Go, Look: Cartoon Simple

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Larry Pickering: Blocked From Facebook For Three Days

imageThe Australian cartoonist Larry Pickering says he's been blocked from the massive social media interaction site Facebook for three days after complaints about a cartoon he posted featuring Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard naked and making some sort of political point or another. I'm not sure of the motivation here; it seems silly to punish for content that way, and it seems like it will only drive people to the material in question. In fact, I'm not sure that we're getting the entire story, it's so odd. It seems dumb to punish people for content, dumber by leaps and bounds than even constricting certain kinds of content. Just thinking about the implications in terms of expectations for future suspensions makes my head hurt. I'm also not sure why the naked depiction is the way the cartoonist is going here, to be honest with you; that seems pointless to me. Plus, that clown kind of kicks the whole thing into some even weirder place. Yeah, I'm not much help with this one.
 
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Go, Read: Cthulu Calls

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* the big one this morning is that comics pros and fans are raising money to be put to the direct use of a proper burial for the late writer Robert Washington. He was one of the main writing cogs of the Milestone line, and had experienced some hard luck in recent years. Colleen Doran has the most to-the-point summary of the situation and the appropriate links available right here. Please join me in considering a small donation.

* while we're still on people rather than projects, it looks like the Oliver Nome fundraiser is inching towards its goal, with a lot of time remaining. That doesn't mean that it's guaranteed they'll get there or that they wouldn't prefer to get there a bit early.

* the hugely successful and much-watched Sullivan's Sluggers kickstarter is more than past its goal and keep moving the goal posts in a good way. One of the things that people have enjoyed about it -- and I think this is something webcomics people have done in the past -- is that the more money raise the more editions of the book become possible. There's now a charity component, too, with some money going to Hero Initiative. So you might want to at least take a look at the James Stokoe/Mark Andrew Smith project and check out what they're doing if not get a copy of the book.

* the Cerebus-related fundraiser has about two weeks left and is super-funded.

* I haven't mentioned the Dylan Meconis Library fundraiser yet, and the triple-headed nature of that one has a lot of folks that watch the fundraisers intrigued.

* Lea Hernandez's kickstarter has reached the 25 percent plateau and pushed a bit past it.

* finally, the World War 3 people are having an art auction on Monday the 26th.
 
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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Denver, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Whatever City This Is In, I'd Go To It

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If I Were Near This, I'd Go To It

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Go, Read: Kurt Busiek Answers Them All On Formspring

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this is fairly heartbreaking. Retail is a tough, tough, tough business.

image* Christopher Borrelli profiles Jeffrey Brown. Eric Newsom talks to Greg Rucka. Josh Bell talks to Mark Waid. Paul Constant profiles Ellen Forney. Matt D. Wilson profiles Michael Kupperman. Eric Buckler talks to Frederik Peeters. Nathalie Atkinson talks to Gabriella Giandelli. Nicole La Hoz profiles Tom Hart.

* good to have Gary Tyrrell back at full force.

* not comics: here's word of a book set in a comics milieu.

* David Brothers on Cyborg 009. Rob Clough on Denys Wortman's New York. Philip Shropshire on Irredeemable #37. Greg McElhatton on Legends Of The Dark Knight #1. Don MacPherson on The Spider #2. Sean Gaffney on Alice In The Country Of Clover: Bloody Twins.

* Nick Gazin interviews Brandon Graham and reviews a bunch of stuff, so he doesn't go into either one of those sections in this post.

* Chris Pitzer enthuses over next weekend's HeroesCon and reminds us that it's the 30th year for that model regional show. That is quite the achievement.

* Mike Sterling asks the questions that no one else will ask.

* another report on comics at BEA.

* I don't know if there are any references to anything here that I don't/wouldn't get, but it was pretty cute.

* that is quite the pretty cover illustration.

* finally, I've likely written about this before, but I used to get asked all the time when I was TCJ editor what superhero I would choose to write. I guess it was assumed that at some point I'd get a shot, because of all the TCJ editors that have gone on to careers writing mainstream comics...? Anyway, my answer was and is still the Bill Finger/Irwin Hasen superhero Wildcat, because he's a giant guy that wears a rubber suit and rides around on a motorcycle beating people up. The only things I don't like about him is all the stuff his fans seem to care about: the Ted Grant character, the sports angle, the training other heroes, the nine lives. No, I'd just prefer some nameless nutbag whaling on folks and driving his motorcycle through the front window and dropping cinder blocks on people's heads -- nothing super about him at all except he's a super sore-loser. My Wildcat comics would make that Raid: Redemption movie look like Enchanted April. The great thing is, I'm just as close to writing licensed characters for DC Comics as I was back in 1995.
 
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27 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Cerebus

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I started buying Cerebus with issue #44, so that puts me in the eighth grade. That was an age when my older friends had begun to drive and we could take the occasional Saturdays an hour down the highway in Indianapolis. Most of what we did involved shopping. It may be hard for those of you 20 years younger than me to conceive of a time when you couldn't put hands on whatever you wanted given the resources (or the ability to circumvent), but in the 1970s through the early '90s there was a real sense that the cool stuff was being kept from you by geography. Some of my friends were heavy tabletop gamers (Arduin Grimoire, Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game) so there were gaming stores to visit. Everyone was interested in music and books so there were record stores and book stores to hit. Basically the comic shop was for me, although no one seemed to mind me darting inside. I can still remember where Cerebus was racked in that store. I can still remember the Bud Plant advertisement that had put the title on my radar, with Cerebus standing on someone.

I engaged with Cerebus as a straight-up fantasy with some humor elements as opposed to a satire with some dramatic elements, the latter being a way I've seen it approached in a number of old reviews. This was a handy construct with which to process the book right up through #150 or so when the gender politics started to be foregrounded a lot more. If one of fantasy's strengths is to portray clashing elements in grand, outsized terms by lining them up across from each other with swords, it seemed to me perfectly reasonable to use that tool to explore male/female relationships. That doesn't mean I was always on board with the content of what was portrayed -- I remember being deeply freaked out by some of the plot developments during my time reading the comic -- but Cerebus' artistic mission felt sound to me right up until the point in the mid-1990s when I phased out of reading the series.

Those first issues I read, though, particularly that initial rush of issues back to about #22 or so that I bought the very next time I hit Indianapolis, those were wonderful things to read at that age. They were funny, and pretty smart, and the execution was really accomplished in a lot of places, and the comedy was very sweet more than it wasn't and the whole thing was so, so, so comic books -- all the assumptions that other forms have to unpack, the presence that Dave Sim had throughout the book, the regularity with which it arrived in the shops, and so on. There are other comics through which my relationship with the art form changed, but the baseline interaction I had with comics generally, that was me and Cerebus.
 
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June 14, 2012


Go, Look: Phil McAndrew

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Jim McLauchlin: Avengers-Related Hero Initiative Donations Have Trickled To Zero; $4K-$5K Raised

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A brief check-in with Jim McLauchlin at the comics charity Hero Initiative reveals that donations that organization has received related to the Avengers movie have trickled down to non-existence. While they're still totaling the cash and one assume perhaps figuring out which donation have come from where for what reason, McLauchlin felt safe to report that the total raised will fall between $4000 and $5000. It had been suggested when the movie opened featuring a concept and several characters created by Jack Kirby (as well as a significant number of creative contributors from that era of the comic and subsequent ones, as detailed here) without a program in place to reward those creators or their designated heirs, that people might consider making a donation to the charity that takes care of creators with emergency funds as they age or experience difficulty.

While $5000 is by any measure a drop in the Avengers bucket -- it is not even what one frame of the film has made, according to the latest box office totals and my admittedly lousy math -- I don't think anyone should have expected significant penetration on this request. This is actually about what I thought it would generate when the request was made. The vast majority of people seeing this film have no comprehension of or interest in the plight of comics professionals, but there are a few people that do have that interest and wanted to see the film and I thought they could be convinced this was a good thing to do. I'm happy that this money was donated because it's a real result, and shouldn't be measured against a more just but imaginary one as much as we might continue to fight for the latter. It would be nice in the same modest way if someone related to Marvel or the film (or DC; stop and think about that one for a second) were to hear about this and match the donation, but I'm not holding my breath for that, either.

keep it in your pants, Van Dyne
 
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Go, Look: A Hank Barrow Cartoon Gallery

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Carlos Pacheco Has Street Named After Him

I don't know if it's a first or not, but it's pretty damn cool to have a street named after you no matter where you stand in that particular line.
 
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Go, Look: Cartoons By George Dole

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Why Corporate Entertainment Is Hostile Vs. Creator-Owned Work

One explanation, anyway.
 
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Go, Look: Cory Godbey

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Go, Read: Rina Piccolo On Being A Syndicated Cartoonist

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The prolific strip cartoonist/webcomics maker talks about the joys and less-than-joys of being a syndicated cartoonist. On the one hand, you're totally self-directed; on the other hand, it's relentless. I know a lot of cartoonists are hesitant to talk about this and a lot of fans aren't patient with that particular complaint given that high-end creative jobs are so hard to come by, but I think the drip-drip-drip nature of doing 365 comics a year is a huge difficulty for a lot of cartoonists.

A common complaint Piccolo apparently doesn't have I used to hear all the time that I now wonder if the Internet ameliorates is the loneliness aspect of that particular creative endeavor, that you're performing for your life -- your life in syndication -- but you really don't know if the audience has reacted until you get the box office receipts/list of papers buying your stuff about six weeks later. That also goes away a bit when you build enough of a client list you can count on it month to month, but those first couple dozen months that's just a really odd, really specific pressure. It's hard to correct course midstream when you can't hear anyone clapping or booing.
 
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Go, Look: Helen

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Are The Picayune-Times Layoffs The Beginning Of The End?

It may feel that way. One scary thing about the story is that if you read things like this interview with one of the reporters offered a job with the new digital-focused offering in New Orleans it doesn't seem like there's any feeling at all that the new model will work. That makes this an incredibly drastic move towards an end result festooned with uncertainty. Yikes. The main troubling things, though, at least to my mind, are that this is a paper that has a certain recent hold on the community for its Katrina coverage and this is a city with a real digital divide in terms of number of people with access to the Internet. So you're talking about a publication that had every reason to have the attention of its community that I guess didn't have it enough to be profitable without massive cuts, transitioning into an uncertain model with a potentially crippling disadvantage going in: a limited audience. In other words, the new publication has to find a way to do what it failed to do before, only this time its starts out with no real plan, developing and perhaps unfamiliar technology, a smaller potential target to hit and fewer resources than it's used to having. Yikes.

(One thing I'd look for is if someone takes the opportunity of all this talent either unemployed or dissatisfied and tries a competing publication that's web-first with a print component and perhaps a seven-day print cycle in a targeted way -- like downtown only, or fewer content offerings -- and a more aggressive overall approach than what one is likely to see from a "transformed" institution like the Times-Picayune. An Image Comics to the existing paper's Marvel, only pivoting off of the format change. It's unlikely, but still. As someone with a one-person blog that publishes in the context of efforts that employ a lot more people, I'm always thinking that a site starting from the ground-up with or without a print element may have some advantages over a formerly all-print institution trying to work out of its comfort zone with a major portion of its enterprise. I could always be very wrong, too.)

On my darker days, it seems to me a real possibility we could experience a compressed version of the decades-long move away from multiple-newspaper towns and into single-newspaper towns via a run of full-service papers becoming drastically-reduced publications that come out only a few days a week accompanied/ameliorated by some sort of vague commitment to move on-line in more dramatic fashion. That just seem horrifically tricky to me, fraught with danger, mostly, again, because no one seems to have a clear vision on how to make digital work for a publication like this one. My hunch is that we could also see some smaller papers close altogether -- papers in communities of 50K to 150K people -- although I have to admit I thought that was going to start happening in a more dramatic way a few years ago. Whatever happens will shape the newspaper strip and editorial cartoon markets.

Speaking of which, Alan Gardner over at Daily Cartoonist has done a nice job with the part of the story that is editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley being let go. I think that Kelley will find safe harbor because 1) he has another job, as one-half of the successfully launched Dustin feature, and anyone looking for a job knows that it's much easier to find one when you already have a job, and 2) he has a certain skill set apart from his considerable cartooning talent that should make him an asset to a smart publication. Still, it's tough out there.

Update: Kelley talks to Michael Cavna.
 
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Go, Look: Sex Is Better In College

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* this weekend it's CAKE, which seems as far along as any small press show could be in its first year. Chicago could really a small press show: the whole freakin' midwest could actually use an anchor show in one of its biggest cities. I hope that it continues to thrive and has another year because if I remember the place where it's held it's like eight blocks from the Palmer House and Miller's Pub. The Dick The Bruiser autographed photo at Miller's Pub is one of the High Holy Sites in all of the Windy City.

* here's a couple of D+Q convention reports: Julia Pohl-Miranda goes to BEA; Tom Devlin goes to Oslo.

* Roger Langridge goes old-school con report with a lengthy post on his trip to Erlangen.

* Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald write on the comics presence at BEA.

* I don't run enough event coverage in this column, so please make up for my laziness by visiting this set of photos from a recent Joe Sacco event at the Fantagraphics store. Man, there's nothing better in comics than Joe Sacco. Joe Sacco!
 
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Missed It: Jordan Crane Has A Tumblr-Based Site Now

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Go, Look: Rex Dexter Of Mars

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Dean Haspiel asks where all the ideas have gone. I have no idea.

image* Lee Konstantinou on Kramers Ergot Vol. 8. Todd Klein on Green Lantern Corps #8. Matt Seneca on Daredevil #220. Greg McElhatton on The Shade #9. Kris Bather on The Massive #1. Rob Clough on Troop 142.

* Kiel Phegley talks to Scott Snyder. Robin McConnell talks to Ryan Sands. Emmet O'Brien talks to Dave Gibbons. Gary Groth talks to Alan Moore.

* I'm taking this tweet as an open invitation to tell the great Jeet Heer what to write about.

* Graeme McMillan wonders out loud whether the pause that is a forthcoming DC special event might be an easy way for the company to shuffle its creative line-up.

* I used to send notes just like this to all the kids in my kindergarten class except I also handmade the envelopes and only a few of them were anthropomorphic mice.

* the question is framed in a dumb way, because the issue isn't whether these newspaper were "censoring" Doonesbury as much as whether it was a sound newspaper decision to not run the strip in question, but I guess it's good to see people engage the issue.

* Todd Klein gives us more on the 1979 DC Comics production department.

* Evan Dorkin publishes an unsuccessful freelance outline submission.

* finally, I want to buy stock in Matt Bors.
 
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28 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Daredevil

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I don't really know why I started reading Daredevil. He wasn't a popular character at our house and in 1980 I had yet to develop any kind of relationship with the comics press that might alert me to the buzzworthy goings-on of the young Frank Miller. In fact, I'm not even sure when that buzz developed -- it could be that I was in on the title from about the point everyone else was. My rough recollection is that Miller was well into his star-making run on Daredevil at a time early enough in my return to funnybook reading that I might not have been buying comics at the comics shop yet. With that in mind, my guess would be that I went to the grocery store one day, failed to find one of my usual stand-bys, was intrigued as smart 11-year-olds are intrigued by the issue where the character faces off against the Incredible Hulk, and ended up liking what I read. I would consume the remainder of the initial Frank Miller run in both directions, drop the series when he left, and then pop back on again for his collaboration with David Mazzucchelli. If John Byrne and Chris Claremont were transitional favorites from a childhood of reading comics into my teens, Miller was the first mainstream comic book giant of my years with a 1 in front of another number. I had a great appreciation for what he was doing; I was a fan. The realization these were good mainstream comics, while eventually confirmed by the comics press and the general buzz about the book, came to me the old-fashioned way: I reacted to what I was seeing on the page.

Frank Miller was basically a zygote he was so young when those issues were coming out. Having arrived in comics at the end of the realism and relevance period, Miller could pick and choose which elements best suited his general approach to the character. Like a lot of writers, he ratcheted up the specter of violence by moving characters away from settling matters with their fists and into an era where everyone you ran into had a bladed weapon of some sort and wasn't afraid to use it. There were a few guns, and a lot of guts. Wading into a bunch of guys with swords and knives felt different than seeing a hero plough into a wave of Moloids or a bunch of random dudes from the Serpent Society, slugging away all the while. It seemed an appropriate response to what we expected from entertainment in a post-Dirty Harry world. Miller was also smart enough to realize -- or maybe he felt it himself -- that fans of the Daredevil/Matt Murdock character didn't want to see their favorite react to all these pointy objects by getting hurt or running away. Daredevil still might get his ass handed to him by the Hulk, but he tended to overwhelm the ninjas that were the clearest representation of the increased dangers he was now facing. Daredevil was transitioning from the Blind Man Superhero into the Hard Man Superhero. It was right choice after right choice for Miller back in those days.
 
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June 13, 2012


Go, Look: Ronald Searle In The Catskills

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Steve Skeates, Frank Doyle Awarded 2012 Bill Finger Award

You can read all about it at Mark Evanier's site or at the Comic-Con site: the Bill Finger Award for this year will go to Steve Skeates and Frank Doyle. Skeates is a prolific writer whose prime came in that industry's "Silver Age." His best-known work, at least to my memory, came while at DC and Charlton. Frank Doyle was an outright anchor of the Archie line starting mid-20th Century. He passed away in 1996. The award, which was started in 2005 at the behest of the late Jerry Robinson, is named after the criminally under-appreciated mainstream comic-book writer Bill Finger and honors achievements in that realm of comics. It has gone to one living and one late writer since its inception.

The award is given out during the Eisner Awards program. Congratulation to both men and their families.
 
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Go, Look: Dewey Guyen

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Another Player Enters Comics Events Market: Advanstar

The B2B company Advanstar has apparently purchased that Stan Lee Comikaze Expo that takes place in Los Angeles. The article here is like a pulsating showerhead of intriguing tidbits: the staffing, the reason given why the con was started, the project number, the fact that that Lee's company has already found another buyer, that this is I believe the first major move made by the Lee braintrust since Arthur Lieberman's passing, and so on. I think a few of the established events company having one or two shows could be an interesting thing, although this looks like it will be run by the same people just with administrative functions being taken over by Advanstar. Hey, maybe we'll get another trade magazine out of it.
 
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Go, Look: Some Primetime Steve Ditko Art

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Analysts Weigh In On May 2012 DM Numbers

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com has offered up their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for May 2012.

image* Overview
* Analysis
* Top 300 Comic Books
* Top 300 Graphic Novels

My favorite numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller at The Comics Chronicles has posted his analysis of the month here.

This was a good month in terms of what the Direct Market does well right now as an overall sales machine. There were a few comic book titles over the magic 100,000 figure. John Jackson Miller in the link provied in the last paragraph notes that money this may have been the best month in a generation. An extra ship week is responsible for some of that, but not all of that.

A couple of positive things worth noting. It looks like there will be a bunch of positives for Direct Market retailers in terms of the New 52 initiative moving into trade paperback form. I'd say that was expected although maybe not guaranteed: the trades part of what DC does has been a super-solid part of that company for several years now, and while there might be some hesitancy in the nature of the appeal of the New 52 books for fans, it's hard to think that the book program would falter given a shot in the arm like that. I would also point to a surge in sales for the Walking Dead comic book as the second series of the television show winds down. That's a book that I think really rewards serial comic book readers, and if some new fans are picking that up instead of sticking to what available through places like Amazon, where that book ends up in the next few months could be fascinating. For one thing, because the Image model works that much better for books that can generate something in the five finger, may help fully establish the Robert Kirkman half the Mark Millar/Robert Kirkman career model that has to be appealing to the emerging generation.

As far as worrisome signs, we still get to comics in the 50,000 range pretty quickly when you look at a list of this month's comics. Also, whenever you have the top of the serial comic book so dominated by event comics and single-digit issues you begin to wonder the nature of the strength of the market overall. It could be that customers aren't responding to content as much as they're desperately hoping to be told what comics are worth buying. When you have customers like that, they can eventually get turned off.

Mostly, though, that's just grousing. I'd say when you have dollar figures that are the best they've been since before I showed up in comics -- and I'm old -- then you have to say that's a pretty good month.
 
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Go, Look: Marvel Tales #144

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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt largely accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here. I might not buy any. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

FEB128233 DAYS OF DESTRUCTION DAYS OF REVOLT HC $28.00
This is a Joe Sacco hybrid book, essentially, from a comics perspective. He's working with the writer Chris Hedges on various portraits of economically blasted American communities, and provides both a ton of illustration work and a smattering of full cartoon portraits. The haunting one -- at least for me -- is an old mine worker, just for the dramatic ups and downs of his story, but they're all good. Sacco is one of the finest cartoonists in the world, and it's a treat we get multiple publications from him this year. If I only got one book this week, it'd be this one.

imageAPR120798 SECRET HISTORY BOOK 20 (MR) $5.95
This is the mainstream series I love the most, with its re-telling of western civilization through its wars, great mean and the manipulation of god-like beings with superpowers. So it's basically the history I was being told in college and the daydreams I was having about history while not all the way listening to those lectures, gathered into one place.

APR120032 CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5 $3.50
APR120008 MASSIVE #1 WOOD CVR $3.50
A double-shot for writer Brian Wood, including the first issue of his ecologically-informed adventure series, the kind of ambitious, big-theme, writer-directed, twist-on-real-world issues project that harkens back to... well, just to 1997 or so, but it's been a while since we've seen a new one exactly like that.

SEP110354 LIMITED REID FLEMING NEW DIMENSION POSTER $7.99
This sounds like the World's Toughest Milkman fronting a 1987 boy-band of some sort, which of course makes me want to see it all the more.

MAR120488 INVINCIBLE #92 $2.99
APR128086 MANHATTAN PROJECTS #3 2ND PTG $3.50
APR120441 ORC STAIN TP VOL 01 (MAY100457) (MR) $17.99
APR128195 SAGA #1 5TH PTG (MR) $2.99
APR128087 SAGA #3 2ND PTG (MR) $2.99
APR128088 THIEF OF THIEVES #1 4TH PTG $2.99
APR128089 THIEF OF THIEVES #2 4TH PTG $2.99
APR128090 THIEF OF THIEVES #3 4TH PTG $2.99
APR128091 THIEF OF THIEVES #4 3RD PTG $2.99
You know, if Image keeps up with the re-orders on their six to eight big-name attached projects still in the single-digit issue numbers and nails the anniversary issues of the major Kirkman series, they'll likely be themainstream comic book story of the second half of 2012.

FEB120700 BOY WHO MADE SILENCE GN (MR) $22.99
I didn't know anything about this one, so I went and looked and it's a striking enough thing I'd certainly look at it in a comics shop. That's really about as deep as I go with some things. Josh Hagler rings a bell, although I'm not exactly sure why.

APR121160 FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE HC LTD SGN ED VOL 05 $50.00
I'm not much into limited, signed editions, but it's nice to be reminded that a book like this is out there in various forms now.

DEC111084 PRINCE VALIANT HC VOL 05 1945-1946 $29.99
The series is pretty much conceptually complete at this point, so all you have to do now is sit back and enjoy the pretty art and the deliberate storytelling. These are significant pleasures, both the staring and the reading. We knew about the staring.

MAR121175 SUNDAY FUNNIES COLLECTED VOL 02 $30.00
Russ Cochran-curated comics from Ohio State, published at actual size. Yeah, I'm on that. I really doubt that many of the people buying this book are old enough to remember when comics looked like these, though.

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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A Few Little Lulu Stories By Request

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In Case You Hadn't Noticed, Comics Is Really Weird Now

We don't even blink.
 
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Don't Know That I've Ever Linked To Things Could Be Worse

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Loston Wallace

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* kudos to cartoonist Matthew Inman on standing up to a series of legal threats from someone that believe they should be able to profit from his work and that offering up a dissenting opinion is grounds for a legal attack, and then turning it into a positive good. Inman's response is so classy I hope that none of his fans potentially ruin it for him by actually harassing the pathetic person in question.

image* Ng Suat Tong calls on the original art of Howard Chaykin to make his points.

* I'm not sure I knew this about Kin Platt. This blog will run links to any posts about Kin Platt.

* not comics: Ron Goulart e-books.

* Sean Gaffney on Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 18. Grant Goggans on Nikolai Dante: Hero Of The Revolution. Nikolai Dante is my goofy pulp comics character that I see all the time, have never read, but still like the guy. Sean T. Collins on Before Enemies. Steve Miller on Iron Man: Doomquest.

* The Beat has the press release up for TFAW's search for a comic shop manager.

* fun with deeply weird mainstream comic book art. Speaking of which, are there any superstar artists left? Tucker Stone had a theory as to why mainstream comics companies might prefer to promote writers rather than artists, but damned if I can remember what it is.

* there are entire technologies better than a blog when it comes to pointing out and enthusing over comics art, but this Josie And The Pussycats image is pretty cool.

* not comics: advice on how to get health care while uninsured. As someone whose current insurance set-up has made me creative with certain doctor's visit, I think the framework of this advice is sound: I get a 40 percent discount by paying cash and recouping one of my doctor's visits by doing the paperwork myself, for instance. I believe the comics community needs to be better engaged with the realities of health care, even if the situation isn't always ideal.

* Andrea Lipinski and Keith R. A. DeCandido talk to David Chelsea.

* hey, Shaenon Garrity is doing capsule reviews of webcomics. That should be useful.

* congratulations to Robb Armstrong.

* finally, I was going to look at some DC Comics covers because I think looking at a bunch of covers from one of those companies is a great way to pick up on some things they're doing in addition to being entertaining, but I got to the one of a black Green Lantern wearing a ski mask and brandishing a gun and started to laugh so I gave up.
 
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29 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Somerset Holmes

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I'm not sure why I feel compelled to list Somerset Holmes. I know that I read it, I know that I followed the series when it jumped publishers (from Pacific to Eclipse), and I was dimly aware of the trade paperback version when that hit the market. But beyond that... I couldn't tell you that it made an impact. I read a lot of titles I remember with greater clarity. That actually may be the point. Somerset Holmes was a cliffhanger-driven, slightly overheated, action-oriented mystery by Bruce Jones, April Campbell and Brent Anderson. My basic memory of Somerset Holmes now is that, like Thriller, this was the kind of comic that presaged any number of similar efforts over the next 25+ years. Like the Fleming/Von Eeden series, Somerset Holmes looks slightly bigger (all that company!) and smaller (it's not as unique genre-wise now as it was then!) as a result. Somerset Holmes was basically a high-concept movie idea given comic book life. So many comics function like that now that it's hard to recall a time when random comic-book nonsense (the mentally ill superhero's employer is... a magic-wielding druid) remained an ingrained part of series core concepts on a regular basis. Somerset Holmes you could take pretty much right into a script, I think -- the wikipedia entry suggests that it was a script, and that the script may have been employed in service of someone else's film.

The other thing that Somerset Holmes brings to mind is how with the early independent and also the alternative comics there was so little out there that your average comic book store might carry that you could kind of read all of them -- or at least it felt like you read all of them. Many of the comics in that growing category came out at a much statelier pace than their mainstream cousins. If you wanted a pile of this stuff, you probably got everything in the category whether you knew all that much about it or not -- you probably also supplemented what you were buying with superhero comics. At any rate, I'd say that almost one in five books that I might have picked up at the comics shop back in those days was a new or unfamiliar effort. It's hard for me to imagine that's the case now in those categories of serial comic books that continue to thrive in the direct market. Back then there was a sense you were engaging with the bulk of this specific expression of comics, and maybe the whole thing. So I imagine I started picking up this series because it looked like the other comics I was buying and I was a guy who bought comics like this. Simple. I also put it down when it ended. Even more simple. Limited series were becoming a bigger and bigger part of my comics consumption diet.
 
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June 12, 2012


Not Comics: The Legion Of Faux McLoughlins

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BCGF Applications Are Due This Week

Here. It's a juried festival, so getting your application in isn't the only thing that has to happen for you, but it's a necessary first step. I had a great time at the 2011 version of the show.
 
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Go, Look: Sonia Polido

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* this Floating World publication of a limited edition of Q by Aidan Koch completely slipped my attention until now.

image* am I the only person that didn't know IDW will be releasing a version of that massive Wally Wood exhibition catalog this November?

* latest DC movies on their regular series titles: out with Captain Atom, Justice League International, Resurrection Man and Voodoo; in with Sword Of Sorcery, Talon, Team 7 and The Phantom Stranger. None of those really sounds like an upgrade, and it's hard for me to remember the last time an off-major title at one of these companies hit really hard, but swapping out titles that aren't working for something else from their library seems to be DC's strategy moving forward. Also, when I stop and think about it, I don't have a single memory of what the heck was in Captain Atom or Justice League International. I'm not exactly DC's prime market by any means, but I pay enough attention to comics that you'd think I'd pick up on something the same way I know there's a TV show out there with Jeffrey Morgan in it called Magic City. It's a crowded marketplace.

* Vertigo will also end its Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child series. I don't think I'd heard of that one, either.

* I think I already mentioned it, but in case I didn't: Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton have a mass-market, I'm guessing without knowing all-ages safe biography of Bill Finger due this summer.

* Yen Press will publish more Twilight graphic novels. I'm sort of surprised if this was ever in doubt.

* I'm not always a fan of mainstream comic book covers, as I think they all look largely the same unless you're really soaked in that milieu, but I think I would stop and notice this one were I to see it staring back from me from the wall of visual noise that is the new comics rack at a typical store.

* Tardi, Tardi, Tardi.

* finally, Brigid Alverson notes new Vertical license Knights Of Sidonia.

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Go, Look: A Sam Henderson New York Press Illustration Gallery

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Cartoonist Ed Stein Retires, Gives Career Advice: "Throw That Pen Away And Go To Bartender School"

Michael Cavna has an interview with longtime cartoonist Ed Stein about his decision to retire. As Stein is 65, this doesn't strike me as startling news the way that some moves away from the field over the last few years -- voluntary, involuntary -- have been. The casual way that Stein talks about the death of newspapers fascinates me, though. It's almost like we're seeing people engage with that concept in a way that will make it a greater reality, like kids in a horror movie that conjure up some horrible thing by saying its name. That's of course ridiculous, and newspapers will either continue or not based on the merits of their business model and ability to find new ground and avenues through which to succeed -- the thought lingers, though. I'm also intrigued by Stein's stated approach to drawing public figures as described in an interview illustrated with his solid renditions of public figures, and the way that losing a relationship to an actual publication diminished his enthusiasm.
 
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If I Were In Brussels, I'd Go To This

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His Power Is Rubbing Petroleum Jelly On Your Chest

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well, it should be
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* hooray for Richard Thompson. Hooray for Chris Sparks. Hooray for Team Cul De Sac.

image* the folks over at Diversions Of The Groovy Kind pay homage to the floating-head motif as employed by John Buscema. One of the things I like about John Buscema's covers is how much directional clash there is in them; rather than suggesting a sweep to the left of right, a lot of Buscema covers pummel the middle from both directions.

* not comics: so apparently there weren't that many bookstores back in the day. This doesn't really surprise me. I can remember even into the 1970s that visiting the bookstore section of Marshall Fields in Chicago was a big deal, and that place was about as big as the blank-journal section of an average Barnes & Noble.

* Mark Urycki talks to Derf Backderf. Paul Pope talks to Rudolph Arnheim.

* I could link to this every day. Seriously, if you're older than 25, uninsured, and you're somehow not fully engaged in securing yourself insurance of some sort and/or knowing what programs out there are available to you, you should probably use any time spent reading this blog doing some of that. It's not like getting insurance is ever easy for folks, but there's a difference between being unable to get insured, or insured easily, and just having no idea if you could get insured or not because you've never attempted it: I think there are more comics people in that last group than would care to admit it.

* Rob Clough on Nurse Nurse. Dan Morrill on Suicide Girls. Greg McElhatton on Harbinger #1. Todd Klein on Swamp Thing #9.

* I love detailed drawings of superhero headquarters almost as much as I love ridiculously crude drawings of superhero headquarters.

* I may love blueprints of comics bullpens even more than both of those things combined.

* Jeet Heer on that recent spate of stories that somehow defy my writing a descriptive passage about them this morning.

* Julia Pohl-Miranda goes to BEA.

* finally, two of you sent me links to this article, I guess because my name's in it as one of those people that's lucky with Before Watchmen in that the line-up of talent is such that it's easy for a discriminating comics reader with certain tastes to boycott it. It's weird that my name gets mentioned as someone who got lucky in that way, as I have a pretty solid track record of writing laudatory pieces on Darwyn Cooke, to the point that I actually contributed a piece to his last book. I was really early on Paul Pope, too, who's doing a cover. Personally, there aren't ten people in comics I enjoy seeing more than either one of those two guys. I mean, what can I say? We disagree. I hope that at some con in 2057 they'll push our wheelchairs together so we can argue about it. In general, and to the greater point, I'd say I've been pretty consistent on the point that the quality of the books doesn't really have significant influence on what drives my disappointment in the project, and I'm kind of baffled as to why it would. I wish they didn't exist no matter how good they end up being. I'm also not totally sure why it's fruitful to argue about awesome comics we imagine could exist when we can wait a few months and see what we get and argue those.
 
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30 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Elfquest

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I share a comics collection with my older brother. We combined our purchasing power when he was in high school and I was in middle school. One reason this was easy for us to do is that most of the comics we read were already split into comics that were primarily his and comics that were primarily mine. Elfquest was one of mine. Elfquest was a foundational comic for me in that it represented any number of key elements on which my comics consumption turned. It was a straight-up fantasy comic during a time when the act of reading comics represented a way for me to consume more fantasy literature. It was a magazine-sized comic at a time when reading something that wasn't a traditionally formatted comic book felt transgressive. Ditto a comic you could only find in a comics shop, like the mighty Comics Carnival in Indianapolis. Although I bought it in a comics shop, the first place I saw Elfquest was a Bud Plant magazine ad -- another peculiar touchstone, a time when certain kinds of comics were so rare you were put into a slightly stoned state just reverse engineering in your head the comics you saw mentioned in ads, letter columns and recommendations. As for the content of the series, Elfquest was a place for me to read material that touched on sex and violence that wasn't kept out of my hands the way, say, that R-rated movies on HBO were. Because those expressions of sexuality in particular had almost 100 percent nothing to do with what growing-up me found sexy, Elfquest was a comic that let me figure out that other people liked things for which I didn't necessarily have any use. Fantasy can broaden horizons in ways that don't involve a map at the end of the book.

I read Elfquest all the way through to the end, the first volume anyway, although I was in no way as enthusiastic about it near issues #20 and #21 as I had been at the story's beginning. I would have to re-read the original series to be certain, but my memory is that the first few issues of Elfquest were more compelling than later ones because the motivations driving the narrative were presented with greater clarity and had more immediate force. The elves are chased out of their woodland home and seek to survive; they must learn to work with a new tribe of elves because they're all forced to share living space; the two alpha males of the story butt heads over a woman because of a clash of genetically-triggered desire vs. longstanding affection. The quest itself... I have no memory what that was about more than some of the elves were sort of curious as to where they came from and it seemed like everybody needed to go on some sort of extended quest or lose the title or something. The majority of what followed -- the two other tribes we eventually meet, for example -- represented plot developments that seemed driven by soap opera concerns rather than what they added to any themes being examined. Like the X-Men comics I enjoyed during roughly that same period, any and all future purchases of Elfquest material had a nostalgic, "check in on the gang" component. I was out pretty early on, and it was hard for me to even figure out some of the future titles.

I certainly appreciate the original series, though. I have fond memories of the general cartoony look of the series, and of the acting that went on in the comic, the silent moments between characters. Mostly, though, once you live the majority of your adult life having never created anything about which people feel passion, you begin to admire those things that do achieve this. Even if they're not for you. Maybe especially if they're not for you.
 
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June 11, 2012


Go, Look: Darryl Cunningham's Complete The Fist

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Malaysian Cartoonist Zunar Criticizes Peers; To Defy Ban

There are two great article about the embattled Malaysian cartoonist Zunar on the Free Malaysia Today web site right now: one where he directly criticizes his peers for picking and choosing the subjects of their satirical jabs according to who has a scary police force and who doesn't; another where he proclaims he will deny a ban on political cartooning during the forthcoming election season. Both articles are spirited and contentious; each is well-worth a full read. In fact, the more people that pay attention to the cartoonist's struggle for free expression the less he may be at risk in all the ways a cartoonist working in isolation can be at risk.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Wide Awake Press' Epidemic Of Webcomics

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* the artist Ray Dillon has posted that his wife, the artist and editor Ranae De Liz, is in the hospital recovering from serious infection issues. They are taking donations through that third link, as there will likely be a $30K-sized medical bill, although they're doing so with a number of caveats including word that they still owe commissions from previous fundraisers.

* with ten days to go, Lea Hernandez is a little past 1/5 of the funds raised necessary to meet her Kickstarter goal on The Garlicks: Pandora Orange, Fail Vampire.

* a campaign seeking to raise $20,000 for the artist Oliver Nome to help him pay for treatment of brain cancer is about $3500 away from meeting its goal.

* Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe's highly-successful Sullivan's Sluggers campaign will end before this column appears again.
 
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Go, Look: Sesé

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Zapiro Wins The 2012 IPA Freedom To Publish Prize

Modern South African cartooning institution Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro has been awarded this year's Freedom To Publish prize from the Congress of the International Publishers Association, currently taking place in Cape Town and due to end Thursday. The article is useful for its lengthy biography of the internationally-renowned cartoonist, if you've never read one: included is Shapiro's history of political activism that came during his first days as a published cartoonist.

The award is given for bravery in publishing, with the committee chair giving the award citing the defamation lawsuit instigated against him by President Jacob Zuma and calling for an end for that maneuver as "a tool to stifle freedom of expression."
 
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Not Comics: The Trading Tortoise

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Your 2012 Max And Moritz Prize Winners

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The remainder of the Max And Moritz Prize winners were announced over the weekend at the Internationaler Comic Salon at Erlanger. Lorenzo Mattotti had been previously announced as the award's Lifetime Achievement winner. That awards program has been around since the mid-1980s, and awarded every two years when the festival was held.

Lifetime Achievement Award
* Lorenzo Mattotti

Best German Comic Artist
* Isabel Kreitz

Best German Comic Book
* Packeis, Simon Schwartz (Avant-Verlag)

Best International Comic Book
* Gaza, Joe Sacco, Translated By Christoph Schuler (Edition Moderne)

Best Comic Strip
* Schöne Töchter, Flix (Der Tagesspiegel)

Best Comic Book For Children
* Das Tapfere Prinzlein Und Die Sieben Zwergbären, Émile Bravo, Translated By Ulrich Pröfrock (Carlsen Verlag)

Best Student Comic Publication
* Ampel Magazin, Anja Wicki And Luca Bartulovic And Andreas Kiener (Hochschule Luzern -- Design & Kunst)

Special Jury Prize
* Rossi Schreiber

Audience Award
* Grablicht, Daniela Winkler (Droemer Knaur)

I'm always happy to see Joe Sacco's magnificent Gaza work recognized, and Lorenzo Mattotti is a singular comics-maker. Past winners of lifetime achievement recognitions from the program include Carl Barks, Robert Crumb and Moebius.
 
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Go, Look: Masked Ranger Comics

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Go, Look: Ogden Whitney Work From 1942

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Roger Langridge draws for a good cause.

image* Rob Clough on The Death-Ray. Greg McElhatton on Marathon. Don MacPherson on Crogan's Loyalty. Ben Saunders on Ultimate Spider-Man. Alan David Doane on Alpha. Rob Wells on a couple of books from Martin Eden. Sean Gaffney on Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 1. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comics. Lauren Davis on Vattu.

* Bob Temuka would like you to know that he doesn't get angry about pop-culture bullshit anymore.

* Michael Cavna talks to Darwyn Cooke.

* I have't read a lot of the reviews of the first Before Watchmen effort, but someone I trust suggested I read this one by Andrew Hickey and I thought it was pretty interesting. I particularly appreciated his nominee for a previous (unofficial) Watchmen sequel and his suggestion that Darwyn Cooke is also commenting on other significant superhero comics. I mention this because I haven't read a lot of the reviews and some people are determined to see linkblogging as some sort of ongoing endorsement contest with political elements. There's also this weird-ass idea out there that any criticism of the Before Watchmen project from an industry/ethical point of view somehow depends on all of these comics being wholly awful. So with those things in mind, let me assure you that I would have to imagine that most reviews you can find of the first Before Watchmen effort are likely to be positive ones, because Darwyn Cooke is a highly-skilled comics maker. This one isn't positive, though. If anyone still feels compelled to personally recommend an equally engaging review of a more positive nature,

* Johanna Draper Carlson recommends a pair of lettering guides, a Faith Erin Hicks comic on process and Melanie Gillman's graduation comic.

* my answer to this question is always "who cares?" but I'm interested in going back at some point and reading what Michael Cavna has to say.

* Sean Kleefeld on finding an attachment to characters that look the most like oneself.

* the Not-Brothers Cannon have a new on-line home.

* someone walked into the room while I was looking at this post and said, "Gee, I wonder which one is the cartoonist?" That's a little bit mean, but it's still funny, and I don't think the cartoonist will mind.

* not comics: Jamie S. Rich is accepting writing commissions. This is intriguing to me on first glance as a way for writers working in comics to match the sketching element of many artists' income/output.

* finally, Gavin Jasper compares and contrasts the big writing guns at the big mainstream comic book companies.
 
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31 Days Remaining Until Comic-Con International 2012

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This year's Comic-Con International will take place July 12-15, with a Preview Night on July 11.

In the ramp up to the event, we recommend this site's "By The Numbers" guide and twitter feed, the Comic-Con web site, the Comic-Con twitter feed and fellow bloggers The Beat and Mark Evanier. Just about any of your favorite comics- and pop culture-related sites should have some coverage of the show.

We hope to see you there.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Flaming Carrot Comics

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I think history has been very, very kind to the original, sustained run of Flaming Carrot-related comic books, both as quality entertainment product and as an artistic achievement. These books are still funny, at least to me, less as some sort of commentary on modern superheroes the way I sometimes see asserted for them than as a pants-less stroll through the general craziness of Bob Burden's mind. Some comics rise out of the childhood dreams of their creators. Flaming Carrot reads more like it sprung fully-formed from an off-hand conversation with a drunk person Burden had while eating breakfast at a strip club. A movie version or even versions drawn by different artists have never quite worked for me because as is the case with comics from David Boswell and Peter Bagge a lot of what makes Burden's work funny comes through the art. These comics look like something drawn by someone that Dan Nadel is eager to put into one of his outsiders-in-the-mainstream collections, the work of someone that has at least once considered making a home out of a storage facility. If EC Segar's Thimble Theatre famously allowed its readers to smell the boiled cabbage, Bob Burden's comics communicate the tiny whiff of mold emanating from the thin, nasty carpet of a Holiday Inn.

These were gateway comics for my group of friends, the only comic I read in which certain friends evinced any interest at all. Stupid communicates no matter the specific subject matter. The Flaming Carrot concept isn't merely stupid, it's a celebration of stupid: recall that Flaming Carrot isn't just a slightly daffy guy that walks around in flippers and a giant carrot head shooting people, he does all this because reading tons of comics made him that way. If comics were part of the secret language my friends had of bands that few people we knew listened to, books our teacher wouldn't let us read in class and movies that none of our peers saw, Flaming Carrot was what we were talking when we laughed a lot. I can still get a chuckle out of any of them just by saying, "Shoot more bullets." What a great comic book.
 
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June 10, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Chris Schweizer

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*****

imageI met Chris Schweizer before I knew his comics, which is an interesting way to do things when someone's a talented cartoonist because you inevitably spend some time just staring at them, wondering how the hell this thing could have come from that person you know. Schweizer's primary comics avenue by a wide, wide margin is the Crogan Adventure series. This a series of books from Oni Press about the men (mostly) of the wonderfully, snap-named Crogan family. The modern nuclear unit seeks moral guidance or perspective on some issue; an extravagant adventure of a past member provides some measure of commentary on what's happening in the modern Crogans' lives. It sounds simple, but Schweizer, while still a young cartoonist with all that entails, never cheats. The result is the kind of comics a person with high hopes for the industry might conceive of having out there in the marketplace but then would just as quickly explain how they couldn't possibly exist. These are comics that can be read by any number of people at any number of ages but at the same time are clearly not for every audience in some desperate-to-please way; they're unabashedly situated in a specific, western take on the adventure comics genre whose heyday might have come in the strip comics of the 1930s; they're exuberant; they're presented with unapologetic elan, including a fan club where I believe at some level of membership or via some special offer the cartoonist draws your picture in the style of one of the characters from one of the books. A dozen Chris Schweizers, and comics might rule the world.

Schweizer is also a comics educator, one that came out of the general system to which he now contributes from the other side of the podium. I had plenty of questions for him. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about your background with comics? My understanding is that you had a significant relationship to strip comics, but maybe not comic-book comics. Where did comics exist in terms of your overall cultural appetites; how much of a comics kid were you? Is there a comic strip that influenced you early on we might be surprised to hear was an influence on you? How did you read the comics, seeing as that you were an artist yourself?

SCHWEIZER: I don't think the artist hat really affected my comics reading when I was young. It did in high school.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I expect that my parents, both strip fans, probably tried to get me to read comics in the newspaper, but I doubt that I was receptive. I recollect a lot of what I consumed as a kid, and I don't remember being enthusiastic about strips until Calvin and Hobbes came along. I read the first collection when it came out, which means I would've been six years old. And I was hooked. Not just on Calvin, but on all comic strips. I read 'em like crazy, especially whatever my dad had in the house in book form. I always preferred reading big chunks in book form to any other format. We had the full set of that oversized Peanuts collection, which even at age six baffled me with its deliberate avoidance of chronology. I remember complaining often to my dad about it, and his reassurance that someday someone would have the sense to put out the whole run in chronological order. So the Fantagraphics reprints have basically been my dad's Christmas and Father's Day presents every year since they started coming out, and will continue to be so 'til the series ends. Anyway, I devoured every strip I could find, in the papers and in garage sale paperbacks. I never stopped reading strips, though these days I complain to my wife loudly about how nearly everyone phones it in these days whenever I sit down with the Sunday funnies.

Around the same time, early elementary school, there was an Eckerd's Drug Store down the street with a bin of thin two-dollar paperback black-and-white comic adaptations of classic literature. The Pocket Classics series. I remember that bin being there forever, but it was probably only a couple of months. My parents got me and my younger sister a bunch of those books during that time. Those books had a big influence on me, because they weren't very good, and I knew it. I read them over and over and over, and wanted them to be good, to live up their promise. The real versions, the prose originals, usually do, but I didn't read those until I was much older, high school and college. Those comic adaptations were generally pretty lifeless. But I loved the subject matter. Swordfights and whatnot. That's a big part of what I do now, trying to make books that are what I wish those Pocket Classics had been.

I got into G.I. Joe comics in fourth grade in a big way, steered to them from the trading cards. I was a sucker for trading cards, especially file-oriented ones like the Joe set. By the time I was in middle school, with disposable income from neighborhood lawn mowing, I was making the transition from G.I. Joe to Marvels. The cards were what spurred me here, too. I think the reason that I landed on Marvel rather than DC is the cards (with the exception of the odd Batman stand-alone volume, some recent Bernet-drawn Jonah Hex, and some of the Darwyn Cooke stuff, I've read virtually no DC; I've just had no real attraction to the characters). The cards helped breach the walls of obtuse continuity by laying it all out for you before you ever used to pick up a comic. I think a lot of kids my age used the cards as an entryway to the Marvel stuff.

In middle school I got really into Bill Amend's Fox Trot. It probably has more influence on my dialogue pacing than just about anything else, and my dialogue pacing determines almost everything about how my comics are structured, so I guess that's a pretty encompassing influence. Amend is just so good at pacing. He's one of the few comics childhood heroes that I haven't had a chance to meet. I have his number in my NCS phonebook, but I haven't ever called him. I think it's expected that you cold call a couple of people when you get the directory, but I feel weird doing that sort of thing.

When I was in ninth grade, I stopped reading anything but strips and the odd trade collection. Cold turkey. I was buying a ton of floppies, some at a local shop, most at the gas station by my high school, and I became immediately disenfranchised. Within a very short space of time -- heck, maybe it was the same week -- three comics that I was nuts about changed artists. Olivier Vatine was replaced in the second part of the Star Wars "Thrawn Trilogy" adaptations, Joe Madureira left Uncanny X-Men, and J. Scott Campbell left Gen 13. I don't know who the replacements were, and it wasn't that the art was bad... it's that the art wasn't them. The reality of creative teams changing was one of which I was aware, but I'd never contemplated the reality of it, and I didn't like it. It riled me. I thought of those projects as the work of those guys, and had no interest in alternatives, and wanted nothing to do with other comics that might similarly deal me a raw hand. I still feel that way. I have trouble reading anything without a fixed final page or final issue in the can for fear that the artist or writer or whoever will change, so I almost never pick anything up unless it's a stand-alone book. B.P.R.D. was my one contemporary exception, and when Guy left it was like 9th grade all over again. I love Tyler [Crook]'s stuff, but he's not Guy [Davis]. I just picked up the new issue -- I'm warming to it, and I do really like Tyler's art -- but I still grind my teeth at it.

I picked up Bone at a bookstore when I was a freshman in college. I'd read the excerpts that ran in Disney Adventures when I was younger, and had that familiarity with the series. I went nuts for it. I picked up the trades when I could find them. That was my one regular non-strip comics purchase.

imageSPURGEON: You mention something in your sketchbook about seeing Jeff Smith's work and realizing that an artist could bring a strip approach to comics to long-form comic-book comics. Can you talk about that distinction, that kind of different aesthetic that you see in comic strips and through Jeff's work?

SCHWEIZER: That was mostly just me not having access to much stuff. I'm from rural Kentucky. If it wasn't available at a gas station, you didn't get to see it. I think what I meant was that the drawings were clearly what the artist felt like doing, rather than the dictates of the market, stylistically. And that he was writing and drawing it. Outside of strips, I hadn't seen that! Now it's something that everybody does, and tons of other folks were doing it at the time, but Jeff is where I saw it first, and it was amazing. The slick brushwork... it felt like the strips I liked. And I had no worries that it would change artists, even though it was a continuing series. And it being black and white was big for me, too, in that it looked like it was meant to be black and white, like a strip. That's the main reason we did the first three Crogan books in black and white, because I wanted to mimic that it-could-be-a-strip-but-is-really-a-book feel that Bone had for me. I was being a toon-head, a comics snob. I think that black and white better reflects the craft, but color is more accessible. I was more worried with being credible to my peers than I was reaching an audience. You know, being young. I've been changing my inking style a little to better jive with color, which I plan to use more in the future.

SPURGEON: I'm a little unclear as to when comics became an option for you, when you started to seriously look at that as a potential career. I suspect it has something to do with your decision to go to grad school. Can you talk a bit about what led you to that decision to go to SCAD?

SCHWEIZER: I joined one of those book clubs, the scam ones that are hard to quit, sometime not long after I was out of college. My wife and I ran a hotel in Mississippi, and I was at the front desk a lot, and had a lot of reading time. The book club sent you like five or six books free at first, and they carried some graphic novels -- only the five that I got as my initial offering, I think, but hey, seemingly free books, right? Among those that I got were [Scott] McCloud's Understanding Comics, which I thought at the time would make a great textbook, the third volume of [Larry] Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, and volume one of Persepolis.

So I was starting to get into graphic novels as a casual reader. And then I discovered webcomics. The first one I found was Scott Kurtz's Player vs. Player, which I discovered entirely by accident while looking for some Indiana Jones stuff on the Internet, and discovering an Indy-themed PVP storyline.

Scott, I've come to find, is viewed as a very controversial and sometimes confrontational figure in both the web and print comic communities. There are still NCS folks whose backs arch when his name comes up. But he's always been incredibly nice to me, and I think his work is solid, a consistently well-executed strip. At the time, I was amazed that it seemed to hold together better than any of the syndicate stuff. I never play video games, but I didn't have to know the references to get the jokes; Scott's quite good in that arena. Anyway, reading his comic got me looking at other webcomics, which led me to Raina Telgemeier's online stuff, which really was print stuff that she posted online. One of the stories, "Beginnings," was three pages long, just a nice, poignant little anecdote. Its length was what grabbed me. A stand-alone, non-strip short story was not something I'd seen before. And Raina had mentioned that it was a story published in one of her mini-comics. I had never seen a mini-comic, didn't know what one was, but I immediately understood what she meant -- hand assembled, etc. -- and set about making a story for my own mini-comic. I did it that day. I found out much later it was entirely on the strength of that particular story that James [Lucas Jones], my editor at Oni, gave me my Crogan Adventures deal.

I did the mini as a kind of lark, I guess, the same way I had done music. I guess I figured that maybe somebody would see it and I'd hit it big, or something like that, the kind of thing you think when you're young and gormless and don't know how anything works. I had just turned 25. I feel like that's a little old to be a semi-directionless idiot. Anyway, my dad read it, and suggested I consider doing comics professionally. And that was huge for me. My parents are and have always been hugely supportive, but my dad has always been a realist, and his suggestion that I actively pursue a career in it sparked something. He works in the arts. He's a music composer, though the majority of his income now comes from writing mystery novels, a new development that I think has freaked him out a little, identity-wise, since for a long time the writing was just a hobby that paid. But he, more than most, knows how difficult it is to support a family on arts money. His suggesting that I do just that was like a light bulb going off for me. Of course I could do it; dad's faith in the success of the endeavor was like a guarantee to me. But I'd need to go to school for it, for the terminal degree so that I could teach and so that I knew the ins and outs of what I wanted to do. I've always believed that, whatever you want to do, you should study it properly. It shows respect for the discipline and for the wisdom of the folks who came before you. Luckily there were terminal degree programs in comics, at SCAD and MCAD, and the SCAD one looked more organized. I'm a disorganized person by nature, so I need structure.

I talked it out with my wife, Liz. We met in college, and got married a couple of months after graduation. She was immediately and enthusiastically supportive. Given some of the other careers I'd considered, this one was probably likely to be the least stressful on her, so I'm sure that helped, but she's always had my back, and I like to think that I have hers. She didn't want to move to Savannah, though. We were in Natchez, another antebellum tourist town, and we were ready to be somewhere different. We saw that SCAD had a campus in Atlanta -- it had just started -- and that settled things.

SPURGEON: I know a handful of cartoonists that have taught at SCAD, but fewer that have gone.

SCHWEIZER: I think you'd be surprised at how many folks went to SCAD. A lot of near-and-under-thirties, especially. Eleanor Davis and Chris Wright and that whole group. Drew Weing and Joey Weiser and Jarrett Williams and J.P. Coovert. Frank and Becky. Ben Towle was there a while ago, around the same time as Sean Gordon Murphy and Chad Thomas and Kristian Donaldson. Some animation folks, too. Phil Craven was a SEQA major. He was head of story on the second Kung Fu Panda movie, but he still does the odd comic. There's been a lot of big two talent, but my path and theirs intersect less frequently. The folks I mention are the folks I know pretty well, who I see fairly often, who are near my age.

I think that you -- and you have your finger on the pulse of the industry more than a lot of people, Tom, so I expect that you serve as the world at large here -- haven't heard of many people coming out of SCAD because the school itself is not really an industry or convention presence the way that, say, CCS is. When the school sets up at a convention or something, it sets up as the school, not as a repository of student publications. The working (publishing) students are rarely at the table, the working faculty is rarely at the table. They're at their own tables. The SCAD booths are geared very heavily towards admissions and recruitment, and while I expect that this approach results in more students applying to the school (a necessity to keep the programs going), it doesn't do much to draw attention to professional work being generated by students and alums. There are student work samplers, but by their nature they don't include professional publication excerpts. They're a great way of showing off the work of students who are finding their feet -- I was thrilled to have a piece in one, when I was starting grad school -- but they're not the best examples of what enrolled students are making. The Oni and Fantagraphics and Marvel books are the best examples, but having those immediately on hand at the SCAD table is logistically problematic, given the admission-oriented strategy.

The other reason you're less likely to have associated SCAD alums with the school is that few of them tout it. Sometimes this is active. Sean Murphy, for example, has written many posts about his dissatisfaction with his experience at SCAD. But that's the exception, I think. Most folks don't bring it up or draw attention to it simply because they prefer to be associated more with their peer groups from within the school than with the school itself.

I think that happened because of how big the department got over the last five or ten years. There's something like four hundred comics kids at the Savannah campus now, I think, and it probably has to do with percentages. I feel like the percentage of students that really give it their all is pretty high, but even if one in ten kids is lazy, or producing hackneyed work, when you have four hundred kids that's 40 kids doing bad work a year, and just because it's bad or lazy doesn't mean that it's not viewable to the public. If a terrible artist claims that they're studying comics at SCAD -- which is likely all they'll be able to claim to achieve any sort of peer credibility at a show -- then a good student the next table over isn't likely to volunteer the same information for fear of being lumped in with the bad one.

I know a lot of people, myself included, who are publicly silent about political or religious affiliations because of the terrible folks with whom those affiliations are sometimes associated. It's the same thing. Even if 90 percent are trying hard, working hard, that bad ten percent still brings it down for everybody. Your program isn't generally thought of by your best students, but by your worst ones. The goal is to make sure that everyone who graduates is nailing it. It's a tough goal, and infinitely tougher the larger the campus is. The greater the number of students, the more of a presence that ten percent of bad ones has, and the less likely the rest are celebrate their connection to the institution. It's a shame, but it's what it is.

We're lucky at the Atlanta campus, we're really small. We've got something around 80 kids. That means that, by the same measurements, we've got far fewer kids that are phoning it in. Because of this, they're less likely to congregate and make lazy artist subcultures (nothing lets lazy artists continue to be lazy like having each other to self-congratulate), and thus it's easier to spot the laziness and bad decision-making and stay on them until they shape up. If they don't shape up, they don't graduate. That's going to be hard to maintain if we grow substantially -- and our numbers have already doubled in the past couple of years or so -- but we've seen it happen at other schools and with other programs, and we're very mindful of it, and we do what we can to nip it in the bud and ensure that the students can all be proud of their school, which is in itself a marvelous institution. I know very few students that, when asked, don't have fond things to say about their experience. Getting them to bring it up unsolicited is what I hope our approach will do, and thus far I think that's the case with our graduates. Granted, we're pretty new, so it's easy to say this now. It'll be a challenge to say it in five years, when we've swelled, but I think that as long as we stay on it, and don't let anyone slip through the cracks and come out with both a degree and bad habits, we'll be okay. It's a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

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SPURGEON: What comes to mind when you think of your formal comics education? What is that culture like, that community like, experienced as a student -- or what was it like when you were there, experiencing it?

SCHWEIZER: SCAD-Atlanta was, and is, a lot different than SCAD-Savannah, so I'm ill-equipped to comment on the latter, as I never had the opportunity to experience it. For one thing, the Atlanta campus is a lot smaller. When I started grad school, there were only two other guys starting with me -- Justin Wagner, who did the art for that Rascal book that just came out, and Hunter Wook-Jin Clark. Hunter did the art for Oni's Return of King Doug, and is now working on a series called MegaGoGo, kind of a deconstructionist "Power Rangers in Atlanta" type of thing. Very funny, very engaging. But it was really just us and our professor Shawn Crystal, who's been doing a lot of runs on various Deadpool titles for Marvel lately. It was a tight-knit community, and Shawn was invested in seeing all of us take off, trying to help us get publishing opportunities.

The thing that was most astounding to me, education-wise, was how immediately practical all of the instruction was. There was no class-padding, no BS, every bit of it was how to do what we do. I literally learned more in each individual drawing class with Shawn than I did in whole semesters of drawing classes in my undergrad. When I was an undergrad, we learned to draw or paint a model so that we could, well, draw or paint a model while looking at it (sorry for the dehumanizing pronoun, but it seemed the best fit). Shawn taught us how to look at the model in order to better understand the underlying human form, the anatomy, for the express purpose of never having to look at a model because we know and understand what's there. All the classes were like that. Learning in order to ingrain.

Nolan Woodard, the colorist and designer for Mark Waid's new digital stuff (as well as a lot of BOOM! and the occasional Marvel comic), started teaching there my second year, and did the exact same thing on the digital end. Practical application, all of it.

My first year Shawn taught the hell out of us, and the second year Nolan did the same. We worked on our own projects at the time; I made a bunch of mini-comics, including a 300-pager that took hours to assemble (bad idea), and a big chunk of the first Crogan book. I think I'd done about a third of it before hearing back from Oni that they wanted to do the Crogan series, and thought that a pirate story would be the best place to start. I was lucky, there, I guess.

The social part of it was less pronounced for me that it was for others, I'd suppose. For one thing, I was married. I wanted to spend most of my free time with Liz. So I wasn't out late drinking with my classmates, at least not often. I had a lot of work to do, and a home life. Liz got a job at the school, running the admissions office (the office itself, not the folks in it). She took a pay cut from another job to do it, but it knocked off a part of my tuition, her working there, and it came out to being better for us. Most of my socializing was with Shawn, and Hunter and Justin, and Doug Dabbs, who was an undergrad at the time. He now teaches with us, too. But it was great, being a student. SCAD was really supportive of me, I loved the classes, and I got to be kind of a student ambassador type of guy in a lot of situations. Picking up editors at the airport, taking Art Spiegelman to dinner, that kind of stuff. Because our grad program was so small, I became close with a lot of the grad students at the Savannah campus, going up there for when they had artists or editors in.

Shawn knew I wanted to teach, too, and so that was worked pretty heavily in to my studies. He taught me how to do all the logistical stuff, gradebooks and assignment sheets and the like, I sat in on meetings, learned how to do syllabus. I've heard from other people in grad school elsewhere that their professors refused them similar instruction, paranoid about the students taking their jobs upon graduation or something. Can you believe that? Lucky for me, Shawn's a good teacher, and has been a great mentor in that arena.

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SPURGEON: At what point did teaching become a serious, practical possibility? I know that your dad was a professor, so you might have realistically inclined towards that kind of career choice, but how did you get the specific opportunities that put you in your current job? How much did you pursue what you're doing now?

SCHWEIZER: I know that when a teacher, especially one who teaches the profession in which he or she is engaged, claims to have always wanted to be a teacher, folks are wont to roll their eyes a little and take it with a grain of salt. You can't hack it in the job market, and so you have to teach to survive. And there's a financial truth to that -- my comic income would not support my family, at least not doing the comics that I want to do. I could freelance more, I expect, and work on projects that don't fire me up the way that Crogan stuff does, but I don't have to, and that's really, really nice. My comic income never amounts to much more than half of what I make teaching, at least not yet. But I don't have to force it to. I do what I can to make my comics profitable, but I don't have to do comics for others, which lately, in the wake of many friends and colleagues quitting Marvel/DC due to all the ethical concerns, I see as a real blessing.

I really did always want to be a college professor. I loved the atmosphere, loved the relationship my dad's students had with our family, loved the cultural opportunities the school offered. There was this real magic surrounding higher education. The enthusiasm and the casualness and the community and this microcosm world with a library and a theater and a museum and cool uncle/aunt types that would take us to do fun stuff. I always wanted to be a part of that, and to help make college as lively and beneficial for my students as I saw my dad making it for his.

So I didn't go to grad school right off, because I didn't know what I wanted to do, what I wanted to teach. Near my senior year of college I went through the discernment process to become an Episcopal priest, and was planning on going to Sewanee, but ended up deciding that I was ill-suited to the role. Then I looked into the Army. Me and Liz met with a recruiter a number of times, but I ended up balking when I found out I wouldn't be deployed overseas but would likely end up making maps in Idaho or something, because of my graphic design degree. If I was going to join it would be for the adventure side of things. I'm glad I didn't; I can't imagine putting Liz through such worry and loneliness if I had any other options, which I did. Again, me being a kid. In both of these cases, though, I planned to teach. To teach history or something at a divinity school, or the same at a military academy.

It was never a financial motive. The idea of having a "real job" as a support system never really occurred to me until after I had it, and realized how lucky I was to be in the position where I did. I'd always been able to find work in some capacity or another, always did what seemed interesting. I'm a quick study and used to be pretty versatile in my skill sets (though this versatility has atrophied with disuse), so the idea of providing was never a real catalyst. Again, I'm reminded at how naïve I used to be. Keep in mind that this was a couple of years before the economy collapsed. I doubt my affability would net me a job these days.

Knowing that I wanted to teach -- and I was up front about that in my application to grad school -- I spent my two years preparing myself. Publishing as much as possible, yeah, but teaching SCAD summer courses to high school kids, doing workshops, running tutorial sessions... basically, building up my teaching experience. I'd taught sixth grade social studies before going to grad school, and had been a sub, but I wanted as much art-specific experience as possible. I became really involved in the school, being a grad student representative on some of the councils and organizations. I helped run all of our events. Shawn really put me in a position where I could showcase what I could bring to the school. And I filled a niche that wasn't there; I was part of this whole graphic novel thing, writing and drawing.

My teaching at SCAD wasn't originally my plan. I figured I'd go and teach at a state school like where I'd done my undergrad, start a comics program in the art department. But seeing other programs, seeing other schools, it became clear to me that SCAD-Atlanta was, by my personal criteria, the best program, hands-down. The students were amazing. I hear from folks teaching elsewhere that teaching is worthwhile for them because every couple of years they have that one student with the drive and the talent that makes their efforts worthwhile. Nearly all of my students fall into that category. And I knew the quality of the students before I was teaching here.

Nobody comes to our program by accident. SCAD's Savannah campus is the one people see when they look on the Internet or read something, or see an advertisement. The kids who come here, they come because they did research, they read interviews with artists or talked to an alum at a convention or looked at the faculty publications or whatever. You don't really get the "college" experience here the way you do in Savannah -- the social life here is really all built around working 24 hours a day in the Sequential Arts room. There's no campus to walk around. There's nowhere to sit outside, no cheap food in easy walking distance. The kids who come here, they come because they know about the program, they know what's being offered. They want to be the best, and they're willing to forego a lot of comforts and conveniences to do that. They're the kids in the kung fu movie that stand outside the temple getting rained on, and those are the students who I wanted to have, who I wanted to teach. So I was really lucky that Shawn and our boss Pat Quinn championed me, helped me get the position.

SPURGEON: With your family background, and your experience as a student, and now as a teacher, you might be the best qualified person to answer a question that's come up a few time in conversation. How would you describe the value of a more formal pursuit of comics? Because with the industry sometimes lacking a lot of opportunities, and with comics long-standing tradition of self-training, I think there's a lot of suspicion there.

SCHWEIZER: That suspicion is fair, and in some cases warranted. Art schools in general have a reputation for buzzardly recruitment practices, targeting listless kids with no drive or direction, but who sometimes draw because it's fun. Their parents desperately want them to go to college in the hopes that they'll apply themselves, and so off they go to art school, racking up crazy debt and not really learning anything, and often not graduating, because they're not going to suddenly grow grit. A lot of the for-profit schools have been doing this lately, and it's in the news a lot. It's low and shady. To my knowledge, none of the really shady schools actually offer a comics major, so at least there's that.

imageThere are four schools that put out a lot of people that I see working, and doing good stuff: us at SCAD-Atlanta, SCAD-Savannah, the School of Visual Arts, and the Center for Cartoon Studies. The Kubert School may still be doing great work, but I don't generally run in those circles, so I don't know much about it one way or the other, but I know that in the past they've had a lot of incredible graduates. Minneapolis College of Art and Design has a comics program, but I've never, to my knowledge, met a cartoonist who graduated from it. And Tom Hart just started that program in Gainesville, which I assume has some sort of affiliation with Barks scholar Don Ault and the English department at UF, though I'm not sure of that. I don't know what its accreditation situation is. So I'm eager to keep my eye on it, and see how it develops. I want there to be a lot of reputable comics programs, at every level and at every degree of quality. Some folks can't afford to do an undergrad at a private college; I know I couldn't. But I'd have loved to have studied it at a state school. I want us to be considered the top comics program in the country, and I want to earn that reputation. But I want people to have options, to be able to go to wherever and get a decent education in the medium that I love.

You mentioned a long-standing tradition of self-training, and I don't think that's exactly true. I think that's a recent development, something that's come about in the last 30, maybe 40 years. Formal comics programs didn't used to exist, but they didn't need to. Some folks went to art school, but even those that didn't, if you worked on a comic, you worked in a bullpen, under the eye and tutelage of your peers and betters. Even after the bullpens died away, you lived in New York, you lived in Ohio, you lived where your editor lived, at least until your strip had found its feet and you more or less had a grasp of what you were doing. You had regular feedback and regular critique; you had schooling, whether you got a diploma or not. There weren't formal programs, but there was a work apprenticeship education system in place that is pretty much gone now. You don't have [Will] Eisner or [Harvey] Kurtzman circling problems on your pages.

It's harder to learn on the job now, too, because nothing is disposable. You can't muddle through your first hundred, two hundred pages anymore, they'll be collected in a trade. The Internet will savage you. All that stuff. I personally love that everything is permanent now, everything from someone's body of work becomes instantly and permanently available, or at least is moving in that direction. But it does make starting blind a near impossibility. School gives you the chance to work out those kinks and come out swinging.

You're never going to make enough doing comics to financially justify what you'd spend in tuition on art school. Not here, not SVA, CCS, wherever. You're just not. Unless you're one of those ten or 20 guys who just rakes it in, you're going to earn a modest to comfortable living if you work hard and take advantage of opportunities when the groundwork you've done helps those opportunities to present themselves. You spend as much going to an art school as you would getting an MBA somewhere swanky, but while those business majors may pull down six figures early on in their careers, odds are you're going to sit somewhere in the middle of five for your whole life, and that's if you're fairly successful. So the investment that you put into tuition, financially, is totally disproportionate to what you can ever expect to make.

And that presses on my mind. It presses on Shawn's mind. Neither of us could live with ourselves if let some student get in debt for life to learn a hobby, or have a fun four years, or whatever. The notion makes me sick to my stomach. The income that I mentioned may not be flashy, but it's income from something that you love, which I reckon to be worth more than a larger amount for something you don't.

I sometimes get asked what I'd do if I didn't do comics, and I have no answer. I'd be a dissatisfied novelist. I'd be a dissatisfied animator. I want to do comics -- it's all I want to do. I love doing it. It's hands down the medium for which I'm best suited. Shawn feels the same way, so does Doug, so does Nolan. So does June. And so do most of our students. I genuinely believe that you should only work in the arts if you have no other choice, if not doing so would make you perpetually miserable. If your passion drives you to where you have to do it, then that same passion will see you through the frustration that is bound to arise. Our program is designed for those kids, the kids that can't imagine being happy doing anything else. It's designed to help them get their work as good as it can be, but also to understand the realities of the industry from the get-go.

There are few publishing opportunities, you're right. We do all we can to steer what opportunities exist to our students. Every one of our faculty members publishes comics regularly -- I think that every one of us has a book out this month, actually. [Chris] Staros probably has a handful of them. This means we're in a position to know what's happening on the publishing end of things, because we're all in the thick of it, in different arenas. We're in a position to give our students information that will help them, show their work to our editors and peers, and suggest them when projects arise. This happens a lot. Axel [Alonso], who does workshops with Shawn for the students, had three of our seniors do Marvel stories that came out right around when they graduated. James at Oni regularly grabs our kids. Oni doesn't table at SPX anymore, because that show, for them, was exclusively a talent search. Now they just look to us as a talent farm. We only bring in editors who we know and trust, and who are in a position to give the kids work. Bringing editors or publishers in doesn't do anyone a lick of good unless their role allows them to hire the students, or offer a book deal, so knowing the editors personally is important, to ensure that.

I think the average is like five years, or somewhere thereabouts, from when a comic artist first starts publishing to when he or she can make a living at it. If we can get that regular publication happening by, say, a student's junior year, then we're in a position to help them with their professional work, and it means they have less time in the real world in which they're having to figure out how to make ends meet.

And of course we want them to be good, to master the principles of their craft. I take that as a given. We work hard to make sure that our classes all work together to build the students' skill levels. Because comics require a dozen different skills, they're honing those skills all the time. You have to write in an inking class. You have to color in a storytelling class. You have to letter in a drawing class. You're doing everything from the first course, and refining it, so that by the time you graduate, you're hopefully both knocking it out of the park and have some jobs lined up. And all of us have different priorities, artistically. So I'll tear into students for poor balloon placement, for tangents, for story issues; Shawn will blister them for page layout, for composition, Doug will hit them with any anatomy or mark making issues... after a page goes through the gauntlet of professors, the students know everything that needs to be worked on. And, because we have different priorities, the students eventually learn to develop their own set. They learn when to ignore me, and when to ignore Shawn, when to ignore Nolan [Spurgeon laughs]... and usually, by the time they get to this point, where they can defend their decisions, defend their priorities, they're amazing.

There are a ton of great self-taught cartoonists. But I think about how much more expansive their bodies of work might be, how much stronger their early work might be, if they didn't have to reinvent the wheel while figuring things out, if there was someone there to help them along their way, to turn to with their questions. I think of how much happier they might be if there was someone on hand to point out a bad contract, or guide them towards a publisher better suited to their work, or personality. Nobody has to go to school to do comics -- you can certainly do them without having done so, as history has proven time and again -- but I'm glad the option is there, and I'm glad it was there for me.

imageSPURGEON: Given the nature of the Crogans Adventures series, I think I should also ask you specifically about history and historical fiction. Do you have a background with either? Are there historians or historically-influenced fiction writers to whom you look as examples for what you're doing now.

SCHWEIZER: I took what history classes I could when I was an undergraduate, and loved them, but I don't really have what you would call a background, save as an enthusiast. And I don't have any particular historians to whom I gravitate, but that's not to say that there aren't specific works, or bodies of work, which I'd count among my favorites. It's just that I generally exhaust one author at a time, because of the nature of their directed scholarship.

My passion for learning about history generally comes in waves, very specific waves. I will read some book, or see some movie, or see a photograph, and that will be it. My interest shifts entirely to a new time period, and I immerse myself in it for months, reading all the nonfiction (and fiction set during it) that I can, watching films set in or peripherally related to the period, visit museums, go on trips (when domestic, and logistically possible)... just throw myself into it wholly. So when I was researching the French Foreign Legion, for example, I read most of Douglas Porch's books on the French in North Africa. But I'm unlikely to read more Porch, because I feel like I've absorbed that period enough that I could comfortably work in it again should I have a desire to do so.

I enjoy historical fiction, but like any other series genre it can be formulaic, and that can fluster me. I went a few books into Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series earlier this year, but it really made me want to do a sea book again, and for the first time ever James [Lucas Jones] has put forth an editorial mandate against my choice of subject matter for a book. He argues that it's too soon to "return to the pirate trough," and he's probably right. I've learned that editors pretty much always are. So no O'Brian for me, for a while.

The author who has most influenced my approach to doing period adventures is George MacDonald Fraser, an author, historian, film critic, essayist, and screenwriter, who passed away in 2008. He wrote a series called The Flashman Papers, which showed me how swashbuckling could be comfortable shoehorned into even the stiffest periods. Fraser wrote an apologist critique of historical films -- most everything of note that had come out by the early '80s, I think -- that serves as my moral compass when deciding how to fairly approach a time period, and how to balance the requirement of presenting an audience with a riveting good yarn while also adhering to the spirit of the time in question, and the participants of its events. I've probably reread it more than any non-comic, usually twice a year. I find it endlessly helpful and unendingly fascinating. Oh, it's called The Hollywood History of the World.

SPURGEON: One thing that's been a blast for me in preparing for this interview is reading your stuff seriously for the first time, and seeing the background material and getting a sense of the scope of what you're doing. I'm going to hector you with a few process questions, so I hope you'll forgive me their deliberate nature. First: where was the basic impetus for doing the series, and what was that early development period like? Was there a chance it could have taken a different form at any point?

SCHWEIZER: I'd found myself drawing a handful of archetypical historical genre characters -- a flying ace, a legionnaire. I can't remember what prompted me to relate them all, but it did happen in one day. I had only the loosest notion of history, what happened when. Moreso than some, I'd guess, but I'd done no serious research. But I somehow figured on making them all related, making a family tree. Though the catalyst (I sometimes say that it was a result of poor and generic character design, that they all looked the same and that this is what prompted it, but I think that I invented that notion for story's sake) remains a missing memory for me, its immediate execution was deliberately calculated.

I'd been a Sherlock Holmes fan, and the notion of being trapped into working on one particular project the way [Arthur] Conan Doyle had been was, I guess, flitting around my mind. As soon as I started on the family tree (which involved me with a calculator and no reference materials, because I apparently wanted to make things much harder on myself by putting the ninja and the miner far later in history than I ought've for convenience sake, and others far earlier), I recognized that the format would permit me to circumvent that trapped-by-your-own-creation problem that seems to plague so many writers and cartoonists. That I could jump from noir mystery to western to swashbuckler. No restrictions, catering to my tendency to love one period, one genre, and then shift my focus entirely to another. So the heart of the series, the family tree, came together in one afternoon, with me figuring out what time periods had an immediate visual iconography and seemed like they might be exciting to handle.

I did the family tree sometime in 2005, I think, probably the latter half of the year. The idea that it might be a series of graphic novels was one of many potential options for it. I also thought it might be a good series of illustrated kid's books, or an animated series. I drew this a few months before finally lighting on comics, and still wasn't sure of which direction my storytelling inclinations might take.

The form that the series has taken, though, was and is pretty wrapped up in that family tree. While the individual stories might veer one way or another as I do the research, the series itself kind of locked itself in from day one.

SPURGEON: This is pretty solidly all-ages material, or at least that's how I'd describe it. Was there anything specific to your wanting to do material that a wide range of readers could consume, particularly young readers?

SCHWEIZER: All-ages can be kind of a misnomer, because often when something is billed as all-ages it's really intended for kids. I think that's why so many readers shy away from it as a category. You have your successes: Usagi Yojimbo, of course, which I still think is one of the finest comics ever made, and Bone, and a handful of others. The Langridge/Samnee Thor the Mighty Avenger worked on this level, though the books didn't move. On the whole it seems to be a tough sell. But it's what I wanted to do. But all-ages stuff isn't written for kids. The best all-ages stuff is clearly written for an adult audience, at least in my view.

Toy Story 3 and Porco Rosso, for example, are clearly films directed at middle-aged folks. At least, that's what I take from them. They deal with the issues that naturally arise from that stage of life. Princess Bride is for adults. True Grit is for adults (though the book is my go-to gift for any middle school girls, relatives or daughters of colleagues, for whom I need to give one. It's basically Anne of Green Gables with guns, and a fine YA book in its own right). Harry Potter, The Once and Future King, King Solomon's Mines. All the best kids books, I think, are written for adults. Me and every kid that I was friends with devoured Jurassic Park multiple times when we were in, what, sixth grade? Most kid stuff panders, or tries to appeal to what kids want. Kids, generally speaking, want what adults want. Too often, though, it's inappropriate for them.

There are a lot of great works that have come out of the last couple of decades in comics, especially works geared to and specifically for an adult audience. It's wonderful that this is an option in a way that it never used to be. But one of the casualties of this development is that, because the themes involved are heavier, or more adult, unnecessary adult material is sometimes included that suddenly makes it unavailable to a good 50 percent of potential readers, kids and teenagers. Take It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken. There's that sequence where the fictitious Seth stands up after his tryst with the girl from the library, and you've got a full page of wiener panels. It doesn't move the story, or change anything, and were the shots to be framed in such as a way as to obscure the anatomy you'd suddenly have a book that could be read in high school English classes. The book has that light lit feel to it that would make it perfect for a certain type of teen.

There's this notion, I think, that to do anything with the consideration of audience, and universality, that this is hack thought, that it's commercial, that it should be shunned or avoided. I think that's a flawed school of thought. I understand its impetus, the post-comics code freedom, but there's a difference between doing adult work and making work suitable only for adults. There are some books that are clearly meant for adults, and to purge them of those adult elements would render the book impotent. Chris Wright's Black Lung, for example. Heck, even Jason (probably my favorite cartoonist) includes adult elements in a good chunk of his comics -- sometimes just one panel that shifts a book from being heady but all-ages to adult-only -- but in those cases, it is narratively essential. The story's tone and mood and message would vary from the original intent. But those are often the exceptions. A lot of comics include this stuff just because they can, not because they should.

I'm a thesis advisor for an incredibly talented student up at CCS, Mia Onorato. She's doing a book called Rockall, and it's just as engaging as it can be. We were going over her pencils, and there's a flashback section where one of the characters remembers being forced into having sex by her husband. Just an image, not a whole scene, really, but while being tastefully handled it was still a very graphic and visceral image, one wide shot of him atop her, a sexual encounter deliberately stripped of any erotic undertones, its animalism evident and shocking and upsetting in exactly the way that Mia intended. But everything else in the book, despite the subtly handled underlying theme of lust, is appropriate for any readers, or at least teen readers. We talked about the possibility of her showing the same scene and using more symbolic and less graphic images, but ones equally disturbing: a rough hand firmly grasping a thin wrist, an eye choked with tears, a man's salivating, smelly mouth, two feet intertwined, one pinning the other, that sort of thing. It would give the same, or a similar, effect, while allowing it to be read by a wider audience. She may decide to keep the original image -- it is powerful -- but she may go in a more inclusive direction. But it needs to be a decision, an active decision. Mia had never really considered audience, and most people don't. We're conditioned to not do so. And my insistence that it be considered is, I know, viewed by some as cheap or vulgar or opportunistic. But I'm not insisting that anyone change anything for the sake of a wider audience. If the story necessitates adult imagery, then there's no way you should change it. If it doesn't, it's worth considering. Every artistic choice should be conscious and informed, and this one is no exception.

Comics don't have the leeway of depiction that prose has. An image immediately grabs an eye, an expletive alone in a word balloon garners attention. Sometimes these are necessary, but when they're not, it's a shame. I'm not talking about sales. That's the last thing from my mind (and sales, I think, reflect that). But I am talking about readers. You pour your heart and soul and energy into something for years in the hopes that people will read it, that it will entertain or affect or teach them. Maybe just that it will get them into comics. Who knows? Kids are so much more susceptible to being informed by what they read, and I like having them as readers.

So I write for adults, and make sure that there is nothing that I consider inappropriate for kids. I may be overly liberal with my permissiveness, especially regarding violence and innuendo, but I think that a mix of tasteful shot choices and a deliberate attempt to deglamorize the violence balances its frequency. I got a fan letter from a six, maybe seven year old once that said "my favorite part was when the mean captain got his head cut off." The captain in question, near the beginning of Vengeance, is killed off-panel, you never see anything, nor is it explicitly described. The kids get it, and I can have that heavy and realistic depiction of violence without ever worrying about it being banned from libraries or whatever. I can feel comfortable giving it to a kid, and hopefully getting them excited about history, or about comics. I shoehorn my own moral sentiments into the books, too, so if those rub off, I'm not adverse to that effect either.

If you write for kids and try to make it enjoyable for adults, you get Shrek 2. Far better, I think, to go the opposite route. Kids are smart. They'll get it, and even if they're too young to get everything, they'll like the swordfights.

imageSPURGEON: Another broad question about the general conceptualization of the series. I was struck when reading the latest by the strong young female character, in that the series is very much -- and not in an exclusionary way, but more for its general direction -- a boys series. You even mention that it's been difficult for you to find places for strong female characters in there. Can you unpack that a bit? Because certainly you could have three or four female Crogans in there, even ones doing things appropriate to whatever period of history.

SCHWEIZER: When I originally came up with the family tree, I was enthralled by the idea of doing a boys' own adventure series, the type that I read a lot as a kid but which had ceased being published long before I was born, at least in the volume and frequency that it had been in its heyday. There was very little good gender-specific kid adventure lit when I was growing up, and I wanted to fill what I considered at that time to be a void.

I think that "void" came to exist because boys read less than girls. It's a financial liability to exclude the latter, as the former won't carry a print run. This in itself can be viewed sometimes as a circular problem. Boys don't read, so books aren't made for boys, which means boys won't read. I think it's on this platform that many of the folks who champion the Crogan books for schools and libraries operate.

And I liked the idea of doing stories in the spirit of things like Treasure Island and King Solomon's Mines, which to mid-twenties me served as proof that one didn't necessarily need female characters to create a good story, that the forced inclusion of a love interest (which, at the time, is what I considered the natural role for a prominent female character in a male-protagonist adventure story) was pandering.

The problem with this logic was twofold. First, it's not really pandering if it doesn't ever work for the intended purpose, is it? I mean, there are sometimes romantic subplots to action movies that exist not to move the story forward but to "give the ladies something," a calculation that I don't think has ever worked to curry female favor in the entire history of cinema. So that's out -- doesn't mean that Bruckheimer and his bunch don't still shoehorn a picnic scene into each summer blockbuster, but as a general rule I think we all know that this approach is bunk.

The second problem was the assumption that girl characters need to be romantic figures. Sometimes they will be; in the case of Loyalty, the character who you mentioned is. But that this is any sort of requirement, that a female character can't be wholeheartedly involved on the adventure side of things, that was me just being an idiot in my assumptions.

I think this stems from my upbringing. Most of the girls I knew growing up were very traditionally girly, at least in their reading tastes. Girls read stuff with little to no action, nearly across the board with most every girl with whom I hung out. Rurality rarely allows for deviation from social tradition. Our racial and gender lines were pretty fixed and pretty firm, and though I deplored the former I never really considered the latter, not until I moved to a city.

Before Liz and I ever had Penny, my daughter, I was terrified of having a girl. I knew I could handle a son, but a girl? I didn't know how to get invested in a tea party (though I now often and enthusiastically find myself doing so). I knew how to teach a kid to sword fight or spin a cap gun or climb a tree. I was worried that I'd be a boring dad, a dad who didn't know to or couldn't muster the attention for "girl" activities. Which is, of course, foolishness. You love your kid, you become enthused about what they're enthused about, you do what makes them happy and are grateful for every such opportunity. But still, I was scared of the notion.

And then I spent a lot of time with two little girls. Zoe, Shawn's daughter, and Zadie, James' daughter. And both were amazing. I could play for long periods of time with either, and never felt like an odd man out. And more importantly, they showed me that my expectations of what girls liked, what girls wanted, were way off. Sure, Zoe likes tea parties, but she has them with a giant spider (much like Penny's dollhouse filled with dinosaurs). The girls liked swordfighting no less than any boy their age. They liked fun books and fun movies... they liked stories where conflict was at the root (physical obstacles, not just emotional ones), something I'd grown up thinking was anathemic to girls. I never really thought of myself as having outdated gender ideas, but man, did I ever.

I did a signing, and maybe a talk, I can't remember, at the Texas Library Association's conference, and they bussed in a lot of middle schoolers. I did a lot of drawings for them, and they were picking characters from the family tree and asking me to draw them. And the girls were asking if there were any girl characters that I could draw. And I felt downright rotten. I had designed a few, for future books, and drew those for the kids, but that they flipped through the books and had to ask, that made me feel awful. Sick to my stomach. I get a visceral, physical reaction whenever I do something that I know to be wrong, or when I find out that I've done something that has caused someone emotional hurt. It's a good thing for me, my conscience is in my belly and so I can't ignore it (sometimes it's bad, in that the two are so heavily related that a stomach bug can make me feel inexplicably guilty).

This was one of those times when I realized that I'd done something wrong. Girls read comics, too. Heck, I knew that from teaching. Well over half of our department has always been female. In my desire to make something that boys would like, I was actively excluding female readers, who had no characters of their own gender with whom to identify.

I only found Sleeping Beauty palatable because there was a prince in it, fighting a dragon. Yeah, it's a movie for girls, but there's a boy in it, and that boy made me like that movie. And yet here I was, actively keeping girl readers from having a similar experience in reading my stories. So I decided then and there that every book I do from now on, if it is at all historically plausible, they're going to have a female character, someone fun and interesting that can hold her own just as much as the Crogan protagonist. It has nothing to do with marketing. It has nothing to do with being PC. It has everything to do with never having to see the expression of a little girl flipping through my books and feeling like they're not meant for her. They're meant for anyone who likes to read. It was foolish as sin of me to not account for that in the first place, and it's something that I'm sorry for. I'm glad I figured on this notion three books in instead of thirteen. I'd been asked about it, and in one case critically savaged, but it wasn't until I saw that first kid at the TLA convention looking at me like Oliver wanting seconds that I stopped trying to justify the all-male cast. Those justifications were logistically sound, but there were, and are, ways around them. To introduce, say, a lady pilot into the RFC would cause difficulty (in WWI at least), because had such a character existed then the role of female flyers in WWII would have been notably different. But if I do a little research I might find that some tried. Some did try in France, and Russia. My point is that if I'm a halfway decent writer, I'll find a way. I'm sure I'll end up failing at this someday, with some book, but it won't be for lack of trying.

So far as the family tree goes, I've no plans to change it. I've worked too much of the series planning around it, and I believe that it can serve to showcase exciting girl characters. The story will still ostensibly follow the exploits of the Crogans. But it's also quite possible that the Crogan in a particular story may play more of a Watsonian role to a more active female character. I played with that a little in an upcoming Crogan Adventures radio show.

I'd like to note that I've since realized that it's not the exclusion of girls from the boys' own type of stories that made them riveting for me as a kid. It was the unabashed thrusting of the characters, adults and children, into life-threatening situations. Jim Hawkins might die at any point, so might Sir Henry Curtis. I never really worried much for the safety of the Boxcar Children.

imageSPURGEON: How important was it for you to have this very specific conception of certain things going into the project entire? Like I'm fascinated that you've established all of these Crogans and published them rather than adding to the family tree as you go along. At the same time, I have a sense that stuff changes as you're specifically getting into individual books, both due to research and your own evolving tastes. What works for you about the balance you're maintaining between spelling certain things out and keeping others in reserve?

SCHWEIZER: It's tricky. The family tree, and what information about it I've let slip in the comics, is set in stone. This can be a good thing, in that it gives me fixed parameters in which to work, and that speeds up the creative process by giving me fixed problems to solve. It can also be difficult, in that sometimes the research lends me to wish for changes to that tree. I lucked out with March; I'd started doing research on the Legion before Vengeance went to press, and realized that the original date under Peter's picture (1922) was too late if I wanted to deal with the "classic" Legion, because the Legion changed considerably so far as uniforms and accoutrements go during and after WWI. So I dropped it a decade back before Vengeance (and therefore the tree) hit shelves. Like I said, lucky. Anything else like that, though, I'll just have to make do, and make alterations accordingly. Narratively justify what exists in the tree, even if it's a headache to do so.

While researching on one period, I'll often find elements I can use in others. I've made a sort of character biography sheet, with what each person did during specific years. Any time I see an event that I think might be fun to do a story about, or something like that, I'll find the character for whom the schedule best fits, and work it in. And that helps in the long-term planning. Sometimes I know things about who the characters end up with, marriage-wise, simply because of where they need to be at a specific time. The diamond miner, for example, will at some point marry a Boer, because I need him to fight on that side in the second Boer war, a remarkable military story rarely, if ever, touched on in narrative. To my knowledge there is only one studio film (Breaker Morant) that deals with it, and then only peripherally. Knowing his backstory -- a get-rich-quicker who hops from country to country, participating in most of the mineral strikes that occurred during his adulthood -- makes the idea that he'd go against the country of his birth (though actually, I think he might have been born in India) feasible. But I want him to marry a another character a different character that I've already written, first. So she'll have to die at some point so that he, widowed, can marry a Boer. The two kids from him will thus have two different mothers, and that will affect their relationships with each other. That's the kind of planning. Loose biographies. The sort you might piece together while compiling a genealogical record, only I get to make them do whatever seems the most interesting. And it's not just the Crogans whose biographical details I flush out. There are side characters, too, that I plan on having pop up multiple times. Captain Roitelet looks like he crosses paths with six or seven different Crogans over the course of a very long life, and Bailey and Gerald, Peter's friends from the Legion, are near that number.

Some things I like to keep under my hat -- especially romantic pairings, some of which I have figured out. Also, I don't consider myself beholden to setting the books during the years shown on the tree. Those years are accurate, in that they're what that character looked like during that year. Circa, if you will. But the stories themselves may take place sometime before, or sometime after, the tree picture. The two brothers in Loyalty, for example, were shown as regular infantry in 1776 on the tree published in Vengeance, but in their book they've become scouts, and it's 1778. I still operate with the idea that they were infantry before they were positioned according to their talents, but don't directly address it, as the story called for something else. I hope that makes sense.

The designs change, but I try to keep as close as I can to the original published depiction. The gunfighter's facial structure has altered a bit, but he still has white hair in his circa 1875 picture, the same as he did in the first one. It makes me mad that I made that decision, because he's only 33 at that time, at least according to my biography sheet. So I have to justify his hair turning white that young when the rest of his family keeps their black into their 40s and possible 50s. But it's my way of keeping the tree as legitimate as possible from its first published appearance.

SPURGEON: Some of the background material you've done you've talked about recurring characters and some of the historical research you've done, things that I think give a series like that a certain amount of depth and a rounded reality that you might not get doing things from whole cloth book after book. Is that a fair assessment of what interests you about those elements of creation? Do you think in those broad terms of the world building and how people might be experiencing these books as parts of a bigger whole? Is there a trap in that at all for you as a creator?

SCHWEIZER: There is a trap aspect to it, in that I think it's easy for a creator to become mired in his or her own continuity. I think the goal of any good series -- something that we've fallen very short of in the post reprint/trade and TV-on-dvd era -- is to make sure that each and every installment can serve as a jumping on point for new readers. TV used to be really good about this, and sometimes it still is. Serialized franchise comics, on the whole, are the saddest example of how woefully deficient we as contemporary storytellers are in this aspect.

There are folks who still keep this at the forefront of their minds. I think that Stan Sakai is the best of them. You can pick up any trade of Usagi, any one of the near 30 books that he's put out, and start with it, and miss nothing. He reintroduces characters, terms, setting, everything. From start to finish, an entirely accessible read. And he keeps it engaging to his long-time readers, too. Gen the rhino may be reintroduced as a bounty hunter in each volume, but it's always in a different way, a different context. It's fresh to existing readers, and provides all necessary exposition to new ones. Stan is a master at a lot of things, but this perfect balance of accessibility and continuity is perhaps what I most admire about his work (I say his "work" rather than "him," because his personal characteristics outshine even his incredible comics. He's such a swell guy).

I want my books to have that same accessibility, to be readable in whatever order the audience wants to take them. It's why the books have no numbers on the spines, no volume order. We got a lot of resistance from Borders with this, that a series without a clear and marked chronology don't sell as well. And they're probably right (they have to have been right about something). But if someone wants to read about the Foreign Legion, I don't want him or her to have to dutifully slog through a pirate story first. I want those readers to pick up the Foreign Legion book. If they like it, they can always go back. If some kid finds volume six in a library, he or she should be able to take it on its own merits.

On the other side of the fence, I want the existing audience to feel the satisfaction of encountering familiar characters, of building up a store of knowledge about this "world" and how it operates, who operates in it. I think this will be more apparent as the series progresses, as the books plod on. In each book I've been careful to plant seeds for characters that will return later, either younger or older. In the fourth book, which I'm working on right now, that aspect of returning characters starts to bear fruit. So I want to have that continuity, that world-building, but never at the expense of accessibility. I look at it instead as a bonus to those who've been around.

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SPURGEON: As you're a few books in, are you frustrated at all by wanting to get to other works? I know you've done some short stories and the like, but you've barely filled in your canvas and comics can be tough -- I think this latest is a calendar year late, even.

SCHWEIZER: No, I'm not frustrated at all. I do other work (usually writing) sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself and finances demand it. There have been times when I've hustled up freelance jobs to make ends meet, but doing so slows me down from working on the Crogan Adventures (hence Loyalty's long gestation period), which is where my passion lies. And whatever I feel like doing, as a rule, there is room for it in the Crogan books. That genre flexibility is built into the model.

Like I said, though, I do some writing. I wrote a little kids' series, a sort of half-prose, half-comics choose your own adventure type of thing, for Graphic Universe. The structure was based on one that they already had in place; I just adopted it for a shorter page count and fewer words to account for the younger audience. I had to do a lot of research for that one, too; all of the books were folklore based. It's called Tricky Journeys, and each book features a different trickster character: rabbit, kitsune, coyote, that sort of thing. Chad Thomas (Archie's MegaMan, and the upcoming GN Winter Warriors), probably my closest friend aside from my wife, handled art duties for two of them, and the inestimable Shelli Paroline did one. And I try to write the way I feel that writers should write. No shot calls, no heavy description, just the narratively essential facts. "Panel 2: Monkey jumps off the boat," that sort of thing. The writer should provide the story, the artist is the storyteller. With incredibly, incredibly rare exception, that's how I believe the two duties should be handled. If artists can't be trusted to direct, they shouldn't be comic artists, they should be illustrators. Comic art is directing a story, and when we're writing for them we should offer them our confidence in their ability to do their job rather than trying to micromanage the compositions. I teach my kids this in the scripting class. The post-[Alan] Moore approach to scripting is one of the worst thing to happen to comics, I think, and has resulted in generally lifeless art as artists are chosen for their visual aesthetic and capacity for realism rather than their storytelling ability (the storytelling is done by the writer), but few writers actually understand the visual, so you get slick art on a page that is unreadable. So I try to never call a shot. I describe the narratively essential elements in a shot, but that's it.

I'm also currently writing a project called Konquerer, which is, I guess, a kind of experiment, an attempt to do a deconstructionist reboot of an 80s space barbarian action figure franchise that never actually existed. The idea is to take these kind of silly, action-feature based characters (Stilto, Princess Thunderpunch, etc) and make them compelling and interesting in a story about armed revolution in which the rebel force is under constant internal threat from the machinations of its champion. I'm excited about it, and the art is going to be fantastic. The artist is actually a student of mine, Audrey Morris. This is the first time I've done any work with a student, something I'm generally reluctant to do, but Audrey was perfect for this project. She's done a number of anthology stories, and is working her way through her own graphic novella, which is gorgeous. The publication details for Konqueror aren't being announced until July, but I'll post updates about it when that happens.

So I have options, when I have time, which I usually don't. But really, Crogan offers just about all I'd want to do.

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SPURGEON: This may be an incredibly dumb question, but do the morals derived from the story in the framing sequence come before or after the stories themselves? Do you ever find yourself with a different story than the story you set out to tell -- because these books very rich narrative-wise.

SCHWEIZER: It's not a dumb question. I expect you ask because the frames feel somewhat at odds with the rest of the book, or at least it does in March. I've very unhappy with the one in March. It's too wordy, too preachy, too much of me laying out the basic theme of the political situation rather than letting the story make that situation evident. It feels cheap. So I expect that anyone reading the book with a critical eye is going to notice that disconnect, and wonder at its development.

The framing sequence was originally an appeasement to the big bookstore buyers. They wanted a kid character ("Like hell!" I said, "I'm not going to put some kid in the Foreign Legion!" And then I end up putting in two), and they wanted recurring characters, and neither worked for how I envisioned the series. James suggested the framing sequence, and I had earlier thought of the same thing, back in the pre-comics days, when I was considering animation as a possibility and wondering how to tie an animated series together. So I actually already loose design for the dad and the kids, and I told James that this would be perfect. It satisfied the buyers, which was good, and it gave me a way to tie the series together, and it was a way that I liked, even if I was ill prepared to do it.

The sequence in Vengeance was tacked on. I did it after I did the rest of the book, and struggled to find a real-life, modern connection. Moral relativism was the best solution I could come up with. It ain't great, but it's serviceable. For March, I think I had an idea of it, but I think I did it afterwards, too. Loyalty, though, Loyalty is the first time it felt like it belonged, and I think that's because there's an actual story there. It's not just something-happens-to-the-kid-so-dad-tells-a-story, there's a beginning, the middle is the dad telling the story, and an end, a resolution. It felt more right, and I had worked it out before ever doing the book itself. I started with page one and ended with page one seventy-three, so the framing sequence was a part of it from the get-go.

I feel more comfortable with it now. I had to write six of them for the Crogan Adventures radio dramas, and those came much more smoothly than the first two books. So I think I've got a handle on it now. I don't want to look for a theme in my own work and then apply it to the frame anymore, the way I did in March. I imagine the theme that I would choose to address is not the one that most interests the audience. So I'm going to use situational similarities rather than theme or morals in the future. I think it just works better that way.

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SPURGEON: Last development question, and I apologize for its broad nature, but I'd love to hear your thinking. Why a pirate story first?

SCHWEIZER: I mentioned those waves of intense interest in specific historical periods? Well, I was going through one of those at the time that I was ready to start on the book, and it was pirates. Simple as that. I'd been really into the Second and Third Crusades and what Western European history lay in their interim, a result of either the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven or of The Lion in Winter, of both, but switched to pirates almost overnight as the result of some nicely budgeted Blackbeard special that aired on National Geographic. See? I'm that fickle.

I'd loved pirates since I was a kid (who doesn't?), owing mostly to regular Disneyworld visits. My grandfather, a prominent Orlando architect in the 70s, designed Epcot's Mexican Pavilion, and as a result of that and my grandparents' location we were able to go far more often than we would have otherwise been able to afford. So Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride, very much colored my sense of play as a kid. So I was enraptured by pirates, and that welcomed emotional captivity was only emboldened by other exposures. My dad ran an opera company when I was young, and was also very involved in both the college and community theaters in central Louisiana, and I attended an inordinate amount of rehearsals and performances. They did Pirates of Penzance when I was little, and I loved that one. I got to keep a lot of the props afterwards, too. Same when they did Peter Pan. I should say "we," rather than "they." I was John. I got to fly on these hoisted wires, and it was great. My dad was Captain Hook. We still have the hook somewhere, I think, an immense and heavy weld that featured into a lot of my Halloween costumes afterwards.

One of the first nonfiction history books that I ever picked up as an adult was David Cordingly's Under the Black Flag, which was a history of pirates, and it hooked me pretty good on nonfiction history. I read it sometime early in college. So I had a little familiarity, a starter familiarity.

So I was immersing myself in pirates while I was in grad school. I would have been doing so regardless of my career choice, but it was nice knowing that there was an output, a reason for it. I started working on the book well before I heard anything from Oni regarding the series' publication. Luckily, when they did get back to me, they said that they wanted me to do the pirate book first. I expect their reasons were the obvious ones. Pirates have a pretty broad appeal, they're very accessible as a genre. Plus it was first on the family tree, chronologically.

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SPURGEON: Related to that, how difficult was it to plot and conceive of a big story like that one so early on in your career? How easy does structure come to you, how difficult was it to make decision on how to give over to the execution of action scenes but also advance the plot you have? How much of that books represented a learning curve, and is there anything specific you see in it that may not have happened were you to take it on now?

SCHWEIZER: Vengeance was all learning, one big example of everything that I was figuring out as I did it. I literally made it up as I went along, almost page by page. The exact opposite of how I work now. I think it holds together, for the most part, but that's due entirely to luck and unconsciously internalized rules of the craft made manifest while I was working. I'm very lucky, very lucky, that it isn't terrible. It's got a lot of flaws, yeah, but I think I can be proud of it.

The whole thing was very much influenced by gut. That isn't to say I didn't plan. I did. Just not regarding the structure. I made a character lineup with some 20 "extras," for plugging into the background, that I might avoid drawing overly generic faces. I had an outline for the first half of the book. A very rough outline. It included direction that would madden me later: "Catfoot does something clever so that the Captain will think him worth keeping around." That ended up being probably 20 pages.

The book would be very different were I to do it now. For one, it would have a prominent female character, which would mean an entirely different story. I'm never going to shoehorn one in, but will make sure that the story calls for one. But it would have an outline. Catfoot would have things he desired to accomplish. I sort of figured on the necessity for that one halfway through. For the first half of the book, he's pretty aimless, just swept up in the tide of the events unfolding around him. As I neared the climax, I thought, "Hey, I'd better make him do something of his own volition."

As I said, I think it works, but that's luck. The action sequences happened when I thought the book was getting boring. I'm very conscious of structure now, almost slavish to it.

imageSPURGEON: I've talked to only a few people that have worked with Oni, as you've done on the series. What was that relationship like for you as a young cartoonist? What was your relationship with your editor like? How much give and take was there for you in terms of how the project was presented and sold?

SCHWEIZER: My relationship with Oni has been as good as I think one can expect to have with a publisher. That sounds backhanded, and it's not meant to be. I like being in control of everything, being in the know of any logistical developments, and the only way you're going to get that is to self-publish, and that's not something I'm interested in doing, at least not in the immediate future. Having contended with logistical problems before (the first run of Vengeance had a printing error, and it was out of print for the first seven months that March was on shelves, making it impossible to use the second book's existence to bolster sales of the first) has left in me a state of perpetual terror regarding those logistical details. I should be confident -- the problems that created those issues have all been addressed, and George Rohac, the new managing editor, is a mastermind. Even doing monthlies, Oni hasn't missed a date in quite a while now. But they have two dozen projects to contend with at any given point, and I only have the one. My desire to oversee every aspect of its printing, solicitation, and distribution and being unable to frustrates me a lot, even though they're doing a fine job of it.

My editor, James Lucas Jones, really took a chance on me, early on. He liked the idea of the series, and envisioned in his head the same thing I was envisioning in mine, something grand and foolish and entirely at odds with sensible publishing strategy. Who opts to do a 15-plus volume series with some nobody, some kid? Not anyone with any sense. And James has sense, and so that decision meant going against what was comfortable, I'm sure. He believed in me, and he believed in the project, and that means a lot to me.

James leaves me to do my own thing with the books. He really isn't involved during or after a projects' creation, at least not on my end. I'm sure he's involved on an administrative standpoint, selling the new book to Joe, that sort of thing, but basically I do the whole thing without outside influence. Sometimes that's been frustrating to me -- how much better would this book have been if James had edited the crap out of it the way more that infamously hands-on editors like Staros or Calista [Brill] might have? -- but it's a reflection of James' trust, and of his intent to see the project remain wholly mine. I think that there's something powerful about that notion, that single-mindedness of single authorship. And I very much prefer it. James knows that whatever problems I encounter, narratively, I'll do best by working through them myself, and be stronger for it the next time around. I'm glad to have the free hand that I do. It's bafflingly free. The Foreign Legion is hardly blockbuster material, and the way I approached it is probably not all that easy to market to the middle school audience, which I think is where the majority of such energies are focused. But I never got so much as a nudge to move in a more commercial direction, and I'm very grateful for that.

This doesn't mean that Oni just takes a non-participant role as an editorial strategy. I've had friends who have had to redo entire books, redo scripts multiple times, that sort of thing. But they've never done that with me, never made me change anything. They copy edit, but usually I end up with no more than half a page of word changes for grammar or consistency's sake. Jill Beaton, who also edits the book, is great about this. A recent note was that I had a female character refer to herself as a "confidant." She noted that the feminine was "confidante," with an "e." That made me totally love Jill, that she'd both catch and know something like that. The German dialogue went through two hands before it got to her, and then she checked that, too.

To be fair, I ruthlessly self-edit. By the time Oni sees anything, I've gone through every facet of it a hundred times, made tons of revisions. I spend a lot of time on each book, on trying to make it perfect. It's not perfect, certainly, but it's as close as I'm going to be able to make it, with or without editorial direction.

Now, I said that James has little impact during, or after. James does have impact before. He's scarce with his dictates, his directions. I can only think of three. I mentioned his suggestion that I not do another pirate book so soon, and I think it was just that, a suggestion. I imagine if I made a case, showed that I was impassioned, that he'd acquiesce, but believing that to be the case makes me less likely to do so. He trusts me, and trusts my decisions, and likewise I trust him. He says it's too soon, I believe him. I also mentioned the framing sequence; again, a great idea, and one handed down from James.

There's only been one other time that he's given me a mandate, and that was that I thumbnail the pages for the third book before moving to final pages. He professed a logistical reason. I was giving them finished books. It wasn't until the last page was done that Oni had any idea what the page count would be. They didn't have the slightest idea, because I didn't have the slightest idea. I had outlines, but I'd do two pages, from dialogue through finished inks, each day. So Oni couldn't accurately solicit, they couldn't price the print run, they couldn't do anything that knowledge of a fixed page count would've allowed.

I can't just thumbnail, because my panel composition is entirely dependent on my word balloons, their shape and size, and I can't know for certain what that shape or size will be without doing my pencils (I pencil small, around 4x6", and then blow those up to ink). I've tried, and I still do plenty of thumbnails, but every 20 pages or so I realize that my thumbnails won't work because I underestimated how much space the balloons would take. This means that all subsequent pages would change as a result. Long way around, this means that James was inadvertently insisting on pencils for the whole book. And I hated the idea. I liked penciling very loosely, but I could only do that if I was inking right away, otherwise I'd forget what a mark was supposed to be. So I had to do tight (for me, anyway) pencils for the whole books, and I hated it. I was even more furious because James seemed to like them. I figured that if I was going to be doing pencils, showing stages rather than just plopping the completed book down in the FTP that I should be getting feedback, but the only feedback I was getting was that it was looking good.

The reason I hated it, the worst thing about it was the mental energy it required. I would write the dialogue more or less as I went, page to page. I'd write it scene-by-scene, as I'd come to it, but I'd finalize it as I thumbnailed and penciled. And this meant that I had no mental break. My mind was on, problem-solving, from the moment I got up until the moment I stopped working, and that was exhausting to me. I have pretty pronounced A.D.D., and while I've not (since being an adult, anyway) been unable to tailor my work conditions to account for this and in many cases take advantage of it, adhering to one part of the comics-making process rather than dealing with multiple aspects of it per day is anathemic to my nature. It's hard for me to stay focused on one task. Lots of little tasks within a larger framework, that I can do, but doing the same thing for months at a time in the penciling stage was difficult. I had to focus. There was no part where I can turn my brain to autopilot and relax, consume. Usually inking is when I can have a procedural mystery TV show on, or listen to a book on tape. None of that, this time around.

But then, when I was all done, I could go back through and make revisions to the pencils. Keep characters more on model, which is a struggle. Change the odd panel, make things more narratively sound. And then, when I inked, it was incredible. Inking, to me, is like getting to actually play the piano after you've spent all that time drudging away at the scales, and the fingering, and the theory. It's the fun part, the easy part, the part where you get to show off. It resulted in a better book, and I'm going to do the same thing again. Even more segmented, actually. I'm writing all the dialogue ahead of time, this go around, to limit the frustrations of the penciling stage, and because doing the radio scripts led me to think that my dialogue would be better if I concentrated entirely on it, rather than working it in. Anyway, I think James knew it would result in a better book -- better art, at least, and I'm glad he forced it on me.

So far as how the project has been "presented and sold," I had far more say and direction than any author probably should. I wanted them hardcover, I wanted them black and white, I wanted the figure on a standardized series template cover with a face on the book spine and I gave them a font that I liked and I wanted the endpapers to be the family tree and I wanted it priced at 15 bucks. This was all in my cover letter, with the pitch, I think. Jeez, how much of a prima donna I was! I guess I knew what I wanted it to be, but I should've given input rather than direction. Publishers know what they're doing, designers know what they're doing. Keith Wood, the designer, would have come up with something amazing if left to his own devices. His Queen and Country books look incredible, as do most of the other things that he's done for Oni. He basically made what I asked for, and I think he did a fine job of it, but he's a talented guy on his own. If the trade dress ever changes, I'd prefer to take a back seat. Letting other people do their jobs is not my stong suit, but I'm trying to make that my custom.

The 15-dollar thing was important to me, and Oni never balked, even though there wasn't anything like that happening at the time, at least not amongst the standard comic publishers, at least not that I knew. Most GNs that size were 15 or 20 dollars if they were paperback, probably 25 for hardcover. The hardcover decision for Crogans was meant to convey a permanence to the books, the look of the old childrens' library sets. I think the original design was nearer to what ended up being scrapped due to the design similarity of The Dangerous Book for Boys, that embossed foil over plastic-y flat color, as that book got extremely popular during Vengeance's execution. Plus the sides of [Scott] Chantler's annotated Northwest Passage had been done that way, with that type of cover material, and Oni was getting all sorts of returns from bookstores where the color had scuffed off.

Anyway, my thought on it was that, while comic folks might drop 20 or 30 for a hardcover without blinking an eye, regular people wouldn't. A kid or a grandmother or a teacher or whoever. And that's who I wanted to reach. I wanted to get people into comics more than I wanted to grab readers from those already reading. My hope is that the latter would find it, but my worry was that, without a low price point, the former would not.

Oni must've contacted a good 20 printers before finding one that could make it happen at cost that would make it giving it a 15-buck price tag feasible. They ended up finding a printer in China. They'd printed mostly in Canada before. In finding the Chinese, they ended up doing a lot of books that way, and then lots of other small press outfits started doing the same. A lot of GNs are printed in China, now. I don't really like that this has become the case, because I love print shops and am loathe to see them lose business to overseas concerns, and because now the time between when a book goes to press and when we get it is quite a few months, rather than a couple of weeks. But it has resulted in the price of GNs dropping pretty significantly across the board. So that's a good thing to have come out of it, being able to afford more books by others, and hopefully more books will be read as a result.

Anyway, Oni has been incredibly permissive with everything that I do. And that's been wonderful. And anytime I want to do something new, they say sure. I write up a bunch of reasons why something should happen, and call James up, broach the subject, and he immediately goes for it without me having to tell him the reasons. It's a pretty great relationship. I just hope to listen to them as much as they listen to me. I try to.

imageSPURGEON: The thing I find most interesting about Catfoot is that he operates under the influence of two codes -- he has a strict, internal moral code that puts him into conflict with various authority figures, but he also seems inordinately gratified when the external mechanism arrives at the end of the story that puts his pirating into a firmer, more legal context. Did you intend to have him work as such an explicit commentary on the value of moral frameworks? What's appealing to you about a character that seems so confident in some areas yet so completely desirous of approbation in others?

SCHWEIZER: A lot of this is probably very personal. As a kid, I wouldn't break rules nearly as often as I would actively attempt to have rules which I thought poorly reasoned or arbitrary rescinded, or changed, or, failing that, I would adhere to the letter of the law, but not its spirit. I attended three of the four high schools in my hometown, and one of them was an extremely conservative private Christian school, and there was no end of head-butting there between me and the administrators. Part of the school's charter was that there would never be dances, and my friend Brandy and I basically filibustered the school board well into the early hours of the morning before that was eventually changed (had I seen Footloose, I'm sure I would have swiped some lines for my impassioned speech). So, to rid themselves of us, we were allowed a "social" in which dancing was permitted, and within a year or two that snowballed into a regular prom, which the school still has. There were dress code rules that I felt did not merit obedience, as they didn't have good reasons behind them. We had to wear belts, for example. But the code of conduct didn't say where we had to wear them. So I sold belts that I'd gotten at the thrift store and cut down to ankle size, and we all wore them under our pants cuff. I had worn a belt 95% of the time before the rule was announced, but I thought it a foolish rule, and so I tried to circumvent it. We had to tuck in shirts unless they had those slits in the side, like Polo shirts have. So we all cut slits in the side of our t-shirts. Then it changed to you could only wear shirts that had pockets. So we sewed pockets to the inside of our t-shirts, near the bottom. That sort of thing. Anyway, my point is that I, personally, don't like breaking rules. I feel like what rules exist should be followed, but that the rules should only exist if logic says that their absence would produce a specific and tangibly negative result. In college I was the type to organize a call-a-thon to disrupt the working conditions of an office whose new policy was at odds with student interests until said policy was reversed, the type to write opinion essays for the paper, that kind of thing. I still feel that way, and any time SCAD does something that I feel is at odds with student interest (as every school is wont to do) I have to bite my lip to keep from yelling at the kids who complain about it but do nothing to force its reversal.

So I imagine that this kind of sums up Catfoot in a nutshell. I never really thought about it, but I guess there's a lot more of me in the character than I thought. I guess there always is. But yeah, I expect that's the way Catfoot feels, even if it's he's not fully cognoscente it. He wants things done a certain way, and isn't afraid to stand up for or fight for those things, but he feels most comfortable doing so from inside an accepted social framework.

I think that this notion of social framework covers the whole book. D'or is a villain not because he's a pirate, but because he opts to actively break the rules of his society's social system, even though that society is in itself an illegal one. His desire to shrug off any sense of order makes him ideologically dangerous, at least to me. And Captain Cane, in his attempt to use his authority to put D'or in harm's way, similarly breaks that social covenant, albeit it with the best interests of his men as its justification. But he passes that moral boundary, the moral boundary that has been established in context to his situation, and that's just as bad as what D'or yearns to do. I guess there's a lot of latent social conservatism in the story's structure. Then again, the book's beginning testifies to a viewpoint that a finite and specified morality (the captain as law) is hardly in the best interest of those whose inclinations or station put themselves at odds with that establishment's determinations of morality, even if it is for sake those interests that the establish is considered to be necessary. I guess that's as far from conservative as you can get. Eh, I hope folks take from it what they will. I think that a good story will allow readers on either side of an ideological divide to find arguments in favor of their viewpoint within the work. The David O. Russell movie Three Kings does that really well. It's either one of the most effective anti-war movies or one of the best justifications for American interventionalism ever filmed, depending on who you talk to.

SPURGEON: Vengeance is set during a fairly transitional period for piracy... how much in general do you seek out kind of historical commentary/correction in terms of the period you're portraying? How much do you want to draw on things "more as they really were," per se, and how much is that you just finding compelling story hooks and narrative beats?

SCHWEIZER: I want the narratives to be solid and engaging, of course, but period believability is the foundation upon which a historical story has to be set. If any historical inconsistencies take an informed reader away, cause them to stop or question the factual legitimacy of whatever else I'm giving them, then I fail as a storyteller. This isn't to say I don't miss stuff, and screw stuff up. I do, but it certainly isn't for lack of trying, and it is never cavalier.

I try to familiarize myself as much with the period before I ever start writing as possible. If you try to put together a story and then plug in the historical details afterwards, you're asking for headaches. Things may not jive up, and some point upon which your story was based might prove itself impossible fdue to some factual error. What I do, what works for me, is that total immersion, get to know the period as well as I know, say, my hometown. Then, when I do write, I never have to question anything, never have to look up anything but details. The story becomes so interwoven with the environment as to make it to where I don't have to draw much attention to that environment, to those differences between the reader's era and the character's. It'll just be there, as much a part of the whole as anything else. At least that's my hope.

The story hooks manifest themselves. 100%. I'm excavating them, in a way. The reason I read the books, the reason I do the research (in addition to that immersion) is for those very rare but inevitable moments where I'll stumble across one sentence that will provide me with the meat of the book's plot. One sentence every ten thousand, every one hundred thousand, but it's there. I just have to look for it. There are elements that I'll want in a book -- characters, maybe some visually iconic genre-specific scenes -- but I won't try to force them together until I find that sentence. And when I do, it all comes together. Take the upcoming Western, fresh in my head because I've just finished (more or less) on the research end of it. I found that sentence, and now I can do it. It was a line from a newspaper, from September of 1869:

"The colored citizens of Arkansas are smart. They pre-empt land, and hire Chinese laborers to work it."

And that was my line, this time around. I wanted to deal with homesteaders, because I feel like there's always a good/bad dichotomy drawn to either one camp or the other (cattlemen), and I'm no fan of that sort of thing, and I wanted to have a Chinese character that features into Crogan's Escape, the next book that'll be coming out, as an older man. I also wanted a reason to introduce Gerald and Bailey as kid characters, and as Gerald is black wanted to find a way to show his family's role in the west in a way that I hadn't seen handled before. Non-military black folks owned land and served as farmers and cowboys, but as a rule they're shown predominantly at a fixed trade -- blacksmithing or working a livery, say. Anyway, this line gave me what I needed. A fixed situation in which the protagonist could find himself, and from there everything else rolls out. I had to read a dozen or so books and a lot of old reference stuff to find it, but it was there, waiting for me.

So I give the basic plot a work through, very slowly, very casually, let it come together over the course of months without too much active working so that it will find itself. Then I take that plot and rigidly apply a structure to it, this thirteen-point order of events that I reasoned out while trying to figure out the best way to explain to writing teachers how the five-act structure, the three-act structure, and the "story mountain," as the kids call it these days, how these still all employ the exact same events in the exact same order, and the pacing is the only divergent factor. My plots generally come fairly close to fitting, so I tweak it to where it fits better.

I think that you ask the question here, related to the pirates, because so much of what we think of concerning pirates comes from fanciful, romanticized fiction, but there's an essence of truth to that, at least near the period that I'm doing. The buccaneers were horrible, the late pirates were horrible, but there was about a five year stretch in between where the crazily romantic figures of popular imagination really held sway, and I picked the period that I did (a decade or so before this golden stretch, as the preceding generation of pirates made the transition from illegality to legal privateering) in order to give Catfoot an opportunity to later transition from that established legal recourse to a sudden lack of it at the war's end, when those spirited public figures came to fruition, and the even swifter turn towards the terrible as a war of escalation turned both sides quite nasty. But even the more cartoony elements have historical precedent. Studying the pirates of the era, it's amazing how many things -- the striped shirts, the parrots, the peglegs, the duels on the beach, that sort of thing -- have reality behind them, things likely considered more cartoon fare than history.

I try to draw attention to historical discrepancies, things I consider to be generally believed, by acknowledging that belief in the text and addressing the correction. In the case of Loyalty, that would be the misconception that the Hessians were mercenaries, something I was taught in school. It comes up specifically so that I might note its inaccuracy. I think that happens a few times in each book. One character is ill-informed in the same way that a reader might be so that another character can present the facts. This, hopefully, keeps readers possessing this "false" history from being pulled from the story, thinking that I got something wrong. By addressing their concerns, I negate them. Or attempt to.

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SPURGEON: Vengeance also has this great contrasting physicality between protagonist and antagonist, which is something that comics has traditionally done very well but it's also something that cartoonists sometime ignore. How important was it to you to show how these characters operated in their respective environments as a precursor to setting them at one another?

SCHWEIZER: I think it's very important. The best film villains are depicted this way, I think, shown doing their evil deeds so effectively as to keep us constantly concerned for our hero's safety should the two ever find themselves at odds. Sometimes this is taken to the extreme -- however badass the Josh Brolin character in No Country for Old Men may be, for example (and he is badass, evidenced by the cool-headed dispatch of the attacking dog, a masterfully handled scene), we instinctively know that he's dead, flat-out dead, if he comes within even a hundred yards of the Javier Bardem's character, who is depicted as almost a force of nature, and this renders any sort of traditional hero/villain face off impossible. But, you know, Westerns tend to do this. Good, Bad and the Ugly does it. Martial Arts movies, I guess. Justified does it a lot, and with good effect. So I think that's necessary.

I also think it's important to show that the bad aren't bad. They're bad in context. D'or is a real bastard, sure, but everything he does makes sense. He's frustrated at the code of behavior imposed by Captain Cane. They're outlaws. They're going to be executed if they're caught regardless of whether or not they adhere to some internalized legal system, so why not take all they can, as fast as they can, and get out before they are? He cares about his comrades. He saves the whole crew at one point. I think that's important, to show that there's good reason for those men that side with him to do so. There are very few mustache-twirlers in the real world, I think. But it's important for the reader to not side with the antagonist, or else you're not going to have a satisfying reading experience. His motives can be logical, but his base personality -- the enjoyment he derives from inflicting harm on others, more than his willingness to inflict that harm -- that makes us want to see him fall.

imageSPURGEON: Was there any desire on your part to do the first volume as a complete, stand-alone work in case the work didn't do well enough for a second or third or fourth volume? Was there any tendency to make it more of a complete unit and representative of the series generally that wasn't a pressure as it became clear you'd be doing more than one?

SCHWEIZER: Not really. The idea of not doing a second volume never really crossed my mind. The Oni contract is for the individual books themselves, publishing rights for the pages that they publish. The series, future stories, whatever, those all belong to me. And if a book goes out of print for two years, the rights revert to me, too. So even if Oni decided it were financially untenable to continue the series -- and I think that unlikely, because, though it's hardly a blockbuster, it has sold consistently (the first book is on it's third printing, I think, and March its second) -- I could continue the series elsewhere, and would. And I knew that going in. I didn't have to fight for that, either, that's standard boiler for them. They have extremely creator-friendly contracts. No, I wanted the first book to stand-alone because I want all the books to stand alone. I hope I'll feel the same way when I get to the 25th. If I don't, somebody punch me at a con in 2056. You have my permission.

SPURGEON: Is there anything to moving towards the Foreign Legion as a second work? Was there a specific contrast you wanted there, a specific visual with which you wanted to play?

SCHWEIZER: I wanted to pick something far removed from pirates, have a big contrast from the first book to the second. I imagine that the shift from ocean to desert probably seemed like a stark one at the time, despite the overwhelming similarities between the two environments, at least thematically. But contrast was important. The first book would be light, the second heavy. Characters you might not expect to die in the second would, in order to create a precedent for future books. I may not be so cavalier with character lives down the road, but that precedent will hopefully add to the reader's suspense. The time period jumps. One is ancient; one is modern. My original idea was to jump back and forth with a post civil-war book and a pre civil war book each time, in order to never be too close in tone or spirit to the preceding publication. I don't know if that will stick, but the idea of making each book different in tone is very important to me. I'm hopeful that my artistic and storytelling tendencies, the stuff that I don't necessarily actively consider, that those will tie the series together, and in all other aspects the books will be miles apart. The radio shows gave me a chance to play with this idea, too. One's a romance, one's a locked door mystery, one is winking, madcap pulp story. But it was that contrast that I wanted. One man against all in the first, one man among many in the second.

I also wanted to familiarize audiences with the Legion and its existing genre elements, given that many might be unfamiliar, especially those under a certain age. I think I'm of a generation where the Legion exists only as a film subject, an indicator of the types of movies made in the '30s and '40s moreso than a thing unto itself. I saw The Majestic and Secondhand Lions in college, and both applied that approach, using the Legion or something like it as a catchall for cinema serials, that arabesque swashbuckling thing. And, while I understood the self-aware referential nature of those bits in those two films, I was surprised that I could not name, nor had I seen, a single film that fit into the mold that those films were referencing. Same for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got that it was hearkening to something, I just had no familiarity with the original material. So I started seeking out Legion films and books, attached to the idea of it before I ever had any sense of what it actually was. I wasn't disappointed. Beau Geste especially captivated my attention.

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SPURGEON: That work more than the others seems to set up really bold dichotomies -- the two (de facto) commanding officers, these two armed forces in conflict, a villain that's more of an existential threat than physical opponent but is very much in the way, and this split between the caretaker/combat part of the Legion's mission. Are you cognizant of setting up these kinds of relationships as you do them, or does the narrative kind of pull you into places?

SCHWEIZER: I guess if there's a unifying theme to the books, at least as I see it, this would be it.

I love to argue. I'll take the devil's advocate stance for just about anything. It would probably be more accurate to say that I like to debate, as I'm rarely emotionally invested. Actually, that's not true. I'm very emotionally invested, I just don't take offense when another's views differ from mine. It's never personal. That's probably why I'm so easily swayed, ideologically. Whatever side makes what I consider to be most logical argument, that's what I'm for. I'm never happy, politically, but then who is? The one thing that does get me riled is when someone considers his or her own viewpoint to be the right one. Everyone thinks that they're right. We can't all be right. I fervently believe what I believe, but I know that there's a 50/50 chance that I'm wrong about everything. And as easy as it is to paint the other side of a political argument as being either willfully ignorant, immoral, or inhumane, the other side likely has good reasons for its decisions, its ideals. Its proponents are using an internalized moral compass to determine their approach to these issues, same as the folks opposing. That's why I take the devil's advocate stance, I guess. To try and showcase that other view in a way that humanizes it, explains that it is not borne of malice.

I don't know, I suppose it's awfully presumptuous of me, and pompous, to assume that I'm somehow elevated from this. I'm not. But I know that I'm not, and I know that each side's arguments have merit. That desire to play devil's advocate, to be sure that everyone gets a look at both sides, I think that colors the books. March more than the others, because the whole book centers around it. The characters are viewpoints in miniature. In Loyalty, I probably underplayed the arguments in favor of independence, partially because I so vehemently disagreed with them. Putting myself in the position of the characters, knowing what they knew, I wouldn't have touched independence with a ten-foot stick. And I probably unfairly painted the resistance to that movement with more color than I would had I been working with a lesser-known period, a lesser-known issue, confidant that the Patriot's arguments have been more or less internalized, at least in the US. So I went against my own code of author ethics in that one, though I did have a reason for it.

I don't think the arguments in favor of independence, at least early in the war and preceding it, have any validity at all, any sway. I think that what came out of it, though, is incredible, the most amazing political and social system that the world has ever seen, but that was luck, man. We were darned lucky we had the founding fathers, otherwise our revolution might've devolved into what the French got, or the Russians. So I'm grateful that it happened, but I'd have fought vehemently for the other side, because all logic points to a collapse of society should America split from Britain. And see? I'd have been wrong. Even with the full exposure to all the related facts of the time, I'd have been on the wrong side of the ideological divide. And there's always that 50 percent likelihood that anyone else will be, too. With Loyalty, I hope that the reader will lean towards Charles' motives (the Loyalist) and find him or herself coming to the same conclusion. I loathe stories in which the author tries to push a political ideal on his or her audience, and I guess I'm doing that with my books, but as it's never a fixed ideal so much as a "hey, there's a good chance the other side may be right, and both sides consist of people working towards what they think is best," I feel like that's an okay message to push on readers. I'm sure some people will vehemently disagree, and hey, there's a 50 percent chance they might be right, eh? They probably are. Any intended message, hidden or overt, probably mars a story, but I can't help it, it's gonna find its way in there.

I try to be subtle with it. March is not subtle at all, and I worry that it suffers for it.

imageSPURGEON: The time we spend in the cave... I was actually sort of surprised by that because of the rich metaphorical territory that's also available in the desert -- why did you spend so much time underground in that book?

SCHWEIZER: It's probably some sort of internalized belly-of-the-whale type of thing. I wasn't consciously using [Joseph] Campbell to aid in the story's craft -- if you're familiar with Northrop Frye's five modes of literature, I'm of the opinion that Campbell's asserted framework only works for the mythic and romantic modes, and sometimes more mythically-leaning ironic (like Quixote, or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure), and my stories hover somewhere between low and high mimetic, making them incompatible with Campbell -- but in retrospect, that seems to be how the scene plays. Maybe the book's pacing, so frantic immediately beforehand, necessitated that rest. So I may have been using it as a chance to slow down, to slowly build back up. If so, it was an unconscious decision.

Originally, I thought March was going to be a horror story. When I'd first read Beau Geste, the opening sequence... wow, it is so creepy. It felt like a scene in a Guillermo Del Toro movie. It quickly shifts away from that, but I thought that the idea of a horror story set in or around a Legion fort would be wonderful. As I did my research, the story moved in a different direction, but that element of some unknown thing picking people off one by one stayed with me. I'd known what the creature would be from the get go, influenced, I'm sure, by that one Balzac story with the Napoleonic soldier in the symbiotic, semi-erotic relationship in the desert. My dad suggested the idea of the missing man to me (he was already lost, in my story, purely as a means of showcasing desert peril), and for a long time I couldn't decide which of the two were doing the actual killing. The logistical necessity of someone to take word back about the event so that the frame's modern dad would eventually have the story to give to the kids determined the outcome of that decision for me.

The other reason was purely to challenge myself. Line is where I feel most comfortable, and working in form, laying in shadow, has never been my strong suit. Putting the characters in a cave with one small light source would force me to address these shortcomings. Make me overcome them. It's the same reason that Loyalty is set outside, because I really sucked at drawing trees. I also wanted to play with a scene entirely in the dark. See if I could have multiple characters, and tell an engaging story using only the lettering. Still be clear as to who was talking. I give my students a similar exercise to help them learn lettering, and I thought I'd see if it could have real-world applicability.

SPURGEON: Loyalty comes to my mind mostly for the richness of the setting, this kind of virgin, tangled forest. I know that you studied nature for the work, but how much of that follows the need of the story and how much does the story work out of your desire to work with certain visuals? In fact, how much time do you spend working on unique visual approaches generally, either in the work itself or the sketchbook?

SCHWEIZER: It's hard to peg. The story calls for certain visuals, and I build elements of the story around visuals that I want to include. So it goes back and forth. Like I said, Loyalty's trees originally arose from my surety that I needed to get better at drawing trees, and I rarely get better at anything without a fixed endgame, a specific reason. Oftentimes I'll craft a reason simply because I want to get better at something. I recently wanted to get better at my quick draw (single-action revolver, not drawing pictures quickly), and have come up with a self-justification related to the books to allow me to practice. I do that a lot, and it often enters the projects that I'm working on. I was drinking (and ordering) an inordinate amount of lapsang souchong tea this last year, and felt that I was spending so much energy on it that it had better affect my work. So it actually becomes a pretty major plot point in the next book. That's probably a very weird way of determining narrative inclusion, but it seems to work, keeps me rooted in all aspects of my life to the projects. My hobbies all relate to the work, because I tailor it to be related. I joke and say that it's for tax reasons, so that I can write everything off, but in truth I can't imagine not doing it.

I can't do anything just for the fun of it. Why do a sport if you aren't going to be the very best at it? Why play music if you're not going to be a musician? I can't shake that mindset. I realized that I had plateaued with martial arts when I was probably 19 or so; I came up against a guy in a tournament and he landed a perfect kick right in the middle of my chest. Perfect technique, just perfect. There was no way I could've blocked it, no way I could've done so perfect a kick myself. It must've knocked me a good ten feet through the air. And that was it; I was done. I wasn't petulant about it. I was clinical. I certainly wasn't going to get in better shape than I was already in; I was barely out of my teens, and I spent a good three hours a day minimum (and sometimes much more) working at it full throttle, between the school and the barn that my parents had allowed me to convert into this crazy Rocky 4 training setup. I lived and breathed it, I'd been doing it for years. The realization that I was never going to be among the best (a result not of any lack of enthusiasm, but of simple physical mechanics) meant that there was nothing more to aspire to. Self-betterment for its own sake is not something I can handle. The books give me an arena into which any skills I wish to acquire, any knowledge I wish to ingest, anything, it has a clear output. I can't stress how hugely important that is to my happiness and well-being.

I don't want to sound cavalier about it, but so far as the visual approach goes, I just draw. I pick the shots that I feel best convey the story, and draw with a balance of my natural stylistic inclinations and a desire to make it look as good as possible. What development there is comes entirely from puzzling out the mechanics of what it is that I'll be drawing. Knowing what it looks like, how it works. I never want to fake things. If I can understand it, I can draw it, and it will be easier to aesthetically integrate any subject into whatever I'm doing. I've found that I have no sway over how I draw. If I try to control the aesthetic, it's a nightmare from beginning to end. So I just draw, and try to make it better each time.

imageSPURGEON: The Hessian officer is a memorable character... is there any worry at all when you get one of these supporting characters, one with an obvious bit of historical interest and grind to them, that they overwhelm their place in the narrative? Do you ever find yourself tamping down on a character like that one?

SCHWEIZER: Oh, I'm sure they overwhelm the narrative, but I don't mind too much. I like Captain Haddock, I like Captain Easy, I like Han Solo. I don't care a fiddle for Jim Hawkins, but I'll follow Long John [Silver]'s exploits. Same for Rooster Cogburn, same for Hipshot Percussion. Folks say that Shakespeare killed Mercutio early in the story because he was in danger of overwhelming the narrative with his presence, and I think that's bunk. Mercutio dies because the story calls for it.

I think that readers need a morally straightforward protagonist, almost a cipher, in order to identify with the narrative and place themselves in it. But while we need those characters, we like the ones with whom we could never really identify. Heck, we probably wouldn't want to be near them in real life, but we like them as characters. We love them as characters. I think the danger in using them, in letting them really spread their wings, comes when one tries to make these supporting characters into protagonists. Jack Sparrow is a terrible protagonist, as evidenced by the sequels. My struggle is not to tone down the supporting characters, but to make the actions of the protagonist more deliberate, and keep what thoughts and conflicts he has as internalized as possible, that the audience might bring more of themselves into him.

SPURGEON: Did the visual milieu in which you were working have anything to say in terms of how you presented the motivations and actions of the character in Loyalty? Because the takeaway a few weeks after my initial read is this virgin forest, yet one marvelously tangled and visually complicated. How much do those kind of setting issues matter to you, given that this is your third very specific, very grand, choice of background?

SCHWEIZER: It's actually the reverse: the physical characteristics of the environment serve to direct the narrative, and what visual metaphors are present tend to affect the thematic aspects of the story. It's in drawing that I notice the narrative connections to the visual, rather than having those narrative connections and attempting to draw in a manner that showcases them. I'm just not a good enough artist to do that, I've tried. It goes to that idea of forcing an aesthetic.

imageSPURGEON: How important is the supplementary work like the club, the radio shows and the newsletters, to the overall project? That stuff seems very ambitious to me, but also a potential time drain. Who does that material reach, do you think? How right-brained are you in terms of strategizing something like that?

SCHWEIZER: It's very much a time-drain, especially the newsletters. I like doing them, but it's always this burden, 'cause I'm always behind on them. But the club, the newsletter, that's a way of giving the really enthusiastic readers (I hesitate to say "fans," because I can't imagine meriting fans at this point in my career) something extra. I want stuff like that. If I'm enthused about something, some book or author or franchise or band or whatever, I want to have something special, something exclusive, partially for the sake of furthering my knowledge or enjoyment of the thing, and partially for vanity. I have the recording of the band's front man doing covers and original acoustic songs at a bar in Boston. I have an early copy of the script, before studio revisions and the inclusion of a vehicle character for an interested actor. I have a figurine, a print, whatever. The club is my way of offering that type of thing to people who want it. It's not a ton of people -- around a hundred -- but those hundred people are enthusiastic, and I want to offer them something for their enthusiasm, and, oftentimes, their evangelism. These are the people who get other people to read my books, and I'm grateful for that. Plus, it gives me a chance to annotate things before I forget where I gathered the original information, which may prove useful sometime down the road.

The radio scripts were a wonderful experience, a learning experience, because they gave me a chance to work with six different characters in what was for me a rapid-fire time frame. I got a better sense of the series, what it is and what I want it to be. They're also the best things I've ever written, without a doubt. I feel really good about them. The rigid structural framework required, the challenge of figuring out how to make it all work... only so many actors can fit in a studio at one time, there needs to be a cliffhanger scene end at the end of page nine, that sort of thing... I thrive on that kind of stuff, and it results in better work. So I'm going to be giving myself similar logistical obstacles in future books, restraints to better focus my energies. I found the dialogue was better, too, and so I'll be doing the dialogue independently on future books, rather than doing it alongside the thumbnails. I expect that'll make the penciling stage less frustrating, too.

The radio shows were also something of a dream, too. It's hard for me to envision Crogan stuff in any medium other than comics, except as radio dramas. That probably sounds silly, but with any visual aspect besides my drawing it stops being Crogans, at least in my head. I loved Decoder Ring Theatre before we ever discussed collaborating on this, and was over the moon when it was suggested. And DRT gets a ridiculous number of legal downloads per episode (discounting torrent and sharing copies, they have some 16,000 each go). If even ten percent of the listeners gave the books a try, as I hope some will, that's half a print run. So it can also be seen as a marketing strategy.

Looking at it from that endgame perspective, too, this will be a book, eventually. Crogan's Prize and Other Stories. I put the "Crogan's ____" as one of the episode titles specifically so that it could serve as a book title and match the rest of the series. It will collect the scripts, and it'll be heavily illustrated. Almost as many drawings as you'd get with a GN. James thinks it would be a harder sell than a GN, and he's right, but I think it could be marketed as a "reader's theater" book, which is a thing a lot of middle and high school English classes do, and I'm willing to forgo my advance on it, which would lessen the financial risk that Oni would be taking on it. I want it to be out there and available, though, because it will play into that series continuity. I'd like for it to be the fifth book, after Escape, but we'll have to wait and see.

SPURGEON: I greatly enjoyed your sketchbook... can you talk a little bit about how you conceived of that project in terms of being a teacher, what you wanted to see and how you went about providing this in that work? Did you have an ideal reader in mind? Have you heard back from anyone?

SCHWEIZER: My ideal reader is always me. I made the sketchbook what I wanted to see in other sketchbooks (not that my art is anywhere near what other folks might be able to muster; I mean in format). I was sick of the 24-page mini-comic sketchbooks that folks had at conventions and were charging 20 bucks for. I buy a lot of those from the European guys through Stuart Ng and, though I'm glad to have them, it always gets my goat. I wanted to show that a $20 sketchbook could be 200 pages, and big in size to boot (it's eleven and a half inches tall). I wanted to try and set that as a precedent. There are plenty of other folks who have big sketchbooks -- Immonen's are big -- but the majority seems to be the tiny stuff. And I understand it. There's not a lot of time to put them together. The folks who are buying them would probably buy them whether they were five bucks or $20, and Lord knows we need all the supplement to our income that we can get. But as a reader, it makes me mad, and I wanted to push against that. I also don't like that most sketchbooks are art books, finished work. I like to see process, I like to see the down and dirty. I understand the desire to show off one's best pieces, but I want to see how you got there.

The annotations are for the same reason; I like annotations in sketchbooks. The whole thing probably took its model from Guy Davis' supplemental pages in the back of the B.P.R.D. trades. I loved those annotations, his explanations for why he made the decisions that he did.

As a teacher, I wanted to show that the sketchbook is a place to be working through problems, making decisions. Not every drawing that one does is going to be finished, beautiful art. Heck, probably only one in 50 will be. I know a lot of kids (I was one) who labor over each sketchbook page, and that doesn't get you anywhere. Volume of work and an attempt to better oneself with each successive attempt is the way to get better, and I wanted to showcase that.

The whole reason for the book's existence is that I wanted to have a new book in 2011. Loyalty was later than I wanted it to be because I got sidetracked with two things: a for-hire project that paid very well and through which I got to work with some folks who I both liked and admired, and an inordinate interest in Star Wars. I can't justify the latter one. All I wanted to draw for a little while was Star Wars stuff, and it put me behind. I hoped that it would result in some Dark Horse work (I would love to write a Star Wars comic; it's the only franchise, save for Indiana Jones, in which I have any real working interest), but it didn't, so there's no excuse for it. Pure, useless self-indulgence. Sorry. Anyway, the sketchbook filled that publishing void. I want to have something new each year, and I guess this was a way of seeing that happen.

I've heard back from a lot of pros, especially animation folks, and that's been very neat, very satisfying. It's resulted in some nice correspondence and new acquaintances. I haven't heard much from anyone outside the pro circuit, though. No, I take that back. There was a girl in California, a high school girl, who wants to be an animator. Sent a beautiful drawing along with her letter. She's had work in some film festivals; I looked her up. Really talented. Stephanie something... Dezaleri? Delazeri? Something like that. Clearly a go-getter. I expect she'll be worth keeping an eye on. Oh, geez. I never wrote her back. I just realized. I'm terrible with correspondence, terrible. I write like three-page e-mails and letters, and so I put them off. Yikes. I'll write her back tomorrow.

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SPURGEON: One question someone asked me to give you: do you have any advice in terms of how you schedule your time, how you stay productive -- because you could cut your comics output into thirds and no one would think of you as an unproductive cartoonist.

SCHWEIZER: I just work whenever I'm awake, or most of it. I try to make sure I spend as much time with my family as I'm able. When I'm teaching, that's usually only two hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Two other days, it's closer to four hours, maybe five. I try to take one day a week off to play with Penny, to do stuff as a family, though usually I sneak away for an hour or two to work. I'd like to spend more time with them, but the project obligations are pretty heavy, and I get really antsy whenever I'm not working. Penny will sit in the studio with me sometimes, drawing at her own drawing desk (a gift from my boss, Pat Quinn). This kind of thing becomes more and more feasible as she gets older. She's only two. I come up and do dinner with the family, play with Penny for anywhere from a half hour to an hour, then I do her bedtime stuff each night, read to her, hold her 'til she falls asleep. Then I go to bed, because I get up at 4am to squeeze some work in before school. School isn't all the time; I only teach 30 weeks out of the year. When it's in session, I leave at 7 each morning, come back at 2:30, then work until dinner.

Most nights I'm the one who takes care of Penny if she wakes up, just 'cause I'm a much lighter sleeper than my wife. It's hard balancing the desire to be with them with the necessity of supporting all of us financially, especially when you work at home and have to hole up a lot for concentration.

I read a lot, but it's rarely at a stretch. Post office lines, during meals, at traffic lights, the bathroom, any time I'm not moving or engaged in something else. Otherwise I'd have no time. I envy Theodore Roosevelt and his two books a day. Discounting comics, I'm a two-a-week man. I just don't have the mental faculty for speed reading; I can't process comfortably while doing so, and I worry that I'd miss out on those epiphanic lines that I mentioned earlier. You know, though, I should probably work on it. Get quicker. Honestly, doing anything to emulate TR is probably a good idea.

I watch very little TV. I watch Justified (begun because it's set where I grew up, and continued because I enjoy the heck of it) on my own, and three sitcoms with the missus. That'll drop to two, now that Dan Harmon's been fired as show-runner for Community. That's pretty much it, these days. When I'm inking I'll watch stuff as background. The only movies I watch anymore are thematically related to what I'm working on. I don't play video games. I don't really have any hobbies that aren't immediately related to the work. So the time management is that I work all the time, save active breaks to visit with the family. I'm bad about seeing and staying in touch with friends. If they're not at the school, I don't see them.

I stay productive by giving myself projects about which I'm wholeheartedly enthusiastic.

This summer we're going to try and figure out ways for Liz to take over some of the more managerial-type stuff, like shipping and press releases and things like that. I'm bad at that type of stuff, and extremely slow. It takes me like a minute and a half to address an envelope. That, right now, is the biggest time drain, so hopefully this will make things more efficient.

There's also a lot of travel for cons, library visits, that sort of thing. I try to get to where I'm ready to write before traveling. I get a lot of writing done in airports. Probably a third of anything I've written has been written at an airport. If someone could digitize Rodale's Synonym Finder, it would make my travel bag a whole lot lighter.

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SPURGEON: Ideally, is there a place you want the comics to be in five, ten, 20 years time. Do you work with that kind of destination in mind?

SCHWEIZER: I guess I think of it as more of a what-will-I-leave-when-I'm-dead thing, actually. Again, it's presumptuous to expect that anyone will care, but without that presumption, what's the point of doing it? I think about Stan's oeuvre, and of Hergé, and of Carl Barks and Hugo Pratt and all these others who have left a substantial (both in size and quality) body of work related to one series. There's a magnificence to Bone and Akira, but they're finite (as they should be). The idea of working on a project from its inception until the day you die (a la Peanuts, or Aubrey/Maturin) is a powerful one, and it's something I hope I can do. If my hand doesn't go, or my mind, or my eyes, I'll do it. I hope to do at least 25 books. I think I can swing that by the time I'm 75. So I hope I last that long.

*****

* Crogan's Loyalty, Chris Schweizer, Oni Press, hardcover, 150 pages, 9781934964408, May 2012, $14.99.
* Crogans Adventures
* Crogans Adventures Blog

*****

* cover to the latest book.
* Schweizer at a Heroes Con in I believe 2008; I just like the picture, so let me big his forgiveness for using such an old one.
* three images from Crogan's Loyalty; I wanted to get some near the top of the interview. If you want to link them into the context, the first one is a kind of wester-action scene and the latter two kind of depend on drawing from nature that Schweizer did in the area near where he teaches. Hopefully, you'll just enjoy the art.
* Schweizer is a natural-born teacher
* Crogans is historical adventure
* the new book's prominent female character; a first for the series
* that Crogan Family Tree
* panels like these make me feel bad for mentioning the lateness of the new book
* five images from the first book in the series, including the cover placed near our discussion of Oni and presentational issues
* three images from the second book, Crogan's March
* the Hessian character being discussed
* from the support material
* a vibrant panel from the new book
* Crogans in color
* one last panel from Crogan's Loyalty (below).

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Ales Kot

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Not Comics: Happy Time For Record Jacket Illustrators

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Go, Look: Brian's Comic About Rape

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Go, Look: Cadence Comic Art

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Not Comics/OTBP: Scuzzi

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Go, Look: Yet Another Group Of Great World Cartoons

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If I Were In Albany, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Arlington, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Manchester, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Metropolis, I'd Go To This

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FFF Results Post #297 -- Can I Have Some More?

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Sequels/Follow-Ups To Well-Respected Comics Efforts That You Genuinely Like." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Leslie Turner's Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy.
2. Dick Moores' Gasoline Alley.
3. The John Romita Sr. run on Amazing Spider-Man.
4. The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
5. Trump.

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Kyle Baker's Plastic Man.
2. Ivan Brunetti's Nancy tryouts.
3. Ann Nocenti's run on Daredevil.
4. Don Martin's Captain Klutz 2.
5. Chester Brown's Underwater.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Dan DeCarlo's Archie.
2. Jerry Scott's Nancy.
3. Ted White era Heavy Metal.
4. Flex Mentallo.
5. Jim Steranko's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

*****

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Justin J. Major

1. Rachel Pollack's Doom Patrol.
2. Dick Tracy by Joe Staton and Mike Curtis.
3. Amazing Spider-Man by John Romita Sr.
4. Berkeley Breathed's Outland .
5. Little Annie Fanny by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. (sorry mom.)

*****

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Dave Knott

* Multiforce
* Partie de Chase (The Hunting Party)
* Willie & Joe: Back Home
* Biomega
* The Roy Thomas / Gene Colan run on Doctor Strange

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Jaime Hernandez's Love & Rockets/Penny Century
2) Peter Bagge's Neat Stuff/Hate
3) Miller & Mazzuchelli's Daredevil: Born Again
4) Tom Hart's Hutch Owen: Unmarketable (Tonally and aesthetically I think this behaves as a sequel to and departure from the 1990s Hutch Owen work, as opposed to a continuation of a larger body of work ala Eddie Campbell's Alec oeuvre. I also think it's the best comic to emerge from that wave of comics about 9/11.)
5) Don Simpson's Megaton Man/Bizarre Heroes

*****

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Adam Casey

1. Marvelman/Miracleman
2. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing
3. Watchmen
4. Lost Girls
5. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

Grant Morrison's "Dan Dare"
Rick Veitch's "Swamp Thing"
Bud Sagendorf's "Popeye"
William Van Horn/Don Rosa duck stories from the late 80's--mid-nineties
Naomi Urasawa's "Pluto"

*****

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Jason Green

1. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
2. Dominion: Conflict 1 -- No More Noise
3. Squee
4. Jeffrey Brown's Be a Man
5. Waid & Garney's post Heroes Reborn return to Captain America

*****

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Mark Mayerson

Noel Sickles' Scorchy Smith
Dick Moores' Gasoline Alley
Simon and Kirby's Sandman
Joe Kubert's Tarzan
Owen Fitzgerald's Dennis the Menace (in comic books)

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's Miracleman
2. Alan Davis' Another Nail
3. Giffen & Dematteis' Formerly Known as the Justice League
4. Peter Kuper's Spy vs. Spy
5. Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher on Dick Tracy

*****

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M. Emery

1. Ron Smith's Judge Dredd
2. Barry Windsor Smith's Machine Man
3. Carmine Infantino's Star Wars
4. Frank Bellamy's Dan Dare
5. Neville Colvin's Modesty Blaise

*****

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Douglas Wolk

1. Pat Mills, Charlie Adlard and Patrick Goddard's Savage.
2. Gilbert Hernandez's New Tales of Old Palomar.
3. Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's Miracleman.
4. Don Rosa's Uncle $crooge.
5. Roger Langridge et al.'s Popeye.

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. The New Teen Titans: Games
2. Formerly Known As The Justice League
3. The current Shade miniseries
4. Walt Simonson's Orion
5. Mark Waid, Howard Porter, and Bryan Hitch's JLA

*****

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Kenneth Graves

1) Heart of Empire
2) Phil Foglio's Angel and the Ape
3) Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol
4) Neil Gaiman's Miracleman
5) the Read or Die manga

*****

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Chris Mautner

1. The new Popeye series Roger Landridge is writing for IDW
2. Jerry Scott's run on Nancy
3. Batman by Jiro Kurwata
4. The Hunger Dogs by Jack Kirby
5. Top 10 the 49ers by Alan Moore and Gene Ha

*****

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Patrick Ford

1. John Stanley's Nancy
2. John Stanley's Little Lulu
3. Carl Barks' Donald Duck
4. Dick Moore's Gasoline Alley
5. Noel Sickles Scorchy Smith

*****

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John Platt

1. Doctor Fate (the J.M. DeMatties / Shawn McMannus run)
2. I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League
3. Amazing Spider-Man: Soul of the Hunter
4. Spectacular Spider-Man issues 178-184 ("The Child Within")
5. Abadazad (the short-lived novel series)

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. Skeats/Albano/Fradon/Smith's Plastic Man
2. Rick Veitch and company's Swamp Thing
3. Al Feldstein and Gang of Idiots' MAD
4. Nelson Bridwell and Don Newton's Shazam!
5. Gerber and Winslade's Howard the Duck miniseries

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Dave Sim's glamourpuss
2. Gilbert Hernandez's New Love
3. Pete Bagge's Hate Annual
4. former EC artists' work on Blazing Combat
5. Al Feldstein's Mad Magazine

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. Mister Miracle 19-25
2. Al Williamson's Flash Gordon
3. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing
4. Heart of Empire
5. Humbug

*****

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Niel Jacoby

1. DKSA
2. Heart Of Empire: the Legacy of Luther Arkwright
3. Brubaker and Lark's Daredevil run, as a follow-up to Brian Michael "Big Money" Bendis and Alex "Armbar" Maleev's generally acclaimed run on the same title.
4. Will Pfeiffer's Catwoman, yadda yadda Brubaker's run.
5. The heartbreakingly little-known Andrew Helfer/Bill Sienkiewicz/Kyle Baker Shadow series that came after the Howard Chaykin miniseries

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Rachel Pollack & Ted McKeever's Doom Patrol
2. Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman & various' Immortal Iron Fist
3. Zander Cannon & Gene Ha's Top 10: Season 2
4. Howard Chaykin, Mike Mignola & Craig Russell's Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution
5. Don McGregor & Craig Russell's Marvel Graphic Novel #7: Killraven: Last Dreams Broken

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham's Miracleman
2. Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing
3. Karl kesel/cary nord's Daredevil
4. Steve Englehart/marshall rogers' Detective Comics
5. Roger Stern/various artists' Avengers

*****
*****
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: American Flagg!

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Reading American Flagg! was never a mind-blowing experience for the content, at least not for me and not in the way I've seen suggested for it. To my suburban teenager's eye, what Howard Chaykin was doing with the sex and violence in his comic seemed pretty close to the Heavy Metal serials I'd occasionally buy, and a lot like the movies I made a point of seeing Friday nights with my friend whose dad taped every new offering from HBO. You'd have to be incredibly generous to grant the series' war of the sexes, mall-culture slams, heavy-handed indictment of media, political nose-tweaking and all that fetish-y underwear cutting-edge status no matter how enjoyable it might be. Where American Flagg! was different, at least for me, was in the formal play. A great example comes in issue #1 when Mandy Krieger propositions Reuben Flagg and they have sex -- probably that issue's most memorable scene. I totally got what people having sex was all about, but I failed to notice until years later that Chaykin drew the folds in our hero's jacket where it was placed right over Krieger's privates in a way that would make Al Capp blush. American Flagg! offered up satire and funny characters and all the naughtiness any boy my age would love, but what I recall mostly is that it took longer to read than any other comic going, and the lettering was more expressive, and the panels sometimes worked at cross-visual purposes to one another. I never felt hot and bothered or fired up to fight anyone after reading Howard Chaykin's book, but I somehow felt like a better reader of comics.

American Flagg! was another series where it seemed to me to be valuable solely for Chaykin's full involvement. I dropped the post-Chaykin issues of the series cold. For all I know, they could be great, but I had no interest in them and still don't. I only picked up Chaykin's return as a kind of writer/packager when the books became heavily discounted at my then-local shop. I never wanted more American Flagg!. Part of that may be the book consistently hit its entertainment marks during its initial moment in the spotlight. That first 26-issue run felt like it spanned the entire decade. In actuality, issue #26 appeared a mere 25 months after the debut. Sometimes I wonder if the difficulty in repackaging American Flagg! for other formats comes down to something spiritual. The serial comic book edition was pretty close to perfect in its way: a regular visit to a giddy clash of satire, comedy, adventure-comic beats and general rudeness delivered with aplomb by an artist working at the far edge of his talent while being supported by able, compelling craftsmen. Reading American Flagg! as comics felt like getting a broadcast from someplace else and watching it on a broken, filthy, slapped-together computer screen. For once the content of a comic book overwhelmed the delivery system instead of playing down to it. I wouldn't change a thing.
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Interview With Queenie Chan
via


Academic Presentation By Jane Chapman
via


Jim Toomey On Sharks And Ocean Health
via


Jim Unger Remembered


Comics About Cartoonists Promotional Video
 
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June 9, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 2 to June 8, 2012:

1. Four men were convicted in Denmark and sentenced to a dozen years in jail each for charges related to planning a Mumbai-style terrorist attack centered on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper offices, from where the Danish Cartoons Controversy was spawned.

2. The lawsuit between new-era Archie co-CEOs ends with not a lot being released as to what this means and a potential second lawsuit on the horizon based on misuse of funds. If there were any possible way to write a clever sentence on the cliched idea of there being more drama at Archie than in the halls of Riverdale High, this would be the place that sentence would go.

3. DC launches its Before Watchmen titles to significant if not overwhelming customer anticipation and at best a very, very minor questioning of these comics' propriety. The prequel's debut comes as DC is in the midst of a surge in DM trade orders for the first books coming out of their New 52 initiative, a launch that may be far more important than any event series when the year-end results are tallied.

Winner Of The Week
DC Comics

Loser Of The Week
Alan Moore

Quote Of The Week
"They should adapt this storyline into a movie starring Shaq and Tom Cruise." -- Commenter on a message board thread about a Hulk/Punisher storyline that mirrors the movie Crank. It may be super-weird and funny to think of such a movie; it's also something that's not inconceivable.

*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In St. Louis, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Oslo, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Erlangen, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Metropolis, I'd Go To This

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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Zot!

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I sometimes wonder after the demands I hear from younger consumers of popular art that they must start at the beginning with new-to-them works or must consume what they encounter in a certain way. I was always pretty well-served by engaging whatever I found whenever I found it. You get more happy accidents that way. I skipped the color Zot! when it was coming out; nothing in its pages looked like it could interest me in the slightest. When the 11th issue arrived, returning us to McCloud's extended young-adult work in black and white form, I was a senior in high school and had been going through an incredibly lousy series of life experiences. Emotionally pummeled and eager to read as many comics as I could buy no matter their level of familiarity, I responded very, very strongly to Zot!'s blend of teenage romance, retro good guy-ism and unabashed nostalgia. Every kid is Jenny Weaver on that car about something.

I read Zot! #11 and #12 over and over again that year; lucky for me, those issues function very well as a stand-alone treatment of McCloud's ideas over the work entire. I picked up and devoured the Zot! color issues and started buying the black and whites as I moved through college, slowly and gently working my way out of the majority of what had gone wrong. My recovery had very little to do with comics, but I'm grateful for the companionship that Zot! and some of my other favorite comics provided, and believe that by its nature serial entertainment builds that kind of relationship with its readers far more effectively than stand-alone work can. Those comics are dear to me.

I still think Zot! is a pretty good series, too, with tremendously appealing characters and several strong narrative choices that paper over the more pat and uninspired directions in which its author might occasionally charge. I was thinking about becoming a playwright in those days, and I believed it was a good comic book for informing that artistic path (not all of them are); a lot of Zot! is in the conversations, and how what we want becomes a public thing pressing against other folks' desires and needs, and if we're lucky how we might experience the grace that comes with some sort of resolution, even if it's not ours, or the one we would have chosen. How we negotiate fantasy, what purposes it serves, that's an overriding theme right up my alley. Being lucky enough at the time to get my hands on some untranslated manga meant I even recognized some of the formal tricks in McCloud's toolbox. I think the series ended at just about the point it should have, and certainly waved goodbye right when I was ready to see it go. I'm grateful.
 
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June 8, 2012


Laura Hudson Leaves Her Position At ComicsAlliance

My peer Laura Hudson is leaving her position at ComicsAlliance; she has been the driving force behind that site's current, successful incarnation from the editor-in-chief's chair.

I am grateful for Hudson's professional courtesy over the past few years, and appreciate the job she did there. It's not easy to build a site from the ground up -- or rebuild (I'm told the site had an unsuccessful earlier incarnation; I don't remember it, which is part of the point). I wish her the best in whatever she does next. I thought she showed a lot of bravery in engaging certain industry issues from a platform where that kind of engagement might not have always been super-welcome.

In January, Hudson and I spoke at length about her CA gig and her thoughts on several industry issues; that interview is here.
 
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Williamson, Frazetta And Krenkel Were The Real Big Three

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Go, Read: A Short Interview With Matt Pritchett

imageI'm a sucker for any article that has the phrase "pocket cartoonist" in it. I think I like that term because it makes me think of a newspaper cartoonist carried around in the editor's front shirt pocket, scrambling out and down his arm to create some sort of basic-response cartoon right on the page being assembled at the time. A pocket cartoonist is actually a one-column cartoonist that provides wry perspective on the day's news stories -- a lot like a traditional editorial cartoonist but usually of a slightly higher profile in terms of placement, slightly less portentous and broody by content, and indicative less of a newspaper's political point of view than of a publication's civilizing influence on culture by pulling humor out of some news of the day. Anyway, here's an interview with one of the better ones working, Matt Pritchett of the Telegraph. I like Pritchett in part because he seems really good at taking the kind of photo that generally accompanies an article like this one.

What's interesting to me about these kinds of cartoonists is that on the one hand giving a cartoonist a platform like this is totally a newspaper culture thing, something unique a newspaper can do. At the same time, having someone on staff to just do that; well, that seems like an amazing luxury in today's economy. It also works on an interesting principle that a newspaper is going to present troubling or difficult news upon which a cartoon like this can provide commentary or relief; I'm not sure that's always the goal anymore.
 
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Go, Look: Golden Age Comics Could Be Madness

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Not Comics: Tim Kreider's "How Tristram Shandy Saved My Mom"

I'm a fan of cartoonist Tim Kreider's essays. He has a book out featuring several of them. PW is running an excerpt.
 
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Don't Know Why I Never Posted Jen Sorensen's Open Letter To The Supreme Court About Health Insurance

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Go, Bid: The Checkered Demon Juke Pox

There's a special original art item for sale over on eBay for about the next day or so to benefit the S. Clay Wilson Trust. Wilson is one of the more vital artists to ever wield a pen, and one of the key figures in the development of underground comix -- comics for adult readers generally. If nothing else, the item is really cool to look at. I hope you'll consider a bid, especially if you're a fan of that era of cartoonists.
 
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Go, Look: My Head Is Still In Switzerland Concluded

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* the fundraiser for the artist Oliver Nome is rounding the final quarter and into its last few thousand needed, with plenty of days left to do so.

* here's a kickstarter for a tribute book focused on Mercyful Fate, featuring many of your southern California cartooning all-stars.

* the Trickster fundraiser seems to be progressing at a decent pace. That's the comics salon that runs concurrently with Comic-Con International. The thing to watch there is the number of high-end premiums, basically taking the form of advanced class advisory sessions with super-established pros.

* not all of the comics-related crowd-funding initiatives are crushing it right out of the starting gate.

* finally, the Cerebus-related fundraiser is at about 600 percent of its desired goal. This doesn't surprise me; I think Sim is perfectly suited for Kickstarter given the esteem with which he's held by his fans.
 
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Go, Look: Anthony Meloro

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Collective Memory: Ray Bradbury, RIP

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this article has been archived
 
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If I Were In Oslo, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Metropolis, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Erlangen, I'd Go To This

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Go, Read: A Lengthy Billy Ireland Profile

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i think that's Ireland
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it's Jack and Roz at Coney Island. You can't end a week with a more charming image than that one. Hooray for the Internet and the discovery of all these old pictures.

image* Michael Dooley talks to John Benson about his recent book Sincerest Form Of Parody. Steve Morris talks to Becky Cloonan. Mallory talks to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. Danno Klonowski talks to a whole bunch of folks. Josie Campbell talks to Walt Simonson.

* Graeme McMillan praises Jonathan Hickman's candor.

* Ryan Holmberg analyzes the sources of Sugiura Shigeru's sense of humor.

* Sean Ford takes the wheel of The Good Ship Secret Acres, and manages to negotiate his way through lighthouse country.

* Todd Allen on Earth 2 #2. Doug Zawisza on Earth 2 #2. Chucks Wells on Superman: The High-Flying History Of America's Most Enduring Hero. Andy Oliver on Brooklyn Dreams. Dan Kois on Birdseye Bristoe.

* not comics: Jim Woodring writes on the always-grand-to-see Bimbo's Initiation cartoon. Never a bad time to stop and watch that thing.

* not comics: not even Wally Wood would likely wake up with a Wally Wood tattoo. Just sayin'.

* shirtless Chuck Rozanski. (via Matthew Allison)

* finally, James Montgomery Flagg and Ham Fisher, bros.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Ronin

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Ronin was the first title that made me aware of the primary peculiarity of the Direct Market: that the comics ordered weren't returnable, and if a comic didn't quite get over with a store's customer base in the way the person ordering for the store predicted, it might have a real effect on the bottom line for these largely cash reserves-light businesses. I learned this because the relative lack of movement of this title on the stands was communicated to me by my local shop owner, perched behind his counter. This meant that by the time this comic was released, I was enough of a valued customer that this kind of in-store business would be talked about, which is also kind of a remarkable thing if you stop and think about it. I've never had that relationship with any other kind of merchant, that's for sure. I watched the initial growth of the Direct Market through my first local comics shop, and it was one minor but intriguing thrill after another: the offerings went from one rack, to one shelf, to a little room off of the main one in the used bookstore where the funnybook business was housed, to that alcove plus more of a salon/spillover area and a filing cabinet full of subscriber folders. It eventually moved to a storefront near campus where the black and white boom and bust clubbed the poor place to death.

I remember very little about Ronin, or at least my personal reaction to what I was reading. I couldn't repeat the plot in much detail even now if you pointed a finger at me and asked. I remember thinking it looked awfully cool, and I remember the big, talk-about "moment" from the initial story in some detail. I remember the Comics Journal review nearly as much as any individual issue. One thing I do recall is that I was aware of where the comic fit into Frank Miller's story as much as the story of the comic itself. I knew that Ronin was a big deal for Miller -- and to a lesser extent, it seemed, DC, the Bobby Ewing of the funnybook world -- and my consumption of it and reaction to it was based in part on rooting for Miller to succeed. (I think at the time it was considered an extravagance and a slight-to-perhaps-even-major under-performer, making the lightning bolt success of Dark Knight that much more surprising, but I could be wrong.) I also remember that I looked at Miller as a full-blown adult in the industry when he was like, 26 that year, which is pretty remarkable to me now. At any rate, plugging into comics as an expression of some cartoonist's career or personal story and thinking of the comic in terms of what it meant for my favorites getting over became a major secondary way I read a lot of comics from the early '80s until the mid-1990s, and I'm not sure I'm rid of the notion now.

I don't think I've read this series since, in serial or collected form. I've read a lot of comics several times over I remember liking less.
 
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June 7, 2012


Hey, Good News: Greg Stump Has A Blog Now

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Archie Lawsuit Settles Even As Potential New Cloud Appears

The Associated Press write-up on the court approving a settlement between feuding Archie executives Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit is as fascinating in its own way as the acrimonious battle between the extend family has been semi-salacious. The settlement seems to restore Silberkleit to a position of prominence at the company -- she's been co-CEO, and I think kept that designation even during the legal battles -- but also hints that Goldwater's nieces, beneficiaries of a trust that own 25 percent of the company, are considering legal action based on misuse of funds. I'm not sure I have much to add other than, "Hey, look at that." But hey, look at that.
 
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Go, Look: Ronald Searle In Hawaii

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Missed It: Movement In Josue Rivera Case

Don MacPherson caught something that escaped my attention and I think the attention of most comics industry reporting sources: a motion to suppress evidence in the Josue Rivera case was denied back in March. MacPherson's post on the move is thorough and provides enough context for anyone to follow along -- whether it's to catch up or the first you're hearing about it. Rivera is an artist best known in comics circles for work at DC Comics who was charged after images he had on a small drive were part of something he gave a local funeral home on separate business.
 
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Missed It: A Simon Gane Appreciation Gallery

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Not Comics: Julian Sanchez On Why Copyrights Have Long Terms

I suspect the notion that lengthy copyrights may protect newer works against awesome older works is more of an argument about an unintended consequence of other, more salient factors like Disney wanting to continue to profit than it is an argument for a likely driving force behind such laws. Still, it's an intriguing point of view. I believe that in most things, there's always a desire for new material; I have to imagine more people are watching Eureka on Hulu.com than there are folks catching up on old episodes of To Catch A Thief. That said, I think you can find echoes of a past-protectionist argument in comics without a lot of labor. For example, there may be an element of this worry that keeps the mainstream companies from going full-bore digital with their extensive back comics catalogs.

(via a couple of readers, probably from here)
 
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Go, Look: Another Fine Barry Windsor-Smith Gallery

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Oslo, Erlangen, and the Superman-driven thing in Metropolis this weekend. Small shows in Albany and Manchester.

* Alan Gardner caught that the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is going to hold a cartoon festival in conjunction with the yearly meeting. That sounds like an interesting idea, and I'm all for cartoon festivals that emanate from other communities within the wide comics umbrella.

* I mentioned it once when I first saw the site, but it bears repeating: a comics convention based on a model other than commercial activity is a promising sign, particularly if you're a fan of certain European-style shows that emphasize art shows and panels and restrict commerce to a certain area or just a few places. Also, I think the way Stumptown has grown there's room in the deep, rich comics community of Portland for another show or two based on more specific expressions -- an arts comics show makes specific sense given what's in Portland, the regional proximity of strong arts-comoics communities in Olympia and Seattle, and other rich scenes in short-hop destinations San Francisco and Vancouver. Watch this one.

* we are hurtling towards CAKE, HeroesCon and then Comic-Con International at frightening speed. That will be the 1-2-3 ratta-tat-tat that takes us over the hump of convention/festival season 2012.

* the CAKE anthology looks sort of ridiculous.

* speaking of CAKE, here's the final result on their public fundraising campaign.

* Andy Brown has a report up from Festival BD Montreal; that's a nice-looking poster.

* CR pal Marc Mason does a walk-through on the Phoenix Comicon.

* finally, Julia Wertz shares some convention stories.
 
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Go, Bookmark: PALEO

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thanks, Colin Panetta
 
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If I Were In San Francisco, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Erlangen, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Metropolis, I'd Go To This

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Not Comics: Tony Fitzpatrick On Studs Terkel

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it went up pretty late in the day yesterday, so in case you missed it: D+Q announced a third book in their relationship with manga master Shigeru Mizuki, this one from the Kitaro property by which the cartoonist made his name. That one should be fun to have.

image* James Sturm talks to Blaise Larmee and Julie Delporte, this year's CCS fellows. Lary Wallace talks to Dick DeBartolo. Albert Ching talks to Cullen Bunn.

* Gary Phillips writes about Marvel's black superheroes then and now -- then being the Civil Rights and post-Civil Rights era in which many made their initial appearance; now being an age where none of them can seemingly carry a solo comic book.

* all best wishes to Laura Park.

* Bill Kartalopoulos on a bunch of different comics. David Brothers on Dr. Slump. Rob Clough on Daybreak. Greg McElhatton on Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5. Christopher Allen on Jack Kirby's Spirit World. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Green Lantern Corps: The Weaponer. Matt Seneca on Chimera. Charles Hatfield on To Get Her. Neil Gaiman talks to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

* I always find it odd when someone writes about the entirety of comics, and all of their examples come from one small group of them. I'm sure the article in question is fun, but it was hard for me to do more than scan after I noticed that. That's kind of jerky, I know.

* Ben Morse writes about the first X-Men comic he read and why it worked for him.

* well, that's sort of creepy.

* Beau Smith writes on the comic book's last stand. If the comic book is going down, I personally hope I get to stick around to see Smith play Warren Oates in that scene from near the end of The Wild Bunch.

* it's the dog that makes this drawing work.

* oh to live wherever one has to live to have Max illustrations pop up in your reading material.

* finally, I am greatly appreciative of reader Robert Gilmour writing in to present his opinion on this site's coverage of Spain Rodriguez. I don't agree with the thrust of his letter, but I'm always happy to run a dissenting point of view presented in a classy, responsible way.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Mage

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There's a line of thinking in mainstream comics that certain artists and certain writers are loved by fans because their work seems achievable, that there's not so much in the way of refined craft on display so as to suggest a similar achievement is impossible. I couldn't create anything like Mage as a 15-year-old or now, but I wonder if its appeal wasn't in its relative simplicity. These are very straight-forward adventure stories despite the Arthurian trappings and the "what am I doing?" questions of its everyman lead. Mage even settles into the serial format with the oldest narrative capitulation to that form possible: the cliffhanger.

I remember liking these comics a lot. I think I responded to the notion of suddenly being designated as important, as special, which is about as fundamental a reaction to a fantasy work as I can imagine. As someone that wanted to maybe do something creative of my own someday, I found the idea that Mage and other indy comics of the time seemed to emphasize of connecting a single creator to a single creation incredibly comforting and noble. It was also the way I perceived of comic strips and fantasy prose novels, no matter if accurate or not. I figured if I went into the creative arts I would find my "world," my story, and then be its guardian and gatekeeper just like all these creators whose works I loved. Having these feelings triggered by Mage was odd, as Wagner also had the Grendel serial going, but I remember favoring one over the other in my head so as to better fit my preferred model. I had a lot to learn.
 
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June 6, 2012


D+Q Adds Kitaro To Its Shigeru Mizuki Library

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Drawn and Quarterly announced today that it is expanding its Shigeru Mizuki library. Kitaro will join previous publishing efforts NonNonBa (2012) and Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths (2011) in early 2013. News began to seep out about this latest offering at this year's Book Expo America, and the resulting interest caused D+Q to make the news more widely public.I'm glad. I think this is really good news; I look forward to seeing this one and am pleased that D+Q has done such different works the first three times out with Mizuki.

According to the press material, Kitaro is Mizuki's best-selling work and most famous creation. The Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro serial first appeared in Shonen magazine for boys in 1959. It would eventually spawn a number of TV shows, films and video games, becoming a cultural touchstone for mid-to-late 20th Century Japan.

Mizuki turned 90 this year and is a multiple international comics awards winner; his life is the subject of a popular television drama.

D+Q Publisher Chris Oliveros described the cartoonist as "a true virtuoso of manga" in D+Q's press material, citing his multiple creative avenues as revelatory of different aspects of his general artistic sensibility.

Mizuki was represented in negotiations by Maki Hakui of Press Pop in Japan. As is usually the case with D+Q efforts, the English-language work will be distributed in the US by FSG and in Canada by Raincoast Books.
 
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Ray Bradbury, RIP

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Sarah Glidden Would Like To Draw For You

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Your 2012 Marten Toonder Prize Winner

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It looks like from various wire stories that the great Joost Swarte has won this year's Marten Toonder prize. Last year's winner, as I recall, was Peter Pontiac. It comes with a $31K USD cash prize, which is pretty great no matter what award you're getting -- I'm all for cash prizes for comics awards. Swarte is not only one of the great comics artists but a fantastic designer and illustrator and maker of any number of stylish-looking, beautiful items. He should win all the awards, and it's a thrill when he does something to make the news so I can put his art on the blog. The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architect created the Toonder prize in 2009, four years after that prolific and talented artist's passing. It tends to be announced, then given out at a subsequent comics festival.
 
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Go, Read: Paul Gravett Profiles Posy Simmonds

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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt largely accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here. I might not buy any. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

MAR121119 METRO GRAPHIC NOVEL $20.00
I know very little about Magdy El Shafee's crime book, but it's being sold in part as a reflection of the younger culture in Egypt that led to the recent political changes there. I think of all the items out this week, this one has the highest curiosity factor by a wide, wide margin.

imageMAR121015 ED THE HAPPY CLOWN HC (MR) $24.95
APR121106 GIRL FROM HOPPERS LOCAS TP VOL 02 (NEW PTG) (O/A) $14.95
APR121105 MAGGIE THE MECHANIC LOCAS TP VOL 01 (NEW PTG) (O/A) $14.95
It's probably not smart to admit this, but Chester Brown's early Yummy Fur material is one of those comics I'll buy every time they come out with a new version. This seems like basically a collection of the serial publication, complete with those patented Chester Brown notes. Lovely, weird, hypnotic comics. I will also buy everything Jaime Hernandez does just short of new printings. I'd sure check my damn bookshelves to make sure I had one, though. This early material reads quite well in those paperbacks, I think.

FEB128076 BPRD TP VOL 03 PLAGUE OF FROGS (NEW PTG) $17.99
I'd be disappointed if I did one of these lists and there wasn't something from the Mike Mignola universe on here; this is a reprint of one of the early, prime-time efforts, so if you don't have it this would be one to have.

MAR120399 COMPLETE LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE HC VOL 08 $49.99
My love for Little Orphan Annie in its heyday knows no bounds; reading these comics about 15 years ago was one of the great, happy surprises of my adult reading life. I actually started to read them because my mother was so fond of Annie, but it's difficult not to get caught up in the appealing soap opera elements. These also collect really, really well.

APR120385 POPEYE #2 (OF 4) $3.99
I don't know that I was completely sold on the necessity of reading more Segar-style Popeye comics, but if they have to exist you really want them to look and feel like this. Now includes major-league Segar fan Tom Neely in the contributor column.

JAN120594 MORNING GLORIES #19 (MR) $2.99
JAN120595 MUDMAN #4 $3.50
MAR120502 SECRET #2 $3.50
APR120561 THIEF OF THIEVES #5 $2.99
APR120646 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #518 $3.99
APR120626 WINTER SOLDIER #6 $2.99
Here's the action-adventure, serial comic group that intrigues me enough to check up on them -- if I were in a comic shop this week, that is. I like that the Ed Brubaker-written Winter Soldier comic is at the $3 rather than the $4 price, as I suspect that that one may be a lot of fun. I'm sort of not enthused about the first four comics listed here, not personally, but they're all pedigreed efforts in that they're from intriguing, bank-on-them level talent. I also admit being far behind on the Iron Man comics and I think I tend to like those ahead of any passion shown them by smart superhero fans.

JAN121107 ANGELMAN HC FALLEN ANGEL $18.99
I did not expect to see a nice-looking Fantagraphics hardcover featuring Nicolas Mahler's work, so this was a pleasant surprise.

MAR121098 PARIS GN $23.99
This is... what is this? This is a Knockabout book of all things, with stylish art by Maarten Vande Wiele. Pretty good week for snappy-looking work from relative unknowns. I'd certainly give it a look.

JAN121112 SQUA TRONT #13 $9.99
I've read this and it was as surprise for me. I generally adore Squa Tront, and magazines that use a specific focus to build a perspective on comics more generally. I thought this a strong issue just for the presentation of Jack Davis war-era cartooning. This is the kind of thing I want to do with my own relationship to comics when I grow up.

APR120869 BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #0 (MR) $1.49
Rich Johnston has beat me to print, though, with a magazine iteration of his super-popular web site. God bless him.

FEB121069 KOMA GN (MR) $29.95
When I wrote this was a pretty good week for snappy-looking work from relative unknowns, I meant this book even though it features Frederik Peeters and Pierre Wazem, two comics-makers who have received enough attention over here you could argue they should be over by now if it was going to happen for them in easy fashion. Nothing in comics is easy, though. This looks pretty great, and both Peeters and Wazem are talented to the point they should see multiple chances at a North American audience.

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The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

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Go, Look: Eighth Grade

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Not Comics: The Most Depressing Article On Newspapers Yet

Via Gil Roth comes this piece from Jack Shafer that casts the shrinking newspaper industry -- shrinking has two meanings there -- in terms of newspapers slowly liquidating themselves starting first with their build-up of goodwill. I have to admit, I share this piece's pessimism in light of 1) how many papers have recently moved away from serving their audience seven days a week, which to me is a parent flicking the lights in the basement off and hoping that all the teens will clear out in the next 20 minutes without more direct intervention; 2) how no paper has really come up with a way to provide superior service on-line in a way that would rally other newspapers to their model; 3) how many papers still feel brutally overstaffed to me given the technological advantages such folks enjoy now -- the difference between how established papers are staffed and how you'd staff a start-up with the same coverage goals is despairing; 4) what this all portends in terms of writing on the wall, and how close we are right now to what seems to me a real breaking point of multiple major communities without a daily newspaper and how this won't feel disastrous. It's a major U.S. cultural story, I think, and one that says a lot about the state of the country right now.

This of course has all sort of implications for the newspaper strip side of the comics business, and maybe even a thing or two to say about the future of print comics more generally.
 
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Go, Look: 1972 Marvel Splash Pages

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Collective Memory: Jim Unger, 1937-2012

imageCommentary and reaction around the Internet to the passing of the newspaper panel cartoonist Jim Unger (1937-2012).

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Institutional
* Lambiek Entry
* Wikipedia Entry

Past Interviews, Profiles And Articles Of Interest

Audio

Blog Entries
* Bado's Blog
* Comic Riffs
* Daily Cartoonist
* ECW Press
* Robot 6
* Sunday Comics Debt

Facebook
* Herman Comics Facebook Page

Message Boards
* Absolute Best Cat
* Pet Of The Day
* Trek BBS

Miscellaneous
* Herman At GoComics.com
* PRWeb

News Stories and Columns
* Calgary Herald
* CBC News
* CTV News

* Edmonton Journal

* Global News

* LA Times

* Mississauga.com

* Ottawa Citizen
* Ottawa Sun

* Sequential

* Times Colonist
* Toronto Star

* Vancouver Sun
* Vernon Morning Star

Photos
* Vancouver Sun

Twitter
* Search On Jim Unger

Video

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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Go, Read: Jason Little Blogs From A Festival In Amiens

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I dreamt I missed this Bob Mankoff post on cartoons and dreaming and when I woke up my pillow was immaculately fact-checked.

image* Michel Fiffe talks to Tony Salmons: 1, 2, 3, bonus material. I thought that one was particularly interesting, and suggest if you don't have the time to spend with it right this second maybe bookmark the links for later consumption.

* Zack Soto comments on webcomics formatting issues.

* Graeme McMillan writes about objections to a recent Spider-Man storyline that finds the hero condoning torture. That sounds like really bad art to me, but it's hard for me to be all that upset about some character to whose new adventures I enjoy absolutely no relationship, nor is there a web-sized hole in my life were such a relationship could go. It's sort of like hearing the Fonz got arrested for drunk driving. At the same time, I know the character remains meaningful to a lot of fans, and that the new issues are part of where they find this meaning. One of the reasons it seems to me you get stuff like this is that no matter how great a character is that character probably can't sustain 75,000 different stories told about them without some goofy ones sifting their way to exposure in the pan. I suppose there's also an element of "get the people talking."

* Heather Logue talks to Jeffrey Brown. Graeme McMillan talks to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Someone at Interactive Design Institutes talks to Rian Hughes.

* not comics: Bryn Havord profiles Michael Johnson. Also, this, which is really pretty. Also: Colleen Doran tells a story about bats.

image* Caitlin McGurk continues her strong Billy Ireland posting with this piece on E.G. Lutz.

* now that's commitment.

* not comics: Ruben Bolling reviews Groundhog Day.

* here's word of one of the CBLDF's major fundraisers.

* Bruce Canwell on writing.

* Gary Tyrrell notes a pair of anniversaries.

* Philip Shropshire on Supreme #63. Grant Goggans on the wonderfully-named Ampney Crucis Investigates... Vile Bodies. Rob Clough on Picket Line.

* here I am on Inkstuds, pretending I read the comics being discussed.

* finally, here's a preview of that Man-Thing issue written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Kevin Nowlan. I couldn't remember who created Man-Thing, so I went and looked: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow are credited in a pair of places and Stan Lee shares that credit in the wikipedia article.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Watchmen

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It's hard to remember a time when Watchmen wasn't some emblematic work but instead was one of several comics on the stands. Its deification came quickly and thoroughly, and there was a lot of hype and anticipation for the project from day one. I have to admit: I wasn't the biggest fan of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons superhero story, especially right away: I liked it, but there were comics I liked much, much more. (It grew in my own estimation with the Rorschach issue, and an early '90s re-reading placed it where it is now in my overall estimation of the medium.) I do remember being thoroughly impressed with Watchmen pretty early on as a quality effort and kind of generally liking that I was at a loss as to where it was going. I mentioned on this site a few weeks ago paying close attention to the detective characters that get into the Comedian's apartment because I thought the comic book would be about them. I can recall the modest thrill of realizing that they weren't all that important, that it was going to be this guy that just popped in the window. Things like that. I even kept waiting for the bad guy to make his presence known. I also remember being surprised by the quality of the back material, and the way that the covers went right into the story was probably the only formal trick I picked up on the first time around. It seemed like a lot of care and thought was put into it; it seemed substantial.

Watchmen had in common with a lot of the indy titles I was reading that they were easy investment items for my friends only partly into comics -- a group of guys into comics through reading them at my house. It was twelve issues, and that seemed more than enough. There was no rambling backstory to process, which was hugely appealing, and the various articles out there proclaiming the brilliance of Watchmen and similar comics with a strong creator imprint were handy in explaining to worried parents and baffled girlfriends the time spent reading these things. I didn't have a lot of comics with me in college because traveling with books was such in a pain the ass and there were no comics shops near where I was in Virginia. I would eventually build a little college comics collection: Matt Groening books and Read Yourself Raw and Love and Rockets issues and a few Eyebeam collections. That first year, I had some issues of Watchmen and a few other titles. I remember Watchmen having enough of a reputation, particularly after the Rolling Stone article, that friends with no interest in comics would frequently pick them up. It was usually not well-received, to be honest with you, although I didn't have any hang-ups in terms of still insisting It was good. I think I was right.
 
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June 5, 2012


Go, Look: A Bunch Of Angelo Torres

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Go, Read: Marc-Oliver Frisch On DC's Post-New 52 Numbers

One of the people that estimates and analyzes what numbers are available for mainstream comics, Marc-Oliver Frisch, has a longish piece up at his web site on the post-New 52 numbers at DC Comics several months in; DC Comics is the company on which Frisch focuses his writing regarding sales figures. His conclusion seems to be that despite the massive success initially claimed for the line-wide re-launching by DC -- and confirmed anecdotally by significant numbers of retailers and what numbers were available at the time -- those sales have settled since then and are closer to numbers of the recent although not immediately recent past. If the shape of the Direct Market and the mainstream comics companies is an interest of yours, I can't imagine not wanting to read that post. There are also some strong side-points, such as that as some of the lower-selling series are canceled and new series are introduced, this will likely goose the overall average on a regular basis.

DC doesn't release numbers and doesn't promote sales figures of any kind except when it's beneficial for them to do so. These estimates are therefore not 100 percent accurate. Another obvious thing to mention is that the New 52 line-wide relaunch came with a digital initiative whose numbers won't be included here; not only are they absent, but we also don't know how they relate to print sales. Something not yet known is how the 2011 initiative is going to have sustained effect on DC's lauded book-selling programs. Yet another thing I'd mention is that industry analysis of this kind can sometimes miss out on some elements of what constitutes a successful initiative because of the participatory nature of the Direct Market. Some shops likely freaking killed with the DC titles last Fall while others probably merely did okay, and there likely remain discrepancies between how individual stores are doing. There are also lines of thinking that 1) suggest a sustained success was never expected or reasonable and that the primary value in what DC did last Fall was to save an industry hurtling towards oblivion according to the most recent numbers and 2) however things turn out for DC's books individually the New 52 triggered an industry-wide stabilization in terms of the most recent numbers and thus should be seen as a success that way. And so on. I don't consider the expressions of Team Superhero logic that someone like Frisch is a person that hates the DC superhero characters and wants them to fail to be serious objections, but I bet you can find them out there, too.

I think this is valuable analysis to consider. I stand ready -- as I'm sure Milton Griepp and John Jackson Miller and any number of my peers that cover comics stand ready -- to look at DC's numbers if they'd make them available to us. Barring that, and given what seems like a generally dependable mirror reflection of the broad state of things through such reports, I think it's worth considering that the success seen in 2011 may not be sustaining itself to significant degree and that any kind of content-driven moves -- even one ably supported and generally well-received -- isn't going to reform a market all by itself when there are factors to consider ranging from infrastructure to coverage to the changing nature of entertainment consumption. Maybe those things need initiatives of their own.
 
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Not Comics: Big Big Story Book

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* above is what I assume to be the cover image from Lilli Carré's Fall release from Fantagraphics; Danny Ceballos sent that along after stumbling across it.

image* the only thing worse than discovering one Joe Sacco book that you didn't really know about is discovering a second, this one an effort with the writer Chris Hedges called Days Of Destructions Days Of Revolt. Lots of comics in there, though, not just illustration. Sheesh. So much for any notion that I'm on top of this stuff.

* Charles Forsman of Oily Comics wrote in with that company's new releases: The End of the Fucking World Part 8 (Charles Forsman); Lou #4 (Melissa Mendes) and Moose #8 (Max de Radigués).

* Marc Tyler Nobleman asked for this column's consideration of his forthcoming biographical work on the writer Bill Finger.

* Print Media Productions sent out a press release saying they'll push back their newsstand launch of Strip from June unti September. They're doing so for strategic purposes but also to iron out any kinks in the production process.

* we're going to see more projects like this Kindle edition of a translated comics work, Suicide Boy.

* finally, Sean T. Collins presents the cover to the forthcoming anthology Thickness #3.

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Go, Look: Rangers Comics #60

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it's amazing the kind of expressive art that can sometimes be found in older comics, made at a time when there was little to no perceived industry standard as to what might be published except for what existed in various specific-company editorial cultures
 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

The four men -- three Swedish national of Arab origin and a Tunisian -- convicted yesterday of plotting a Mumbai-style attack on Copenhagen, focusing on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, were each sentenced to 12 years in jail for plotting that terrorist act. One of the men had previously pled to a weapons-related charge; other weapons-related charges were dropped on a technicality. The men were arrested in late 2010 after a joint exercise featuring Danish and Swedish police. The trial has put the spotlight on the lingering hangover caused by the cartoons and on anti-terrorism laws and law enforcement efforts that have sprung up since that initial controversy, now approach seven years in the rear view window.
 
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And Now A Few Words From Mr. Civil Defense

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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Not Comics: Punk Show Flier Flickr Set

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Colleen Doran directs our attention to a NYT article about private charities that help out artists. I think that's where we're headed in comics, both becoming part of the wider artistic community in certain ways but also developing homegrown solutions. Of course this is dependent on some people with money showing up. I suspect there's money out there, but it's all being spent on weird stuff.

image* Robin McConnell talks to Maurice Vellekoop. MariNaomi talks to Alison Bechdel. Marc Mason talks to Tony Fleecs, Aaron Campbell and Richard Starkings. Tim O'Shea talks to Doug Dabbs. Brendan Burford talks to Mike Peters.

* I have no idea why this is sitting in my bookmarks, or, honestly, what it is. But there you go.

* I keep on meaning to link to this piece on impulse buying. This is a tough issue all-around for comics, as things like uneven ordering patterns and price conspire against taking a flier on certain material. Not to get all Abe Simpson about it, but certainly comics being so cheap that impulse buys were a common thing was a part of a lot of lifelong comics readers' initial experience with the medium. Couldn't even begin to suggest a solution, but realizing that this is more difficult now would have to be a good thing.

* Nicholas Rombes on Interiorae. Daniel Kalder on Drawings From The Gulag. Rob Clough on The Adventures Of Hergé. Bob Temuka on My Friend Dahmer. Don MacPherson on Superman Family Adventures #1. Sean Gaffney on GTO: 14 Days In Shonan Vol. 3. Johanna Draper Carlson on Please God, Find Me A Husband! Ben on Tale Of Sand. James Hunt on Incredible Hulk #8. Sean T. Collins on Nurse Nurse.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco walks around recent criticisms of mainstream comics with a link round-up, putting in several words of his own.

* not comics: I'm thinking part of investing like a superhero is taking every opportunity to deduct a $40 night out at the movies.

* speaking of things that left me sort of confused. I know that Slave Labor and Toonseum were at some point seeking some sort of public-approbation related acknowledgment or funding from non-profit sources. I never could figure out exactly what those things were, but both those entities do fine work and if you're a fan you might want to poke around in the individual links.

* John Jackson Miller continues to provide the valuable service of following his curiosity into little-explored areas of comics circulation and sales figures.

* one nice about TCJ's current state of affairs is that I find myself waiting for their coverage on certain things, like that big conference on comics that took place in Chicago.

* I want to pull this away from the other profiles so that maybe it won't get lost in the paragraph set-up: Kevin Plummer begins a look at Jimmy Frise.

* I'll pull a visual from one of these and link to all of them on Friday, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the Sara Varon diary at TCJ starting with day one.

* finally, here's a Dave Lapp comic for your enjoyment.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Thriller

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I was all over this series from the first issue. If you're not aware of it, Thriller was the Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden adventure genre effort that was sort of a high concept TV show/movie in comics form -- quirky oddballs with special abilities assembled to combat various menaces, with the exact reasons why they are assembled and by whom shrouded in just enough mystery to make for a through-line plot. There is a relative ton of material out there on the series, which indicates it's fondly remembered. I have to admit I like the idea of it more than I like revisiting the actual comics issues. It had its virtues. The characters were fun despite a Gary Sandy-style sort of dud as the lead, and writer Fleming was good at the kind of story-moment heavy narratives that drive a lot of today's comics. One of the more memorable comics scenes of the decade came in the first issue when a villain called "Scabbard" revealed that he got this name for having a marsupial-style pouch on his back in which he carried a sword. That's all kind of gross, and makes little to no sense as something one would develop or use, but it's little-kid cool and certainly something one remembers even years later. Von Eeden's art was stylish and arguably pushed at the limits at what a superhero comics fan at the time of this comic's appearance could take; or maybe it pushed past those limits, given the series' relatively quick cancellation. The cover above could have appeared 10 years later when more attention was given to that kind of art direction; it could appear now.

The critic R. Fiore has mentioned a few times that the one misapprehension people had about comics from about 1975 until 1985 or so is that the way to get to comics that could be read by adults was by reforming the existing superhero and action/adventure formulae so that they better represented an adult's interests. Thriller seems to be the perfect example of both the fun to be had and the severe limitations to be found in making comics according to that model. We were all-in, though; the number of my comics-reading friends that were on board with something a bit new from one of the big companies far outstripped those of us spending any serious time buying dramatically new comics without a DC or Marvel logo on them. Still, I think the immediate rejection that greeted the series when the creators left the title -- at least among the kids I knew -- suggested a slightly more sophisticated ethos, one that depended on a certain approach to characters instead of just those characters themselves. We were becoming little snobs. I've recently wondered why the money and energy spent on Before Watchmen squeezing an extra bit of life from a property already perfectly realized couldn't be spent on reviving a fun bunch of characters with a lot more story left to tell like the ones here.
 
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June 4, 2012


Go, Look: New Andrea Tsurumi Site

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Go, Read: Ruben Bolling On His Hive Mind Initiative

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One of the fascinating things about the employment of the Internet on behalf of comics is how unsettled everything remains. In an momentary Internet era where conventional wisdom would have you believe that free content employed in some oblique fashion is the only way to go, Ruben Bolling has launched a successful subscription-content plan -- albeit one related to the free content that is his strip. He's soliciting opinion on how to better leverage his position, so go forth and Internet expound, that's what I say. Plus you can take a small side trip and read his latest, funny cartoon.
 
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Go, Look: Meredith Leich

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

Dwarfing all other possible Danish Cartoon-related news is word that a Denmark court has convicted the four men currently on trial for a plot that involved terrorist activity visited upon Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that printed the original cartoons.

A Tunisian (Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri) and three Swedish citizens of Arab birth (Munir Awad, Omar Abdalla Aboelazm, Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti) were convicted of plotting a Mumbai-style gun attack in Copenhagen, focused on the newspaper. All four men had plead innocent on the terrorism charges although one had entered a guilty plea on illegal weapons possession. Another two charges of weapons possession were dismissed on a technicality. The four men were arrested at the end of 2010 after a joint Danish/Swedish operation -- the trial was thought to be a referendum on such police work and on the laws applied to what those men did.

They should be sentenced later today. Life in prison is possible; other offenses of a similar nature have received seven to 12 years. Between 14 and 16 years are being sought for those men.
 
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OTBP: Rattlesnake Dick

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* a fundraiser for the artist Oliver Nome can be found here.

* Scott O. Brown and Jamie Delano have assembled a team and are seeking funding on a graphic novel called Shadow Of Dixie.

* the Trickster salon at San Diego is about 3/7 of its way towards being funded. The premiums here are really interesting -- they're basically one-on-one work session with affiliated professionals.

* critic Rob Clough recommends the Digestate kickstarter campaign. Johanna Draper Carlson seconds.

* an e-mail tells me there's a fundraising campaign for this webcomic, but I wasn't given a link to the fundraiser itself.

* critic Nina Stone is seeking funding for a project related to her day job.

* finally, one of the things that crowdfunding does well is sift through the daily business of comics to present unknowns to the greater attention of the comic community, particularly those lesser-known cartoonists with obvious craft chops of some sort or another.
 
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Go, Look: Dinter [Illustration]

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Missed It: Frank Tashlin's How To Create Cartoons (PDF)

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Not Comics: Dylan Horrocks Reviews The Two Towers

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I've been trying to stay away from criticizing creators in my analysis of various creators rights issues out there right now. I think in many cases that creators can act honorably while corporations act in a less-than-honorable fashion. I think in many other cases creators do what they need to do to survive and that companies do what people direct them to do in order to profit, and I'm wary of making easy equivalencies between those two motives by placing them on the same continuum. I also think we tend to be vastly under-informed when it comes to why people make decisions as compared to what motivates corporations in terms of the meaningful factors involved -- like how much information a company might have or a creator might have when doing something. Anyway, answer number 3 in my Five For Friday yesterday could definitely be interpreted as a sideways shot at a few creators, and I regret that. It was meant as a shot at DC editorial as a honest broker for and caretaker of ideas, within the context of their dubious history with Alan Moore. Nothing more than that. I apologize.

image* Adrian, Dwight and Swain at Sidebar talk to Jaime Hernandez back in 2011.

* Chris Sims wins the comics Internet.

* not comics: you know that thing that happened to newspapers, where there was a long chipping-away at the way that model of presenting news and information worked, followed by a sudden and terrifying collapse of ad revenue? Okay, that might happen to TV now.

* Tucker Stone on a lot of different comic books. Frank Santoro on comics from new talent. Nicole Rudick on Are You My Mother? Rob Clough on a bunch of international small-press comics and Salvatore Vol. 2. Bob Temuka on My Friend Dahmer. Andrew Shuping on Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love. Greg McElhatton on Judge Bao & The Jade Phoenix. Don MacPherson on various Eisner nominees and The Ravagers #1. Brian Hibbs on a bunch of comics. Sean Kleefeld on Crogan's Loyalty. J. Caleb Mozzocco on the improbably-named Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs. New Ultimates: Death Of Spider-Man. Paul O'Brien on various X-Men-related titles.

image* hey, new Destructor.

* not comics: in praise of R. Stevens, businessman.

* as many wisecracks as I make about editorial cartoonists occasionally seeming to fall over themselves to get at an unserious issue with some easy shots it might provide, it would be unsporting of me not to link to Daryl Cagle rounding up some cartoons on a much tougher issue.

* Jen Vaughn is traveling across the country playing Jenny Totebagseed.

* I guessed "me," and was very sad to be wrong.

* one of the problems with using characters for so many years in so many stories -- soap opera, serial comic books -- is that they occasionally have life histories that encompass all sort of weird narrative dead-ends and false starts. Here's one.

* finally, Noah Berlatsky on Katana.
 
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Please Remember To Vote In The Eisner Awards

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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Mechanics

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My first regular comics shop had a real problem with racking anything other than standard comic-book sized publications, so things like Elfquest, the first volume of Nexus and the Marvel "graphic novel" line were generally subscription-only items (a single sheet of paper that wasn't even all the way filled, listing various titles). I wasn't much of a subscriber, then or now. So for years Love & Rockets was something with which I was only familiar as an intermittent purchase when I hit a big-city comics shop; it wouldn't become a regular buy until a bit closer to the end of the decade (and when I started shopping in a different funnybook store).

Mechanics was a comic book-sized reprinting of the Jaime Hernandez story of the same name, in color (I think there were a few black and white back-ups). The first issue became that week's impulse buy, back when the price of comics allowed for regular impulse buys even if your comics buying was being sponsored by the non-social activities portion of a teenager's allowance. The second and third issues were snatched up the moment they came out and were even anticipated. While the comic wasn't necessarily ideally suited to my tastes, the story was fun and the art was gorgeous and having a bunch of it in a form with which I was familiar cemented my desire to start picking up the main title when that was possible (I think I had four issues at the time I started picking it up more thoroughly). I include Mechanics in this series of posts as opposed to the nearly no-kidding-life-changing L&R because I think it's remarkable that 25 years ago the serial comic-book format was so strong that was where you took comics for a second chance.
 
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June 3, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Zack Soto

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*****

imageZack Soto has quietly developed from a well-connected, well-liked, young cartoonist and anthology editor into an even greater-multiple-hat-wearing, still well-connected, still well-liked, slightly older, regional cartooning fixture. He is the driving force behind the Study Group comics site, its companion blog and the print magazine. He also works in not one but two of the Portland area's fine retail outlets: Floating World Comics and Cosmic Monkey Comics. Soto's Secret Voice serial is part of the first of those efforts, and is one of the more intriguing reworks of adventure comics -- a genre crucial to defining the contributions of cartoonists Soto's age and younger.

Because I was so taken with the initial print iteration of Secret Voice, Soto was one of the featured interviews during this site's first year. I was happy to talk with the Soto again, if only to catch up and to get some sense of what connects the wide variety of comics projects on which he is busy. I'm grateful for his time. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: One of the things you talked about in 2005 was how when you were younger you put aside comics making for time. I know that you're married now... does a cartoonist's personal life ever really stop having an impact on how they create, do you think? Are you in a place now where you can be productive?

SOTO: It never stops. I'm in a pretty great place, emotionally. Happily married, a very small bit of success in my professional life, etc., etc. But I'm pretty much never making the amount of work I want to be, for various reasons. Money is awful. I get easily distracted. Day jobs can be draining. The internet is a creativity supervillain. I'm also prone to pretty crippling anxiety attacks and deal with constantly fluctuating levels of depression, same as most artists I know. And being happy is its own distraction from being productive, sometimes. But I've been trying to fight that stuff and make more work.

Part of the impetus for the Study Group Comics web site is to make sure that I have a base level of productivity that I can't get around: every week, I need to post at least one page of comics. That's a modest fucking goal, and if I can't make that work, then I need to make some serious changes in my life. Another thing that should help is that Francois Vigneault and I just got a studio together in the new IPRC building, and I can tell already that that's going to be a good place for us to both be productive. Having a space to go away from my house that is dedicated to comics production is going to be a game-changer.

imageSPURGEON: We have this flurry of projects from you... but I wanted to ask about 2010's StudyGroup12 #4 first. The description of that book on your site seems to indicate it came out of your involvement with something called Pony Club Gallery. I also wondered if it wasn't based in a lot of the interactions you were having on your invite-only message board, and just generally what distinguished that one from the previous issues.

SOTO: Both of those things were factors, sure. I was part of the Pony Club for three years, from 2007 to 2010. It's a collective of artists started by cartoonists David Youngblood and Theo Ellsworth that fluctuates as membership shifts, and they're still going strong. It was a pretty great force in my life, and I had a lot of fun curating art shows and settling in to the Portland art scene as a gallerist there. I also got to hang out with and collaborate with some really inspiring people, like former members Dylan Williams, Chris Cilla, Dave Nuss, and others, as well as Jason Fischer and Jennifer Parks who are still with the gallery.

About six months or so after I left the gallery, I realized I sort of missed putting those shows together and curating work like that. It took a while, but I realized that I used to scratch that itch by making anthologies! I hadn't done a Studygroup12 since 2005's #3, so I had really sort of forgotten about that option. Once I was on that path, it morphed from being another xeroxed, handmade thing into a slightly more professional, partially handmade offset printed thing. My friend Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics co-published it with me, and my friend Matt Davison of Dueltone Printing helped me print the covers in a massive back-breaking silkscreen orgy. Milo George helped out with some InDesign assist and kibbitzing. I asked a lot of Portland people to be in it as well as some of my friends from around the world, many of whom I knew in part because of the message board. The secret to editing anthologies is to have a lot of talented friends.

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SPURGEON: I was surprised by what a professional-seeming effort StudyGroup Magazine #1 was. I know that sounds like I'm damning with faint praise! What struck me is that we're in an era removed from magazines a bit, and yet it seems like you nailed what would have been an attractive effort very much at home in a more magazine-centric era. Are you a fan of comics magazines, or that kind of organizing effort to do something with and about comics at the same time? Why that kind of magazine instead of, say, another issue of the comics anthology you do?

SOTO: Well thanks. Yeah I'm actually a big fan of comics magazines. From a very young age I was super interested in how comics were made and what the people who made them were like. I devoured every type of trade magazine I could find: Comics Interview, Amazing Heroes, Comics Scene, Marvel Age, Comics Comics, Nemo, Crash, Comic Art, whatever. When I was 14 I came across The Comics Journal #134 and it blew my mind, no foolin'. It had it all! [Gary] Groth tearing apart Barry Blair's Ripper, Newswatch, a bunch of in depth reviews, and of course a massive interview with Jack Kirby where he talked so much shit about Stan Lee and Marvel that I had never even considered before. I was hooked from then on, and have collected TCJ since then, semi-religiously, except for the last few years of its life. I still check out the back issue bins of any new shop I stop into for old TCJs I might be missing or weird old fanzines from the periphery of the comics press.

So when I was thinking about trade mags a few years ago, and TCJ was done publishing on any regular basis, Comic Art had disappeared, etc. It just seemed that the landscape of print comics journalism was pretty much dried up, and anthologies were sort of dried up too. I also couldn't think of anything that had a mix of comic art and comics journalism in the way that I wanted to mix them. Of course, between initiating the project and actually publishing the first issue, there's been a ton of awesome new anthologies and even a couple hybrids like Black Eye popped up. That's ok, though, since we all seem to have our own areas of interest that we cover.

SPURGEON: What was it like working with Milo George on that issue? He's an interesting guy: he had a pretty distinctive run on The Comics Journal and before that had a proto-Abhay Khosla acerbic Internet presence. Did you learn about anything about magazine production for Milo's contributions?

SOTO: Milo did a lot of the heavy lifting on the magazine. He did 99% of the inDesign stuff and obviously part of the benefit of having an ex-Journal editor is being able to learn from his experience running a magazine, doing interviews, etc. That Craig Thompson interview often gets mistaken for a Craig article, people think he wrote it himself but it's a masterfully edited, hours-long conversation between Craig and Milo that Milo boiled down to 20 pages or less. That it reads so fluidly speaks to Milo's experience. Basically, Milo is a great collaborator even if (and maybe because) we're very different people - he's a handy sounding board and we are both able to point out each other's lapses in logic etc without much ego, so that's cool.

imageSPURGEON: How long had you been thinking about doing a major comics-driven web site like the new Study Group Comic Books? How did that develop as a project?

SOTO: That's actually been a long road. About 10 years ago, I was sort of helping Tom Hart with the brainstorming part of setting up his old Serializer site, which was part of this webcomics ring called Modern Tales. I think I was sort of supposed to be his assistant? I didn't do much aside from a couple of site graphics, though. That was interesting to be on the periphery of something like the early days of MT, but it seems like a million years ago, which it sort of is in Internet time. For a long while, I really sort of ignored webcomics, other than reading the occasional Achewood or what have you. It wasn't until the one-two punch of Dash Shaw's Body World webcomic and Jordan Crane's What Things Do site that I sort of "got it," or more precisely, that the content of webcomics sort of hit my particular interest zone. Both of those efforts really seemed to get at what the medium could be in a way that spoke to me.

SPURGEON: Do you feel like you're meeting a specific publishing need that wasn't being met by other sites or comics publishing opportunities? What particulars do you think the site adds to what's available out there?

SOTO: I think so. I mean, the closest thing to SG is obviously What Things Do, but I'd say the differences are pretty obvious. There's a tonal difference of what the creators do, and the curatorial focus is different. There's been a couple times where I'd asked someone to do something for SG or if I could reprint a particular work and the creator said, "Oh, I just told Jordan he could have that," but I think generally our sites are like a venn diagram for comics -- mostly separate styles of stuff but with plenty of overlap. One of the cool things about both our sites is that WTD is very "LA" and SG is more or less a "Pacific Northwest" thing, because we both started out asking the people around us. Most of the other webcomics sites I've seen feel very different in scope or focus.

SPURGEON: What are the parameters of what you're willing to publish there? For instance, are you set with the number of cartoonists you'll be interested in using, or do you want submissions? Do you consider all of these people your friends or is there something else that unites them? How ambitious and how complete are your plans for the site?

SOTO: My initial concept was that the site would focus on "genre based" work by talented cartoonists of all kinds, but as things move on, the genre thing is less important to me than just publishing good stuff by people who make work I love. I am looking for new work by new people but I'm not really "looking for submissions" either, you know? My method has been more about asking people who's work I like if they'd be into doing stuff online. I tend to know most of them at least a bit, and it's been great to have a lot of pals respond positively to the idea. It seems like a lot of people have been thinking about how webcomics can work for them, and happily I asked them at a time when they were considering it in some way or another anyhow. I've actually just started introducing the next "wave" of cartoonists who are doing serialized strips this week. There's a few more coming up in the next month, but I am reluctant to grow the site too quickly. I'm trying to keep it manageable I guess. It's only been live since January!

imageSPURGEON: How are your own comics different now than that Secret Voice issue in 2005? Do you think of yourself as a reflective, self-aware cartoonist that way that you notice how your work changes and develops? How self-critical are you?

I
SOTO: have changed a lot as an artist since then, which sometimes makes working on this old comic again a strange experience. One of the bigger differences drawing-wise is that I have made a conscious effort to draw the way I actually want to more instead of trying to be more representation/traditional just because I'm working on what's basically an action comic. I naturally draw in a pretty cartoony manner, and allowing myself to do so, or to approach my drawings in a looser manner despite the bloody action I am drawing... that's been liberating. Of course, I say all this and most people probably won't even notice the difference, but it's apparent to me.

As far as writing goes, I'm just a much better writer than I was six years ago. I had a bunch of hazy ideas for the main story in Secret Voice back then, and I'm almost glad I dropped out of comics for a while because during that time I ended up doing a massive re-write on the thing and figured out a lot about the plot and shifted my goals for the story around completely. The Secret Voice might still end up being a failure now, but it almost definitely would have been a complete mess if I'd kept at it without a solid game plan back then.

SPURGEON: You said back in 2005 that the format you choose really determines a lot of what you do with the comic. How has that come to play with these new on-line comics you're doing? For instance, I noted some lengthy panels/moments in the work you've posted that seems to take care of the notion of scrolling down a page. How comfortable has it been so far for you, working for the screen?

SOTO: The funny thing is that up until the last month or so, none of the comics I've been posting were intended to be seen online. They were all drawn for the printed page, and I've been formatting them to scroll down the page by breaking the panels apart and stacking them. The last several updates were all composed and drawn more recently, but other than making more of an effort to keep my panel tiers more or less consistently sized so that they break apart more conveniently, I haven't drawn anything I think of as especially suited to the web. Yet.

SPURGEON: Is the print anthology something you think you'll continue, or does the new site replace it? Are they similar experiences for you? How are they different?

SOTO: Definitely. Milo and I are working on #2 right now, actually. Our goal is to get two issues a year out eventually, but that's obviously not going to happen in 2012. I feel like the site is its own thing. The site and the magazine have their own weird differences as far as the type of work I'm looking to publish. I'm not sure if I can even verbalize it. The easiest distinction is that the site is doing a lot of serialized work and the magazine isn't suited for that, with the limited page count and relatively infrequent schedule. MOME could do that but we can't. We have a lot of plans for the magazine, like playing with themed issues and inserts and stuff, that work better with the printed issue-based delivery system.

SPURGEON: Where do you see the blog fitting in in terms of the constellation of work that's available to comics fans out there, or do you even think of those terms. Because that work has been of a high quality, and I'm not certain that a lot of people are paying close attention to it.

SOTO: Thanks, man... The blog has been fun to do but unfortunately has taken a bit of a backseat to getting the comics out there on a regular basis. Milo is the main contributor lately, he's doing these "Old Comics Weds" posts that I always mean to contribute to but I only occasionally make the deadline. I have a backlog of things that I want to write about for "OCW," and now that my day-job schedule has changed I'm looking forward to being able to write on tuesdays again.

Part of the reason why we're doing those posts is that when we were first talking about the blog and content, we very quickly decided that we didn't want to have another blog that talks about the current week of modern comics, because it would be tiring, and it'd probably just end up being similar in tone to Tucker Stone's "Comics of the Weak." He's already writing that and doing it well. So while we don't shy away from writing about things critically, a lot of that writing ends up being appreciations of work instead of tearing it down or even anything you might call a "close reading." I am going to start up my interview series with talented cartoonists and illustrators again, that was very rewarding and people seemed to like them, but I will probably take up a less grueling bi-weekly schedule when I do.

SPURGEON: In general, do you think of your view of comics as something you have to offer the wider world of comics -- do you take any pride or personal pleasure in getting your distinct voice out there, as a cartoonist and as an editor?

SOTO: I guess I do. I feel like I'm pretty decent at the curating aspect of it all. I definitely have a lot of strong opinions about what makes "good comics" and wish more people had a bit broader taste in media. I like putting together what I think of as a killer team of awesome creators, who a lot of people might not have heard of, and then see people freaking out about how rad these people are. It's gratifying to help spread the word about my talented friends. The response has been super encouraging, I know I felt like I was just toiling away in obscurity for the last few years, but I went to ECCC and even some of the mainstream dudes I chatted with knew the site. Having Warren Ellis championing someone like Ian MacEwan or Farel Dalrymple and their SG work doesn't hurt either.

SPURGEON: Come to think of it, Zack, are there plans for what is to be done with this material over the long-term? Will the cartoonists be seeking out publishing deals of their own project to project, for example?

SOTO: I wish I could afford to publish everything on the site that isn't already a reprint, but I'm basically broke and the publishing/money thing is a slog right now. So I have some modest plans for publishing beyond the magazine, like a mini-comics version of Farel's It Will All Hurt in the near future. I think Aidan has a publisher for Blonde Woman. Malachi Ward just started a new series with Revival House. Whenever Kaz finishes Mourning Star 3 I'm going to publish that, and I have a pretty ambitious idea for a multi-creator project that I might go the crowd-funding pre-order route of kickstarting for, but I'm not sure.

SPURGEON: Barring the work of the cartoonists on your site, what's the last work you read from a cartoonist that really made an impact on you?

SOTO: Ryan Cecil Smith's comics are great. That guy is crazy-talented, and the level of craft in his drawings and storytelling is phenomenal. I got that same feeling of excitement that I got the first time I read Dungeon when I read his SF & SFSF comics. Michel Fiffe just put out this Suicide Squad tribute comic that actually really impressed me. That guy went from being talented to being like "watch out for this motherfucker." His drawing chops are nuts and his use of color is really interesting. Ted May just put out a new issue of Injury and it might be the best thing he's done. The observational stuff with the details of what it's like to exist in the quiet early morning moments, and meatheads just being meatheads is killer.

*****

* Zack Soto
* Study Group Comic Books
* The Study Group Blog
* The Secret Voice

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* cover image to second bunch of Secret Voice pages
* photo of Soto from BCGF 2011 by Tom Spurgeon
* the cover to the last StudyGroup 12 anthology
* the cover for the latest StudyGroup 12 magazine
* Levon Jihanian's Danger Country
* from Soto's own Secret Voice
* illustration for Portland Mercury by Soto

*****

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*****
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Someone Recently Pointed Out All Of Elfquest Is On-Line

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Go, Look: Wait A Minute, Doc...

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OTBP: Cycles

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Not Comics: The Suits Of James Bond

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Go, Look: Brew For Breakfast

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If I Were Near Amiens, I'd Go To This

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FFF Results Post #296 -- After Before Watchmen

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Describe Four Things DC Comics Can Do To Further Exploit The Watchmen Property Or To Continue In The Vein Of Exploiting The Watchmen Property." Then they were asked to "Name Something You Like About Spain Rodriguez." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. JLAvWM
2. Promote Rorshach pattern-masks to anti-Occupy Movement conservatives as an alternative to the Guy Fawkes mask.
3. Publish an Alex Ross-illustrated loose adaptation prestige series of Alan Moore's Twilight Of The Superheroes proposal. (Wait, shit...)
4. Before The Vendetta.
5. I thought Spain's adaptation of Nightmare Alley was vastly under-appreciated.

*****

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Dave Knott

* The DC universe's Charlton heroes meet their Watchmen counterparts of Earth-W
* Saturday Morning Watchmen
* An Alan Moore biography, labelled "official" but not authorized by Moore himself
* The complete Alan Moore Swamp Thing, redrawn by current DC house artists from the original scripts
* Spain was more explicitly political than most of his underground comix peers and remains steadfast in his ideals

*****

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Jake Kujava

1. Alan Moore vs Frank Miller, Occupy Wall Street the Graphic Novel.
2. sugar and spike vs watchmen
3. military dog tags shaped as the smiling face button
4. Watchmen squid, the series
5. Never know that Spain was a big Roy Crane fan, cool.

*****

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Stefan Dinter

1. Elseworlds Watchmen. Like, in Russia. Or in 1870. Let them fight Jack the Ripper. People love that stuff.
2. Tales of the Black Freighter needs its own title. Take a hint from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and make those guys on the Black Freighter fun!
3. Archie, the mechanical Owl. For kids, you know? Just like Andy Runton's Owly, but… mechanical.
4. Four words: Silk Spectre Real Doll. Come ooonnn!
5. Apart from all the other stuff Spain does great (and that's a lot), he is also a master at designing and placing soundwords.

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Before, Before Watchmen with the Charlton Characters. Peacemaker, Captain Atom, Silver Age Blue Beetle, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, The Question and Nightshade.
2. Before, Before, Before, Watchmen with the characters that inspired the Charlton characters. Atoman, Golden Age Blue Beetle, Golden Age Daredevil, The Blank, and Phantom Lady.
3. After Watchmen. Rorschach's diary gets published. It becomes a conspiracy on the level of 9/11 Truther's. But it doesn't change anything.
4. After, After Watchmen. We watch Dr. Manhattan go create life on another planet.
5. What Is a Criminal? from The Apex Treasury of Underground Comics

*****

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Art Baxter

1) As a staged press event that recreates the first few pages of Watchmen to promote the new series, Dan Didio playfully pushes a life size plush Alan Moore doll (wearing a bathrobe) out the window of the Manhattan DC offices. The Moore doll contains a bladder of pig blood and smiley buttons that explodes "real good" when the doll kisses concrete. Needless to say, pig blood and smiley buttons go everywhere on impact. Later, as Jim Lee is hosing off the blood soaked sidewalk, Grant Morrison, wearing a red Harpo Marx wig and holding a sign that says "What, Me Worry?," walks by. He picks up one of the blood splattered smily buttons and says "Hurm," giving the signal to the hundreds of patiently waiting rabid comics fans eager to scramble on hands and knees for the valuable collector's items. Later, all three DC staffers appear (with the remains of the plush doll) on the "Live! with Kelly" show.
2) DC plans a line wide reboot called "Before Alan Moore," intended to completely retcon everything that ever happened in every Alan Moore written DC comic. (Wait, shit...)
3) A new all-ages funny animal comic featuring Glycon the Roman, snake god hand puppet, the Giant Space Squid and throw in the Weeping Gorilla for good measure. Why? "Because we CAN!" boldly states the DC Blog hype.
4) A new super team comic featuring the public domain characters, Allan Quatermain, Wilhemina Harker, Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man. "This time it's being done RIGHT!" proudly proclaims the DC blog hype.
5) Damn! That Spain Rodriguez, has a great head of hair. Doesn't he? (His beard ain't too shabby, neither.)

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1) Absolute Before Watchmen
2) Create a Bruce Timm designed "Let's Watch the Watchmen!" segment of the DC Nation hour on Cartoon Network
3) Watchmen Returns maxi-series, including the return of each hero, spotlighted in each issue, culminating in the return of Rorschach and the Comedian, as they fight a real alien threat! Retailers who meet certain issue order minimums will receive a bag of plastic Watchmen-themed knicknacks to give to customers as they see fit.
4) Release a 50th limited edition anniversary printing of Watchmen, with the ashes of Alan Moore as part of the ink "as a demonstration of DC's respect & gratitude"
5) More than any other Underground cartoonist, Spain's art defines, for me, the the look and meaning of that generation of cartoonist's.

*****

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Michael May

1. Sandman: The Next Generation.
2. Moorenauts, a team book featuring Ozymandius, V, and Tom Strong.
3. Bigby Wolf joins Justice League Dark.
4. Seagull and Shoester become major villains in Action Comics.
5. Spain contributed to three Graphics Classics volumes (Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, and Bram Stoker) and illustrated Sherlock Holmes' Strangest Cases.

*****

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Jim Wheelock

1. Tomahawk and Dan battle a facsimile 18th Century League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
2. Gay Rorshach marries Alan Scott Green Lantern
3. Watchmen logo Underoos
4. A line of Dr. Manhattan blue ...er... battery-operated shoulder massagers
5. The smart way Spain conveys working class culture from the inside. (I'm currently reading the excellent ("Cruisin' With the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Toote")

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Before Watchmen crossover with Marvel... er... Miracleman
2. Before, Before Watchmen, set in Victorian England as they track down Jack the Ripper
3. Permanently change the DC logo to the blood-stained Smiley Face
4. DC can buy the rights to Pirates! Band of Misfits and re-dub the dialog using the text from Tales of the Black Freighter
5. His first name is Spain

*****

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Stergios Botzakis, Ph.D

1. Making so many gay characters on Earth 2 (the one that does not count) that Archie and Marvel will be jealous.
2. Sell Dr. Manhattan Body Paint.
3. Do an Earth-Charlton Vs. Watchmen series.
4. Bringing Rorschach into the Bat-Family proper. TEH Awesome!
5. I loved the mix of fatalism/voyeurism/awe in Spain’s Fred Toote stories.

*****

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Justin J. Major

1. Watchbabies
2. Comedian and Sally Jupiter Fine Art Statue
3. Seymour outed as homosexual
4. Watchmen bathroom tissue.
5. He was in a biker gang called the Road Vultures and published a mag titled Zodiac Mindwarp.

*****

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Sam Henderson

1. Sally Jupiter Golden Rape Whistle. Slogan: "You Deserve It"
2. Big Figure Toilet Cleaner. Slogan: "Plunge Into Freshness"
3. Seymour gets his own New 52 but has to share it with Cloak & Dagger or something, or Seymour is retconned into Cloak from Cloak & Dagger, I really liked Cloak & Dagger, sorry.
4. Force Darwyn Cooke to draw...I can't make a joke out of this, sort of depressed.
5. Spain Rodriguez introduced Vaughn Bode to weed. Weedless Vaughn Bode = no Brandon Graham = no King City = no Prophet = tragic.

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Another Crisis series, with Rorschach and Ozymandias joining the Authority, and of course the requisite Batman appearance. Drawn by one of the Kuberts, or Jim Lee.
2. Tiny Watchmen
3. Comedian and Silk Spectre-themed sex toys
4. Just Imagine Watchmen by Stan Lee
5. Love the way he spots blacks.

*****

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Paul Karasik

1. "After 'Before The Watchmen': The Watchmen : Year One"
2. Treasury Edition: "Mohammed Ali Vs. The Watchmen toaster"
3. "Who's Faster: The Flash or The Watchmen?" Pencils by Carmine Infantino and inks by my 14 year old nephew. Kirby says, "Don't ask! Just buy it!" (NOTE: Variant cover with Go-Go Checks.)
4. "The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and The Watchmen" Reboot starting with issue #27.
5. Name one other cartoonist whose first name is an entire country (other than Alan Moore, whose real name, as everyone knows, is "Botswana Moore"), and whose last name, Rodriguez, roughly translates into English as: "Before the Watchmen".

*****

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Marc-Oliver Frisch

1. This Happened to the Man of Tomorrow:
2. The Joke Before the One What Killed Him
3. Swamp Thing #1
4. Blackest Night
5. He looks like someone you'd like to have your back in a fight, which can't be said for a lot of comics creators who are not Jack Kirby.

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. The Watchmen movie on a special edition DVD with a commentary track using assorted, semi-relevant quotes about the book from Alan Moore, read by someone imitating Moore's voice
2. Who Watches the Watchmen Watches from Swatch
3. a Wacthmen-ville game on Facebook
4. A new villain introduced into DC's main comic book line called The Watchman. He looks like Moore and can slide between realities. Other than that, though, he mostly just shows up to get pointlessly beaten up by the JLA. No backstory is ever revealed; he's just trotted out once a year, says "My book out of print yet?" and gets summarily pummeled by whatever heroes are available, who then mock him as a crazy old man before taking away his possessions. It's actually the exact same story every year, so DC only has one set of pencils and just has the inkers tweak the costumes a bit each year so it appears up to date with current continuity. It's cost effective and always a hit with the fanboy crowd.
5. Spain was the founder of the United Cartoon Workers of America.

*****

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Shannon Smith

1) Comic team up maxi-series where The Charlton characters have to solve the mystery of who murdered Steve Ditko, Joe Gill, Pat Boyette, Charles Wojtkoski, Wil Eisner and Pete Morisi.* (Spoiler: It was The Watchmen.)
2) Diane Nelson dresses up like Silk Spectre and brutally beats J.K. Rowling until she signs over the Harry Potter rights to Time Warner.
3) Just Imagine: Stan Lee Creates The Watchmen Universe.
4) Commemorative limited edition Glycon statues painted up like Rorschach and Doctor Manhattan.
5) Never on the best days of our lives are any of us going to have hair as cool as Spain's on the worst day of his life.

*Gill, Boyette, Wojtkoski, Eisner and Morisi are sadly no longer with us but that's no reason not to have comic book characters murder them for $3.99 a month right?

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. Reveal that the original Nite Owl is gay on Earth-2
2. Hire Felicia Day to direct a Before Watchmen adaptation, kill it before it gets off the ground, then watch her go on to make a billion dollars for Marvel with an Agents of Atlas movie
3. Put J. Michael Straczynski's name on all the books and movies Alan Moore has demanded his name be removed from, because what the heck, it's not like he wrote most of the DC comics his name's currently on anyway
4. Doctor Manhattan dildos
5. "Spain Rodriguez" is one of the better comics-maker names

*****

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John Platt

1. Swamp Zing vegetable-based energy drinks
2. Comedian-brand cigars
3. V vs. Rorschach
4. Before Charlton
5. Spain Rodriguez's lettering is, I think, a vital component of his art. I love his word balloons.

*****

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John Parkin

1. Mortal Kombat vs. Watchmen: The Video Game
2. Similar to Hologram Tupac playing at Coachella, have Hologram Alan Moore introduce the Before Watchmen panel at Comic-Con.
3. Turn the Cobweb/Scientology story they wouldn't publish into a cartoon short on the Cartoon Network/DC Nation cartoon block.
4. Rorschach urinal cakes. The inkblot changes when you ... well, you get it.
5. I wish my parents had named me after a country, because that is so freakin' cool. Especially a European one.

*****

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Tony Collett

1. Watchmen vs. Charlton Heroes
2. The action figures and Owl Ship Playset as featured in the back-up feature of Watchmen #10
3. Watchmen II: Electric Boogaloo
4. Watchmen Babies in "V For Vacation"
5. Rodriquez' blacks in his artwork gave it the touch to put him up there in the underground artist line.

*****

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Chris Mautner

1. Following the success of the Before Watchmen toaster, DC will unveil a whole line of Watchmen-related products -- cheese graters, ice cream makers, spatulas, waffle irons, the whole ball of wax. Coming soon to a Williams-Sonoma near you.
2. Not to be outdone, DC will hire Ed Benes and J. Michael Whatshisname to produce their own version of Lost Girls, Loster Girls, which will mainly consist of Alice, Wendy and Dorothy constantly making the brokeback pose.
3. During Watchmen: Stories of the lonely Squid Vagina Monster. Plus! More stories of Lonely Newspaper Vendor! See what he does at 2 a.m.!
4. Will pulp a comic just before it goes to press once every year, in honor of Moore.
5. I'd kill for a Boots Vol. 2

*****

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Michael F. Russo

1. Pale Horse Tribute Album
2. Product Placement for those Water Cigarettes
3. Absolute Tales from the Black Freighter
4. Bubastis on Cartoon Network (cameo on Gumball?)
5. Asked once again two demonstrate his amazing vocal powers, Jocko (is it Reese?) says "You must be out of your toilet," before complying. Do people say that in Buffalo, or anywhere?

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Dr. Manhattan Mego-style action figure: detachable costume pieces; anatomically ambiguous crotch
2. Original Watchmen GN finally goes OOP for over a year; as Before Watchmen is inherently a promotional product for the earlier work, Moore & Gibbons still don't get the rights back.
3. Next DC-Marvel cross-over event series includes Dr. Manhattan/Marvelman one-shot.
4. Watchmen Adventures cartoon.
5. Both Spain Rodriguez and Alan Moore drew one-pagers for Harvey Pekar's American Splendor #15 (1990)

*****

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Niel Jacoby

1: Watchmen 2: A New Generation
2: The porn parody, Watch Men (Have Sex With Each Other)
3: The Watchmen sushi cart, now on the streets of New York City
4: WatchC.A.T.S.
5: He has a cool name.

*****

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Mike Everleth

1. Put this cartoon into actual production.
2. Audiobook version read by Kevin Smith.
3. Dr. Manhattan hydrogen atom symbol temporary tattoos.
4. Watchmen vs. their Charlton counterparts 12-issue maxi-series.
5. I like how every single character that Spain Rodriguez draws looks like he or she is going to kill you in the most violent way possible right this second.

*****

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James Langdell

1. Relaunch The Green Team featuring a young Adrien Veidt, Jack B. Quick, Virgil Ovid "Static" Hawkins, and Tom Sawyer
2. Anatomically correct and thoroughly branded Doctor Manhattan costume from this company.
3. Limited series (with tie-in action figures) of Minutemen vs the Miracleman Family
4. Time Warner's CNN competes with Fox News by airing a nightly hour of The New Frontiersmen
5. The one time I spoke with Spain Rodriquez was while I was an editor at PC Magazine. He delivered some hand-lettered captions for an article and made some text revisions cleanly on the spot.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Timex tie-in
2. Silk Spectre Home Pregnancy Test
3. Send a hidden camera crew to Alan Moore's house to film his reaction when he receives his first box of comps.
4. The owners can take the first issues of the various books, roll them into tight tubes, shove them up their [no]ses, then set them on fire. Hey, I'd pay good money to see that!
5. Big guns!

*****

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William Burns

1. After Watchmen
2. Tiny Watchmen
3. Watchmen: The Gay Wedding
4. Earth Three: Watchmen Earth
5. Trashman: Agent of the Sixth International

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. A month where comic book creators come up with their versions of all the other (non-pirate) comics from that newsstand the kid was reading at. So we see what romance, western, funny animal, li'l kid, teeny bopper, and Bible comics are like in a world on the brink of nuclear war.
2. Ozymandius vibrator
3. A kids fantasy movie about Bubastis's adventures in the far flung dimension that that disintegrator thing secretly teleported him to.
4. Comedy Central Comedian Roast
5. I like how draws objects and machines a lot.

*****

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Fabrice Stroun

1. Get a post-Holy Terror Frank Miller to write and draw an After Year One/Before Dark Knight Book. Sporting Jim Lee's redesign of Bat’s costume.
2. Buy back the rights of Big Numbers, commission Darwin Cooke to redraw the first two issues and finish the rest of the book as he pleases.
3. License Silk Specter's and her mom's likenesses to a Bishojo- style limited edition statue company. To be bought as a set.
4. Get Grant Morrison on board. Make him the arch-editor/architect of all future Before Watchmen comics.
5. The United Cartoon Workers of America.

*****

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Tuck!

1) Rorschach is/was gay
2) Death of the Watchmen (duh)
3) Teen Silk Spectre (ABD Manhattan's a vampire! Teen Night Owl's a werewolf! Which one will she choose???)
4) (Dandidio calls CNN and does whatever will get them "Comics aren't just for kids anymore" coverage)

Something about Spain:
5) I LOVED TRASHMAN (I know, the obvious one. But it's true)
5a) He's a contemporary of my old college professor and friend, Frank (Foolbert Sturgeon) Stack

*****

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Chris Arrant

* Watchmen: The Animated Series on Cartoon Network
* After Watchmen
* The eventual Watchmen / DCU Crossover
* A Watchmen watch
* "Democracy In Action" Short from Itchy Planet #3

*****

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Andrew Mansell

1. Hellblazer Mini Series: The Scions of Moloch -- guess where JC fits in!
2. The Sea Devils uncover The Wreck of the Black Freighter
3. Vietnam era Comedian meets the New Frontier Wonder Woman -- ouch
4. Minutemen/All Star Squadron Penultimate Crisis Crisscross-over Conundrum
5. Art S. was right -- Che: A Graphic Biography is brilliant and radical (and required reading!)

*****

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Rob Salkowitz

1. Comedian movie starring Charlie Sheen
2. Silk Spectre/Night Owl love scene enacted in claymation as a DC Nation short on Cartoon Network
3. Rorschach’s Journal enhanced e-book (sorry, not available on Nook)
4. Jim Lee announces he will finally draw the last issue of 1963, but is making some improvements to the story to make it more accessible to today’s fans.
5. The animatic of that Trashman story, voiced by Spain, from Comicbook Confidential, was really cool.

*****

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Patrick Ford

1. New Watchmen
2. Gay Watchmen
3. Zombie Watchmen
4. After the Watchmen
5. His politics.

*****

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Rodrigo Baeza

1. J. Michael Straczynksi's Sandman
2. Jack B. Quick vs. Ozymandias
3. Annual Minutemen/Justice of Society of America team-ups
4. Brian Azzarello's Tales of the Minutemen (100 Bullets/Watchmen mashup)
5. "Chicago '68" from Gates of Eden #1 (1982)

*****

apologies for failure to provide all Spain artwork; at least none of it is Before Watchmen; if anyone needs me to not use any of the above, please let me know

also: we're going back to only taking entries while the post is up on the site -- I need to be able to do these when I get up on Saturday morning and then be done with them; I do appreciate your participation

*****
*****
 
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Please Remember To Vote For The Eisner Awards

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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Nexus

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Nexus always felt like a traditional superhero comic book to me, rather than as the transitional series the way I've heard it described by friends. It was the source of a lot of unabashed pleasure for pre-teen and teenager me. Nexus had a kind of modern genre TV show set-up: a sturdy premise that allowed for individual adventures combined with a rich, soap-opera background against which to unfold lengthy, personal plots. The art by Steve Rude was to die-for pretty, the kind that made kids ache to see the rest of the universe being depicted, while the clipped dialogue and strident satire worked better here by a multiple of ten than it would anywhere else in Mike Baron's career (at least to date). I was very fond of the character Dave, and when I finally obtained the issue with a spoken soundtrack the actor intoning "Tyrone. What it is." became a kind of recurring joke amongst my nerdy friends. Nothing that can be explained -- there was a just a quality to it, and we reveled in obscurities of which comics provided many.

I liked the whole package of Nexus, and I must have developed a sense of industry politics by mid-decade because I remember being pretty fascinated by the collapse of Capital Comics and the comic book's move to First (a company in a city with which I was actually sort of familiar). I also remember later on being fairly and fundamentally baffled by the title's employment of talent other than Steve Rude. High-pedigree fill-in issues from Mike Mignola and Paul Smith worked okay, but still felt jarring. When the title actually changed artistic hands for a lengthy time I quickly stopped reading the title. My memory is that it also seemed to me that the promise of the title's central mystery hadn't paid off at all -- another connection the series had to some modern genre television shows.
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


That Mike Peters Commencement Speech You've Maybe Heard About
via


Video Coverage Of Bill Gallo Memorial
via







Reuben Awards Red Carpet Interview Videos
 
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June 2, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from May 26 to June 1, 2012:

1. Tom Richmond wins the Reuben at the NCS Awards; the top of strong top-to-bottom awards slate.

2. Rhetoric surrounding Creators Rights issues heats up.

3. Ali Ferzat and Emmad Hajjaj forge a joint syndication deal with an Arab News outlet operating out of Abu Dhabi.

Winner Of The Week
Richmond, naturally.

Losers Of The Week
Fans of newspapers that publish seven days a week.

Quote Of The Week
"He's dealing with alcoholism and people losing limbs and cancer and all at this stuff. I don't think he's going to be attracting lots of younger readers with this. It's all sort of, kind of sad a little bit." -- Charles Coletta on Funky Winkerbean.

*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were Near Doylestown, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Frederick, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Amiens, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Olympia, I'd Go To This

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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Yummy Fur

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Chester Brown's Yummy Fur is one of the few comic books that I remember equally as 1980s and 1990s offerings. The 1990s version was one of the smartest and most regularly rewarding comics out there -- a consistent, inventive surprise. The 1980s version, driven by the "Ed The Happy Clown" serials, was a viciously compelling, have-to-see-it comics work that engendered a relationship I haven't experienced with any comic in quite the same way since. I remember the summer of 1989 driving around Indianapolis with my friends Rob and Mark, dragging those poor guys to all sorts of strange shops that we'd never visited before down there (we were basically Comics Carnival kids, and I had those stops down to less than a quarter-hour of shopping) in the hopes that random issue of Brown's comic book had been part of that store's regular diet in the "order everything" era that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had brought to an end.

I loved the 1980s run of this series to an irrational degree and still do. I think they're pretty perfect.
 
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June 1, 2012


Not Comics: Jordan Crane Illustrates Harold And Maude

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Collective Memory: VanCAF 2012

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this article has been archived
 
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Go, Read: My Head Is Still In Switzerland

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Not Comics: Covers From Science Fiction Magazine If

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Guy Delisle's The Burma Chronicles was selected for a province-wide reading program on Prince Edward Island. That's pretty cool.

image* David Brothers on Prophet #24. Rob Clough on Dungeon Quest Vol. 3. Don MacPherson on Are You My Mother? J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comic-book comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on Dance Class Vols. 1-2 and various comics for kids.

* Mike Baehr reflects on the horrible shooting tragedy in the Fantagraphics neighborhood at a cafe frequented by several members of the Seattle cartooning community.

* Dan Morrill talks to Mark Schmidt. Andrew Smith talks to Chip Kidd. Jeffrey Renaud talks to Chip Kidd. Andrew Asberry talks to Chip Kidd.

* when I heard the story about New York City potentially limiting large soda cups, I knew that a lot of editorial cartoonists would be so, so happy for such a silly and image-rich issue.

* let me put a random Before Watchmen note right here, for no particular reason. So I thought about writing a twitter joke on a Before Watchmen series that follows in excruciating detail the Comedian as he shops for the items that he takes back to the apartment before what's-his-face kicks the door in and tosses him out the window. It made me realize I had little to no memory about what the opening to Watchmen was really like. So I looked the pages: page one, page two. It made me remember reading Watchmen #1 the day it came out. (My shop was served by another shop in a sub-distribution arrangement, so it was probably a day after a lot of people read it -- you could do that before the Internet.) I remember I genuinely thought that the detectives were going to be the main characters.

* hey, I didn't say it was going to be an interesting note.

* so, Spain Rodriguez. It looks like his OGN kickstarter could use some attention.

* I don't remember where this link came from -- probably someone's Tumblr, and I apologize for forgetting -- but I like the idea of self-portraits giving cartooning advice as an idea for a series of sketches. Pretty good advice, too.

* Gary Tyrrell gives a respectful nod in the direction of Starslip.

* way better than a field trip to the slaughterhouse.

* finally, Frank Miller's high-school comics. Or some joke about the same. I can't all the way tell.
 
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Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: X-Men

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I've been thinking about comics in terms of how I've consumed them over the years, with particular attention given to the long period of time my primary consumption of comics was through following comic book series. I can mark the time I quit comics when I was a kid by what issue of X-Men I bought the week I before I quit (#103) and the issue of I bought that led me to buying comics again (#125). The X-Men series as executed by Chris Claremont and John Byrne had a lot going on that was fun: an emerging super-character (Wolverine), the first appearance of a minor pop-culture icon (Kitty Pryde), an appealing underdog set-up (they were always on the run and getting their butts kicked in a way that I'm not sure you could do these days), the art was attractive, the writing was appealing to a smart young person (the occasional big word, emotions on the sleeve, nothing very complicated or complex) and the whole thing was soaked in death.

I bought my new copies off of a spinner rack at a pair of grocery stores: Ross and Marsh. Ross had the comics about a week before Marsh did but Marsh kept them around longer, and displayed them in a corner of the store where you could sit on the shelving and read the issues you weren't taking home. I bought old copies at an agonizing, saved-up $2 to $4 a pop at B&B Loan Company in my hometown's little-frequented downtown. It was a pawn shop, and they kept their comics on a big shelf in small piles by title. I would bail out of buying X-Men pretty early on in the 1980s, and buy occasional issues to "check in" on the title, a kind of nostalgic buy I'm not sure the pricing of comic books allows anymore.
 
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