Saturday, December 13, 2003

AK Reads Some Comics -- You know, the only reason this blog exists is so I can direct you to AK's message board posts. Today he posted a long one about comics he's read recently. Makes me miss Title Bout.

Finding a Holy Grail Comic -- So I went to Aquilonia Comics today in Troy, NY. Only my second trip ever to this store, because it's located in a maze of one way streets that I barely comprehend in a city that has nothing to offer that I have been able to detect.

I walked in and within 30 seconds discovered David Mazzucchelli's RUBBER BLANKET #2, the most difficult-to-find issue of this three issue series. I've let it go on eBay recently because the bidding got up into the 40-50 dollar range, and as much as I like Mazzucchelli, I'm not spending that much money on him unless it's an original sketch or something.

It was cover price and in brand-new condition, and I am thrilled to have a complete set of these now; there's not much that I have collectoritis about, but the work of Mazzucchelli (non-Marvel/mainstream work, anyway) is something I am fairly obsessive about. Not many artists in comics history have made the leap from superhero artist to genuine, noteworthy cartoonist so profoundly and completely.

RUBBER BLANKET #2 includes a number of short stories, and two genuine gems: "Air," about Mazzucchelli's asthma, and "Discovering America," which I had in an Italian collection, but which is even more of a revelation now that I can read it and be certain what it's about.

I've been sensitive to the perils of asthma since cartoonist Raoul Vezina (creator of Smilin' Ed Smiley and a staple of the FantaCo comics line and brick and mortar store in Albany) died from an attack a couple of decades ago. Until then I had no idea what a serious condition it was, and until I read "Air" I never knew Mazzucchelli had it as well. The story takes the personal and applies it to global concerns in a very direct and affecting manner. Great stuff.

"Discovering America" is probably his best RUBBER BLANKET story -- the tale of a mapmaker and his attempts to reconcile his obsessing with mapping reality with his need to map his interpersonal relationships. There's a surprise double-page spread that is surreal and striking.

With the news that City of Glass is coming back into print, hopefully Mazzucchelli's star will ascend again and RUBBER BLANKET will either be reissued or (more preferably) collected in a nice omnibus edition. It's some of the finest cartooning ever, and it deserves a wider audience.

Saturday Reading -- Michael Paciocco has posted his Year in Review.

Fight the Flu -- All right, apparently this flu thing is getting serious. Deadly serious, as close to two dozen children have actually been killed by this virus, and more will almost certainly die. This is not to be taken lightly.

So I would just like to celebrate my germ-phobic nature and remind you, quite seriously, to wash your hands. Yes, if you can get a flu shot, I suppose you should, but washing your hands is the best defense against a whole shitload of viruses and bacteria.

This has been your Celebrate Germ-Phobia! moment for the day.

Friday, December 12, 2003

CrossGen DeathWatch -- Boy, Mark Evanier has a great post about the former Last, Best Hope for Comics.

Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks for Trade -- I have a set of Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks Volumes #1-3 (collecting the first 30 or so issues by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) that I am looking to sell or trade. They're in like-new, NM condition. If you're interested in these, send me an e-mail.

Back Issues and the IRS -- You should probably read Dirk Deppey's call to action in regard to a truly bizarre case involving comics shop backstock and the IRS. It has wide implications for not only comics shops, but used bookstores, music stores and probably many other entertainment outlets.

I guess I would have jumped on this sooner if the lead instigator in the call to action hadn't spent most of the week unjustifiably calling me names.

Don vs. Randy -- And in this case, Randy wins. I don't know why Don dislikes Gabagool so much, but I suspect maybe it hits too close to home. Gabagool #4 just shipped this week, the first part of a hilarious multi-part story that gets the boys out of their usual locale. Everyone should be reading this very funny small press comic.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

My Acceptance Speech -- I'd like to thank the Academy and Jason Marcy for recognizing my drawing of me as Aquaman as the "Bestest Aquaman Drawing Ever." Having now spent a day or so looking at it from time to time, I have to agree, however humbly. Thanks to Dirk for bringing this to my attention, and for bringing this sordid chapter in Comics Blogosphere history to a definitive conclusion.

Thursday Reading -- Chris Allen's Breakdowns has a good batch of reviews, including, finally, Palomar. Show his review to any skeptics on the subject.

Bryan Miller has updated New Comics Day, and The Johnny Bacardi Show has opined on some of those great superhero covers I posted yesterday. Glad to see he likes the Wagner Green Arrow -- that's probably my favourite "mainstream" cover of the past few years (although the Promethea tribute to Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man comes close for sheer genius).

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I Have to Apologize -- I apologize to Laura for letting my competitive nature get the best of me. She clearly doesn't share my point of view when it comes to what makes good superhero artwork, and that's fine -- the whole point of the comics blogosphere is for a diversity of opinions to be heard. I hope someone will let Laura know that I am sorry, and that I am offering up this sketch of myself as Aquaman to try to patch things up.

The Great Superhero Covers -- Here's another one, the best of the Matt Wagner Green Arrow covers:

Doane the Destroyer -- Wow, any more sensitive and Laura'd be allergic to her own farts.

The Great Superhero Covers -- Today, in an effort to bring even more clarity to the issue of good cover design, I will post some of the best superhero comic book covers of the past few years. These are covers that undeniably highlight elegance in design, impact the reader's eye and comment in some way on the post-superhero era.

I Want to Respect Laura Gjovaag -- Really, I do. I generally like her blog and her approach. But her out-of-control comments at John Jakala's blog have pretty much destroyed her credibility:

"I'm tired. I'm tired of being insulted and belittled every time I express an opinion. I'm tired of being a second-class citizen in the comic book blogosphere because I enjoy superhero comic books. I'm tired of all the crap that's constantly being heaped on anyone who dares to defend superheroes. I'm tired of comic book snobs, people who the rest of the world considers every bit as nerdy as me, acting like I'm slime."

You're tired? Take a nap. And who acted like she was slime? Paranoid much?

Here's where she really flies off the wall:

"ADD's style is that of an arrogant asshole, so self-important that he forgets he's only a small fish in a tiny pond. Describing that badly-drawn, badly-colored, BORING, and static image as "subtle, post-iconic" is just spraying Pinesol on shit and hoping nobody notices it still stinks. As for the Aquaman covers that I posted, both of them were similar in style to the dung that ADD posted in that they were portraits, but both of them also showed movement (which is a very important aspect of superhero comics that apparently ADD is too fucking stupid to know about) and gave a hint as to the character (gee, fish, I guess he's underwater)."

I won't even bother getting into issue of critical faculties -- Seth's mainstream appeal and general overall excellence are widely known among adults who read comics, and besides, any time you write the words "As for the Aquaman covers that I posted," when seriously trying to defend yourself, well, it really is time to take a nap.

You can read Laura's name-calling ignorance in the comments section of these entries at Jakala's blog. She's also ranting and raving a bit about it in multiple posts at her blog.

Wednesday Reading -- Steven Grant's new Permanent Damage has a revolutionary idea for promoting comics, thoughts on comics criticism, and much more. Essential weekly reading.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Confidential to Sean T. Collins -- The Kochalka Hulk story Marvel printed in an annual a couple of years back was not a reprint of the Coober Skeber story, he painted a new iteration of it for Marvel. So you gotta have both if you're a true Kochalkaholic.

Jakala Gets Involved -- John Jakala horns in on the debate between Laura Gjovaag and I over the sublime divinity that is Seth's cover to Coober Skeber #2. Jakala wins, though -- that is a damn big gun!

Laura, meanwhile, can't take the heat. Aw.

The Week in Comics -- Previews Review runs down this week's new releases.

Well, DUH -- Laura Gjovaag finally gets it:

ADD's...tastes are completely different than 99% or so of superhero fans.

I should certainly hope so.

Johnny Bacardi also weighs in, and reading both of their comments, one can only assume they're unaware that superheroes are dead. You'll note that both of them disagree with my correct assessment that Seth's Coober Skeber cover is the best superhero cover of the past decade, but neither has put forth anything that can even begin to approach Seth's fine tribute to the superhero era. Sadly, Gjovaag's comment that Seth's piece is "boring, badly-colored, and static," places her firmly in the Ray Tate school of comics commentators.

AK Waffles -- Former Title Bouter AK weighs in on Dirk Deppey's essay on the Direct Market, then takes it all back.

One point I particularly sympathize with AK on is when he says "[Comics is] actually pretty sweet right now, man. I got a Joe Sacco book and a Junji Ito book on Saturday. How awesome. I know everyone's a downer right now but man, I think what it is: the less you pay attention, the more awesome comics seem. Now that I don't do a comic book column anymore, everything I read is awesome. Palomar -- awesome, GYO -- awesome, that Chris Ware sketchbook -- awesome."

When you have a column, or a website (and I see this morning that Comic Book Galaxy seems to have officially entered into history -- it's gone, Jim), you feel a responsibility to read everything you can afford, and everything on top of that, that the publishers and hopeful creators send to you. Sturgeon's Law invokes itself, though, with the vast majority of what you receive being crap, and a large portion of that egregious crap that makes you want to eschew comics in favour of a new hobby, or just suicide. When you free yourself of those perceived responsibilities, you are free to focus only on that work that you know will be good (because it's from a trusted creator, or because someone you trust recommends it), the percentage of great stuff rises exponentially. "Yay, comics," you say, but to a much smaller crowd. It remains to be seen whether this enlightened self-interest can save comics, but it will certainly save the sanity and love of comics for those willing to stop reading utter crap like Power Company or Creature Tech or Eclipse and Vega (choke!) because you feel you have a responsibility to -- Team Comics, or, whatever.

Oh, by the way, this has been your AK Stalking Moment of the Day.


By Frank Miller, Will Eisner, and others
Edited by Diana Schutz
Designed by Paul Hornschemeier
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Like the last Schutz-edited anthology I read (Happy Endings), Autobiographix is a mostly-successful anthology by an unusually-strong group of cartoonists. This is increasingly rare, as most anthologies I've read in the past few years have been varying degrees of agony to plow through. Schutz appears to be a fine editor, and one of the few in an industry that has forgotten the meaning of the word.

If you read the Streetwise anthology of a few years back, you might have an idea of what to expect here -- mostly experienced and gifted cartoonists share vignettes from their own life experiences. The book leads off with an impressive piece by Frank Miller, a funny and telling account of his experience as an actor with a brief but visually memorable scene in last year's Daredevil movie. The brief story not only underlines the paradoxical excitement and tedium of the movie-making experience, but enlightens as to how Daredevil publisher Marvel Comics has treated Miller over the past few years. Miller's piece is brief, sharp and enlightening -- if only his longform work of the past few years was this good.

Sergio Aragones delivers a terrific anecdote about meeting Richard Nixon. The incident happened at Warner Books, which at the time was publishing books by both men. This is the second-best "Meeting Richard Nixon" story I've read (after Dr. Thompson's, of course), and I thought the most intriguing element of it is that Nixon apparently not only knew who Aragones was, but how to spell his name.

My favourite piece in the book is the reflective and appealingly mannered "Rules to Live By," by Jason Lutes. It's fascinating to me to see Lutes utilize his Berlin stylizations in the depiction of his current life and environment. The piece is philosophical and probably one of the most reflective and (as he admits) didactic in the book. It's thoughtful and gorgeous and a true highlight in a book full of strong material.

Farel Dalrymple of Pop Gun War contributes a very untypical effort, a sad, beautiful story of lost love. It's him telling the story of someone else that touched his life, and as impressive as Pop Gun War has been, Dalrymple is a powerful storyteller in this mode, too.

Other contributors include Eddie Campbell, Matt Wagner, Linda Medley, William Stout, Paul Chadwick, Bill Morrison, and more. It's an impressively talented and diverse selection of creators.

The book is designed by Paul Hornschemeier, who contributes the closing story as well. His elegant, understated design work and his quiet, complex contribution (an examination of the very theme of autobiography) unify the collection and give it added grace and a sense of enduring significance. Schutz thanks her publisher in her endnotes for allowing her to pursue "more personal, less strictly commercial" projects such as this. It shames the industry to think what might be considered more commercial than these genuinely human stories, skillfully told with honesty and passion. Grade: 4.5/5

Monday, December 08, 2003

New Innovations in Paranoia -- Hmm, what's John Byrne so afraid of, anyway?

Hard-Hitting Analysis -- Derek tells you all you need to know about a bad batch of upcoming Marvel titles.

Monday Reading (Updated) -- Hannibal Tabu previews My Flesh is Cool in an interview with writer Steven Grant. I bought the preview issue for this series it seems like many, many months ago, and I'm glad it's finally coming out. I should remind you that Grant's X-Man was one of the best Marvel titles of the past decade, and the intriguing premise of My Flesh is Cool makes it an automatic must-read for me.

Christopher Butcher has also updated his Previews Reviews column, running down the few worthwhile items shipping in January.

Dirk Deppey explains why the Direct Market is so suckarific in this essay.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

AK Stalking -- The former Title Bout writer holds forth with some excellent comics recommendations. This has been your AK Stalking Moment of the Day.

Sunday Reading -- Not much happening on the computer internet this weekend, but worth noting is Johnny Bacardi's comics reviews. I agree with him 100% on Promethea; the narrative of this series over the course of its existence has been perhaps the wildest, most mind-expanding vision ever created for comics (certainly for corporate comics).

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