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Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Value of Palomar -- Earlier today I mentioned that Palomar would be a bargain at twice its $40.00 price. AK seems to agree, in a post filled with appreciation for Gilbert Hernandez's magnum opus.

Calvin's Reclusive Creator -- Ever wonder what happened to Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson? I have to say, this subject comes up at least a couple of times every year. As Mark Evanier notes, this article doesn't tell you much, but it's worth reading for what little is there.

Johnny Bacardi Reviews -- Nice batch of reviews at the Johnny Bacardi Show. I agree with him on all the titles he reviews that I've read, including, unfortunately, his decision to drop Catwoman. The new Gulacy-drawn issue is a sad jumping-off point, but I can't bring myself to support such a bad creative change for even one more issue.

Do Comics Cost Too Much? -- --- Not the good ones. The problem is, there aren't enough good comics.

Speaking as an adult with a decent discretionary income, rarely does a week go by that I spend as much as I'd like to on comics, because I don't buy the ones that don't consistently entertain me and fire my imagination. So I often leave the comics shop having spent less than I could have, because there's simply not enough good comics worth buying.

Of the titles I get the most excited about, say, Eightball, Forlorn Funnies, Acme Novelty Library, Love and Rockets and a select few others, they could easily double their cover price and I wouldn't blink. THEY'RE THAT GOOD. Anyone who's read Palomar will tell you they'd still have bought it, knowing how good it is, if it was double the price, assuming their rent and groceries were covered that month.

Cost only is a factor when you are suffering truly bad financial hard times, or when the books are so marginal (i.e., most "good" Marvel and DC titles) that you'd drop them if they cost a quarter more. If that quarter makes that much difference, either you're at the limits of your budget or the comic probably isn't very good. Truly good comics, to quote a friend, are worth every penny.

Update: -- Mick Martin has a gratifyingly thoughtful response.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Congratulations -- Mick Martin has finally discovered that Brian Azzarello is a card-carrying member of The Overrated Club, along with Paul Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Letdown of the Week -- Actually, the change in art styles in DC's Catwoman is one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Randy Lander's review is dead-on.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Young GODS and Friends is Coming -- I've gotten an advance copy of Barry Windsor-Smith's Young GODS and Friends hardcover, and it is gorgeous.

I was involved in the production of the book early on, as was my former Comic Book Galaxy compadre Rob Vollmar, and our aborted forewords appear in an interesting pastiche along with those by Dave Sim and another couple of people...reading it straight through as one piece (the fragments separated by font style) not only serves to put the book in context but is entertaining in its way, like a David Lynch movie...you're not sure what you've seen, but you are compelled while experiencing it and left pleasingly exhausted afterward.

This is the first of three volumes that will reprint the three serials from BWS: Storyteller, and man, in addition to the previously-published Young Gods chapters, there are a TON of extras -- unpublished chapters, story fragments, sketches, essays, correspondence, and more. The reproduction is outstanding, maybe the best colour reproduction of BWS art short of his Opus art books.

Unfortunately, I'm told the books probably won't arrive in the US until January, which is a goddamned shame, as this would make a hell of a holiday gift for comics readers.

So here's a heads-up that it IS on its way (literally), and if you like BWS's art you might want to tell your retailer now to set aside a copy for you.

Best Best of 2003 -- Derek Martinez just blew my ass out of the water.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The ADD Blog's Best of 2003

For the past few years I’ve been writing about comic books, first on one of those do-it-yourself GeoCities pages (gah!), then for Silver Bullet Comics, then for three years at Comic Book Galaxy. Each year I took the opportunity to reflect back on the releases of the previous 12 months, and this year it seems to me provided perhaps the strongest evidence yet that the artform of comics is alive and thriving, even if the floppy-addicted industry is sputtering blood at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Don’t worry, guys, all that cheap newsprint will soak up the blood quite nicely.

Floppy, monthly comics were certainly a wasteland in 2003, but that’s status quo. The best titles DC and Marvel had to offer on a regular basis represented just a fraction of their output, and of those, Catwoman underwent unwelcome artistic changes, Sleeper is slated to come to an unwelcome end (for now), and The Ultimates continued to appear sporadically and with a disheartening lack of focus in its most recent issues (although scheduled to be relaunched soon and supposedly closer to on-schedule – we’ll see).

It comes as no surprise to me, then, to see that the comics I most enjoyed during the year, and the ones I believe will be remembered long after 2003 is a memory, were in the category of graphic novels. 2003 was the year that the public accustomed itself to the term, even if it failed to appreciate its most subtle alleged nuances.

Graphic Novel of the Year

As I write this, Mother, Come Home hasn’t even been released yet by Dark Horse, but the graphic novel’s serialization came to a finish in the pages of Paul Hornschemeier’s sublime Forlorn Funnies, certainly the best regularly-published floppy comic book of recent years. Mother, Come Home came as a surprise after the experimental first issue, a three-part graphic novel reaching deep into the depths of despair and childhood regret as Hornschemeier crafted a possibly-autobiographical tale of a young boy who loses his mother and father, although in two very different ways.

The structure of the story was more formal than is usual for Hornschemeier, leading me to think he set himself the goal of conveying this particular story with as much direct impact on the reader as possible. He succeeded wildly, delivering surprise and a palpable sense of loss in the knockout final chapter.

I’ve been shouting “Hornschemeier!” from the rooftops of the online comics community for as long as I’ve known about his work, and the growth and willingness to explore his own abilities continues to surprise and delight me. The brilliant Mother, Come Home is the first longform evidence that his career is one well worth watching.

Collection of the Year

The first real exposure I had to the work of Jim Woodring was in this year’s extraordinary hardcover dubbed The Frank Book. Collecting virtually every story and illustration about this odd little animation-style character (is it a cat? What the hell is it?), The Frank Book is a gorgeous and gigantic slab of strangeness. Woodring’s storytelling seems shipped in from another galaxy, while his visual sense is nothing less than mind-altering. Your eyes are comfortable with his wildly vivid and paradoxically colour palette, while the narrative is both freakishly bizarre and altogether delightful.

Woodring has said that his art is informed by hallucinations he has experienced all his life, and The Frank Book does nothing to dispel that claim. What it does is lay out the map of his unique consciousness, making both creator and reader all the richer for the experience.

Biggest Graphic Novel of the Year

Craig Thompson’s Blankets was a huge event and a real accomplishment, 600 or so pages of autobiographical cartooning presented as an original graphic novel. It was a big deal for publisher Top Shelf Productions, and represented a real breakthrough for the industry.

Unfortunately, some distance from the event has given me some perspective that has tempered my initial assessment. While I think Blankets is overall a worthwhile work, it contains numerous flaws that prevent me from considering it as any sort of timeless classic. Thompson’s fascination with his first love is a bit trite and simplistic, and some themes, such as childhood sexual abuse, seem like narrative dead ends rather than fully explored story elements.

In the end I think Blankets is mostly notable for the impact it had, both in sales and industry awareness, and in the lower-back pain of readers everywhere.

Art Book of the Year

The quiet entry of the Acme Novelty Library Datebook into the cultural consciousness came in large part due to the common misconception that it would actually be a “datebook.” Rather, Chris Ware released a comprehensive and visually stunning collection of sketchbook pages. Perhaps it was modesty that prevented the artist or publishers from promoting this for what it was, but the Acme Novelty Library Datebook is one of the most revealing and intensive comics-related art books ever to be released, and most assuredly one of the most important releases ever.

You don’t have to be a Chris Ware fan to enjoy seeing his development as an artist or appreciate the meticulous design of the book, a true art object in its own right. You don’t have to be a Chris Ware fan to be fascinated by how his obsessions developed and transformed over time as he grew into one of the most important cartoonists ever. You don’t have to know a single, goddamned thing about the man. But if you pick up this book, you’ll be mesmerized by what it contains and reveals, and in the end, you will respect and admire his work, and you will want more.

And Consequently...

The dramatic impact of the arrival of the Datebook shouldn’t be allowed to diminish the year’s other incredible Chris Ware offering. Quimby the Mouse delivered a powerful assortment of cartoons demonstrating Ware’s astonishing range. These early strips focus on a cartoon mouse whose real concerns hew closely to Ware’s other characters, but the tiny multitude of panels and frenetic activity defy easy absorption. The volume was available in both hardcover and softcover format, but the hardcover is the better value and demands a place in your collection.

Best Humanistic Depiction of Depravity

Dave Cooper’s Ripple is the harrowing story of an artist’s obsession with his grotesque muse; the great accomplishment of the work is how Cooper manages, quite deftly, to get the reader fully involved in this obsession. It’s the most convincing depiction of strange attraction I’ve ever seen.

Travelogue of the Year

I went to Canada this year courtesy of Paul Has A Summer Job. Spent many weeks at camp, learning about nature and life and decency and regret. Michel Rabagliati’s tale was a heartfelt look back at innocence and growing up.

Anti-Travelogue of the Year

You probably won’t want to set sail anytime soon after reading The Speed Abater, the story of a sailor who has no idea what he’s getting himself in to. Christophe Blain used his personal experience to craft a funny, claustrophobic tale of human fallacy.

In A League of Their Own

This was a good year for fans of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with both the original mini-series being reconfigured in the mammoth LOEG: The Absolute Edition and a standard-sized release of LOEG: Volume Two. Both are twisted adventure tales that will entertain no matter how many times you re-read them. My favourite line from Volume Two? Hyde’s chilling, subtle “I saw to his end,” in regard to the death of a key character. Horrific and hilarious.

Speaking of Hyde

Lorenzo Mattotti’s surreal, fevered artwork was perfect for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a new interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel. This adaptation was note-perfect and a great example of how this sort of thing should be done.

Saga of the Year

Gilbert Hernandez proved once and for all that he is among the very few living masters of comics art with the massive hardcover Palomar. Resequenced and recontextualized, Palomar as a single work is a revelation after two decades of reading these stories separated from their greater context. Brilliant, life-affirming storytelling – if you’re looking for the Citizen Kane of comics, here’s a contender for the title.

Black and White and Jeffrey Brown All Over

Brown’s release of two great graphic novels this year – Clumsy and Unlikely – quickly established him as the primitive autobio guy to watch. His uncorrected, raw cartooning laid his soul bare and left readers eager for more revelations.

Truly Mad Ideas

With all the claims of “mad ideas” by glorified superhero writers, it’s nice to see someone truly explore madness. Chester Brown has the chops to do it, too, as he has personal experience with mental illness – his mother was diagnosed a schizophrenic, and in recent issues of Cerebus, his answers to questions from Dave Sim don’t paint him as altogether well, either. No matter, his huge hardcover Louis Riel explores the passion and madness of the titular character, a key figure in Canadian history who is fascinating even if you’ve never heard of him before cracking open this volume. Drawn and Quarterly turns out their usual divine production work, making Louis Riel one of the most beautiful books-as-art-object released this year.

Who Cares What You Think?

Well, I do, of course. Put together your Best of 2003 list together and e-mail it to me and I’ll post ‘em here.

And remember, if you enjoy the ADD Blog, your support is always appreciated and helps keep the blog available and free for readers.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Comic Relief Effort -- I received a very nice e-mail from Rory Root at Comic Relief. Rory is asking for folks to buy a graphic novel or two (or five, says I...) from his store if you can, to help the store through a rough financial patch. Rory's well-known as one of the best comics retailers in the country, and definitely deserves your support. He asked me to mention that if you want to place an order, e-mail Comic Relief at info@comicrelief.net.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Good Causes in Comics -- I only know Rory Root from some online message boards, but from what I know of him, he's an extremely intelligent and progressive retailer who is Good For Comics in a very real way. He needs some help, so see what he has to say and buy some comics from him.

Writer Steven Grant is also asking for some help, and will repay those who can help him out. If you've ever enjoyed one of his comics or his terrific column at Comic Book Resources, I know you'll help if you can.

Dave Sim City -- The new issue of Cerebus is worth picking up for a couple of reasons. It reprints Chester Brown's short strip about his mother and schizophrenia, which leads into a lengthy discussion between Brown and Dave Sim about mental illness, religion, prostitution and sexuality in general.

I don't have the issue in front of me, but I was really struck by Sim's obvious intelligence and his near-manic drive to debate the issues he sees as important. I disagree with him on a very fundamental level about relationship issues and especially about gays and lesbians (who he literally equates with puddles of vomit on the street), but I was fairly riveted by the passion with which he defends his ideas.

I even found myself sympathizing with him in some areas -- I think he's on to something about the need for honesty in relationships, but his personal experience has driven him to such bizarre defense mechanisms that any real dialogue with him would probably be futile.

And I learned Chester Brown frequents prostitutes, which despite having read many of his graphic novels, I did not know.

Little to no discussion of Louis Riel, but I imagine they'll get back to that in the concluding chapter of their discussion next month. Then I can go back to not reading Cerebus.

Around the Net -- I don't need to tell you what interesting comics-related topics are being discussed right now online, because Sean Collins has already done the work. Go see.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Die, Floppies, Die! -- Mick Martin mostly agrees with Franklin Harris on the issue of floppies, and makes some good additional points about the psychology of sharing floppies vs. graphic novels, too.

New Graphic Novel Site -- Modern Tales has launched its Graphic Novel Review sub-site. It kicks off with a balls-to-the-wall, dead-on review that serves as a stunning refutation of Ted Rall's claim that Chris Ware's Quimby the Mouse has no ideas.

Have You Heard of Palomar? -- Just kidding. But there's another ringing endorsement for one of the year's best graphic novels at Ain't It Cool News. Update: Broken Frontier's review may make the most convincing case yet for why you should read Palomar. (Link courtesy the great and powerful iJournalista!).

Let's Kill Some Nazis! -- Chris Allen has some thoughts on the whole Leni/Alex thing in the new Breakdowns, and AK begs to differ.

Death to Floppies -- Franklin Harris is sick of floppies and not afraid to say so. A good point: "So, if you want to keep yourself occupied during a long trip, you must drag along a stack of them — a large stack. Then just try to keep them from falling all over the place." Click the link for more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

More Palomar -- Got an e-mail from Jeffrey reminding me that Amazon has
Palomar for 30% off. And the last time I looked, you could buy it in a set with Jim Woodring's divine The Frank Book at a big savings, too.

Jeffrey says his copy of Palomar is "on the way, so I'll let you know what I think (I'm an L&R
novice, but generally like your recommendations)." Thanks, Jeffrey.

Noel Murray has his own Palomar review up at The Onion, and it's a well-written piece. Have a look.

Forager's J.W. Hastings has some Palomar thoughts, too.

Palomar -- For some reason, my recommendation of Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar hardcover seems to have gotten some attention. I noticed on this page that a CBR reader took my advice to buy it, and this Boing Boing link brought hundreds of new readers here yesterday, at least some of which I hope will be moved to buy the book.

I realize $40.00 is a lot of money, but you're not going to regret it -- Palomar is among the absolute best the comics artform has ever offered up, and it's entertaining as hell on every single one of its 500-plus pages.

Do me a favour, if you DO pick up the book, drop me a line and tell me what you think -- I'd love to post some of your reactions here.

Free Graphic Novels -- Sick of paying for graphic novels? Why not swap 'em? You know you have a few laying around that you don't want anymore. Join Sequential Swap and trade 'em in for something you do want to read. And tell 'em ADDBlog sent you.

AIT Should Be A Movie -- Marc Mason has a very nice piece up now about Larry Young's great graphic novel Astronauts in Trouble: Master Flight Plan.

Hail Caesar -- Today's American Elf strip is worth checking out. Well, it always is, but this one is particularly good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Making Previews Review Better -- There's a mailing list up now over at Previews Review, so sign up to get updates. Unfortunately, the site tends to be sporadic, but when it does update, it's always good information entertainingly delivered.

Making Comics Better -- A reader checks in with reaction to my statement yesterday that "there's no Geoff Johns comic you truly enjoy, and you goddamned bloody well know it," saying:

I have to agree. Johns has worked on some of the best superheroes ever, ones a newcomer may actually have heard of and wanted to sample, and done nothing of interest with them. Sure, he doesn't overtly harm them, but can anyone point to a really great, memorable Johns story? And as further evidence against his "innocuousness," think of how, due to his current fame, he was able to get three or four miniseries approved by Marvel last year--awful stuff like that Vision one where now three less-famous but more interesting writers don't get their pitches approved. He and Austen are toxins.

Yep. The immediate effect on comics of such lousy writers as Johns, Austen, and their ilk may not be as obvious as the more egregious sins of Frank Tieri, but the end result is much the same -- readers eventually tire of the garbage and find something else to spend their money on.

I'd like to see a healthy lineup of superhero comics coming out of DC and Marvel, if for no other reason than that that's how many readers discovered the artform throughout its history, soon maturing and moving on to more adult works by the likes of a Crumb, Clowes, Ware, and their ilk. But the foundation, appealing, quality adventure comics for kids, has to be there for that equation to work. The worn out crap being peddled by guys like Johns and Loeb is aimed at guys in their own age demographic, and encourages nothing but further declines in sales and interest in American superhero comics.

The F.B.I. Informant
Vol. IV, #6
November 17, 2003

Yes, it’s that time again! A complete update of all things going on in
Fanta-land, so let’s not waste time...


Author BOB LEVIN will read from his acclaimed nonfiction book, THE
following locations this week!:


Amherst Books
8 Main Street
Amherst MA 01002
(413) 256-1547

Million Year Picnic
99 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 492-6763

Robin’s Bookstore
108 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 735-9600


We are just this week dropping our 2003 SPECIAL GIFT CATALOG off at the
Post Office and (if you’re on our mailing list) you should be receiving
it shortly. It includes some great discounts and special deals on some
of our most desirable books, including THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1950-1952,
which industry analysts at ICV2.COM are calling “the reprint event of
the decade.”

If you want to beat the rush, head off to the COMICS JOURNAL MESSAGE
BOARD, where all the details are posted:


(It also includes one or two offers that aren’t even in the catalog, by
the way.) And... free shipping on orders over $100 for the next several

Meanwhile, speaking of PEANUTS and the COMICS JOURNAL, we’ve put our
most popular MP3 interview of them all back online to celebrate the
upcoming release of THE COMPLETE PEANUTS. That’s right, you can listen to
our acclaimed CHARLES M. SCHULZ interview from TCJ #200 again, for a
limited time, right here:



OXYGEN.COM has begun airing new episodes of ROBERTA GREGORY’s BITCHY
BITS, based on her long-running NAUGGHTY BITS comic book series and
BITCHY BITCH character. Check the OXYGEN website for details about premiere
dates, and check the “Coming Up” for rerun info:



We’ve recently been tipped to four new online interviews with four of
our favorite cartoonists:






Meanwhile, two more of our favorites recently launched new websites,
and as such we would be remiss to not provide links:




ELLEN (MONKEY FOOD) FORNEY is the subject of a two-woman show (along
with KINOKO, a.k.a. KRISTINE EVANS) this month at Seattle’s SAW GALLERY
(113 - 12th Ave., in the CD, just north of Yesler).


STORIES yet? Not only is it the FATTEST book we’ve ever published (at
520 pages), it’s also undeniably one of the best, collecting some of the
very best work that Fantagraphics has built its reputation on as a
publisher of quality comic art. PALOMAR collects the entirety of
Hernandez’s acclaimed “Heartbreak Soup” stories from the original, 50-issue run
of LOVE & ROCKETS (1982-1997) in one place for the first time, and the
experience is almost overwhelming. As critic Matt Fraction put it,
“these works are Marquez and Carver, Allende and Russo, Kahlo and Schulz all
in one.”

Just released this month, the book is already a critical smash, almost
instantly landing on PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’s seven best “GRAPHIC NOVELS of
2003” list, along with SPAIN’s NIGHTMARE ALLEY, JOE SACCO’s FIXER,
OTHER STORIES. The book was given a coveted starred review in last
week’s issue of PW, calling the book a “superb introduction to the work of
an extraordinary, eccentric and very literary cartoonist.”

HERNANDEZ was also featured in a PW interview [10/20/03] by HEIDI
MacDONALD, who later ran a much longer version on her PULSE website (and
named PALOMAR her #1 gift-book suggestion for the holidays, in her HEY


Meanwhile, BOOKLIST called the book “... beyond impressive,” [10/01/03]
with reviewer GORDON FLAGG going on to say that “the cumulative power
of the Palomar saga is arguably that of the most substantive single work
the comics medium has yet produced.”

Other critics to weigh in include weblogger Alan David Doane and Peter
Scholtes of the Minneapolis CITY PAGES:



So, if you’ve never read any LOVE & ROCKETS or GILBERT HHERNANDEZ and
want to finally know what all the hoopla is about, this is for you. We
know we published it, but we can’t recommend this book highly enough.


We already gave you the hard-sell on PALOMAR, so maybe we’re pressing
our luck, but since it is the holiday season, we want to point out two
other books that would make delicious gift items this season, and we’ve
got the critical acclaim to back up such bravado.

Namely, we’re talking about CHRIS WARE’s QUIMBY THE MOUSE and JIM
WOODRING’s THE FRANK BOOK. Ware’s follow-up to JIMMY CORRIGAN has already
sold out of its hardcover printing even as the softcover continues to
earn accolades around the globe. The Nov./Dec. BLOOMSBURY REVIEW calls
QUIMBY “sad, grim, bleak and hilarious... Ware is unique in the field of
comics, taking forms of standard cartoon mayhem and revealing through it
a truly human depth of emotion.”

The latest issue of RESONANCE magazine calls QUIMBY “sprawling and
complex... poignant,” while the Sept. 2003 issue of THE RAKE claims that it
“... is packed full of amazingly complicated graphics... that should
take you the rest of the year the year to get through. And you’ll enjoy
every single minute of it.” The book has also earned raves from
LIST, READY-MADE magazine, the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, and more.

Meanwhile, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (9/15/03) featured a STARRED review of JIM
WOODRING’s THE FRANK BOOK. “Woodring, a modern master of hallucinatory
cartoon fables, specializes in comics that look normal but aren’t.”
They go on to call the book “... a definitive collection that lives up to
his genius.” RAIN TAXI’s ERIC LORBERER calls THE FRANK BOOK “[a]
sumptuous hardcover compendium” and “a feast for the eyes and the intellect.”
CATHERINE BROMLEY of THE LIST describes the book as either “a weird
nightmare or a blissful beatific dream... that demands to be read and

So, please, consider giving the gift of comics this season! But now, we
present awesomeness:


* This past October DAME DARCY’S MEAT CAKE COLLECTION was praised in
the VALLEY SCENE. The VALLEY SCENE’S ace reporter had this to write in
regards to the DAME’S comical funny books: "I never understood goth. I
never understood why this penchant for dark details ever become (sic) a
popular subculture movement? Anyway, after flipping through MEAT CAKE, I
must admit that I now have had my share of Victorian fantasies. Now
don’t get me wrong, "MEAT CAKE" is a fantasy world far more sophisticated
and intelligent than the horror drivel found in more traditional goth
boy staples like "Johnny the Homocidal (sic) Maniac." AWESOME!!! DARCY
also garnered a mention in USA TODAY, when WHITNEY MATHESON mentioned
the Dame in her pop culture column after receiving a copy of the MEAT
CAKE COLLECTION from us. “How come I’m only now discovering DAME DARCY?,”
asks Matheson. “I love this woman.” TOTALLY AWESOME!

* TOKION and FRANK MILLER? I think I’m in love. In October’s issue a
surrounded by ANDY WARHOL’S stuffed banana and a t-shirt depicting musical
sensation YANNI. Clearly, FRANK MILLER is pop culture mutha fucka. TOKION
gets specific: "If you’re a guy between the ages of 20 and 35, there’s a
very good chance that at some point in your life, you thought Frank
Miller was God." Frank Miller is God. "The groundbreaking comic book
writer may have been responsible for the whole unfortunate trend toward
‘dark’ comic heroes (and thus cruddy films like Daredevil and Batman
Forever) [cruddy!?! Ed.], but he also made it okay for grown men to like
reading about musclemen in tights. Maybe that wasn’t so good either. Well,
read this collection of interviews and see why he’s been not just good,
but amazing." That is, amazingly AWESOME!!! Thanks, TOKION! Hi, YANNI!

* DON’T DESPAIR! ANIMATION MAGAZINE (Nov issue) reports: "Fantagraphics
seems determined to see us delight in the future of civilization." Did
you read that? Now say it out loud. Say it! -- Pretty awesome, right?
Will Ryan came to this conclusion after reading both THE PIRATES AND THE
"(PIRATES AND THE MOUSE) chronicles the saga of DAN O’NEILL et al
defending themselves from copyright and trademark infringement charges by WALT
DISNEY Productions. This generously illustrated book does a magnificent
job of capturing the sad, funny story of the cultural wars of the
‘70’s... One great thing about [CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE] is the running
commentary by DEITCH himself, explaining the influences, techniques,
references and context of the works reprinted. We get a nice bit of the
author’s personal adventures in the bargain as well. Evocative of an
exciting period in graphic design....” Yes, with books like these you
will delight in the future of civilization! (It should be noted that
the reviewer of these books, Will Ryan, provided the vocal
characterizations for the soon-to-be released feature LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION.
That’s AWESOME!!!)


* YAHOOOO! This past month, our man, JOE SACCO, was featured and
interviewed by Duncan Campbell from THE GUARDIAN. "I have no problem with the
term ‘comics,’ but now we’re saddled with the term ‘graphic novel’ and
what I do I don’t see as a novel," says SACCO. The article offers a
well-formed portrait of SACCO while allowing him to display his opinions
on his comics and comics in general. "He and a friend ran their own
alternative magazine, the Portland Permanent Press, before SACCO decided to
commit himself to fulltime cartooning with his own comics magazine,
YAHOO. ‘I probably should have patented the name, only because YAHOO, to
me, is from the Jonathan Swift book and had all kinds of satirical
connotations. It’s a real shame that it’s now Yahoo, the computer giant or
internet engine – they obviously mean it in terms of – YAHOOOO!’” Pretty
great article, really. To read the whole shebang you can find it at THE

* Meanwhile, another great Sacco piece appeared this weekend in THE
BOSTON GLOBE’s “IDEAS”. In the “Small World” dept., the piece was written
by sometime TCJ scribe JEET HEER, and ran alongside a feature on JFK
that was written by ex-TCJ editor and former Joe Sacco roommate, THOM


ALTERGOTT “may have the next LOVE AND ROCKETS on their hands.” He makes this
claim because RAISIN PIE #2 has a “... range of subject matter and tone,
humor, quirkiness and strong characterization.” ALLEN also calls
JOHNNY RYAN’s ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #5”... flat out hilarious... ”

* JASON’s drawing style in THE IRON WAGON is praised by BOOKLIST’s RAY
OLSON in a September issue: “[Jason’s] rendering of the characters as
elongated, nearly expressionless, animal-headed figures and use of only
burnt sienna, black, and white increase the somberness of proceedings
that become as psychologically oppressive as a heavy Ingmar Bergman

* GORDON FLAGG, also in a September BOOKLIST issue, celebrates JAIME
HERNANDEZ’s DICKS and DEEDEES for the growth and consistency it shows.
“If the narrative gets more compelling and the characterizations grow
richer with every passing year, Hernandez’s elegantly simple drawing
style remains his great strength.”

* PATRICK ROSENKRANZ’s REBEL VISIONS is lauded by comic book artist
TIMOTHY TRUMAN of RAMBLES cultural arts magazine (Rambles.net) as “... a
great book, and so splendidly written that I would have no qualms
whatsoever about recommending this beefy volume to just about anyone... Don’t
hesitate. Search it out. Buy it. Enjoy it. It is a treasure, and one
that you’ll plunder again and again.”

* SPAIN RODRIGUEZ’s work on NIGHTMARE ALLEY was praised recently in
September issue of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (before making the mag’s “Best of
2003” list mentioned earlier in this column). “His extreme angles and
high-contrast imagery help him remain faithful to the story’s cynicism,
while his deft handling of carny jargon give readers a [sic] inside look
at everything from how cons are played to the origins of the word

* THE LIST’s PAUL DALE (Sept 4-8 2003) praised both HO CHE ANDERSON’s
KING “... a major work in the politico comic genre”; and, he asserts
that BLACK IMAGES is “[a] delightful reference guide and quite an eye
opener, this will look like a treat on your coffee table.”

* STRÖMBERG’S and ANDERSON’s works are also mentioned prominently in an
article about comics for BLACK ISSUES BOOK REVIEW’s September-October
2003 issue, which cover-featured AARON MacGRUDER of BOONDOCKS fame.

* Fanta’s recent financial woes and Publishers GARY GROTH & KIM
THOMPSON’s direct plea to comic fans for help were featured in an article by
THE GANZFELD’s DAN NADEL for the September/October issue of PRINT

* JAIME HERNANDEZ’s DICKS AND DEEDEES is “... regarded by many as a
cornerstone of underground comics...” says MARK ROBERTSON of THE LIST
(9/18/03). PAUL DALE in the same issue claims JOHNNY RYAN’S anthology
PORTAJOHNNY “... is nothing less than a filthy guilty pleasure,” while DAVE
passion, honesty and a sense of ultimate futility,” says CATHERINE BROMLEY.

* Speaking of RIPPLE, BOOKLIST’s RAY OLSON (9/15/03) celebrates the
book as “... truly and honorably a graphic novel for adults only.”

IMAGES IN COMICS is “... fun shocking and insightful”, while RAY OLSON
of BOOKLIST (10/1/03) calls it “... a worthwhile, illuminating if
embarrassing addition for popular culture and black-studies collections.”

* The Nov./Dec/ issue of THE BLOOMSBURY REVIEW says that not only is
GENE DEITCH’s THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE “an enjoyable look at early
jazz collecting, it reopens a wonderful period of American music to a new

* THOMAS OTT’s TALES OF TERROR “... fix themselves permanently yet
corrosively in one’s memory,” claims Ray OLSON of BOOKLIST (10/1/03).

must read...” and MAXWELL YIM of THE VALLEY SCENE claims LEVIN
“dramatizes the culture class with wit and humor, and his unconventional,
off-beat writing style resonates well with the featured quirky, romantic

* KEITH BOWER’s article for the EAST BAY EXPRESS on Graphic Novels last
JASON’s IRON WAGON. Bower calls RIPPLE “[d]isturbing... and most certainly
graphic.” He goes on to claim that JASON is “... able to convey the fear
and isolation that grip the murder suspects.”

* ERIC FERGUSON of BOOKSLUT says the IRON WAGON is best read not as a
mystery but “an exploration of the behavior of the guilty, the logistics
of the perfect crime, and the sick pleasure some (like my parents) get
from watching the guilty stew before they are officially accused.”

* BIZARRE MAGAZINE calls DAVE COOPER’s RIPPLE a book “you must get...
you must.”

* On Oct. 16 BOOKTV featured a special episode of RICHLER, INK.
featuring several alternative comic book creators in North America. “Beyond
the Funny Business” offered interviews with KIM DEITCH, SETH, ART

The following books have become available since our last newsletter:

PALOMAR by Gilbert Hernandez * This is the big one. 520 pages,
hardcover, $39.95.

CRYSTAL BALLROOM by Frank Thorne * Thorne’s bittersweet memoir about
growing up in 1940s America. 120 pages, hardcover, $19.95.

LOVE & ROCKETS #9 by Gilbert, Jaime & Mario Hernandez * It’s all here:
“Maggie,” “Julio’s Day,” “Me for the Unknown,” and final chapter of
“The High Soft Lisp.” 32 pages, $3.95.

THE COMICS JOURNAL #255 Cover by Bob Sikoryak * Also featuring:
“Whatever Happened to Arn Saba?”, the Aaron McGruder interview, and “Harvey
Pekar, Movie Star.”

THE COMICS JOURNAL #256 Cover by Brian Chippendale * Featuring: “Fort
Thunder Forever” by Tom Spurgeon, and interviews with BAREFOOT GEN’s
Keiji Nakazawa and Fort Thunder’s Brian Chippendale, Brian Ralph, and Mat

The following recent releases are still available!

QUIMBY THE MOUSE softcover by Chris Ware
ANGRY YOUTH COMICS #5 by Johnny Ryan
THE FRANK BOOK By Jim Woodring
KRAZY & IGNATZ 1929-1930 By George Herriman
DICKS & DEEDEES By Jaime Hernandez
RIPPLE By Dave Cooper
LUBA #7 By Gilbert Hernandez
RAISIN PIE #2 By Rick Altergott and Ariel Bordeaux NAUGHTY BITS #38 By
Roberta Gregory
PRINCE VALIANT Vol. 48 by Hal Foster & John Cullen Murphy

The following books should be out by the end of the year!

YOUNG GODS & FRIENDS by Barry Windsor-Smith
HATE ANNUAL #4 by Peter Bagge
ZIPPY ANNUAL 2003 by Bill Griffith
BLAB! Vol. 14 by various artists
BLACK HOLE #11 by Charles Burns
APE by Ted Jouflas
MABEL NORMAND & FRIENDS by various artists

VISIT http://www.fantagraphics.com/cart

"If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking 'til you do." - Curly



Sunday, November 16, 2003

Doane to Previews: Drop Dead -- So John Jakala has noticed how sick some folks are of dealing with/writing about Previews, the bloated, monthly catalog through which some comics buyers pre-order books shipping a couple months from the time Previews hits stores.

I have to thank Marvel for setting me free of Previews. I used to strongly advocate pre-ordering in a monthly column called "Pre-Order or Die" at Comic Book Galaxy. Every month I would spend a good couple of days poring through the gigantic catalog (the Luba's tits of comics-related publications, really) and work up a list of stuff I wanted to pre-order. Then I'd give it to my retailer. Then two months later it would come in, and toward the end of my time buying into the Previews foolishness, I would notice that probably 25 percent of the stuff that came in was stuff I had decided in the intervening weeks I really, uh, didn't want.

When Marvel started doing a separate "Marvel Previews" and Diamond paradoxically raised the price of Previews to mysteriously "make up" for a free supplement (those greedy fucks think we're really stupid, I guess), I first expressed my disgust for the entire sordid affair by leaving the Marvel supplement on the counter when I bought Previews. The next month, I left Previews behind altogether, and I don't regret it a bit.

It would be nice if there were a monthly catalog, something elegant and spare (say, 50 pages), that focused on worthwhile comics produced by and for adults. The closest thing to what I am envisioning is probably the Fantagraphics catalog, but not the current one, the old one that included stuff from other good publishers like Drawn and Quarterly, too. Now that Fantagraphics is including only their own stuff, there's no good single catalog that covers comics for grown-ups. If you know of one that I'm not aware of, please do let me know.

At any rate, the point is that Previews is a big, fat, gaudy, expensive slab of excess every month that absolutely no comics reader needs. With some major changes it could be valuable to retailers, at least, but in its current configuration it's good for nobody and ought to be fucking free, to boot. Hello, it's a goddamned catalog.

So in addition to crossing off all the shit books from your monthly buys (there's no Geoff Johns comic you truly enjoy, and you goddamned bloody well know it), tell your retailer you don't intend to pay for a freaking catalog anymore. You're smart, you know where the good comics information is. By the time you get the hard copy of Previews in your hands, all that information is already available free on the internet, and if you're really sharp you already have a comics journalist or three who you trust to wade through its ugly, ugly pages and let you know what you should be keeping an eye out for.

I do think it's important for readers to be aware of the good stuff that's coming, and probably even to pre-order it from a quality retailer (of which I think we can agree there are probably less than 200 in the entire country).

I believe we need a Previews column (dealing with the Beast as it stands today) that would do the following:

1. Employ multiple writers using their real names and reputations, standing behind their reputations over time. This avoids knowledge gaps, and over time ensures that readers come to understand the tastes of the writers, allowing them to better judge how they are or are not in tune with their own interests. "Siskel and Ebert" for pre-ordering, with Pauline Kael and other quality critics also weighing in, essentially.

2. Completely ignore books that genuinely don't need or deserve support -- no Marvel or DC recommendations. Those books will be available, and Randy Lander's monthly Previews column is a great example of why they should be totally ignored, their existence not even acknowledged. Telling someone to pre-order Batman: Hush Vol. 2 is like recommending someone pre-order TV Guide. For fuck's sake, you know if you want it or not, and you know where you can find it. We've got limited space and limited attention spans and we need to concentrate on things that fucking MATTER.

3. Emphasize that readers should pull their support (i.e., DOLLARS) from any comics shop that doesn't serve them properly. If they regularly pre-order independent titles that "must have never been published" or "didn't ship this week," FUCK THEM and find someone else who can serve you (and the artform) properly.

We keep this up, we'll be all grown up in no time.

Larsen's Return of E-Man -- Erik Larsen has run down how he'd handle bringing the delightful E-Man back to the market, in the fifth post down on this page.

Reading E-Man in the 1970s was one of my formative comics experiences, and I would absolutely love to see those original ten issues back in print. I agree with everything Larsen says, except his characterization of the original series as "light." It was mostly lighthearted stuff, yes, but its darkest moments -- thinking here of the punishment meted out to the two twins that attacked Alec Tronn and pals -- were mighty dark, indeed. And all the more effective for it.

Bring back E-Man!

Saturday, November 15, 2003


By Gilbert Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphics Books

On page 521 of this 522 page book, there are four panels that serve to sum up the power, grace and glory of Gilbert Hernandez's accomplishment. Luba, the lead character of Palomar the book and Palomar the village, has announced she is leaving for the United States. The entire village seems to move as one as it gathers together to see Luba off to the next stage of her long, storied life. In these four, silent panels, after spending hundreds of pages with these people, the reader is moved to quiet awe at the import of the moment.

Yes, part of it is that you recognize virtually every one of the unique inhabitants of the village and smile at your secret knowledge of their secret passions and weaknesses. Yes, part of it is the recognition of an exciting, worthwhile journey reaching its conclusion. Certainly, a good part of it is the pleasure you take in having been led to this moment so confidently and pleasurably by one of the most skilled storytellers ever.

Mostly, though, it's the powerful realization that you know these people. The ultimate achievement of Palomar as a collection is that having all these stories together, in order, after decades of serialization, truly feels like coming home. Palomar is a fitting monument to the decades Gilbert Hernandez has spent creating his stories. At just under forty dollars, it would be a bargain at twice the price, a durable collection of some of the best comics ever created.

I've been reading Love and Rockets (the original home of most of these stories) since the first Fantagraphics issue in the early 1980s. It would be fair to say that the series redefined what I thought comics could be, with its peculiar blend of smooth, eye-pleasing cartooning and wild, unpredictable and utterly convincing characters -- especially the women.

It was revelatory to me to read all these stories again, truly as if for the first time, and realize how many of these women I had a crush on at one time or another. The men in Gilbert's stories are sometimes driven to madness and the depths of despair by their passion for the women of Palomar -- and those emotions are accepted and sympathized with by the reader because Hernandez so masterfully depicts the complexity of human relationships and the power and unattainable grace that men see in the women they desire. Just another reason why these stories are so compelling and unforgettable.

Palomar is not a single story, although it feels that way by the end. It is composed of almost a dozen smaller tales broken down further into chapters, each of which showcases on a specific set of characters at a specific time in the village's history. Themes and events recur and resonate, revelations come sometimes subtly, sometimes with the impact of a hammer to the head. Like a symphony in ink and paper, Palomar dazzles with its deft variations between the large and the small, the quiet and the loud, the beautiful and the hideous. It's about lives lived, not always well, but always with passion, hope, and a sense of humour.

The people of the village of Palomar become real through these stories. Like other great literature, once you close the book, you find yourself wondering what they're doing now, what has become of the families and friends and rivals and enemies of this legendary little place with its strange statues, fried slugs and defiant, one-armed children. The good news is, there's more stories out there waiting to be collected. After reading this volume, you'll be hungry for more. Grade: 5/5

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Around the Web -- Here's some highlights from the past day or so on the computer internet:


Demo #1
By Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
Published by AiT/PlanetLar

"Hey, ever get this weird feeling that you're different somehow? That you have something special, an ability or trait or defect of some kind that sets you apart from everyone else?"

This quote from Demo #1 is featured on the back cover of the issue, and if it suggests not-so-subtly that this is a book about mutants, well, it is. Brian Wood was the original writer tapped to write Marvel's NYX, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that Demo is a retooled version of his concepts for that book (the story in this first issue is titled "NYC," FYI). Given how many creators Marvel has recently screwed over with its humiliating Epic "Program," good for Wood and Cloonan for retaining ownership of this book and doing it their way.

I'm dubious as to whether I need any mutant-based comics in my life, but Demo #1 is a beautiful package. Cloonan's artwork is visceral and human, with chaotic lines intersecting as a visual representation of the peril and uncertainty the two lead characters face. Wood's story involves two teenagers, a boy and a girl. The girl has some sort of powerful mental ability that is being suppressed with drugs, and they flee their lives for freedom in the big city. The key of the story is the bond between Marie and Mike, two outcast loners who have bonded over, one presumes, their disaffection from society, their otherness, their "defects."

Wood has attempted to build an alternative comics career on characters such as this, castoff, misunderstood -- and while my instincts tell me I'd rather see him further develop the raw, unfocused political outrage of such works as Channel Zero, I have to admit that Demo made for an entertaining if lightweight read. Demo is planned as a series of 12 standalone stories, and no themes are really developed or explored in this first issue. It remains to be seen if we'll see these characters again -- certainly, their story has just begun by the time the last page arrives. It's a compliment to the strength of the artwork and characterization that I would like to see where Mike and Marie's story goes next.

The key appeal of the series for me, so far, looks to be Cloonan's art. She has a striking style that makes terrific use of the potential of black and white illustration, and has a couple of standout moments here, including a striking scene when Marie's powers manifest themselves.

Wood still has a lot to prove as far as I am concerned, with his best work, Channel Zero, not saying much more than "Shit sucks, man!" (albeit with excellent production design) and his worst, Pounded, being one of the most pointless, disappointing stories I've ever read. Demo is a good chance for him to develop his writing skills, and this first issue reads better than anything I've seen from him before, integrating the stark outsider-chic of Channel Zero within the context of a more human and humane story.

The last 12-issue series planned as a dozen related but separate stories that I tried (Global Frequency) ultimately turned out to be a creative failure, ambitious but deeply flawed. Wood and Cloonan bring a similar ambition to Demo, and there's potential to spare in this first issue. I look forward to seeing if it's fulfilled. Grade: 4/5

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Galaxy Diaspora -- I wrote recently about the time between 2000 and 2002 when Comic Book Galaxy was a full-service comic book website, with sometimes dozens of reviewers and columnists and even cartoonists contributing to the mix and making the site one of the better comics-related websites. I probably don't say this enough, but those were great days, and I loved every minute of it.

I'm grateful, especially, to the terrific writers who were such a huge part of what we were doing. When I left my previous comics website gig to start Comic Book Galaxy, I had no idea if it would succeed or not, but from the very beginning, readers seemed to accept the site as entertaining, thought-provoking and occasionally exasperating.

Many of the writers who made up the site at that time have gone on, as I say, to other things -- and many of them are still gratifyingly entertaining, thought-provoking and occasionally exasperating. Here's where you can find some of 'em:

You're bound to find hours of good reading by perusing those links.

Jam Another Dragon Down the Hole -- When I was overseeing Comic Book Galaxy, at times we had as many as two dozen or more contributors, mostly reviewers. Over time, probably 100 or more writers came and went, some lasting years, some lasting less than a day. Every single one showed promise, though, which was why they were invited to join the site.

Many of those writers have gone on to either start their own sites or write columns for other sites, and of those, quite a few have made me very, very proud to have been a part of their development as writers. One of these days I want to write a "Galaxy Diaspora" entry here, but I don't really have the time to do it now. But I want to thank Mick Martin for his comments about his days writing for Comic Book Galaxy.

I vividly remember the incident he mentions -- it came at a time when we had many reviewers, and they were all lined up ready to review the latest issue of The Defenders while better, worthier titles went neglected.

There are sites that excel at giving you cookie-cutter reviews of the same goddamned, ass-felching sooperhero books every month, and I wanted something better for our site. I was definitely pushing the limits of civility and friendship in asking those guys to eschew Marvel and DC in order to see what would happen, and many reviewers were unhappy about it. One or two may even have left, now that I think about it.

But Mick's reflection on that time and on the effect it had on him is extraordinarily gratifying to me. Because it had exactly the impact I was hoping before, and because he's willing to say so out loud.

Coming a day after I quoted Chris Butcher saying "There are too many mediocre fucking comic books and you really need to stop buying them," it's very good, indeed, to see that some people recognize that fact, even if it took me being an unfair bastard to bring that about.

Yesterday I read someone online saying that they weren't going to buy some Marvel series after the end of the current arc, presumably because they don't enjoy the book anymore. Well, why the hell would you continue to pay for a series you don't like until the current arc ends? If you don't love it, stop buying it. Give up your addiction to wasting cash on garbage, you only encourage them to produce more that way. Find a reviewer you trust, and give some of the titles they recommend a shot, using the money you otherwise would have spent on whatever crap book you're buying that you really don't like anymore. If it turns out you like that new title, keep buying it.

And just like that, comics get better. For you. And really, you're the one that counts.

November is Brian Woods Month -- That's what I read here. And, yeah, February is Brian Wood month. So two months of the year are already taken. I'm never gonna get my own month.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

New Optic Nerve -- I have it on very good authority that the new issue of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve will ship in February. This is great news for readers of the series, including my wife, who was recently hooked on the title.

The Week in Comics -- Short version: Get Louis Riel from Drawn and Quarterly and The Walking Dead and Invincible from Image. Christopher Butcher has the long version and this worthwhile advice:

There are too many mediocre fucking comic books and you really need to stop buying them.

Words to live by.

Planetes -- I finished the first volume of this new Tokyopop series last night, and it's very good stuff. In the near-future, a small group of people who crave outer space are employed, essentially, as garbage collectors, getting dangerous debris out of orbit. There's lots of character development and the art is very good, playing down the more offputting Manga conventions and emphasizing a convincing sense of detail and, when needed, a genuine sense of majesty. Augie also recommends it in his column today. Along with Battle Royale, I'm now reading a grand total of two Manga series. If you have further recommendations based on my attraction to these two, drop me a line.

Monday, November 10, 2003

What's Your IQ? -- You can find out here. The last time I took an online IQ test like this, in 1998 or 1999, my score was 137. Apparently I have gotten dumber:

Alan, your Super IQ score is 133

This number is the result of a scientifically tested formula based on how many questions you answered correctly on the Super IQ Test.

In addition to measuring your overall intelligence, we've also measured how well you scored in 8 different areas of intelligence. Your unique set of strengths in these areas says a lot about how your mind works and how you process information.

We also compared your answers with others who have taken the test, and according to the sorts of questions you got correct, the way you think makes you a Creative Theorist. This means you are a highly intelligent, complex person. You are able to process information of nearly every kind with ease, using both creativity and analysis to make sense of the world. Compared to others you also have a very rich imagination.

Invincible and The Walking Dead -- Both these books ship new issues this week, and both are excellent. Invincible is a perfect jumping-on issue, as the titular hero scouts a possible college to attend in his civilian identity, only to be interrupted by an attacking supervillain. If you haven't given this series a try, give this one a look, especially if you're fond of superhero stuff in the vein of Astro City, Hellboy and Savage Dragon.

Walking Dead #2 also ships this week, also written by Invincible's Robert Kirkman. This is one of the best new series of the year, and if it borrows a bit of its premise from the excellent horror film 28 Days Later, it takes its own approach to the subject, injecting a good amount of humanity and drama into the story.

There aren't a lot of great floppies being released these days, but these are both great books, a lot of fun and way above-average storytelling. Give 'em a look.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Epic Explanation -- I made a joke about Epic earlier today, but a comment from Julio Diaz has me thinking perhaps I should explain a bit further my take on the situation.

I was among the elite corps of Internet Geeks Marvel asked to pitch for Epic in the early days of the program. I was sent a series breakdown written by Bill Jemas and asked to work something up.

In my opinion, Jemas's idea for a series ("The People's Thor") was one of the dumbest goddamned things I've ever read. After talking to a veteran pro with much Marvel experience who happens to be a friend of mine, I really gave this some thought.

Yes, I am a lifelong comics fan. Started reading them in 1972 when I was all of six years old. For the past half-decade I have devoted considerable time, energy and money to writing about comics for Silver Bullet Comics, Comic Book Galaxy and now on my li'l weblog. When the biggest comics publisher in the United States comes calling, it really forces you to look at what you really want to do.

I turned them down, politely but honestly saying that I thought Jemas's proposal was not something I would be able to work with. What I didn't tell them was that their sophistry in contacting comics journalists to write their books had put into (pardon the pun) stark relief the fact that I don't particularly want to write comics, and certainly not superhero comics. So I suppose for that, I am grateful.

I don't feel particularly sorry for the people who did get sucked into Epic. First of all, the initial description of the proposal sounded for all the world like Bill and Joe standing at the bus station waiting for the unsuspecting fresh meat to get off the bus. The nicest thing I can say about this aspect is that they clearly were taking advantage of naive, hopeful, starry-eyed young would-be creators. Welcome to the American comics industry, everybody.

Further, while I had the benefit of Jemas's retarded series description to clue me in, Marvel's history in regard to the treatment of its creative people is very public, and very poor. One did not have to be the editor of a newspaper about comics or a newspaper columnist who writes about about comics to know this entire thing was a disaster waiting to happen. And clearly, even if you were one of those two things, the specious lure of working for Marvel Comics was too much to counter common sense and established history.

In short, when I say the people I feel sorriest for are the children, I really mean John Jackson Miller and Mike Sangiacomo. And all the other suckers like them that should have known better. It looks, from what I've read, like Miller's comics might not suck as much as I would have suspected, so good on him. I hope he takes what he can while he can before the inevitable shithammer falls on him. Because decades of observation have taught me that it may take years (hi, Stan!), but sooner or later Marvel fucks everyone. EVERYONE. It's the nature of the beast. And if nothing else, the Epic creators should have remembered that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.

Old Friends in New Blogs -- Added two new links to the blogroll at right...Joe Lawler and Mick Martin. These two guys are former Comic Book Galaxy contributors and I was excited earlier today to find out they're both blogging these days and planning their own comics site. I'd love to hear from either or both of you guys if you're reading this -- couldn't find e-mail links on either of their blogs.

Matrix Revolutions -- You know, Reloaded didn't work for me in the theater, but on DVD, I have come to like it a great deal more. Revolutions, on the other hand, I enjoyed from the first moment. There are a few problems...the spaceship stuff seemed a bit Trekkie/Star Warsie, Laurence Fishburne was criminally under-utilized, and Trinity, well, I don't want to spoil things if you haven't seen it yet, but let's say she has a key scene that...just...would...not...ever...end...ever! Things I liked about it:

It's clear from reading the comments of others that much of the intent of the filmmakers may be blurred by the sheer density of the three movies -- Ebert's review revealed he still is under the mistaken assumption that Zion may not be "the real world," so even someone I generally trust and respect in regard to film may not grasp what the movies are about. Further, while he might not have found himself caring about Neo, Trinity, Morpheus or the rest, I did indeed sympathize with them and was interested in their struggle and fascinated by their world(s).

Ultimately, I think the films succeed. I have neither the desire nor the energy to get into any debates over the merits of any sci-fi trilogy, but as far as I am concerned, The Matrix films blew my mind and in the end held together quite well, and I look forward to owning and watching all three many, many times in the years to come.

Wrong Turn DVD -- All right, Steve Bissette was right. Wrong Turn is just about the perfect horror flick, not a single wrong beat in the entire thing. Eliza Dushku brought me in, but I stayed for the relentless dread and wrongness of it all. This and 28 Days Later are two of the best DVD rentals I've made this year, and I kind of wish I'd bought both of them.

Epic Tragedy -- The utter collapse of Marvel's Epic imprint is, of course, a tragic event of monumental proportions. You know who I feel sorriest for? The children. That's who.

Friday, November 07, 2003

A Ripple in Time -- Bill Sherman offers up an excellent review of Dave Cooper's Ripple, one of the best comics stories of the past few years.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

More Moore and Miller -- Just what I've been waiting for, courtesy of Forager. I can't help but feel the delay in posting part two was due to deep depression over my pointing out that he'd misspelled Mazzucchelli in part one. If so, I apologize. I can't help myself, sometimes. If nothing else, part two confirms for me that Forager and I will never resolve our tastes...I could never agree that anything drawn by John Romita, Jr. could be better than anything drawn by David Mazzucchelli. And I actually think Daredevil: Man Without Fear is about as unnecessary as superhero comics get. As I did when it first came out, I still find it awkward and pointless, a wrong-turn in Miller's otherwise pretty good record of Daredevil accomplishments.

Blogsplosion Too -- I've added some more comics bloggers to the sidebar over there on your immediate right (and don't forget the Paypal donation button, if you enjoy what I do here -- every little bit helps); with so many new and interesting comics blogs, I may have missed a few. If you think I have, please do e-mail me with a reminder. That is all.

Comics Blotter Improves -- Good to see The Comics Blogger has taken a few of my suggestions in improving its usefulness to readers (including a permanent, stable URL), better positioning it to become the second good, reliable source of comics news after Dirk Deppey's iJournalista!. One note to writer Julian Darius -- if you're going to run down the week's notable releases, you shouldn't neglect landmark publications like Palomar, which is more significant in terms of both artistic value and entertainment value than every other thing you list combined.

The Blogosplosion -- Good reflections on the recent expansion of the comics blogospehere by Sean Collins here and Sean also comments on recent expressions of despair at the current state of comics. Any year that sees the release of Palomar in hardcover, Quimby the Mouse and The ACME Novelty Library Datebook, and Mother, Come Home (any day now, I hope) in trade paperback (not to mention Paul Has A Summer Job and The Speed Abater) (oh, and The Frank Book and Young Gods and Friends) has to be considered a good one, in my estimation, no matter how crappy most monthly comics (always) are.

Ed Wood DVD Rescheduled -- Best news of the week:

After months of delays, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has announced a new street date and full specs for the eagerly-awaited Ed Wood. This Tim Burton biopic and instant cult favorite will now be released on February 3rd...audio commentary with Burton, Oscar winner Martin Landau, screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karazewski, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky, deleted scenes, the "Let's Shoot This F#*%@r!" documentary, additional "The Theremin," "Making Bela," "Pie Plates Over Hollywood" and "When Carol Met Larry" featurettes, an original music video and the original theatrical trailer. Retail for this two-disc set will be $29.95.

More at DVDFile.com

Nubile Pile -- Hannibal Tabu's got some new comics reviews up at The Buy Pile.

Column Worth Reading -- Another in Chris Allen's series of informative and delightful comics reviewer interviews is up now in his new Breakdowns column. This time, it's Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading.

E-F-U -- Here's the most eloquent "fuck you" you're going to find in response to Matt Brady's simian choreography.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Supporting the Blog -- I've added a Paypal button to the sidebar over there on the right. If you enjoy reading this weblog, I hope you'll consider donating to help defer the cost of keeping it online. So far I've been keeping Comic Book Galaxy online because some creators and publishers have linked to the reviews there, so your donation will help ensure I can keep both sites up. Thanks for considering making a donation, as always I appreciate any support you can offer.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Must-Buy Book of the Week -- There's no question that if you only buy one book this week, the Palomar hardcover by Gilbert Hernandez is it.

This massive collection is basically Gilbert's contribution to Love and Rockets as it should be seen, so if you've heard about how L&R is one of the greatest comics ever (true), but have never given it a look, this is your chance to see why readers and critics have universally praised the title.

Fantagraphics says "For the first time ever, a single-volume collection of Gilbert Hernandez’s acclaimed 'Heartbreak Soup' stories from Love & Rockets — the very stories that built his reputation as a giant in the field. 500 pages, in a deluxe hardcover edition, presenting an epic narrative for the ages. Palomar is the mythical Central American town where these stories take place, and the stories weave in and out of its entire population, crafting an intricate tapestry of not only Latin American but also human experience. This body of work has been hailed by Time magazine and The Nation as a landmark not only for comics, but for 20th Century literature, as well."

Millar's WANTED Preview -- There's a preview of Wanted by Mark Millar and JG Jones up now at Comics Continuum. You might want to refresh your memory with my review. The book apparently ships next week, and should definitely appeal to people who enjoyed, say, Watchmen, Marvel Boy or The Ultimates.

Bend Your Rubber Rule -- I recommend today's Augie column for the "Freakish E-Mail" section at the end, which is damned funny. By the way, Augie, today is Election Day, not next week.

The Art of John Byrne -- Thanks to a recent trade, I got a copy of The Art of John Byrne, a decades-old sketchbook/hagiography published while Byrne was still working on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont and Terry Austin.

I had a copy of this when I was a teenager, but sold it/traded it/lost it somewhere in the intervening decades, so it's nice to have a small piece of my formative years back again. Also nice to see some of the art within, especially the tight, sharp sketches and drawings, many of which were inked by Austin (including some Superman pieces that definitely indicated what was to come in less than a decade).

Seeing what Byrne was capable of back then and what he does today, I don't even think there's a comparison. At one time he was capable of exciting storytelling and intricate detail, and his work of the past decade or so indicates a continuing slide toward convenience that borders on self-parody.

More on The Week in Comics -- Christopher Butcher and Scott Robins have updated Previews Review with a look at this week's scheduled new releases. You have to give them credit for calling a spade a spade in regard to this week's release of Brian Wood's Demo:

"While the concept of the book sounds really great, there’s been far too many times I’ve been really excited about Wood’s upcoming work (Pounded, CousCous Express) and every time his material totally falls flat for me."

(Thanks to AK for the tip.)

Monday, November 03, 2003

Melrose Place in the Black Lightning Scheme of Things -- I was disappointed to read Kevin Melrose's comments on the ongoing issue of DC's misuse of Tony Isabella's Black Lightning character.

In responding to Kevin's comments, Tony told me:

Most of what he wrote was a contemptible attempt to impugn my character and motives and thus not deserving of response.

However, I did abruptly leave the second Black Lightning series.

Through no wish of mine own.

As has been reported frequently, I was fired from the second series for "lateness" after I turned in the script for the ninth issue.

This was over two months before the first issue was shipped...

...at a time when I was approximately 6-8 weeks ahead of the company production schedule and my artist was just starting work on issue #6.

Either Melrose was ignorant of these often-reported facts or chose not to mention them in his blog.

I think that many comics readers today don't understand how characters were created in comics in the pre Work for Hire era, a time that Black Lightning and his creation by Tony Isabella falls in to. Additionally, it seems many readers are eager to take the side of the publishers of their favourite characters rather than the creative people who made it possible for that company to exist in the first place. If the current situation educates readers on these issues, perhaps in some small way it will be worth it. In the meantime, it's left to people like Tony Isabella to try to be heard over the din of uninformed readers and creators who really ought to know better.

The Week in Comics -- Here's a rundown of stuff to look out for at the comics shop this week.


PALOMAR COMPLETE HEARTBREAK SOUP COLL HC $39.95 -- Comics as they should be. Gilbert Hernandez has dedicated decades of his life to telling this story, originally serialized in the pages of Love and Rockets. Now it's all collected in a single, seamless 500-page-plus slab of comics goodness that will entertain and enrich your existence. This is the must-buy item of the week, the month, and very possibly the year.


BATTLE ROYALE VOL 3 GN (Of 5) $9.99 -- Class full of high schoolers tries to survive on an island where it's kill-or-be-killed. And even if you kill, hell, you might still get killed. Super violent, but super entertaining for mature readers.


DARK DAYS #5 30 DAYS OF NIGHT SEQUEL $3.99 -- This has been every bit as enjoyable as the series that spawned it; perfect to keep the post-Halloween horror vibe going.


TOM STRONG #23 $2.95 -- Lately, it seems like the core ABC titles have been almost indescribably good. Maybe it's Alan Moore's impending retirement from mainstream comics that has him cramming so much detail, emotion and excitement into books likew this, Promethea and Smax -- whatever it is, they're better than they've ever been, and better than 95 percent of what's on the stands these days.


EMPIRE #4 (Of 6) (MR) $2.50 -- Continuing Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's exploration of villany from the perspective of a superbadguy who has conquered the world.

POINT BLANK TP (MR) $14.95 -- If you're interested in Sleeper but haven't given it a look yet, this TPB collects the mini-series that led into what is one of my favourite comics. This is one of those stories that reveals its details in such a way that when you get to the end, you realize you need to read it again to appreciate all the subtle hints that were there all along. A great action/adventure/mystery that remains underrated, in my opinion.


SAVAGE DRAGON #112 (RES) $2.95 -- More of the usual excellence, semi-traditional sooperhero comics from Erik Larsen.


SUPREME POWER #4 (MR) $2.99 -- I miss Babylon 5.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #49 $2.25 -- Still great fun. You have to wonder if Bendis or Bagley will ever drop the ball on this one?

Monday On The Internet -- Some comics stuff for you to check out today...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Activism That Pays -- I've received the following intriguing e-mail from a reader who wants to be anonymous:

Hi, I'm an ardent follower of your web-site or blog (no matter where you move to) -- I check it out every week, or several times a week. And I've often been influenced in the past by the reviews and recommendations I've seen, as I'm sure many others have. There are many great comics that I've discovered thanks to you, and I'm grateful. In any event, I was hoping that you'd consider helping out a worthy cause. I'm talking about Top Cow's COMMON GROUNDS six-issue miniseries, written by Troy Hickman, which starts in January 2004.

Here's the blurb: Common Grounds is set in a chain of coffee shops across the country, where super-heroes and super-villains gather to sip coffee, munch on donuts, and hang out without causing a major brawl. It's in this neutral setting that stories are created focusing on the "human" side of the superhuman. Artwork is by Dan Jurgens, Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Bachalo, George Perez, Ethan Van Sciver, and Carlos Pacheco.

Troy Hickman's COMMON GROUNDS is essentially a big-league version of Troy's self-published, digest-sized HOLEY CRULLERS series. This is a dream-come-true opportunity for Troy, who's incredibly talented, and who's been trying to get a break for a decade.

I was hoping you might encourage your readers to give COMMON GROUNDS a try. The time for pre-orders is right now!

I'm such a believer in Troy's work that I'm willing to offer a money-back guarantee to anyone who buys the book and is dissatisfied with it. I'd be happy if you'd be willing to administer it on my behalf.

So, with some limitations (we can only guarantee the money-back offer for the first 66 people to buy the book who want a refund), I'm willing to administer this for this anonymous benefactor. He obviously believes in this project, and you know, with creators like Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Bachalo, Carlos Pacheco and others involved, you know this is going to be a fun book. And in fact, there's even more support from this book. Read this:

An Open Letter from Jim McLauchlin



I got one-count it!-just one message for you:

Read Common Grounds. Then tell a friend.

Okay. The sticklers among you are already up in the hue and cry that
that's two messages. Split hairs all you want. The message remains
the same. And the message is important, for a number of reasons:

It's important because it's great material. Common Grounds is a
wealth of superhero stories with all new characters and all new
settings that are told with more heart, soul, and emotion than
anything you've ever seen before. Some stories are funny. Some are
heartwarming. Some are both. But all are told with a real resonance,
a true human touch, that will blow you away. I know, I know, I know-
you've heard it all before, selling everything from dishwashing
liquid to doorstops. But this is the real deal. Try it and you'll
see. You've never seen stuff in comics that will make you laugh or
cry like this.

It's important because Troy Hickman is you. He's the American dream,
writ large and brought to funnybooks. He's the guy who concocted a
mini-comic called Holey Crullers back in 1996, and lovingly and
painstakingly hand-stapled copies to bring to conventions, putting
his dreams out there for all to see. We saw, and we loved it. Top Cow
bought the concept, and is publishing these great stories, now re-
titled Common Grounds. He made it. He reached for the brass ring and
grabbed it. He's the uber-geek. He's a fan, a reader, and he's never
stopped being those thing. He's you, living the comics dream.

It's important because your favorite artists are here. There are two
stories per issue -- three if we feel like it -- with Dauntless Dan Jurgens
drawing one story in every ish, acting as our "anchor." Dan is joined
by a different guest artist every issue, with Michael Avon Oeming
(Powers), Ethan van Sciver (New X-Men), Chris Bachalo (New X-Men
again), George P,rez (a li'l sumpthin' called JLA/Avengers) and
Carlos Pacheco (JLA/JSA) each taking a turn. These guys are in
because they love the stories. You will, too.

It's important because you have power. Seriously! I believe things
work from the ground up; not the top down. If someone puts out a
crapola product (remember New Coke?) not all the marketing in the
world can save it. But word-of-mouth, heartfelt recommendations, can
and will and do buoy everything up from the grass-roots level. Ask
yourself: Who you gonna listen to if you're thinking about seeing a
movie? Leonard Maltin? Or a friend of yours who saw it? I thought
so. Read the comic. You'll want it to be a hit. You'll want to be
part of the feeling. Then, and I say again, TELL A FRIEND. You will
bring this great project to the great level it deserves.

I don't know if you know me. I don't know if you give half a sack of
wet crap about me. But the people who do know me know that my word is
true. I don't hold fire drills. I don't cry "wolf." When I say it's
on, it's on. I say it rarely. I say it only when it's true. I'm
telling you now-It's on.

Gimme one shot. That's all I ask. Try it, and if you like it, tell a
friend. If I'm fulla hooey, tell me. I'll send you a personal check
for $2.99. Straight up and true.

(Cue voice-over announcer's voice in your head now)

"So you don't forget, order before midnight tonight! That's Common
Grounds, coming in January from Top Cow Productions! And tell a

Thanks. Hey, if you were publishing a new comic, I'd do it for you.

Jim McLauchlin
Top Cow Productions

So, there it is. Check out the COMMON GROUNDS webpage at Top Cow, pre-order the book from your retailer. If you don't like it, you are guaranteed a refund from either the anonymous benefactor who has asked me to administer his offer for him, or through Top Cow EiC Jim McLauchlin. I think this is a terrific example of grass-roots activism by people who believe in a book enough to think outside the box, and I think readers owe it to themselves to give the title a shot. Our anonymous benefactor here and Jim McLauchlin at Top Cow are putting their money where their mouths are. Let's give the book a try and see if their campaign works.


Boneyard Vol. Two
By Richard Moore
Published by NBM

Halloween may be over, but the supernatural thrills continue in Richard Moore's Boneyard, a tongue-in-cheek ensemble comedy featuring a cast of monstrous characters who serve to make the life of cemetary owner Michael Paris very complicated indeed.

Volume Two of this delightful series is in a new, standard graphic novel size -- the same dimensions as the original, floppy comics it collects (#5-8). NBM plans to reissue the first collection at this new size, and I think the series will benefit -- the oversized first volume was fine, but the pleasures of Boneyard are intimate, and it somehow seems a fitting change.

Paris is coming to grips with his new role among all these monsters in this new series, and while he still is capable of being surprised by the freakishness of their community, you can see that he is coming to value being part of a family, even one as bizarre as this. So of course, the universe conspires to make him uncomfortable in the form of an IRS audit, but it turns out the government agent may have a few secrets he's afraid of having uncovered (as it were) himself.

My favourite character here remains Abbey the vampire, and Moore is taking his time in developing the relationship between her and Michael -- their relationship is as charming as it is funny, and I am rooting for it to be permanent.

That's a key appeal of Boneyard, in that among all the gags and comedic situations, Moore remembers to give us stories featuring unique individuals we can sympathize with and laugh with, not just at. NBM is to be congratulated for continuing to collect the individual issues in these terrific graphic novels, highly recommended for readers of all ages. Grade: 4/5

Another New Comics Blog -- Here's Kevin Melrose's Thought Balloons. He's been blogging for a while and it looks like he's off to a good start.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

New Comics Blog -- Jim Crocker is the owner of Modern Myths, a comics and games shop in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has a blog that is kind of aimed at local customers to his store, but he is a man of excellent taste and his thoughts on current comics are definitely worth watching. You might want to check out his blog, and if you're anywhere near western Massachusetts, his store should not be missed.

Casey's Wildcats -- One of the better sooperhero books these days is Wildcats 3.0, the third incarnation of what was originally a cheesy Image series by Jim Lee. Along the way it was a middling Alan Moore book, and has now morphed into a strange, compelling blend of boardroom action, perversity and violence. Over at Ninth Art there's a good review of the first collection of this latest version. If you haven't sampled the series, I'd definitely recommend you do so. As reviewer Alex Dueben points out, "There aren't many comics out there even trying to be this good."

John Pierce on The Comics Simp -- Seriously, John Pierce is my new hero:

"James Sime, in his article The Comic Pimp, gives us a tired 'guerilla warfare' routine where his secret agents give some people comics. Everyone gets a pat on the back because they got someone to look at a comic. And hey, Too Much Coffee Man at the coffee house. Brilliant. I think I'll go break into Los Alamos and leave them some issues of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man."

Not surprisingly, Chris Allen also gets it.

See, it's not that we don't want comics to thrive. It's not that we don't want heartfelt, passionate and effective activism. It's that this does nothing for the cause. Read through the archives and find that, other than handing out free comics to being business to his store (and sure, good for him), his suggestions mostly ring hollow at best and offensive at worst. "Let's go kill some Nazis!"

Comic Book Resources has hosted a number of positive activism-related columns, including those by Larry Young and Warren Ellis. Maybe someday they will again. But that day is not today.





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