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











November 30, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: Kathryn Immonen

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*****

Almost everything that's interesting in mainstream American comic books goes on in the marginal titles far from the full spotlight of fan attention. Kathryn Immonen's scripting in their current Patsy Walker: Hellcat series shouldn't work at all: the story tumbles forward like so many brightly colored banner unfurled on a mountain-side as opposed to a three-act movie, there's no brooding or pausing or pontificating in anticipation of a story moment to come, it's tied into one of the harder to parse elements of recent Marvel continuity (the heroes-for-every-state Initiative), the lead acts in capricious fashion that dances right up to the edge of cruelty, and the structure of each makes it just as like your reading experience will end in a revelatory moment that buffets our hero as it might a punch in the jaw. The fact that Hellcat feels like work both modern in its sensibilities and 1960s prime-time House of Ideas in its execution indicates that like recent Marvel grooming projects Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, Immonen has a grasp of character and a lively enough authorial voice that she may be allowed to break the rules for years to come. I met Immonen at Charlotte's Heroes Con and she was nice enough to agree to answer a few questions. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: We're doing this interview to coincide with the resumption of your Hellcat mini-series this week. Why was there such a long interruption? Does that tend to happen with mini-series? Has it enabled you to take another look at the project creatively or to reload in general in terms of getting the word out? Is it an experience you'd recommend?

KATHRYN IMMONEN: At the time of writing this, I think it only amounted to a month's delay though it probably seemed longer. David Lafuente took the break to do the USM annual. And, you know, it's probably not ideal but those annuals are very important for Marvel and it was certainly good for David. I guess you could just call it 'resource allocation' and leave it at that. The scripts for Hellcat have been done for a while and I'm in the middle of some other projects, so the impetus (and time) to go back and rewind/review was not really there. Besides, I think the series has all four wheels solidly on its own idiosyncratic track. I'll make minor changes as the art comes in and then again after the first lettering pass but that's about it.

SPURGEON: For that matter, what has been the reaction to the series as you've experienced it? Has anything surprised you about what you've heard in response, say people responding to it you didn't expect or people seeing something in it you might not have seen or thought might not get across?

IMMONEN: It's been a little ridiculous. There's a deeply weird and wonderful seam of Patsy Walker/Hellcat love that's been re-opened, first with the Marvel Comics Presents story and now the mini-series. There seems to be a true and thirsty affection for her and it's so gratifying because it means that I'm not alone. People, so many guys, have not been shy in telling me how much they love Patsy and how happy they are she's not in a coma or getting dragged backwards through some hedge somewhere. Every time someone tells me they've given Hellcat to their girlfriend to read, I just want to stand up and cheer.

I hope that we've been able to put to bed some of the initial reservations and, in a few cases, hostility. For whatever reason, the tone of this series has struck a positive chord and I'm so glad. And it's such a beautiful looking thing. David and John [Rauch] are getting this book to the cash register, that's for sure.

SPURGEON: Something I've always wanted to ask a writer working on a project like this one: Comics is a tremendously rigid market in a lot of ways. I have to imagine when you get an assignment for a Hellcat mini-series, this comes with a certain set of expectations regarding how it might sell or be received. Does a project like this come with its own set of expectations, and if so, how would you describe them? While Mark Millar and Brian Bendis are thinking, "I'd like to get this next one over 125K," do you have a number that you're trying to meet, or maybe not go under? Is Marvel up front about those kinds of concerns?

IMMONEN: Ha! I maybe would say that Bendis does have to rack up those numbers so that doing books like Hellcat is actually a possibility. I don't think anyone had any illusions that this was going to post monster numbers and, in fact, I think it has pretty much exactly met expectations in that department. I think Marvel is very up front with itself about these things but it was certainly never proposed to be something I had to be concerned about. And, in fact, I don't think it's anything that I can have a statistically significant impact on aside from doing the very best job I can and keeping the interests of Marvel and their editorial needs in the forefront. As opaque as company (and I don't just mean Marvel) decision-making can seem from the outside, I think it would be a mistake to think that every person concerned is not committed to the well-being and viability of the characters involved. And I truly hope that one of the things this mini-series has done is contribute to the ongoing health, welfare and potential usefulness of Patsy Walker and Hellcat.

imageSPURGEON: Can you talk in as explicit terms as possible how you landed the mini-series? I'm guessing that it developed out of the Marvel Comics Presents work, so first of all, how did you end up working on that, and then second, how did you proceed when you saw encouragement on Marvel's end for you to submit something? What factor do you think ultimately landed you the book?

IMMONEN: This is the last time I'll say this. Privately, I think everybody hit their collective head! Publically, however, editor Nick Lowe has been long aware of Stuart's affection for Patsy and, when MCP was relaunched, asked if he would be interested in doing a four part story. Partly to lessen his workload but largely more because we are never happier than when we're working together (except when there's yelling and pencil snapping and loud erasing) Stuart asked if I could submit the pitch to write it. You know, there was no commitment and no risk at all to saying 'yes', so Nick did and I did and it was a hit and off we went. I already had a page rate established at Marvel because of the work I'd done on Captain America #50 and Mutant X with former editor Andrew Lis, so that was one less hurdle. And while I'm on the subject of Andrew Lis, it was really Andy that not only championed me doing some work for Marvel but Stuart as well, as I recall, and he was also a fan of us being on projects together and for that, we owe him a big thank you.

The MCP story went over refreshingly well and I was told that, while there were no guarantees, Marvel would be receptive to a proposal for a mini. I really just started to think about what would be my ultimate Patsy Walker/ Hellcat story. And on the planet of which I am benevolent dictator, it would have been a double-sized Christmas special full of icy fun and adventure and skating parties and recipes and making out under the mistletoe and fashion and a ham sandwich. I then went about turning it into something in which Marvel would be interested and to which they could conceivably say "yes." There were some revisions with Nick to bring the story into line but it was extraordinarily painless.

I know Patsy has friends in high places at Marvel and that certainly helped. But I was also not screwing around. I brought my very best game to the proposal and tried to write something that was as spirited and energetic as I hoped the book would be. And also to give them a story that did not deviate from the style and tone of the MCP piece. I know that Nick was ready to get in there and fight for this series at the meeting but it turned out to not be at all necessary.

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SPURGEON: Kathryn, I'm not aware of anything you've done before Never As Bad As You Think. Can you talk a little bit about the elements of your background that contributed to you becoming a comics writer? Why has this recently become a professional interest of yours? What changed?

IMMONEN: Stuart and I have been making comics together for more than 20 years. We were heavily invested in the black and white "scene" in the mid to late 80s and produced two titles, Playground (best described as a punk murder mystery) and Headcheese (an anthology). We self-published three issues of each and Playground went on to have a kind of epilogue published by Caliber Press. I graduated from university right around the time that Stuart was ditching his day job to make a go of comics full time. I worked as a costume designer and builder for film and theatre for a number of years and we were living in a tiny apartment over a bar in a northern Ontario town (I was doing the season for the local theatre) when Stuart first started working on Legion. In between then and now there have been other sporadic projects: the Captain America story, a tribute piece for Editions Albert Rene for Uderzo's 80th birthday, a piece for Semana Negra (which appears in Centifolia), some work in Imagination Rocket, all slotted in between my own freelancing as well as working for the Immonen Illustrations cabal.

I returned to school a few years ago to do my MFA in visual art and pretty much walked away from my studio practice seconds after I defended my thesis. I don't have the stomach to make a go of sculptural installation and to say that I'm not interested in teaching is a massive understatement. So that pretty much put pay to that. In the meantime, Stuart and I had been on the road to returning to self-publishing after feeling like we'd both gotten sidetracked in the past while (in different ways and for different reasons). We produced the hundred copies of Criminal Insects and then Never as Bad as You Think. Stuart put out Centifolia and 50 Reasons. And then we started in on Moving Pictures (which will be published by Top Shelf in the Spring of 2009) and we both felt like we were swinging back to centre.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about how Never As Bad As You Think developed? I seem to remember that it came about from a formal exercise in which Stuart participated but I don't quite recall how you became involved. Is it true you did full script for those?

IMMONEN: NABAYT was a joint project from the beginning. We had been hanging out online with friends in a (now defunct) private forum started by Christine Norrie and thought that participating in Illustration Friday over there was a fun idea. We started doing little strips every week which incorporated the IF word. To our delight, it actually started to turn into something. At some point during the week, usually while walking the dog, I'd compose that week's strip in my head, come home, work it out on a 3"x5" post-it note and then Stuart would take it from there. If the dialogue and description fit comfortably on that piece of paper, then it seemed to take up the appropriate amount of real estate in the final product. About halfway through, we decided to cut it off at 52 strips, one year. The hardcover that's coming out in December from Boom! Studios will actually contain two additional strips which act as bookends to bring the whole thing back around in a loop.

SPURGEON: What kind of audience did you have for NABAYT? Did that audience change or grow when you took it to Webcomics Nation? How does making work for the Internet prepare you -- or I guess, spoil you -- for writing for mainstream print publication?

IMMONEN: We've sold through the original print run, so I guess 500 people liked it. There's no question that it's a quirky thing and taken in small bites, one week at a time, it's a little peculiar. All together though, it was pointed out by a number of people that it's actually full of a lot of really angry and frustrated individuals. I would say that Webcomics Nation was largely a dead end and a poor fit for us. About halfway through, we realized that, for us and what we were offering, exploiting the advertising paths wasn't working and, as with comics on the internet in general, it was largely impossible to get people up to purchase velocity. Additionally, there had been some other arrangements discussed but when they got lost in the shuffle, we were content to simply offer it for free on our own site and reap the lateral benefits there. It all worked out.

The work we do for online publication is, by default, the work we do for ourselves. Of course it's easier! The only context in which it needs to function is its own. I'm a person pretty much held together by my own anxiety. Creating work for a publicly-held company keeps a body up at night.

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SPURGEON: I want to make sure I ask a few questions about the mini-series itself. One thing that's noticeable about it is that it deals in details of current Marvel continuity: Hellcat goes to Alaska as part of a plan to give every state some sort of superheroic representation. Now is that dictated to you by Marvel, or is that something that you grab onto and then bring to them? How is that negotiated?

IMMONEN: The tie-in with the Initiative was not the starting point for me. Because it was Hellcat, there had to be magic involved and I was casting around for a geographic location where that was likely (in a highly fictionalized sense) to happen. I was reading a lot of accounts of early 20th century survivalists or subsistence homesteaders and at the same time was obsessed with the durational rally races in Mongolia and Siberia. I really wanted to do a winter story, as an extension of my first thoughts on the matter. This led to a pile of reading about the traditional magic and storytelling of Canada's Inuit peoples and then, you know, north to adventure and all that. As much as this story stands alone, the tie to current continuity is good business and I think it keeps everything whizzing around in the right orbit. It did nothing but add to what I was proposing and I got to write a little bit of Iron Man which was crazy fun.

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SPURGEON: If I had to pigeonhole your take on the Patsy Walker character, it's that you portray her as an irrepressible, all-American girl, the kind that people seem to like no matter what how she treats them. What led you there? How has that factored in to the way you write comics about her? In the mini-series, at least, she seems to steamroll past some of the problems that would stick to a more standard angst-ridden superhero's heels for years.

IMMONEN: For me, there's no getting away from Patsy Walker's roots in romance comics and girl's comics with Miss America and then her eponymous title. For me, that will always be who Patsy really is. Even though it became her fictionalized past, once she came into continuity, I think that it's too entertaining and fertile to dispense with entirely. Her publishing history is a testament to her resilience and I think that needs to be manifest in her character. And then when you couple that with the fact that she kind of black-mailed her way into the costume and that she doesn't (aborted psychic training notwithstanding) really have any substantive superpowers... my choice remains varsity all the way. I think everything she really knows about fighting she learned from homecoming football and wrestling finals. Her slew foot is probably pretty effective too. Initially Patsy just really wanted to be a superhero, wear the costume and have a good time. Nobody had to die, she didn't have to make some costly mistake for which she must forever pay, she's not out for revenge and she and her pals once kicked that dirty commie Khrushchev to the curb and laughed while they were doing it. I mean, come on!

SPURGEON: How much of working with a character like that is a work in process and how much is set in stone from the start of a project? A lot of cartoonists in the alternative end of comics talk about not knowing a character until they do a bunch of comics with that character. Is that true of writing a character like Patsy Walker? Is your understanding different in the later issues than it is in the beginning? Are there dangers to being open to new ideas like that?

IMMONEN: The story is set. I mean the plot's there and fairly carefully outlined but how everybody gets from a to b seems something of a surprise page by page. My take on Patsy is rooted in what I already know about her and where she came from and what's already happened to her. That makes a huge difference when it comes to writing her as opposed to any of the other characters in the book who are all, with the exception of Iron Man (of course)... bespoke, I suppose. There are certainly days when I have no idea what's supposed to come out of anybody's mouth but you just start and as long as you've got a handle on who they are at some core level, it will start to flow. The most fun I've had is writing the exchanges between Hellcat and the kidnapped heir, whom we meet in issue #4. As far as learning to "know" a character... I don't know. I mean, I understand the sentiment but I think I'd still have to get with learning to "write" a character. It's facile but they're not real. They don't exist without you and you just keep chopping away and hope that your initial instincts were right. And that things were well set up.

I just read all of that back. I retract. It's just semantic. But I am reminded of something Lawrence Block said. When asked if Scudder was autobiographical, he went on to say something about writing a character as they would be if you were that character. It may not be entirely or always true but there's no getting away from the fact that you can't get away from yourself. But I could be wrong.

SPURGEON: Speaking of process, you're again writing full script. Is that how you're directed to do it, or is that your option? Do you like working that way?

IMMONEN: It's what was requested and it's fine. I'm new. Everybody needs to see it on the page. And David and I are still getting to know each other.

SPURGEON: Your scripts have an almost conversational tone, especially when you're describing something specific when you want done, which makes me think you're either consciously or subconsciously trying to be solicitous or just plain nice to the artist at that point. How conscious are you of that creative partnership in terms of your being a good person with whom to work? How much are you open to artists working away from your script?

IMMONEN: Honestly, it's just me talking. Scripts aren't works of fiction in and of themselves. They're just part of the puzzle. What I'm trying to do is be as descriptive as I can in the absence of actually being able to stand in front of David and gesture wildly. To me, effective scripting means producing a document which is lively and inspiring and capable of producing some excitement or, at least, engendering some interest. I cannot tell you how crazy it makes me when I hear writers say things like "I let the artist have..." or "I allow the artist..." freedom or latitude or whatever. If that's my attitude, then I should probably just learn to draw... which I can't... uh, learn. Once I turn that script in and it's approved and edited and sent on, unless I've made some horrible mistake that everyone's missed, it's no longer my property or my purview. I'm just not at all precious about it. And if I've done my job well, and the partnership is sympathetic, then the result will be something as terrific as what's been happening with Hellcat. It's a four-week relay up a huge flight of stairs with, if you're lucky, Georges Guetary waiting at the top to kiss and congratulate you.

I think when you get wild, non-functioning deviations between the start and the finish, it means that the project has been broken from the beginning. Of course, everybody needs to be on the same proverbial page and the editor needs to be engaged and have put the right team together in the first place but all these things just seem to add up to the expectation that everyone's capable of and is doing their job. I'm not trying to be nice to anybody... don't make me come over there and prove it.

imageSPURGEON: You do something very odd with the violence and fighting in your mini-series. In a lot of Marvel comics, there's a lot of talking that builds up into some sort of violent action or fighting in order to resolve the issue at hand. You seem to reverse that: Patsy Walker dispenses with some violence in order to clear her path to get to the central problems, which she tends to solve by talking her way through it and convincing people of doing the right thing. Is that a fair assessment, and how do you feel about superhero comics' tendency to rely on some sort of violence as a resolution technique?

IMMONEN: Ha! Funny. I think that Patsy really wants to be her best self and I have this feeling that she sort of feels like she's let herself down when she has to land one on somebody's beak. But I think that I'm doing this because I have a notion that the character doesn't feel like she's taken seriously a lot of the time, like no one is listening and so she'll bust you in the chops in order to make you shut up and take your seat. I think it might be her super hero equivalent of "My face is up here". Part of the problem with the Hellcat character is, of course, aside from those stupid springy claws, she doesn't really have the physical resources to win, under the usual extraordinary circumstances, with her fists. I guess that's not really a problem. And again, she really wants people to like her. She's a lover, not a fighter... but she kinda loves to fight.

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SPURGEON: Given the tendency for very heavy-handed comics, were you worried at all about the generally lighthearted tone of the series?

IMMONEN: Of course. There's clearly an unspoken equation, in some camps, that funny equals can't be taken seriously equals mainstream comics can't be taken seriously. I think the suspicion that the desire for barbarically serious books is a thinly veiled attempt to validate what has become an adult hobby is not exactly a best kept secret. Which is not to say that I think that 'seriousness' is not crucially important for the health of stories and characters. But just because something's funny or light on its feet, it doesn't mean that it doesn't genuinely aspire to have warmth and heart, or importance... just in a different way. It's not always necessary for someone to have to lose an arm or a loved one in the most graphically brutal way possible. And, most importantly, I would submit that it would be inappropriate for this character. On a different day, I might argue differently. But that's how I'm feeling right now.

SPURGEON: You spend a lot of time in the last couple of issues working through what are pretty nuanced family and community troubles that Hellcat encounters. Can I ask what you might want the reader to take away from the way you've set up these relationships and how you moved towards a resolution? In some ways, I can see this being a very generous look at a non-traditional family arrangement, and at the same time give Hellcat's relative happiness I can also see the whole thing as a kind of commercial for being largely unattached. Either way it seems like a very different area than is usually explored in a mainstream comic book and I wondered how you looked upon it as a writer and now that you have some distance from it.

IMMONEN: Yeah, the family situation gets weirder before it gets a little weirder. Thinking about it right now as I'm trying to formulate an answer, I am realizing that the associations I have with comics are strongly tied to unconventional families... whether it's the X-Men with the family chosen for you in an exceptional way or Archie (where Betty and Veronica and Archie et al always seemed more of each others' family than the parents did) or Tintin and his strangely-selected family. Any suppositions I might have are, of course, largely rhetorical because the story reasons for all of this are patently obvious. And, actually, I don't think that it's a particularly deviant course as compared to other mainstream books. In the particulars, the family structure and relationships and world view all grew directly from the reading I did in preparation for writing this story but, in general, I think the larger issues of responsibility and obligation are what's at play. Maybe it all just comes down to my parenting philosophy which has, from day one, been "Always do what you say you're going to do and there are certain things for which there will be no negotiation and I will decide what they are." But I'm fair, too. I promise.

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SPURGEON: I meant to ask this formal question earlier but I forgot: the later scripts contain nothing in the way of page design notes, while the earlier issues display a lot of variety in terms of the different structures used. For instance, you use a page of panels that run the width of a page when she first gets to Alaska , and use a lot of middle, larger panels that break up the rhythms of your grid work. Is this something you leave to the artist? How important is that sense of physical placement to you when writing a comic book?

IMMONEN: If I'm remembering correctly, the initial page design stuff had a lot to do with wanting to make sure that the book continued to nod to some of the stylistic tropes of the Patsy comics or fashion comics of the '40s and '50s. It quickly became clear that David had similar enthusiasms and it became unnecessary to continue to bring it up. It's my responsibility to make sure that what everybody's saying and doing fits on a page. How that actually plays out is David's particular genius. Of course, there are certain images that are important and panels that are key and I need to make sure that I'm clear on those points and to ensure that it's physically possible. The pacing and energy of Hellcat has, from the get go, been modeled largely after a ski jump, I think. Patsy just kind of pulls on her gloves and throws herself down that hill with verve and elan.

With, say, Moving Pictures, the way the pages look is constantly and carefully under scrutiny but that's because it's a totally different kind of project. Stuart and I are constantly talking about it... the black shapes that are in danger of decapitating the characters, the poetry of the recurring pieces of paper. He gave me a page recently to look over and one of Ila's expressions wasn't quite right. I think I moved the dot of her eye over about 3mm and she went from disinterested to really pissed off. When your story is being contained in the way someone takes off their jacket over the course of 20 pages, you've got a whole other set of problems.

SPURGEON: When I told you Nick Lowe had sent me the scripts for issues #4 and #5, you expressed the notion that this made you feel overly exposed. You said it was like having someone root around in your underwear drawer? Are you self-conscious about your comics scripting? What is your general orientation towards your work and how much do you feel settled in as a writer? When will you be?

IMMONEN: I think I was just taking, yet again, the opportunity to talk about my underwear. It's actually not that I felt self-conscious. It's just that, as we all know, scripts are not meant to stand on their own and when Nick reads it, I know how he's reading it... what he's looking for. The same with David. I know what their context is, what their needs are. It's part of the process. So, again, any discomfort I have is just not being sure of context or having concern with the kind of currency it's perceived to be required to carry outside of the framework of being part of the work in progress. Having said that, I'm pretty comfortable. Except when I'm repeatedly hitting my head on my desk. Then, not so much.

*****

* Patsy Walker as Hellcat
* photo strip provided by the writer
* cover from the ongoing mini-series
* a Never As Bad As You Think installment
* the Moving Pictures cover
* north to Alaska
* everybody likes her
* she enjoys violent resolution
* the light-hearted tone of the series
* page mentioned of wide panels as Patsy Walker hits Alaska
* (below) cover image to forthcoming issue, which you can tell your comic shop right now to get for you

*****

* Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Kathryn Immonen and David LaFuente, Marvel Comics, five-issue 32-page comic book series, 2008, $2.99 each (next issue). Hunt your recent comic racks, please.

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If I Were In Montreal, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: Comica/Comiket Report Round-Up

* go, read: Sandy Bilus on Ganges #2

* go, read: Don MacPherson on Batman #681

* go, read: Faith Erin Hicks profiled

* go, read: Shawn Hoke reviews So... Buttons
 
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Happy 58th Birthday, Chris Claremont!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Keith Giffen!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Brian Basset!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Brian Pulido!

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Happy 38th Birthday, Johnny Ryan!

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Please Consider Writing Shel Dorf

According to a widely-circulated private letter that's probably been posted somewhere by the time this note rolls out, Shel Dorf has been in the hospital since April, and while he's currently stable at the very least he's likely to remain where he is for quite some time to come.

imageI don't know Shel Dorf, but I'm aware he's one of the seminal figures in the early development of San Diego's Comic-Con International, and the person with the most legitimate claim to be called the show's outright founder. (These kinds of things tend to never start with one person, though, and I imagine there were several people around at the start and the show sprang forward from their collective energies.)

I very much enjoy going to the modern iteration of that show.

I'm told that it might do Mr. Dorf some good to hear from people grateful for that show and his role in it, or from anyone whose life path has crossed Dorf's in some way, perhaps through his other efforts in California fandom or through his work with Milton Caniff. If that describes you, and you feel compelled to act, you can send a note, card or letter to:

Shel Dorf
Sixth Floor, Room 656
Sharp Hospital
7901 Frost St
San Diego, CA 92123

I'll be joining you with a card of my own.
 
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Oh, Won’t Someone Buy My Nemo?

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November 29, 2008


First Thought Of The Day

You know, I'm not going to leave my backpack at the office up front.
 
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Next Week In Comics-Related Events

November 30
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December 3
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December 4
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December 5
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December 6
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December 7
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from November 22 to November 28, 2008:
1. Economy continues to tank; comics part of economy continues to hold breath.

2. Rare good news about two cartoonists in trouble.

3. With the above cover featuring US President-Elect Barack Obama, Spanish satirical magazine El Jueves catches its first international headlines since it depicted the Spanish crown prince and his wife having sex. Coming on the heels of last summer's Spanish basketball team making slanty eyes for a photo at the Olympics, I'm considering the possibility that everyone in Spain may be nuts.

Winner Of The Week
Raymond Briggs

Losers Of The Week
Fans of the current Blog@Newsarama writing line-up

Quote Of The Week
"A cartoonist, because a cartoonist is someone who sees with his mind -- someone who is concerned less with preserving a world than recording a thought." -- Adam Gopnik

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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If I Were In Montreal, I’d Go To this

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Jennifer De Guzman On My Looking For A Specific Word (11/22/08)
* J. Caleb Mozzocco On Why Batman: Cacophony Is Its Own Series (11/22/08)
 
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Happy 66th Birthday, Maggie Thompson!

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November 28, 2008


Happy 53rd Birthday, Francois Boucq!

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November 27, 2008


Black Friday Holiday Shopping Guide ‘08

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Today is Black Friday 2008, the traditional first day of the hectic holiday shopping season.

Following are several suggestions for comics related gift-shopping to help spur you along if you've decided that sequential narrative presents and things related to sequential narratives are to be on Santa's list this year. I'll be adding to them from now until Noon ET.

As I have little chance of actually selecting something for your friend or loved one, please use this as a starting point. Perhaps it will give you an idea as to what's out there, or spark some brainstorming that leads to an idea of your own. I'm also quite certain I'm forgetting a list equally as long, filled with quality works and books, for which I apologize profusely. Last year we opened it up for people to recommend their own books as gifts; that turned out to be a disaster, so we won't be repeating that initiative. So please look around.

Have fun today and the weeks ahead, and please remember a few simple rules about comics gift-giving:

1. When it comes to gifts, comics are best for people that already like them as opposed to people that may like them someday.
2. The bigger the comics fan, the more likely that person is to be very specific about what it is they want. Be careful!
3. Comics don't have the saturation of DVDs, and some of the best things are carried by specific vendors or involve an element of handcraft, so make sure you have enough time to receive the thing it is you want to buy.

All that said, gifts are gifts, and it's hard to do anything wrong when giving someone a gift. Happy shopping, and here's to a happy and safe holiday season.

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THE COMICS REPORTER BLACK FRIDAY HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE 2008
or
183 (OR SO) REASONS TO SPEND YOUR SHOPPING MONEY ON COMICS THIS YEAR

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TWELVE GIFTS FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
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1. Cul-De-Sac: This Exit, Richard Thompson
One of the best comic strips to come along in years has a collection. First collections are great not only because they're probably the most user-friendly of all the books to come, but because in many cases you probably haven't read the majority of the strips. Since this collection includes material from previous Richard Thompson efforts related to Cul-De-Sac, that's almost certainly true here.

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2. What It Is, Lynda Barry
A clear book of the year candidate, What It Is offers something for those that want to do comics, those that are creative in any way, shape or form, and those that simply want to luxuriate in Lynda Barry's cartooning.

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3. Merchandise From Scott Saavedra
The cartoonist, designer and pop culture historian Scott Saavedra announced in November that he's suffering from a kidney disease. He has insurance and he's not destitute, but he certainly could use a swelling in the coffers to help his family through these tough times. Luckily, he has a lot of fun stuff for sale.

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4. Patrick Moberg's Presidential Print
I don't know the artist, but I thought Moberg's illustration was the cartoon of the recently-passed election. If that's something you or someone you know wants to celebrate, it's being sold as a print.

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5. Original Art From Comic Art Collective
Year after year, Comic Art Collective remains one of my favorite places to shop on-line. It's a service through which certain cartoonists can sell their original artwork and pocket 100 percent of the proceeds. One thing I personally like about it is that there's a lot of super-affordable art of the pen-and-ink illustration variety. That's Colleen Coover's work above.

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6. Gary Panter, Gary Panter
A ridiculously affordable overview of the art-making portion of the great cartoonist's career. Classy and intimate.

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7. Most Outrageous, Bob Levin
In The Pirates and the Mouse (2003) and Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & Pirates, my friend Bob Levin dug deep into comics both modern and underground with a sympathetic eye and a gift for astute cultural observation. In his latest from Fantagraphics, Most Outrageous (2008), Levin paints his most alarming and heartbreaking portrait yet. Not for everyone, but an excellent, excellent book.

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8. Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, Edited By Sammy Harkham
The buzz book of the fall and a massive, show-stopper comic to place under any tree (or, in the case of my house, a stuffed bear). Not only can I recommend this anthology of broadsheet-sized comics, I'm getting one for Christmas.

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9. The Wonder, Tony Fitzpatrick
The Chicago-based painter/printer doesn't think they're comics, either, but I assure you they are -- powerful ones, driven by poetry and organized by memory. This is a three-book set, slip-cased.

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10. Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, Bill Mauldin and Todd DePastino
A staggering archival achievement, a lot of great cartooning and an important history lesson.

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11. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell
Despite an Ignatz win, Swallow Me Whole was probably the least publicized in a group of really solid book-length debuts by newer cartoonists in 2008, and my favorite of Top Shelf's releases this calendar year.

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12. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles (Edited by Dean Mullaney)
One of those wished-for books for years finally comes true. It manages to be better than I dreamed, with a full accounting of Sickles' commercial art career and a look at both his predecessor and successor on Scorchy Smith that allows readers to see how his talent developed. A stunning monster of a book.

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FIVE BARGAIN GIFT IDEAS FOR WHAT MAY BE A TOUGH YEAR
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1. Something via AbeBooks
This is the interface that I use to access used bookstores. One thing that such stores tend to have that comic shops usually don't is classic "cartoon books" from artists like Peter Arno, Charles Addams, Pat Oliphant, B. Kliban and so on. But you can frequently find all sorts of comics and comics-related books for cheaper than the standard, going price. It's worth checking.

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2. Crafts
Like most men around 40 years old, I like to make coasters out of old comic book pages. You can use just about any old coaster project description that comes up when you search on Google. I prefer the take old coasters and fasten laminated comics imagery onto the top of them technique, but I've also used old CDs and cork to assemble some pancake-style. The important thing is to get good lamination and to be careful as you attach the art. Comics art offers a lot of opportunities for such handmade gifts if you're inclined to go that way. Be creative.

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3. Various Calvin and Hobbes Books -- or Something Similar -- at Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble carries a lot of the classic Calvin & Hobbes collections at a reduced rate. That's a tricky buy for someone right now as many older fans will certainly have this material while a lot of younger fans may not know Calvin from Hobbes. But if you have someone for whom it's appropriate, those are good deals. I have to imagine a lot of work from recent years gets processed into the discount sections of such stores, so it might pay to look around in the discount sections.

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4. Amazon.com's Used Books Options
Most comics in trade collections or in original graphic novel form come with an ISBN. In most of those cases, that means used copies can be sold on Amazon. I don't believe in selling review copies, but from the number of used books that pop up in the listings every single time there's a new comics release, I'm guessing most folks disagree with me. Not only can you find slightly older books on Amazon.com at a highly reduced rate, you should be able to find all-but-new ones at a discount as well.

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5. Non-Mint, Not Super-Popular, Older Comic Books From A Shop Or On-Line Store
Most comic book stores sell discounted comics in some fashion. Ebay has given price-point noogies to many a store owner who once upon a time held onto comic books no one wanted for 15 years or more because they were certain that a dollar's worth of desire out there would someday and somehow compound itself up to $7.50. With a little effort, you can snag readable runs of unpretentious adventure comics ranging from Master of Kung Fu to Power Man and Iron Fist to Thriller to Camelot 3000 to The Intimates for less than $1.50 an issue. Try reliable on-line retailers like Mile High and MyComicShop.com (especially during their sales); try eBay for things like Chicago Comics' manga sales; try Google Maps or the Comic Shop Locator service to find a store near you.

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SIX WAYS TO FACILITATE THEIR DOING THE SHOPPING
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1. Gift Certificate From Amazon.com
Here's one way to let people buy comics for themselves, a gift certificate to the bookstore Amazon.com, which of course by virtue of comics' journey into the world of book sales is a prominent comics retailer just about any way you measure it.

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2. Gift Card From Barnes and Noble
And here's another. Added advantage that you can use it in the brick and mortar locations of the chain.

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3. Gift Certificate From Mile High Comics
I've purchased these before and had no complaints.

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4. Gift Certificate From Your Local Comic Book Shop
Your shop may not do this, but it never hurts to ask. I imagine there are several that would take money from you and apply it to store credit even if there's not an official certificate in the offing.

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5. Something From Someone's Amazon.com Wish List
I have an Amazon.com Wish List devoted to Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase reprint series, but most people just have a few comics on their regular Wish Lists waiting for you to purchase them.

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6. Something From A Want List Someone Made At Their Local Shop
Many comic shops will let their customers leave a list of comics they want their friends and family members to buy them. If your store doesn't have a program like this, they might be convinced to do it for someone that asks nicely.

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TWENTY-FIVE APPEALING NEWER COMICS OFFERINGS IN THE POPULAR BOOK FORMAT, REPRESENTING A SMALL AND COMPLETELY INADEQUATE SAMPLING OF SUCH VOLUMES OUT THERE RIGHT NOW SO SHUT UP I TRIED
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1. Little Nothings, Lewis Trondheim
The first English-language volume of Lewis Trondheim's remarkable diary comics in print form. Should be fun for both hardcore comics fans that can catch some of the side jokes and appreciate the context for a few of the situations, and for the non-comics fan that can relate to getting older and developing a wry and wary attitude towards life. I have to imagine the second volume is as good.

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2. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
A sure audience-pleaser about a man who goes back to high school in 1980s after being diverted by a form of hypnosis designed to cure his smoking habit. I hate it when that happens.

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3. The Bottomless Belly-Button, Dash Shaw
So much like a proper novel in shape and intent and texture that you want to apologize to it for describing other comics that way. I read it all the way through on my first try, which is worth noting only in that it's big enough I had to cancel a lot of appointments to get there uninterrupted.

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4. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa
A haunting fable about the lengths to which parents will go to to protect their children, it's one of the few comics I read this year that if I had to stop at any point and take a quiz, I would have no guess as to where it was going.

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5. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell
The latest from one of comics' greatest, and, I suspect, the last one we may say from Campbell for a while after a ruthlessly productive period.

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6. Skyscrapers Of The Midwest, Josh Cotter
Another of this year's stellar book-length debuts, Cotter draws the holy hell out of this story touching on the scary intimacies of family life through inventive visual metaphor and ruthless observation.

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7. French Milk, Lucy Knisley
A surprise debut from a big-time prose publisher that pleases for the author's apparent lack of a desire to tell a Great Big Story and instead concentrate on the quotidian details of life around her during an extended stay in Paris.

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8. Comic Book Tattoo, Various (Edited By Rantz Hoseley)
A massive -- I mean hurt your legs to have it on your lap massive -- tome of stories taken from the lyrics of the much beloved singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Just came out in a slip-cased collectors' edition.

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9. Haunted, Philippe Dupuy
Pore over the release lists from your favorite comics publishers and you'll more than likely find each one was responsible for a gem or two, such as D&Q's publication of Philippe Dupuy's intimate and introspective portrait of life as an artist.

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10. The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, Various (Edited By Paul Gravett)
Drawing on what I suspect is Paul Gravett's broad knowledge of comic book and their best craftsmen, this is by far the best of the Mammoth Book series and a more than satisfactory survey of approaches to an intermittently popular comics genre.

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11. The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus, Fred Hembeck
This is a massive chunk of one of the strangest career outputs in comics history from the superhero parodist and humor comics specialist Fred Hembeck for whom many fans of the last 30 years have a quiver-to-the-touch soft spot. Just the sight of a giant tome of Hembeck's comics makes me laugh.

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12. My Brain Is Hanging Upside-Down, David Heatley
The like it/lump it art comics book of the Fall, Heatley's confessional autobiography breaking his personal history down into general subjects rather than telling it in one long narrative, is one of those books I bet a lot of cartoonists emerging five to ten years from now will cite as an influence.

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13. Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman
A serious book of the year candidate, Spiegelman has re-released his groundbreaking one-man anthology with new material about his life growing up, material that I believe was serialized in the University of Virginia's literary review.

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14. Trains Are Mint, Oliver East
Yet another compulsively readable comics-with-a-spine debut, a collection of the first three lauded Oliver East handmade comics. There's a second volume I haven't seen yet out for Christmas.

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15. The Education Of Hopey Glass, Jaime Hernandez
This is a stunning-looking book, as is most everything Jaime Hernandez does these days, and one of the most subtly harrowing works in any medium about getting your act together a few years after you probably should have paid attention to doing so.

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16. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
A potential book of the year candidate, a long and affecting and visually sumptuous portrait of an American life distinguished but certainly not defined by service during World War II. It's one of the few books I've read this year where -- although both impressions were positive -- I had a completely different opinion of it by book's end than I had two-thirds of the way through.

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17. Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
A recent bit of awards-program controversy surrounding co-author credit for artist Jillian Tamaki shouldn't detract from the fact that this was a solid and compelling book aimed at slightly younger readers yet suitable for older ones. It was one of those books that made you reconsider the efforts done in the entire category.

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18. Speak Of The Devil, Gilbert Hernandez
One of the best, impossible to categorize comic series of 2007 becomes one of the must-have hardcovers of 2008. The latest work in a long run of fascinating comics from a future Best Living Cartoonist.

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19. The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
The two best things about this work is the unsparing character arc of its lead, when the temptation for this kind of thing tends to go the other direction, and Dean Haspiel's art, some of the best of his career.

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20. Thoreau at Walden, John Porcellino
This book just kind of slipped out there quietly, which I guess is appropriate. John Porcellino's elegant take on Thoreau's meditative masterpiece and its making provides plenty of opportunity to reflect on the various issues involved and formal comics approaches.

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21. Journey, Vol. 1, William Messner-Loebs
IDW's reprinting of the one-time, famously financially troubled creator's odd, affecting, signature work has an almost heroic aspect to it -- there wasn't really a market for frontier comics in the 1980s, and there probably isn't one now, either. The comics are quite interesting, though, with a unique tone, both resolutely serious and significantly tongue-in-cheek I'm not sure has ever been matched.

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22. Omega The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Karl Rusnack and Paul Hornschemeier
One of the best superhero comics of the last 10 years gets the special hardcover treatment. As attested to by a brother who came and threw the last issue of the series in my lap with a sarcastic "thanks for that," it's a book that really needs to be read all the way through in one sitting.

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23. We Can Still Be Friends, Mawil
There were books I liked a bit more than this one, but I enjoyed Mawil's take on romantic failure enough that I wish for it a much bigger audience than its quiet release mid-year seemed to garner for it. The cartooning is lovely.

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24. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2, Various (Edited By Ivan Brunetti)
The second of Ivan Brunetti's University of Yale press efforts is the best of a lot of decent, recent books to make a summary statement out of worthy alt-comics. If you had to pick one single volume to read for a satisfying, thoughtful engagement with art comics over the last 20 years, this is the one.

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25. The Picture Of Dorian Gray Roy Thomas and Sebastian Fiumara
One of the quieter efforts in Marvel's broad move onto bookstore shelves; the collection of a six-issue mini-series begun late last year.

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ELEVEN SUBSCRIPTIONS, THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
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1. Subscription to an Archie Publication
It's like having a little piece of supermarket checkout right there in your home.

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2. Subscription to Comics-Friendly Nickelodeon
No successful magazine has a better array of kids' comics and features as many likable cartoonists than Nickelodeon.

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3. Subscription to a DC Comic Book
This could make a nice nostalgia gift for a one-time weekly comic shop visitor. I'm not as familiar with these titles as I used to be, but I always like whatever Grant Morrison is working on. I'm told Geoff Johns is currently gaining in popularity after a long time as a mainstream comics critical punching bag, and they're certainly depending on his efforts, so his various series might be good, too.

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4. Subscription to a Marvel Comic Book
It's old school, but where once this was maybe the best way to guarantee getting a comic book, it's now an equally nice way to have a recurring gift that the reader might not otherwise pick up. I'd suggest whatever books Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are working on.

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5. Subscription to a TwoMorrows Magazines
There are certainly enough of the TwoMorrows magazines that one of them at least should be worthy of your attention. You can't go on buying them at conventions forever, you know.

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6. Subscription to Shojo Beat
This may be a more popular gift than a similar subscription to Shonen Jump as Shojo Beat seems to be on slightly fewer newsstands.

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7. Subscription to Shonen Jump
I had a gift subscription this past year and it was great to see that fat little sucker peeking out at me from the mailbox once a month.

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8. Subscription to The Comics Journal
The category-leading comics news and criticism magazine has not only offered subscriptions since the late 1970s, it's traditionally one of the better deals out there. It also affords you the ability to access magazine content on-line that's not generally available.

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9. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Subscription
Marvel unveiled its first serious step into the world of digital comics right before Christmas last year. I'm thinking about asking for this from a loved one this year. I don't have much of a desire to read even the best Marvel Comics, although I enjoy them, but the way I figure it I might be convinced to read a few thousand if it were cost-effective for me to do so.

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10. DailyInk.com Subscription
It may eventually go the way of the Dodo as more and more syndicates choose the strategy of "free," but for the conceivable future there's DailyInk.com from King Features, a site that features old and new material at a size that actually rewards your reading it on a computer screen. A solid gift for your friend that knows which strips run on the Houston Chronicle web site as opposed to which run on the Seattle P-I's.

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11. A Subscription to Modern Tales
Modern Tales is one of webcomics' premier sites when it comes to gathering quality material under one virtual roof; it's also one of the few with a lot of pay-for added features, which I would imagine might make a nice gift for a dabbler or someone who's expressed interest in a couple of the offerings.

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FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS NOT ALREADY OFFERED FOR YOUNG PERSON-FRIENDLY GNS AND/OR KIDS BOOKS WITH CARTOONIST HOOKS
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1. A Kids Book From Toon Books
The new line spearheaded by Francoise Mouly employs a staggering number of talents familiar to older comics readers, from Frank Cammuso to Eleanor Davis to Art Spiegelman to Dean Haspiel.

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2. Chiggers, Hope Larson
I picked up a copy of this sweetly-told summer camp story for the 12-year-old daughter of a friend and she was thrilled by it.

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3. One of the Kids-Focused Books From First Second
A number of the graphic novels in the First Second line are aimed at kids at a range of ages, including the successful Sardine series (up to six volumes I think) for very young kids and the award-winning Laika for slightly older ones.

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4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2007
Although a couple of years old, it's a book I'm asked still asked about by friends. Noted illustrator Selznick's solo effort has lovely comics sections that strengthen the work's focus on silent film.

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5. Bow-Wow Books
Formalist comics master Mark Newgarden co-authors this line of children's books that count on subtle visual effects and bright, funny plotlines. I've given these to a couple of families with really little kids and they've liked them enough to keep them in the heavy rotation for the several months since then.

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6. Something From Shaun Tan
The success of The Arrival may open up all of the Shaun Tan-illustrated books for reading by comics fan interested in how he employs imagery.

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7. One of Richard McGuire's Children's Books
Richard McGuire's children's books -- What Goes Around Comes Around, Night Becomes Day, What's Wrong With This Book? and Orange Book -- are full of the sharp visuals and formal play that distinguishes comics like "Here."

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8. One of Lorenzo Mattotti's Children's Books
Mattotti provided book illustration as idiosyncratically colorful as any of his more famous comics albums on works like Eugenio. If they're not still on the shelves where you are, they're pretty easy to find on-line.

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9. The Usagi Yojimbo Series, Stan Sakai
Oh, to be ten years old right now and have all of these solidly-crafted, cartoony violent and engrossing comics ahead of me to read.

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10. All-Ages Superhero Comics Efforts
Both Marvel and DC Comics have comics they publish aimed at younger readers, and many of them are quite a bit more fun to read by readers of all ages than a lot of today's continuity-obsessive, clenched-sphincter, standard comic books and collections.

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11. The Johnny Boo Series, James Kochalka
James is practically a kid himself, and his expressly-for-kids books have an undeniable power to them. The first volume is out and the second volume is imminent.

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12. The Amphigorey Series, Edward Gorey
Although I've focused mostly on current books for kids, I can't let the comics-related books I loved most as a child go without mention. Although I could be wrong I believe there are four books in this series now -- Amphigorey, Amphigorey Again, Amphigorey Too and Amphigorey Also -- all collecting various morbid and ookey stand-alone by the late cartoonist. I can't find a dedicated site, but they are not hard to track down.

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13. The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Series, Jeff Kinney
This list wouldn't be complete without this publishing phenomenon on the list.

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14. Tintin, Herge
Any comics list for kids also need this classic series, just waiting out there for kids to discover. There may be a smaller window for kids to enjoy these comics the way kids have for a few generation now, but it's still there. Also not hard to find at all through a variety of standard methods. According to Amazon.com, they seem to be selling these in really cheap omnibus-style hardcovers.

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15. Various Manga Series Out There For Kids
A ton of manga out there is certainly suitable for kids, just as a ton of it may not be depending on the household rules that ap
 
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Happy 51st Birthday, Jerry Ordway!

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Happy 77th Birthday, Tomi Ungerer!

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If I Were In Montreal, I’d Go To This

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Go, Read: Thanksgiving With the JSA

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a classic by Milo George brought to mind by Heidi MacDonald's Thanksgiving post
 
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Go, Enjoy: Ronnie del Carmen on Holiday Cartoons By Ernest H. Shepard

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Your 2008 Cartoon Art Trust Winners

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I totally missed this year's Cartoon Art Trust Awards at the Cartoon Museum, but luckily Chris Oliveros spotted that Raymond Briggs won a lifetime achievement award and the magic of Google yields at least one article listing the winners. You can get a look at the winners through the museum link, but I couldn't find a direct link to the listing.

Cartoon Art Trust Lifetime Achievement Award: Raymond Briggs
The Pont Prize: Charles Peattie, Russell Taylor
Saatchi Political Award: Nick Garland
Young Cartoonist (Under 18): Emilia Franklin
Young Cartoonist (Under 30): James Hood
The Joke Award: Grizelda
Strip Cartoonist: Stephen Collins
Pocket Cartoonist: Jeremy Banks
Caricature Award: Nicola Jennings
 
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Lickety-Whop: Capt. Easy Vs. Everybody 05

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they give me the wiggles, too, Easy!
to be continued
 
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Blog@Newsarama Departure Scorecard

According to JK Parkin, the departure of Blog@Newsarama writers announced yesterday includes Parkin, Kevin Melrose, Michael May, Chris Mautner, Tom Bondurant, Melissa Krause, Lisa Fortuner, Tim O'Shea, Stephanie Chan and Jennifer de Guzman. The currently injured Carla Hoffman will certainly not be making any such decision for a while. Parkin says Matt Maxwell and Jeff Trexler are on the fence -- Maxwell because he is worried about changing homes for his Strangeways: The Thirsty mid-serialization while Trexler may have a slightly different orientation to the work on the site due to his writing for multiple sites. Of the two, Parkin says Trexler may split time between both the main Newsarama site, its blog site as it refashions itself and whatever new endeavor is coming from Parkin and company. Parkin also says that Paul Levitz's relationship is with Newsarama rather than the blog, which suggests he will continue there as well.
 
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Go, Look: Leon On Thanksgiving

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OTBP: Jimbo Mini

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OTBP: Uncle Bob Adventures

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OTBP: Elmer #4

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congratulations to Gerry Alanguilan on completion of his series
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the longtime coverer of comics Joel Meadows attended the Posy Simmonds/Art Spiegelman event and took a few pictures to accompany his report, including one of Matt Groening.

image* over at Forbidden Planet International's always must-read blog Richard Bruton interviews Molly Bruton, age 9, about The DFC kids' comic. I dare you not to smile at some point during that interview. Plus it's hard not to want to scramble after a closer look at Sarah McIntyre's work, and her web site is a lot of fun.

* the site Major Spoilers has their gift guide up; this site will have its equivalent up tomorrow.

* since it's a holiday, may I have a profile of Saul Steinberg to read, perhaps in conjunction with a new exhibit with a bit of his art to go look at? Thank you. I don't know if there's a description of Steinberg out there that better matches my own conception of him than this one by Adam Gopnik in that piece: "So: a cartoonist, of the highest, most complicated poetic order, was what he was, and will remain. A cartoonist, because a cartoonist is someone who sees with his mind -- someone who is concerned less with preserving a world than recording a thought." Awesome.

* a few of you have sent me this post by comics retailer James Sime on an independent comic that caught his attention with a well-timed and well-executed publicity campaign.

* finally, the writer Marc Mason wonders after what seems like diminished interest in Kurt Busiek's Astro City. I've sort of wondered about this, too. I mean, this wasn't just a well-liked superhero comic of the late 1990s, it was pretty much the well-liked superhero comic of the late 1990s, and it hasn't really changed all that much I can tell. That's not to suggest there aren't all sorts of reasons why this happens, none of which are untoward or bad. It's just that with that specific title I (and I guess Marc) can't figure out which ones apply.
 
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It’s Been 40 Years Since This Comic

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Happy 46th Birthday, Paul Guinan!

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Go, Look: Seth Exhibit Photos

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This Star Trek Cover Made Me Laugh…

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... which is quite the achievement in that it also made me feel 130 years old.

in case you're only 105
 
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November 26, 2008


Wizard Releases Partial List For 2008

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To publicize a forthcoming issue of their magazine, Wizard has released some of their Best of 2008 winners:

* Best All-Ages title: Tiny Titans (DC Comics)
* Best Artist: Leinil Yu (Secret Invasion)
* Best Book: Action Comics (DC Comics)
* Best Cover Artist: Marko Djurdjevic (Thunderbolts, Daredevil)
* Best Event: Secret Invasion (Marvel Comics)
* Best Hero: Captain America (Marvel Comics)
* Best Horror writer: Joe Hill (Locke & Key)
* Best Indie of the Year: Kramers Ergot 7 (Buenaventura Press)
* Best Movie: Iron Man (Marvel Studios)
* Best Revamp: The Incredible Hercules (Marvel Comics)
* Best R-rated book: The Boys (Dynamite Entertainment)
* Best Single Issue: Y: The Last Man #60 (DC/Vertigo)
* Best Writer: Jason Aaron (Scalped, Ghost Rider, Wolverine)
* Best Villain: Norman Osborn (Marvel Comics)

If they hadn't had Joe Hill on there, I might have missed the "some" part, as all of the other categories sound like categories that might be on a short list. The issue of Wizard in question should hit comic book shops later today.
 
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Blog@Newsarama Contributors Leaving

In a post at the popular Blog@Newsarama adjunct to the comics and related entertainment news site Newsarama, JK Parkin announced that the current team of writers is leaving. They may return as a group in early 2009, and the post says the blog will continue with a new team of writers.

This is kind of odd in that someone had just brought to my attention that Newsarama's purchaser in 2007, Imaginova, had recently laid off some of its staff one guesses either in anticipation of further economic turmoil or just having the same sort of troubles that media companies are tending to have right now as on-line revenues flatline. However, this took place more than a month ago, plus Imaginova is one of the survivors of Inernetopocalypse Version 1.0 (they started in 1999, at about the middle point of that flush period) and doesn't seem a likely candidate for a sudden flame-out of the kind you'd expect to lead to a mass exodus. So I wasn't quite sure what to do with it or why it was sent my way.

Luckily, Blog@Newsarama's JK Parkin sent along the following statement, which indicates less of a "the sky is falling on comics" array of issues and points towards a more quotidian dissatisfaction with Newsarama and Imaginova following the site's summer 2008 re-launch:
"For the most part, the last two and a half years of working with Matt Brady and Michael Doran have been awesome. From the beginning, Michael and Matt were very supportive of everything we did on the blog, while at the same time being very hands off, giving me the freedom to choose who wrote for the blog, what we wrote, how it was designed, etc. And I'm really proud of what we did with the opportunity.

"Then Imaginova bought Newsarama. Things didn't change right away, at least not much, but then came the relaunch of Newsarama. It was less than optimal (and that's being kind), as anyone who has visited the sites and read the forums since last summer can see for themselves. Behind the scenes, things weren't any better. For example, going back to the day of the relaunch, we were never asked about or even told about Imaginova redesigning the blog. I found out it was happening because I was in the middle of doing a post and received a 404 error when I tried to publish it. I run the damn blog, and they didn't have the courtesy to give me a head's up about what they were doing.

"That was the start of the summer from hell.

"Here's another example.

"Vinnie's talking about a problem that should have been fixed months ago, when it was first brought to Imaginova's attention. Our comments haven't worked the way they are supposed to since the site relaunch. Even worse, I've emailed various folks at Imaginova about this issue many times since it started, and I have yet to receive a 'we're working on it or 'we'll get to it' response. A lot of people have given up on commenting on the blog as a result.

"There are more examples like this, but that probably gives you a flavor of what's been going on. I get that when a site relaunches or goes through a redesign like this that things aren't going to go perfectly. It's the nature of the beast. But combine those lingering problems with bad communications, and it just makes everything worse.

"Anyway, everything came to a head in September, when I decided to step down and the rest of the blog said they were going with me. The headaches, problems and lack of response from Imaginova just weren't worth it anymore. But Matt talked us into staying, promising some changes in how things worked, how we interacted with Imaginova and our first pay raise since we started with the blog back in 2006. He offered a pretty decent pay system that turned this from a side hobby we were all probably spending too much time on into a legitimate freelance opportunity.

"Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he came back in November and said those changes he'd promised were effectively null and void. So we decided to leave, effective Nov. 30.

"I believe Matt is now looking for more folks to take over the blog. I sincerely wish them the best of luck, as we put a lot into the site over the last couple of years. I also thank Matt and Michael for the opportunity they gave us. Honestly, I thought we had worked everything out in September, and it sucks that things have ended the way they have.

"We will be back. I can't share any details on exactly where yet, as we're still working that out. I'll share more about that once things are finalized. But did I mention how kick ass the Blog@ team is? I can't think of a better group of folks I'd want to work with. And despite everything that's happened, for some reason they haven't kicked me out of the group, so..."
A lengthy comment section has appeared on today's post at the Blog.
 
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Marc Andreyko Hits The 2008 Out 100

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I know there are some people that wish for this kind of recognition to go to an alt-comics talent instead of someone at least partially working on a mainstream comic book and the odd way those books frequently process this fact of American life, but I think it's great there's a comic book talent on the Out Magazine list and doubly great it's not the one I would have bet on being there had I been told there was one. Besides, how often do comics folk get to participate in this kind of photo opportunity? Click through the partial image above for the whole image and the write-up.
 
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Go, Look: Yokoyama Original Art

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And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #8

* Sean Kleefeld continues his walk through basic economic issues with a discussion of credit, what DHL's drastic reduction of services can mean to a small comics businessperson, and the idea that comics may be immune to recession.

* Kleefeld also catches a handful of stores closing. I think that we need to pay attention to individual store closures more now than we might have in the 1980s because a lot of stores are the only stores for miles and miles around a certain location. While gas is cheap right now, and there are discount shipping services for super-devoted fans that take advantage of generally cheap shipping, most industry folks I know still believe that taking all the stores out of an area usually means a net loss in terms of that region's comics readers.

* newspaper news: the esteemed editorial cartoonist David Horsey kicks in the biscuits the practice of fixing a newspaper's balance sheet by getting rid of top-tier talent, such as the Kansas City Star's Lee Judge. Michael Cavna follows up with Steve Greenberg, who until the day he was fired thought he was just about the safest employee in all of newspaper cartooning. This article is just depressing.

* I think one of the problems newspapers are having and a lot of businesses are having is a shift to models of profitability that depend on certain figures being met. It seems to me fairly dangerous if not flat out arrogant to count on double-digit growth out of a brand new news medium, like seems to be going on here.

* if I'm reading the article correctly, the failing economy has driven down the expected price of the Reed Business magazines perhaps to the point of making them not worth selling.
 
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Go, Look: Berried Treasure

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Go, Look: More Boody Rogers

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Go, Look: Alex Toth’s Johnny Thunder In Vengeance Of The Hidden Bullet

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Go, Look: Ginnie Hofmann

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* unless I'm punting on some salient detail, and I probably am, it looks like a German-language version of Chester Brown's I Never Liked You will be published under its original title of Fuck. I mention this only because I remember how mad Darcy Sullivan was when he wrote a review for The Comics Journal where half of it talked about what a great title "Fuck" was and how appropriate to the material it was. Plus, as many of our country's First Ladies can attest, I just sort of like typing dirty words. Update: Stefan Dinter writes in to note that it was published under that same title in 1994 by Jochen Enterprises.

image* I thought this was the best response I've read to revelations of Herge's loathing for Tintin that came out in letters of his sold at auction.

* when I was a kid I was obsessed with the idea of "scoop everything into a cart" shopping sprees, plotting out exactly how I'd do one if I ever received the opportunity. If I had managed to conceive of one happening in a store that sold comic books, I think I would have passed out a lot from conceptual, rapturous joy -- at least until I got it out of my system. Except for the promise of a brief aside, this shopping spree available to someone in Northern Ireland will have a more proper set financial consideration, but that's still a darn nice promotion.

* if I lived in Chicago, I would be signing up for one of Lynda Barry's writing/creativity conferences, even if I had to sell blood to do it. Not my blood, necessarily, but still.

* Todd Allen takes the opportunity of the Robert Kirkman vs. Brian Michael Bendis "debate" earlier this year over career paths to look at how much money people make through the Image deal and non-mainstream comics generally. While his conclusion -- no one's making much, few are making anything at all, and it's good to sell a lot of comic books -- may not be earth-shattering to any folks with more than a passing interest in the business end of comics, watching Allen walk through the numbers is great fun.

* the blogger John Jakala wonders after the logic of a super-ambitious hardcovers program from Marvel, and its potential to flood that part of the market.

* finally, I was in a comic shop the other day and a 45-year-old woman came charging into the store and declared that she heard Batman was going to die and she wanted to make sure she reserved ten copies of the comic book because she missed out on "the investment" of Captain America's death. Upon further overheard chatter, those of us shopping learned she couldn't afford to have her car fixed (why she bicycled over) and had been out of a job for three months (why she was there in the middle of the day). I think that's the kind of thing in which we can all take pride.
 
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Happy 55th Birthday, Pat Broderick!

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Happy 58th Birthday Doug Rice!

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Quick hits
Craft
Style Over Substance

Exhibits/Events
In Toronto
Coffs Cartoon Festival Report
Buy A Painting, Support The Shusters

History
Women In Comics
Batman Dies A Lot
On Cigarette Sadie
Jean Cocteau's Cartoons
Happy 90th, Gasoline Alley

Industry
Life At A Comic Shop
The Journey to Syndication
Newsarama: Dean Mullaney

Interviews/Profiles
PW: Dean Motter
CBR: Tony Millionaire
Newsarama: Mike Carey
Newsarama: Larry Marder
Newsarama: Duane Swierczynski

Not Comics
Reagan Read Comics
Garfield Postage En Francais
Charleston Gazette: Matt Green
Miracleman Explains The Financial Crisis
Warren Beatty Still In Scrum Over Dick Tracy Rights

Publishing
Talking About The DFC
How To Submit Work To SLG
A Surge In Childrens Comics
On Superhero Photocomic Project
An Introductory Guide To Dragonball

Reviews
Scott: Manly
Paul O'Brien: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Nina Stone: Thunderbolts #126
Greg McElhatton: Barb Wire Omnibus
Tucker Stone: The Brave and the Bold #100-102
J. Caleb Mozzocco: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1
 

 
November 25, 2008


Whatever Happened To David Gaddis?

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At this point, I'm not sure it's weirder that there was never a follow-up, or that the comic is still up when almost everything else I found interesting back then is gone. Nine years!
 
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Not Comics: HMH Stops Acquiring

In a news item that still has the power to chill in the large freezer that is the current American comics and general publishing landscape of ailing bookstore chains, a newspaper industry that resembles the Hindenburg disaster and the possibility that at any second a slew of major publishers could make the move into on-line publishing in a way that allows them to keep the licensing hopes alive without having to invest nearly as much (or, if they convince people, anything at all) in that troublesome making of stuff, PW is reporting that Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt has told its editors to stop acquiring books. Further, this may be an acquisitions ban without a set end point, and it's entirely possible that other publishers could join them. That is... well, um... *brrr*.

I do think it's worth noting that the scary thing is that this is really early on in the financial difficulties that publishing could face, as they're confronted with multiple economic pressures -- lack of credit, a downturn in sales -- at exactly the same time they're facing a potential paradigm-changing emergence of on-line iterations of what they do while burdened with a fat infrastructure that makes them ill-equipped to take advantage but still big enough in terms of reach and resources to keep others from taking full advantage.

I don't believe in the phrase "Perfect Storm," but your friend that decided to buy a giant new house a couple of years ago and just took a year off to travel before coming back from Madrid to find out their job is no longer there, causing them to faint on the way to the mailbox to send off their insurance renewal form and thus getting hit by a cab that just came up on the curb? That may be publishing and a lot of other industries right now. One just hopes this is more a situation of a person deciding to stay home on New Year's Eve 1999 than the person that's on Oprah that had to go to the food bank three days after losing their $170,000 job.
 
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Well, This Is Certainly Good News

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ComicsPro Alters By-Laws To Discourage Members From Selling Early

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The comics retailers' group ComicsPro has announced a couple of changes to its bylaws. This posts says that one area of change involves the roles of the officers in the organization, and the other has to do with discouraging members from selling ahead of those few items that Diamond ships early and gives a street date.

It's the second change that's likely more important in a general policy sense, as it seems the group will advocate for a move away from the "it doesn't hurt anybody/I'll get mine when I can because sometimes I don't get to get mine" attitude that seems to exist to significant effect in that aspect of comics distribution. Self-discipline by direct market retailers on those rare occasions they're asked to hold or return material would also likely speak to the entire group's ability to take on added responsibility were the market's major actors to go the way of, let's say, one-day-early shipping of comic books across the board. It also can't hurt if more Direct Market retailers were to get on the same page when it comes to pressing such an advantage.
 
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Chris Pitzer Posts His Best Of 2008 List

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Yet Another Thing I Find Amusing

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In these days where everybody is an expert at marketing and all adults know what appeals to all children, particularly if they don't have any, I wonder what the comics blognoscenti would have made of things like 1960s Marvel trying to sell kids their comic X-Men by featuring in prominent fashion the absolutely painful-looking power of a dour old dude.
 
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Go, Read: The Phantom Skull

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We Need Darryl Cunningham Postcards

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Go, Look: Anders Nilsen Sketches

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Go, Look: Marie Severin In Esquire

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Not Comics: Drinky Crow On-Line

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Go, Look: Stan Lee In 1967

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this story about someone reported they had $80,000 in comics stolen that they just had sitting in a basement somewhere sounds more like an Encyclopedia Brown set-up than a compelling true-life crime tale.

image* the writer Tim O'Neil has written a few posts about 1990s comic book sales and his blog The Hurting that are worth reading if you're interested in the subject of comics sales generally or mainstream comic book publishing history specifically. I like this one best, because it talks about the comics' content and notes that comics were a place for kids to access transgressive art during the last surge of the Reagan/Bush guarded culture. I would suggest that most kids were probably watching copies of Scarface over and over and over again, but it seems likely that quite a few young people also saw comic books as an opportunity to experience that kind of thing.

* "antiseptic, constipated, dry and bland"

* not comics: Sean Collins is right that this is a fine ad, and that it encompasses the best idea in the movie as it relates to the Batman enterprise: the asserted secret-secret-secret origin for the Joker that he's just some random dude standing on a street corner.

* because I'm well-known for my passion for event comics...?

* not comics: I'm surprised this list of comics TV shows that never got made didn't include the Sub-Mariner series bandied about a half-century or so ago. It didn't get very far, but surely if the Internet were around back then it would have received as much attention as the horrible Graysons idea.

* I want to hear more about the "DC Morale Team" mentioned here, particularly if they all wear the same uniform and fly around in a spaceship, hectoring Superman.

* prominent comics blogger Michael Cavna looks into the question as to how much a newspaper's political cartoonist is worth. I agree with his answer, although this applies to stars in both categories.

* finally, this two-parter is a decent interview if you want that company's perspective on general publishing realities and strategies, given full voice by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Dan DiDio. Although there are several points within the discussion presented on which one might challenge DiDio a bit, and certainly a ton of topics not broached where you might, it's sometimes extremely useful to hear the full blast of how a company want to present itself. One thing I think is clear is that DC's general strategy of focusing on its main characters for a while sounds like a replication of Marvel's recent success in placing things like Thor and Hulk into its top 10 as opposed to having their line led the way it was years ago by a couple of strong brands and bunch of supporting ones.
 
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Go, Look: Paul Murry Cartoon Project

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The site linked-to has a horrible ad thing going on that covers half the page, and only one of the two main links works -- it's the gag cartoon checklist, so if you want to know about the Disney work, you might start here. Still, the gag stuff contains a lot of cartoons I hadn't seen before. Murry would have been 97 today.
 
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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Springfield Con Report
Go See Michael Ramirez
KGB Bar Event Previewed
Matt Forsythe Signing Report

History
On Giles
On Seven Miles A Second
On Amazing Spider-Man #238-251

Industry
You're Killing Comics!
Two Pick-Ups For Female Cartoonists
Voice Of America Intones About Comics

Interviews/Profiles
Blog TO: Ramon Perez
Remembering Joe Cote
The Star: Takehiko Inoue
Top Drawer: Hans Rickheit
Kennebec Journal: Lee Weeks
Boston.com: Makoto Yoshitani
Wicked Local: Jonathan Hennessey
CBR: Corinna Sara Bechko, Gabriel Hardman

Not Comics
Or Perhaps Beating Them
Review of That The Chicagoan Book
GenCon Emerging From Bankruptcy?

Reviews
Tom McLean: Various
Alex Carr: Moresukine
Dick Hyacinth: Various
Stephen Taylor: Moresukine
Jennifer Bogart: The First Escape
Scott Campbell: Mu Shi Shi Vol. 6
Richard Bruton: The Mystery Play
Sean T. Collins: Biq Questions #11
Richard Marcus: The Cream Of Tank Girl
Blake Matthews: Watching The Watchmen
Brian Heater: Punk Rock and Trailer Parks
Monte Williams: The Mindscape Of Alan Moore
Tim Martin: An Anthology Of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2
 

 
November 24, 2008


Monday Distraction: Lucy Knisley

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via Abhay Khosla
 
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Good News News Stories: S. Clay Wilson, William & Nadine Messner-Loebs

* the writer Steve Duin reported late last week that the underground comix giant S. Clay Wilson was moved out of intensive care after a several-day stay following his being brought to the hospital with severe brain injuries. As the article reports, this basically means the doctors think he's not in immediate danger of dying, although the full extent of potential damage to the cartoonist's mental faculties has yet to be determined. As always with someone that's ill or injured, the news could have changed between now and then, but this is good news. Plus: Checkered Demon Pool Cue.

* this highly linked-to profile of William Messner-Loebs shows how much the cartoonist has rallied professionally and personally since articles a few years back rallying industry support to what sounded like a dire financial and potentially dangerous health situation for the one-time prominent mainstream comics writer and his wife, Nadine. One particularly great thing for readers about this revival of interest and all the Messner-Loebs work that's either come out or is about about to is that IDW has been collecting his Journey comic in massive, affordable tomes. That work seems just as odd and wonderful and totally out of place now as it did during its initial serialization.
 
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Critic’s Notebook: A Random Thought Or Two About DC’s Final Crisis Series

imageThanks to a local shop's dollar box, I recently read issues #2, #3 and #4 of DC's latest (and potentially last) multiverse-spanning crossover Final Crisis. While I still don't care all that much for the series, it occurs to me that I may have been looking in the wrong direction for the source of my dissatisfaction. The more I read the more I'm convinced that writer Grant Morrison and his co-collaborators, particularly J. G. Jones with his skill in making the human figure the language of a narrative, manage to communicate a hopelessness brought about by a triumphant evil -- both because it won't stand and fight and because evil's already won -- called for by the story. The disorientation and occasional ugliness of the series really comes through in the newer issues, more so in #s 2-3 than the more perfunctory #4. Where it's going from there is somewhat of a mystery. I'm unimpressed with the idea seemingly floated that the Anti-Life Equation has fascistic overtones. That doesn't seem to me as compelling as Jack Kirby's treatment of it as something beyond the desire of any single actor in his stories, something that the agents of traditional comic book evil and the act of resisting those agents strengthen in equal measure. But who knows? There's still a lot of room in the series for ideas to be unpacked, and that's a good candidate for further explication.

Where I now see the primary weakness of Final Crisis is that the DC universe itself isn't vital enough or interesting enough or dependable enough as a starting point or filled with enough creative energy for me to give a crap as it all slips away. It's hard to take seriously a crisis paired with an adjective, even an alarming one. A greater sense of peril was engendered by one of Fred Sanford's heart attacks. That's only half of it, though. Writers like Morrison having to build a castle of meaning before setting to it with cannons tend to slip into a balancing act that favors the church of collective memory over the reality of the monthly in-and-out grind. The best manage to suggest the latter feeds the former. It's hard to muster even that simple act of veneration when the powers-that-be hit the reset button and, worse, its conceptual re-configuration cousins, like so many hopped-up mice desperate for cheese. Something along the lines of Mary Marvel deteriorating into a crazed, hyperviolent super-villain might have been a wrenching thing for fans to see in 1948 or 1968 or even 1988. It isn't anymore, particularly not when it's just been done to goofier, duller effect over the last year. The best scenes in Final Crisis concern the newer or more obscure characters, I think because they're largely free of the exhaustion and fuss to be found whenever DC pays attention to you for a couple of years at a time. In that light, New God Orion's apparent death in other comics leading into Final Crisis wasn't bad because it somehow violated some compact of continuity but because it made whatever continuity in which you care to invest yourself less special. I suppose there's subtext to be explored there, too, a suggestion that the actions of Grant Morrison's already-victorious denizens of Apokolips on Earth somehow represent or mirror the significant slide these comics have suffered as vehicles of wonder and imagination. But at best that makes the ride more clever. It doesn't make it more satisfying.
 
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If I Were In New Delhi, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Bill Randall’s Notes On Two Manga/Gallery Artists He Recently Profiled

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Akino Kondou

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Aya Takano
 
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Go, Look: Feeling No Pain

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Go, Look: More Opper Overflow

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Go, Look: Kim Deitch Video 03


 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Variety has put its "Bags and Boards" blog up by the register, or whatever comics-shop metaphor applies, as the long-running (by comics blog standards) and high-profile, on-line effort has been terminated for financial reasons. Tom McLean is taking the column to its own site for the recent future, as he details in that final post. I hope that you'll all adjust your bookmarks, I wish Tom the absolute best in his effort's next phase, and I look forward to linking to his articles there.

* there's nothing to say about it more than "there it is," but I liked this story about a father and son taking a long trip to meet Don Rosa.

image* a few of you have sent me this long, rambling look at the X-Men that focuses on their late-'70s/early-'80s Golden Age without being rigidly locked into continuity issues as an aesthetic measure. I'm not sure I believe every assertion made here -- I think there's probably more to say about Wolverine's ascension from supporting character to crossover superstar, for instance -- but if you can stomach the loose format and really like those comics, it might be worth your time to use the piece to muse on what is really an unlikely success story, even by comics standards.

* not comics: a summary as to where the legal battle over the forthcoming Watchmen film stands right now.

* for some strange reason I've been forgetting to roll out the birthday posts on the web site. So a belated happy birthday to Rian Hughes (1963), Guy Davis (1966), Jill Thompson (1966), Stephanie Gladden (1969), Terry Gilliam (1940), Roy Thomas (1940), David Wenzel (1950) and Ron Randall (1956).

* speaking of birthdays, my friend Rich Tommaso had a birthday the other day, but I couldn't post anything because I don't have a birth date for Rich. Happy Belated Birthday, Rich. I really do need a birth date. I mean, I'm sure both Roy Thomas and Terry Gilliam are swell guys and I'd wish each of 'em a happy birthday if Roy and I worked out in the same gym and Terry went to my church, but for CR I'm more interested in the fact that they're the same age, and how that makes me perceive each career.

image* this appraisal of the late, great Saul Steinberg's gifts sure doesn't waste any words.

* I found this profile of Kenji Ando fascinating for how it deals with the total lack of an oppositional journalism vein in reporting on Japan's manga industry to the point where the arrival of someone trying to get a few questions answered who is willing to ask these questions in a pretty straight-forward way seems freakishly bizarre.

* this headline made me laugh. Also it's funny how odd serial comics publishing sometimes sounds when you try to describe it these days.

* in we are all hurtling towards the abyss news, Craig Thompson remembers working on Goodbye, Chunky Rice ten years later. Eddie Campbell softens a potentially similar blow by becoming slightly unstuck in time remembering his personal history with Dave Gibbons.

* finally, I'm not sure how on earth any interview this Fall with the great Art Spiegelman could be said to be exclusive, but this is one of the better ones in the recent run, and I appreciate any interview these days that takes the time to use the profile format as opposed to the Q&A. One thing that's fascinating about Spiegelman's conception of comics is how ingrained it is within the publishing model he chose, whereas a lot of cartoonists seems to operate not exactly in opposition but very much oblivious to how that work is eventually presented.
 
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Go, Look: Four Horror Comics

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Quick hits
Craft
Development Is Important, Too

Exhibits/Events
Comics Lecture Report
Euro-Comics Event Report
Khalil Bendib Presents (via)
Jeff Smith and Neil Gaiman CBLDF Team-Up

History
I Loved This Poster
Did Herriman Pass?
A Tribute To Sid Brown
On Alison Bechdel's Comics 01
On Alison Bechdel's Comics 02

Industry
This Made Me Grin
Hooray For Mr. Lee
This Made Me Laugh
Comics... On The Internet?
This Made Me Laugh And Hate Myself

Interviews/Profiles
Pulse: Lora Innes
CBR: Chynna Clugston
ComicMix: Tim Pilcher 01
ComicMix: Tim Pilcher 02
Decider: Felix Tannenbaum
Ledger-Enquirer: Mia Kirshner
Chicagoist.com: Joseph Lappie
Muncie Star-Press: Dan Wright

Not Comics
Drinky Crow Era Begins
Dude, It's Just A Web Site
This Doesn't Give Me Any Hope At All

Publishing
Book Publishing Is Gross
Brian Fies On Smile Project
Elsewhere Chronicles Are Coming
Patriot-News on Rory Hayes' Revival
ICv2.com Impressed With Marvel History Book

Reviews
Tucker Stone: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Ed Sizemore: Amulet Vol. 1
Sean T. Collins: I Live Here
Richard Krauss: Two Stories
Rob Clough: Daybreak Vol. 3
Richard Bruton: Bostin Heroes #1
Greg McElhatton: My Alaskan Summer
Matt Badham: The Most Natural Thing in the World
Robert Stanley Martin: Love and Rockets: New Stories #1
 

 
November 23, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: James Kochalka

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*****

imageI don't know that I'll ever figure out James Kochalka, and I'm not sure I care. I enjoy James and I like James' work quite a bit in its various forms, and I'm particularly fond of American Elf, his daily diary strip that recently celebrated a 10th anniversary. I imagine that for a long of young cartoonists the cartoonist/singer/painter looms large influence-wise in a way that we're only now just beginning to see, not just a slew of imitative webcomics but a whole approach to doing comics, extending from a greater emphasis on process all the way to his frequently satisfying embrace of odd colors that work on the screen more than they might on the printed page. Although he may not be the most successful cartoonist of his generation, Kochalka's career makes admirable sense: a constant flow from play into work, from art into life, and back again. It's a way of thinking where I could probably ask him 125 questions and I know that he'd answer them honestly and without the usual barriers between thought and response. I kept it down under 25, though. In the interview below we talk mostly about American Elf but make sure to include the latest word on some of the projects of his I like best: Johnny Boo, Superf*ckers and his recent forays into painting -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: When you passed the ten-year point on American Elf, was there any extra rumination on your part over what you've done, the accomplishment represented by the strip?

JAMES KOCHALKA: The whole past year, since October a year ago, I've been pretty acutely aware that the 10th anniversary was coming. In fact, I did worry from time to time that the entire endeavor had been sort of pointless. When I began, I was hoping to reveal something amazing about the way a human life unfolded. That unlike typical literature, the stories of our lives don't have neat beginnings, middles, and ends. It's more like thousands of interconnected threads of stories winding and looping and knotting around each other, starting and stopping and repeating endlessly. But that was pretty clearly established in just the first couple years of the strip, and maybe the rest of the ten years was just more of the same and rather pointless? It's not like every year of the strip necessarily reveals greater truths about human existence than the year before it. But then I look back over the ten years as whole and there have been profound changes... especially becoming a father... that have made the strip a much richer work. So, it's good that I stuck with it.

SPURGEON: Another thing I imagine might be on your mind is how doing the strip, both the documentary aspect of it and the investment it represents, has perhaps altered your life. Do you think your life is different for having this very personal, intimate dialogue with a readership out there on a daily basis?

KOCHALKA: That's just the thing. When I reached the anniversary it suddenly became clear to me that discovering some secret truth about human existence was not necessarily important. That the really important thing about drawing the daily diary strip was the way that it had utterly transformed my life for the better. I am more unified and whole because of the strip. There is no meaningful separation between my art and my life. They have become one.

SPURGEON: Is there anything that used to be a bigger part of American Elf that's maybe anot in there as much now? Is there anything you notice by its absence?

KOCHALKA: Sure, lots of stuff. For instance, I used to work as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant, which was in the strip a lot for the first couple of months before I quit my job to become a full-time artist. Amy and I used to go out drinking and stuff, but that's not really in there that much anymore, because now that we have kids we just don't do it anymore. My cat Spandy used to be in the strip nearly constantly, but she's been largely replaced by Eli and Oliver. She still shows up in like one strip a month maybe, but she almost never talks anymore like I used to draw her doing.

Even my wife Amy is not in the strip as much anymore as she used to be. These two boys so completely overwhelm our lives that a lot of other stuff is pushed out. I think it's a rather fascinating turn of events... it's a real struggle, I think that you can see the struggle in the strip. Sometimes I happily let them consume me totally, and other times I struggle against it. I think it's a dynamic that's in there, but not overtly stated.

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SPURGEON: There seems to be a tendency to split artists who work with autobiographical figures into those that work with... let's call them peak experiences and those that work with daily experiences, with the idea from some that those cartoonists who work with one or two major, life-changing experiences may be making more powerful comics than those that are saying "here's what happened today." I was interested how you might make the case for a daily diary comic to someone who was maybe a bit skeptical about reading one. What specific value does your work have? Does it have value beyond the pleasure of reading it?

KOCHALKA: I don't think that my strip is really about "what happened today." It's about what happened today in relation to every other day. Beyond that, it's about the totality of my human life, and by extension all human lives. Which I think is incredibly more important than someone's "peak experience." Sometimes the peaks obscure the true meaning and value of human life. I know that when I'm drawing the strip, sometimes even the day's peak experience is not ultimately the thing I choose to draw. Because sometimes the minor events have a subtle resonance that speaks more directly to the human experience, whereas the peak distracts and misleads.

My strip makes the mundane more important. It can even make the mundane magical and transformative. And when the mundane is magical and transformative then those peak experiences shrink in importance, and become more like awkward anomalies.

But I tackle the peak experiences, too, when they come and I think the feeling is right. Nothing earth shattering has happened to me, but my life has highs and lows just like any other.

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SPURGEON: I'm not sure exactly how to phrase this... one thing I find interesting about your work is that it's not nostalgic. I think a lot of people if asked to do a comic dealing with some of American Elf's basic themes and interests would spend more time talking about their personal histories... how do you avoid being overly nostalgic in your work? Is that something you have to actively resist?

KOCHALKA: Huh. That's interesting. I guess I live so strongly in the moment that I'm not easily overcome by thoughts of the past? The living in the moment thing greatly accentuates and exaggerates the importance of what I'm experiencing right now. Like, if a meal is really good, I'm thinking "this is the best thing I have ever eaten." Or if I'm experiencing joy, I'm thinking "I've never been as happy as I am right now." Unfortunately, minor negative experiences easily overwhelm me as well.

I think maybe the process of drawing the strip, which is very much focused on the now, may have accidentally worked to rewire my brain in this respect. Or maybe the whole reason I draw the strip is because my brain was already wired this way.

imageSPURGEON: Congratulations on being named an Official Selection of the 2009 Angouleme Festival. How are you published in Europe, James? How much of your work is available over there? Do readers in Europe either through your print publication or through on-line means react to your work differently?

KOCHALKA: I really have little idea what readers in Europe think of my work. There has been a French and Danish edition of Kissers, a Portuguese edition of my early graphic novel Paradise Sucks, Portuguese and Spanish collections of my short stories, and there have been French, Italian and Spanish editions of American Elf, each in slightly different form. The french edition of American Elf by Ego Comme X is very much like Top Shelf's. It's a big book collecting the first five years of the strip. That's the one that's made Angouleme's list.

SPURGEON: You're slated to go to Angouleme this year. Do you like con and festival experiences?

KOCHALKA: They were thrilling when I was younger. And sometimes they're still thrilling, especially when I meet new people or crash crazy parties or something. Sitting at the table and signing books can be kind of a chore unless I remind myself to have fun with it. I think it's important to be there, professionally, to remind people that I exist and make and maintain contacts that could be useful in this business.

SPURGEON: You have a lot of irons in the fire, it seems. What is your daily experience with art like? I know that you've invested a lot of your time into play with your family, so maybe it's not even that distinct a time when you're working on your art. But do you keep any kind of schedule? Do you move back and forth between projects as it pleases you to do so? I guess, in general, how do you work?

KOCHALKA: Well, as I go about my day I'm thinking comics all the time. I mentally rewrite my life in comics form as I live it. I spend a lot of time playing with my boys, of course, but a lot of that is creative play which is essentially like writing stories in 3D space using our bodies. I spontaneously burst out in song, little songs inspired by whatever we're doing at the time. Like, if someone falls down I might bust out a song about that, or a song about cooking dinner, or a song about changing the diaper, or brushing teething. Just all day long, I sing little songs. Eli is five, he's in kindergarten, and Oliver is almost one and he's in daycare three days a week, so I do most of my work on those days when they're out of the house. But that's not quite enough, so on the days that Oliver is home I'll draw while he takes a nap, or sometimes even when he's sitting on my lap, or in the evening when they go to sleep.

If I'm working on a comic for kids then Eli is always my test audience. The comics are read to him again and again as bedtime stories in rough draft form, works in progress.

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SPURGEON: Do you have a sense of your audience, and how it might be different than most comics audiences? I always got the sense that you had a lot of younger readers, not just for the material that you have targeted for that group but for your work in general.

KOCHALKA: My readership started off as almost exclusively 20-something hipsters, but now it is much more diverse, I think. In addition to running online -- and being collected into books -- American Elf also runs in the local free weekly paper, Seven Days. Although it's definitely an adult-oriented strip, there's plenty of kids that read American Elf in the newspaper. A lot of couples tell me that they love to read American Elf to each other in bed. The readership seems to include male & female, young & old, couples & singles. The comics that I do specifically for kids, like Johnny Boo, also have a pretty substantial adult readership. For a guy like me who is kind of a freak, it's astonishing that such a wide crowd seems to get my work. I mean, my "career" is still pretty much at the cult level of success, but my readers aren't exclusively the type of people that seek out and revel in the obscure.

SPURGEON: How do you feel about your imitators, those inspired by you? What is it like looking in that kind of fun house mirror?

KOCHALKA: I think it's good that I inspired them to make more art. It's good to draw everyday, no harm can come of that I think. If they're drawing a diary strip, then they have to take some time to contemplate their life, and I think that's good, too. It's not that the world needs more diary strips necessarily, but I think there's plenty of people who find drawing one to be the same sort of transformative experience that I found it be, so it's good for them personally even if the world at large has no use for it.

At some point, any ambitious artist is going to want to make their own stamp on the world and go in their own direction. But not everyone has that ambition, and I wouldn't think less of anyone for that.

SPURGEON: I have no sense of what you read, James. Is comics a part of your reading, still? Who do you find inspirational in that sense? Is there anything or anyone that informs your work that we might be surprised to hear does so?

KOCHALKA: My comics reading is pretty omnivorous. I love the standard alt comics pantheon of greats... Dan Clowes and Chris Ware are two favorites, most everything from Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly. I like the new comics avant garde, Ben Jones of Paper Rad is big favorite, and I really like much of the stuff in Kramers Ergot. I really like where art comics and adventure comics cross paths, like in Powr Mastrs by CF, or The Mourning Star by Kazimir Strepek, or Daybreak by Brian Ralph. I love mainstream superhero comics stuff, like Frank Miller when he does Bat Man, or Invincible by Robot Kirkman, or All-Star Superman. I read a lot of the current DC comics for little kids to my son Eli, like Tiny Titans or Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century. I also read him the Harvey reprints like Casper and Hot Stuff the Little Devil. I love the Sunday Press comic strip reprints. I love everything by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim. Moomin by Tove Jansson. Jack Kirby reprints. We've only scratched the surface here of what I read and like.

After years of avoiding prose, I find I've been reading a lot of non-comics work lately too. Kelly Link (Magic For Beginners) is pretty great. I love Toa Lin's absurd avant garde writing, especially his book Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which is poetry... mostly about depressed hamsters. Miranda July. George Saunders. Etgar Keret. I guess the trend here is that I prefer short stories to novels, but I like full on novels, too. Tove Jansson is probably my favorite author, and not just her children's work. I've read all her adult novels, too, in the last couple years.

SPURGEON: Beyond works that you like, do you feel that there are works that are sympathetic to your own? Are there works that you feel are doing the same sort of thing you are in terms of their focus and approach, say?

KOCHALKA: Oh, I see what you mean. I don't know really. I feel an affinity for aspects of the work of a wide variety of cartoonists. But I'm not sure there's anyone that close where I feel like we're really really artistically in sync together. The closest may be Tony Millionaire, in that he draws both imaginative adventure comics, gross out stuff, and tender delicate work as well.

Yeah... I'd say the two cartoonists whose work is most often on my mind when I'm working are probably Tony Millionaire and Chris Ware. Chris Ware's work especially is something of a counterpoint for American Elf. Fascinating, brilliant work that is going in a nearly opposite direction than mine is... and yet still retains a clear link. I think it's the buried humanity of his work and it's ambition that most interests me. I very clearly do not want my humanity to be buried by my ambition. I want my ambition to be wedded to joy and not despair. And make no mistake, I am a hugely ambitious cartoonist. I would never have undertaken such a giant work as American Elf if I were not.

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SPURGEON: One thing that really strikes me when I go back to your work after a while of not looking at it is your sense of color, the very strong use of some offbeat colors mixed together, this overall effect of kind of a bright, not-yet-properly tuned TV flooding a darkened room. How do you approach the colors in your strip?

KOCHALKA: Well, I pick the color of the line work first and then put the rest of the colors in response to that. I use color to try to capture a combination of factors... the time of day, the time of year, and the emotional reality of the strip as I see it. I guess in that regard it's a sort of expressionism.

I feel no worries about taking a risk with color, because if it doesn't work out there's always tomorrow to try again. The daily strip is freeing in that sense... it doesn't matter much if I want to try something different, no matter what I do it's just a little blip in the work as a whole.

SPURGEON: Doing a comic for as long as American Elf, is there any work on your part to try to avoid visual or rhythmic clichés? Do you ever go back over a bunch of the strips and say, "My gosh, I do that one thing entirely too frequently." Do you have a self-improvement gene that comes out that way, James? If not, how do you work on becoming a better cartoonist, or do you even think about it in those terms?

KOCHALKA: In real life the same things do in fact happen again and again. So I sometimes like to capture that in the strip. I actually don't reread my strip very much at all, but I do look them over without really reading them from time to time -- especially when proofing the books before they go to the printer -- and I'm generally pretty aware of what I've done and haven't done.

imageI try not to let myself get complacent. I don't go for the thing that would be easiest to draw each day. Still, some deeply personal things are outrageously difficult to get a handle on. Some of the most difficult things to write about... if I can't tackle them the first time they occur to me, I wait until they pop up again later in life, and maybe that's the time that I can handle it. And sometimes I just have to force myself to take the plunge and step in that direction, and sometimes I have to find a way to write about it sideways and trick myself that way.

I really do work hard to always keep the strip going forward, pushing harder emotionally in various directions... but the idea of "better"? Well, what I think is better varies wildly from day to day. I find it more useful to wait until I'm unbalanced, and let the strip hit me with a sucker punch. Not just in my diary strip, but all my work, I try to work myself into a zone where things can pop in unexpectedly and take me by surprise. It's kind of like this... part of my mind is not thinking, and another part is pushing really hard trying to get deeper into the secret stuff.

SPURGEON: When we talked a long, long time ago, you told me that there was a part of you that would always prefer mini-comics because of the immediacy of getting something out there just by hitting the copier. I take it that putting stuff up on-line has a similar appeal. What do you think is at the heart of your desire to get your work out quickly? Is it to make the work and the feedback one experience? Is it just excitement over the work itself? Is it the thrill of working without an editorial net?

KOCHALKA: The internet has mostly replaced the mini-comic, for me. When I'm working on something, and right after I've finished it, that's when I care about it most. I want to get it out there into the world while I still care about it. That's when it feels most alive to me. Waiting for a publisher to schedule a work is and waiting for it to finally see print is like watching it die, or even a bit like dying myself. By the time the book is published it's already practically dead to me, I've moved on to other work. I think that's why I like more immediate forms of distribution.

SPURGEON: Do you have any feelings about webcomics in general and how they've progressed? I talked to Jesse Reklaw recently and it struck me that both he and you kind of presaged this whole webcomics revolution while at the same time not letting that whole world pass you by like some of the early webcomics talents. Is there anything you admire or think interesting about the wave of prominent web site cartoons out there? Is there anything you think is missing from that whole scene, work you'd like to see done or a way of approaching work you'd love to see emphasized? Do you even consider yourself a webcartoonist?

KOCHALKA: I'm amazing how many of these guys are able to make really good money drawing their webcomics and giving them away for free. If there's any danger it's that their work can become more about generating money-making t-shirt slogans and less about the stuff of art, like exploring the human condition or whatever.

I do consider myself a webcartoonist. I have a lot of webcartoonist friends and we talk about webcartoonist stuff.

But perhaps really my diary comic is more part of the same zeitgeist that led to blogs and YouTube. Blogs and YouTube are about taking the little mundane things showcasing them, and making them huge and important, kinda just like American Elf does. The thing that all these have in common, webcomics too, is ordinary people, not giant corporations, making their own stuff unfettered by editors.

Really, I want to make anything and everything. Toys, movies, books, records, webcomics. I even try to invent new drinks and stuff like that.

SPURGEON: Do you have any thoughts about how your work will be distributed in the near future? It seems like you're perfectly set up to be published on a mobile phone, for example.

KOCHALKA: People keep saying that to me. I don't think American Elf would work that way... just because it's not very rigidly drawn... it varies quite a bit in panel size and shape, which work fine on the large screen of a computer, but I don't think that cell phones offer a big enough canvas for that. I think they'd be pretty unforgiving of any strip that was not drawn specifically for their dimensions.

imageSPURGEON: I wanted to ask you about some of your other projects. First, is Superf*ckers dead? I got the sense that that book became really complicated to make, really quickly, at least in terms of having all these character and finding fresh ground on which to do an issue.

KOCHALKA: SuperF*ckers is extremely difficult, time consuming work. But it keeps drawing me back. I recently did a new 16 page story, that I put up as bonus content for subscribers at AmericanElf.com.

imageSPURGEON: I didn't know! It occurs to me the next Johnny Boo is due any day now, too. Am I right in thinking that this was your attempt at capturing the kind of joking and light slapstick that dominates everyday play with young kids? Was there anything different about returning to that work for #2?

KOCHALKA: Yes, it is about the kind of imaginative, rollicking play that my kids and I partake in. But it is also about what an asshole I am. I have wild mood swings, and the book sort of mimics that. I often go very quickly from joy to despair to anger to joy, ping-ponging back and forth all day long. And I've tried to recreate that dynamic in the book. Also, Johnny Boo himself is kind of comment on my ego as an artist. He thinks he's awesome just for being Johnny Boo. I think it's a little more pointed in #2.

imageSPURGEON: I also remember that at one point you had a book of small paintings coming out. Is that still due? What is that, exactly?

KOCHALKA: I've been paintings hundreds and hundreds of little 2x2 inch paintings. I've had three major shows of them at Giant Robot over the last couple years, first at Giant Robot NY, then Giant Robot SF, and right now at GR2 in LA. So, I took what I thought were the best ones and arranged them six to a page in a sort of comic book format. It forms a sort of non-narrative narrative... a sort of emotional narrative with no plot. Anyhow, I put the book together about a year ago and Top Shelf scheduled it for spring 2008. Then Top Shelf bumped it to November 2008. But then they just told me that they will not publish it until 2010. I think chances are slim for this book, honestly.

SPURGEON: Have you done well in terms of gallery sales and original art sales over the years? Is there something you think people react to seeing your originals that they might not react to with the published material?

KOCHALKA: The shows at Giant Robot have been pretty wildly successful. They have their own scene going on... so although there's definitely a lot of my readers buying the paintings, there's also a lot of people who aren't even that familiar with my comics who are buying the paintings too.

Paintings definitely do have a different appeal than comics. I guess it's about contemplating one moment in time as opposed to showing the progression of time.

SPURGEON: There seems to be a lot of similarity between your various comic project in the kinds of things that interest you, and there seems to be a playfulness that connects your comics and your music -- how is panting different as a way to express your favorite themes? What does painting allow you to do that cartooning or making music doesn't?

KOCHALKA: I guess painting allows me to use unobstructed metaphor. That is, I can paint something that means something to me, divorced from story, and I don't need to explain it or justify it in any way if I don't want to.

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SPURGEON: You mentioned in your anniversary strip that that would have been a good point to quit. It was a joke, but do you have any idea what will be a good point for you to stop doing that comic? When do you think you'll know it's time to end it?

KOCHALKA: There may be no way out. I think I'm doomed. No, seriously, I'll stop American Elf if and when I really want to. It's a lot of damn work, that's for sure, so I often entertain the fantasy about quitting. But it's such a huge part of my life now, I don't think I could quit. If I quit, it would be probably be because something else became more important to me. Which could happen. Maybe some other artistic obsession will take over. Or maybe society will crumble and there won't be paper or ink or time to fritter away.

SPURGEON: Is craft still the enemy?

KOCHALKA: Yes. However, because I draw so much, so hard, I almost can't help but to improve my chops and solidify my craft. I have to purposefully cultivate a situation where I can still be surprised, where the new and unexpected sneaks in and overpowers my years of experience. Like I think I said earlier, I kind of let half my brain work without thinking while the other half my brain positions itself to knock me on my ass.

*****

* self-portrait, painting
* photo by me
* early American Elf panel
* living in the moment, American Elf
* the recently-honored French-language book
* I just sort of liked this one, American Elf
* some of the offbeat coloration Kochalka uses to fine effect, American Elf
* I just sort of liked this panel, American Elf
* from Superf*ckers
* the second Johnny Boo cover
* painting by Kochalka
* the tenth anniversary comic, American Elf
* (below) Kochalka doing answers for this interview


*****

* American Elf
* American Elf print collections: one, two, three
* Johnny Boo Volume Two: Twinkle Power, hardcover, 40 pages, 9781603090155, $9.95
* other titles

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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posted 6:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In New Delhi, I’d Go To This

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posted 6:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Blois, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: In Praise Of Negative Reviews

* go, read: article on Alex Ross' Superman model

* go, read: fascinating set of auctioned Herge letters

* go, bookmark: Underwire

* go, enjoy: Posy Simmonds Literary Life archive

 
posted 6:40 am PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #143—Smoove

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Stylishly Attired Male Comics Characters," a topic suggested by Scott Dunbier. This was how they responded.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The Spirit
2. Elijah Snow
3. Nick Fury
4. Cadbury
5. J Jonah Jameson

*****

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Jean-Paul Jennequin

1. Zechariah in Astounding Wolf-Man
2. Sebastian Shaw
3. Zorglub
4. Bruno Brazil
5. Arlequin (from the short-lived series by Van Hamme and Dany)

*****

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Michael Aushenker

Oldboy
Tony Stark
Tintin
The Phantom Stranger
Damien Hellstrom (professorial garb only, NOT as Son of Satan)

*****

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Randall Ragsdale

1. Scott Pilgrim
2. Carl Grimes
3. Elijah Snow
4. Lord Fanny
5. 00.05 (Umbrella Academy)

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Red Safari Jacket Wonderman
2. Gladstone Gander
3. Dr. Manhattan (when he wants to)
4. Elrod the Albino (he's got a tall pointy hat, son)
5. Iron Man

*****

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Booksteve

1-Scrooge McDuck
2-Clive Reston (from Master of Kung-Fu)
3-The late Maxwell Lord
4-Lamont Cranston
5-Funky Flashman

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. The Phantom Stranger
2. Reuben Flagg
3. Dr. Will Magnus
4. Zatara
5. Morgan Edge

*****

Rick at Casablanca Comics

1. The Phantom Stranger
2. Reuben Flagg
3. Dr. Will Magnus
4. Zatara
5. Morgan Edge

*****

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Felix Tannenbaum

1) Ray Dominguez (love and rockets!)
2) Bruce Wayne
3) Monsieur Jean
4) The Beyonder
5) Desire

*****

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Fred Hembeck

1. Hiram Lodge
2. Count Dracula
3. Tubby Tompkins
4. The Gentleman Ghost
5. Mike Murdock

*****

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John McCorkle

Adrian Veidt
John Blacksad
Luca Torelli, alias Torpedo
Larry B. Max
V

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. Devlin Waugh
2. Desire
3. Ramone Dexter
4. The Shade, once he'd settled in Opal City
5. His Lordship the Viscount St. Austell-in-the-Moor Biggleswade-Brixham

*****

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Dave Carter

1. Bruce Wayne
2. Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias)
3. Lex Luthor (ca. Post-Crisis reboot)
4. Mandrake the Magician
5. The Phantom Stranger

*****

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Diana Tamblyn

* Tony Stark
* Bruce Wayne
* Alfred
* Lex Luthor
* Hunter Rose

*****

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Chris Noble

1. King Mob
2. The Phantom Stranger
3. Hunter Rose
4. Morpheus
5. John Costantine

*****

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Mike Lynch

1. Daddy Warbucks
2. Jon Sable
3. The Kingpin
4. Basil St. John (Brenda Starr's beau)
5. Roger Kaputnik

*****

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Jason Ragle

Jack Knight (Starman)
Spider Jerusalem
Richie Rich
King Mob
Hopey Glass

*****

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Richard Pachter

1. Clark Kent (purple suits!)
2. Jimmy Olsen (especially in All Star Superman)
3. Tony Stark (nuff said)
4. Zenith (and his doppelganger, Vertex)
5. Ruben Flagg (Chaykin!)

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1. Casanova Quinn
2. Afrodisiac
3. Dick Tracy
4. Rogan Gosh
5. The Butler

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. Reuben Flagg
2. 9-Jack-9
3. Big Ben, The Man With No Time For Crime
4. Black Jack
5. The Gentleman Ghost

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. Wimbledon Green
2. Feldman
3. The Joker
4. Happy Hooligan
5. Mister X

*****

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Mike Bruscell

Ditko's Question
Tintin
Casanova Quinn
Captain Easy
Sam Simeon

*****

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Dave Knott

* Largo Winch
* Hyacinthe De Cavallere (a.k.a. The Dungeon Keeper)
* Luca Torelli (a.k.a. Torpedo)
* Gilgamesh Wulfenbach
* Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin)

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Shatter
2. Vic Sage, The Question
3. Dick Carstairs, The Masked Man
4. Rex Libris
5. Frankenstein Mobster

*****

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Mark Coale

Tony Stark
John Constantine
Casanova Quinn
Sebastian Shaw
Ra's Al Ghul

*****

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Kathryn Immonen

1. Tintin
2. Yves Chaland's Le Jeune Albert (what can I say. I clearly have a problem with plus fours.)
3. Steranko's Nick Fury
4. Lloyd Llewellyn
5. Paul Grist's Kane (I might also have a thing with hammer pants... sorry)

*****

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Russell Lissau

1 Bruce Wayne
2 Alfred Pennyworth
3 The Question
4 Charles Xavier
5 Rorschach

*****

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Frank Santoro

* Reuben Flagg
* Captain Harlock
* The Rose (from Ron Frenz Spider-Man run)
* Fandral the Dashing
* Julius Knipl

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. William Gull
2. Black Jack
3. Sebastian O
4. Casanova Quinn
5. Hunter Rose

*****

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1. Desmond (Rip Kirby)
2. Horatio Hellpop (Nexus)
3. Mandrake the Magician
4. Daddy Warbucks (LOA)
5. Richie Rich

*****
*****
 
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Masamune Shirow!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

One thing that's frustrating about talking to advocates of the "everything will be on-line for free whether you like it or not and fighting it or even objecting to it or calling us a name I'd rather not be called makes you an old man, old man" is that there's always -- always -- an assumption that the objection is financial, that the artist is moving to protect their art from other people cutting into their profits on it.

This assumption is not only rhetorically advantageous because of the mistrust that artists and art patrons have for people profiting from art, it leads into a very specific array of arguments like 1) you'd do better not to fight it, or 2) if piracy can derail your profiting from it, it wasn't worthy in the first place, or 3) we're heading towards all art = free and you better get used to it, and so on. While there are literally dozens of directions you can go once that assumption is made, the assumption always restricts. I've literally never seen this assumption not made by an advocate of those positions. It's maddening, because in many cases I don't think that's the main issue at all.
 
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November 22, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

November 23
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November 24
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November 30
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from November 15 to November 21, 2008:

1. King Features launches Comics Kingdom program, hoping to partner with newspaper clients on-line in a way and to a degree not seen in previous strip syndicate programs.

2. Carla Hoffman and her husband burned in flash fire, lose contents of home.

3. Stan Lee wins National Medal of the Arts.

Winner Of The Week
Stan the Man

Loser Of The Week
Editorial cartoonists, having such a bad year I didn't even notice one of the good pieces of news.

Quote Of The Week
"I'm a citizen of an open democracy, and free to judge for myself which wars I think are wise and just and which are not." -- Garry Trudeau

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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If I Were Near Manila, I’d Be At This

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If I Were In Denver, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Blois, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Vancouver, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* John McCorkle On Another Prix de la Critique Nominee Out There In English (11/20/08)
* Rob Barker On Steve Gerber (11/16/08)
* Brian Moore On One Strip Retiring, Another Strip Benefiting (11/16/08)
* Noel Murray On Problems With Comics.com (11/16/08)
* Jason Michelitch On First Thought Of The Day (11/16/08)
 
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Happy 52nd Birthday, Ron Randall!

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Happy 58th Birthday, David Wenzel!

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Happy 68th Birthday, Roy Thomas!

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Happy 68th Birthday, Terry Gilliam!

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November 21, 2008


Five For Friday #143—Smoove

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Five For Friday #143 -- Name Five Stylishly Attired Male Comics Characters

*****

1. The Spirit
2. Elijah Snow
3. Nick Fury
4. Cadbury
5. J Jonah Jameson

suggested by Scott Dunbier

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To All That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Friday Distraction: “Comic Book” As A Search Term With LIFE Photos

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Robert M. White II, 1915-2008

My most sincere condolences to the White side of the family.

I didn't know my uncle, but we shared an alma mater. A few of the journalism professors there held him in what seemed to me then and now a mix of admiration and affection well worth achieving in one's public life.
 
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Missed It: Your Other Major Angouleme Award Nominees For The 2009 Show

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Selection Jeunesse (Youth Selection) 2009

* Anna et Froga: Qu'est-ce qu'on fait maintenant?, Vol. 2, Anouk Ricard (Sarbacane)
* Le Chateau de l'aurore, Osamu Tezuka (Cornelius)
* Chronokids, Vol. 2, Zep, Stan & Vince (Glenat)
* Doraemon, Le Chat venu du future, Vol. 8, Fujiko.F.Fujio (Kana)
* Les Enfants d'ailleurs: Le Maitre des ombres, Vol. 3, Bannister & Nykko (Dupuis)
* Ernest & Rebecca: Mon copain est un microbe , Vol. 1, Bianco and Dalena (Le Lombard)
* L'Envolee sauvage, Vol. 2, Galandon and Monin (Bamboo)
* La Fille du savant fou: L'Equation inconnue , Vol. 3, Mathieu Sapin (Delcourt)
* Gully: Les Vengeurs d'injures, Vol. 1, Dodier and Makyo (Dupuis)
* Jacques le petit lezard geant, Libon (Dupuis)
* Ludo: Qu'as-tu, Kim ?, Vol. 7, Bailly, Mathy and Lapiere (Dupuis)
* Nana, Vol. 18, Ai Yazawa (Delcourt)
* Le Petit Prince, Joann Sfar (Gallimard)
* La Rose ecarlate: J'irai voir Venise, Vol. 4, Patricia Lyfoung (Delcourt)
* Sardine de l'espace: Pizza Tomik, Vol. 7, Emmanuel Guibert (Dargaud)
* Seuls: Le Clan du requin, Vol. 3, Vehlmann and Gazzotti (Dupuis)
* Sillage: Monde Flottant, Vol. 11, Morvan and Buchet (Delcourt)
* Titeuf: Le sens de la vie , Vol. 12, Zep, (Glenat)
* Trolls de Troy: Trollympiades, Vol. 11, Arleston & Mourier (Soleil)
* Zblucops: Le Pays des courgettes volantes, Vol. 5, Bill and Gobi (Glenat)

*****

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Selection Patrimoine (Heritage Prize) 2009

* Au bord de l'eau, Mitsuteru Yokoyama (Delcourt)
* Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman (Casterman)
* L'Enfer, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Cornelius)
* Johan et Pirlouit: Sortileges et enchantements, Chapter Two, Peyo (Dupuis)
* Les Naufrages du temps, Forest and Gillon (Glenat)
* Operation Mort, Shigeru Mizuki (Cornelius)
* La Riviere empoisonnee, Gilbert Hernandez (Delcourt)
* Taxista, Marti (Cornelius)
 
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There’s Some Sort Of Muppet-Related Publishing News, But Really You Just Need To Look At This Cover

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Katherine Keller’s CBLDF Match Offer

This seems a fairly straightforward thing: Katherine Keller offers to match donations on $25 donations to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Meanwhile, there's a small army of Neil Gaiman-related eBay offerings put up by the Fund for your bidding pleasure. Gaiman discusses it here. I urge you to participate.
 
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I Can’t Even Bring Myself To Open This

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sorry, DC
 
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The Latest I Have On S. Clay Wilson

Someone named Rebecca Wilson sent out an e-mail a couple of days ago that bounced around quite a bit indicating that underground comix great S. Clay Wilson is improving a bit, and able to speak to people that come in to see him. She reiterated this on a Comics Journal message board thread. If true, and I have no reason to doubt it isn't, this would be the best news so far concerning the injured cartoonist.
 
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If I Were In Blois, I’d Go To This

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Two Photo-Filled D&Q Travelogues

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Peggy Burns in Nashville

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Tom Devlin in Vermont
 
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OTBP: Intersections

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Go, Look: Female Of The Species

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Go, Look: The Man With No Face

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Go, Look: Mr. Justice

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Go, Look: Billy Bragg Comic

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this article about how Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro doesn't shy away from ridiculing Nelson Mandela seems a bit like a puff piece in terms of building a certain Zapiro brand, but I almost always find articles about South African politics and Zapiro interesting.

image* am I reading this correctly? Moebius has announced a sequel to Arzach for 2009? That seems like a fairly major announcement, even if the results fail to get over with the intended audience.

* the prominent blogger Mike Lynch has uncovered six and a half minutes of This Is Al Capp.

* there needs to be a lot more industry analysis where the conclusion is "Shove it up your ass." Not just comics: all industries.

* should more be made of the massive English-language market for graphic novels potentially available in India? Not in a "I'm going to design a bunch of concepts to make big hits" way, but more in a "I'd like to sell my fine, existing books to another audience" way? Hasn't Jeff Smith hit with enough iterations of his work that we should all be following him around a bit and at least looking at everything he does?

* this color guide for DC Comics drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez also offers up the classic 1970s-1980s DC superhero "look."

* this is like finding out there's a restaurant that serves nothing but pigs in blankets.

* if you're a museum in a town with a prominent comics festival and have plans to work with that festival, you should probably inform the festival.

* I don't know if I'm reading this correctly, but it seems to be suggesting that Posy Simmonds is working on a detective story, maybe even a Sherlock Holmes story? The other way to read it seems to me as suggesting her work is like that kind of work, and I'm not seeing it. If this were a day other than Friday, I'd probably delete this whole entry. But today I am proud to bring you a bunch of statements strung together that are not news.

* finally, the longtime mini-comics reviewer Shawn Hoke has been reviewing over at Size Matters again, and weighs in on several unique comics and comics-related handmade works such as the one discussed here.
 
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Happy 30th Birthday, Karl Stevens!

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Happy 55th Birthday, Greg Theakston!

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Happy 60th Birthday, Larry Welz!

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Quick hits
Craft
He Likes This Cover
State Of Nipples Reveals Evil

Exhibits/Events
Go See Tim Sale
Report From Keith Knight Speech
Go See Jason Lutes and James Sturm
Jews And American Comics Previewed
An Even Bigger Honor For Stan The Man

History
612?
On Charles Schulz
Talking War Comics

Industry
Seriously?
I Hate Your Cartoons
Unabashed Rave For HeavyInk.com
Do Graphic Novels Qualify As Literature?
Reader Confused By Re-Run, Re-Done FBOFW Cartoons

Interviews/Profiles
iFanboy: Mike Allred
CBB: Derik A Badman
Newsarama: Ted Naifeh
ActuaBD.com: Dash Shaw
Collezioneggio: Vittorio Giardino
Blog@Newsarama: Ivan Brunetti
Talking With Tim: Timothy Callahan

Not Comics
Holy Shit, Clive Barnes Died
Joe Matt Went To Halloween As My Grandmother
Something Like This Might Work In Comics

Publishing
David Aja's Next Gig
The Return Of Garbage Time All-Stars
Death Note Hits 1M French-Language Books

Reviews
Tom McLean: Various
Tom Batten: Shmobots
Tom Crippen: De:Tales
Allan Holtz: Noel Sickles
Newsarama: Mark Millar
Michael Re: Conversation
Richard Bruton: Life Sucks
Don MacPherson: Petey & Pussy
Leroy Douresseaux: Kabuki Vol. 1
Paul O'Brien: I Hate Gallant Girl #1
Hervé St-Louis: Fantastic Four #559
Paul O'Brien: Batman: Cacophony #1
Greg McElhatton: Salt Water Taffy Vol. 2
Matthew Brady: The Bottomless Belly Button
Greg McElhatton: The Baby-Sitters Club Vol. 4
Tucker Stone: The Brave and the Bold #94-96
Noah Berlatsky: The Brave and the Bold #91-93
 

 
November 20, 2008


Missed It: Nate Beeler Wins Berryman

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I'm not exactly sure how it escaped my attention, but Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner has won the 2008 Clifford K. and James T. Berryman Award for Editorial Cartoons from the National Press Foundation. Beeler is 28 years old, and has been with with the Examiner since 2005. His work has a classic contemporary feel, meaning that it has the same general "look" of a lot of the best and most successful editorial cartoonists of the last three decades.

Past winners include Steve Breen, Stuart Carlson, Jim Morin, David Horsey, Ann Telnaes and Signe Wilkinson -- a fairly powerful line-up of recent Pulitzer Prize winners -- and it wouldn't be surprising for Beeler to move into their company in the next few years.
 
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Congratulations To Stan The Man Lee

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Longtime comics writer, comic book editor and all-around booster of the medium Stan Lee was among the 2008 winners for the 2008 National Medal of the Arts earlier this week. Here's a great and probably well-traveled photo of Lee receiving the honor. A transcript of the event can be found here. Here's the NEA profile on Lee. And here's a page with another photo. He's positively beaming.
 
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Your ‘08 Prix De La Critique Nominees

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The Association des Critiques et Journalists de Bande Dessinee has announced its 15 finalists for its Prix de la Critique 2008. Unless you're completely hopeless at the roots of language, you probably figured out -- or maybe you already knew -- that the ACBD is the French-language market's major writers about comics group. It looks like they narrowed down the list below from this pre-selection list of 95 books. Among the titles available in the states represented here are Alan's War, Tamara Drewe and Castle Waiting. That may be all of them, in fact.

* La guerre d'Alan T3, Emmanuel Guibert (L'Association)
* Chateau l'Attente, Linda Medley (ca et la)
* Le gout du chlore, Bastien Vives (Casterman)
* R97: les hommes a terre, Christian Cailleaux and Bernard Giraudeau (Casterman)
* Shutter Island, Christian de Metter after Dennis Lehane (Casterman)
* De Gaulle a la plage, Jean-Yves Ferri (Dargaud)
* L'heritage du colonel, Lucas Varela and Carlos Trillo (Delcourt)
* Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds (Denoel Graphic)
* Le roi des mouches T2, Mezzo and Michel Pirus (Drugstore)
* Spirou, le journal d'un ingenu, Emile Bravo (Dupuis)
* Martha Jane Cannary T1, Matthieu Blanchin and Christian Perrissin (Futuropolis)
* Matteo T1, Jean-Pierre Gibrat (Futuropolis)
* Il etait une fois en France T2, Sylvain Vallee and Fabien Nury (Glenat)
* Le reve de Meteor Slim, Frantz Duchazeau (Sarbacane)
* Tout seul, Christophe Chaboute (Vents d'Ouest)
 
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If I Were In Mumbai, I’d Go To This

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If I Were Near Brown, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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Missed It: Dustin Harbin At SPX

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OTBP: Ozu Festival Cinefamily

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Go, Look: Amazing Spider-Maps

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Go, Look: James Kochalka Art Show

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Go, Look: Dave Lasky In Santa Rosa

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More Bone, RASL India Tour Photos

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two, three
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* in continued Watchmen holy shit that word sells a lot of books news, there was apparently a 100,000 print run on Watching the Watchmen and they're going back to press again. Is anyone not happy for Dave Gibbons?

image* the always-interesting Frank Santoro writes on one of the top ten comics efforts of all time, E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre.

* you gotta love this picture of Alvin Buenaventura and Kramers Ergot Vol. 7. It's also fun to take a second look at it and imagine Alvin's like three feet tall. Go here for a round-up of photos from Sunday's KE signing. Go here for the host's perspective.

* it's not the headline, but the interesting thing about this Hayao Miyazaki piece that discusses the Prime Minister's love of manga is that it doesn't take much to read this as the great director being somewhat conflicted about the commercialization of children's entertainment.

* this made me smile. So did this.

* a happy tenth anniversary this month to About Comics. Also, let's re-use the candles on a cake for the Penny Arcade team, who celebrated the same birthday earlier this week, and then save them for Heart Of The City.

* finally, I'm not one to post about guest signings by major comics conventions, but I'm pleased to note that Richard Thompson has been added to the guest list at next year's Comic-Con International. With Thompson and apparently Stephan Pastis schedule to be on-hand, that's shaping up to be a pretty good year for the comic strip contingent, and increasingly vital attraction at that show. Hopefully, Thompson will bring some of his stunning originals. Just in case you think I cover Thompson too closely, I'll freely admit even I found this to be a stretch.
 
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Happy 45th Birthday, Rian Hughes!

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Happy 39th Birthday, Stephanie Gladden!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Jill Thompson!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Guy Davis!

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Quick hits
Craft
Drawing Batman
Name Generator
Yet Another Color Experiment
Not Sure What This Is About, But I Enjoyed It

Exhibits/Events
Comic Craze Preview
Keith Knight In Tucson
Portsmouth Comic Book Show
On Comics At Miami Book Fair

History
On Twilight
Seuss Vs. KAL
On Osamu Tezuka
Very Rare Comic Book
On Swamp Thing Publication Path

Industry
Are Comics Over?

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Bill Kelter
CBR: Jeff Mariotte
CBR: Matt Fraction
PWCW: Mike Allred
Pulse: Jim Mahfood
CBR: Ross Campbell
PWCW: Dave Gibbons
Daily Cross Hatch: Sarah Oleksyk
Hamilton College: Nicole Dietsche

Not Comics
Italy Is Beautiful
That's Kind Of Cool
The Coolest Thing I've Seen Today

Publishing
On Jobnik
Das Kapital As Comic
More On Don Freeman's Skitzy
Crappy-Looking Rip-Off Comics Continue to Gain Press

Reviews
Matthew Brady: Real
Greg Burgas: Various
Dick Hyacinth: Various
Andrew A. Smith: Joker
Brian Cronin: Fun Home
Carlton Hargro: Various
Jarret Keene: Johnny Boo
Deb Aoki: Mao-Chan Vol. 1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Five Best Transition Cartoons
Kevin Church: The X-Files #1
JLS: Honey & Clover Vols. 1-2
Adrian Sanders: Paul a la Peche
Scott Campbell: Negima! Vol. 19
Steve Duin: The Good Neighbors
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Beth Davies-Stofka: Things Change
Brandon Soderberg: Mesmo Delivery
Shannon Smith: Candy or Medicine Vol. 5
Leroy Douresseaux: O-Parts Hunter Vol. 13
Leroy Douresseaux: Garfield: 30 Years Of Laughs And Lasagna
Kristy Valenti: Anita Blake -- Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures Vols. 1-2
 

 
November 19, 2008


I Love 1960s Marvel Comic Books

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Go, Read: Panter’s Playhouse

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Your Thoughts On Why OK-Selling Superhero Comics Have Stand-Alone Series In Addition To Regular Ones

Here are a few of the fuller responses to my wondering out loud yesterday as to why a series like Kevin Smith's Batman: Cacophony #1 is a stand-alone series instead of streamed into the regular title.

Gardner Linn:
This is a response to your recent post on Batman: Cacophony, and the general phenomenon of character-specific miniseries. Please note I am not a comics historian, nor an economics expert, nor someone with special knowledge of the inner workings of DC (or any other company), merely a reader with opinions (and, as this response might show, more of a fanboy than I care to admit).

In the case of Cacophony, I think the stock answers are, to a large degree, the answers. The two main Batman series -- Batman and Detective -- are both in the middle of extended runs by (relatively) popular writers, and are both currently in the middle of a semi-major storyline ("Batman R.I.P.") that is itself leading to another major storyline(s). I haven't read Cacophony, but from what I understand it literally doesn't fit in the current continuity, and may even contradict certain elements of current Batman continuity. It would seem, then, that if DC wants to have a Kevin Smith Batman book on the stands sooner rather than later, it makes sense to shunt the story off to its own miniseries. (And while I think it's possible that Cacophony would sell more if it was part of the regular Batman series, I think it's doubtful that it's going to cannibalize much of the regular Batman audience, so DC is probably making more money off the character by running the story as a mini. Again, not an economics expert, so anybody with actual figures is welcome to prove me wrong. And of course if you publish too many of these minis over the course of a year, you probably will start to lose exhausted readers.)

Also, Kevin Smith is a draw (though perhaps not as much as he was five or ten years ago), and DC probably feels that his name will lure readers over to a miniseries. And for casual readers who may only be interested in Kevin Smith books, a three-issue miniseries with a big obvious #1 might be less intimidating or confusing than Batman #682-684 or whatever.

Like I said, I'm no historian, but I wouldn't be surprised if The Dark Knight Returns was the beginning of these sorts of things. It's worth noting that while Year One ran in Batman, DKR did not -- it was a separate series. And I think the reason for the difference--and a large part of the reason for the continued preponderance of separate miniseries -- is continuity and canon.

As a flashback, Year One may have literally been out of continuity, but in a larger sense it was in continuity -- it was intended to be the actual canon origin of Batman (please someone who wasn't 8 years old in 1987 correct me if I'm wrong about that being the intent). In contrast, DKR was more of an "imaginary," proto-Elseworlds story, though over time I think it has become, for many readers, an official piece of the Batman canon.

I think for characters or franchises like Batman, there are three levels of stories. There are the "regular" stories, ranging from forgettable one-issue inventory stories to multi-year Grant Morrison runs, that go in the main book. Then there are "special" stories -- special because of the creators involved, or the unique nature of the story told--that run as miniseries (or, occasionally, graphic novels). Then there are the "really special" stories -- the stories that have that unique thing about them, but are also intended to be official canon -- that run in the main book. These are your Year Ones, or the upcoming Neil Gaiman-written "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" which is running in Batman and Detective when it could easily stand as its own thing. Running a story as a miniseries instead of in the main book creates a different set of expectations for the reader; stories in the main book "matter" in a way that miniseries don't. (Though of course publishers want you to think miniseries matter too, in that they want you to spend money on them, but they matter in different ways.)

(The big exceptions to this are in-continuity, crossover-related miniseries like Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four or Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge, which seem to operate under different rules. Fantastic Four and Spider-Man got their own Secret Invasion minis because they were tied up in their own special creator/continuity situations [Millar/Hitch and "Brand New Day," respectively], whereas, say, Black Panther's SI tie-ins ran in that character's main book. I'd also imagine that Marvel thought FF or Spider-Man could support two books in a way that Black Panther couldn't. As for Rogue's Revenge and other Final Crisis tie-ins, I think it's likely that DC thought giving Rogue's Revenge the Final Crisis imprimatur would draw more readers than running it in the moribund regular Flash book.)

As shared-universe superhero comics have trended toward tight continuity and long-form storytelling and away from "done in one"s and the "every issue is somebody's first" philosophy, I think miniseries like Cacophony have become more popular because they provide a home for stories that don't fit into the grand plan (as we acknowledge that those plans are shaky at best) but may nevertheless garner an audience, or at the very least keep somebody within the company happy. I think it's also possible to make the argument that the publication of such miniseries is a short-sighted attempt to wring as much money as possible out of completists.

I don't think the TV analogy holds up too well, however. For one thing, TV doesn't have a situation analogous to Batman/Detective or Superman/Action, where two different simultaneous series feature the same characters. The CSI and Law & Order franchises are more akin to the various titles in the X-Men franchise, each sharing a similar premise but with largely different casts. More importantly, it's much more cost-effective for DC to publish a couple of simultaneous Batman series than it is for NBC to air, say, two ER series every week. You don't have to pay Batman any extra money to appear in another series, and there are no limits on his time. You do, however, have to pay Maura Tierney more money to play her ER character on another show, and she is bound by the laws of time and space. If a network has a hit show, it's going to squeeze as much money as it can out of it -- so if NBC thought it could get higher ratings for less money by creating ER Tuesdays, they would. In fact, they did, with the recent Thursday editions of Saturday Night Live, which I believe have been NBC's highest-rated scripted shows this season. And they were going to do it with Heroes: Origins, until the writers strike scuttled it. (And then of course there are the occasional show-related TV-movies, like last year's Battlestar Galactica: Razor, or the upcoming 24: Redemption, which serve much the same function as Batman miniseries, except both of those examples aired/will air between seasons of the parent show.) I think the only thing keeping networks from exploiting their hits the way DC exploits Batman is not that they think it's a stupid idea, but that it's financially and logistically nearly impossible to produce two different shows with the same cast every week.

Jeez. If you made it this far, sorry for rambling. I think my main point is that a greater reliance on/adherence to continuity has given rise to more and more miniseries like Cacophony.
Tom Bondurant:
Just a few thoughts on the above-referenced post....

-- This is admittedly a nitpick, but Batman: Year One was actually in-continuity. It was the equivalent of John Byrne's Man of Steel miniseries or George Perez's revamped Wonder Woman origin, but the thinking was that Batman didn't need as radical a makeover. It resulted basically in minor changes to supporting characters: Barbara Gordon had to become Jim Gordon's adopted daughter (because the Gordons' first child being born was a "B:Y1" plot point) and Alfred was the Wayne Family's butler, as opposed to being someone who showed up (in both the Golden and Silver Ages) after Dick Grayson moved in. Accordingly, it was appropriate subject matter for the Batman title, just as "Year Two" (in Detective) and "Year Three" (back in Batman) were.

-- That said, for years I have wondered why DC has a specific Batman anthology like Legends of the Dark Knight or the current Confidential, and still thinks it necessary to publish separate Batman miniseries. JLA Classified was publishing upwards of eighteen issues a year just to burn off its inventory. If the Kevin Smith thing (which I am passing on, since I heard how bad it was) is designed to reach a particular audience, why on earth isn't DC trying to sucker that audience into buying a regular Batman title? (Maybe I answered my own question with the JLA Classified example....)

-- I agree completely with the TV comparison. I would extend it further to supporting-character ongoing series like Robin and Nightwing. Not every supporting character can stand on his own. (However, I think Lois Lane is an exception, especially these days.)

-- The increasing ratio of miniseries to regular series bugged me so much over the summer that I did a series of Grumpy Old Fan posts on it:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Admittedly, it's more of an overview than anything else, but basically I think DC is pinning its hopes for expansion on miniseries. They're arguably better suited to being collected, and there's not as much commitment as with an ongoing series.

-- As for your specific question, though, I don't know precisely when DC started to go so miniseries-happy. Certainly the numbers have shot up during the DiDio years, but I haven't looked back much farther than 2001.
Nat Gertler:
I'm going to have to try to send in comments more when I agree with things, so it doesn't just sound like I'm disagreeing with things. But here I am, disagreeing with things.

The switch to add-on miniseries is not some growth of the last 20 years. When Batman: Year One ran, it surprised people that it was not a separate miniseries, and some saw it as an aggressive move on DC's part to build the audience for the regular series. DC had done stand-alone Batman limited runs before, not only with the different format of The Dark Knight Returns, but in standard comics format like The Untold Legend of the Batman, or the Batman Special one-shot. At around the same time that they were doing their Batman reboot within the series, John Byrne was doing his Superman reboot as the Man Of Steel miniseries.

As for why TV doesn't do such things: You're asking that the same week that A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! will air, featuring the same character from The Colbert Report but run with a separate time and title. Now we could have a discussion of whether Battlestar Galactica: Razor was more like Batman: Son of the Demon than it was like Untold Legend of the Batman, and whether Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: How'd They Do That? was really more Detective Comics, but then I think the varsity jocks would be legally required to beat us up and take our lunch money.
My Response: Thanks, guys. I was more looking for information than staking out a position, so I don't think it's necessary for me to argue against anything that's just been said, but I did want to clarify a few things.

I do understand that television utilizes stand-alone mini-series and holidays specials and bridge mini-series with divergent content featuring popular shows. What I'm talking about is more specifically stand-alone mini-series that could with only superficial changes be woven into a regular series on titles that aren't big hits -- or even run as an event within that title. And while I understand the ability to make money or to capture market share is an achievable goal under these conditions with that strategy, I'm questioning whether or not it points out something that's broken in the market. Also, by continuity I meant the more general sense of it continuing a storyline, not whether or not it was canonical, which is my bad. Overlapping series is a different issue, although I'm not sure that's not also ultimately a dysfunctional aspect of the market as forged by the big mainstream companies.

In general I worry about the mainstream companies reducing their investment in a Direct Market based on an appraisal of that market's health that comes while they're doing things that help make it, over the long term, slightly sick. It seems crazy to me that our best established and most well-funded industry members are frequently among the least thoughtful and engaged with the long-term health of certain markets, and equally crazy that comics actors will treat every market except the homegrown one with deference and delicacy.
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Mumbai, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: The Head Of The Family

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Go, Look: Freddie & Me Outtake

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Go, Look: Typhoid

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Go, Look: Lorna And The Man-Killer

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Go, Look: Rub The Lamp!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I quite liked Alan's War, so I'm happy to send you to this Alan's War giveaway. Also, our own David Welsh might have some Black Jack for you.
 
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Happy 49th Birthday, Steve Lightle!

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Quick hits
Reviews
Chris Sims: Various
Brian Hibbs: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Amanda Rush: Hatter M
Koppy McFad: Titans #7
Matthew J. Brady: Various
Chris Mautner: Bat-Manga!
Greg McElhatton: Hexed #1
Nina Stone: Nightwing #150
Richard Bruton: Trixie Biker
John Mitchell: Felix's Friends
Josh Blair: Comics On Fire #1
Paul Di Filippo: Scorchy Smith
Leroy Douresseaux: Gaba Kawa
Sandy Bilus: Northlanders Vol. 1
John Mitchell: Nothing Nice to Say
Jared Blumberg: The Cleaners #1
Sean T. Collins: Powr Mastrs Vol. 2
John David Ebert: The Silver Surfer
Scott Cederlund: Northlanders Vol. 1
Paul O'Brien: Weapon X: First Class #1
Brandon Soderberg: Unknown Soldier #1
James Donnelly: Batman: Cacophony #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Owly: Tiny Tales
Robert Stanley Martin: Swamp Thing Vol. 1
Paul O'Brien: Sandman: Dream Hunters #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Hunter X Hunter Vol. 23
Tucker Stone: The Brave & The Bold #88-90
Zak Edwards: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #4
Diana Kingston-Gabai: Batman: Cacophony #1
Tom Crippen: A People's History Of American Empire
Domingos Isabelinho: The Adjustment Of Sidney Deepscorn
Leroy Douresseaux: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Vol. 1
John Mitchell: Love and Rockets: The New Stories Vol. 1, Amor Y Cohetes
Sean T. Collins: An Anthology Of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories
Johnny Bacardi: Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1
 

 
November 18, 2008


This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly 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 -- but were I in a comic book shop tomorrow I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and as a result, my retailer might put in for a government bail-out.

*****

SEP080042 GOON #30 $2.99
Thirty?

SEP080194 EX MACHINA #39 (RES) (MR) $2.99
Thirty-nine?

AUG080231 HELLBLAZER #249 (MR) $2.99
Oh, never mind.

JUL080159 JACK KIRBYS THE DEMON OMNIBUS HC $49.99
I'm not sure that $50 judiciously spent wouldn't get you the whole series in comic book form, but I enjoy those comics very much so I'm not going to quibble. It's sort of like The Demon doesn't have any of the quantifiable things that other series of that period offer -- it's not thematically ambitious, it's not the best written, it's not the most visually splendid -- but it's Kirby at that point in his career where if he stood up too quickly a planet fell out of his pocket, and that's more than enough.

SEP088005 SPIRIT SPECIAL #1 $2.99
This is the book that retailers asked for to give to anyone that might ask about the forthcoming Frank Miller Spirit movie, so it will be interesting if it does well. Believe it or not, a low-cost book that retailers can put in someone's hands like this is a rare thing in comics.

SEP083987 SKITZY HC $19.95
The "Whoa, are you serious?" entry of the month -- apparently a reprint of the 1950s comics story by book illustrator Don Freeman.

SEP082465 ESSENTIAL MARVEL SAGA TP VOL 02 $16.99
Seriously?

AUG071974 YOUNGBLOOD HC VOL 01 $34.99
I guess so.

SEP083754 FREAKANGELS HC VOL 01 (MR) $27.99
This is the print edition of the Warren Ellis webcomic. Ellis is maybe uniquely poised to take advantage of the full power of on-line marketing, so it should be interesting to see how well this does. I assume very well.

SEP084030 FUZZ AND PLUCK SPLITSVILLE HC $24.99
Ted Stearn's oddball sort-of adventure comic may be the last of its type we'll ever see. I almost can't imagine anything this weird and almost doggedly anti-commercial being published in serial form and then collected in the old-fashioned manner. I quite liked it.

AUG084107 ISADORA DUNCAN GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY HC $18.95
This is another one of those graphic novels of the kind that book publishers seem to really get behind.

JUL083998 LAGOON HC $14.99
Lilli Carre's version of the Peter Lawford of the Classic Monsters set, the Creature of the Black Lagoon, takes on as its recurring thematic element the comforts of sound. That isn't something you see a lot of cartoonists engage.

JUL083999 PETEY & PUSSY HC $19.99
If art comics had ended up being built on the model of MAD instead of the springing out of the single cartoonist-focused aspect of the undergrounds, John Kerschbaum would be one of the potent heavy-hitters of whatever the biggest hit magazine there was right now. His comics are the kind of funny that makes me uncomfortable.

AUG083893 LEONARD STARRS MARY PERKINS ON STAGE TP VOL 05 $24.95
AUG083894 STAN DRAKE HEART JULIET JONES TP VOL 01 $24.95
Hello, gorgeous.

SEP084091 STANS SOAPBOX THE COLLECTION TP $14.99
You know you want it.

JAN088699 SWALLOW ME WHOLE $14.95
JUL084290 SWALLOW ME WHOLE $14.95
I don't know which one is the Nate Powell book from Top Shelf, or if both codes work, but it's a compelling book by an interesting talent just now beginning to do longer work of this type.

JAN088700 VEEPS HC $19.95
JUL084291 VEEPS HC (MR) $19.95
The other Top Shelf project of interest, this is a rare foray for that publisher into something other than comics, in this case illustrated non-fiction.

*****

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.

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 and probably a bit high, 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.

If I didn't list your comic, it's because the voices in my head told me not to. Voices that all sound like Jim Backus.

*****
*****
 
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King Features Launches Comics Kingdom

No one's going to believe me, which is fine, but I swear I knew nothing about this beforehand. King Features today formally launches its own web-based comics application, Comics Kingdom, that works with newspaper sites in order to enhance their comics offerings and facilitate traffic in their direction. On first glance -- and I reserve the right to change my mind on this -- this seems to me to stand in stark contrast to United Media's just-announced Comic.com revamp, whereby a ton of material including extensive archives is put on-line at the syndicate level, with the idea that there's an eventual boost for the individual strip and their newspaper clients from the increased exposure and ability for individual readers to sample and subscribe.

imageObviously, I have no idea what will work in the long run, and I'd suggest no one really does, even when they bluster and use capital letters and a well-placed, funny insult or two. It's just that my gut and my head together find encouragement in a strategy that works with newspapers and their sites and directly addresses the issue of ad revenue for such sites. In the end it just seems to me that with people winnowing down their basic on-line destinations that there's a greater likelihood of comics finding a place with something that ties into people going to their local or most vital newspapers as opposed to those same folks all of the sudden catching Drabble fever just because more of it is out there now. It also keeps the syndicate in partnership with newspapers in a way that should protect the remaining millions of dollars that are available to made through print, which figures indicate has significant reach no matter how poorly it's constructed to meet the challenges of the current market or how many people are performing last rites (or in the cases of the businesses running newspaper, seppuku). It also ostensibly allows for other strategies to be tried without having to move away from free, which is one difficult move.

So I guess we'll see how it goes, and how it's executed, but theory-wise I'm encouraged by this. I also think it's good I'm finding out about this in USA Today. I'm a bit disappointed neither United Media nor King Features chose to contact this site and sites like it beforehand to give me a heads-up on this release or to point me towards their test project or to offer up principals for interview. I'm not surprised, though. The syndicates frequently display hostility towards/disdain for/discomfort with new media that I find increasingly ludicrous as the years pass, but at least in terms of the overall announcement it's clear there's some publicity going on with Comics Kingdom.

Updated: I got a press release on it from KFS at 10:43 AM ET.

I do like Drabble
 
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Hate The War And Love The Warrior

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I've mentioned this before on this site, but my vote for fascinating, recurring feature story of the decade goes to the space that Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau has carved out for himself as a friend to soldiers and an advocate for their issues -- or, perhaps more accurately, as a sympathetic conduit for a point of view held by many serving. This despite being demonized by some for his political views in general and his opposition to the Iraq War specifically. He's just penned a piece for Stars and Stripes talking about that aspect of his work.
 
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The Latest I Have On S. Clay Wilson

Again, it's a Steve Duin report. I'm happy that Steve has done such an attentive job with this story because it reduces the amount of noise and hassle experienced by Wilson's friends and loved ones in a time that's no doubt very trying for them. Anyway, Duin reports that Wilson is off the ventilator -- this wasn't a sure thing -- that he won't be put back on one, and that he hasn't otherwise significantly improved. More as it becomes made known to me, and with a story like this it's entirely possible that there's progression that's taken place before this was even posted.
 
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Here’s Something I Can’t Figure Out

imageLike many an on-line reviewer, I received a copy of Batman: Cacophony #1 from its publisher DC Comics, one guesses for consideration as a subject for criticism. I lack the necessary exposure to mainstream comics to make the kind of easy distinctions required to write a good review of such a comic without reading it a half-dozen times. It seems no better or no worse than just about any DC Comic I read during 1998 or so when I read every title the publisher put out because my job allowed me to. It seems that there may be a more overtly sexualized undercurrent here, including a bizarre scene where Joker proffers his backside to a mystery assailant. The dialogue also read oddly to me, like the characterizations weren't quite as sharp as they are in your standard writer-driven, editor-approved DC effort. It also stars Maxie Zeus.

And yet I understand all of those things. What I don't understand is why this title gets to be its own comic book. I don't get why this can't be part of a regular Batman series. I mean, I know the stock answers here, too: writer Kevin Smith has a specific fan base, the story doesn't fit into regular-title continuity, there's so on and so forth. Then I'm reminded Batman: Year One didn't fit into continuity, either, and Frank Miller had a specific fanbase, too, and that title ran through four issues of a Batman comic book just fine.

Clearly something has changed in the last 20 years where it makes sense at several times during the year to put out competing mini-series -- not on hit books, but on any books. I mean, I understand how a popular reality show can have a "results" show, but this seems more to me like taking that recent episode of ER where Anthony Edwards returns as Dr. Sad-Faced Baldy Guy and running it on Tuesday at 9 PM as ER: Spotlight because that way you get two doses of ER's not-great-anymore ratings. This doesn't happen in TV because it's stupid. Does anyone know when this happened in comics and what convinced companies of this not being stupid? Am I wrong in thinking the market is just a bit broken that this is a viable strategy?
 
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And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #7

* the writer Sean Kleefeld looks at exchange rates and how they might rapidly exert an influence over the North American comics industry.

* the retail manager Chris Powell of Lone Star Comics speaks to the WizKids cessation and economic issues in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in general, noting that economic hard times haven't quite hit that area yet in a way that they've seen an effect on their business.

* the cartoonist and artist Stuart Immonen wrote in with one last set of ideas regarding inflation and comics:
Well, thanks for the auto-correct.

To further beat the horse which is likely already dead, I skimmed the recent counter-analysis of my figures, and have a follow-up.

imageI thought I had freely admitted that my figures were also skewed, however to the high side. I don't believe I "mixed and matched"; rather, I took prices as they were in a given year (as provided by Rich), and applied the Consumer Price Index rate of inflation to project where they "should" be the following year. So I stand by my figures as valid, but only from one year to the next. It's unusual for manufactured goods (as opposed to raw or wholesale items) to have their prices increased annually based on the CPI. More often -- and this is the case with comics, as the chart shows -- the price is flat for a time, then sees a jump well beyond the CPI as both a recovery against the years of no gain as well as against future increases.

I've added two more columns to the chart.

In Column 8, I've tied the increases directly to the CPI, and fed those results (not the actual cover prices) into the formula for succeeding years. So in the universe where comics and everything else increased retail prices exactly as proscribed by the CPI, even in the late seventies days of double-digit inflation, the prices are modified by mere pennies. Thirty years on, the result is very close to Rich's, but I would suggest slightly more accurate.

But retail prices don't go up by pennies in any business -- if we ignore the real-world scenario I posit comics have actually followed ( big jump followed by (and following) no change), and take the same formula as in Column 8 but apply a "ceiling" (which is what Excel calls it -- it's more like a "floor") of increases no smaller than five cents, the final figure changes dramatically. It's still nowhere near the $2.99 level, but the changes from this point on increase exponentially.

Now I've given up on numbers, too. Back to work.
* I don't know enough about the major non-North American comics industries to do a lot of commentary about how a worldwide economic recession would have an impact on those countries, but occasionally something will catch my eye. If I'm reading this article correctly, Editions Milan -- which I believe does both traditional BD and translates manga for the French-language market -- may be working its way through some staffing changes in order to reduce costs.

* the reviewer Don MacPherson points at a couple of comics that he believes may fuel the dissatisfaction readers will begin to feel about serial comics. I think it points to a certain volatility in the serial pamphlet market that's unique to that format. Why wouldn't you wait until the trade, wait for the library or skip certain books altogether if you couldn't trust the solicitation information and you might get stuck with something you clearly don't find worth the money?

* finally, the retailer Brian Hibbs talks about the forthcoming potentially deepening recession and how that might have an impact on comics. He suggests something smart, which is that with readers deciding to participate or not in certain kinds of comics there's going to be a psychological component of certain price points vs. certain expectations of quality. Like Lone Star's Powell he notes that economic downturn has failed to hit his store in any significant fashion thus far. On that last point, I think it's important to note that even if you toss out the most severe predictions and ignore the Mad Max ones entirely, there's still enough belief out there we could easily be heading into a recession of early-'80s length (a couple of years) or more. So the first wave of consequences could be yet to come, perhaps starting with massive layoffs come the New Year.
 
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If I Were In NYC, 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 NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Bangalore, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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OTBP: Superhuman Resources

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Go, Look: Steranko’s ‘71 Art Calendar

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OTBP: The Airy Tales

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Go, Bookmark: Sparky O’Hare

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Go, Look: Skrak’s Secret

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Go, Read: Did Ditko Become Static?

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this post questions the use of a real-world ethnic group in a recent Hellboy series.

image* the passage of Proposition 8 in California earlier this month is expected to have a negative effect on business that have supplied services to the marriage industry, straight and gay. One of those businesspeople is cartoonist Ellen Forney, who has designed wedding invitations for a variety of couples. I asked her how it was going. "Right now I have an excited client-couple who got married a few months ago in CA, and I imagine they'll still have their big reception here, but this has really taken the wind out of their sails. This is obviously just a side business for me, but these waves of legalizing and banning have hardly helped create a celebratory atmosphere for a gay wedding." Ellen's wedding invitation page is here.

* the retailer Joe Field found an old sketchbook of Tom Beland's.

* the great Stan Sakai reports from the recent CAPS dinner where Bil Keane received that organization's "Sergio." Keane is a very funny man, and well-liked by his fellow cartooning professionals to a degree that would surprise people that don't think well of his long-running Family Circus. One thing worth noting is that the dinner was moved because of the fires in that region.

* finally, not comics: I liked the new James Bond movie just fine. I had no problem following any of the action, and I'm a visual simpleton. I was grateful there was nothing that made me grind my teeth like Texas Hold'em standing in for Baccarat or the Special Chair of Testicle Destruction. It shared with the last film a sly shifting of the standard dramatic beats (short form: it's not about what happens to Bond, it's about what Bond chooses to do). I always enjoy Jeffrey Wright, although I wish we lived in a world where (if he wanted) he never left the stage. It was an entertaining enough 90 minutes, never close to transcendent being a Bond movie and all, and I'll forget it 20 minutes from now. Mission accomplished.
 
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Happy 56th Birthday, Alan Moore!

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I've also seen 1953 as the birth date
 
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Quick hits
Craft
That's A Fine Joke
Inking Adam Hughes
Dave Lasky Draws Aslan
Darryl Cunningham Experiments With Color

Exhibits/Events
Mike Peters Speaks
BGSU Exhibit Report
Fire Postpones Michael Turner Tribute

History
On Marvel's Blade Runner
Johnny Bacardi, Letterhack
Steve Brodner Says Good Riddance
The History Of Gay Comic Book Superheroes

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
This Made Me Laugh
What About Reviews For The Lay Reader?

Interviews/Profiles
STV: Davie Donaldson
Newsarama: Ryan Sook
Newsarama: Rafael Grampa
ActuaBD.com: Alec Longstreth
Dissident Voice: Spain Rodriguez
DailyInterview.net: Clay Bennett
Talking With Tim: Enrico Casarosa
Mike Catron: Various Old-Time Industry Pros
South County Independent: The Cooke Brothers

Not Comics
Apparently, Multi-Verse Exists
He Loves Him Some Great Danes
New School Of Animation Profiled
NYT: Best Illustrated Children's Book '08

Publishing
Gaiman Halfway Done With Batman Work

Reviews
Ash Pemberton: Che
Mark Allen: Zinc Alloy
Julie: Vampire's Portrait Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Jobnik!
Greg McElhatton: Gantz Vols. 1-2
Mark Allen: Elemental Forces #1-3
Leroy Douresseaux: Claymore Vol. 13
Andrew Wheeler: The Venice Chronicles
J. Caleb Mozzocco: The Burma Chronicles
The Best Graphic Novel You've Never Heard Of
Larissa Boyer: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team
Koppy McFad: Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom #1
Kevin Church: Ghost Rider: Hell Bent and Heaven Bound
Koppy McFad: Adventure Comics Special Featuring The Guardian
 

 
November 17, 2008


Comics Retail Employee/Blogger And Her Husband Injured By SoCal Flash Fire

Blog@Newsarama contributor and Metro Entertainment retail employee Carla Hoffman and her husband Lance are expected to recover following lengthy hospital stays after being caught in a flash fire that caught them moving from cottage to car. Their home was completely destroyed in the fire. Lea Hernandez has advice for the eventual money-raising on their behalf. I'll sort through some of these stories in the next couple of days and hopefully by the end of the week present a firm option on this site to which I'll contribute myself and ask you to consider joining me.
 
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Your 2009 Graphic Novel and Comics-Related Cybill Award Nominees

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Former Staff Cartoonist Steve Kelley Sues Union-Tribune And Various Staffers

I totally missed this one late last week, but apparently Steve Kelley of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has sued his former employer the San Diego Union-Tribune and several of its staffers for what he feels is undue pressure placed on current U-T cartoonist Steve Breen that led to him leaving a partnership with Kelley on a strip in development at United Features. Apparently the deal fell apart after Breen's departure from the feature. The general response from the defense seems to be a) never did it, and b) if we did, we're certainly allowed to compete for Breen's services.
 
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Behind The Hero By Night TV Deal

imageTwo media sources took the opportunity of a TV development deal announcement by Platinum for its Hero By Night property to note the fact that the concept's creator, DJ Coffman, is no longer working with the company except of course where contractual obligation keeps them in a relationship. MTV's Splash Page gives a summary of the situation and notes that Coffman heard about it via the press release; Gary Tyrrell talks to Coffman in more direct fashion and notes among other thigns that Coffman is still due to be paid for such deals.
 
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More On The Jillian Tamaki Snubbing

I'm seemingly unable to write this without a run-on sentence, so please forgive me in advance: The letter sent by Seth and Chester Brown, attested to by a number of prominent cartoonists, on the topic of the organizers of the Governer General's Awards failing to recognize artist Jillian Tamaki as a co-author of the work Skim, drove a number of articles over the weekend. This includes both industry coverage outlets and general mainstream media sources. While an official policy of "too late to change things" seems likely to hold sway, I suppose there's a small chance that the awards organizers will make the simple change, but for the most part this sets a precedent for future programs that choose to recognize comics for their literary value.
 
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Go, Look: Steve Ditko’s Killjoy

Whoops, I hear that work is Mr. Ditko's. I apologize; visual and link removed. I thought like a lot of Charlton it was in the public domain. Great comic, though.
 
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Go, Read: Evan Dorkin Slaughters New York City’s The National Convention

imageEvan Dorkin has been attending cons for decades now and has his share of convention stories to tell, so for him to declare the weekend's National Con at Penn Plaza "worst convention I've ever had the displeasure to sit through" is fairly astonishing. He does not spare us any of the reasons why in a grade-A rant.

To be fair in terms of blogs I read every day, Mark Evanier had a good time.
 
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Go, Look: Convention Sketchbook Art From Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt

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Go, Look: Two From Dick Briefer

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Go, Look: Abner Dean Rarities

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Go, Look: Miss America Comics #1

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Go, Look: Mitchell Hooks

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Liz Baillie wonders if you want to join her mini-comic of the month club.

* missed it: congratulations to Geoffrey Patterson and Geoffrey's Comics on the shop celebrating its 30th year in existence.

image* the critic Johanna Draper Carlson caught a reference in Entertainment Weekly that matter-of-factly includes writer Bill Finger as a co-creator.

* not comics: a big chunk of recent alt-culture history up for auction, including a Dame Darcy painting.

* the writer and I think reviewer Al Kratina walks through a number of webcomics initiatives, although I'm always a bit worried when the stepping stone aspect to something is emphasized over the opportunity to do something aspect.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco wonders after the new Kevin Smith Batman comic's reliance on overt references to sexual activity and identity and suggests that it may be a switch in editors that's the difference.

* a bunch of you have sent in links to this short essay about Ahmed Fadaam and how excited he is to be doing comics. I honestly don't find it surprising that anyone would be happy to do comics right now: they combine an object of childhood affection with something that has a lot of right-now appeal. It's a great gig for many, many people.

* this is the first news story or feature I've seen in mainstream media on the Comics.com policy change.

* finally, the must-read of the day features-wise almost has to be the great R. Fiore's review of David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague. It's what I'm calling up onscreen the second I'm done with this site for today.
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Ed Brubaker!

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Quick hits
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Publishing
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Reviews
Jog: Travel
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David L. Ulin: Omega The Unknown
Brian Cronin: High School Confidential
Unknown: 500 Essential Graphic Novels
Jonathan L. Switzer: Honey & Clover Vols. 1-2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Toon Books Season 2
Pauline Wong: Haridama Magic Cram School Vol. 1
 

 
November 16, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: Jesse Reklaw

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*****

imageJesse Reklaw's The Night Of Your Life will be seen by most as the latest in Dark Horse's ongoing, informal series of print publications featuring prominent webcomics. As we find out in the interview below, a difference with Reklaw's book is that it had been planned before the series came together and was kind of grandfathered in. That's an appropriate place for the book in the sense that Reklaw's on-line efforts precede most of the strips receiving praise right now by an entire lifetime or two in Internet years. It's worth noting that Slow Wave, a comic where Reklaw translates into comics form other folks' dreams, straddles both the growing on-line funnies world and the fading one of alt-weekly comics distribution. One hopes that it finds purchase in enough places to allow Reklaw to continue doing it for as long as he likes, and to facilitate the cartoonist's moves into different projects like the memoir Couch Tag. I caught Reklaw at the far end of of a fairly extensive tour in support of Night. He seemed very nice. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Am I right in that you left graduate school at Yale to pursue cartooning? I see that mentioned, but always kind of in a way that indicates trivia. How did you move from one career path to the other, and was that difficult? Have you ever thought about returning to school?

JESSE REKLAW: I was in the PhD program at Yale for Computer Science, and it wasn't really working out -- partly because it wasn't the best program for my interests (artificial intelligence), and partly because I was just beginning to realize that I couldn't continue to do both art and computer science at the level I wanted to, so I really had to choose one. Around the same time, Slow Wave (which I had been self-syndicating for three years) got picked up by five papers in a two-week period, and I calculated that -- in my dumpy grad student apartment, with no car or serious expenses, entertaining myself with free film school movies and dumpster-diving, and basically being a cheap-ass -- I could support myself on comics.

I knew at the time it was very unlikely I'd ever return to grad school, and certainly not at a place like Yale, so it was a pretty tough decision. I think I made the right choice, though if I knew it would take me another ten years to get where I am now...

SPURGEON: Slow Wave has been around for a long time, almost since the beginning of the wider public perception of the Internet, and I wondered if you could talk about some of the early kind of Internet-culture influences on the strip that I've seen you mention in other interviews. The first is that I think you started doing Slow Wave during that first period where people were desperately looking for original on-line content, or at least saying they were, am I right? The second is something you mentioned in passing, that the collaborative impulse of the strip comes in part from wanting to engage in the culture of sharing and collaboration that the early Internet boosters supported.

REKLAW: Slow Wave very much came out of that early collaborative/interactive digital art movement, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to do the strip without the internet's easy access to thousands people who would send me dreams. The concept came out of a 24-page dream comic I self-published called Concave Up, in which I drew more long format dreams. Some of the submissions were too short for anything but 4-panel strips, so I drew those and published them on my website to attract viewers who would hopefully buy the 24-page comics. Few sold, but on a lark I submitted Slow Wave to some alt weeklies, and had some success there. I still published Slow Wave online though, and I saw it as part of the internet collaborative art culture. I also made and sold fonts, zines, hand-made stuffed animals, plus had an HTML-chat program and an online diary briefly, all on a site called nonDairy.com, which I envisioned to be a collective of artists (me, my girlfriend at the time, and a few friends). I was inspired by several other such internet art hives, like SITO, which is still around.

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SPURGEON: Has any aspect of Internet culture since changed the way you've done the strip? Are there any comics on-line efforts from which you've been tempted to borrow an approach or a way of doing things, either business-wise or creatively?

REKLAW: Later people came along who were really able to make a living off their online comics and merchandising. I've tried making T-shirts, prints, postcards, and such, but I don't think Slow Wave has the kind of fan base that can support a whole web store, and I guess ultimately that's not what I want to do with my comics.

SPURGEON: Should we consider The Night of Your Life part of Dark Horse's current, wider efforts to do print editions of on-line strip like with The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Wondermark: Beards of our Forefathers? Or are you your own thing? I ask because you were talking about a collection as long ago as 2005.

REKLAW: When Dark Horse first made their offer, I understood my book was part of a creator-owned series that would include the works of Gilbert Hernandez and Paul Chadwick. But I think as things developed, and the marketing people got involved, it made more sense for Dark Horse to present it as part of a "webcomics in print" series.

The comics in The Night of Your Life collect strips from 1999-2003; I had been delinquent in finding a publisher for them after my first book (Dreamtoons, which collects 1995-1998) came out in 2000. I now have enough material for another five-year collection of Slow Wave, but it'll probably be a few years before that comes out. It contains a lot of style experiments that I'm not sure how to organize.

SPURGEON: What is Dark Horse like as a publishing partner? As the work's already done, do they make suggestions as far as presentation or which strips to use, or are they willing to follow your lead?

REKLAW: Dark Horse (which to me was mostly Diana Schutz, my editor) was pretty hands-off. They had some small but very helpful edits and production tweaks, but mostly the book was mine to edit and design. It really helped having them in town (Portland, OR) for when problems came up, and that proximity was partly why I wanted to work with them. Also, Diana is fun and a great comics mentor.

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SPURGEON: Whose idea was a tour? How has Dark Horse been in terms of support in this endeavor. You're kind of doing it rat-a-tat-tat, one stop after another? What made you want to get out there and hit a bunch of cities?

REKLAW: The tour was pretty much all me wanting to get out there and have some fun. My publisher for Dreamtoons (Shambhala) organized a tour for me, but it was basically a disaster -- only two dates, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. I got some good tips from Al Burian at a Portland Zine Symposium workshop a few years ago about booking tours. I wanted to try it, just to see what I could do and get some experience. Selling books was cool too.

SPURGEON: How has the tour been so far?

REKLAW: A whole lot of work and a financial loss, but really fun and addictive too. Part of my strategy was to link up with other people on tour, to share the costs of travel, and the shame of low attendance. I had a great time being in a car with Trevor Alixopulos, Ken Dahl, Hellen Jo, Calvin Wong, and others. I was really drained when I got back from the east coast half, and thought it would be difficult to get excited about the west coast tour, but after a few days I couldn't wait for it to start.

SPURGEON: Jesse, what's the status of your involvement with Global Hobo? This is terrible of me, but I can't tell if you're still hanging in there.

REKLAW: It's no fault of yours; we never got out the press release that Eli Bishop took over Global Hobo earlier this year. He's doing a terrific job of getting new books up on the web site.

imageSPURGEON: What have you learned about the business of comics and 'zine culture through Global Hobo? Is there anything that's particularly discouraged or encouraged you about that aspect of cartooning?

REKLAW: I really wanted to learn more about distribution, and Global Hobo certainly helped with that. It gives me more sympathy for publishers and what they have to deal with, and also lets me know what to look for in a publisher. Going into Global Hobo I knew it wasn't going to make money, but I couldn't help myself from trying to make it work financially. When, after three years, I finally admitted that the best I could do selling mini-comics was make about $2/hr, I felt kind of stupid for throwing so much time into it. But sometimes it takes me feeling really stupid about something to make a change.

SPURGEON: I think of you as part of a group of cartoonists of a certain age. How important has it been to find friends and creative fellow-travelers as you've developed as a cartoonist? Is there any downside to being part of a creative community like that? What are the positive aspects for you personally?

REKLAW: I've always needed community, and when I lived in Connecticut for five years I was really starved for it. I'd be interested to know who else comprises the group you see me in, because I've been continually frustrated and jealous seeing people my age (and younger!) find success and notoriety in a community. The two people I feel the most affinity with are David Lasky and Dylan Williams, because we're all ex-early '90s SF Bay Area cartoonists who never seemed to settle into a community or find great success.

SPURGEON: Something I read made me think that you think of yourself as less of an on-line cartoonist and more of an alt-weekly cartoonist whose work also appears on-line. Is that fair?

REKLAW: I guess I toe the line. Like I mentioned, Slow Wave couldn't exist without the internet. It's certainly cooler to think you're an alt-weekly cartoonist instead of a web-cartoonist, since there are so many web-cartoonists at an amateur level. Maybe Slow Wave is more of a print-comic since that's where my money comes from.

SPURGEON: I know that you had at least five clients because you won an award in a five papers or over category. I also know that of your original two clients, the Rocket doesn't exist and the other paper whose name I forget no longer carries it. Lynda Barry painted a brutal picture of the alt-weeklies as a home for comics in an interview I did with her this last summer. What's the state of that market right from your perspective, and what is your place in it?

REKLAW: I have been in about 8-12 papers since 1998, usually dropped from one around the same time I get picked up by another, so my circulation is conserved. There is no security for an alt-weekly cartoonist though. Lately it seems to be getting worse. I send out submissions to new papers once a year or so, and the last two times I've had zero response. Usually I'll get three to five inquiries, and one of them will pick up the strip. Joey Sayers who does Thingpart said she's had the same experience recently. I don't know if it's the downturn in the economy, or the fact that many alt-weeklies are no longer very alt, since they're being bought up by media conglomerates who like to consolidate content and staff. It might be that I just lucked into an alt-weekly boom in the mid-'90ss, and it's all falling apart now.

SPURGEON: It seems like in the late 1990s there was also a mini-boom of interest in dream narratives in comics, with cartoonists like Rick Veitch and Max doing dream comics or comics that depended on that way of looking at reality. Were you interested in any of these other efforts? Are there dream narratives in other media that interest you?

REKLAW: Julie Doucet was a big inspiration for me doing dream comics. I loved the way she captured small moments of twisted reality, and I wanted to try and do that. I was later (1997 or so?) very inspired by Jim Woodring's comics. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get to them. I've enjoyed Rick Veitch's work, but it never provided for me a complete world to explore, like Doucet and Woodring did. Did Max do real dream comics, or were they just fiction masquerading as dreams? I'm not so into that, which seems like a false use of fiction. I could never get into Winsor McCay for the same reason. Most other media seem to use dreams in that false way, though Akira Kurosawa's Dreams was pretty cool.

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SPURGEON: The Joanna Davidovich "Live Nude Girl" dream made me eyes pop a bit because it's the first time I'd seen you work in fewer than four panels. Since it's clearly not a formatting issue if you could submit that one, can you talk about why you work in that rigid structure? What made you break out of it there, and what does in general?

REKLAW: I did a few strips in my first book (Dreamtoons) in three panels too; it's just that some strips don't have enough content to fill four panels. Since Slow Wave is printed both as a long strip (1x4) and a grid (2x2), I do need to make sure the first half has equal width with the second half. So using a long panel in the top or bottom is my only formatting choice (unless I want to go more than four panels, which I don't, since the narration looks screwy when it gets cut too small like that). I think putting dreams -- which are loopy and tangential -- into a rigid format helps the reader to follow them.

SPURGEON: Are there dreams that are too abstract for you to draw in a way that interests you? Most of your cartoonist have at least a time line aspect to them: this happens, this happens, this happens? do you get dreams from people that are more random or out there?

REKLAW: There's a lot of stuff I don't try to do because it just doesn't interest me, like randomly shifting realities and non sequiturs. But I'm also conscious of trying to tell a story that others will find interesting, and that a large number of people (who aren't necessarily into oneiric minutiae) will be able to follow. So I do clean up a lot of ambiguities. Like if someone says in their dream that a person was a mix of their dad, Christopher Walken, and some guy they saw selling hotdogs in the park, I'll pick which one of those identities best serves the dream narrative.

SPURGEON: How has your work refined itself doing it for so long? Are there strips or things you don't do now that you may have done a long time ago? How much do you consciously work on refining your work?

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REKLAW: For the first 20-30 strips, I was really into oddness in dreams, and tried to honor the weird details. Later I wanted to focus on the humor, because I saw the strip as being more or less a humor strip (though some would disagree). Lately I've just been trying to keep it fresh. When I first started doing this strip 13 years ago I thought I'd never run out of material, but it's surprising how many dreams I get that are similar to ones I've already drawn.

SPURGEON: Your strip has a very striking look. Can you talk about the heavy, dark quality to the line work and overall look of the strip and how you approach it as a cohesive, visual entity? How did you decide on the lettering choices you use?

REKLAW: I try to be conscious of information design principles in my comics, to enhance clarity and flow. But I think I have a tendency to overwork the details, which is bad. The heavy lines may in part be a function of the smaller size I drew the strips collected in The Night of Your Life -- almost at the size printed. I draw them much bigger now, though I'm thinking of going a little smaller because my draftsmanship gets wonky at that large size. I'm really attracted to early '60s illustration style, realistic but bold and simplified.

imageAs for the lettering, I made a font of my comics writing in 1993 when I was an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz, and I used that for Slow Wave when I began the strip. The word balloons were hand-lettered because I didn't have an easy way of doing it on the computer back then, and I made them mixed case to differentiate from the narration. Although I'm now a fan of hand lettering I've kept the hybrid look of Slow Wave for consistency.

SPURGEON: Do you ever think about suspending the strip or bringing it to a close? What might make you do that? Is it helpful to have the occasional outside comics project?

REKLAW: Just about every week (right around deadline time) I think about quitting Slow Wave, but it's such a great opportunity to try out techniques and get a steady paycheck (well, ten of them), that I'd be a fool to quit unless I had something better lined up (or I just couldn't do quality work anymore). I started drawing other people's dreams because I wanted to work in private on my comics writing. It's taken me a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would, but I'm finally at the point where people can get from my writing what I'm trying to convey.

SPURGEON: I forgot to ask directly abou the comics you've been doing lately in conjunction with that publicity tour. Tell me a little bit about the tour diary; is that something you've done before? Why add the work?

REKLAW: I was just feeling kind of manic when I was setting up my tour, and I tried out anything I could think of to get more press; the diary was one of those things. But I have always toyed with the idea of doing a diary comic, and I was looking for some way to use the new social networking sites too (like flickr, facebook, etc.). It's really not that much more work, and if the diary wasn't successful, I would have quit after two or three weeks. But I think I'll do it for a year now and see where I'm at.

SPURGEON: Other than that and the syndicated Slow Wave, do you have something in mind as far as a next project?

REKLAW: Right now I'm working on about seven different long projects, one of which is a memoir called Couch Tag. A chapter from that was published in the Best American Comics 2006, and I'll hopefully be done with the whole 150-page book in 2010.

*****

* cover to the new book
* photo by Tom Spurgeon or Gil Roth, I can't remember; probably Gil
* dream from account given by Grig Larson, in the new book
* from the dream diary
* Reklaw's excellent mini-comic Applicant
* the Live Nude Girl comic described in the interview
* panel from a dream account given by Colin Atrophy
* panel from a dream account given by Ray Jewel; note the differences in lettering
* (below) the dream to which I most related because it was like one of my own; from an account by Max McBarron

*****

* The Night Of Your Life, Jesse Reklaw, hardcover, 256 pages, October 2008, 9781595821836, $15.95

*****

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*****
*****
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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I know this looks like a bunch of playmates and character actors, but David Lloyd told me he'll be there, so I'd definitely go see him
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Miami, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: Brian Doherty on Evanier's Kirby book

* go, watch: Leslie Stein video

* go, watch: lots of other videos

* go, read: Lynda Barry at Vice

* go, read: Mike Mignola interviewed
 
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FFF Results Post #142—Gut Check

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Overweight Characters From The Comics." This was how they responded.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Tubby
2. Chunk
3. Bouncing Boy
4. Texas
5. Wimpy

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1 - Wimpy
2 - Tubby
3 - Herbie Popnecker
4 - Ma Hunkel
5 - Walt Wallet

*****

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Tom Brevoort

* Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer
* Nite-Owl
* The Kingpin ("It's not fat, it's all muscle, I tells ya -- ALL MUSCLE!")
* Herbie Popnecker
* Adam West's Batman (Sorry, Adam...)

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1. Bouncing Boy
2. Little Lotta
3. Herbie
4. Nancy (You know, thinking about it, I never thought of her as overweight, but she's always struggling with eating too much, right? Or her aunt Fritzi is trying to get her to cut out sweets or cookies, or overeating? That bitch)
5. Does Fat Albert count? If not, I'll fess up to a strange attraction to Errata Stigmata's mother...

*****

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Dave Carter

1. Bouncing Boy
2. Amanda Waller
3. J. Wellington Wimpy
4. Despair
5. Olaf (Snoopy’s brother)

*****

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Stephen Leach

1. Little Lotta
2. Herbie Popnecker
3. Maggie Chascarrillo
4. The Blob
5. Miss Wormwood

*****

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Ben Towle

* The Blob
* Herbie
* Pogeybait
* Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel
* Garfield

*****

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Randall Kirby

* Tubby
* Zodon (holographic),
* Homer Simpson
* Eric Cartman (He may in fact only be "big boned")
* The Scarlet Mortimer

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Herbie Popnecker (of course)
2. Freddie "Data" Martin (Thriller)
3. Volstagg
4. Woozy Winks
5. Maggie Chascarrillo

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) Bouncing Boy
2) The Blob
3) Fat Cobra (from The Immortal Iron Fist)
4) Volstagg
5) Big Bertha

*****

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Uriel A. Duran

1) Maggie Chascarrillo
2) Natt the Hat
3) El Panda from Lucha Libre
4) Obelix
5) Santa Claus from Jingle Belle

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. Quinch
2. Wimpy
3. Wulf Sternhammer
4. That kid from the Far Side
5. Herbie the Fat Fury

*****

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Ben Schwartz

1) Fat Jimmy Olsen
2) Fat Lois Lane
3) Fat Superman
4) Fat Superboy
5) Any Superman by Wayne Boring is fat, or at least beefy, by 2008 anorexic standards.

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. The Blob
2. Herbie
3. Maggie
4. Volcana (the Marvel version)
5. Francine (from SIP)

*****

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Cris Skokna

1. Volstagg
2. Obelix
3. Maggie
4. Wimbledon Green
5. Granny Goodness

*****

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Michael Aushenker

1) Herbie
2) Tubby
3) The Blob from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
4) Foggy Nelson
5) Baby Huey

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1 - Herbie Popinecker
2 - Fat Freddy Freak
3 - Baby Huey
4 - Maggie (post-Mechanix)
5 - Etta Candy

*****

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Dave Knott

* Obelix
* Volstagg the Voluminous
* Walt Wallet
* Uncle Dudley
* Despair

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. Clayface
2. The Blob (x-villain)
3. Kingpin
4. Nite-Owl
5. Comic-Book Store Guy (from the Simpsons)

*****

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Mike Lynch

1. Woozy Winks
2. The Captain (The Katzenjammer Kids)
3. Mr. O'Malley
4. Gomez Addams
5. Rusty Brown

*****

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John McCorkle

1. The Shaolin Cowboy
2. Obelix
3. Bianca Castafiore
4. Jeff Albertson, aka Comic Book Guy
5. Herbie Popnecker

*****

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Richard Bensam

1. Van Crawford a.k.a. Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer
2. Etta Candy of Beeta Lambda sorority, Holliday College (original
version)
3. Herman Cramer a.k.a. the Blimp
4. Volstagg, the Falstaff of Asgard
5. Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl II

*****

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Harold Sipe

1. Fat Marvel
2. Uncle Marvel
3. Herbie Popnecker, The Fat Fury
4. Fatman (Mr. America's partner)
5. Foggy Nelson

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. J. Wellington Wimpy
2. Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado
3. The Flash circa issue #115
4. Volstagg
5. Any of the many pot-bellied characters drawn by Don Martin

*****

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John Vest

1. Volstagg
2. Uncle Marvel
3. Foggy Nelson
4. The Sarge in Sad Sack comics
5. Axus The Great

*****

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Richard Pachter

1. Chunk
2. Bouncing Boy
3. Herbie Popnecker
4. Stumbo The Giant
5. Moose Mason

*****

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Josh Fitzpatrick

1) Kingpin
2) Herbie
3) Pellon Cross in his bloated vampire phase
4) The Blob
5) Blue Beetle, when he had his beer gut.

*****
*****
 
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First Thought Of The Day

Is there a word or a phrase for that feeling you get when you're watching a film and your knowledge of film tropes influences the way you're invested in the film but the filmmakers also know this so they play around with it?

Because there should be.
 
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November 15, 2008


Canada Arts Council: Too Late To Add Co-Author Jillian Tamaki To Finalists List

In one of those stories where the fundamental problem and the obvious solution are so simple that describing it feels like diving through 100 mattresses to flick away a pea, the Canada Council of the Arts today declined to consider changing a 2008 awards finalists list for the prestigious Governor General's Literary Awards to include the book's co-author, artist Jillian Tamaki.

imageIt's unclear whether the Council simply made a mistake in not listing Tamaki, is operating under the commonly-held perception fueled by the division of labor in many North American comics and in the contextual culture that emphasizes the writer as primary author, or is operating under an older distinction of words = writing and art = illustration of that writing. According to a statement by CCA Head of Writing and Publishing Melanie Rutledge to the CBC news, it's simply too late for the change to be considered.

This site noted the discrepancy when the nominations were announced on October 21. Writer Mariko Tamaki was named in the children's literature -- text category, and as such received a $1000 cash award and was up for the $25,000 cash award and general prestige due the prize winner when announced November 18.

Cartoonists Seth and Chester Brown sent a letter to the Council on Wednesday, pointing out the discrepancy and asking that a change be made in the list. The Rutledge statement was in response to that letter, signed by comics luminaries such as Art Spiegelman. Seth and Brown made the point that the Council's own juror cited the art as part of the book's literary merit, prestigious reviews did as well, and, if I'm understanding them correctly, that a new category or a tabled objection wasn't necessary because overall literary merit was at issue meaning they simply failed to list a co-author.

Seth told CR he found the Council's response, "Disappointing, but not unexpected. In only my most optimistic moments did I believe they might actually change the nomination and add Jillian's name. Still, I was (and continue) hoping that our protest might cause them to reconsider the separation of text and image in their future nominations in regards to Graphic Novels."

He noted further, "Truthfully, this is a matter that is most shamefully handled in the standard comic book awards themselves. I think it is time that cartoonists who both write and draw stop being nominated for best writer, or best inker or best whatever. It's a hold-over from the assembly line system of commercial cartooning and personally I think it is kind of insulting to nominate say, Dan Clowes as a best letterer in a year where his book may not be nominated. I'd like to throw out all those assembly line categories and just nominate best books. But, that is a different battle.

"In the end, I'm simply gratified to see Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's Skim receive a bit more attention and I hope Mariko wins the Governor General's."

Jillian Tamaki sent along her official statement:

"I am so appreciative of Seth and Chester's letter. They, along with many of the co-signers, are my heroes.

"Graphic Novels are experiencing some growing pains right now, as they are gradually being accepted into the mainstream "Book World". I honestly think that as people come to understand them, and the process behind their creation (discussions like this are significant first steps), these bumps will be smoothed out. The Governor General Awards deserve a great deal of credit for nominating a graphic novel in the first place, and I hope to see more in the future. These are really exciting times to be a comics creator.

"We are having a discussion about comic authorship and the concept of storytelling! That is a huge victory in itself and the intent, I believe, behind the letter."

And added, in her e-mail:

"I have been blown away by the support from the comics community, in the letter but also online. As someone who considers herself a relative comics newcomer, to receive such an acknowledgment from Seth, Chester, and the co-signers is fairly mind-blowing. Many of these creators are the reason I wanted to start doing comics in the first place. Comics people are some of the most passionate, opinionated people that I know and I'm immensely proud to be part of that community."

It's encouraging to hear about comics people sticking up for other comics people, as well as seeing them convinced enough of comics' value as literary work to run the risk of seeming ungrateful to be included in the initial deliberations in the first place. Since it's clear that the voters are capable of judging the work on its complete literary merit above and beyond its attribution, CR can't see any reason why the Council simply can't do the right thing and correct their mistake in leaving off a co-author, and encourage them to do so. They will be lauded for making that move far in excess of any trouble it might bring them.
 
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Next Week In Comics-Related Events

November 16
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November 18
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November 19
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November 20
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November 21
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November 22
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November 23
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from November 8 to November 14:

1. Underground comix legend S. Clay Wilson suffers severe injury in San Francisco.

2. Two more prominent editorial cartoonists lose staff positions.

3. Artists rally to Jillian Tamaki, co-author of a book snubbed by Canadian awards.

Winner Of The Week
Julian Hanshaw

Loser Of The Week
This Poor Guy

Quote Of The Week
"He tells me as the single artist, he thought his position was pretty safe and didn’t see this one coming." -- Alan Gardner

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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If I Were In Miami, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In New Orleans, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go See This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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I know this looks like a bunch of playmates and character actors, but David Lloyd told me he'll be there, so I'd definitely go see him
 
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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Alvin Buenaventura on the Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 Tour (PR) (11/14/08)
* Sean T. Collins On The Watchmen Movie Poster With Silk Spectre II (11/12/08)
* Dan Shahin of Hijinx Comics on the United Media On-Line Initiative (11/9/08)
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Happy 41st Birthday, Ariel Olivetti!

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November 14, 2008


Five For Friday #142—Gut Check

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Five For Friday #142 -- Name Five Of Your Favorite Overweight Characters From The Comics (No Jokes About Cartoonists, Industry Folk or Bloggers, Thanks)

*****

1. Tubby
2. Chunk
3. Bouncing Boy
4. Texas
5. Wimpy

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To All That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Should Comics.com Have More Traffic?

I am certainly aware that there are problems with using Alexa.com as a site traffic measuring tool -- here's one article's worth of complaints. Still, I'm surprised to see next to no indication of a sustained swing upwards for Comics.com after the whole thing went free with increased archival access recently. Unless I missed something, the portal model counts on all the extra content increasing traffic to and hits on the site in question. Granted, I have been critical of the move because I think it took more specific strategies geared towards the newspapers off the table, so I may be reading this to my point of view's favor. Also, I haven't really tracked down any of United Media's attempts to drive readers to the site. I know they were asking around for ad information at one point -- can someone .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) some publicity or ad placement that supports this move? I'd just like the best information I can get on this subject.
 
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A Pair Of Newspaper Comics Notes

image* this article makes a call for action out of rumors apparently reported by RC Harvey -- and finding traction on a Yahoo group devoted to the character -- that Tribune Media Service may end Dick Tracy after current cartoonist Dick Locher retires at the end of this year. My first reaction was to call TMS; it looks like people are out of the office, but I'll try to get something official at some point or another. My second reaction is that no matter what we should know really, really soon if it's true. The standard delay between when a strip is due from the cartoonist and when it goes to the newspapers subscribing to it would indicate that last strips would have to be in pretty soon. My third reaction is that I kind of hope it's true. I don't have any hatred for legacy strips just because they're legacy strips, and as someone who worked with creator Chester Gould Locher had as great a claim to carrying on its traditions as anyone could. I just think the legacy model that works for strips requires a thriving newspaper industry with lots of room for lots of comics on the page. We just don't have that anymore.

Updated: Bob was flat wrong. My reaction now is that it's too bad. I'm happy to have Dick Locher comics as long as he wants to make them, but in a free-falling market I don't think I can be a fan of any legacy strip strategy.

* the Post's Michael Cavna talks about the blood seeping out from under the door where they make decisions about the future of staffed editorial cartoon positions, and fairly admits that things look quite dire. He discusses the Jimmy Marguiles gag involving Thomas Nast and uses an aggressive statement by Ted Rall as to where the blame lies. I don't think editorial cartooning will ever go away entirely, but I expect staffed positions to settle in the two to three dozen range at some point.
 
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Go, Read: ‘72 Seuling Con Report

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The Latest I Have On S. Clay Wilson

It's really yesterday's Steve Duin news for the cartoonist, injured with a severe head injury last weekend: the fever dissipated after spiking, there's a lot of brain damage, Wilson or may not have responded to outside stimuli and speech. The article also starts to put together a stronger narrative as to actually what happens, and note that Wilson owes his life to two Samaritans that found him on Landers Street Saturday night/Sunday morning.

There's a chance this story may be updated -- there's also a chance it already changed, and just needs updating -- and if I see or hear anything I'll put it up here.

One thing you're beginning to see is people in various cultural circles taking notice, people that may appreciate his work but maybe don't dwell within comics except for a few artists of interest.
 
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If I Were In NYC, 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 NYC, I’d Go To This

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I know this looks like a bunch of playmates and character actors, but David Lloyd told me he'll be there, so I'd definitely go see him
 
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If I Were In Miami, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Alex Fellows’ Blog

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Go, Look: Grey Aliens And Fairies

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Go, Look: Hear, See, Speak Evil

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Go, Look: Blackhawk #71

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the prominent blogger and cartoonist Mike Lynch notes a new insurance company available to freelancers working in New York with an eye on offering such services nationwide.

image* I feel I haven't done as much as I should have on behalf of the mainstream comics artist Gene Colan, so let me start to redress that by slipping in this mention that his show at Cartoon Art Museum curated by the author Glen David Gold goes up this weekend. The reception isn't until December 4. I've never seen Colan's originals, and I have to imagine due to its general attractiveness that seeing that art up has to be a pretty fun experience.

* not comics: is it my imagination, or are we seeing a second run of comics-related podcasts springing up?

* here's a cute story -- well, cute in part because it didn't happen to us -- about the cartoonist Godfrey Amon "Gado" Mwampembwa trying to attend one of those seemingly endless cartooning for peace conferences and being thwarted because Kenyans were so overjoyed at Senator Barack Obama's election that they closed official offices the cartoonist needed to make his flight with the right documentation. Attempts to bring the cartoonist to the conference via electronic means failed.

* not necessarily comics: this article about super-villain hideouts made my head hurt in a good way.

* finally, I think the point of this article is to wonder out loud whether the covers on these Tintin parodies cross the line into fooling the reader that they're getting either official or officially approved books. The real point of this article should be how to pull off wearing a mutated, leopard-skin design tie/ascot crossover, because that is obviously the greater achievement.
 
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Happy 50th Birthday, Edd Vick!

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Happy 35th Birthday, Anders Nilsen!

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Quick hits
Craft
On Setting

Exhibits/Events
Go See Terry Stewart
A Fantastic Display In Windham

History
On The Genius Of Beano

Industry
Publicizing Your Comic
Derf Book In RRHOF Library
Fighting Irish Fighting Boner Jokes

Interviews/Profiles
ANN: Sho Murase
FPI Blog: Alex Irvine
The Hippo: Mike Lynch
Inkstuds: Jesse Reklaw
Patriot-News: Chip Kidd
Comix Claptrap: Jim Rugg
Newsarama: Dustin Nguyen
Daily Yomiuri: Takehiko Inoue
Savage Critic: Matt Maxwell 01
Savage Critic: Matt Maxwell 02
Bridgwater Mercury: Brad Fear
Palace In The Sky: Greg Carter
Time Out Chicago: Alison Bechdel
Indie Spinner Rack: Jason Thompson
Comics Coast To Coast: Jarrett Osborne

Not Comics
Future Of Publishing Fight
Bitchin' Death Ray Costume
I Hope This Story Goes Away Quickly
Demon, Swamp Thing and Dr. Strange
The Most Important News Story Of All Time

Publishing
Not This Again
This Gets To Be A Promise Now?
Re-Releasing The Beasts!
House To Astonish Debuts
Tom Neely On His Beasts! 2 Contribution
Please Destroy All Copies Of MOME Vol. 12

Reviews
Brad Curran: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Matthew Brady: Shojo Beat
RJ Carter: So... Buttons
Tom Baker: Fell 100 Percent
Sean T. Collins: Hellboy Vol. 8
Rachel Molino: Mesmo Delivery
Matthew McLean: Young Liars #9
AS Hamrah: Garfield Minus Garfield
Hervé St-Louis: Secret Invasion #7
John E. Mitchell: The Lindbergh Child
David Torres: Detective Comics #850
Greg McElhatton: Unknown Soldier #1
Shaenon K. Garrity On Dream Comics
Richard Bruton: The Dan Lester Mysteries
Johanna Draper Carlson: American Widow
Elizabeth Schweitzer: Me And The Devil Blues
Robert Stanley Martin: Superman Annual #11
Tom Crippen: Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography
Jessica Severs: Dramacon Ultimate Edition Vols. 1-3
Sarah Boslaugh: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Official Casebook Vol. 1
 

 
November 13, 2008


Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard will have new work coming out: illustrations in a book. The cartoonist, who became a flashpoint for simmering resentments from 2005's publication of Muhammed caricatures when an assassination plot against him was revealed, has been back home since this summer. I did not know that.

* the stay in-country of two Tunisian nationals accused of participating in that plot has motivated politicians in Denmark to reconsider those rules.

* I totally missed this editorial about the republication earlier this year that happened when papers wished to show solidarity with Westergaard. It's as good as anything I've seen that shows how many were deeply upset by the republication, even those that understood the initial impulses to publish back in 2005.

* this editorial warns against a 2009 conference that's acting as a sequel to an anti-racism conference back in 2001; he expects a lot of references to the Danish Cartoons Controversy.

* way down at the bottom of this post is news of a book accusing governmental conspiracy in the initial publication of the caricatures. The fact that it's come up at all in a way I can access it indicates it's gained at least a little bit of traction.

* one Vatican official sees all this dialogue between Christians and Muslim as maybe not an automatically awesome thing.

* this walk against violence in Canada brings up some of the feelings brought to the surface by the cartoons and some of the post-publication legal shenanigans.

* the cartoon-inspired bombing at the Danish embassy in Pakistan was videotaped.
 
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Mike Luckovich Wins Baker Award

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Mike Luckovich, the most-lauded cartoonist of recent memory, recently won the Brooke Baker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Friends of Dunwoody Library in Dunwoody, Georgia. Mr. Baker was a past president of that group. I have no idea why the article popped up on my radar, but it seems like a nice thing to get. It's sometimes easy to forget in this day of syndication and positions being tossed overboard with increasing regularity that the best editorial cartoonists work within a local framework in addition to straddling the national dialogue.

The Pulitzer Prize and Reuben winner noted in his speech that he doesn't go into work until lunch, which would be an alarming thing for any job other than working at a morning daily. He works with two editors and as a kid dreamed of working for MAD. As noted above, he certainly seems comics aware.
 
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Your 2008 Best Webcomics Of The Year According To Critic Tucker Stone

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1. Get Your War On, David Rees
2. Achewood, Chris Onstad
3. Bodyworld, Dash Shaw
4. Kate Beaton's comics, Kate Beaton
5. Dinosaur Comics, Ryan North

Please go here and read what Mr. Stone had to say.
 
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And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #6

* here's something I hadn't considered until Sean T. Collins pointed it out to me. When a gaming industry business like WizKids goes under, there is obviously some financial impact on the comics world because many comics shops sell WizKids product. I got that. There's also their participation as an ad buyer on comics sites and in comics magazines, and as an exhibitor at comics convention. That part I missed.

* also, WizKids' Heroclix line of face 'em off and fight action figures would probably have more saturation into comics shops than a standard toy or gaming line. I must have been drunk that day.

image* this is more silly than salient, but it's probably worth noting that economic hard times weigh on those cartoonists that have to come up with different ways to depict economic turmoil. The "fill-in-blank begging" gag like the one favored here by Seattle's David Horsey is perhaps a bit too easy, but it has the significant advantage of usually being funny on a general subject where funny is difficult. You may see a lot of tin cans over the next years.

* the act of "firing" Thomas Nast is a cute move on Jimmy Margulies' part to draw attention to widespread newspaper staff reductions, but it's an inexact comparison in that these positions are not being eliminated because of political pressure, and it's an image that brings up the unfortunate idea that newsrooms are full of really, really old people that haven't worked in a while. Perhaps they could have mocked-eliminated the positions held by Eustace Tilley or Alfred E. Newman.

* this article about the nervousness felt by booksellers and publishers as Christmas approaches which even if it goes well is the start of a potentially long, long winter, is at once both touching and darkly hilarious. On the one hand, there's booksellers worried about making ends meet and working hard to sell books out of signings. On the other hand, book publishers find out that multi-million dollar book deals may not pay off and that cocktails in Manhattan can be expensive.

* the blogger Sean Kleefeld talks about how taxes can have an effect on purchasing comics, particularly state to state.

* the journalist Chris Mautner talks about an event I thought significant, the move of Los Bros Hernandez's Love & Rockets out of comics pamphlet form and into a bookstore ready format.

* the writer Matt Maxwell talks about his own buying habits, how they've always been trades-focused and how spending two hours and four bucks on a chapter of a book just doesn't work for him.
 
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If I Were In Athens, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Brendan McCarthy Colors

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Go, Look: Star Pirate

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OTBP: Death To Most

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Go, Look: Buried Alive!

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OTBP: Teenagers From The Future

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I can't believe the actual Smurfiversary passed without my realizing it.

image* the publisher Image Comics raised $27K for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) through the publication of its Liberty Comics anthology.

* it's hard not to smile at this Peter Arno anecdote, even if it leaves you shaking your head.

* for some reason, the funniest thing in this article which I imagine will be blogged everywhere is the way they mention that this guy reads a comic book each night before he goes to sleep. I'm not sure exactly why, either. I just sort of like the image of someone entering a room full of comics and selecting one with significant pomp and glee.

* there will be a post day-of as a reminder, but Saturday the sixth of December IDW will have a one-day only warehouse sale with drastic, drastic cuts in order to move product. Fantagraphics did this a couple of times when I worked there. It was actually a fun way to meet a lot of the local comics fans.

* cartoon-related mini-controversy in Southern Utah.

* finally, a not comics story: here's a summary of projects that Dark Horse has in development as films.
 
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Happy 61st Birthday, Doug Murray!

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Quick hits
Craft
Writer Vs. Artist

Exhibits/Events
Brian Fies Speaks
Cartoonists In Italy
Odd Convention Preview
Cartoonists In Kathmandu
Shintaro Kago Event Report
Contemporary Graphic Novels Exhibit

History
This Made Me Laugh
On Bruce Bairnsfather
Except For 200 Editorial Cartoonists
America's Image In Political Cartoons

Industry
I Always Vote Not
We're All Doomed
Comic Books... In The Library?

Interviews/Profiles
ASU: Ken Brown
CBR: David Hine
CBR: P. Craig Russell
Payvand: Hadi Faranhi
Inkstuds Anders Nilsen
USA Today: Lucy Knisley
Comic Riffs: Steve Breen
Newsarama: Rafael Grampa
Western Courier: Chris Onstad
Talking With Tim: Alex Robinson
Daily News Latino: Bodega Crew
His Two Minutes With Chris Onstad
Daily Cross Hatch: Farel Dalrymple

Not Comics
I Did Not Know This Was Being Developed

Publishing
Book Chronicles Bush Years

Reviews
Nick Gazin: Various
Erik Johnson: Various
Kevin Church: Various
Richard Bruton: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Chris Mautner: Toon Books
Julia Rothman: Souvlaki Circus
Richard Gehr: Kramers Ergot Vol. 7
Hervé St-Louis: Secret Invasion #6
Jordan Hurder: Kramers Ergot Vol. 7
Rob Clough: Dungeon Monstres Vol. 2
Tom Feran: Best American Comics 2008
Leroy Douresseaux: Savage Dragon #140
Johanna Draper Carlson: Love Of Sausage
Don MacPherson: Hellboy: The Crooked Man
Charlie Jane Anders: Watching The Watchmen
Leroy Douresseaux: Teen Titans Lost Annual #1
Jason A. Heidemann: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
John Freeman: The Leather Nun And Other Incredibly Strange Comics
 

 
November 12, 2008


Vertical Inc.‘s Mentzas to Bloggerdom: “Number Of People” Laid Off Is One

By David P. Welsh

imageIn Monday's Lying in the Gutters column at Comic Book Resources, Rich Johnston reported the following rumor:
"I understand that Vertical Comics, publishers of titles such as Osamu Tezuka's 'Buddha,' 'MW' and 'Blackjack' [sic] laid off a number of people last week. And if they don't get new financing, they'll be the next company to hit the skids."
Yani Mentzas, Editorial Director for Vertical Inc., responded to the rumor with the following statement:
"Vertical didn't lay off 'a number of people.' We've had to lay off just one. It's true that we're seeking new financing, but it's news to me that without it we'll be 'the next company to hit the skids.' The situation is tight but I don't think we're unique there, and Vertical has been through worse. 'Black Jack' becoming a national bestseller would definitely help, though!"
Johnston had classified Monday's rumor as "Amber," which indicates "[he] think[s] there is a heavy bias involved here, or it just seems a little dodgy."
 
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Australian Officials Demand Sticker Put On Erotic Comics Survey Book

imageAccording to a post made by the increasingly indispensable Steve Holland, Australian customs officials have asked that the first book book in Tim Pilcher's Erotic Comics: A Graphic History soon-to-be series (a second volume is due in January) carry a special sticker with a big, fat "M" on it or not be sold in Australia. I had to blink a bit and double-check, but despite all the information about the second volume due to arrive in early 2009, the post says it's the first one that was stopped. This action would, of course, put the second one's ability to gain free entry into that market in doubt.
 
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I Love Going To A Library Book Sale

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I mean, really: who doesn't?

total price: $1
 
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Another Cartoonist Loses Staff Position

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This time it's Lee Judge, who leaves the Kansas City Star after what Alan Gardner says is 27 years. His last day is next Friday. Beyond the general, relentlessly depressing trend of North American newspapers losing editorial cartoonists with the regularity that actresses in 1980s gross-out comedies shed their clothing, it's probably worth noting that Judge did do local cartooning work and was a sizable presence on the paper's web site, with a stand-alone feature, a blog and a bunch of archived material. At one time or another, these were all suggested as factors that might mitigate the decline in staff positions. As I recall, it's a fairly sizable paper, with over a quarter million circulation-wise.

Also, maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but parting ways with a 25-plus year newsroom veteran and not letting them work through the holidays? That seems really rough to me.
 
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Gone Are The Days Where One Strip Retires And Another Strip Benefits

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Editor & Publisher looks at what is replacing Opus in the hole created in that now-retired strip's client newspapers. As is the case with the move to Sundays for FoxTrot and the move to a do-over format by For Better Or For Worse, almost no one strip seems to be gaining the bulk of these slots. A traditional newspaper story for years was that every time some major feature retired it seemed like there was an obvious, new strip that people wanted to see. That's not really the case anymore.
 
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Missed It: Kim Deitch Exhibit Video




 
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The Latest I Have On S. Clay Wilson

It's not very up to date, but I did get to look at a forwarded letter last night that indicated Wilson was stable but not getting better, still had a fever, and was still being looked after by Lorraine Chamberlain and another friend. In case you missed it, underground comix legend S. Clay Wilson was hospitalized in severe condition after suffering a severe brain injury over the weekend. I will update this post as soon as I know anything more -- it could be that something has progressed, I just haven't heard about it yet.
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Super-Sam Plays Football

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Go, Look: Peter Arno’s Sizzling Platter

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It's interesting to see a bunch of Arno like the cartoon above and realize that almost no one in America currently does comics or makes cartoons about a) leering, which is understandable, and b) sexual discomfort (look at that guy's face!), which you tend to see only in manga. Plus: if there's pretty cartooning, elegant cartooning and beautiful cartooning, Arno sure had the market cornered on handsome cartooning.
 
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Go, Look: The Duke And The Dope

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Go, Look: French Gag Cartoons

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Go, Look: The Garcon

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Go, Look: Old Timely Comics (I Think)

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they're black and white because they're fanzine reprints, but something still seems off about them to me
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* cartoonist Makoto Raiku has settled a lawsuit with former publisher Shogakukan for a still considerable $26,000 (down from $34,000). At issue was the loss of five colored pieces of art from his popular Zatch Bell Raiku sued in June.

* there's not a lot of writing out there that profiles homegrown Indian graphic novel talent, so this one about 29-year-old Amruta Patil fairly pops.

image* here's something that interests me. Cartoonist Norm Feuti is launching his rejected newspaper strip Gill as an on-line comic that will run five days a week. I liked the proposal that he's still burning through, and while I'm not the biggest fan of his Retail, it's clear that Feuti knows his way around a gag. Not only will the prospective success for the project compel me to return to the site, but it may be fascinating to read a cartoonist divested of the kind of fine-tuning that a young, syndicated strip usually receives.

* in an item that may only interest me, Eric Reynolds and Randy Chang, Blazers fan blog Bust A Bucket makes copious use of comics.

* not comics: I kind of expected this kind of thing, but about the movie more than the promotional campaign. Does the sexual pose and suggestive language used on this Watchmen poster indicate a juvenile mentality that doesn't match up with the original graphic novel's general bearing, or is it a clever take on modern superhero movie cliches that is necessary to translate the project to film? I suspect we'll never be able to tell.

* a copyright primer.

* not comics: "fortune favors the bold" in terms of the future of modern media -- well, at least according to those who would likely receive some of this fortune if people became bold.

* the blogger Sean Kleefeld continues his look at economic tough times and comics, noting that cost in moving product around probably gets passed on to retailers rather than readers.

* not comics: a reason why 2009 should be an interesting year in terms of the future of the newspaper.

* finally, Mark Siegel of First Second Books heartily endorses Cul De Sac while at the same time totally revealing he doesn't read this blog or at the very least doesn't value any of the opinions expressed here! Thanks for nothing, Siegel! Actually, I'm kidding, and am glad that Siegel enjoyed the first Cul De Sac book as much as so many of you have told me you have. It's a really, really strong strip.
 
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Happy 56th Birthday, Carl Potts!

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Quick hits
Craft
Commissioned Sketches
Cartooning Can Bring Peace

Exhibits/Events
Go See Malcy Duff
Go See Dan Piraro
Should She Go To NYCC
NYCC's Official Guest List
Go See Thomas Livingstone
Go See Matt Madden In Miami
James O'Barr Has A Gallery Show
Miami Book Fair Takes GNs Seriously
This Sounds Fun, Although It Could Be The French

History
Why, Indeed?
Sandman At 20

Industry
E&P On Greenberg Firing
KAL In Residence At Duke
Improving Your Write-In Campaign

Interviews/Profiles
PWCW: Rutu Modan
Galleycat: Ward Sutton
Powells.com: James Kochalka
ActuaBD.com: Jean Van Hamme

Not Comics
No
President-Elect Fanboy
A Problem With Best Of Lists

Publishing
AX Effort Profiled
Kids Book Gets GN Version
Bleach Publication Newsstand-Only
Comics Effort Gets Third Crappy Knock-Off
Radio Comic Something Something I Don't Know

Reviews
Don MacPherson: Token
Deb Aoki: St. Dragon Girl
Don MacPherson: Various
Brian Hibbs: Ultimatum #1
Scott Cederlund: Or Else #5
Jog: Batman: Cacophony #1
Jamison Sacks: Ferryman #2
Adam Klin Oron: Creature Tech
Penny Kenny: Archie Comics #590
Greg McElhatton: Black Jack Vol. 1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Aya Of Yop City
Brian Heater: Two From Tom Neely
Sandy Bilus: Bottomless Belly Button
Richard Bruton: Three By Rob Jackson
the linster: Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
Johanna Draper Carlson On More Isotope Minis
Johnny Bacardi: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1
John David Ebert: Richard Corben's Bloodstar: A Look Back
James Donnelly: Daredevil And Captain America: Dead On Arrival
 

 
November 11, 2008


Go, Look: Will Eisner Remembers War

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posted 2:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly 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 -- but were I in a comic book shop tomorrow I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and as a result, my retailer might shed a single, Iron Eyes Cody-style tear.

*****

SEP080041 BPRD THE WARNING #5 (OF 5) $2.99
MAY082205 JACK STAFF #19 $3.50
MAY082208 MICE TEMPLAR #6 $2.99
JUN082273 WALKING DEAD #54 (MR) $2.99
SEP080214 100 BULLETS #97 (MR) $2.99
Zombies, critters, quirky superheroes... these are your assorted higher-end genre comics of interest.

JUN080293 FABLES COVERS BY JAMES JEAN HC (MR) $39.99
This should be pretty.

SEP080133 SIMON DARK #14 $2.99
I totally would have lost an over/under bet on this one.

JUN071905 STRAY TOASTERS TP (NEW PTG) $24.99
The thing that's cool about re-releases is that if it's because you can't find any, suddenly now you can find one, and if it's because of some other reason, at least the price will go down across the board.

AUG082275 TED MCKEEVER LIBRARY HC VOL 01 $24.99
This is the Transit work, I think.

SEP083990 BIG QUESTIONS #11 (MR) $6.95
A new Big Questions as the Fall turns into the chillier Fall is the "pamphlet" version of the yearly ACME Novelty Library drop, and nearly as wonderful an event.

MAY084078 POWR MASTRS GN VOL 02 (OF 6) (MR) $18.00
I loved the first one, and haven't read the second one. I got one in a package of stuff from PictureBox, and then Dan Nadel e-mailed me but didn't ask about anything except whether or not I got Powr Mastrs Vol. 2. So that should tell you something. What, I'm not sure.

*****

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.

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 and probably a bit high, 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.

If I didn't list your comic, too damn bad.

*****
*****
 
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
They Say Today Is Veterans Day

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Our best wishes and eternal respect to all cartoonists, craftspeople and comics industry members that served.
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Steve Duin Updates S. Clay Wilson’s Condition After Weekend News Of Severe Injury

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Steve Duin has a short and touching update here about the condition of underground comix legend S. Clay Wilson, who was found taken to the hospital after injuries either related to an assault or self-inflicted. Wilson is not only an admired figure in comics but something of a heroic one, so I think a lot more people are paying attention to his current plight than with another cartoonist of his age and stature.
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Cartoonist Loses Staff Position

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According to this post at Alan Gardner's Daily Cartoonist, Steve Greenberg has been laid off from the Ventura County Star effective November 30. Editorial cartooning was a second duty for Greenberg, who plans to continue on the Cagle site and with syndication. In part because he had more than one responsibility at the paper, the layoff seems to have come as a surprise.

As the comments thread at DC makes clear, this isn't a case of dire and necessary cuts but instead looks more like simple pruning and improving the bottom line. One of the distinct features of this current newspaper business free-fall is that it's not falling from a position where papers were expected to make money in some years, not make money in others and the years of profitability would sustain the publications during the down times. I remember talking to an old newspaper man who used to own a few papers and he would stress that all he wanted to do is pay the bills. Corporate-owned papers, on the other hand, are not only expected to make a profit they're expected to do so every year. That's a much tougher standard under which a cartoonist has to justify his or her necessity.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Four More Election Cartoons Of Note

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*****

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*****

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*****

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posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: WizKids Shut Down

I'm not all that well informed on the gaming industry, but I like to keep track of it because many comic book stores are modeled in a way that includes selling this material, and in a way the gaming industry seem to act like a smaller, more contained version of the comics industry. The same way you can look at rap and see some of the same cultural elements from rock and roll play themselves out on a slightly smaller scale and with more speed, so do there seem to be lessons for certain aspects of the comics business in the gaming industry.

This article about what's going to happen now that Topps has announced it is ending the WizKids line seems to offer up two major areas of inquiry. The one about continued line support doesn't really have an equivalent in comics, but a scramble for licenses seems like something that could happen in funnybooks for sure.
 
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were Near Duke, I’d Go To This

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posted 6:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Crazy Charlie

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Mary Blair Song Book

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
A Crumb Off The Old Hot Fry?

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As I have no memory of Buster Capp (scroll down), I'm guessing this also makes comics' much-adored violent, wife-beating drunk a deadbeat dad of some sort. At least I hope that's all it means.
 
posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: A Dream To Have In Heaven

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Jin & Jam #1

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer Don MacPherson talks about the cancellation of the First Look program through which retailers got to see some of the Marvel comic books ahead of time. Article interview subject Randy Lander mentions a retailer-only web site idea that I hadn't heard before, although I'm sure it's widespread knowledge in those circles.

image* speaking of Marvel programs, here's an article at CBR about the one-year anniversary of Marvel's digital comics initiative. It doesn't challenge any assumptions, but it does give a pretty fair snapshot as to what they're up to. I don't think I'd really thought about it all at once. You know, as disassociated as I am from the publishing edge of Marvel Comics, I have to say I would probably make greater use of a subscription to this thing than I do similar subscriptions to digital content that placed side by side with a Marvel Comic I'd like better. I'm old enough and life moves so quickly now that six months feels like a long nap, and I have almost no desire to own this stuff on paper. (That's Henry Peter Gyrich, right? Now there's an underrated character design.)

* still not a story.

* also not comics: you know it's bad when you look at a future of newspapers event and you first thought is if all of those people will stay in those jobs between now and the panel.

* the critic and comics consumer advocate Johanna Draper Carlson goes through the judging process for the Isotope mini-comics award. She reveals the number of submissions with which she dealt, how she processed them, and which ones outside of the winner struck her as worth tracking down and checking out.

* I always liked the name Randy.

* not really comics: I enjoyed this interview with former Fantagraphics and Devil's Due (I think) art director Evan Sult focused primarily on his music. He talks a bit about visiting Fort Thunder, which is the almost-comics part. Evan was the first person with whom I worked at Fantagraphics to leave by his own choice to go do something else, which helped inspire my own eventual departure. And yet we're still friends.

* the blogger Sean Kleefeld has started writing about general economic issues in comics, here and here so far.

* looks like Ted Rall may go all Joker on Barack Obama. I think it would have been a much more interesting campaign if John McCain could have been convinced that irrational nihilism was the way to win the election. Well, maybe more convinced. By the way, the thought that no one will have anything funny to say about a new president is deeply stupid, in comics or in other media. Not only do opportunities reveal themselves, you don't have to mock somebody to make them the focal point of humor. That SNL sketch from the 1970s where Jimmy Carter talks someone down from a bad acid trip is worth every single piece of easy savagery in which that show's wallowed in the last several years. The heart of comedy is revealing truth, not expressing contempt.

* apparently, Patrick McDonnell will be interviewed later today on Mr. Media.

* finally, one more not comics: one of the changes a lot of newspapers will likely make in the next few years is to move to somewhere between a two- and four-day-a-week printed version and a 24-hour on-line newsroom. It's interesting in that I think this is the kind of structural change that could have greatly benefited newspapers if done two years ago as a hedge against a downturn, but I'm doubtful it's going to do very well as a coping mechanism. I'm mentioning it here to remind myself to ask how syndicates sell comics to print publications on this schedule. Still, expect to see more papers try it. A lot of major metro dailies already sold their papers in subscription packages that reflected this kind of consumption.
 
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, James Owen!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 31st Birthday, Derek M Ballard!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 32nd Birthday, Steve Ekstrom!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Lewis Trondheim!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Call For Papers
From Quentin Blake

Exhibits/Events
Cartoons For Peace
Wordstock Panel Report
Gaiman On Recent Show
Art Spiegelman In Austin
From The NCN Convention
Leigh Rubin Lecture Report
Editorial Cartoonists At Baylor Report

History
Jenny Everywhere Never Went Away
The Power Of Cartoons During Elections

Industry
Crisis On Earth Webcomics
Pixton.com Project Profiled
Help Us Choose New Strips
Gianfranco Goria For President
What Is Your Favorite Comic Strip?

Interviews/Profiles
NPR: Mo Willems
CBR: Kevin Colden
Wizard: Mark Millar
Wizard: Peter David
Time: Dave Gibbons
CBR: John Kerschbaum
This Link Is For Gil Roth
Town Crier: Arie Kaplan
City Paper: Art Spiegelman
State Journal-Register: Chris Britt

Not Comics
Yikes
Great Headline
We're All Doomed
Best Day Job Ever
Fanboys For Charity
Manga Tells The Future
Reagan Loved Comics, Too
Japan PM Needs Manga, Too
How Do You Find Stuff On-Line?
Kochikame Statue Unveiling Brings PM

Publishing
Gipi Covering TCJ
Love For Black Jack
LA Times Tries Luann
Archie Stays The Same
Sgt. Rock Project Profiled
Paul Gravett On Classic Comics
Non Sequitur Picks Up Kennebec
Election Day Through Cartoonist Eyes
The Breadth Of Today's Comics In One Headline
Superhero Storylines Always Sound Goofy In Prose
Milestone Comics Characters Coming To DC Universe

Reviews
AV Club Round-Up
P. MacDougal: Che
Leigh Walton: Various
Smriti Daniel: Various
Colleen Mondor: Skim
Elizabeth Spires: Skim
He Likes These Comics
Jason Yadao: Black Jack
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Derik A Badman: Jessica
Tim Doody: The Alcoholic
Nisha Gopalan: Bat-Manga!
Frank Shatz: It's Superman!
Rizal Solomon: Black Summer
Leroy Douresseaux: Bat-Manga!
Leroy Douresseaux: Shy Intentions
John Hardick: Back To Brooklyn #2
Nina Stone: Wolverine Power Pack #1
Tom Feran: Best American Comics 2008
Matthias Wivel: ACME Novelty Library #19
Chris Landers: Stan's Soapbox: The Collection
J. Caleb Mozzocco: The Good Neighbors Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Inubaka: Crazy For Dogs Vol. 11
Leroy Douresseaux: The Record Of A Fallen Vampire Vol. 3
Sandra Scholes: The Rising Stars of Manga: UK and Ireland
Holly Ellingwood: Gankutsuou The Count Of Monte Cristo Vol. 1
Sean T. Collins: An Anthology Of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 1
 

 
November 10, 2008


Say A Prayer For S. Clay Wilson

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posted 12:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Cartoonist Murdered In Philippines

According to a report that's now popping up on various, applicable wire services, a 39-year-old cartoonist named Benjie Guevarra was stopped and then shot to death by two men on a motorcycle that accosted him in Pasig City at some point over the weekend. Guevarra was an employee of Fil-Cartoons Inc., which I believe is a massive company and subsidiary of Time-Warner, although that could have been true years ago and not true now.
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Prince William Unveils Gren



Prince William takes time from his usual schedule of I'm guessing walking around and towering over his future subjects while frightening them with his handsomeness to unveil the world's biggest Gren cartoon. I liked this because of a brief scene where the prince gets to bend over and squint at a cartoon that was done the day he was born, something you hear about but rarely get to see.
 
posted 7:22 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Your ‘08 Observer/Cape Graphic Short Story Prize Winner: Julian Hanshaw

Animator Julian Hanshaw has won the 2008 version of the Observer/Cape Graphic Short Story Prize for Sand Dunes and Sonic Booms. The author won a cash prize and will have the story published in The Observer Review on Sunday.

Runners-up were Emily Haworth-Boorth's What Do Other Married People Talk About? and Isabel Greenberg's Cheer Up, Love, It's Only A Credit Crunch. Their stories will also be published. Judges were Rachel Cooke, Mark Haddon, Rutu Modan, Paul Gravett, Dan Franklin and Suzanne Dean.
 
posted 7:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Chris Onstad Had A Three-Hour Line For A Signing In Brooklyn Friday Evening

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Well, I think it's interesting.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Controversial Keith Knight Cartoon Accidentally Published Again, In Arizona

As a mostly white person, I don't get a vote on what use of what racially derogatory terms upsets people that could easily be described in that way, but I'm still disappointed that a second student newspaper and the community it serves can't make what seems to me a pretty basic distinction between the way the word in question is used by cartoonist Keith Knight and an intended-to-be-insulting use of the word. Even a "I get it, but no way is this acceptable" stance would be nice to read.
 
posted 7:07 am PST | Permalink
 

 
It Was Thirty Years Ago Today…

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... that twenty-eight of my classmates and myself, all from Mrs. Sollenberger's first grade at Mitchell Elementary School in Muncie, Indiana, posed outside after our first Jiro Kuwata Soapbox Derby fundraiser. Kori Marti and Murray Bartholome each won $10 gift certificates from Shakey's Pizza for their winning cars "Leif Garrett Express" and "Bay City Roller Rocket," respectively. That's my pal John "Knuckles" Preston holding up our check.

Seriously, though, I don't really understand why this is a story, although it's quite entertaining. In case you missed it, Chip Kidd made a decision not to include in prominent, authorial fashion the name of Batman manga cartoonist Jiro Kuwata on the cover of his newest book, Bat-Manga!. Some comics industry bloggers criticized this decision. Kidd responded, giving his reason why and taking a rhetorical wiffle-ball bat to the exposed summer-picnic thighs of his critics. Chris Butcher called bullshit on the detractors, Dirk Deppey underlined the initial criticism with a thick black line and Graeme McMillan popped in Uatu The Watcher-style.

Me, I think it's a legitimate criticism whether you agree or disagree with it, am glad that kids are thinking about ethics in any fashion, was happy to hear Kidd respond, understand his position, am delighted to hear the author of those comics is pleased by the attention, am impressed that Kidd and his crew sent him their advance, and am now sitting back still slightly slack-jawed at and majorly amused by the whole goofy mess.
 
posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were Near This, I’d Go To It

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posted 6:50 am PST | Permalink
 

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

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posted 6:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Re-Imagining Tezuka

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thanks, Gus
 
posted 6:46 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: David Lasky’s Bilbo

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Jim Ottaviani’s Blog

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Nice Bill Mantlo Anecdote

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Go, Look: Charlton Fanzines

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
People Sent Photo Links This Weekend

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Buenaventura Press Open House And Launch Party For Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 and Dawn

*****

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Buenaventura Press at APE 2008

*****

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Fred Hembeck at Albany Comic Con 2
 
posted 6:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Please Consider Joining Me In Donating To Or Buying From Scott Saavedra

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The cartoonist, pop historian and comics blogger Scott Saavedra has written a post about a medical condition that is as heartbreaking for its polite, reserved nature as it is for the malady described. While apparently not in desperate straits, he could certainly use swelled coffers for the months and years ahead. I hope you'll consider joining me for a modest donation or purchase. I'm sure any tiny amount in these times would be greatly appreciated.

(If you're not a pay pal or buy on-line person, I'd certainly take a check or money orders via the contact info address found in the black band on the top of this site, and forward the money to Scott.)
 
posted 6:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I enjoyed this Don MacPherson walk-through that discusses several of the comics-related Internet start-ups of the last decade.

image* I greatly enjoyed J. Caleb Mozzocco's walk though recurring imagery in the post-election editorial cartoons. It's amazing how relatively uninspired and even borderline nonsensical many of these cartoons are by the usual standards of that fine profession. Will no one intelligently kick our new president-elect in the balls?

* it's not fair that the great Joe Sacco writes this well about comics.

* the date on this Jonathan Ross look at Watchmen makes me pretty certain that someone out there ran a link to it in the last couple of days and I'm getting what is basically their link from the person that e-mailed it to me, not one that is based on an original visit. Sorry, random person out there. Someone should get Ross to write a bunch of comics reviews while he's on that strange prank phone hiatus.

* not comics: I thought this article on 19th century journalism in New York City a lot of fun. Plus: numbers! Don't know how long that will be up on-line where everyone can get to it, though.

* the prominent blogger Brigid Alverson wonders out loud if we're head toward another compressed publication period for Naruto or if it's just someone's database that needs updating.

* I'm not sure there's any news value in a retailer that admits he got into the business to get advance copies of book learning he isn't going to get advance copies of Marvel books any longer. However, a Marvel Comics that may be in the process of reevaluating its programs and re-pricing them according to today's economic times? Definitely news worthy.

* finally, Charles Yoakum looks at some of the claims the writer Steve Englehart has made regarding Batman to look at the issue of how movies and related media mine the work of comics creators without rewarding them.
 
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, James Sime!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 48th Birthday, Neil Gaiman!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 54th Birthday, Bruce Chrislip!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Use Of Text
Nibs, Nibs, Nibs
Changing Panel Structure To Invoke Action
Craig Thompson's Pages Are Kind Of Small

Exhibits/Events
More Jeff and Vijaya In India
Wizard World Texas Report 01
Wizard World Texas Report 02
New York Art Book Fair Report
Mell Lazarus Appearance Report

History
On Hara-Kiri
On Matt Wagner's Demon
97 Years of Daily Mirror On-Line
That First Sentence Actually Made Me Puke

Industry
Boutiki In Progress

Interviews/Profiles
FPI Blog: Mark Millar
CBR: John Kerschbaum
CBR TV: Darwyn Cooke
Courier-Journal: Mark Tatulli

Not Comics
Piraro Tattoos
Paul Pope On His Movie Deal
Drinky Crow Show Premieres
Johnston To Helm Captain America

Publishing
Thor: Man of War Announced
How To Read The Hellboyverse
Unpublished Nightmare Adaptation Pages
Kingdom Come Tie-In Thingamaroo Previewed

Reviews
Chris Sims: Various
Alex Carr: The Joker
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Dick Hyacinth: Various
On Superman's Choice
David P. Welsh: Various
Charles Yoakum: Retroactive
Greg McElhatton: Spawn #185
Johnny Bacardi: Big Town #26
Rob Clough: Burma Chronicles
Jog: ACME Novelty Library #19
Jeff Kingston: Burma Chronicles
Tibor Fischer: Schulz and Peanuts
Johanna Draper Carlson: Tonoharu Vol. 1
Robert Stanley Martin: The Complete Popeye Vol. 2
 

 
November 9, 2008


I Can Imagine Someone Beating Me Over The Head With This Tomorrow

Seth Godin beats on many of the preconceptions of the publishing industry trying to deal with many of the same issues with which I'm flailing about right now in light of the deepening recession. I agree with a lot of what Godin suggests: that a market doesn't care about your industry, that issues like pricing in new technologies are determined by people trying to protect an industry rather than serve a customer, that it looks like there will be more of an art form rather than less.

I would disagree with Godin in general (or at least how I'm reading him) and with this kind of ethos being applied to comics publishing in a few ways. The biggest one: unlike prose, I don't think the issue in comics is going to be an industry pricing things at $15 rather than $1 to protect itself. I think it will be an industry pricing the part where the creators receive the most benefit at $0 or damn close to it because the part where the industry profits (media rights, licensing) stays intact and benefits from the boost. There are others: I don't think that future consumer habits are as inevitable and set in stone as many new media thinkers seem to think they are (for one thing, in comics you always seem to get these arguments about subscription vs. free, and those are from the the only models), I think some of where you see profit now is playing the old against the new which isn't going to work when the full conversion takes place, and I think the issue in a lot of cases is bigger than a judgment of who profits and how we best secure that for that person.

But anyway: worth reading.
 
posted 6:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Dozen Comics I’m Reading On-Line

Given the historic election last week and how giddy that's made so many comics people, I've been informed it's been something of a depressing last five days on this site. Not only have I kept bringing up the ongoing recession like someone at a dinner party looking to start a fight, I've been critical of how certain comics are being put on-line for folks to read. Because I want you to know I really don't hate comics that are on-line, and because I wanted to end the weekend on a positive note, I decided to take some time out this morning and just list a few comics I happen to read on screen rather than on the page.

This is in no way a complete list. There are probably about twice this many comics that I follow as closely as those here and about twice that number with which I catch up occasionally. This list is a snapshot, the first dozen comics that popped up in my on-line comics bookmarks folder. What I liked about this little group is that there are comics all over the place here, not just in terms of genre but also from what "world" of comics they come and how they're presented. I think they're all at least pretty good.

What I'd like to get across is that I'm by no means an on-line comics guy. I don't have a morning circuit of webcomics I hit, I don't have any brought to me via subscription or e-mail, and I don't belong to ComicSpace anymore (I don't think), or even know if it's still around. If there were an All-American webcomics team appearing on a Bob Hope special and being photographed later that day for an article in Playboy, I'd have a hard time recognizing the linemen and defensive backs. I'm a paper guy. And yet I read a bunch of comics on-line. The On-Line Era of Comics is already here, and it asked no one's permission.

*****
*****

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1. Sin Titulo, Cameron Stewart
An intermittently updated, solid, straight-forward (in its way) mystery comic. I have some problems with it overall, but I've continued to read it (I can't say that about most webcomics) and I've come to enjoy its stronger elements.

*****

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2. Buz Sawyer, Roy Crane
Roy Crane's secondary achievement in the comic arts, and I have to admit I look at it more than I read it, but boy is Buz Sawyer pretty. I get this on the King Features DailyInk.com paid service, a gift subscription to which was purchased for me last year.

*****

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3. Cul De Sac, Richard Thompson
It should be no secret to anyone how much I like Richard Thompson's still sort-of new comic strip effort. I think it's one of the strongest half-dozen early strip launches in three decades. One thing that might be worth noting is that I read both the strip as it's presented on-line in its daily, updated-by-the-syndicate form, and also Thompson's blog, which runs a few strips every now and then interspersed with new and old Richard's Poor Almanac offerings, illustration gigs and his funny commentary.

*****

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4. Achewood, Chris Onstad
I'm beginning to think Achewood may be this decade's defining hit the same way that ACME Novelty Library was last decade's.

*****

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5. The Trial Of A Sober Dog, Nick Abadzis
I haven't quite got a grasp on this newspaper serial (The Times) yet, but it's fun kind of giving myself over to the characters and Abadzis manages to produce something bearing his unique voice no matter what external storytelling measures he adopts.. It must be great to have something like this in your newspaper.


*****

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6. Super-Sam and John Of The Night, Darryl Cunningham
This runs on the Forbidden Planet International blog, but I also catch up with it at times on Cunningham's own journal. I like looking at it, and I also like that I have no idea how Cunningham is going to end it.

*****

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7. Les Petits Riens, Lewis Trondheim
I love the formatting of this strip, the way it fades from view as the images linger for several days. It's also hard not to fall for the watercolor work frequently on display. Best of all, reading it helps me practice French. There's an English-language selection here in advance of the second book in the collected print series.

*****

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8. Tom Toles Cartoons, Tom Toles
I think Tom Toles is North America's best editorial cartoonist, and the Washington Post site designed for him is consistently rewarding in terms of the extras and supplementary materials provided.

*****

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9. Laura Park's Flickr Pages
I never quite know where or when I am when I crash Park's pages, but I enjoy the flashes of visual sumptuousness amid the loose cartooning. Plus I think she's funny.

*****

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10. Bodyworld, Dash Shaw
The next big thing. I don't have a grasp on this to say much more than that, but most people I know with whom I talk about comics are following this with great attention as well.

*****

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11. Danny Dutch, David King
David King is one of those criminally under-appreciated cartoonists and the Danny Dutch strips -- recently collected for print by Sparkplug -- are my favorites.

*****

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12. Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau
When I worked in alt-comics in the mid-1990s a common complaint was that it was difficult explaining to family and loved ones what you did for a living. I found it to be a lot easier when I started using Doonesbury as a starting point. It's the greatest strip in the newspaper still on its initial run. I like the Doonesbury on-line set-up mostly for looking at archived work, like during an election year being able to go look at that great Ginny Runs For Congress sequence. I don't read any of the supplementary material, but a lot of people enjoy it. I wish more syndicates paid attention to how Doonesbury works on-line as opposed to throwing up stuff in big chunks.

*****
*****
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
What I’m So Worried About, Anyway

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This last week I've devoted a lot of time on the site to comics and a potentially deepening recession. Here are some of those posts.

I'll be honest with you. Part of my motivation in spending time on this issue is fear. I'm frightened of the next few years, and talking about these issues out loud allows me to at least wrap my mind around what may be coming. It's as if by stating a few possibilities over and over again I've at the very least reduced their foreign, awesome qualities to something that can be discussed and argued and mulled over and maybe eventually dealt with.

Another part of my desire to linger on these issues is prescriptive. I think it would be a generally good thing for the American comics industries and the arts communities that work near and within them that our discussions of the future include the potential for things to get bad for stretches at a time, that we deal with the wider world in which we all operate in a way more sophisticated than assuming x-percentage of growth and being mad or alarmed when that goes away.

What motivates me the most is a fear that a prolonged recession will have a severe, negative impact on the heart and soul of the American comics industries. Some of those potential outcomes are obvious and shared by dozens of similar industries equally at risk in the months ahead. A troubled economy may mean less business overall. People could lose their jobs. Artists could lose out on opportunities. Career arcs may be interrupted. Businesses with peripheral involvement to comics-making may be squeezed out of existence by internal and external pressures. Reforms may suffer because of the perception that all resources for now should serve a dwindling bottom line. These are all very real costs, and I'd never belittle them.

However, I think the biggest danger comes from the fact that for comics this period of potential severe market downturn follows a period of great success, and that both eras come at a time of epochal shifts regarding delivery technologies. The potential Dickensian shear may encourage companies to embrace strategies for this new world of comics that are hostile to its creative class. Expectations fostered in good times may find realization in hostile behavior excused by bad times, damn the consequences.

It may have already started. I don't understand how United Media can go free archives and free embedding without any way I can see to profit on the resulting increase in traffic and usage save for perhaps some banner sales and a future, amorphous publicity benefit. They waited all those years for this? Newspaper strips are different. Few newspaper comics exist as entities by themselves. Most survive as partners in a long-term, profitable relationship with the troubled newspaper industry. While an increase in traffic may be a boon to consumers and may subtly increase the popularity of a feature here and there, the profitability of free archives and embedding counts on driving attention to a broken system, not fixing that system or finding an alternative. As much as I think it's awesome to read all of these comics, I don't see how this benefits cartoonists and other creative participants. Not in the short run, not in the long run.

Similarly, I like hearing that Marvel is investing in digital initiatives, but when I hear a figure of $10 million over the next few years my first thought is how long it's going to take for a similar amount of money to go to the creators involved. I'm guessing a long, long time -- and that no one has really thought that much about it.

I'm increasingly worried that a period of economic decline is going to sharpen the friction between competing impulses within comics' industries. I'm further worried that some of those impulses are so weak within the overall comics framework that it won't be a fair fight. The business folks will work to protect the bottom line and as best they can their place reaping the benefits of that bottom line. The rest of us will be asked to think in terms of comics' greater good -- which in a lot of ways that count is a way to ask folks with their own legitimate interests to give up those desires in order to help protect someone else's bottom line.

We're leaving a period of artistic and industry revival where the greatest and most consistent winners in terms of profit have been, let's face it, businessmen. For every Jeff Smith that comes along, for every Randall Munroe, there seems to have emerged in the comics winners column a half-dozen film company executives and big-company board members. For every young cartoonist signing a solid book contract there seems to be a cynical project announced that has little to do with why long-form comics began to appeal to people again. For every new exhibitor at SPX putting their creativity on paper in order to share it with a couple of hundred fellow travelers, two young Hollywood functionaries descend on San Diego for the first time looking for idiosyncratic projects with a hook by which they get to justify their place on payroll. For every comic book creator that receives a modest royalty because their character appeared in a film there are screenwriters and television producers reaping significant incomes rewriting the best work of that creator and his peers. For every new market that emerges there arrives any number of people that insist it's in natural opposition to an old one, and should be avoided or pressed rather than simply given equal opportunity to develop on its own.

Does anyone doubt that if things come to a head as seems more likely in a recession, the benefits that businessmen and moguls derive from comics will continue even if it's at the expense of the more modest gains that have trickled down to artists? It's unconscionable to think that we may see an industry-altering shift in platforms and that for all we know now about the nature of exploitation and that for all the potential for control that's been placed back into the creative community's hands, we may be hurtling towards another fundamentally imbalanced system. My hope is that as new opportunities unfold and hard decisions are made that the values we use to encourage, celebrate or support such moves includes the notion that an arts industry should be judged by the excellence of its art and the way it treats its artists, not its overall size or the gaudiness of someone's bonus or the perceived significance of its all-too-general role in a world of temporary pleasures or the way it justifies someone's sad childhood. Comics shouldn't have to build yet another chain of outcomes where the last link brings some reward to its creators. It should start there. A deepening recession may bring with it hard times, but it should also divest us of the fantasy that none of that pain is self-inflicted.
 
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If I Were In Texas, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: an interview with Marc Ellerby

* go, read: a short review of Freaks In The Heartland

* go, read: a review of So... Buttons

* go, read: a review of Shiot Crock Vol. 14

* go, read: a review of Ngaitanna
 
posted 6:40 am PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #141—Hard Times

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On Friday, CR Readers were asked to "Finish At Least Five Of The Following Sentences About Comics And The Economy." Here are the results.

*****

Oliver Townshend

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... no more Nexus.

2. I think you guys are entirely too worried about this stuff. What you're forgetting is...
... Australia isn't having a recession, and when I first bought comics they were Tintin and Asterix graphic novels.

3. It's already here. Case in point...
... eBay prices are down.

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... give up on some comics that come out in compiled form.

5. I figure I might cut my comics buying as much as...
... half, except there is always something new to buy whenever I give something up (e.g., Top 10 Season 2).

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is...
... all of them. one can always buy again later, and cold turkey is the only way.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... Albedo #2.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... waiting for Captain America, Daredevil and Invincible to come out in Graphic Novel. Although I often can't be bothered when they do.

9. I'm worried about my local retailer because...
... he might be hurt by the collapsing exchange rate

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... he's got a good shop and has diversified into graphic novels in a big way

11. Comics should cost...
... what they cost.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... have a good range for kids - I tried to give my 7 year nephew comics for his birthday and I realised I didn't know what to give him.

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... publish more Mark Millar comics

14. The one thing I remember about comics the last time we had economic hard times is...
... not buying them for about 5 years. Since that was the the 90s and the comics were (generally) crap, I missed not much.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
... webcomics are fun if done right.

16. Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is...
... my dog has fleas

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's...
... always been bad crappy comics, and always will be

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... my 7 year old nephew was more excited to get a batman comic than a batman doll

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... Non Sequiter

20. The number of days before I'd realize the comics and/or the newspaper that carries them is gone is...
... 1

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... 60

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... umm, I rarely go.

23. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... Well marvel by the mid next year. DC no idea and don't care.

24. What you should have had on this list -- and I'll give you an answer, too, so you can see how good it would have been -- is...
... Name a good Comic you spent a lot of money on this week -- I read Chris Ware for the first time yesterday, and it wasn't as good as the latest Love & Rockets which I also bought, and my eyes hurt. Is #19 typical?

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... graphic novels, webcomics and a handful of pamphlets.

*****

Mark Ashworth

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that...
... I have already changed my habits from comic books to graphic novels (with only a very few exceptions). If another shift or change happens and the novels are no longer financially viable, then something else will be produced.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... my collection. I have saved every comic I have bought since 1984, expecting that someday, something might happen and I either couldn't or wouldn't buy new comics. I'll just go back and re-read them.

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... he has diversified -- he owns other stores which have nothing to do with comics. His store may go down, but he won't.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... as an art form, there will always be people who like to express themselves. The business of comics, however, will have as much trouble as any other business.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... different. How? Couldn't tell you. No one expected the independent comics that the Direct Market made possible, or the ease of distribution the Internet has created. You shouldn't trust anyone who knows where the next surprise is coming from.

*****

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Kiel Phegley

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... honestly the idea that rough times for comics means rough times for comics-covering media outlets and that recently-minted fulltime freelancer me will be unable to find work. The longer I stick with this career (which I really love), the fewer other job options I have in front of me. And I really don't want to have to go back to school for a teaching certificate.

11. Comics should cost...
... less than mainstream magazines in their pamphlet form and less than or equal to prose books in their trade/graphic novel form. I don't think $2.99 or even $3.99 is too much to pay for 25 or so pages of story (I know the typical mainstream book is less, but cost benefit-wise, the format could maybe use a content boost) considering that the average magazine costs between $6 and $12. Plus, I think it's pretty much been proven that people in bookstores won't pay more than $25 for anything, and things that cost less are even easier buys. Comics can conform to that standard easily.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... diversify their delivery methods across the board. Right now comics can be sold by subscription, newsstands, comic shops, big box book stores, varied forms of digital delivery, book clubs, conventions and a few other methods that I'm not thinking of. Any publisher with a lick of business sense should be exploring as many of these as makes sense considering their available capital and preferred format, but everyone should be bracing their personal business plan up just in case of a collapse of either of the big two: the direct market or one or more big chain books stores.

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's...
... the uselessly large amount of terrible comics printed and sold via the direct market with hopes of landing/promoting some brain dead film. The sooner we can thin the herd down to publishing professionals whose primary interest is comics as an art form rather than as a means to an end, the better we'll all be.

23. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... the time they figure out how to sell their most recent and most relevant comics online within days of their initial print release. If the goal of expanded online content is to draw in new (or more likely lapsed) readers, then untested web strips and traditional serials featuring characters too obscure to justify a print release are not sufficiently compelling released. Both companies have done pretty well over the last few years landing the news of their most buzz-worthy projects and properties in major media outlets, but if they really want non-fanboys to follow up on this stuff, then every "Captain America is dead" or "The Flash is back alive" type of story should end with the words "and you can read the story now by clicking here." If they can't figure out how to bring retailers along, then they'll eventually have to break from retailers. Sure, that's probably next to impossible, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Given all the factors currently in play for the companies in today's market, I'd say the earliest such a system is figured out is 2025. If both are still publishing comics by then, of course.

*****

Grant Goggans

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... am going to have to reconsider many of the reprints I end up buying multiple times. I would love to have Fanta's big new Luba collection, but didn't I already buy all those stories at least twice already?

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is...
... Marvel Essentials. I'm not sure they have anything essential left to repackage anyway, do they?

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... 2000 AD.

9. I'm worried about my local retailer because...
... the fellow nearest to me invested heavily in stocking Japanese comics, but didn't seem to do anything to let potential new customers know that his store is a place where you can buy them. Consequently, he's been scaling back, dumping manga in aggressive sales, and giving the space back over to superhero trades.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... put a stop to the continuity-wide crossovers.

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's...
... this feature on the Sunday page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Night Lights and Fairy Flights by Guy Gilchrist which can go first.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... having my son ask "Dad, do you want to read Doonesbury? on Sundays. This then prompts me to read it online so I can see the first two panels, which the AJC omits.

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... Mike Luckovich will be syndicated.

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... I think I'll just stick with Anime Weekend Atlanta. Thanks!

*****

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Philip Eckert

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is...
... monthly pamphlets. They're expensive, difficult to store, difficult to get out and re-read, and I've dropped them before back in the '90s.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... the next volume of Yotsuba&!.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... develop new methods of cheap serialization, either on the Web or in a newsprint phone book like Shonen Jump or Yen Plus. DC and Marvel need an economical way of hooking new readers on the serial comics form, and the current deluxe, all-colour, glossy-paper pamphlet format ain't it. (It's frequently ignored that virtually all of the manga we have access to here was originally serialized. Those manga volumes aren't graphic novels, they're trade paperbacks collecting material that has already proven popular with the public over months of serialization.)

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... continue to narrowcast to the same shrinking audience while hoping that the audience of the peripherally-related, highly-popular movies will somehow find them. Why would they? Why would someone who enjoyed spending a couple of hours watching Iron Man suddenly pick up the habit of traveling to a specialty store once a month to read five minutes worth of Iron Man's adventures?

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012 there will be...
30. Most will be in markets where there are two or more seriously competitive papers -- having a cartoonist who can reflect the local perspective in a pithy cartoon will offer a competitive advantage.

*****

Bill Williams

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... waiting for trades.

13. The worst thing that superhero comics could do right now is...
... another Summer of tedious crossovers.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
... we can buy comics in bulk on ebay.

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... they will have started a breeding program to create a race of unfireable SUPER cartoonists.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... Didio-free (after he declares victory and returns to TV).

*****

Chris Randle

1. I've already changed my comics-buying habits by...
... pausing any attempts to fill out my library with older, non-canonized books. I'd bought up about half of Peter Milligan's Shade, for example, but the rest will have to wait until I can spare more cash.

2. My local retailer will be fine because...
... I'm lucky enough that it's The Beguiling.

3. Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is...
... there's a chance that DC and Marvel, at least, are crippling themselves by declining to pursue a serious online strategy while successful webcomics are typically offering the basic strips for free. If or when they decide to bring in same-day downloads, they might discover that the audience is used to getting them for free.

4. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... well, let me put it this way. If I was the editorial cartoonist at a mid-sized daily, I'd probably accept severance now.

5. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... I'll still go, albeit only to local ones. I was hoping to visit MoCCA or SPX next year, and that looks unlikely at the moment.

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... a setback for more archival and experimental content coming out in graphic novel and non-traditional formats. Whether its one of IDW's beautiful strip collections or the Kramers Ergot the size of the CBLDF office, I could see a serious and prolonged recession diminishing both the audience and the capitol required to produce that sort of work.

11. Comics should cost...
... exactly what they do right now. While the periodical or pamphlet format may suffer in an environment where there's less money for their audience to buy them, I think that graphic novels are the dominant format for comics at this moment, and are priced in alignment with other media that provides comparable entertainment value for dollar. That is, Watchmen and Ghost World Special Edition clock in at about the same as the SRP for the Dark Knight DVD or a Criterion Collection art flick DVD, respectively. Both offer the reader a few hours of entertainment that can be revisited multiple times. The issue will be whether we can hold the $9.95 to $49.95 price range in the long run as global energy and supply trends remain volatile, and whether anyone gets paid if we hold that range.

14. The one thing I remember about comics the last time we had economic hard times is...
... much more widespread and substantive discussion of business practices in the trade media. Sure, some of it involved dippy, uninformed message board commentary, but there was also more investigative and advocacy journalism and opinion columns examining how the business functioned, how the business can change, and how we fit into the larger entertainment economy. I think some of that reporting informed the current generation of creators who are reaping the rewards of the graphic novel and adapted media booms we're currently enjoying. Also, I really miss seeing several news stories a month that weren't just about Spider-Man changing his pants.

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's...
... probably more content coming out in any given month than our retailers in the book and direct market channels can possibly digest. Reducing our offerings overall may mitigate the effects of outgrowing the shelf space we are allotted. Likewise it may reduce some of the unrealistic expectations for large advances that seems to have developed in recent years. More competition for less shelf space could conceivably create better work, and a more healthy economy.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... our formats, subject matters, and creativity align with 21st Century American audience desires. Comics now appear to enjoy a permanent position in the entertainment pantheon as both adapted media and trade fiction in its own right. Audiences have access to 70 years of work that ranges from bubble gum to filet mignon presented in affordable formats. I think the die-hard audiences reading sites like this will continue to support more adventurous and less commercial work, and I think that mainstream audiences of casual readers will continue to pick up the most recent media tie-in or notable graphic novel. I think we now have a generation of readers who are growing up with comics in all of the entertainment environments they inhabit, and I think we will retain a lot of those readers as casual customers, and a few of them as the next generation of die hards. I don't think that's going to go away just because people may need to discriminate more with their purchasing decisions for a few months or years.

*****

Tim O'Shea

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... comics is just one of the things it sells, it also sells used CDs, Books, DVDs. The bookstore that serves as my retailer (and has since 1977) has never been solely a comic book store, so its not like the typical retailer, I realize.

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... panic. I don't have a great deal of economic intelligence, but I think it's fair to say the economy is fairly manic at present. To panic or take drastic measures in response could be a waste of time.

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose...
... but only with the Big Two, in my opinion. Honestly, if DC came out with a book called Final Crisis: Constipation Chaos, I would not be shocked. We don't need a cancellation cavalcade, but a bit of rightsizing would not be a bad thing. (And DC is not alone, Marvel would sell Secret Invasion Versus Secret Invasion if they could come up for a plot for it). With less books to produce, hopefully editors will have more time to get creators to do a thing they don't do enough: revise. The slices of pie will be smaller, I know. And there will be less folks on staff to make the pie. But with any luck the pie will taste better.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... that a child and parent would miss out on the opportunity to reveal the child knew how to read. Back in the early 1970s, my family first realized I could read when I told my sister that Basil had returned to Brenda Starr. That revelation led to me being promoted to a more advanced kindergarten and was the first time I realized being able to read was an asset.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... changed to a great degree, but still going strong. It's an industry full of people that are as business-savvy and ambitious as they are creative. The comic book publisher that mixes a conservative business approach tinged with a willingness to take the right chances with the best product will succeed. But I really hope the creators who currently commit to projects and fail to deliver in a timely manner (you know who you are) are busy missing deadlines in another industry in five years.

*****

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Mark Coale

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... Usagi Yojimbo. I've been reading it since the Fantagraphics days and there is probably no more reliable book, in terms of quality and punctuality, in the indsutry.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... thinning out my monthly pre-order. I'm less likely to take a flier on new books that "might" be entertaining and sticking mostly to things I regularly purchase.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... have the Big Two finally develop an affordable and legal on-line delivery system.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... rolling my eyes over the absurdity of strips like Cathy and Family Circus.

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... I will probably go to the same number, depending on if we publish any new issues or not. There are enough 'local' shows on the East Coast that travel costs would not be that much of an issue.

*****

Dimetri Walker

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... that publishers might get the pea-brained idea that it just isn't worth it to print comics anymore and try and deliver all of their content online. But, see 18.

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... might stop buying back issues on eBay, that just ain't doing anybody any favors.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... I firmly believe that people will always prefer to read a comic that they can hold in their hands and that comes out monthly(ish) and that is pamphlet shaped and that smells like a comic smells and etc. At least I hope so.

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... I'm going to try and go to three or more.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... where I spend the greatest percentage of my entertainment budget

*****

Grab Bag

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... the ability of smaller publishers both to complete their reprint projects of various well-known comics ouevres and to publish new comics (floppies or books) by newcomers. It's thrilling to go to any of those publishers' websites and see a range of publications that reflects the diverse history of comics but also a vision for the future of comics. I expect a recession would force such publishers to make tough decisions about whether to maintain a commitment to publish the complete Dennis the Menace or to publish books by the next R. Kikuo Johnsons.

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... will continue to buy those books that I know that I want, but I will be less likely to buy an unfamiliar book that is highly recommended. Or I will buy it much later, used, from a seller on Amazon.

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is...
... The Comics Journal. The interviews are often indispensible, and the comics reprints are fun, but the price is just creeping up too much.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... not buying those luxury items I would otherwise love to have. Kramers Ergot #7. The Sunday Press edition of Gasoline Alley. Maybe the Humbug books.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... to find a profitable way to market comics in serial fashion on the internet such that compensation provides enough incentive to creators to keep going until there's enough material to produce a physical book. There should be good webcomics for all ages available on the internet so that kids who spend most of their disposable time staring at their computer screens and iPhones will find the content in the places they're already looking.

*****

Mike McGhee

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... they would shrink far enough to lose their power as under/ground-level root culture.

3. It's already here. Case in point...
... very few serious social upstarts buy heavily.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
...making them.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... quitting purchasing.

11. Comics should cost...
... $4-$8 for 300-page monthly magazines, with current trade pricing adjusted downward 10-15% where possible.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... use some investment capital and try something even more radical than Minx, like a proper newsstand assault. See #11, and think about something like Trinity, 52, or the current Spider-Man, format as the front end of a '...Presents' title with cool reprints for the back one-half to two-thirds. A title like House of Mystery would be even more aptly suited for this, as it would allow for original material to be cycled through in short story and arcing formats.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... they're a medium, and those never die.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... gone, along with rest of the planet post-2012.

*****

Buzz Dixon

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is
... downloading 'em for free off the Internet.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... not buying any (I get the trade paperbacks and original GNs instead)

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... they know how to diversify their stock.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... stop publishing as much crap in the same genre.

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... keep publishing more crap in the same genre.

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. My local retailer will be fine because...
... they also sell paintball supplies, video games, board games, role playing games, and are at a dirt-cheap strip mall.

2. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... live in an area with a very manga/graphic novel-friendly library system.

3. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... Mutts collections.

4. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... the time nobody cares anymore.

5. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... the form can fit into people's lives nicely.

*****

Dimitris Sakaridis

11. Comics should cost...
... two dollars! TOPS!

16. Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is...
... that the average user logs on to the web for FREE stuff and s/he won't pay (not 'serious' money, anyway) for online access to whatever stuff comic companies can provide. Unless we're talking about porn, which is a whole other discussion!

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... there'll only be half of them left. If even that!

23. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... the day before Hell freezes over. Maybe a couple of days later.

25. In five years, the comics industry will...
... still be here, but not in a very good shape. Kinda like now, I suppose.

*****

Josh Fitzpatrick

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that...
... I already had to cancel my Kramers Ergot pre-order from Amazon.

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is
... all non Marvel and DC books.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... anything by D&Q, Fanta, Top Shelf, Oni Press and all the other small publishers putting out quality books.

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... big event books, and the fact that most Marvel/DC books take five minutes to read and not a darn thing happens.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... hopefully still around.

*****

Shannon Smith

9. I'm worried about my local retailer because...
... they are not diverse enough. They depend on Marvel and DC way too much. They are only now getting into graphic novels and they apparently have no interest in manga or alternative comics. They are about twenty years behind where they should be.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... simplify, simplify, simplify. Simplify the production of the comics themselves. Look to Shonen Jump as an example. Maybe even abandon color. Use cheap paper. Maybe even use cheap paper for the covers. It's about the quantity of the product and quality of the content not the quality of the cover or the paper. Also simplify how they make them. Cut the art team in half. Hire artists or studios that will take care of the pencils, inks, colors, letters etc. all at once. The title page should only be crediting two or three people. Making comics is not that freaking hard. Comics by committee are not working out that well these days. Every artist these days can ink and color and letter. Yeah, this might slow down the individual artist but this leads to my next point... Comics need multiple stories. Shorter stories, not longer. Again, look to Shonen Jump. Instead of five Superman comics, you have one Superman comic with three or four creative teams on it. Each doing shorter stories, or at least multiple stories each having a shorter page count per issue. Maybe one ongoing serial story per comic with a set team then a rotating cast of back-up creators. I think the ongoing serial story should be no more than one third of the comic. That way, each self contained artist or team can knock out 8 to 24 quality pages every month and you pack the multiple stories/teams together in an awesome mag with lots of variety. Imagine a Superman with a 20-page story by a strong team like Morrison and Quitely with an eight pager by a fan favorite like Paul Pope, throw in some one pagers by indie guys that are used to pulling that kind of thing off, a couple of 8 to 12 page short stories featuring some fan favorite back up characters... I'd buy it!

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... comics themselves are addictive. The medium or art form is addictive. If you put a comic in front of a person, they can't not read it. The internet will help in putting them in front of people. We just need to figure out how to get high traffic sites that pay for ads to realize they can drive repeat readers if they have regularly updated comics. I'm not talking comics web sites. I'm talking having a three or four panel comic on the side bar of Cnn.com or Google. Beyond that, embedded comics areas on all your social networking sites. This is how YouTube took off but comics can be more profitable than YouTube because you can have a paper product to sell that people will want to hold in their hands. Hopefully you build enough of a fan base that some of them will buy the paper collection.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... I'm lucky. The papers here still run about as many comics as they ever have. National news ignores this area so the regional papers are still important and apparently sell well enough to keep the comics going.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
16. Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is...
... I think it is both of these. It can save us but it won't as is. The idea of building comics communities like Zuda and ComicSpace or comics subscriptions like what Marvel and DC are investing in won't save anything. It's just moving an audience from one format to another format. What has to happen is to build a new audience and the internet can do that but it won't be on comics only sites. It will be getting comics on existing sites and social networking tools. It has to be Internet 2.0 and beyond. It has to be people in their office going, Hey did you see that comic on CNN? No? Here, I'll forward it to your Facebook. Oh, you are offline? I'll send it to your cell. You can't expect the audience to come to you. You have to go to the audience.

*****

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Lee Leslie

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... talented creators leaving the field for more lucrative work.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... comics drawn by Mike Mignola

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... giving up on cross-over events.

11. Comics should cost...
$1.99

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... produce a quality product.

*****

Marc Arsenault

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... my own potential income as an artist.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... them existing at all. The thing I miss now is the physical size, the massive presence of a newspaper.

14. The one thing I remember about comics the last time we had economic hard times is...
... selling them off by the boxload

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... worry about issues other than money, like artists' rights

23. Marvel will have aggressive on-line multi-platform digital delivery of their comics by...
... 2010. Kindle, iPhone and Skyvann users will have instant access to the entire history of four-color excitement from the house of ideas available to purchase with a single click. DC will almost certainly continue to get it wrong for several more years. Other companies are already way ahead of them both.

*****

Sean Kleefeld

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... switching to reading online comics (legally) instead of pamphlets. There were some other economic factors in play besides just the economy, but the upshot is the same: I wanted to continue reading comics but couldn't afford to buy as much as I wanted to read. Initially, it was a difficult transition, not unlike trying to switch between Marvel and DC books to independent ones. What's out there? Who's work is worth looking at? Whose recommendations can I trust? But, ultimately, as a fan of the medium of comics, it's proven to be satisfying in nearly all the same ways that reading pamphlets books were.

9. I'm worried about my local retailer because...
... it's a relatively new store (five years old) and I saw more people cut back or drop their regular books altogether before I left than I saw new people come in. They have other revenue streams besides superhero comics, and there's a gaming crowd distinct from the Wednesday set. But I have to imagine that the same economic hardships facing comic fans is also touching the gaming industry. With a few exceptions, I believe most comic shops run relatively thin margins, and I don't think it'll take much to push any given shop from black to red. While they've managed to be successful enough to make it past the estimate of 50% of all businesses failing within the first four years, they're still young enough that I'm not certain that they'll be able to weather a significant recession just yet.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
... there are minimal entry barriers for creators, publishers and customers. Publishers have been seeking an elusive increased audience for years -- it's one of the reasons the direct market exists. Because the entry barriers for customers is so low online (any computer with an internet connection, neither of which need to actually be paid for by the customer) there are a number of people reading online comics who wouldn't otherwise be reading them. I understand xkcd gets 60-70 million page views per day. Even if most of those are casual viewers, that's still an impressive number of eyeballs who see that comic, compared to the 100,000 or so who read Uncanny X-Men once a month.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... the combination of words and pictures is an almost universal form of expression. We could go through some kind of worldwide cataclysm that makes the planet look like something from Thundarr the Barbarian, and people will still uses a combination of words and pictures to tell stories. Mankind has been making comics in some form for at least 5000 years -- saying that comics will suddenly go away is like saying storytelling will become non-existent. The business landscape of comics might look vastly different even a dozen years from now, but comics as a medium aren't going anywhere.

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year I...
... have zero plans on attending any conventions. If my financial situation improves dramatically, I might go someplace close like SPACE, but I doubt I'll be in that much better off financially by April. Don't expect to see me anywhere but online in 2009.

24. What you should have had on this list -- and I'll give you an answer, too, so you can see how good it would have been -- is...
... I think the biggest comics-related victim of the lousy economy will be...
... Creatively, I think comics will actually improve. Much as a bad economy tends to elicit more business start-ups in general, I think the desperation individuals face will lead to more creativity in comics and the marketing efforts surrounding them. While those creators might be running lean operations, they're going to work extra hard to attract a regular audience. So the fans, ultimately, win with more comics of higher quality. I think this will also prove to be liberating for creators, making their work more emotionally rewarding, even if it's not entirely financially rewarding. The biggest losers, I think, will be the larger publishers whose size inhibits quick business manuevering and whose infrastructure is more bloated. I expect we'll be seeing upcoming layoffs among the larger players and, as Marvel and DC make money from licensing than from comics, I suspect that means cutbacks will come from the pulped wood divisions of those companies.

*****

Marc Mason

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... sitting at lunch every day and reading the work of a number of incredibly skilled cartoonists who have mastered the strip format. As much as I love a number of strips that appear online, the tangible sensation of holding the paper in my hand cannot be replaced.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... the work of those who never let me down. For instance, as long as I have dollars in my wallet, I will own Kyle Baker's work. Period.

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... that Marvel and DC lack the common sense to maintain their readership through it. The sheer number of stupid tie-ins to Final Crisis and Secret Invasion shows a distinct lack of vision as far as sustainability goes. Your audience has less money to spend- gouging them for an event is only going to drive them away.

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... I don't use a brick and mortar store as my local retailer. Businesses like DCBS will only grow as comics get more expensive.

11. Comics should cost...
... two dollars or less for the 32-page (22-pages of story) pamphlet format. Anything else is excessive. The 16-pages of story Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes for four bucks is the height of pricing arrogance for Marvel.

*****

Colin Panetta

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... ceasing purchasing a bunch of crap that I didn't really like anyway, at least not enough to pay the amount I was to read them. I've also made an effort to buy more self-published comics.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... stop making movie pitch supplements, and re-start making comics properties that are born out of comics history.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
... it has the potential to take a lot of the middlemen out of art, and allow more artists to get discovered on their own merits. You don't need to be business savvy, personable, or have great knowledge of distribution to get your work on the Internet.

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... people will definitely always be drawing them, and people will probably always buy them -- it'll just be in some weird form that we haven't figured out yet.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... not having something to do for ten minutes at my grandparent's house.

23. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... the time someone else has already figured out and tested a system that works and Marvel and DC can convince their boards or whatever to let them copy it. Marvel seems to be taking the first steps.

*****

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Dustin Harbin

1. What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is...
... that most people will, like me, think last about comics in their economic priorities. Thus putting me out of a job.

2. I think you guys are entirely too worried about this stuff. What you're forgetting is...
... that comics have always been a for-the-people medium, which got really big on the backs of kids and poor people. An economic contraction may be just the thing to stave off what I see as an inevitable glut in sub-par material, if it isn't already here.

3. It's already here. Case in point...
... even comics news sites are talking about it.

4. I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I...
... lose my job and fat discount at the comic book store. In 2009 I will limit myself to whatever Christophe Blain and Dash Shaw publish, and MOME. Oh, and Popeye. And Peanuts. Shit.

5. I figure I might cut my comics buying as much as...
... 40%.

6. The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is...
... anything lacking a spine and a real sense of anticipation when I open the cover. Exceptions: Crickets, Uptight.

7. The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is...
... Popeye.

8. I've already changed my comics buying habits by...
... trading in a bunch of my crappy old comics to make room for Popeye, etc.

9. I'm worried about my local retailer because...
... I work there.

10. My local retailer will be fine because...
... I work there?

11. Comics should cost...
... as much as they need to. It's a luxury, like fancy bread. Once you decide you want fancy bread, you pay whatever fancy bread costs. I'm talking about books, not pamphlets -- those won't matter in a few years.

12. The best thing that comics could do right now is...
... publish less and better.

13. The worst thing that comics could do right now is...
... continue with giant events, variant covers, etc. It's like 1996 again over here.

14. The one thing I remember about comics the last time we had economic hard times is...
... we survived barely.

15. The Internet will save us all because...
... wait, maybe the Internet will kill print pamphlets, actually. If it's killing newspapers, magazines, and other more mainstream print media, doesn't it follow that it will kill (or at least greatly change) periodical comics?

16. Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is...
... that comics sell best when they're cheap, or when they're incredible. Everything in between should be looked at by publishers and retailers with extreme caution.

17. A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's...
... 6 or 7 answers above in which I've alluded to just that idea!

18. I think comics will do just fine in the long run because...
... people will continue to make incredible comics.

19. The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is...
... Dick Locher doing Putty Puss in Dick Tracy in the '80s, which is the last time I read comics in the paper on a regular basis. In-ter-net.

20. The number of days before I'd realize the comics and/or the newspaper that carries them is gone is...
... a large one.

21. There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012...
... they will all be bloggers.

22. I usually go to a convention or two, but next year...
... I want to do all the fun ones, hopefully as a cartoonist and not a retailer.

23. Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by...
... Fall 2009.

24. What you should have had on this list -- and I'll give you an answer, too, so you can see how good it would have been -- is...
... 26. The major comics publishers will adapt to the growth of online media by...
... following in webcartoonists' footsteps and begin doing periodical comics online and then collecting them in print omnibuses; thus able to generate ad revenue through weekly periodical strips, and then keep print collections available for those of us who prefer paper. Money times two.

25. In five years, the comics industry will be...
... handing me an Eisner.

*****
*****
 
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Happy 57th Birthday, Bill Mantlo!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Mort Todd!

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First Thought Of The Day

I'd be sad if I weren't able to do this by this time next year.
 
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November 8, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

November 9
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November 10
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November 12
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November 13
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November 14
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November 15
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November 16
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from November 1 to November 7, 2008:

1. United Media re-launches Comics.com with free archives and free embedding for its Creators and United Features suppliers.

2. Nature of changes at ComicMix made public, maybe the first recession-related cuts with many more to come?

3. Marvel investing $10 million into digital initiatives.

Winner Of The Week
Patrick Moberg, with the widely-recognized cartoon of the historical moment.

Loser Of The Week
Wizard

Quote Of The Week
"In this culture of blogger-snark I'm sure this is just the equivalent of painting an even larger target on my forehead, but I can't just say nothing." -- Chip Kidd

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Texas, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Wilmette, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Michael J. Grabowski On The Way Comics Unfold Now Making Them More Susceptible to Economic Trauma (11/6/08)
* Chris Pitzer on Rafael Grampa at Desert Island In Brooklyn, 11-14 (PR) (11/6/08)
* Nat Gertler On How Many Peanuts You Can Actually See At Comics.com (11/6/08)
* Nat Gertler On Publishers That Also Own Retail Establishments (11/6/08)
* Amaury Laporte On Massive NYC European Graphic Novel Celebration (PR) (11/3/08)
* Darko Macan On Just So Bart Won't Have The Last Word... (11/3/08)
* John Vest On Mark Millar's Statement About Comics Creators Having A Shelf Life (11/3/08)
* Shannon Smith On Comics Pricing (11/3/08)
* Kumar Sivasubramanian On Ladies Comics Magazines (11/3/08)
* John Vest On Prince Valiant: Far From Camelot (11/3/08)
* Aaron Dumin On Five Scary, Eerie, Chilling or Otherwise Unsettling Comics (11/3/08)
 
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Happy 40th Birthday, Galerie Lambiek!

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The first modern comics shop, still one of the world's best, and maintainer of the one of the half-dozen foundational comics sites on the Internet.
 
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I Still Miss Rory Root

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He would have been 51 today. The gallery from which the above was taken.
 
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November 7, 2008


Five For Friday #141—Hard Times

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Five For Friday #141 -- Finish At Least Five Of The Following Sentences About Comics And The Economy. (Extra Sentences, Yes; Stand-Up, No.)

*****

1. "What worries me most about comics and the possibility of a prolonged recession is..."
2. "I think you guys are entirely too worried about this stuff. What you're forgetting is..."
3. "It's already here. Case in point..."
4. "I could see my comics-buying habits change in 2009 in that I..."
5. "I figure I might cut my comics buying as much as..."
6. "The first thing about comics I would give up if money got tight is..."
7. "The last thing having to do with comics I'd ever give up is..."
8. "I've already changed my comics buying habits by..."
9. "I'm worried about my local retailer because..."
10. "My local retailer will be fine because..."
11. "Comics should cost..."
12. "The best thing that comics could do right now is..."
13. "The worst thing that comics could do right now is..."
14. "The one thing I remember about comics the last time we had economic hard times is..."
15. "The Internet will save us all because..."
16. "Forget about the Internet as a safe haven. What people don't realize is..."
17. "A little downturn would be fine, actually. Comics has some fat it could stand to lose. Why, there's..."
18. "I think comics will do just fine in the long run because..."
19. "The thing I'd miss most about comics in the newspaper is..."
20. "The number of days before I'd realize the comics and/or the newspaper that carries them is gone is..."
21. "There are something like 60 full-time staffed editorial cartoonists working in North America right now. By 2012..."
22. "I usually go to a convention or two, but next year..."
23. "Marvel and DC will have aggressive on-line comics programs in place by..."
24. "What you should have had on this list -- and I'll give you an answer, too, so you can see how good it would have been -- is..."
25. "In five years, the comics industry will be..."

This Subject Is Now Closed Thanks To All That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Chip Kidd Responds To Notion That Bat-Manga! Should Have More Significantly Credited Jiro Kuwata

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More of Your Thoughts On Comics, How Much They Cost And The Recession

I know I may be at the point of frustration with many of you where my attention to wider economic issues and what it may portend for the comics industry has slipped from vital reading to senseless blathering, but I beg your indulgence for a couple more days. Please, if you can, participate in today's Five For Friday. I'll have some final thoughts up on Sunday.

I ran this series of general thoughts on the subject and this set of your guys' smarter and more tightly focused opinions.

Yesterday I ran another series of thoughts on the matter, which led to this response from Stuart Immonen on the issue of whether or not the traditional comic book was priced far ahead of inflation. In posting, I posted my bewilderment as to why comics seem more expensive now, and a couple of you responded in terms of perhaps the reading experience of comics changing in a way that doesn't flatter the comic book. Here's Michael J. Grabowski and John Vest.

imageMichael J. Grabowski:
This is subjective, but I think it is "the way comics unfold now" that would make me say "whoa" before paying $10 for 3 comics. A friend of mine loaned me some New Avengers trades last month. I enjoyed the temporary time trip to my youth when I cared enough about these characters, and (not having read any Marvel Comics in at least 15 years) the whole rogue operations of SHIELD plot is 24-enough to make me almost interested in catching up, but I was kind of astonished at how short each individual chapter seemed, and how little the stories progressed from one chapter to the next. Were these really entire individual issues the first time around? I could read each chapter during the typical prime-time commercial break. The story page count per issue might be the same as it was in the 70's-80's, but the storytelling sure isn't the same. That's the sort of result that would have me reevaluating my purchases when it comes time to tighten my belt. (Even the trade editions read too quickly to seem like worthy purchases to me.)

It doesn't apply to all of them -- last spring I could spend $10 in one visit to buy Speak of the Devil, Berlin, and American Splendor (Vertigo) and know confidently that I would enjoy the reading experience that afternoon -- and the opportunity to re-read them later -- more than I would miss the money. That may say more about my reading taste now, but what I mean by it is that were I looking at books to cut from my monthly habit in order to save money, the amount of satisfying story, measured in part but not only by how long I could expect to take to read each book, would be a primary criterion.
John Vest:
With the price of a single comic book at $3 (or often more these days) it is hard to feel like you get the value for your money spent.

For starters, the shrinking number of outlets to obtain comics has made the journey to buy them more expensive along with the cover cost. I'm also beginning to wonder if there is a point in the existence of the 32 page comic book with the current content. The modern mainstream comic, with the five to six part story arcs and measured pacing, has been supplanted by the trade and hardcover editions. Contemporary mainstream serial comics don't read as functionally or feel satisfying.

imageAs screwy as mainstream comics had gotten by 1977, comic buying during that period was a spontaneous enjoyment. Even in the small southwestern Virginia town I grew up in (pop. 6000) comics were easily obtainable. They were available for purchase at the newsstand, convenience stores, the supermarket and drugstore, etc. Mail order helped pick up the slack for back issues or specialties like Star*Reach and UGs.

For better and/or worse the comic book in the mid-'70's held casual and nonchalant pleasures for the inexpensive price. Covers were designed to grab the consumer, with a cheap hook or greatness. The George Baker illustrated Sad Sack covers made you laugh out loud and so did some of the absurdities on the Charlton horror covers. Jack Kirby's wonderful cover commentary ("Does Man Belong In A Zoo?" on the front of Kamandi #6) was timelessly weird and irresistible. Luis Dominguiz and Mike Kaluta jackets were amazing works of art to find in the context of a newsstand or convenience store spinner rack.

Around a month ago there was a discussion about the distinctive '70s kind of writing contained in Giant-Size Defenders #3. For better or worse again, the stories of that time had an immediately accessible nature. The best comics from writers like Roy Thomas and Steve Gerber also gained an intensity in the way Thomas' adaptations and Gerber's satire transcended the corporate comics trappings.

Going to a convention like Heroes also puts the current marketplace in perspective. It seems odd when you can pick up a decades old comic in decent shape with art by Jack Kirby or other greats for a lower price than a new comic.

imageThere are still comics out there that make you glad to have the single issues over a book. The look of Omega The Unknown makes going with the trade seem unimaginable. There's also the sense of lineage in buying the 32 page Army@Love by Rick Veitch with the scabrous social commentary he produced in comics years ago for Archie Goodwin.

The Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil though really does seem much more suited to read in a book. The story which took five years to tell lives up to the "graphic novel" label. Maybe the grounded look of the art without the traditional comic book language (like Gene Colan's wonderful sweeping motion lines) makes the work seem less like a standard format comic.

Comics have changed significantly with the way they are crafted along with the price. Reading a comic was a casual pleasure in 1977. Today a comic book often seems like an expensive anomaly.
Mike McGhee had a couple of interesting thoughts in a brief note I hope he won't mind my repeating here.

Mike McGhee:
When considering the investment/return dynamic of modern comics, we absolutely have to consider the emotional return of the investment. For the price of three comics, with a deeply personalized emotional return that layers upon a five to forty-five year complexity, and a shared group of one to thirty or so, we get a movie with a social interaction potential that reaches across culture. As these fans get older, 'rusty brown' as they may be, that social component grows in power.

There is also, of course, the time factor. Even on initial usage, the time allotted for three issues is nearly half that of a movie. perhaps if you ran the inflation chart at a 'per/page' rate instead of 'per/comic?' That economic factor certainly seems to hold sway in Japan as well.
I find the idea that a comic book isn't ever a single purchase but one of many in a wider investment that allows for more meaning and significance in the act of reading a single purchase to be quite the notion, one worth mulling over for sure.

Moving along, Steve Block had some ideas taking issue with a couple of things I wrote in an earlier essay.

Steve Block:
Tom, I just want to pick you up on this:
"I think there are differences between comics and music/video -- the immediacy of their secondary identity as collectibles, the significant differences in the aesthetic experience, their perceived lack of market saturation, the size and mainstream status of their ideal markets, the relative possibility for ad support, the more significant role of comics shops as venues of influence, the pliability of comics shops and resulting inability to dictate terms -- that suggest to me there are possibilities that the system best suited to deliver digital comics content could involve unique solutions."
imageFirst up, I'm making an assumption here that may be wrong, but I'm thinking you have never been a vinyl junkie. Because, if you had, the first two of your points, the immediacy of their secondary identity as a collectible and the idea that their are differences in the aesthetic experience would not have been considered. I say this as a vinyl single or album has this inherent appeal to a collector's mentality too. The aesthetic qualities of an album include the size, the artwork, the sleeve notes and the tactile interaction. For more on vinyl as a collectible, see [this].

I think, to tackle your later points it's probably an area where we'd get into a debate about definitions. I don't perceive any lack of market saturation for any of the media at the minute, to be honest. It seems like the market is fairly healthy for all forms of entertainment at this exact point in time, allowing for the fact that we are at the very beginning of a likely unavoidable global recession. I think the size of an ideal market depends upon what you are comparing. Certainly the form of comics has reached as many people as all the other forms, so below that it gets hard to work out what to compare. Are American superhero comic books more comparable to alt rock, jazz fusion or drum and bass maybe? And at this comparison point, you can start to dismantle the latter of your points, because a specialist drum and bass store, for example, is just as influential and significant as a comic shop, and just as pliable.

Regarding ad support, I really don't see what point you are seeking to make here, sorry.

As to the idea that "the system best suited to deliver digital comics content could involve unique solutions", you are more likely to find legs for that argument if you start to look at how the printed media have embraced digital download. If we start to look at format, we can see that the shorter forms of comics share similarities with the shorter forms of prose, poetry and more significantly news, where editorial comics and strip cartoons have partial roots. News is simply published on the web, and paid for through ads or subscriptions. We already have that model for comic strips and cartoons, as you've noted with your piece on the United Media revamp. I think again there's a broader point you may be missing in your coverage of that; compare it to youtube. By giving away the ability to embed, you're advertising the site and building brand awareness. And the link between content and advertising has never been greater.

And to the last, the long form comics works, whatever we call them this week. There digital future is more closely entwined with the digital future of the novel. If I were in the business of publishing comics, I'd be talking to apple or friendly devs about how to get them on the i-phone/ipod through something like stanza. Now I admit to being behind the curve here and that it may already have been done. If it hasn't... because if the publishers don't work it out, you can be sure the market will, and if the market gets there first, well... creators want to reach an audience. A publisher is the middle man in the transaction.

Just some thoughts you inspired, at any rate.
I think this deserves some explanation. First, I do recognize that books and music have a secondary status as collectibles. I just think that comics have a more significant identity as a collectible and as an object than those two things do, and I think that any move into comics on-line has to take that into account in more forthright fashion than has been done so far. Second, as far as ad support I think that the serial progression through space that comics provides allows for advertising in different ways than banner ads or border configurations. If nothing else, you can have ads appear in a reader the same way they do in comic books. I can't be the only person who thinks that Hulu.com's significant contribution to pay models for video is that unavoidable commercial break gimmick. Third, in general I want it to be known that I really do support the move of material on-line. I just don't think it's automatically an either/or situation, and I'm worried that these moves are going to be made with little to no consideration for the creators.

Finally, I had a couple more very good letters on the issue of cost. As you may recall, this chart by Rich Johnston said yes; this replay by Stuart Immonen says no. Dean Milburn weighed in on the two charts with some analysis of his own.

Dean Milburn:
Stuart Immomen's analysis is incorrect, because his methodology assumes that the cumulative effect of prior year’s price increases is the same as the average GDP increase for the same period. For example -- the first increase in comics prices is from $.30 to $.35, a 16.7% increase, whereas the CPI implies an increase of less than half that (his correct number of 7.6%), to about $.32 cents. He’s mixing and matching the actual price increase (which may be higher or lower than the CPI) and than applies the CPI to it for a single year. All he’s really proven is that the expected price increase from 2007 to 2008 should have been from $2.99 to $3.15.

The errors compound. To go from $.30 cents to $3.15 over 31 years, implies an average annual inflation rate of 7.9%, while taking Rich Johnston’s numbers, from $.30 to $1.09 implies an average annual inflation rate of about 4.2%. The 4.2% number is the correct one.

Another way to look at it is from this table from The Economic Report of the President.

You'll see that $.606 cents in 1977 is equivalent to $2.073 in 2007. Which makes the math fairly easy -- $.30 in 1997 is worth about $1.03 in 2007.

I'd like to thank Professor Niggle for getting all that through to me about 20 years ago.
Thanks, Dean. Here's Adam Stephanides working roughly the same area.

Adam Stephanides:
I also found Stuart's chart opaque at first glance. After some thought, here's how I think it's supposed to be read; if I'm wrong, I apologize to Stuart in advance. To make it easier to follow, I'll take an arbitrary row, say 2001. Column 1 is the year, obviously. Column 2, taken from Rich Johnston, is the price of comics (which? Amazing Spider-Man? the "standard price point"? Rich doesn't say, and neither does Stuart) in 2001. Column 3, again taken from Rich, is what comics would have cost in 2001 if their price since 1977 had exactly kept pace with the general inflation rate. Putting it a bit more technically, it's what comics would have cost in 2001 in "nominal dollars" if their cost in 1977 dollars had remained constant. (If this doesn't mean anything to you, just ignore it.)

Column 4 shows the percentage change in the consumer price index (CPI) between 2000 and 2001: in other words, the yearly rate of inflation. Column 5, which I believe is intended to be the point of Stuart's table, shows what comics would have cost in 2001 if they had cost in 2000 what they actually did, but their price had risen between 2000 and 2001 at exactly the rate of inflation. Putting it in a formula, Col. 5 (2001) = Col. 2 (2000) X CPI(2001)/CPI(2000). In other words, it's the same thing as column 3, but using 2000 instead of 1977 as the "base year." And in general, each entry in column 5 uses the previous year as the base year.

Frankly, I don't see the relevance of column 5. All it shows is that in some years the price of comics doesn't change at all, and in some years it rises by more than the rate of inflation. It doesn't say anything about long-term trends. For that, column 3 is the relevant column. Nor do I understand why Stuart says "when one compares figures over a thirty year gap, the results are invariably skewed" (unless he's talking about possible cumulative bias in the CPI, which is a contentious subject among economists). Doing a bit of figuring, you can deduce from column 3 that even after adjusting for inflation, comics cost more in 1987 than they did in 1977, and more in 1997 than they did in 1987, and more in 2008 than they did in 1997. In all, after adjusting for inflation, comics cost approximately 2.74 times as much in 2008 as they did in 1977 (a figure obtained by dividing column 2 by column 3).

The most straightforward way to compare the rise in comic book prices with inflation would be to simply calculate inflation-adjusted comic book prices (i.e. comic book prices in 1977 dollars) for each year.
Thanks, Adam. Now I feel bad because I know that Stuart sent that to me for use and not publication, but was nice enough not to yell at me when I assumed the latter. Me, at this point I've given up on numbers and gone back to using The Force to tell me when things are too expensive and when they're not. Luckily, Kenny Penman doesn't believe in outdated pop culture gags as a way to process real economic issues even in the general and suggests an explanation for why it may feel like comics cost more no matter if they are or not.

Kenny Penman:
It's because most things have fallen in price in real terms and salaries don't accelerate for most‏.
"Like you buy a book or go to a movie and you may think about the price maybe 1 out of 20 times in crotchety old man fashion but you go to the comic shop and you buy three comic books for $10 and you're like 'whoa' every time. Maybe there's a threshold at which things seem more expensive? Maybe it's a hang-up about comics? Maybe it's differences in technology changing the landscape for comparisons? Maybe it's the way comics unfold now? I don't know.
I'm with you on the feeling that comics have just got too expensive. I suspect some of it is to do with the way peoples earnings rise - they tend to peak out and go nowhere and the fact that a large number of things seem to have fallen in price in real terms. So if you have been in for the long term you will notice the difference.

imageWhen I was first in a decent job around 25 years ago I was earning around 16K and comics cost from memory about 35p -- around the time of X-Men #100. A comic was a small part of my earnings -- I could buy 88,900 comics with my annual salary. Today 25 years later with an average comic at roughly 1.85 I can buy around 27,000 comics.

Now some of that may be that I haven't become as wealthy as I should -- although I never felt remotely poor on my earlier salary or today's -- but that seems some concrete clear evidence that they simply have become in % terms a much, much more expensive commodity than they were.

Given that most peoples salaries probably don't increase six or seven times from where they first reach a level of "acceptable salary" clearly for most, comics buying has become a significantly more expensive hobby.

I know that ain't exactly maths or economics but it's a real world case for how expensive they've become.

In contrast back then a new record cost me 50p -- I could buy around 32,000 with my salary. Today I can still buy close to 10,000. Two-thirds less admittedly but not the monstrous 90%-ish less I can buy for comics.
Unfortunately, Kenny sucks at math just like I do. His follow-up note:
looking at a 25 cent book -- I was actually able to buy 88,900 -- now i can buy 27,000 -- OOPS missed a point out there. so it's about a 75% decline in spending power. Still outstripping records but not by so much. Maybe we are all just poorer.
Thanks, everyone. Please participate in 5FF!
 
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Eisner Awards Names Its Judges

The Eisner Awards has named its 2009 judges in a press released put out earlier today. The comic book industry awards, moving into their 21st year, do their nominations through a juried process, meaning it's these judges that set the nominees, which are then voted on by the eligible voters. The 2009 judges are:

* Amanda Emmert (retailer, ComicsPRO officer)
* Mike Pawuk (teen services public librarian, reviewer, author)
* John Shableski (DBD sales manager, blogger)
* Ben Towle (cartoonist, educator)
* Andrew Wheeler (marketing manager, reviewer)

More information at the Eisner Awards site.
 
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Collective Memory: APE 2008

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Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning Alternative Press Expo (APE), held November 1-2 at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco, California.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

*****

Institutional
Convention
Physical Location
Host City

Audio, Photos, Video
Colleen Frakes

David King
Debbie Huey

EvilChick

Fantagraphics

inkyhack

JR Williams, Dan Clowes, Jim Blanchard

Marc Arsenault\
Matt Silady

pandamystery
phoneticontrol

studio JFISH

Scott Beale

Tom Neely

Blog Entries
Alexander Shen
All Shook Down
Aloha Tiki

bg-ag publishing
Blog de Max Vento
Blog With Pictures
blow at life

Chrisueda.com
Creep Machine
crespocomix

deathtomogwai
Derek Yu
DocPop.org

Enrico's Blog

Frisco del Rosario
Fritz Cartoons

I Know Joe Kimpel
in action dolls
IR AZN. R U?

JK Parkin
JK Parkin 02
JK Parkin 03
Jon Adams
Juss

lay me down in the tall grass
lilmissnever
Lost In The Dark
Louie Del Carmen

Marc Arsenault
marina's art
Matt Madden
Matt Maxwell
Michael C. Hsiung

nakedcomixguy
Nick Mullins
Not For Fun Only

One More Thing...

Paul Sloboda

Richard Starkings
rohantm

See Also...
shallwedance
Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club
Sketchbloginson
Squiggly Thing

The Loopy Loup
they is
ToyCyte
Trish Tatman
Two Girls, A Blog and a Need to Procrastinate

Undented.com

vernscartoons.com

Waldo's Wild Kingdom
wuttsthis

Miscellaneous
Isotope Award Winner
Jam Comics From One Rad Robot
Jam Comics From Robopocalypse

News Stories and Columns
AfterElton.com
PWCW
San Francisco Chronicle
SFStation.com

*****

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In DC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Texas, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Cartooning Guide

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OTBP: Cold Heat Special 8

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Go, Look: More Bully On Star Wars

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer Todd Allen gets the "You Clever Man" award for today by using an on-line professional business tool to identify Marvel's digital development team.

image* regarding the events of Tuesday I really liked the Toles cartoon and a couple of others I saw, but I suspect Anne Ishii's right in that this one takes the prize. (It's by Patrick Moberg.)

* the cartoonist and industry advocate Lea Hernandez is taking commissions in order to help her family through some car-related difficulties.

* the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com has another of their patented industry figure interviews up, this time with Marvel's Dan Buckley: one, two, three. You can read some of them for actual news and all of them to see what the company bigwigs emphasize and what they downplay. Topics include Marvel's digital initiatives, its bookstore/DM store mix, and the recession.

* "The Satanic Verses author owns oil paintings of Spider-Man and Wolverine, signed by Stan Lee."

* the newspaper industry bible Editor & Publisher notes that a slowdown in increasing local on-line ad revenue has been predicted for 2009. This is bad news because many newspapers are counting on harvesting more on-line local ad revenue as they move more of their operations on-line.
 
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Go, Look: Five By Richard Thompson

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Cute Cover
Meet The New Dave Lasky
Jim Rugg Draws J. Jonah Jameson
We Must All Be Better Obama Drawers

Exhibits/Events
Nate Powell Signing
Dame Darcy At Isotope
Jeff Smith Is On Tour In India
Marvel Writer Summit Leads To Big Stage Show

History
Old British Comics
On Early Neil Gaiman
Comics From Chicago Defender
Eddie Campbell On Joe Orlando

Industry
Even More GN Agents
Stan Lee In His Element

Interviews/Profiles
20Q: Alex Holden
Inkstuds: Paul Gravett
Newsarama: Marty Pasko
Alex Fitch Radio Round-Up
Powells.com: Jesse Reklaw
Panel Borders: Paul Gravett
Powells.com: Art Spiegelman
Newsarama: Howard Chaykin
Comic Book Talk Radio: Various
Panels and Pixels: Art Spiegelman

Not Comics
This Didn't Already Exist?
Peter Bagge Has A New Band
If Obama Wins Every Day, Papers Are Saved!

Publishing
Dan Goldman's Election Book Cover
Kevin Smith Batman Comic Previewed

Reviews
Sean T. Collins: Bone
Ned Beauman: Punisher
Sarah Morean: And How
Katie Doran: Decisions #4
Valerie D'Orazio: Fishtown
Cristoph Mark: Love Roma
Rob Clough: Aya of Yop City
Don MacPherson: Ultimatum #1
Byron Kerman: Abandoned Cars
Greg McElhatton: Burma Chronicles
Johanna Draper Carlson: Nana Vol. 11
Andrew Edwards: The Stars My Degradation
Greg McElhatton: Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1
 

 
November 6, 2008


Proof Positive I Slept Through Econ 101

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Stuart Immonen writes in:

I followed the link on CR to Rich Johnston's Comic Prices Inflation Index, and, while I appreciate his effort, found the execution subjective.

Typically, inflation is calculated as comparing one set period to the next (say, a year), and commodity prices are adjusted on a frequency to match. When one compares figures over a thirty year gap, the results are invariably skewed, especially when the initial price point is so low that an increase at the lowest possible increment (1 cent) represents a 3.3% jump. In other words, in 1977 dollars, comics are indeed priced astronomically.

When one calculates comic prices adjusted via the US Consumer Price Index (column 5) annually and compares actual prices from that year, it's plain that comics have kept pace with the CPI on a year-to-year basis. Columns 6 and 7 show two common ways of calculating inflation -- in many years (ie: those with no price change), the net increase is zero.

To be forthright about it, my figures are similarly subjective -- if comics only increased as per the CPI, there would never be 25% jumps as in '92/'93, but neither would there be years of no growth.

1977 $0.30 $0.30
1978 $0.35 $0.32 7.60% $0.32 16.67% 6.69%
1979 $0.40 $0.34 11.30% $0.39 14.29% 5.80%
1980 $0.40 $0.38 13.50% $0.45 0.00% 0.00%
1981 $0.50 $0.43 10.30% $0.44 25.00% 9.69%
1982 $0.60 $0.48 6.20% $0.53 20.00% 7.92%
1983 $0.60 $0.51 3.20% $0.62 0.00% 0.00%
1984 $0.60 $0.53 4.30% $0.63 0.00% 0.00%
1985 $0.60 $0.55 3.60% $0.62 0.00% 0.00%
1986 $0.65 $0.57 1.90% $0.61 8.33% 3.48%
1987 $0.75 $0.58 3.60% $0.65 15.38% 6.21%
1988 $0.75 $0.60 4.10% $0.78 0.00% 0.00%
1989 $1.00 $0.62 4.80% $0.79 33.33% 12.49%
1990 $1.00 $0.65 5.40% $1.05 0.00% 0.00%
1991 $1.00 $0.69 4.20% $1.04 0.00% 0.00%
1992 $1.00 $0.72 3.00% $1.03 0.00% 0.00%
1993 $1.25 $0.74 3.00% $1.03 25.00% 9.69%
1994 $1.50 $0.76 2.60% $1.28 20.00% 7.92%
1995 $1.50 $0.78 2.80% $1.54 0.00% 0.00%
1996 $1.50 $0.80 3.00% $1.54 0.00% 0.00%
1997 $1.50 $0.83 2.30% $1.53 0.00% 0.00%
1998 $1.50 $0.85 1.60% $1.52 0.00% 0.00%
1999 $1.75 $0.86 2.20% $1.53 16.67% 6.69%
2000 $1.99 $0.88 3.40% $1.81 13.71% 5.58%
2001 $2.25 $0.91 2.80% $2.05 13.07% 5.33%
2002 $2.25 $0.93 1.60% $2.29 0.00% 0.00%
2003 $2.25 $0.95 2.30% $2.30 0.00% 0.00%
2004 $2.25 $0.97 2.70% $2.31 0.00% 0.00%
2005 $2.25 $1.00 3.40% $2.33 0.00% 0.00%
2006 $2.50 $1.03 3.20% $2.32 11.11% 4.58%
2007 $2.99 $1.06 2.80% $2.57 19.60% 7.77%
2008 $2.99 $1.09 5.50% $3.15 0.00% 0.00%

Me again:

Here's a nice chart version of the above.

Okay, that makes sense. Rich is probably laughing his ass off, too. My bad, and an apology to both CR readers and Professor Handelman.

I have no idea what this chart means, really, both in the sense that numbers make me drowsy and because I still trust in the overwhelming feeling I share with many that a reasonable person might feel that comics made sense in 1977 and make less sense now. Not raging old-school comic fan sense, because there's no satisfying those people, but normal person sense. Like you buy a book or go to a movie and you may think about the price maybe 1 out of 20 times in crotchety old man fashion but you go to the comic shop and you buy three comic books for $10 and you're like "whoa" every time. Maybe there's a threshold at which things seem more expensive? Maybe it's a hang-up about comics? Maybe it's differences in technology changing the landscape for comparisons? Maybe it's the way comics unfold now? I don't know.

Also, please God, let Stuart's chart be right.
 
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Dates Set For The Superman Trials

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Jeff Trexler has details at Blog@Newsarama of the calendar being set in the legal tussle between the family of Jerry Siegel and DC Comics. Anything I say would be parroting him, so please check through the link.

Don't scroll down too far or you'll get into what I'm assuming are grown-ups declare that they'd rather have more Super-whatever comics than have the Siegels receive what may be fairly coming to them by law after years of not having it or a reasonable percentage of same go to them when it should have no matter what the damn law allowed. To paraphrase a friend of mine, it's reading stuff like that that makes me able to imagine a heaven where I get to spend all of eternity punching a certain type of comics fan in the face.
 
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Go, Look: Francoise Mouly’s Ten Years Of New Yorker Covers Slideshow

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And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #5

* here's a longish think piece on a deepening recession's potential effects on the comics industry. I would come to different conclusions if I were in a prescriptive mode, but it's definitely worth a read all the way through.

image* that piece points to a chart that Rich Johnston ran comparing comics prices to real-world inflation over the last 31 years. Johnston notes some problems with a straight-up comparison like comics being printed on better paper and so on, and you'd probably have to analyze whether or not a 1977 starting point is ideal or perhaps distorted, but I think it's a useful chart.

* to hit that point again, I don't think it's wrong to price comics whatever the hell you want to price them, and the state of my finances as opposed to the state of finances for those who are setting these prices and profiting off them for 31 years makes me hesitant to make sweeping declarations over their doing something, anything, misguided. However, I do think it's reasonable to suggest that high per-unit prices combined with an industry that's aimed at serving an elite, mostly veteran and always potentially jaded readership may put the comics industry at special risk in a sustained financial downturn. I also think it also reasonable to further note that if there are fundamental, structural problems in this aspect of comics, you have to take into account the likelihood of these actors investing in fundamental, structural change -- and any built-in difficulties to their doing so. For instance, you can't simply reduce prices if you want to without traumatizing a retailing community that's built around certain profits per book they sell, and so on.

* while I'm repeating myself, I'm still sort of agog at news that United Media has played the on-line archives and on-line usage for free card in such a dramatic fashion, and it brings to mind something that I think a lot of people need to keep in mind moving forward: it's not a guarantee that financial decisions made on behalf of cartoonists are going to be to the ultimate benefit of those cartoonists. Not to say this is what's going on here, because I simply don't know, but in general, if you're a functionary at a media company or a contract service provider whose job is on the line and your directive is to come up with a model that generates a lot of hits for the company web site, it may not be foremost on your mind to devise a system that protects the creators and provides them with maximum profit. Further, whether benign or done in outright and aggressively exploitative fashion, there's very little anymore that stands in opposition to such moves, and even fewer in difficult economic times. The weight of history is pressed, the necessity of maintaining certain margins and certain structures assumed. There's a perceived to real surplus of talent rubbed in faces. Heck, with a widespread ethos of shrugged shoulders over industry exploitation having settled in now, there's not even the cultural pressure there used to be when this kind of thing comes up, and in fact some people will bend over backwards to defend the right of these companies to do what they do, no matter what that is. Now more than ever, cartoonists and creative people need to be careful and discerning when it comes to entering into financial partnerships that may be unfair, even though it's going to be tougher than ever. And those of us in the press and pundit class need to be forthright and imaginative in discussing these things.

* only tangentially related, but speaking of new ways of publishing that may become more important in a sustained financial downturn, I can't be the only one that wonders what the heck a $10 million dollar investment in digital publishing buys you, can I? Something like Hulu.com I think launched with ten times that, granted, but they were working with video, had assembled twenty-plus different content providers, were working in a partnership rather than a proprietary situation, and had their first working site up in less than eight months. Okay, there's probably 50 reasons that's a stupid counter-example, but I still wonder after that $10 million.
 
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Missed It: Ditko Array, Birthday Card

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Philly, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Calculating Cat Gallery

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Go, Look: Bully On Marvel’s Star Wars

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Go, Read: Al Capp Fights Crime

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Go, Look: Into The Volcano Preview

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* a 36-year-old man had his comic books stolen from his storage facility while he was shipped out with the Navy.

image* here's something I hadn't considered: Leigh Walton points out that while it probably wasn't malicious due to the way the book came together, it sure would have been nice if Jiro Kuwata's name appeared in a prominent place on the new, lovely Chip Kidd-assembled book Bat Manga!.

* add SLG to at least Fantagraphics, Picturebox, and Drawn and Quarterly as stores that own retail operations. I'm likely forgetting one.

* a report at the LA Times says that Berke Breathed's "final cartoon in the paper/final panel on-line" ploy worked well enough that upwards of 15 million people tried to access the site on Sunday. Breathed also assured all of us that Opus is in a happy place that is not the afterlife. I feel sort of bad for Breathed in coverage of this event, because I totally take his word that he left the Sunday-only Opus because of wanting to do more kids' books and the creative dissatisfaction of creating in the current political climate and, I think, in the context of so many people doing something like that now. Still, the legacy of the strip because of the hopes for it at its launch has nudged that discussion in a slightly different direction.

* a massive archive of British political cartoons has gone on-line.

* the prominent comics blogger Heidi MacDonald assembles more on cutbacks at the news and comics site ComicMix, including who was laid off and who is merely declining a salary for now.

* no financial crisis letdown for Watchmen, that's for sure.

* finally, various folks are still processing Tuesday's election from a comics-centric point of view. This article at MTV's Splash Page talks to a number of professionals that are happy about President-Elect Obama's win. Valerie D'Orazio and Sean Kleefeld look at more general storytelling factors that may come into play. Also: President-Elect Obama's comic outsold Senator McCain's, the entirety of Rob Tornoe's election day of cartoon blogging, one cartoonist says thanks to the man who influenced him to become what he is today, and this made me laugh while this made me smile.
 
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Happy 37th Birthday, Gregory Mardon!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Go To Vegas Valley Book Festival

History
On Eerie and Creepy

Industry
Black Jack Giveaway
No Comics = No Hassles?
Where Are The Home Grown Strips?

Interviews/Profiles
SFBG: Matt Furie
Pulse: Miriam Libicki
Gazette: David Banks
Heavy Ink: G. Willow Wilson
CBR: Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada
Talking With Tim: Frank Santoro
McClatchy Bureau: Lil'guy Studio
Independent: Stephen Thompson
Windy City Times: Alison Bechdel

Not Comics
Best Shout Out Ever
Battling Boy to Paramount
Charity Auction Refusal Controversy
Scott Campbell To Illustrate Children's Book

Publishing
On Bankruptcy Bill
Hereville to Abrams
This Made Me Laugh
Jerry Lawler, Cover Artist
I Did Not Know About This Book
LA Times Sucks It Up On Doonesbury Strip

Reviews
Chris Mautner: Various
Mike Lynch: Skin Horse
Richard Bruton: Badger
Jason Sacks: normalman
Noah Berlatsky: TCJ #293
Mike Mumah: Walking Dead
Noah Berlatsky: The Lagoon
Matthew Brady: Breakdowns
Tom Batten: Doktor Sleepless Vol. 1
Deb Aoki: Higurashi: When They Cry
Chris Mautner: The Education of Hopey Glass
Kevin Church: Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1
 

 
November 5, 2008


I Wonder What The Best Editorial Cartoonist In North America Had To Say About Yesterday?

This:

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posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were Going To This In NYC This Weekend, I’d Be Buying My Tickets Now

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posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Wizard Drops Credit For Site Reviewers?

If I'm reading this correctly, the comics and junk culture magazine Wizard was taking some material either from their site or from people that contribute to their site and was running it but not paying them. Now, they're apparently not crediting them, either...? The mind boggles.
 
posted 8:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comics.com Revamps; Major Archives Now Free; Ability To Embed Features

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United Media launched their revamped Comics.com site, which has gone to a free model that stresses a huge amount of archived content -- you can now see 21,000-plus Peanuts strip on the site -- an interface that I believe is designed to feature advertising, and a few bells and whistles set to encourage on-line social interaction and dissemination, including the eyebrow-raising option of anyone being able to embed them without paying to run them.

Alan Gardner has a long review: basically, Content 10, Design 3. Daryl Cagle in Gardner's comments thread indicates that his editorial cartoons syndicate isn't participating in all the features, and I share his surprise over the complete endorsement from other contributors for free dissemination. So while the immediate commentary is going to be about how the site's user interface functions, the most significant factor of the news is what this will mean in terms of United Media's ability to find profit on-line, and how this can be seen a significant divergence from what some other companies have tried -- even past United Media efforts. It's hard to shut the Big Box of Free once you've opened it up, and I'm always a little suspicious of syndicate efforts on-line because I'm not always sure that a syndicate and a creator benefit in the same way from how something is disseminated on-line.

Needless to say, I'm very interested to see where they try to go from here, and if anyone follows them.
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
More On ComicMix Site Restructuring

The comics consumer advocate Johanna Draper Carlson looks at the general issue of ComicMix restructuring from the vantage point of their closing their columns, including a link to an editorial that basically says they weren't bringing in enough traffic. Meanwhile, Todd Allen takes a hard look at both potential revenue streams for the site and, really, editorial focus.

I don't want to make it seem like I'm piling on. I guess this site is a competitor of that one, and I've enjoyed my brief interactions with Bob Greenberger, the person I believe is currently during their news. But there are so many sites out there and there will be more in the next couple of years that it's interesting to look at how one of them changes direction.
 
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PW: More On Yen Press Restructuring

imageThe writer Kai Ming Cha has a short interview with Yen Press' Kurt Hassler on the occasion of their restructuring within Hachette. It's unclear to me if this is a severe vote of no-confidence in the line or if placing the line within the larger company's hierarchy is just one of those things that publishers are doing to better brace for the dark days in retail expected to be ahead.
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Amazon.com Posts Their 2008 GN List

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Amazon.com has published its Best-Of list for graphic novels, which joins an almost if not actual same-day publication of such a list at Publishers Weekly.

1. The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
2. What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly)
3. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories Vol. 2, Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press)
4. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
5. The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel (DC Vertigo)
6. Omega: The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Hornschemeier (Marvel Comics)
7. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)
8. Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert, Scott Adams (Andrews McMeel)
9. Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991, Scott McCloud (Harper Paperbacks)
10. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)

That's a solid enough list; I at least liked all of the books included. I wish they had listed at least the secondary primary author instead of going with a single author, but that may just be me. Still no sign of my current #1 choice, which saddens me a bit.

In addition, I know that What It Is and Bottomless Belly Button made their overall books list. I'm not certain how that works.
 
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Marvel Comics 3Q Revenues Round-Up

There's a bunch of stuff out there regarding Marvel's 3Q figures, from a transcript of the conference call that followed the report's release to the usual Motley Fool columnist playing Chester the Terrier to Marvel's Spike the Bulldog. It seems to me that the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com will probably have everything you need. The takeaway from an overall standpoint seems to be the lack of movies for 2009 and how that affects things; the publishing takeaway seems to be that publishing revenues were down due to investment in on-line initiative and loss of some custom publishing work, with major on-line initiatives on the horizon and a delicate attitude toward price increases reflecting current economic times.
 
posted 7:07 am PST | Permalink
 

 
That Google Ad Prop 8 Thingamaroo

No one wrote in to complain yesterday about backers of the California ballot initiative Proposition 8 running ads through Google ads that then appeared on this site, but a couple of people wrote me to explain that it had happened and point out links to other sites that talked about it. I haven't read any of the articles through those links, but as far as I'm concerned just about anyone not using their ad to promote outright criminal activity is welcome to advertise here, no matter how stupid or ridiculous or morally stunted I may think their position, or for that matter, how awesome or awesome or morally righteous. That's how my pop did it. If something like that happens again, though, please let me know because it definitely has an effect on how I spend the money.
 
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If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Iowa, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Frank Santoro’s Con Finds

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1 2 3
 
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Go, Look: More Little Nothings

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Go, Read: Death Rides The 5:15

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OTBP: Mama Taxi

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Go, Look: Tall Tales

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Bill Leak had a hard time believing he'd been in a coma.

image* cleaning up my office dept.: of all the weird things I've seen in the last few years, a full-page ad in a major metropolitan newspaper devoted to promoting a newspaper's on-line superhero and comics reporter/blogger has to be among the weirdest. That's Geoff Boucher of the LA Times.

* well, that's an interesting t-shirt choice.

* an election-related story at MTV's Splash blog features Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis basically doing superhero/politics stand-up. Other election stuff that didn't go up yesterday: Michael Cavna, Ralph Steadman, Steve Bell, Jeremy Eaton.

* missed it: a call for specific legislation covering porn that doesn't involve the direct exploitation of a model.

* the blogger Simon Jones looks at how a Texas sex toys case might have an impact on erotic comics publishing.

* finally, Dirk Deppey answers the crap out of my question about why an on-line system for comics can't be made that includes the possibility for existing comics retailers to participate (in other words, I'm not suggesting they be grandfathered in). I'm barely an expert at comics, let alone one in the speculative building of Internet industries (thus my tax bracket), and I grant that the bulk of Dirk's points sound like they make sense and because they're built on existing precedent will be the likely path taken. Still, I think there are differences between comics and music/video -- the immediacy of their secondary identity as collectibles, the significant differences in the aesthetic experience, their perceived lack of market saturation, the size and mainstream status of their ideal markets, the relative possibility for ad support, the more significant role of comics shops as venues of influence, the pliability of comics shops and resulting inability to dictate terms -- that suggest to me there are possibilities that the system best suited to deliver digital comics content could involve unique solutions. They likely won't, of course.
 
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Happy 70th Birthday, Steranko!

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Happy 37th Birthday, Diana Tamblyn!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, Robert Loren Fleming!

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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Win A Really Big Book
MangaNext Con Report
Miami Book Fair Preview

Industry
PW's Bestsellers

Interviews/Profiles
PWCW: Paul Pope
Express: John Ficarra
CBS4.com: Jim Morin
Bookslut: David Rees
Vulture: Dave Gibbons
Last Hours: Alan Moore
Red Eye: Dave Gibbons
The Oregonian: Nate Powell
National Post: Art Spiegelman
Animal Inventory: Nick Abadzis
Newsarama: Matthew & Jennifer Holm
Talking With Tim: Stuart Moore, Joe Harris

Not Comics
Chris Onstad is Nice
That's A Lot Of Honey
Ray Smuckles Loves Portland
This Is Quite Adorable As Well

Publishing
Pretty

Reviews
Brian Hibbs: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Whitney Spotts: Holy Sh*t!
Sean T. Collins: Alan's War
Andrew Wheeler: Berlin Vol. 2
Matthew J. Brady: Tamara Drewe
Leroy Douresseaux: Nana Vol. 13
Michael May: The Fog Mound Vol. 1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: DHC on MySpace
Greg McElhatton: Black Lagoon Vols. 1-2
Nina Stone: ACME Novelty Library Vol. 19
Joe Gordon: Cartooning In The Shadow Of The Northern Lights
Ed Sizemore: Yumekui Kenbun: Nightmare Inspector, Vols. 2-3
Leroy Douresseaux: American Flagg! Definitive Collection Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Official Casebook, Vol. 1
 

 
November 4, 2008


Not Comics: My New Prediction

I will never, ever sleep with Diane Lane.
 
posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
It’s Election Day In The USA

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Whether you're for Captain Insano or The Antichrist, please remember to vote. You'd want to real bad if you couldn't. Or look at it this way: even though we're the ones in charge, the intercom on the desk only works once every couple of years. You don't want to miss your turn pressing the call button. Until that hallowed trip to the polling place or to the pub or to the living room where the big TV is, please enjoy a few politically-oriented comics links.

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I haven't said so yet, but I enjoyed the IDW presidential candidates comics. They're not exactly going to knock my Edmond Baudoin books from their place on the shelves, and they're not going to replace any of the best prose writing out there on those men and what's at stake today, but the comics struck me as first-class political keepsakes. I can't imagine if you're a comics fan you wouldn't want to at least consider snagging a copy of each just to have them as mementos.

The covers shown above are probably the worst thing about them from a creative standpoint. I'm not sure what's going on with those slightly thrusting pelvises, but I'm pretty sure it ain't presidential. The insides are much more modestly presented. It reminded me a bit of reading one of those Jack Chick Crusaders comics, only without the possessed people, demons, bleeding, insinuations about the Catholic church or confrontations with Satan. I'm saying that to be funny, of course, but there is something similar in feel where a mostly mainstream American comics approach is being cross-employed for a more standard dramatic narrative.

An interesting contrast between the two books is that I left the Obama book feeling as if the thrust of it was a narrative about the current election, and I put down the McCain book feeling that I had heard a lot more about his life before entering this year's campaign. This of course underlines how each campaign has approached presenting its candidates to the American people, and I think will be something future historians may latch onto when writing about the political contest. The books also reveal if you haven't thought about it in a while just how tightly each campaign controls its respective narrative; simply speaking in matter-of-fact ways on the rudimentary facts of either gentleman's life feels like some sort of transgressive event.

I feel bad that these sober, well-intended and relatively distinguished efforts have to be lumped in features-wise with things like Savage Dragon's endorsement, that goofy EC-classic title update's use of Sarah Palin as I think some sort of undead or those horrible, shoddy-looking rip-off biographies featuring Palin and Hillary Clinton. These are different. I don't have a ton of comics in my library that reflect this kind of event as opposed to being there for artistic or flatly historical reasons. I'm happy to add these.

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Not Comics: comics industry veteran Ted Rall has made a short animated cartoon that has a tie-in to today's election. I'm sure it's gentle and restrained, but if you pay close attention, Rall's point of view on the matter may eventually make itself known.

*****

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You knew I wasn't going to let you get away from here without giving you a link to a pair of Richard Thompson cartoons. As always, they're quite amusing.

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Random Links: I've yet to see any mentions of this Batton Lash-drawn Li'l Obama cartoon. Here's another one. Cagle's site is still the best place to go to to get a view of what's out there in terms of political cartoons. Rob Tornoe will be cartoon-blogging the election. I enjoyed this interview with Tim Kreider. Sean Kleefeld gathered today's election-related strips into one place. Finally, this short Steve Brodner comic about political imagery is beautiful.

*****

photo of Whit Spurgeon by Whit Spurgeon

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*****
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
PW Releases Best Books Of Year List

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Publisher's Weekly has published the first major Best-Of list, which I can't imagine really needed to come out a full two months before the year ended, but still, there it is.

* Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight, Chris Onstad (Dark Horse)
* Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
* Aya of Yop City, Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
* Kramers Ergot 7, Edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura Press)
* Slam Dunk, Takehiko Inoue (Viz)
* Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)
* Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds (Houghton/Mariner)
* The Education of Hopey Glass, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama (Picturebox)
* Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child, Rick Geary (ComicsLit)
* What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

It's a respectable list. I was sad to see my current #1 didn't make the cut. I still have quite a bit of reading to do and even more thinking after I'm done reading before I'll be able to make something similar.

David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America made their non-fiction list and two Toon efforts, Art Spiegelman's Jack and the Box and Agnes Rosenstiehl's Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons, made the children's picture book category.
 
posted 7:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #4

* the comics site ComicMix looks to have made downsizing part of its already-reported shift in emphasis to the publishing side of their original model.

* a few more comments have been added to the general thoughts round-up on the present recession and comics. If nothing else, check out Lou Wysocki's description of just how not-mainstream comic books are in a lot of respects when you do some facile comparisons. It is one of the recurring ideas on this site that comics would frequently be better off thinking of itself in strictly realistic terms as to its ability to reach various audiences, and it's our further belief that great, personally satisfying art and people profiting in ethical fashion from that art are more important goals than replicating industry demographics circa 1947.

* the prominent blogger Dirk Deppey has a few thoughts of his own on that round-up and the issues raised there. I'm still not certain why comics just doesn't develop a model for on-line distribution that involves and/or encourages the participation of existing retailers.

* the folks at Barnes and Noble hand out the firearms and face paint and brace for dark days ahead. A more immediate concern: majorly conservative ordering, which could have a severe impact on a lot of smaller publishers without really, really effective distribution partners, as well as a lot of mid-list material even when they have them.
 
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Alt-Weekly Blog Blasts AJC Decision

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I enjoyed this blog post blasting the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's decision not to run this week's Doonesbury cartoon both for the vigor of its criticism and its adroit employment of Hall of Fame insult phrase "panties in a wad." I'm sympathetic to editors that run their comics page from a defensive crouch -- people are looking for a reason to drop newspapers, and distaste for something a cartoonist does is as good a reason to go on-line as any. Still, there's no way in heck that I'd consider a move like Trudeau's anything worth worrying about, let alone a reason to suspend, so it's good to see them criticized.

As a side note, I find it interesting when a newspaper runs Doonesbury with a conservative strip like Mallard Fillmore or Prickly City. Doonesbury is an all-timer, which makes pairing it off against strips that aren't quite that good seem to me more of a disservice to the notion of balanced political statements. It's like a civic group offering a lunch with your choice of politically-minded celebrity, Matt Damon or Robert Novak.
 
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Tezuka Would Have Been 80 Today

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It's ridiculous to try to describe Osamu Tezuka's importance in a single paragraph. He's simply too big. Japan's God of Comics can lay claim to being his country's Walt Disney and its Jack Kirby, which is terrifying if you think about it for a second and mind-blowing in that as a description of his body of work it would be sorely incomplete. Reading his manga is one of the foundational comics experiences, and I urge you to make him a significant part of your overall interaction with the art form. One of the wonderful things about comics in the past decade is that more and more Tezuka has become available in handsome, accessible volumes: Phoenix, Buddha, Astro Boy, Ode to Kirihito, Dororo, Black Jack, and MW among them. Please, don't deprive yourself.
 
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Another Major Wizard Employee Let Go?

I'm told via a couple of e-mails that Tom Conboy, I believe currently the Vice President of Circulation, may have been let go. Conboy has been with the entertainment company since 2001. Wizard has fired or otherwise let go of a severe number of employees over the last 30 months or so.
 
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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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And I’d Probably Try To Go To This, Too

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Go, Look: Bat-Manga! Previewed

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OTBP: Danny Dutch

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Max Kellerman’s Superhero Athletes

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I could do without the casual locker-room homophobia, but I'm linking to this anyway because almost none of the choices make any sense and yet I'm still amused. This is the kind of thing that superhero fans used to get upset about, but at this point I just think it's funny, like Max Kellerman doesn't really want to have a feature like this but it seems like a good idea because the overwhelming spirit of the times demands they do so and so they toss one up. I'm not sure why this strikes me as humorous. The mainstream media world is basically Flash Thompson now.

In a similar vein, I think Kevin Garnett's description of Wolverine should be the one used in all the X-Men books from now on. "Refurbish" is a great word to use there.
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* now that's a funny way to give your former employers the finger. Sine Hebdo claims better sales than Charlie Hebdo and rolls out a funeral wreath.

image* this discussion of "iconic" superhero comics covers is fun if you're a fan of those books.

* the newspaper industry magazine Editor & Publisher has a small round-up of public announcements concerning what is replacing Opus in various newspapers. As is the case with the last couple of departures from the pages or part of them, the gains look to be spread across a number of features.

* this standard article on the Halifax cartooning scene lets us know what happened to Mark Oakley. I mean, probably everyone else already knew, but I hadn't thought about it.

* I'm not sure exactly what Heidi MacDonald is getting at with this essay on the effects of widespread Internet usage on fan favorites, although I suspect she's on more interesting ground when she discusses how the actor Bruce Campbell has been able to make art for hardcore fans in a way that might have an overall negative effect on his career than she is when she talks more generally about the idea of geekery as rebellion. One thing that I thought was interesting about the late 1990s is that enough people became everyday users of the Internet it buttressed opposition to a widely-held idea that an arts community for comics had to be built on things other than an interest in that specific medium's art and industry. Many would disagree with me on that observation and its implications.

* finally, here's a short profile on one of the underrated public comics things to enjoy: the murals you can find around the city of Brussels.
 
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David Heatley YouTube Videorama





suggested by Brad Mackay
 
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Quick hits
Craft
Sometimes I Look At Comics Too Closely

Exhibits/Events
Big Apple Show Details
Comics Show In Tucson
Native Americans In Comics
Discussing The Global Image Of America
Spiegelman To Deliver ICv2.com Keynote

History
Top 50 WTF Moments
On Sadie Hawkins Day

Industry
And Make Cartoons
I Love Your Cartoonist
More Diversity Needed On Comics Page

Interviews/Profiles
Slate: Art Spiegelman
Portfolio: Lynn Johnston
Fear.net: Georges Jeanty
ComicMix: P. Craig Russell
RRStar.com: Richard Pulfer
The Olympian: Lynda Barry
TheRecord.com: Jay Stephens
CBR: Paul Duffield, Warren Ellis
Paul Gravett: Emmanuel Guibert

Not Comics
This Story Can Go Away Now
Awesomeness Forces Marvel To Cancel Cartoon

Publishing
Publisher Wants Your Comics

Reviews
Jog: Bat-Manga
Jeff Lester: Various
Chris Sims: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Sean T. Collins: Siberia
Colleen Mondor: Various
Noah Berlatsky: Betsy & Me
Nik Dirga: American Elf Vol. 3
Jared Blumberg: The Boys #24
Sterfish: Garfield Minus Garfield
John David Ebert: V For Vendetta
Robert Stanley Martin: Black Hole
Cornelius Fortune: City of Dust #1
Derik A Badman: Red Colored Elegy
Scott Cederlund: Acme Novelty Library #19
James Donnelly: The Astounding Wolf-Man #9
John Bacardi: Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch
Richard Bruton: Rough Guide To Graphic Novels
Matthew Brady: The Best American Comics 2008
Brandon Soderberg: Basil Wolverton's Gateway To Horror
 

 
November 3, 2008


Coming Soon And Not Affiliated With Me

Graphic Novel Reporter.
 
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Various Large Men Arriving On The Scene To Beat The Crap Out Of You

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I love the enthusiastic simplicity of this cover, like someone in charge rang the ass-beating alarm.
 
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Berkeley Breathed Ends His Opus

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Go here for the final printed comic of Berkeley Breathed's Opus comic that ran yesterday in various papers. Go here to see the final panel on-line, as arranged by Breathed in a nice bit of PR and a thematic nod to where the strips are going. If it's not clear what I'm talking about, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist ended his Sundays-only strip after only a few years, effectively ending a major newspaper strip cartooning career that stretches back through another Sunday-only strip, Outland, through one of the foundational strips of the 1980s, Bloom County, all the way back to one of the most important college-newspaper strips of all time, Academia Waltz. Here's his final letter on the subject, where we find out the character is dreaming, not dead.

I greatly enjoyed this interview with Breathed, where he speaks in his usual forthright fashion about where he feels the comics page is going -- straight into the dustbin of history. I disagree with him that it's inevitable, but if comic strips don't find a better delivery method, one that uniquely bolstered and served the on-line iterations of newspapers, I think there's actually a risk they could begin a decade or so long death rattle, I really do.
 
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Your 2008 Isotope Award Winner

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More On Comics and Recessions, 2008

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A few of you took the time over the busy Halloween, pre-election weekend to send me a thought or two on this essay concerning some of my general thoughts regarding how comics might feel the effects of the ongoing recession. I'm greatly appreciative. I'd love .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and will include it here.

Kiel Phegley

Something that's been popping into my mind for a few weeks now that I thought I might share in hopes that a smarter person can tell me if I'm anywhere near an actual issue that impacts comics:

One result of the recession that I think may have an impact on comics which no one has lit upon too much is the idea that the American dollar is dropping in value as opposed to other forms of currency. Now, this may have changed a lot since the last time I saw anything in the news about the dollar's value as more and more countries get sucked into the financial crisis, but from my understanding, the dollar is worth a lot less than it used to be in general and specifically is worth less than other units of currency it once dominated (the Euro comes to mind). Certainly everyone knows that such fluctuations change the business in terms of price point for product, costs of printing and shipping and other bottom line issues, but one area I find these changes are likely to effect is the talent pool working on books.

I had a mind-blowing conversation a few months back at Toronto's Fan Expo with a freelance artist who works for one of the majors on how the change in the dollar's worth was affecting how much work creators up north could receive and how much they'd get paid for such work, and I think that Canadian creators would be on the safer side of such changes. A recent item on non-payment in Rich Johnston's column got me thinking about Latin American artists who freelance by way of English-speaking agents on books where publishers don't consider creative teams as much of a selling point as event hook. In that case, it was a Superman movie tie-in, but there are plenty of other books where foreign talent has been employed because their page rates are way cheaper thanks to the exchange rate and I'd assume the work is finished quickly. Some of Dynamite's licensed books come to mind as does DC's World War II fifth week event from a few years back.

As the American dollar weakens, there seems to be potential for massive changes starting with which creators get work or don't get work, how many additional titles publishers can create when there's a dearth of cheap international talent and how a lessening of product changes what retailers are able to pull in profit-wise. Now, I can't make any claims to what those changes will be because I haven't got clue one on specifics, but I'd think that even a relatively small part of the marketplace is worth keeping an eye on.

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Sean T. Collins

My gut instinct is that sales of monthly comics/individual issues will drop as readers switch to downloading them for free and/or waiting for the trade. You may actually have seen this start happening given how many months this year saw overall sales drop compared to the same month in 2007. If I were the big companies I'd develop an iTunes or eMusic or Netflix/TiVo pay-to-download service pronto (like, yesterday), and hope that you can get enough fans into that habit early enough to stave off wholesale defection to the pirates. Heck, for a flat fee I'd happily subscribe to some sort of service to read a certain amount of new Marvel or DC books online every month, and I say that as someone who hasn't bought a floppy from either company since 2004. Surely there's an audience out there.

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Joe Casey

Big point you make here...

<< 5. A third reason comics may be at greater risk right now is demographics. People between 35 and 45 years old react differently to general economic downturns than people between 12 and 17 years old do. >>

imageI feel like that demographic is the main audience for Marvel and DC books. Mainstream superhero comicbook readers. But forget about linking it to the economy... I think it's more the fact that, by now, readers of that demo HAVE SEEN IT ALL. Secret Invasion is just another alien invasion... Final Crisis is the 4th or 5th "crisis" that those readers have seen in their lifetime of reading. How many Avengers or Justice League lineup changes are they going to get excited about? How many character "deaths" are really going to impact their lives, after seeing so many of them?

I've fallen into this trap myself as a creator... just because *I* get a kick out of writing something for the first time that harkens back to the books I read as a kid doesn't mean the readers won't respond with a "been there, read that" mentality. I've loved the times I've spent writing, essentially, comfort food for my own generation of readers... but I can't say it did much to push the medium or its future.

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Lou Wysocki

I just finished skimming your piece today on comics and recession. I'm going to have to go back and reread it slower to digest everything you are saying.

I just wanted to make a couple of observations:

imageOn #4: I live in Connecticut. Not a very big state, and not very large cities, in terms of population. But looking at the various circulation reports showing up in comics this year frightens me: there are cities and towns in Connecticut that have larger populations than some major comics have print runs (for example, there are more people in the immediate Manchester, CT area than there are copies of an issue of Daredevil being published in any month). Go to a state college or university, and you can hand out a copy of one of the X-Men titles to every student, and there would be none left for the rest of the country, let alone internationally. I'd love to see some industry wide comment on that.

I work in the investment division of a major insurance company here, and for the first time in my life, I am scared for my job and my future. I'm 50, and have been reading and collecting comics for over 45 years. I get what I like, and rely on others to point out what I may wish to read (the same thing for music -- those sampler magazines such as Uncut, Mixmag or the late CMJ with their attached discs point me in new musical directions). I get what I like, and will still do so in these economically frightening times, not knowing if I will still have a job tomorrow. I need my entertainment: books, comics, magazines, music, and DVDs (I'm not a movie goer, and dispise being in large groups of people where I am not in control) -- if I didn't have the things that make me happy, I'd be curled up in a fetal position all the time right now (not to say it hasn't happened a few times in the last two weeks...). I keep asking myself, "What can I do to help the industry?", and the only thing I can do right now is continue to support it with my hard-earned dollars. I live in a town with a great comics store, with friendly people who know me and my tastes, and I'm in it with them for the long haul. I think everyone out there needs to ask what they can do, also.

*****

Eric Knisley

One good way for people to respond to the economic downturn and possible hardships in obtaining comics is to quit *buying* and start *making*. I've been making and publishing my own comics for nearly forty years now, and there are very, very few comics I've ever bought that give me a fraction of the pleasure that I get from putting pen to paper. And it's the cheapest hobby you're gonna find this side of train-spotting -- all you need is pencil, paper and ideas.

My experience at the recent 24-hour comic day at Chapel Hill Comics really drove it home for me. That was the most fun I've had in a long time -- just sitting and working alongside other folks doing the same, all of us making comics (and the book came out pretty well, too). None of us are Alan Moore, but we all had a great time, learned some stuff, made some friends. That's not bad! And it only cost us just some ink and paper, and some time. There's a whole hand-made DIY revolution going on these days, and for good reasons -- stuff you make is better than stuff you buy. Making comics is more fun than buying them, and cheaper; you don't have to go anywhere; it's something you can do with any of your pals any old time. Sieze the means of production!

*****

Noah Berlatsky

I'm not an expert on either the comics industry or the economy. But mere ignorance never stops a pundit...

I think a lot of your points were very well taken; basically, anything entertainment oriented is in big trouble, print is in even bigger trouble than that, and comics are quite possibly up a largish creek with holes in the bottom of the boat and giant carnivorous mollusks rising from the deep and bashing the industry on the head with paddles.

I think monthly comics and the direct market have looked like less and less viable business models for some time. If we have the serious recession that it looks like we're going to... I don't know. It seems like that could be all she wrote, pretty much. Especially if, as seems likely, Hollywood suddenly decides super-hero movies are no longer what the public wants, I think the big two could be in serious trouble.

Editorial cartoons are doomed. Newspaper comics probably are too, for all intents and purposes.

I think manga is in a much better position to survive a recession with some contraction, but without necessarily apocalyptic consequences. Even if bookstores fold, manga seems like it could switch to online sales without a ton of trouble. I think manga is also in a position where it's still reaching new audiences, at least potentially. Certainly, there's room for manga audiences to age; for people who started reading manga young to get older and keep reading while their place is taken by younger readers. A recession will take a chunk out of this, of course, and if it's actually a depression all bets are off for everybody; but in general I think the recession may actually be a moment for manga to solidify it's hold as other parts of the industry fall by the wayside.

So there you are. Lots of predictions which can be used to mock me ten years down the road when direct market stores are on every block and manga is but a fond memory...

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Tucker Stone

Kiel's statement has a lot of interesting stuff in it--I'm remembering that Blog@newsarama also wrote about the impact of a weakening dollar regarding the different cover price question for Canadian sales last year--but I'd wonder what's going to happen for international sales now that the dollar has been steadily rising against all other global currencies. Then again, I'm totally in the dark about how much American comics companies earn from non-US sales, but with the dollar moving the way it is (up and not down), every American commodity will end up with diminishing returns. (That's assuming that some basic rules of economics still apply.) The change in outside hiring could be really interesting though -- there's got to be some Japanese manga-trained artists seeing the change in currency as an opportunity to make inroads on American relationships whereas it wouldn't have been as profitable last year. Where they end up working though, that's completely unknown. More French and Latin American cartoonists couldn't hurt the American market, that's for sure.

I'm also curious -- and I imagine this will take longer to play out--how the Google Books settlement last week changes things. With an American based official books registry starting up as part of the lawsuit, it's going to be far easier then it is even now for portions of literature (fiction & non-fiction) to be viewed for free online. I don't know whether comic books are part of that deal or not, but since books about comics are, I doubt the rules exclude New Mutants and Capote In Kansas -- they probably just aren't scanned in yet. But after they are, then it seems likely they'll end up in a similar position to music, where the ease and legality of free portions of the product lends the black market torrenting a sense of acceptability. I know you're not a fan of that, but the Google Books registry is setting up what seems to be a relatively tolerable form of rights management and royalty distribution. That part may see a growth in sales for comics online, as long as the publishers don't try to charge the print-version price. From a completely personal standpoint, the amount of hits my own blog gets from the barely finished Google Books engine far surpasses anything on the site that's about comics. A lot of people seem to be using the engine, and I'd imagine that when it has more comics on it, a lot of people will be using it for that as well.

I'd imagine you were hoping for smarter responses then mine, sorry about that.

How does Marvel fund their big-budget movies? This sort of stuff has to be in their stock papers, I imagine. But there hasn't been a big comic book movie (a Dark Knight or an Iron Man) since the financial crisis, and I think that's going to be a big indicator when one drops. The success or failure of the next couple comic movies will probably be a big factor in whether or not movie companies are able to get the kind of funding necessary for the production (and more so, the marketing) of another Iron Man type film. Venture capital, banks, corporate financing -- all that stuff is dead right now, and will the comics movies fad/trend/whatever it's called still be a viable one by the time they get back to making 300 million dollar flicks?

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Marek Bennett

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the economy... It's clear to see how financial troubles will effect people's spending habits, but I'm glad you're looking beyond that. Here's what I thought while I read your notes:

As a self-syndicator and a teacher, I'm looking at the education side of comics. Grant funding seems to be drying up at the state level (at least here in New England), but that doesn't mean the market (i.e., the willing, wanting audience) for comics and comics programs is drying up. Far from it, in fact, as schools slash their art departments and look for curricular integration and outside specialists to bring new experiences into the classrooms... There will always be young (potential) readers, there will always be schools with mandates to teach interesting content, librarians looking for quality work that kids read, teachers looking for cheap and flexible new ideas that make their students sit up straight and say, "Wow!" These non-commercial markets can be incredibly rewarding and creative!

People might not have an extra $4 to spend on Super-Chimpy #185, but they do have eyes, brains, and imaginations. If we don't get comics (and pens and paper) into those young eyes and hands, someone else will fill them with video game controllers and we'll lose the next generation of readers and creators. Like Eric Knisley says, let's show people how to "start making"...

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Oliver Townshend

I don't believe that the recession will have a material affect on businesses that are well run and managed, although it may accelerate some trends. Marvel and DC are running a legacy business which will slowly wind down as its readers get older, but diversification can help them, into movies, graphic novels, web comics etc. while still publishing pamphlets. As long as their work is entertaining, people will try to buy it regardless, much the same as they might continue to go to movies or purchases DVDs, although reduced incomes will obviously have some effect (i.e. if you lose your job you can't buy comics). In this regard, I don't think DC will survive on its current trend, but such a trend can easily be reversed. I can't comment on the Manga publishers, although I suspect that the same applies, they just have a younger audience. As to the independents, they may have the best chance of survival in the future, as they may (or may not be) the area where new comic trends appear. Its a bit hard to categorise such diverse companies as Fantagraphics, D&Q and smaller one comic businesses.

I'd expect that any comic publisher that doesn't carefully manage their business will be in trouble. In order to profitable, they will have to be profitable in comics, profitable in graphic novels (bookshops and comic shops), profitable in web comics, with the possibility of movies. Overseas sales may also be a bonus. It doesn't even have to be a large profit, as long as a small profit can be made each time. Any business that can pull off all four will be very profitable. Missing one may be sufficient for survival, but missing two will probably doom the company unless it pulls out of those areas it can't make a profit in. This is probably why Marvel are looking at $4 comics, because the elasticity of demand (i.e. readers won't give up X-Men) probably means revenue will rise, and smaller print runs will mean slightly lower costs. There will of course be a slight decline in sales, but possibly not that much in advance of the long term decline, provided the product is compelling. Personally I find the thought of a $4 comic (and the collapse of the Aussie dollar) enough to make me give up on half the comics I buy, since I can expect they will still be available as graphic novels, but that still mean profits for the publisher.

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Laurie Thomas

Great points and really love reading the response comments to.

I'm more of a manga reader so here are my thoughts:

Manga seems to do the reverse of what traditional American mainstream comics do. Manga seems to completely chatter to the young readers while chopping off older readers. I've started reading manga in 9th grade when I had no money, now that I am 20 and have some cash I find little to no manga that I would like to read.

When manga does chatter to an older audience, not including older manga works like Tezuka, it goes into an extreme niche like cute moe for men or gay porn for girls. Niche comics have their place but when you only have a choice between high school drama of the week and loli porn, there's not much left for us who want some thing a bit avant-garde. As you've stated niche entertainment only takes a few people to stop buying before it collapses. Comics may not collapse, but there will be a lot of tightening.

I don't know to what extent this move happens but I do find that many manga readers start to pick up other comics, especially idies, for what they used to find in manga. Which is a good comic from a sincere and devoted creator(s).

For the bookstore tightening, well, I've long stopped going to the book store to check out new books. They never stock the ones I want and I don't feel like paying the full 10-13$ of a book that the creator nor publisher get the full amount of. The books that I want have weird schedules like coming out only once every .5-1 year and I have to order them online anyway.

Still now, I dont like to drop 10$+ for something that I've never heard of nor seen any samples. Many publishers don't put any samples (or good samples. give samples that relate to the story, not the set up) online and if its not at the book store for me to view, then I'm not buying.

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Tim O'Shea

"It's great when cartoonists make money from their labor. It's even better when it's through a new economic model that should give us hope for the possibility of more to come."

I think the creators to watch are the ones that are looking to design their work for Iphones, but still looking for an eye for publishing (ie Dean Haspiel). I'm not saying the Iphone/Android is the only path ahead for new media outlets. But technology has the potential for taking us into uncharted territory, while still keeping a hand in traditional media outlets when creators choose them.

The music industry is nothing like the comic book industry, but the music industry is enduring major changes in how they do business. The number of independent music stores is dwindling. Some musical acts are leaving (or being abandoned) by record companies that they've been with for years.

Consider this little bit of data I heard on Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions' October 24, 2008 show:
"A year after they started their "pay-what-you-want" experiment for In Rainbows, Radiohead has finally revealed the results. It was a complete success. The album sold 3 million copies at various prices, as well as 100,000 box sets at $81. And, the band gets to reap nearly all the profits since they don't have to divvy it up with a record company or middle man..."
I don't know enough to say who are the Radioheads of the comic book industry.

I think it will be interesting to see how many folks with disposable income (a dwindling market share) will buy Kramers Ergot 7. Are there going to be less orders than there might have been six months ago? Maybe.

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Queenie Chan

I just read your column on The Comics Reporter about comics and the recession, and want to thank you for giving everyone your thoughts on this topic. I read through the reader's comments too, and want to add my own 2 cents into the debate. As an international manga creator who has collaborated with a big-name author (Dean Koontz for In Odd We Trust), my position is not really typical of most creators, which s why I find it worth discussing.

Firstly, to chip in on what Kiel Phegley said about the falling American dollar. Speaking as an Australian, the US dollar HAS been falling, but recently, so has the Australian dollar. The US dollar has been falling steadily since about 3 years ago, and was at its lowest to the Australian dollar (almost 1:1) just before the current financial crisis hit. However, in the past few weeks, the Australian dollar dropped suddenly and sharply, and things are back to the levels it was 3 years ago. It's a bizarre situation (not that I'm complaining), but it shows that we live in very volatile economic times, and while the US dollar is falling, other currencies are falling against it too. If this is a recession, then it's probably going to be a huge global one.

Secondly, while In Odd We Trust was meant to be an experiment, it seems to be one that worked. It sold very well, enough to warrant a second book. I'm not sure what it says from a publishing point-of-view though... perhaps it says big-name authors like Dean Koontz are recession-proof, but anything mainstream with a large and loyal fanbase usually is. That In Odd We Trust was drawn in manga-style may or may not be significant. Manga is easier to read and accessible to someone who's never read comics before, and perhaps that's what helped the book sell. All I can say is, at this point in time, this seems to be a formula that works. Big-name authors are likely to hover above the economic crisis, but the mid-list authors are likely to be the ones who will suffer. My greatest fear is that everyone will jump on the bandwagon and flood the market with product, much like what happened a few years ago with manga.

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posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 International Horror Guild Illustrated Narrative Category Winner

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Other nominees were Scalped: Indian Country, The Blot, The Arrival and Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds, Bees, Blood & Beer.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Comics Shop Photo Arrays

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Chapel Hill Comics Grand Opening

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Girls & Corpses Halloween Party at Meltdown

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posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Feud On Rimfire Ridge

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Roger Langridge in Nick

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posted 6:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Teratoid Cystoma

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the scans are really rough, but hey: free Osamu Tezuka!
 
posted 6:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Rutu Modan's New York Times serial, The Murder of the Terminal Patient, wrapped up yesterday. On the whole, I've enjoyed reading all of the comics they've put up, and this was no exception.

image* not comics 01: three days later, same costume, different picture, still adorable.

* not comics 02: I really like this costume.

* if I were doing the whole Halloween link thing over again, I'd include this perennial by Fred Hembeck.

* the writer Brian Doherty pens a short review of Bob Levin's excellent Most Outrageous.

* a couple of newspapers readers inform one of Gary McCoy's clients why "drinking the Kool-Aid" probably isn't an expression you should use when describing the actions of an African-American politician.

* the forthcoming Beasts 2 previewed.

* the cartoonist, AAEC Prez and syndication talent scout Ted Rall rips the New York Times a new one for assigning a writer who knows little about comics to a comics review, and then allowing him to make semi-ridiculous or otherwise strained statements from that context-light vantage point.

* finally, am I the only person in the world not a hardcore conservative pundit, sociopath, or hardcore conservative pundit sociopath that thinks Senator McCain wins tomorrow in pretty solid fashion? No matter what the polls say, I can't see Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Indiana or New Mexico going for Senator Obama.
 
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Zack Soto!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Tom Grindberg!

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Quick hits
Craft
Redesigning The Joker
Watchmen Is Literature

Exhibits/Events
Go See Neil Gaiman
Go See Jim Morin's Work
Go See Dick Locher's Art
Jay Piscopo Event Report
Go See Tim Seeley 11-05
Go See Ryan Clayton 11-14
Go See Nate Creekmore's Work
Go See Presidential Cartoons Exhibit

History
On JR Williams
On Jeff MacNelly
Top Ten Immortals
On Clifford Berryman
My New Favorite Name For A Cartoonist

Industry
Worst Story Of The Year?
More On Canadian Pricing
They Still Want You To Buy KE7
More On Canadian Pricing Woes
No, This Is Worst Story Of The Year
I'm Not Sure Where To Put This Link
I Hate Your Overly Politicized Cartoon

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Norm Feuti
NBM = Awesome
Echo: John Freeman
GOSH!: Kevin O'Neill
LA Times: Frank Miller
Bugpowder: Liz Lunney
The Star: Dave Gibbons
Studio 360: Jessica Abel
New York Times: Matt Mahurin
ABS CBN News: The Luna Brothers

Not Comics
I Certainly Hope Not
Peanuts Goes Webisode
Jonathan Ross' Long Week
Gren Immortalized In Metal
Gary Varvel Writes Movie Script

Publishing
UFS Picks Up Mike Lester
Creepy Project Previewed
Well, I Guess This Worked
Mutts Replaces Opus In Tulsa
Anti-Gang Comic Book Project
Solving The Energy Crisis With Comics
Fat Cat Returns to Rocky Mountain News
Band I Haven't Heard Of In Comic I Won't Read
I Like That John Byrne Is Doing Star Trek Comics

Reviews
Deb Aoki: COWA!
Bill Sherman: Hatter M
Sandy Bilus: War Is Hell
Rob Clough: Breakdowns
Steve Duin: Tamara Drewe
Rob Clough: Gus and His Gang
Brian Cronin: Tales Of The Closet
Chris Mautner: Demo, Swallow Me Whole
Don MacPherson: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1
Richard Bruton: All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder
 

 
November 2, 2008


Happy 81st Birthday, Steve Ditko!

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posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Two And One Half Dozen Not Very Deep Thoughts On Comics And Recessions

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Just thinking out loud. It's on my mind recently.

Something that should be noted right up top is that all of the arguments made and issues raised here are based on the idea of the world moving through a period of sustained economic distress that, as bad as it may get for many folks, is not quite a worldwide economic collapse of the Mel Gibson/George Miller variety. Clearly, arguments about the fortunes of the various comics industries should be treated differently when speaking to a future with 8 percent unemployment than they are when discussing a future with 82 percent cannibalism. Let's please try not to mix the two.

I'm not sure that any of what follows is smart or insightful. Rather than some refined, charged set of arguments on the tip of my fingers I felt I had to get up on the site, these thoughts are more like random, fleeting notions that my refusal to engage made me want to write them all down into place just so I can look at them a bit.

My general, gut take on the years ahead is that the comics industries can be expected to do as well as just about any other entertainment industry currently suffering groundbreaking paradigm shifts in format and presentation. In other words, it's hard to separate the effects of a recession from the effects of the Internet impressing itself on everything, and the interest in comics from book publishers and movie studios. If anything, it should heighten those effects or hurry them along. At the same time, the imbalanced, exploitative structure comics has established for itself over the decades makes for a greater risk of individual hardships along the way for some folks that can ill afford it. I'm neither concerned about nor worried after the size of those strange quarterly cash bonuses Marvel board members have received in the past, but I am worried about the rank and file creators and those whose muses don't necessarily make them candidates to seek out a broader bottom line. I'm not worried about comics dying. I'm worried about their remaining vital and lively and a place for many different voices to be rewarded in ethical fashion for what they do.

In the order they occur to me.

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1. Comics clearly aren't recession proof. I would argue they never were. Some of comics' darkest days came during recessionary periods in the '50, '70s and '80s.

2. There are a number of reasons to believe that comics are currently more susceptible than ever before to drastic effects resulting from economic downturn.

3. One reason comics may be at greater risk right now, and this has been noted just about everywhere, is that comic books no longer cost a thin dime. They frequently cost $2.99, and soon may cost between $3.50 and $3.99 for a single issue. Trade collections and original graphic novels commonly sell at price points between $7.99 and $24.99. Specialty volumes can go all the way up to $200. Together I think those figures disqualify comics from any and all assertions based on their being cheap and disposable entertainment. The act of buying comics in the 21st Century is a conscious, expensive and involved consumer choice. It is exactly those kinds of choices that are at risk during times of economic distress.

4. A second reason comics may be at greater risk right now is that overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests a general trend whereby more comics are sold to fewer people. In good times this may have been seen as the basis of a stable situation given the devotion and dependability of those customers. In bad times I'd suggest it takes fewer folks to alter their consumption habits to have a drastic effect on the bottom line. If you're not convinced by this argument, think in terms of local economics.

5. A third reason comics may be at greater risk right now is demographics. People between 35 and 45 years old react differently to general economic downturns than people between 12 and 17 years old do. Very few 15-year-olds are going to stop buying media because they lost 23 percent of their retirement money last month.

image6. As an aside, anecdotal evidence suggests that the 1980s generation of readers may already be shifting away from high levels of comics consumption. Nothing has quite replaced that decade's alt-weekly heavyweights like Ernie Pook's Comeek or built upon their foundation in similar hit-making fashion. The recently laid-to-rest newspaper feature Opus was hardly the hoped-for smash some believed might even revitalize newspaper readership. Recent comic book series from mainstream publishers designed to appeal to older readers haven't done as well as hoped. Just because we have more folks reading comic books beyond the age of 17 doesn't mean they're automatically going to read past the age of 35 or 40, or with the same passion and enthusiasm. We also don't know that a younger generation will continue to read comics on-line or with the same fidelity their grandparents displayed in following them in the newspaper. Comics is in uncharted territory reader-wise, and an economic downturn may hasten some trends rather while reversing others. Don't be surprised by the suddenness of some outcomes.

7. A fourth reason comics may be at greater risk right now is that the market appears flooded with product. Today's positive feelings about the number and types of comics being published may not reflect sustainable market validity. Sales may be left on the table by those who can't afford to do so over the long haul. Margins may be tighter and maintaining them may be more dependent on heavy publishing schedules than anyone cares to admit. There's even risk of a boom-bust effect hitting certain agencies within comics.

image8. A fifth reason comics may be at greater risk right now is that certain comics' profitability models depend on sales across categories, a chain of items and merchandise that all need to work together to ensure black ink. This was a danger sign suggested by Dan Didio at Heroes Con in Charlotte last June. An interconnected series of products may not be the strongest model with which to enter into tougher economic times. One underperforming title or item could diminish the returns on a large array of related products, leading to the ever-popular cascading effect. This is true both in terms of licensed product and in terms of product comics themselves. Today's re-launch of Ragman canceled after three issues is clearly not tomorrow's trade, showcase volume and/or absolute edition.

9. Even if you argue that the basic comics transaction is strong -- that people want comics, will always want comics, may want them more if times are bad, and will always find ways to buy them -- comics exists as a network of businesses outside of that core and in partnership with many others. Many of those businesses are likely to feel the pressure of a general economic downturn, which in turn will have an effect on how they deal with comics.

10. Prose publishing may remain infatuated with graphic novels, but publishing's not the healthy, optimally functioning industry people in comics may have projected onto it all these years. Climb into bed with someone, catch their colds. There seems to be a tendency to downplay the effect of huge events in book publishing. Just because Borders closing or something of similar size probably wouldn't be an extinction event for comics publishers doesn't mean it wouldn't be a horrendous blow across the board. Those of us working in or near comics need to be more cognizant of and resistant to the vagaries of prose book publishing.

11. Further, in a period of general economic downturn, it's safe to say that book publishers are likely to rely on tried and true behaviors and strategies that may or may not hold the values that comics industry people and cartoonists largely share. You may already being seeing this in terms of who is receiving contracts and for what projects.

12. The interest in comics as cross-media properties is great, I think. Let's be honest, though: it hasn't always benefited creators. The existence of that brass ring also encourage publishing models that in the long term are unsustainable and in the short term are artificially boosted in a way that drags on publications that could be legitimately successful. This cycle of dysfunction is enabled by a perennially hopeful and sometimes desperate creator class, a few individuals who design companies based on exploiting those hopes, and a widespread industry lack of backbone in calling these things exactly what they are and demanding better, more realistic, and more ethical models. I don't see any way a sustained economic downturn changes things.

13. The ongoing death spiral of American newspapers is likely to continue in a way that should in the next 18 months begin to have a greater and more obvious impact on comic strips. When Richard Thompson talks of his client base and says something along the lines of "I'm just glad there are still 125 newspapers out there," very few newspaper people laugh without some nervousness in there.

14. The lack of a industry-standard strategy for making money from syndicated comics on-line is going to be a huge disadvantage once we get past a certain threshold point in the Internet-focused publication era. Unfortunately, nobody will know when that line was crossed until it's too late.

15. One grumpy old man point that I think may be true, although I say this without rancor or expectation that it should switch back: some solutions folks have embraced that count on exploiting free may weaken the fabric by which that free thing is converted into a not-free thing, and there may come a point not to far in the future when free just leads to more free.

16. While many may argue that comics are much too popular and much too ingrained a part of the newspaper business to ever be in real danger -- and I hope they're right -- a widespread industry downturn can have a negative effect on several newspaper strip syndication practices. It's much more unlikely in tough times that any single syndicate is going to make a move to curtail their reliance on legacy strips, which one can argue weakens the comics page over the long haul just as much as it guarantees certain sales short-term. It's hard not to see the syndicate's business interest coming to play in the recent and what many feel is a creatively dubious decision to offer For Better Or For Worse as an extensively re-drawn do-over. Fees paid to creators for comics are unlikely to increase when newspapers are suffering the way they are right now. Syndicates may launch fewer new features, pay smaller advances, and even drop their minimums.

17. The big issue across the board in the near future may be a body blow to traditional advertising from which many comics have benefited. Declining print ads, a shift in classifieds and a leveling out of on-line ad revenue is at the heart of the newspaper crisis. Print comic books are filled with an astonishingly high percentage of house ads. No one knows the future of on-line advertising and what models that future will benefit.

18. Staffed editorial cartoonist positions are likely to remain in freefall during a general economic downturn. It's in no way radical to think these positions could shrink to as few as two dozen in the next decade, buttressed by a number of independent contractors and niche performers. While editorial cartoons remain valuable to many readers as a general field, many newspapers believe with some reason that staffed editorial cartoonist positions do not justify themselves. That no one from that field has made a strong case that that specific set-up is vital and necessary, I believe to be quite telling. Similarly, while there are promising traffic figures that can be derived from on-line cartoon viewing or animated versions of the same that may indicate a healthy future in the on-line arena, this hasn't progressed much behind a general positive feeling.

19. One positive for comics may be in that certain portions of the comic book industry are clearly lean and mean and already operate as if under economic duress. If there were multiple comics stores in every town over 25,000 people, a period of economic distress might hasten the demise of the less effective stores. If more small comics publishers were staffed by dozens of people who needed to make low six-figure salaries to make comics publishing a viable endeavor, there might be a lot of comics publishers closing their doors more quickly in an emerging down period. Comic strip syndicates tend to have fewer full-time staffers than many local movie theaters. It's hard to see a lot of these companies having fat to cut away in the name of extending profit.

20. At the same time, the leanness of many of comics business may cause them to cut muscle when no fat's available. If a comic shop goes out of business and it's the only comic shop within 50 miles, that's different than when the third comic shop in town goes bust. There's also something to be said -- in fact, we just said it a couple of points up -- against an industry that's willing to contort itself to feign profitability when it's not there.

21. I think in general we can feel better about a smart, comic book industry veteran core of devoted publishers and dedicated retailers and even ensconced book publishing folks than we could ten, twenty, thirty years ago. One way to look at it is that if a general economic downturn means fewer idiotic start-ups with unreasonable expectations and crappy contracts some which boast prime Los Angeles real estate addresses, I don't think anyone outside of those folks' families are going to be greatly concerned.

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22. Another potential positive for comics in what could be economic dark days ahead is the emergence of a class of cartoonists making up to six-figure salaries from the sale of endeavors based on or related to their on-line comics. It's great when cartoonists make money from their labor. It's even better when it's through a new economic model that should give us hope for the possibility of more to come. This specific merchandising-driven model is obviously not one that works for a lot of people or one that can be bottled and replicated, no matter how many people lean forward intently during the "make your web site profitable" phase of a convention panel. Yet this reminds us is that the standard should not be the bottom line but the bottom line as it has an impact on the creator's wallet. A model that fails to support a legal department, a procurement-responsible editor's ability to jet across the ocean to have a lunch meeting with a big-name star, and bunch of PR people hectoring a mostly-compliant media into their preferred publicity narrative doesn't have to be a bad thing. One might even argue that comics that fail to support the former way of doing things aren't failures and may just need to shed that old-school infrastructure. That doesn't mean I think the future of cartooning is one model over the other, just that the more possibilities we can place on the table the better, especially during tough economic times. Not only is it good to have as many options out there as one can wish into existence in order that they to match as many cartoonists as possible and all they hope to do, in comics emergent models have frequently forced the previous ways of doing things to reform or at least better justify themselves.

23. Gas prices are down again right now, but I think the late summer's price surge has made clear just how vulnerable comics could be to increased transportation costs over the long term. There's the bottom line of priorities when it comes to spending money: gas trumps comics for a lot of people. Also, traveling what may be a great distance to a "local" comic book shop on a weekly basis may become less desirable if gas prices go back up, and it doesn't take much for an individual's buying habits to be altered for a long period of time. The direct market for comic books depends on expensive shipping practices that could become more so, even prohibitively so for some people. The math for overseas printing and shipping by which many publishers have made affordable books may change drastically.

24. It's also worth being reminded that a lot of comic book convention business counts on both affordable travel and target audiences having money they wish to spend there. Shows with national or international status, shows with a strong regional foundation, and shows that have a tradition of good service and perceived cultural value should do better than shows that are more generic in nature and that count on being seen as national show . Other shows may have problems sooner rather than later.

25. A general economic downturn makes much less likely the pursuit of certain reforms within the industry, increasing the chances for a health care and retirement crisis for cartoonists and industry folk currently in the 45-65 age range.

26. A general economic downturn may lead to more companies grasping for models that manage to benefit them while not necessarily benefiting their partners in publishing. If you want an overall narrative for these companies' move into on-line work, that might be it.

27. I don't know many mainstream comics creators, but if I were one I think I might be scared shitless by rumblings that the comic book format may be in danger. Doing the comics and then collecting that material the trades are a way that more than a few people have made their comics' livings, far more than have made a living just doing original book-length comics.

image28. The one most effective thing you can do as a consumer to increase the pleasure you derive from comics during an economic downturn is to stop thinking of yourself as a consumer that engages the leading edge of books as they come out, but as a reader that simply enjoys comics. Because I bet deep down most of you are the latter. Fold some of your older books back into your new comics reading pile. Buy only what you like and only if you need it. Familiarize yourself with your local library holdings. Trade books with friends. Seek out discounted books and older books out of favor. I had a fun trip to the comics shop recently that was made much better by skipping the new superhero comics I wasn't certain I'd like and buying some old Master of Kung Fu comics by Doug Moench, Mike Zeck and Gene Day I dimly remembered enjoying. I enjoyed those quite a bit, and since they were in my shop's quarter bin, I had an experience similar to the disposable superhero comic book of the week experience that cost me 75 cents instead of $10. It's a big art form with multiple on-ramps. Use them all.

29. I'd hate to be a reeling business that might need credit right now to help right the ship. I think that describes a couple of businesses out there. Things could get bad enough you might see more and more corporate alliances, like DC exercising its Diamond option. On the other hand, there may be opportunities for companies with cash in reserve to make a move or two that could provide comics with overall benefit. For instance, if Reed Exhibitions were looking to add a Chicago or LA comics show to buttress their New York effort, now might be the time to press that advantage.

30. I don't know enough with what's going on with manga to suggest anything about it. That said, I remember a point when it seemed that merely suggesting that manga might not always surpass its growth numbers each and every year until eternity invited a bunch of derisive laughter about not getting manga and dismissing it as a fad. Not only do I love manga, but I think manga clearly reached a saturation point a a few years back where it was clear it was going to be a major publishing concern for some time. I don't think it's sacrilege to suggest manga's clearly not money in the bank according to whatever publishing model one would like to set up for whatever kind of material one would like to publish. What seems likely to me is a casting about for different models by which to bring some of this material to market, conservative and careful publishing by the majors with lots of resources, a publisher or two perhaps bowing out and a slightly more modest feel all around.

I don't know; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Send me something and I'll make a post of them tomorrow.

*****

that Captain Tie-In cartoon is I think a Richard Thompson effort I had sitting on my hard drive for no particular reason. I don't have any right to use it the way I did.
 
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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Oakland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: I knew it

* go, read: totally knew it

* go, listen: Dave Gibbons on the radio

* go, look: McCain Camp not fans of Doonesbury

* go, listen: Ivan Brunetti interview
 
posted 6:40 am PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #140—Buh!

On Friday afternoon, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Moments You Found Scary, Eerie, Chilling or Otherwise Unsettling In A Comic." This is how they responded.


*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. That dog running on two legs towards Maggie in Ghost of Hoppers.
2. The horrific murder of Ophelia's friends while Luba hides in the bushes in Poison River.
3. That giant bug crawls down Matthew Cable's throat.
4. Superman's body being stretched out by a black hole while he loses his shit.
5. 9-Jack-9 kills that girl really quietly in (I think) Zot! #23.

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. The girl who poked her own eyes out in the first arc of The Sandman
2. Eric watching his girl attacked as he died in The Crow
3. The giant space squid that destroys NYC in Watchmen
4. The first gruesome shootout in The Punisher (Max)
5. The Corinthian (also from Sandman)

*****



Mark Coale

1. The "I can see you" page from Animal Man
2. The Corinthian taking off his sunglasses for the first time in Sandman
3. Johnny Bates killing the nurse after turning into Dark Miracleman
4. Spider-Man being buried Alive in Kraven's Last Hunt
5. That House of Mystery story where the kid with the powers gets lobotomized

*****

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Chris Mautner

1) That dog with the hand in its mouth from Kevin Huizenga's "Green Tea."
2) A Jack Davis EC story where a bunch of ruthless land developers build a highway over a cemetery. Then the corpses come up from their graves and drive a steamroller over them! That shit really freaked me out as a kid.
3) That scene when Kid Miracleman is going to kill that nurse, decides not to because she was nice, then comes back and changes his mind again cause he's gotta protect his rep.
4) The kindergartners decide to fly off the top of the school building in Umezu's Drifting Classrom and fall and die.
5) That full-page panel at the end of the Junji Ito story "The Bully." I don't want to spoil it by describing it. Just go read the story.

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. That diner episode of Sandman.
2. When Guadalupe tells Heraclio that she'd seen Tonantzin under thatblasted tree at the end of Human Diastrophism.
3. When Slaine is informed, one by one, that all four of his adopted children have drowned.
4. That cover with Superman turned half to crystal shouting that he's going to get whoever did that to him. I just saw that in a house ad when I was six and knew I never wanted to read it.
5. That Hellblazer issue by John Smith set in the coin laundry, withthe two old ladies waiting for their dead friend.

*****

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Jones

1. The psychogeography chapter of From Hell
2. Man-Hog flaying his own leg
3. The guy with crustaceans in his eyes in Eightball #1
4. The abomination in Cerebus #299
5. The snake-eating-the-frog page in Cat-Eyed Boy

*****

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Chris Noble

1. Marshall Rogers' Joker-fish in Detective Comics.
2. Satan leaving chicken tracks in Xaime's "Flies on the Ceiling".
3. New York blown the hell up in Watchmen #12.
4. Erskine in "Wayfaring Stranger", from Lloyd Llewellyn
5. The first appearance of the Outer Church in "The Invisibles: Bloody Hell in America".

*****

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Sean T. Collins

* The demonic baby appears in the Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil: Decalogue
* The snail kid slithers into the classroom in Uzumaki
* The Hooded One confronts Tarsil in Bone
* Dark Side's minions torture Shiloh Norman in Grant Morrison's Mister Miracle
* The last page of B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground

*****



Chance Fiveash

1. Swamp Thing #38 (1985)... I was 13 and flipped through this at my local gas station/minute market... and it creeped me out so much that I didn't pick up the title again until Moore had long since left it. I was/am a p*&%y.
2. Creepy #146 This was the 1 shot Harris revival from 1985..I remember flipping through it at my local pick n save... it really disturbed me, big time...
3. Hate #?..when Stinky kills himself....I couldn't believe it...it seemed surreal....I was so in tuned to that comic that it really did affect me at that point in my life...
4. Any S. Clay Wilson comic story...
5. Walking Dead... I haven't read this in a few years, but it would always freak me out when a character would get bitten from out of nowhere! That's why I don't like zombie films... people eating people freak me out!

*****

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Wesley Osam

1. Ray Smuckles has dinner with Cartilege Head, from Achewood.
2. Glenn Ganges sees a dog with a living arm reaching out of its throat, from the Kevin Huizenga adaptation of "Green Tea."
3. Frank attends a party in honor of the dead at the House of Mystery.
4. Charlie Brown sees the giant head of Alfred E. Neumann looming over the horizon. (I was six, and genuinely unsettled.)
5. The narrator of Neil Gaiman's Mr. Punch comes upon a Punch-and-Judy show playing to a deserted beach... but there's no puppeteer behind the stage.

*****

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Michael Grabowski

5. The image of Earth being shattered in Metamorphosis Odyssey.
4. Woodrue destroys the town of Lacroix by making everyone's plants pump out excess oxygen, until someone lights a cigarette and it all blows up. A kid is forced to film it.
3. Kid Miracleman kills that nurse.
2. Cerebus' son Shep-Shep's vision of himself as a sphinx being worshiped by Egyptians.
1. "A Load of Baloney," an Ernie Pook's Comeek from 1991. In text, Mr. Ludermyer rants about the war and Maybonne imagines a passing airplane is a bomber just as a bookshelf crashes. In images, the moon rises behind the top of his head, then becomes the focus, then is the spotlight for the airplane, then is a bomber's target sight. "Our father who art in heaven I don't even know what to say to you anymore."

*****

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Gil Roth

* Flies on the Ceiling. The whole thing.
* The taxi coming closer in Bible John.
* Linda turning out to be a mermaid in Strange Tales #97.
* The Joker in Arkham Asylum not bothering to unmask Batman because "that IS his real face."
* Clay watching the snuff movie of his wife in Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron.

*****

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Richard Pachter

* The conclusion of Lee and Ditko's "Worm Man" in STRANGE TALES 78 (11/60)
* Lois Lane marries X-Plam in Superman 136 (4/60)
* Guardian blowed up real good in Alpha Flight 12 (7/84)
* The death of Superman (But it was an imaginary story! Whew!) in Superman No. 149 (11/61)
* The conclusion of Lee and Ditko's "Worm Man" in STRANGE TALES 78 (11/60) (because it still upsets me!)

*****

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Eric Reynolds

1. When Ed the Happy Clown's leg breaks in two places
2. When Stinky shot himself
3. When that guy on all fours in Velvet Glove says to Clay, "I'm very lonely, do you want to get together later?"
4. When Manhog shaved the skin off his leg
5. Gritbath

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) Sandman #6 "24 Hours" -- I found the horrors that the diners visit upon one another enthalling and appalling.
2) Batman: The Killing Joke -- The Joker's decision to show Commission Gordon the despicable things he'd done to his daughter made him the epitome of evil.
3) All of the little-girl vampires from various 30 Days of Night comics.
4) Swamp Thing #21 -- When Swampy learns he's a plant and never a man "The Anatomy Lesson" -- hoo boy.
5) Mr. Hyde's bloody violation of his invisible ally in the second League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series.

*****

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Eric Knisley

1. The birth and cannibal frenzy of the monstrous human/fish/vampire hybrid from Swamp Thing ("Still Waters", I think was the story).
2. The Specter's defeat by the Big Black Hand of Evil in Swamp Thing.
3. Manhog's self-flaying from "Manhog Beyond the Face" by Jim Woodring("Now he's...I wonder what's going on outside the shed. I wish we could look out the window. I wonder how many grains of rice there are in a fifty pound sack")
4. The cover of OMAC #1 by Jack Kirby.
5. The discovery of the throat-mouth in "Black Hole: Racing Towards Something" by Charles Burns. As well as pretty much the entire series, the covers to the comics, the hardback collection, its slipcover, the spot it occupies on my bookshelf...

*****

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Jeffrey Meyer

1. The Hostess cupcakes ad with Batman, where a musician is sucked into a piano
2. All of Jaime's "Flies on the Cieling" but especially the human-sized bird-footprints
3. The demon-possessed pigs hurtling off the cliff in one of Chester Brown's gospel adaptations
4. "The Trumpets They Played" by Al Columbia
5. When they lose gravity on the flight to the moon in Herge's "Explorers on the Moon"

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. News of the self immolation in Gilbert Hernandez' Blood of Palomar.
2. Pretty much all of Barefoot Gen (aka Gen of Hiroshima)
3. Finding out what Fletcher Hanks was really like in I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets
4. "Self" by Vaughn Bode'
5. "... and then some idiot turned out the lights..."

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. The baseball game with a corpse used as the playing equipment in the EC story, "Foul Play."
2. The butcher counter full of the butcher's body parts in the EC story, "Taint The Meat, It's The Humanity."
3. The two-page spread of a woman's ghost crawling on the ceiling and around a corner, from a story in the first volume of the manga Mail
4. When people start entering the human-shaped holes in the side of a mountain in a story from the second volume of Junji Ito's Gyo
5. The dead baby is found in the sewer in Tatsumi's The Push Man and other Stories

*****

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Ryan Kirk

1. Chris gets a beating in Charles Burns' Black Hole
2. Rachel and Susie are found in the prison barber shop in The Walking Dead
3. The "24 Hours" issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman
4. Orange gets... peeled in The Breakfast Crew (Mome, Vol. 12)
5. The Hulk rips apart Tigra in The Last Avengers Story.

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1. That moment in Sandman when Doctor Dee is hanging out in the diner, swinging -- what was it, a watch chain?
2. When the guy pushes the baby out the window in the one Cry for Dawn I ever read. It harrowed me so much I never picked up another issue again. the rest are kind of cheats)
3. The first moment I saw work by Charles Burns: Some El Borba piece that terrified me so much I couldn't even pick up the comic.
4. My first exposure to Renee French--The Ninth Gland? Earlier? Her art was just so damn unsettling...
5. Every panel of Nurture the Devil by Jeff Johnson. When I discovered this comic, I had to purchase it, even though it made me feel like I was buying porn. Sinister, evil, dangerous porn.

*****

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Michael Spence

1. Chester Brown eats a booger
2. Young Phoebe Gloeckner and her mom's boyfriend get it on
3. That hairy dog from Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron
4. Life on the Hell Planet (Complete)
5. That seven headed thing in "The Trumpets they Play"

editor's note: if he didn't mean "prisoner on the hell planet," I'm changing his answer so he meant it

*****
*****
 
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

That was quite the football game last night.
 
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Several Things I’d Be Doing At APE

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This morning the Alternative Press Expo gets underway in San Francisco, in its new Fall weekend slot. I wish I were able to go. If you are, here's some things I would be doing were I in your shoes.

1. I would get stuff signed by T. Edward Bak, attend the Chris Ware panel, and at least one or two other D&Q-related activities.

2. I would do all of these Buenaventura Press-related things, including 1) pre-order or otherwise secure a copy of KE7, 2) go to their heavy-hitter signings, 3) go to any KE7-related programming and 4) go to their art show. During each visit I would whine about wanting them sometime in the future to start providing permalinks for their posted news releases.

3. I would go say Hi to Eric Reynolds at the Fantagraphics booth, because it's been a while since I've seen Eric for more than a few minutes. Hey, Megan Kelso is going to be there. Who doesn't like Megan Kelso?

4. I would go to any and all related social events advertised on this site today and tomorrow.

5. I would track down David King and buy stuff from him. I like that guy -- criminally undervalued.

6. I would walk the entire floor at least once, trying not to forget Fanfare/Ponent Mon.

7. I would track down Tom Neely and take one of the posters he's giving away I think for free. Or if I'm wrong about that, I would buy one. That's a panel from it on the top of this post.

8. I'd go see the the Chris Ware spotlight panel.

9. I'd go check out the Hellen Jo comic that Sparkplug's just done. I wasn't aware until a couple of days ago they were doing one.

10. I would go to Last Gasp's booth and stare at this book.
 
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November 1, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

November 2
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November 8
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from October 25 to October 31, 2008:

1. Appeals court in Yemen postpones what I believe may be the last remaining legal action against someone having to do with the original Danish Muhammed caricatures controversy.

2. Garry Trudeau submits a week's worth of Doonesbury that predicts the outcome of the forthcoming presidential election.

3. The Geppi Entertainment Museum settles their back rent issue.

Winner Of The Week
James Kochalka

Loser Of The Week
Wizard's ability to field a softball team

Quote Of The Week
"DAVID HEATLEY IS A NON-ISSUE OUTSIDE COMICS CIRCLES." -- Frank Santoro

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Oakland, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Some MoCCA Functionary on MAD Magazine Cover Show (PR) (10/26/08)
* Some MoCCA Functionary On Kim Deitch-Related Events At MoCCA (PR) (10/26/08)
* John Vest On Warren Ellis, Ruins and 1990s Mainstream Comic Books (10/25/08)
 
posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
This May Be The Cutest Halloween-Related Thing I’ve Seen In My Life

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