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Calvin Reid on PWCW’s Roundtable
posted June 28, 2006

Sigh. My response to Tom's very strange reaction to our roundtable discussion (A New Era in Comics Publishing: A Roundtable, PWCW June, 27) on the state of comics publishing is simple. Please read the article yourself and make up your own mind. I know you'll discover a discussion that is the exact opposite of Tom's description.

Ian Brill has put together a lively discussion by key comics professionals focused on the most important issues of the day in the medium. We used email to put questions to a number of very busy professionals-how else to get them all together quickly and easily--and they responded with candid, forthright and thoughtful answers. These are people who know the statistics and the evolution of the comics medium and the comics market over time.

The participants are Bob Wayne, v-p, sales for DC Comics; Chris Oarr, sales account manager of ADV; Gerry Donaghy, graphic novels buyer at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.; Chris Butcher, manager, The Beguiling.; Mark Siegel, editorial director, First Second, Henry Holt/Roaring Brook's graphic novel imprint; and Eric Reynolds, director of publicity, Fantagraphics Books.

We gave them an opportunity to talk about the most important issues in contemporary comics in a manner that's smart and fun and accessible to a broad audience. When you read it you won't end up scratching your heads, perplexed over the relevance of arcane sales figures or by pugnacious remarks meant to provoke rather than illuminate. Now where I have encountered that experience before? And yes we also believe that Neil Gaiman's Endless Nights making The New York Times extended hardcover bestseller list in 2003 is meaningful.

The questions put these professionals are focused on how the industry has evolved since its most troubled periods in the 1990s.Rather than being broad and evasive, the questions are focused, thoughtful and to the point. The responses from our roundtable of professionals are equally thoughtful, sometimes polemical, speculative when appropriate and always passionate. And remember; the responses are from people who work on the frontlines of comics publishing and retailing every day.

You can believe Tom, and fret over punctuation and typos, or you can read the article and make up your own mind. And when you do read it, you'll find an excellent effort to bring together informed opinion and present it to a broad audience of professionals and consumers-not just hardcore comics bloggers-consumers excited about comics and curious about comics publishing in a whole new era.


Tom Spurgeon responds:

Hi, Calvin. I appreciate the letter and I respect you supporting Ian's piece.

A few things: I don't think there's anything in my post about punctuation, and I explicitly say typos are not the point. The meat of my criticism is that this roundtable was empty, vague and assertive. Your letter is very descriptive, but not very specific in the counterpoints, so I'm not sure if I can engage it. I'm sure plenty of people who are discovering these issues for the first time might conceivably be impressed with this roundtable. But I don't think it's an either/or. PWCW could have done a better roundtable; drawing out an example here and there doesn't mean you're sucked into a vortex of inscrutable jargon.

As for the Endless Nights thing, I think you severely miss my point. There is never any doubt in my mind or evidenced in any of my writing whether or not Neil Gaiman continues to be an important creator. He is. Endless Nights was an important event in the way you described and one other way as well. If you or the editor in charge had simply asked Mr. Brill to write as specific a sentence as the one you provide, I would have perhaps disagreed that this is the best example, but I could not have accused the introduction of being so vague. But vague it was, and the resulting broader than broad standard is what his examples were judged against.

PWCW is a paid-per-job, institutionally supported publication that has expressed an open desire to become its coverage area's magazine of record. It's disappointing that as light a round of criticism as this -- asking that you fact-check a publisher's name in an interview introduction isn't exactly a brutal standard, Calvin -- is met with snide comebacks about the critic's work, persecution rhetoric and claims that y'all work so, so hard already. I would kill for 1/100 of your resources and will continue to hold you to the higher standards they demand.