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Friday, July 13, 2007

FAQ ADD: Frequently Asked Questions about The ADD Blog -- Here's a handy primer to the who, what, where, why, when and how of The ADD Blog.

* Who are you? I'm Alan David Doane, a radio broadcaster since 1986 and a husband and father of two. I live in Upstate New York.

* What's this blog about? Comics, mostly. I've been reading comic books since 1972, and writing about them since the mid-1990s for a variety of websites such as Silver Bullet Comic Books, Newsarama, and this one here, Comic Book Galaxy. In print I've contributed to The Comics Journal and other magazines. On this blog, in addition to writing about comics I also cover anything else that interests me, including real life, music and movies. But since my main interest in life has been comic books for 35 years, mostly what I write about is comic books.

* How long have you been blogging? Since June 2nd, 2002. There have been a couple of lengthy hiatuses along the way, but I never stop writing about comics for long.

* So you really like superheroes? You must be new around here. It's a fairly common misperception if you say you like comic books that you must mean superheroes. But superheroes are only one genre among many that define the comic book artform, so equating a love of comic books with a love of superheroes is like assuming someone loves only westerns because they like movies. Probably my favourite genre within the comics artform is autobiography, like the works of Robert Crumb, James Kochalka, Harvey Pekar and Jason Marcy.

* Wait, you're the guy that hates superheroes, right? No, some of my favourite comics of all time are superhero stories, like Miller and Mazzucchelli's Daredevil: Born Again or Ellis and Hitch's The Authority. I do hate bad superhero comics, though, and these days, that's mostly what the corporate comic book publishers are turning out. I'd like to see that change, so that future generations of comics readers can enjoy the drama and excitement that the very best superhero comics can offer.

* But you are the guy that hates the direct market, right? Not really, I just think now that the whole world is reading comics again, it's time for those who claim to be professional comic book retailers to actually be professional. I wrote extensively about this in a multi-part essay called "A Future For Comics."

* So what kind of comics do you like? Well, there's no one word that encapsulates the comics that excite and engage me the most, although I tend to call 'em artcomics or artcomix. You might think of them as undergrounds, alternatives, or even "black and white independent filth." I don't universally love any form of comics, though -- there are good and bad comics in every category, and I'm most committed to finding and writing about good comics, no matter what label someone might want to slap on them.

* Who makes the kind of comics you like the most? You can take a look at my fairly extensive list of recommended comics, graphic novels and related publications, but offhand the creators I almost always enjoy include Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Robert Crumb, Eddie Campbell, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Warren Ellis, Renee French, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Harvey Pekar, Paul Hornschemeier, James Kochalka, B. Krigstein, Jason Marcy, Barry Windsor-Smith and Yoshihiro Tatsumi. To name a few. The publishers that seem to release the books I like the most include Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf and Pantheon Books.

* How can I find out what kind of comics I will enjoy the most? Find critics whose tastes clearly intersect with your own, and follow their recommendations into places you might previously have avoided. If Critic A's explanation of why they like a book you like makes sense to you, then find a book they recommend that you haven't read, and try that one. Watch the magic happen. This is a large part of why criticism matters in every artform, including comics.

* How much are my comics worth? On average, if you're lucky, you'll get about 12 cents from a dealer for any random comic book. That's half of what they'll charge when they throw it in their quarter bin. There are comics that are worth a lot of money, but the chances are that you don't have them. Because the comics that are worth the most money are some combination of old, in excellent condition, highly desirable, and extremely rare. If you must put a price on your comics, go to your library and check out The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. It is far, far from perfect, but it will give you a rough idea what your books may be worth. Remember that condition counts for a lot, and grade your comics accurately. Finally, remember that if you try to sell your comics to a comic book dealer, chances are, at best, they will give you 50 percent of the values listed in the Overstreet guide. Why? Because they have bills to pay. If you want to get the maximum return on valuable comics you may own, you'll have to sell them some other way, such as through an auction service or on eBay. This is much more time-consuming, though, so think about what's most important to you: Selling them fast (to a dealer for less money), or getting the most money (selling them to individual collectors).

* Which comics should I be buying as investments today? None. Occasionally a new comic book will be highly sought-after and demand high prices, but the vast majority of comic books being published today are published in enough numbers that they'll never be worth more than cover price, if even that.

* Why should I buy comics? There's only ever one real answer to that, and that is because you like to read them. If everyone bought only the comic books they genuinely love, then the publishers will make many more of those sorts of comics. Multiple covers and other schemes designed to make people buy comic books they don't read may be good for the short-term bottom-line of the corporate sector of the comic book industry, but they are disastrously destructive to the longterm health of the comic book artform. That's because they sour the suckers who buy into the "investment" aspect of comics on the idea of comics in general. So for your own best interests and those of comics as a storytelling medium, please, buy only the comics you enjoy. And tell your friends about them.

* I want to make comics. What should I do? Make them. Do your best to improve your craft, whether it's writing, drawing, or both. Tell stories that have the most personal meaning and importance to you as a human being. Educate yourself about the pitfalls of working in comics (low pay, companies taking your rights away without proper compensation and benefits, etc.) and be sure you always watch out for your best interests. If a publisher offers you a contract, go over it with your own attorney to be sure your interests are protected. Corporations will always protect and promote themselves over the interests of any individual creator. This doesn't mean "don't work for corporate comic book publishers," it just means "know what you're doing before you do."

* Will you review my comic? I'll certainly consider it. The address to send me review copies is near the top of the sidebar on the right side of this page.

* Why didn't you review my comic? Although I try to review every comic I receive, it's not always possible or even desirable to review every single thing that I read. If I didn't review your comic, it doesn't mean it's no good. But good or bad, the comics most likely to get reviewed by me are the ones that elicit a strong reaction as I read them. The least likely comics to get reviewed by me are ones that are simply average, mediocre comics. If they're spectacularly good or spectacularly bad, though, chances are very good they will be mentioned here.

* Where do you recommend I buy comics from? If you're talking mail-order, I strongly recommend Amazon.com and Lone Star Comics; they both offer excellent and timely service, and because if you click over to them from this site and buy something, it helps support my own efforts here. If you're talking about specific comic shops I recommend, there is a list of outstanding comic shops in the links in the sidebar. I've visited every one of them, and they're all worth a visit.

* I'd like to advertise on The ADD Blog. Can I do that? Sure. Just send me an e-mail and we'll talk.

* I want to publish comics. Any advice? Loads. First, realize that no new comics company can be expected to make any money whatsoever within the first five years of its existence. If you do not have the capital shored up to protect against that fact, and do not have the confidence that your books will be of such high-quality as to ensure a large readership that builds over the first three years, then do not start your new comics company until you can meet those marketplace realities. Wishing will not make it so, and if you build it, history has shown that they will not come. Be aware that no one wants your new superhero universe or American-created manga-style comics. No one.

Also: Just because you like a writer or artist, that does not mean that readers will like their work. The worst thing an editor or publisher can do is be buddies with the talent they publish. If your judgment is thus compromised, you owe it to yourself, your creators and your readers to seek out blunt, critical analysis of the quality of the work and its likelihood of success before publishing it. If you must publish comics and are not already an established company with a well-known line and a reliable slate of books, then start your new company with one bulletproof book that is so well done and wildly entertaining that it can serve as the foundation of a steadily-growing company over the course of the next five years. History has shown time and again that this is the most reliable way to build a brand and create a publishing company. Finally, if you cannot afford a full-time publicity department that is dedicated to getting your books the maximum exposure possible, then you cannot afford to be a publisher. Hiring the talent and printing the books is no more than 50 percent of the equation that results in a successful book.

* As a reader, how can I make comics better? Don't continue to buy and support comics that do anything less than dazzle you with their ingenuity, their quality storytelling, and their elegance of purpose and design. The only reason any publisher can continue to produce bad comics is because people buy them out of habit or to have a "complete collection." Just stop, and comics will get better.

Also: Go through your collection regularly, and pluck out any comics you haven't felt the need to re-read for a year or more. Set them aside, and evaluate whether you really want to spend a portion of your rent money providing space for comics you no longer want or need. Throw them out, trade them, give them away, or sell them on eBay. Make room for better comics in your home, and in your life. Make careful note of the creators and publishers who tend to create books that you are not still excited about months after you first read them. Reconsider investing your money in their books in the future. Would you return time and again to a restaurant that served you bad food? There's so much more out there, waiting to be discovered. What are you waiting for?

* How often is this blog updated? 14 times a week, according to one statistic I saw recently, which averages out to twice a day, every day. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less. You can always subscribe to The ADD Blog RSS Feed if it makes your life easier.

* Who are your favourite critics and bloggers? Roger Ebert, Tom Spurgeon, Chris Allen, Rob Vollmar, and Johanna Draper Carlson all come to mind. They, and other favourites of mine, are linked from the sidebar on the right side of this page.

* How can I become a critic? Probably the best information I've seen on this subject is Johanna Draper Carlson's thoughts on how to review comics. My to-the-point advice is: Be passionate, be truthful, and seek out diversity.

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