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Monday, March 29, 2004

 
The ADD Blog Hiatus -- As noted below, The ADD Blog is currently on hiatus. Get the latest information by joining the ADD Blog Yahoo mailing list (link in the right-side menu) and feel free to browse the archives and visit the list of links in the GO section. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, March 26, 2004

 
One More Thing: Goodbye, Shep -- As if this week's mutliple teeth-bashings-in hadn't been enough, I received word this morning that Shep died on Wednesday.

Shep was Jerry Shepard, a man I knew and worked with (and sometimes for) at a number of radio stations over the course of my radio career. He was a total original, full of piss and vinegar, and one of the few decent, honest people I ever met in a management position at a commercial radio station.

When I found out I had diabetes five years ago, it was Shep I first turned to for advice. He had struggled with the disease for years by then, himself, and his technique of getting his best advice through to me can best be described as "shock and awe," telling and showing me the ravages of the disease in such a devastatingly blunt and immediate manner that it impacted on me like a heart attack. Whenever I think about my diabetes, and dealing with it, I always -- always remember every second of that moment.

Well, Shep, you were an amazing man and I think my life -- and certainly my career -- were better for knowing you. You were kind and patient to me when I was a rookie, and you were a beloved friend and colleague once I'd found my feet in broadcasting. I never told you this when you were alive, and I never knew how true it was until now, but I loved you and I loved knowing you and the world is a great deal shittier for losing you. Goodbye, Shep.

From the Glens Falls, NY Post-Star

Francis ‘Jerry’ Shepard Jr.
Published on 3/26/2004

FORT EDWARD -- Francis “Jerry” Shepard Jr. 73, of Notre Dame Street, Fort Edward, passed away Wednesday, March 24, 2004, at Glens Falls Hospital. Born Aug. 13, 1930, in Fort Edward, he was the son of the late Francis and Margaret (Lapoint) Shepard. Jerry served his country in the Korean Conflict, in the United States Navy.

Shep started his career in radio as a sales representative in Glens Falls ,where he worked for WWSC in the 60s, then relocated to Connecticut and worked in sales for several radio stations, Shep then moved back to Glens Falls where he worked in sales until his retirement. His greatest enjoyments where the Saratoga Race Track, New York Giants Football and supporting Fort Edward High School Sports, he was also active in the Fort Edward Lions Club.

Besides his parents he was predeceased by his stepmother, Madeline Shepard; and his sister, Shirley Smoller. He is survived by his wife Anne; his son, Daryl Shepard and his wife, Patti, and their four children, Maxine, Jared, Scott and Dan, also his son, Jason Shepard; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. There will be no calling hours at Jerry’s request.

Burial will take place with full military honors at 1 p.m. Monday March 29, at Gerald B. H. Soloman Saratoga National Cemetery 200 Duell Road Schuylerville NY 12871. Arrangements are under the direction of M.B. Kilmer Funeral Home, 82 Broadway, Fort Edward.

Donations may be made in Jerry’s memory to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 6 Automation Lane Albany, NY 12205 or the Fort Edward Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 226 Schuyler St., Fort Edward, NY 12828.

 
This Sick Strange Darkness -- This week saw the beginning of a total overhaul of my family's daily schedule, with my wife taking on a new shift at her job and me picking up the slack in terms of taking care of our kids. What this means for the immediate future is a hiatus for the ADD Blog, while I adjust to the new situation and devote the necessary time to the kids. Sign up for the ADD Blog Yahoo Group (link in the menu bar at right) to stay on top of my dramatic return, when I shall ride in when needed most and least expected, with new power to grant boons.

While I'm gone, ponder these particularly good lyrics from Blink 182's song I Miss You:

Hello there, the angel from my nightmare
The shadow in the background of the morgue
The unsuspecting victim of darkness in the valley
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want
Where you can always find me
We'll have Halloween on Christmas
And in the night we'll wish this never ends
We'll wish this never ends

(I miss you I miss you)
(I miss you I miss you)

Where are you and I'm so sorry
I cannot sleep I cannot dream tonight
I need somebody and always
This sick strange darkness
Comes creeping on so haunting every time
And as I stared I counted
Webs from all the spiders
Catching things and eating their insides
Like indecision to call you
and hear your voice of treason
Will you come home and stop this pain tonight
Stop this pain tonight

Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (miss you miss you)
Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (miss you miss you)

Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (I miss you miss you)
Don't waste your time on me you're already
The voice inside my head (I miss you miss you)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

 
Tony Moore Off Walking Dead -- Well, this sucks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

 
New Hornschemeier -- I'm very excited by an announcement today that Paul Hornschemeier is releasing a new comic through AdHouse Books:

Return of the Elephant by Paul Hornschemeier -- A 48-page comic that tells an eerily quiet story of a solitary man and the ulterior motives involved in a visit from a longtime friend of the family.

That sounds like something that'llbe right up my alley, both playing to Hornschemeier's strengths and offering the chance for innovation and a pushing forward of his art. Can't wait to see it.

In addition, AdHouse also announced:

The AdHouse Books Free Comic Book Day Comic Book -- A 32-page themed comic with stories by Joel Priddy and Scott Morse

...and...

One Step After Another by Fermin Solis -- A 40-page comic imported from the alternative comics movement happening in Spain

AdHouse says the first of these comics ships in July, with the release of The AdHouse Books Free Comic Book Day Comic Book on July 3rd.

 
Ultimate Embarrassment -- You know, this is really a disgrace. I bought the discounted Ultimates DVD at Toys R Us this past weekend, and not only did it really get me excited about the title again, but my kids and even my non-comics reading wife were interested in the story.

When The Ultimates debuted, it looked like the natural inheritor to the legacy of the glory days of The Authority, written and drawn by two of the book's strongest talents. Months and months of delayed issues of The Ultimates diminished the buzz on the book, and seemed especially grating given that The Authority as drawn by Bryan Hitch mostly shipped on-time.

Personal problems, time-intensive modern artistic techniques, blah-fucking-blah. DO THE GODDAMNED WORK, or don't be surprised when people no longer give a flying fuck about what was once one of the most-anticipated and talked-about comics on the stands.

 


Peter Bagge -- One of the most prominent alternative cartoonists of the 1990s has reinvented himself recently with investigative strips and essays that see print annually as Hate Annuals, always one of the most dense and interesting comics in any given year. He spared a few minutes to answer the Five Questions.

Your alternative comic Hate is now a series of annuals, one of the most fascinating aspects of which is your political, cultural and social commentary and journalism. What do you get from those efforts that you didn't get from plain ol' cartooning?

It allows me to run off at the mouth in a way that I can't do in a comic strip. I currently am doing regular strips for REASON Magazine, and it's very hard to get my point across sometimes in a comic strip format. I wish they'd let me just write an illustrated article sometimes like I used to do for Suck.com!

With Hate only appearing once a year these days, what's a day in the life of Pete Bagge like?

I'm still trapped in my dungeon/studio all day working on countless projects -- the latest being a regular "Bat Boy" comic strip for the Weekly World News!

Which presidential candidate would Buddy Bradley be voting for, and why?

Seeing how he has a brain, Buddy would vote for whomever the Democrats wind up nominating to oppose President Bush, even if that means going through the trouble of registering.

What's you take on the overall state of the comics industry at the moment?

While I'm pleased to see that comics are making inroads in books stores via the graphic novel route, I'm very upset at the shrinking demand for the traditional comic book format, which is by far my favorite medium to work in.

What does the phrase "Make Mine Marvel" bring to mind?

A paycheck.

Get the lowdown on Bagge's comix at Fantagraphics.com.

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Monday, March 22, 2004

 
Letters to An Accidental Vegetarian -- Here's a sampling of the feedback I've received since I began posting about my conversion to a meat-free lifestyle...

Colin says:

I e-mailed you when you went veggie, and have been following your progress on your blog. The new links you posted were helpful for me, as those links of course spread out into even more links. Thanks.

I'm a bit surprised at how hard your wife is taking your "conversion" (for lack of a better word, though I do think it's appropiate). Usually it's the other way around. Luckily, my wife and I went vegetarian, then vegan, together.

It's made it a lot easier on both of us. We're both the products of southern families, meat-eaters to the core. I can only guess what my father (now deceased) would have to say about it. Of, course, he might still be alive if not for his horrific diet and those damned cigarettes. I honestly don't know if I even knew any vegetarians before I became one myself. Just a few years ago, I myself used to trot out that imbecilic "meat-eating is natural" argument.

I understand the dilemma of dealing with those who are not sensitive to the issue at all. My in-laws and all but a couple of friends are all so threatened by this lifestyle that the jokes and comments start in almost any time food is discussed. Fortunately, I have at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about, which of course they don't, and I've never been afraid to talk shit. I also don't try to convert those around me. Not because I don't believe in what I'm doing but because I think most people prefer to wallow in their own ignorance and accept everything they've ever been told at face value. Why waste my breath. If I tell people I don't smoke, drink, do drugs, eat meat, etc. all I get are stunned expressions and defenses of these behaviors. Even though they asked me and I don't give a shit what anyone does. The unknown is the enemy, I guess.

So anyway, keep fighting the good fight. In this world all we can do is be responsible for ourselves. I'm not the most optimistic guy in the world, but there is definitely a meat-less buzz in the air. It sounds corny, but we're the wave of the future. Some things just won't go away once they've been brought to the fore. Gay marriage, vegetarianism, James Kolchalka.

Anyway, that's it. If you got this far, thanks for reading. I think I've said more here on this subject than I have to anyone but my wife. But this does excite me. Your blog reaches a lot of people. Maybe seeing someone who's not a health nut, an enviro-fanatic, a leftist-anarchist-communist-whatever doing this will make some people think about this subject. A little thought is all it takes.


Logan writes:

I guess I'll have to look into the "no meat" thing some more. Don't know what others are saying, but I enjoy the pieces on your new lifestyle, very informative, and it's great to see that you don't take it so seriously that you can laugh at yourself about it. I think that helps keep it from being too preachy. Anyway, I for one enjoy it. Thanks again!

From Troy:

I've been reading about your vegetarianism, and while I'm not a strict vegetarian, I have cut out most of the meat in my diet (I was very seriously overweight, and over the last two years, I've lost 150 lbs so far, mostly by eating a lot of beans). As you noted, you have to make sure you still get plenty of protein (hence the beans in my case).

One side effect I found with the lack of protein is that my hair started thinning out (now that I'm cognizant of the protein factor, it's back to its full luxurious glory...cough cough...). Just be careful, man.


Shawn checks in...

I've been a vegetarian for about eight or nine years now. My fiancé has been one for about 7 years. I also turned my father onto vegetarianism about four years ago. He lost about 50 pounds and feels healthier than ever.

The important thing is to do the research yourself and not to listen to the would be experts out there. Your a smart guy, so you can decide for yourself.


My thanks to everyone who has written in with their advice and experience, and I continue to encourage your suggestions and ideas -- just e-mail me any time you feel like it.

 

The Week in Comics -- Here's a rundown of noteworthy new comics and graphic novels arriving in stores on Wednesday...man, am I ever picking up a lot of floppies this week.

COMING WEDNESDAY MARCH 24TH

AVATAR PRESS

ALAN MOORE'S HYPOTHETICAL LIZARD PREVIEW $1.99 -- Alan Moore's projects for Avatar have ranged from the inconsequential (Magic Words) to the essential (The Courtyard). I haven't seen enough of this one yet to know which way it'll lean, but you can view a few pages here.

TOP SHELF

COMIC BOOK ARTIST VOL 2 #3 (RES) 7.50 -- Darwyn Cooke is featured in this must-buy issue. Cooke is one of the best and most interesting cartoonists currently plying his trade in corporate superhero comics, and putting most everyone else doing it to absolute shame. Find out why and how in this issue.

DARK HORSE

FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND #2 $2.99 -- The first issue didn't move a story along much, but it was well-done, atmospheric stuff with gorgeous artwork. Writer Steve Niles rarely disappoints, and this looks to be another winner.

HELLBOY THE CORPSE ONE SHOT $.25 -- Buy a couple of dozen and give them to everyone you know who has never told you "I hate them damn funnybooks."

IDW

WAKE THE DEAD #5 (Of 5) (MR) 3.99 -- To quote a noted comics critic, "Writer Steve Niles rarely disappoints, and this looks to be another winner."

AIT-PLANETLAR

DEMO #5 (Of 12) (MR) $2.95 -- The nice thing about a series of unconnected stories like this is that every issue is a good jumping-on point. There are brief character portraits, but each one so far has been compelling and I'd recommend you give the series a try.

DC COMICS

CAPER #6 (Of 12) (MR) $2.95 -- The first issue of this storyline, last month, really grabbed me with its realistic depiction of celebrity life and some of the best John Severin art I've ever seen. Looking forward to the rest of this excellent series.

HUMAN TARGET #8 (MR) $2.95 -- One of the best monthly series you may very well not be reading.

OUTSIDERS #10 $2.50 -- It speaks to my profound affection for Tom Raney's art that I am stiff buying this. Other than the "Two Metamorphos" issue, I haven't cared much for the writing, and the non-Raney issues were excruciating.

SMAX #5 (Of 5) $2.95 -- The fantastic (in more than one sense of the word) tie-in to Top 10 concludes. Alan Moore really surprised me with this one, pulling out all the stops to make me care about what I thought would be a diverting spinoff at best.

WILDCATS VERSION 3.0 #19 (MR) $2.95 -- Jesus, I want Nguyen back on the art already. This series had a years-long run of interesting stories coupled with excellent artwork, but the past month or three has seen the quality of the visuals -- and my level of interest -- drop a bit.

IMAGE

INVINCIBLE #9 $2.95 -- Hey, Hellboy, Astro City and Savage Dragon fans! Over here! Good, fun superhero comics!

SAVAGE DRAGON #114 2.95 -- Ooh, here's another one.

WANTED #3 (Of 6) 2.99 -- And another one!

MARVEL

HULK GRAY #6 (Of 6) 3.50 -- Too many ads, and a very awkward looking Iron Man were among the elements that made this mini-series suffer by comparison to its earlier related projects by the same creative team, Spider-Man: Blue and Daredevil: Yellow. Maybe once it's collected in hardcover, it'll read better.

That's it for me -- check out another point of view (two, actually) on this week's new releases over at Previews Review.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

 
Confidential to Logan -- You're welcome, pal. And good work on the reviews.

 
Adventures of An Accidental Vegetarian -- Yeah, I know, I don't want this blog to become a "comics and STOP EATING MEAT!" blog either. Let me know if I get lecturey. I swear to you, you wanna keep eating meat, that's your b-i-bidness.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was extremely stressful for my wife and I. Her lemon Ford Focus for the third time just decided it doesn't want to start again. She's had this car for a year or so now, and every few months it shits the bed, and no one ever explains what the problem is, and eventually it starts again, and one time it was real funny because the jackass in the service department tried to tell my wife that her cell phone could be causing the problem. Anything but admit the lousy car is, oh, yeah, right: LOUSY.

So, I drove to where the giant paperweight Ford Focus was sitting, picked up my wife's grandmother (they'd just had lunch together), and drove her home while my wife waited for the tow truck.

Dropped off Lora's grandmother at her house, drove back to the scene of the crime Ford Focus not working, and waited an hour with my wife and kids in my car while the tow truck took its own sweet time getting there.

Eventually they came and once again hauled off her car -- hey, next time is #4 and New York's Lemon Law kicks in, so bring it on because this car is more lemony than Lemon Pledge -- and we decided that the previous plan of dinner at home was going to be replaced by a decadent evening of dining out at an area restaurant. This is always problematic when it's a last-minute idea that pops up at 5:30 on Friday afternoon, and now I had the added consideration (and thanks for waiting for it) of being a vegetarian.

Digression: Haven't eaten meat in nearly a month now, but I still feel weird calling myself a vegetarian. Am I a vegetarian yet? Hmm.

Anyway: We ended up driving to Lake George to see if our favourite Italian place was open. Nope, "Reopening April 1." I figure they won't, that's an April Fools joke, right? So we drove south back through the village and pulled into the lot of an Italian place we'd never tried before that we had noticed was open on our way through the first time. Lake George is a resort town, mostly closed up at this time of year, so in a way it was a surprise that any place was open.

This place that was open, though, we got there and went in. My wife and daughter went to the bathroom almost immediately, leaving my son and I to peruse the menu.

Now, I was really tired. I got up for work Friday morning at 2 AM, and the stressful afternoon left me not-quite-thinking-straight. Very "In The Moment," just wanted to find something to drink and something to eat and forget the annoyances and frustrations of the previous two hours. So, me and the menu:

Scallops, mmm, scallops are good. I like chicken parmesan. Ooh, haven't had veal in a while. Maybe I'll -- maybe I'll -- oh, wait. Wait. Stop.

I'm a vegetarian.

Fuck, ravioli. Ravioli and tomato sauce. They don't even have mushroom sauce. I hope it's cheese ravioli, not goddamned beef, like, Chef Boyardee?

Anyway, once I realized this brain fart I was apparently suffering, I laughed out loud, LOL as they say on the computer internet. My son asked me why I was laughing, and I told him it was nothing, but when an 8-year-old boy wants to know what you're laughing about, he doesn't quit until he gets an answer, so I told him:

I was trying to find something to eat on the menu, and I remembered that I don't eat meat, and suddenly it occurred to me that I feel like an alien who's landed on an unfamiliar planet and I can't eat the food here!

In one of those great parent-child bonding moments, he immediately understood where I was coming from, and he laughed too. His Dad is an Alien. Alien David Doane.

So, yeah, I ordered the damn ravioli with tomato sauce, and they were very accomodating with throwing some mushrooms into the sauce. It was actually very fresh pasta and tasted delicious, and although they weren't on the menu, when we were told they had cannoli, that was it: No scallops for me, but at least there was cannoli. For a brief, shining moment, all was well with the world.

Friday, March 19, 2004

 
Putting the ME in METH -- It occurs to me that my insightful satire of Clifford Meth's paranoid, narcissistic column on Barry Windsor-Smith may have, at the last, been entirely too subtle for the novice to appreciate. Therefore, let's examine the actual Meth column and see what lies at the heart of his particular (and peculiar) psychopathology.

A Rare (and Unappreciated) Barry Windsor-Smith Citing

First, I find it fascinating that a man who is about to claim to be an experienced and much-in-demand journalist would spell "sighting" that way.

By Clifford Meth

I've told this story before, but recent events invite its retelling: It was in the early days of Wizard's existence that I was invited to write for the fledgling magazine. The invitation came from Pat O'Neil, a former editor at ComicScene who had bought my articles before. He offered me twice what I’d been getting from ComicScene. It’s important to note that these were not halcyon days for me, friends. I was struggling financially. And at home, I had two in diapers.


For the sake of argument, we'll assume he means "two children."

One day, I received a call from O'Neil asking if I'd be interested in doing a feature on Barry Smith.

“Sure,” I said. “I loved his work on Conan.” So the very next day, I attempted to contact Barry. One of his assistants, a woman, answered the phone. I explained that I was calling on behalf of Wizard and asked for an interview.

“Barry doesn't give phone interviews,” she said. “You'll have to fax your questions and he'll review them. If he's interested, he'll get back to you.”


It might strike even the most generous of readers to think that this was a bit demanding and off-putting of Windsor-Smith. That is, until one reflects on the fact that at the time, BWS was full engaged in producing BWS: Storyteller, an oversized, 32-page, ad-free comic book for Dark Horse comics. Barry was writing, pencilling, inking and colouring the series. Upon reflection, one might concede that, well, the guy had more important things to do than personally address each media inquiry in an immediate and accomodating manner. Unless one is Clifford Meth, that is:

It wasn’t what she said so much as the way she said it. Really snotty.

That's some journalism, there.

So I'll admit I was a little put off. In my career as a freelance journalist with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire and about four-dozen magazines, I'd interviewed lots of people from John Scully (C.E.O. of Apple Computers) to Frank Zappa; from Howard Stern to Mickey Mantle; poets, playwrights, actors and actresses; scientists, athletes and religious leaders.

Translation: "Clifford Meth is a very, very, VERY important Journalist. Good thing he points this out, because before this past Wednesday, I'd never heard of him. Astonishing, really, considering the bio he presents on his column page at Silver Bullet Comics:

"'Clifford Meth is one of dark fiction’s best kept secrets,' says Barnesandnoble.com. But it’s more than fiction. It’s the whole Meth persona. He has Blackbelts in Shotokan and TaeKwonDo. He’s been drunk with Evel Knievel and is one of the few guys Howard Stern trusted with an interview. Frank Zappa trusted him, too. So did Timothy Leary. His articles have been syndicated by The L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire. You've seen him in Billboard and dozens of other magazines. His writings have been praised by Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Jim Steranko, Pete Townsend of The Who, and the international Literary Review. Until you’ve read one of Meth’s books, you’ve missed something unique. And you have nothing to lose. His publisher is so confident that all of Meth’s books are offered with a unique money-back guarantee: Buy it, read it, and if you’re not delighted, send it back for a full refund. His current book is 'god’s 15 minutes' from Aardwolf Publishing"

Me, I interviewed M*A*S*H's Mike Farrell once. Boy, when it comes to capital-J Journalism, I suck! On the other hand, when it comes to pretension, Meth's resume and insistence on posting it at length on his column page makes Barry's name-change look humble, indeed.

And if I'd only learned one thing at that point in my career it was this: A fish rots from the head. When someone's -people- act that way, it's coming from the top.

So, Meth has now spent a grand total of perhaps five minutes on the phone with one of Barry's assistants, and already this Journalist has decided "A fish rots from the head." I submit to you that it's already apparent Meth is seriously fucked in the head, but, let's continue:

But there are exceptions. So I persisted.

I typed up a list of questions and proceeded to fax them the next morning. Later that afternoon, I received a call. It was Pat O'Neil. He informed me that I was off the story.

“What happened?” I asked.
“They said you were rude to them,” Pat reported.
“They said I was rude?”
“And they said you called him ‘Mister Smith’ in your fax.”
“Isn't that his name?” I asked.
“It's Windsor-Smith,” said O'Neil.


Now, interestingly, Cliffy doesn't provide us with such a word-by-word transcription of his conversation with the unidentified female BWS Studio assistant. I would be very interested to know if he referred to Barry as "Barry Smith" during that call, and whether this woman would have corrected him, and what Meth's reaction to someone daring to correct him might be. Because I suspect the true origin of the BWS Studio claim that Meth was rude involved more than simply not knowing the man's name. So, again, too bad for us and for posterity that Meth conveniently remembers every single word of a decade-old conversation with his editor, but not the conversation that preceeded it by only a single day.

I squinted, ran my hand through my beard, then said, “Hang on a minute.” I ran downstairs and pulled out my autograph book. Then I grabbed my copy of Conan #1. Then I ran back to the phone. “I have Conan #1 in my hand,” I said to O’Neil, still out of breath. “The credits say Roy Thomas and Barry Smith. I also have my autograph book. Barry signed it at the first MarvelCon... Here it is. ‘Best wishes--Barry Smith.’”

Now, most people at all interested in Barry know that he added "Windsor" to his name in the 1970s. Most sane people will also understand that he had every right to do so, and that the reasons are nobody's business but his own. But in the next section, we see how irritated Meth seems to be by this fact:

“He changed it,” said O'Neil.
“Gosh,” I said. “I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?”
“You're off the story,” said O'Neil.
“At least let me call and apologize,” I offered. “I don't want to leave it like this.”
Ok, said, O'Neil. Call and apologize.


Now, one would have to be disingenuous to the extreme not to see the sarcasm inherent in Meth's claim that he told his editor "Gosh, I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?" The contempt he feels for Windsor-Smith and his temerity at changing his name is extremely obvious.

So I called again the next morning again. “This is Clifford Meth,” I said to the person who answered the phone at the Windsor-Smith Studios. At least I assumed it was a person.

What the fucking fuck does that mean, the sane reader asks?

“I'm calling from Wizard magazine and—”
“I thought we made it clear that you shouldn't call here.”
“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.
“This is Alex Bialy. I'm the office manager.”
“What did I do wrong?” I asked.
“You don't even know Mr. Windsor-Smith's last name,” said Bialy. “Now you're not to call here again. Do you understand?” And with that, he hung up.


Now, this is where Meth's alleged capital-J Journalism meets actual journalism in a very interesting and telling manner. Up until now, I am willing to accept Meth's story pretty much at face value. As someone who has been a journalist for nearly 20 years (although I have never interviewed Howard Stern or the Pope, I'll admit -- but I do know how to spell "sighting," so at least there's that), I know that not every single interview attempt is going to succeed. Sometimes they fail spectacularly. Sometimes it's the journalist's fault, sometimes it's the potential interviewee's fault, sometimes a combination of both -- and most likely, every once in a while, it's nobody's fault in particular; things sometimes just don't click, and you don't get the interview. A sane, normal journalist will regret the circumstance, and get on with their life. Not Meth, though. That's not nearly dramatic or self-affirming

I sat there for a moment waiting for the feeling to come back into my head. Then I felt it. I was hurt.

And here it all begins. A decade of drama and insult and hurt feelings, every single drop of it residing solely in the head of this little, little man who believes he is a capital-J Journalist who Will Not Be Denied, Insulted or Fucked With.

like an idiot, I called back again.
“Bialy?” I asked.
“Yes?”
“This is Clifford Meth. Just answer one question: What the hell is your problem?”
But I never did get the answer because he hung up. And that afternoon, Pat O'Neil called me to tell me I was fired.

Now, I know what you're thinking. O'Neil should have backed me up. Yessir. I agree.


It almost seems like satire, doesn't it? This guy is taken off a story but refuses to leave the by-now harrassed-feeling BWS Studio people alone. And he thinks he doesn't deserve to get fired?

You're also thinking there's an odd chance that this was all put in motion by Bialy, not Windsor-Smith; that the big boss knew nothing of these events. Well, I thought that, too. So I called Windsor-Smith’s home and left a message on his answering machine. The message was brief, explanatory, and apologetic. I left my phone number. Repeated it twice. Slowly.

But I never did get a return call.


Why in hell would any sane person expect a return call? Already Meth is admitting that he engaged in stalker-like behaviour, refusing to listen when told that BWS and his people didn't want him to call. Now he's been fired for his disturbing behaviour, and still he continues to stalk Windsor-Smith, tracking down his home phone number and making what any reasonable person would know is an extremely unwelcome call.

That, my friends, was a decade ago. Why recall it now?

Yes, why? Did Barry Windsor-Smith shoot his dog? Run over his grandmother? Surely, Meth must have suffered some massive injustice to justify the dredging up of a decade-old incident about which virtually no human being on Earth could possibly give a flying fuck. Well, here it is:

Well, recently, I received an email from one of Barry Windsor-Smith's associates—an artist of acclaim whose work I admire very much. Like so many of his peers—most, in fact—he was contributing to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute book that I'm editing for Aardwolf Publishing. And he wanted to know why Windsor-Smith had not been invited.

So I phoned this artist and told him the story. He wasn't the least bit surprised.

“Look,” I said. “I’m a forgiving guy. Just tell Barry to call me. I've always admired his work on Conan.”


"Just tell Barry to call me." He's like the Terminator, isn't he? He Just Will Not Stop, until he gets the attention of the object of his stalking.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Instead, another artist phoned on his behalf. He said that Windsor-Smith was worried. He feared that if he contributed a piece to the book (a project I've been working on for months) I might reject it.

“Tell him to call me,” I said. “Here's my phone number.”


Nothing less than the full and complete attention of Windsor-Smith will satisfy this man.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Then, a day before the deadline, Aardwolf Publishing’s secretary received an email from none other than Alex Bialy. The note said that Windsor-Smith’s art would be arriving a little late and that Aardwolf should hold open a place for it. It also insisted on knowing full details of the benefit auction, distribution of the book’s proceeds, and so forth.

Entirely reasonable, since Windsor-Smith drawings are extremely rare in the marketplace and highly valued. It's also understandable that Barry would want to be certain that the auction is on the up-and-up. I have known Barry for five years now, and if there's one thing I've learned in that time, from seeing him interact with his peers at conventions and from talking extensively about his time in comics and the people he's known, it's that he has an enormous, almost awed respect for his fellow creators, and a strong sense of wanting them to be treated decently and ethically.

Aardwolf's secretary sent Bialy the following reply: “Clifford Meth is the editor of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Ask Barry to call him.” Then she gave him my phone number.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Instead, I received an email from Bialy. It said that Windsor-Smith would be contributing to the book and asked for my Fed Ex number so they could charge me for the shipping.

I replied very clearly: “Ask Barry to call me.”


Note carefully that even though Barry has had dealings with Meth a decade earlier that did not end well, even though this character, in my opinion, engaged in disturbing, stalker-like behaviour that got him fired from Wizard and continued to engage in that behaviour even after that, Even then Barry was willing to create a piece of artwork in order to help out a fellow creator at a time of need. Even if you think he's a pompous ass for daring to change his name thirty years ago -- even if you think he treated poor Journalist Clifford Meth with an appalling degree of disrespect and disregard, it's vitally important to remember that BWS was still willing to produce a valuable piece of art in an effort to relieve some of the suffering of Dave Cockrum. Is Meth at all willing to meet BWS halfway, then? To put aside his decade-long grudge and let bygones be bygones and put Dave and his health and well-being ahead of all other considerations?

Fuck, no:

As of this writing, I have not received a call. But I have thought about this situation long and hard, friends. I've meditated on it and fasted for days in an effort to humble my soul.

Perhaps he should have been stalking Dave Sim all these years?

I've looked into the deepest depths of my being and decided that I should forgive Barry Windsor-Smith for what he did to me (and what I can only imagine he's done to others). Even if I am beneath personally calling.

It's unfair to hold royalty to the standards of common courtesy when, after all, those standards are so common. And Windsor-Smith is a most uncommon man. His work is so brilliant, in fact, that I think it unfair to subject it to indifferent eyes. A collection of sketches by mere “comic” artists has no place in the same publication as a Windsor-Smith rendering.

Further, I think it unfair to subject someone as important as Barry Windsor-Smith to my unworthy company; unfair to ask him to descend from Olympus and grace this editor—whose career he offhandedly stepped on as if it were a bug—with his divine etchings of unparalleled perfection.

So, no, my friends—Barry Windsor-Smith will not be appearing this evening.

Clifford Meth


So Meth is excluding one of the most popular and talented artists ever to work in comics from this project. Why? Read it, it's all right there: Because Barry won't call him on the phone. Barry Windsor-Smith has violated Clifford Meth's Constitutional RIGHT to get a phone call from the object of his enduring love/hate obsession.

The most important thing to realize, here, my friends, is that Meth used Dave Cockrum's dire, life-threatening illness as an excuse to dredge up his decade-old grudge against Barry Windsor-Smith. Even if every single slight Meth alleges BWS committed against him is true, it is still loathsome and extremely troubling that he would use Cockrum and his illness as a launching pad for his outraged screed. The more I study this column, the more disgusted and disturbed I am. It is astonishing to me that anyone could read Meth's own words and not be able to see just how twisted his motives are in this, and just how tainted the Dave Cockrum charity book has become.

I strongly urge all of you to eschew purchase of this book, and send your money directly to Dave Cockrum. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the only Paypal address I can find online is one to buy Meth's ego-driven and ego-tainted book. What a shocking non-surprise.

 
An Accidental Vegetarian -- At 38 years of age, I certainly never intended to stop eating meat. Despite my oldest friend having been meat-free for the last five years, and despite an ever-increasing awareness of the casual contempt the meat industry seems to have for the concept of safety (or even simple decency), I never really thought much about the subject.

It was so simple to microwave some bacon to go with my waffles for breakfast; to grab a hamburger on the way home from work, or order a Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple from the local pizza shop. It was easy, convenient, and of course, it tasted good.

Looking back, one key "meat moment" about ten years ago that I always harken back to, though, when thinking about human consumption of meat was when my wife Lora first introduced meat into our daughter's diet. After months of eating mashed peas and carrots and other vegetable-based baby foods, my wife spooned a tiny amount of turkey baby food into Kira's mouth -- only for her to spit it out in revulsion, and glare at her mother with a genuine sense of outrage and betrayal. Seeing that primal scene, I began to question just how natural it is for humans to ingest the flesh of other animals. I also reflected on, as I often do, one Thanksgiving radio broadcast when Tom Snyder referred to turkey as "the only meat that actually tastes dead."

I had been forced to eschew some kinds of meat about five years ago, after being diagnosed with diabetes. It became much more important to me to cut the most egregious kinds of animal fat out of my diet, so no more prime rib or bacon -- both are composed primarily of fat and offer little nutritional value by any standard. If we bought hamburger, I lobbied for lean, 90 or 95-percent fat free. My wife did her best to comply with my needs. Instead of regular hot dogs, we got Healthy Choice, all-beef franks that had significantly less fat on the label than regular hot dogs. But our meals were still built primarily around meat. American society is built around meat and meat products in sometimes shocking ways -- for example, I recently learned that one cereal manufacturer refuses to guarantee that any of their cereals are free of meat or meat by-products. So, their popular granola cereal may well be a bowl of morning meaty goodness. Marshmallows are produced with rendered meat by-products, so my favourite kids cereal -- they're magically delicious, to coin a phrase -- isn't vegetarian-friendly. Amazing.

A couple of years ago, I read the book Fast Food Nation (excerpt here) and was startled to learn just how much contempt the fast food industry has for its workers and the poor bastards who end up consuming the mass-produced fat-bombs they serve. Being an adult of at least average intelligence and observational skills, I have always noticed that supposed advances in healthier options in fast food restaurants are mostly marketing maneuvers -- those crisp, green salads usually come with dressing packets with enough fat content for three meals; grilled chicken sandwiches are slathered in mayonaisse -- but I was stunned to learn that one of the key goals of McDonald's is to have a zero learning curve for their workers. They want their shake machines and french-fry fry-pits to be so simple that even an idiot can operate them -- which, of course, will be the end result of their plans. A fitting irony, I suppose, since that's mostly who'll be consuming the product as well.


Over the years I became more and more aware of what a Matrix-like illusion Americans are living under. TV shows and toys from Fisher Price reinforce the idea that the cattle Americans consume spend their lives grazing idyllically
on wholesome grass out in the fields, when the reality for many was that the meat rendering industry created a form of institutionalized cannibalism, feeding cattle, pigs and other animals meant for human consumption to themselves. I learned recently from the book Mad Cow USA that cannibalism results in spongiform encephalopathy, a disease in which holes are created in the brain by rogue proteins called prions. This horifically fatal illness -- which is thought to sometimes take decades to present itself -- is thought to be the cause of Mad Cow Disease, which is communicable to humans as a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. You may remember the images of thousands of cattle being burned in Britain to stop the spread of the disease. Science has since learned that prions aren't destroyed by heat, so all burning those cattle accomplished was to release the slow, deadly prions into the air, in the the water, into the environment. Decades from now, it will be horrifying and fascinating to see what the end result of all that cattle-burning turns out to be, and how the government will dissemble and spin the facts, as governments have already been doing for years.

In any event, reading Mad Cow USA (a PDF file of the entire first edition is available here)-- and earlier, Fast Food Nation -- finally resulted in me one day in March of 2004 just becoming revolted to the core by the thought of eating meat. I think the key moment for me was learning that the meat industry was actually feeding cows not only their own relatives, but feed composed partially of chicken shit and feathers, that did it. This is an obscene thing to do to an animal, no matter how the blend is prepared or how palatable they manage to render it. And then, to think that the meat from these animals that consumed chicken shit and feathers is considered suitable for human consumption? Now do you see why it's like waking up from The Matrix for me? For cows, Soylent Green is people.

Going vegetarian was nothing I had planned, but the change in my personality and in my lifestyle was as immediate and startling as a heart attack. The change left me essentially lost at sea in an unfamiliar, alien world where, just half a decade after having to redefine my eating habits to save my body from the ravages of diabetes, I now had to find new sources of nutrition. It was less than two weeks before I began to feel an insistent sense of gnawing in my gut that apparently was caused by a lack of protein. I was aware that I would need to find alternate sources of protein, but am still now struggling to find a new balance and utilize sources that are palatable and healthful.

My vegetarian pal Marshall accompanied me to the supermarket recently and recommended a protein drink, which I tried the next day. Perhaps I need to experiment with proportions and sweeteners (again, the diabetes has to be factored in), but I found it fairly unpleasant and was unable to finish the entire thing. I'm also not a huge fan of nuts, although I bought a jar of peanuts in case I feel that telltale gnawing setting in again. In the meantime, my preferred protein sources so far are meat substitutes like Gardenburgers and Boca Burgers, and eggs, which I generally liked anyway. With eggs, though, come cholesterol and fat, not to mention concerns over the non-organically raised variety, likely to be what is available in most of the restaurants where I live.

Another issue has been my wife's learning curve. From the moment I decided to drop meat from my diet, I was determined that I wouldn't try to evangelize or convince anyone else of the horrors of meat. Despite that, my wife's initial reaction could not have been much more shocked or hurt if I had told her I was gay. Understandable; after all, we'd eaten an awful lot of meat together over the course of our 12-year relationship. She saw my sudden conversion -- what I like to call my "Saul on the road to Damascus moment" -- as something that would turn the lives of our entire family upside-down and inside-out.

To ease the transition, I decided to try to make as many meals as possible -- if she came home from work each afternoon to a hot, delicious meal, it seemed to me that it would make the fact that the meal was meat-free a little more tolerable. The night I made meatless lasagna -- still with cheese (four kinds, in fact) and tomato sauce -- was a success. She refused to try the Smart Dogs, though, so I had to make up two batches of hot dogs. Interestingly -- and gratifyingly -- my kids seem to prefer the soy-based franks to the beef ones. My son and my wife even discovered that they like sauerkraut, which I prepared with the hot dogs. One thing I've quickly learned is that the lack of meat is greatly mitigated by the presence of strong flavours in meatless meals.

The night my wife offered to cook, she decided to make hamburgers for her and whichever of the kids wanted them, and Garden Burgers for me (and again, whoever else wanted them). I was reading in the bedroom when she started preparing the meal, and when I came out to see how things were going I noticed that she was using the same spatula for both batches of burgers. I didn't want to start a fight and tried to gently reinforce that this was more than a little counter-productive to my goal of eliminating as much meat (or contact with meat) from my diet wherever possible (and I do understand that that won't always be possible). She seemed a bit...whatever!...but I don't think she'll do that again, and we managed not to get angry about the obvious difference of opinion over how much it mattered, this thing with the spatula.

I also have had to try to make her sensitive to just how many meat-related products there are in seemingly unlikely places. The last time she went grocery shopping -- the first time she went in with a vegetarian-packed shopping list -- she brought home three cans of "Vegetable Soup." First ingredient? Chicken stock. I ate the Garden Burgers that had been flipped with the same spatula as the hamburgers, but I probably won't eat the "Vegetable" soup. Even I don't understand that one, since the risk of illness or exposure to pathogens is probably many, many times higher when we're talking about exposure to uncooked beef. Maybe it's because I perceive that her feelings would be more hurt with the burgers, which she actually expended some effort in preparing, than with the soup, which will eventually be dumped from the can to the pan before being consumed -- by someone other than me.

So, as I have accidentally stumbled into vegetarianism, it seems like a whole new world. I feel a bit safer, and while that might be an illusion, I do feel a greater sense of control over my health, and more optimism for the future. Tomorrow, Saturday, March 20th, is Meatout 2004, and I urge you to take one day and live meat-free. Have waffles or pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Have a bean and cheese burrito and a salad for lunch. Try those Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings or the absolutely convincing Boca Burgers for dinner -- they're some of the most convincing meat substitutes I've ever tried, absolutely delicious. Eventually I imagine I'll move on from the need for even substitute meat, but for now it's a great help in making perhaps the most profound transition of my life. From sleepily gnawing on chicken wings and turkey legs to a greater awareness of the genuine danger of mass-produced meat, and of the cruelty that a meat-oriented society delivers not only to the animals it consumes for sustenance, but ultimately to itself.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

 
The Voice of Reason -- Here's Chris Allen, weighing in on John Hinckley Clifford Meth:

Very funny ADD takedown/fisking of Clifford Meth, but the source material is really pretty disturbing. Now, I don't know this guy's work other than this column, and I believe that he's done good things, editing anthologies with some top writers and apparently writing his own stuff. He may be very talented and have his heart in the right place with many of his projects, including the upcoming Cockrum tribute book. But what on Earth was he thinking with this attack on Barry Windsor-Smith?!

His column is about the longest piece yet devoted to the Cockrum book, but instead of getting potential readers excited or moved enough to order it, he takes the opportunity to blast Windsor-Smith for an old grudge he has. The grudge isn't even against BWS, but Alex Bialy, and he even admits Bialy may be the sole culprit who committed the terrible crime of getting Meth pulled off a story. He didn't get Meth fired, as that wasn't in his power to do. Even if it led to Meth's firing, it has little to do with BWS. So here BWS, whatever his feelings about Meth, agrees to contribute to the Cockrum book anyway. But Meth can't let bygones be bygones, and instead insists that Barry call him. No, an email is no good, and Meth is not going to accept this superstar's gratis contribution without making Barry contact him and dig up an incident from many years ago. And when BWS understandably declines to do this, his contribution is then publicly refused. Never mind the extra copies a BWS pin-up just might sell, that would then benefit Dave Cockrum. Nope, Cliff's got to stand by his principle, the principle of publicly fucking with hyphenate artists when their assistants piss off Cliff. This just makes me not want to buy the book at all. Does Cockrum have a PayPal I could send to?

 

A Rare (and Unappreciated) Jodie Foster Citing

By John Hinckley

I've told this story before, but recent events invite its retelling: It was in the early days of Wizard's existence that I was invited to write for the fledgling magazine. The invitation came from Pat O'Neil, a former editor at ComicScene who had bought my articles before. He offered me twice what I’d been getting from ComicScene. It’s important to note that these were not halcyon days for me, friends. I was struggling financially. And at home, I had two in diapers.

One day, I received a call from O'Neil asking if I'd be interested in doing a feature on Jodie Foster.



“Sure,” I said. “I loved her work on Conan.” So the very next day, I attempted to contact Jodie. One of her assistants, a woman, answered the phone. I explained that I was calling on behalf of Wizard and asked for an interview.

“Jodie doesn't give phone interviews,” she said. “You'll have to fax your questions and she'll review them. If she's interested, she'll get back to you.”

It wasn’t what she said so much as the way she said it. Really snotty. So I'll admit I was a little put off. In my career as a freelance journalist with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire and about four-dozen magazines, I'd interviewed lots of people from John Scully (C.E.O. of Apple Computers) to Frank Zappa; from Howard Stern to Mickey Mantle; poets, playwrights, actors and actresses; scientists, athletes and religious leaders. And if I'd only learned one thing at that point in my career it was this: A fish rots from the head. When someone's -people- act that way, it's coming from the top.

But there are exceptions. So I persisted.

I typed up a list of questions and proceeded to fax them the next morning. Later that afternoon, I received a call. It was Pat O'Neil. He informed me that I was off the story.

“What happened?” I asked.
“They said you were rude to them,” Pat reported.
“They said I was rude?”
“And they said you called her ‘Miss Foster’ in your fax.”
“Isn't that her name?” I asked.
“It's Windsor-Foster,” said O'Neil.

I squinted, ran my hand through my beard, then said, “Hang on a minute.” I ran downstairs and pulled out my autograph book. Then I grabbed my copy of Conan #1. Then I ran back to the phone. “I have Conan #1 in my hand,” I said to O’Neil, still out of breath. “The credits say Roy Thomas and Jodie Foster. I also have my autograph book. Jodie signed it at the first MarvelCon... Here it is. ‘Best wishes--Jodie Foster.’”

“She changed it,” said O'Neil.
“Gosh,” I said. “I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?”
“You're off the story,” said O'Neil.
“At least let me call and apologize,” I offered. “I don't want to leave it like this.”
Ok, said, O'Neil. Call and apologize.

So I called again the next morning again. “This is John Hinckley,” I said to the person who answered the phone at the Windsor-Foster Studios. At least I assumed it was a person. “I'm calling from Wizard magazine and—”
“I thought we made it clear that you shouldn't call here.”
“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.
“This is Jim Brady. I'm the office manager.”
“What did I do wrong?” I asked.
“You don't even know Miss Windsor-Foster's last name,” said Bialy. “Now you're not to call here again. Do you understand?” And with that, he hung up.

I sat there for a moment waiting for the feeling to come back into my head. Then I felt it. I was hurt.

So, like an idiot, I called back again.
“Brady?” I asked.
“Yes?”
“This is John Hinckley. Just answer one question: What the hell is your problem?”
But I never did get the answer because he hung up. And that afternoon, Pat O'Neil called me to tell me I was fired.

Now, I know what you're thinking. O'Neil should have backed me up. Yessir. I agree.



You're also thinking there's an odd chance that this was all put in motion by Bialy, not Windsor-Foster; that the big boss knew nothing of these events. Well, I thought that, too. So I called Windsor-Foster’s home and left a message on her answering machine. The message was brief, explanatory, and apologetic. I left my phone number. Repeated it twice. Slowly.

But I never did get a return call.

That, my friends, was a decade ago. Why recall it now? Well, recently, I received an email from one of Jodie Windsor-Foster's associates—an artist of acclaim whose work I admire very much. Like so many of her peers—most, in fact—she was contributing to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute book that I'm editing for Aardwolf Publishing. And he wanted to know why Windsor-Foster had not been invited.

So I phoned this artist and told him the story. He wasn't the least bit surprised.

“Look,” I said. “I’m a forgiving guy. Just tell Jodie to call me. I've always admired her work on Conan.”

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, another artist phoned on her behalf. He said that Windsor-Foster was worried. She feared that if she contributed a piece to the book (a project I've been working on for months) I might reject it.

“Tell her to call me,” I said. “Here's my phone number.”



But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Then, a day before the deadline, Aardwolf Publishing’s secretary received an email from none other than Jim Brady. The note said that Windsor-Foster’s art would be arriving a little late and that Aardwolf should hold open a place for it. It also insisted on knowing full details of the benefit auction, distribution of the book’s proceeds, and so forth.

Aardwolf's secretary sent Brady the following reply: “John Hinckley is the editor of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Ask Jodie to call him.” Then she gave him my phone number.

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, I received an email from Brady. It said that Windsor-Foster would be contributing to the book and asked for my Fed Ex number so they could charge me for the shipping.

I replied very clearly: “Ask Jodie to call me.”

As of this writing, I have not received a call. But I have thought about this situation long and hard, friends. I've meditated on it and fasted for days in an effort to humble my soul. I've looked into the deepest depths of my being and decided that I should forgive Jodie Windsor-Foster for what she did to me (and what I can only imagine she's done to others). Even if I am beneath personally calling.

It's unfair to hold royalty to the standards of common courtesy when, after all, those standards are so common. And Windsor-Foster is a most uncommon woman. Her work is so brilliant, in fact, that I think it unfair to subject it to indifferent eyes. A collection of sketches by mere “comic” artists has no place in the same publication as a Windsor-Foster rendering.

Further, I think it unfair to subject someone as important as Jodie Windsor-Foster to my unworthy company; unfair to ask him to descend from Olympus and grace this editor—whose career she offhandedly stepped on as if it were a bug—with his divine etchings of unparalleled perfection.

So, no, my friends—Jodie Windsor-Foster will not be appearing this evening.

John Hinckley





 
Attention Webmasters -- If you have a link to my old site Comic Book Galaxy on your site, I'd be delighted and grateful if you'd switch it over to www.addblog.com. For the time being, things are set up so that going to www.comicbookgalaxy.com redirects readers here, but that won't be true for very much longer, and I'd hate to be to blame for a dead link on your site.

Thanks.

 
Oh, Hey -- Happy Birthday, Logan!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

 
Hornschemeier Examined -- Gardner Linn does the honours.

 
He's A Dog, With A Robot Brain -- Jason X-12 and James Kochalka have teamed up for years in the recording studio, and now in comics.

 
Swinging's Not My Bagge -- Peter Bagge goes to an alternative lifestyles conference right here. Excellent stuff.

 
While We Wait for BLUESMAN -- Here's a review over at Artbomb of Rob 'n Pablo's earlier masterwork, The Castaways.

 
More Moore -- Here's an interview with Alan Moore from The Independent, just in case you didn't get enough here.

 
Comic of the Week -- Make sure you pick up Darwyn Cooke's continues-to-be-excellent DC: The New Frontier this week; #3 arrives in stores today. Don MacPherson reviews it:

Cooke's simpler style doesn't keep the book from looking moody and mature. He employs heavy inks to great effect for key visuals. If his work on Catwoman and Selina's Big Score weren't enough to convince fans of the strength of his craft, Cooke's efforts here definitely will.

I want to remind you that with ad-free, double-sized issues, New Frontier would be a bargain even if it wasn't filled with drop-dead gorgeous artwork and an epic story that involves the biggest icons of the DC Universe. Since it has all that, too, you'd really, really have to hate superheroes not to be buying this book and shouting about it from every rooftop.

Also

While I'm here, I want to remind you that Sleeper: Season Two ships in June and you need to tell your retailer now that you want to support the best monthly series on the stands. Here's a taste:



Now that is pretty. The second Sleeper trade paperback also ships in June. Buy these books or I will really, really be pissed.


 
Steven Grant Doesn't Need My Pity -- But he does get my best wishes for a quick recovery, both financial and physical, from a car crash this week. It provides Grant with an opportunity to once again show why he's one of the coolest guys in or out of comics:

There's no need to send me any sympathy messages, since I'm assuming everyone out there wishes me well on this. If you don't, I don't want to hear from you anyway.

See? He doesn't need your pity. He does need some quick cash, though, so if you're an editor or in some capacity to offer Grant work, e-mail him pronto.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

 


Colleen Coover -- Small Favors is the most fun pornography money can buy, so over-the-top in its exhuberant sexuality that it comes back around to innocent again. I was delighted its creator decided to answer the Five Questions.

Is doing a magical lesbian comic a lifelong dream come true?

Doing a comic is, yes! The rest came later.

I’ve always wanted to do comics; one of my earliest memories is drawing scribbly little “Batman” strips at my Great-Grandmother’s house. It just happens that the first major work I’ve done in comics is an erotic romantic comedy.

Small Favors came about at a time when I was ready to start working on comics seriously. I looked around and saw that there were damn few adult comics for women to enjoy. I prefer all-girl action in my porno, but with very few exceptions Sapphic sex is generally treated as voyeuristic entertainment for men. The whole “looking through the keyhole” thing. So I would often find myself, a woman watching or reading girl/girl porn, being addressed by the director or creator as though I were a man. I felt I could make a book that women like me would like, without alienating a male readership.

But my first priority has always been not to create a porno comic but to create GOOD comics. My next project, which I’m working on now, is for readers of all ages. It’s called Banana Sunday, written my boyfriend and creative partner Paul Tobin, with all the art by me. It’s a high school adventure with comedy and romance and monkeys! I’m really excited about it.

Have you ever thought up a story or scenario for Small Favors that you decided was too wild to print?

Well, you know, it’s all stuff that I find sexy, so I don’t ever have to stop myself and go “Whoa! Too far!” After all, my main character is a young woman in love with her own personified conscience, who varies between being six inches tall and normal girl-size, and sports absurdly large pigtails!

I do have criteria for what can and cannot go into the book. I made a decision early on that I wanted women who identify as lesbians to have the same personal access to the fantasy as bisexual women like me. So there are no men in the book. Again, this is not in order to alienate male readers, but to avoid creating that Peeping Tom sort of feeling I mentioned before.

I never include any sex play that would turn me off, just for the sake of including extra kink. Activities that normally involve the use of a toilet, for example, hold no appeal for me sexually, so you won’t see them in Small Favors!

Finally, I feel strongly that there in a book created to celebrate the joy and laughter that good sex is all about, there is no place for the darker side of sex. So no jealousies, diseases, unplanned pregnancies, drugs, and ESPECIALLY no violence or rape.

What do you think is behind the near-universal appeal of two cute girls together?

I don’t know… I know sex experts have offered all sorts of theories about why straight men like all-girl action, and people say that the majority of straight women admit to being bi-curious, but I don’t like to think too much about it. I feel like too much analysis would ruin the fun, you know?

Now, the whole premise of Small Favors is what has become almost a mantra for me: Pretty Girls Make People Happy! And really, it’s just TRUE, you know? I’m not talking about sex, here. If you’re walking down the street and see a really pretty girl with a zillion-watt smile, it just makes you feel good! You don’t have to be consumed with lust to appreciate that.

So it’s not surprising that when you put pretty girls in a sexual situation, those same good feelings get sort of transferred over. I think you would need some awfully powerful hang-ups not to get some pleasure out of it!

What's the reaction to Small Favors from your family and friends?

The thing about my family and friends is that they KNOW me! Two weeks ago, Paul and I went to a burlesque show in New York with my sister and her husband. My mother loaned me my first erotic literature (Delta of Venus by Anais Nin) when I was fourteen! (I never gave it back, so I’m not sure “loaned” is the right word…) Nothing I do in a comic book is going to really shock them, and they’re very proud of the attention Small Favors has received these last few years.

Most of my friends and associates are either comics professionals or customers at the comics shop where I have my day job, so again, not likely to be surprised by any of the wacky highjinks in my cute little sex comics. And people who have problems with the thought of ladies having happy fun sex together are not people I’d be likely to be friendly with.

When I do get a weird reaction to Small Favors, it’s usually from total strangers. I’ve occasionally heard the comment “you don’t think of a woman doing a comic like this…” at conventions and such. I really have no answer to that. They don’t mean it to be nasty, I think that sometimes people just forget that girls like to think about sex! And there’s a common idea that all porn is exploitive of women, so that can be a tough concept for them to get over.

Who are your favourite comics creators and what about their work appeals to you?

Milton Caniff. All-time favorite. I especially love Terry & the Pirates. His work was so rich; even an expository “talking head” strip would have depth and drama. And action scenes were full of motion and excitement! His cartooning skills gave his adventure-strip realistic style life and dimension. I could write a five-page essay on all the stuff I’ve learned from studying just one daily strip’s original art. As a sucker for romance, I consider him to be one of comics’ greatest masters in building romantic suspense.

Los Bros Hernandez. A lot of people have remarked that they can see an influence in my art from either Jaime or Beto. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which of them has influenced me more. I tend to think that it’s pretty even. I deeply admire Jaime’s technical skill and clean lines, and Beto’s more organic art is full of character. The great thing I look to the Bros for is their brilliant sense of design. I’ve never seen a page from them that didn’t work as a complete work of comic art, independent from the rest of the story.

Guy Davis. He’s always been so good, and lately he seems to have blossomed into a one-man Art House! I liked his issue of Hellblazer (the young punks of London hearkened back to his lovely Baker Street work) and Deadline was one of my favorite superhero-type stories of the last couple of years. Just this latest issue of Metal Hurlant alone has him doing two completely different, totally brilliant short pieces! I especially liked the Tardi-esque “Photo-taker” story.

Ai Yazawa. Her Paradise Kiss is currently my favorite manga by far! Her art is so pretty and her character designs are so varied and the storytelling is great and clothes clothes CLOTHES! I want to go shopping every time I read!!! More shoes! More skirts! More hair dye!

I could go on forever. Darwyn Cooke’s work is so yummy; like Caniff, his illustrative art is rooted in strong cartooning skills. Also Javier Pulido, Jordi Bernet, Cameron Stewart, Dean Haspiel, Craig Thompson, Clifford Chiang, and on and on and on.

Thanks to Colleen for tackling the 5Q -- be sure to visit her Live Journal.

Labels:


Monday, March 15, 2004

 
ADD Blog Fundraising Auction -- We're a bit strapped for cash this month here at the ADD Blog, and this gives YOU, the home reader, an awesome opportunity to take home some of the best comics and graphic novels of recent months for a bargain price:

Louis Riel HC -- $24.95
The Fixer HC -- $24.95
The Losers Vol. 1: Ante Up -- $9.95
Peanutbutter and Jeremy's Best Book Ever -- $14.95
Caricature -- $16.95
Mother, Come Home -- $14.95
Blab #14 -- $19.95
Magic Whistle: Bigger, Larger and Bigger -- $11.95
Sam and Twitch Book One: Udaku -- $21.95
The Couriers: Dirtbike Manifesto -- $12.95
Comic Book Lettering The Comicraft Way -- $9.95
Superman on the Couch -- $19.95

Here's how it works: Look over the list, the combined total value of which is over $200.00. Decide how much these graphic novels are worth to you, and e-mail your bid to me before March 25th, 2004. The highest bid will take home the graphic novels, all of which are in excellent condition, most of which are duplicate copies that have not even been cracked open. I reserve the right to reject any bid for any reason, and please be aware that $10.00 postage will be added to the winning bid to cover the cost of getting this large, heavy lot of graphic novels to you.

Additionally, and this is important, the winning bidder MUST pay by Paypal or Priority Mail me a Postal Money Order from a US Post Office within 24 hours of being notified he or she is the winner. So don't bid unless you really want the books and are ready to pay by March 26th at the latest. The whole idea here is to infuse me with some cash almost immediately. Please try to understand and don't bid unless you do.

In addition to taking home some great reading material, you'll be helping to keep the ADD Blog online by helping me cover my expenses. Look over that list and e-mail your bid or any questions ASAP. Contest ends at 12:01 AM on March 25th, 2004. Thanks!

 

More Short, Sharp Shocks -- All right, I have a ton of goddamn comic books sitting here, and my conscience won't let me just file them away without saying something about them. So prepare yourself for some extremely concise summaries of my opinions of these here funnybooks...and scroll down to the previous entry for a few more from earlier today.

JLA #94 -- John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Tom Orzechowski reunite decades after producing some of the most entertaining corporate superhero funnybooks of my teenage years. But where are Terry Austin and Glynis Wein? Anyway, Claremont's dialogue is a bit clunky and Ordway's inks seem a bit heavy-handed (Byrne's style is completely consumed in some panels), but for the most part, this is serviceable entry-level comics for children, focusing on a goofy-looking vampire who manages to turn Superman to his team. Not as exciting as I had hoped, but far from the train-wreck that everything Claremont and Byrne have done for the past decade indicated was a distinct possibility. Grade: 3.5/5

Gotham Central #17 -- Seemed like a lot of uninteresting blah blah blah in this one, with artwork by Greg Scott that doesn't quite reach Michael Lark's excellence. This is shaping up to be the least compelling storyline of the series so far, unfortunately. Grade: 3/5

The Escapist #1 -- From Happy Endings to Autobiographix to Hellboy: Weird Tales, Dark Horse seems to buck the trend of mixed-bag anthologies, almost always featuring more entertaining and interesting stories than not. The Escapist meets that standard, with a nice blend of styles and stories simulating decades of comics storytelling development in service of the alleged storied past of Michael Chabon's character from his Pulitzer-winning Kavalier and Clay novel. The standout stories are the origin of The Escapist, which conveys the oddball logic of Golden Age origins without aping the bad writing and art that was often in evidence. I also liked the contributions from Jim Starlin and Howard Chaykin, but the book is so packed with fun comics that there's got to be something for everyone here. Grade: 4/5

Cerebus #300 -- Dave Sim either didn't care or didn't realize (probably the former) that many non-Cerebus readers would check out this landmark issue, and so he delivers a slow, uneventful and probably-intended-to-be ironic demise for his decades-old aardvark protagonist. Hardcore fans will probably love the fact that Dave never concedes an inch in his war against sanity, but even the most open-minded new readers (or lapsed former fans like myself) will likely be bored by the dullness of the aardvark's death, the lead balloon impact of the theme inherent in Cerebus's entry into the afterlife, and worst of all, nearly two-dozen pages of deadly dull text pieces. For Sim and a few hundred dedicated readers, this is probably The Event of a Lifetime. For the rest of us, the end of Cerebus arrives with all the magic and wonderment of a mosquito fart. Grade: 2/5

Magic Whistle: Bigger, Larger and Bigger -- I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. Sam Henderson has an appealing line and a simple, energetic style, and there are some fun moments and interesting experiments with style and colour here, but overall I didn't get the same charge out of this that I did from the recent and similarly-themed Further Grickle. Grade: 3/5

Hi-Horse Omnibus -- Diverse and lightweight anthology, with an Andrice Arp undersea-themed cover that is just stunning and really ought to be issued as a lithograph. A lot of different stories and styles, Howard John Arey's Crumb-influenced cartooning being the most entertaining and interesting. But nothing in here grabbed me as much as the subtle beauty of the cover. Grade: 3/5

Real Stuff -- Dennis Eichhorn's autobiographical stories recall Harvey Pekar without the angst or self-loathing. Eichhorn has had a genuinely interesting life and makes some apt observations about what he's learned, with a compelling narrative style that I like a lot and would love to read more of. The artists lined up here to illustrate his stores are a who's-who of altcomix superstars, including Rick Altergott, Jim Woodring, Seth, Joe Sacco, Los Bros. Hernandez, Charles Burns, Dave Cooper, David Collier and a couple dozen more. You want this. Grade: 5/5

8 1/2 Ghosts -- A playful amalgamation of styles including Seth and Dan Clowes powers this odd magazine-sized comic about a ghost movie being made with real ghosts involved in the production. Too cute by half for me, but if you skew to the whimsical, you might find this appealing. Despite the obvious kid-appeal of the style and subject matter, there is copious copulating, so don't leave this laying around if you want to keep young eyes from seeing people having sex. Grade: 2.5/5

Fused #3 -- The story takes a turn for the generic here, with full-page splashes of fight scenes full of sound and fury signifying a padded-out story. Josh Medors does a workmanlike job illustrating the story, but Paul Lee's art from the first couple of issues of the previous mini-series at Image set a standard that has not been seen since. Grade: 2.5/5

Para #1 -- Stuart Moore excels at readable adventure stories (like this, or Zendra) that get the job done at a certain level, but lack of spark of true excitement or ingenuity. Para is about a young woman whose scientist father disappears -- and is presumed dead -- after an accident involving a superconducting supercollider. Imagine Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, his story being told from the point of view of his young daughter, and you've pretty much got it. The artwork is bland in spots and frustratingly potential-filled in others. I'm intrigued enough to read the next issue, but far from won over. Grade: 3.5/5

 

Short, Sharp Shocks -- Concise snippets of critical insight, professionally produced for your protection and consideration. Don't try this at home.

Gabagool #6 -- This may be the funniest comic I've ever read -- for sure, it's the funniest comics I've read this year, and the best issue yet of one of my favourite small-press series. "Nudes and Prudes" concludes the adventures of the gang at one of those decadent "Hedonism" resorts, getting naked, drunk and high with abandon -- only time and again to be brought back to earth by their all-too-human neuroses and bad habits. You don't need the current, opportunistic shroud of creative oppression that came from Janet Jackson's nipple being revealed on live TV for Christopher Viglotti's giant boner to be as hilarious as it turns out to be, but it doesn't hurt. And the hot tub scene has forever changed my ability to even think about eating eggdrop soup. The cartooning here has fully arrived, well-composed and beautifully inked, Gabagool has improved in every way in its six-issue journey from mini-comic to must-read alternative funnybook. This gets my highest recommendation. Grade: 5/5

3-Car Pileup #1-2 -- Rough-and-tumble anthology title with a good deal of potential but a few miles to go before it gets there. #1 gets off to a bad start with a sideways story originally designed for the web -- guys, it's made up of individual panels that I could have rearranged for comic book formatting in Photoshop in ten minutes. Unfortunate, because the story's thin premise -- having deep feelings for someone from afar -- is a worthy subject treated fairly well and with an unexpected twist at the end. The "Koala" stories in both issues seem to be treated as highlights, but are among the least interesting material here. Better are the short "Idiot Box" newspaper-style strips and especially #2's "Bulimic Consumer" by Dan Custer, the standout of the two issues to date. Custer's art is unfinished and needs work, but his writing is clear and he has no problem communicating his ideas and conveying his personality (two cornerstones of good comics) to the reader. Order here. Grade: 3/5

Swamp Thing #1 -- The first Swamp Thing issue I've bought since Alan Moore left the title, this new series gets off to a promising start by hewing closely to the style of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben from a lifetime ago. Writer Andy Diggle sets a properly tense and moody tone, and artist Enrique Breccia evokes Bissette and Totelben without sacrificing his own artistic personality. In Swamp Thing's decades of existence, Moore is the only writer who ever kept my interest for the long haul, but there's every reason from this first issue to think that it might be time to give the book another chance. Grade: 4/5

Coup D'Etat Afterword -- An ugly and dismissable Wetworks story kicks off and dominates this unfortunate mishmash of Wildstorm marginalia, but the brief Sleeper: Season Two preview demonstrates in just a few short pages the appeal of the series. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver a tantalizing appetizer full of paranoia and potential, showing why Sleeper is the best monthly book on the stands. If you've been waiting to jump on the acclaimed series, buy this to sample Sleeper's style, but remember to skip past the awful first story and the filler pin-ups. Grade: (Sleeper story) 4.5/5 (the rest) 2/5

JSA #59 -- An interesting idea for a standalone story -- Per Degaton travels through time to watch key moments of misery for enemies he can't defeat through conventional means. The story is somewhat diminished by nods to current continuity of a book I don't follow -- this month's fill-in art by Sleeper's Sean Phillips prompted me to pick it up, though. Phillips delivers a fun but uncharacteristically rushed-looking issue -- I'd guess this was just thrown his way to keep food on his table in-between Sleeper "seasons." And that's fine, the dude's gotta eat. The best moments are Degaton ruminating on his deliciously twisted, outside-the-box plan. The worst include a clunky, disturbing subplot regarding Captain Marvel (!) and underage sex (!!) and the altogether wrong Ethan Van Sciver cover, which conveys a mood completely at odds with the atmosphere Geoff Johns reaches for here and nearly achieves in his script. Close, but not quite. Grade: 3.5/5

Sunday, March 14, 2004

 
Things I Did Today -- Took a friend to lunch. Bought groceries, including some protein-packed peanuts, natural peanut butter and some sort of protein shake thing. Having not eaten meat for a couple of weeks now, the lack of protein was starting to be felt in most unpleasant ways. Bought some more of those delicious Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings. Watched a movie with Marshall. Got mildly drunk on a port wine he recommended. As a result, felt more mellow than is usual. Wrote this post. Went off to read some comics.

 
Random Sunday Blogging -- It's early on Sunday morning, and everyone in the house but me is sleeping. There's a part of me that wishes I could "sleep in" on my day off, but there's another, stronger part that really enjoys the quiet.

Fans of Uzumaki should really enjoy today's American Elf strip by James Kochalka. If you're reading this on Monday, he's probably already changed it, but you really ought to be a subscriber anyway. It's the best webcomic I've found, and just about the only one that has managed to make itself a daily stop. It does so through a canny combination of readability, creativity and ease of navigation. And plus, man, Kochalka just keeps getting better and better. Saturday's strip, about his son and his cat, showed just how much his new life circumstances have improved his already exceptional cartooning.

And it appears for all the world that John Byrne has deleted his utterly insane comments about Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. The link is no longer working, although a search on the Byrne forum for his favourite word "eviceral" still brings up a hit. So it bears repeating so that John Byrne's opinion of much better, more gifted and memorable creators can be remembered for the ages:

I get no sense from [Grant] Morrison's work that he has any "love for the genre". I get the same vibe I get from [Alan] Moore -- a cold and calculated mixing of ingredients the writer knows the fans like, but to which the writer himself has no eviceral connection. Nostaligia without being nostalgic, as I have dubbed it.)

Do your part to make sure that this quote isn't forgotten. It's everything that's wrong with comics -- John Byrne's, anyway.

Update: The link supposedly works again.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

 
Awesome -- In case you're wondering why people think John Byrne is an out-of-touch crank who should have given it up decades ago, here he is weighing in on his betters:

I get no sense from [Grant] Morrison's work that he has any "love for the genre". I get the same vibe I get from [Alan] Moore -- a cold and calculated mixing of ingredients the writer knows the fans like, but to which the writer himself has no eviceral connection. Nostaligia without being nostalgic, as I have dubbed it.)

Those who can't, judge, apparently, instead of teaching. And isn't it nice that Byrne's "no mind-reading" rule doesn't apply to him? Somehow he knows Moore and Morrison have "no eviceral connection" to their work.



Friday, March 12, 2004

 
The Week in Comics -- Here's (early, for once) what's worth keeping an eye out for in the funnybook store...

COMING WEDNESDAY MARCH 17TH

DARK HORSE

TALES OF THE VAMPIRES #4 $2.99 -- I've enjoyed quite a few of the stories in this Buffy-based anthology.

DC COMICS

DC THE NEW FRONTIER #3 (Of 6) $6.95 -- If you can only get one book this week, this is the one to get. Darwyn Cooke's awe-inspiring artwork is married to a sprawling tour of DC Universe history. Fantastic.

SUPERMAN SECRET IDENTITY #3 (Of 4) $5.95 -- I recently picked up #1 and 2 of this series, and it is fantastic, easily one of Kurt Busiek's strongest scripts and Stuart Immonen's art is kicked-up a notch from his usual good work.

IMAGE

WALKING DEAD #5 (MR) $2.95 -- Zombies, human drama, one of the best books on the stands, yadda yadda yadda.

MARVEL

FANTASTIC FOUR #511 (#82) $2.25 -- You know Bill Jemas never sent me my money back after firing Mark Waid?

NEW X-MEN #154 $2.25 -- I wish Grant Morrison's final arc had A) Been good and B) Not had such godawful artwork. Don't you?

AVATAR

STEVEN GRANT'S MY FLESH IS COOL #3 (Of 3) (MR) $3.50 -- The conclusion of a fantastic three-issue mini-series that should very definitely be made into a movie, just to steal Marc Mason's thunder for a moment. Great action/adventure/crime story with some interesting twists and unexpectedly terrific artwork reminiscent of the excellent Tom Raney.

 
Friday -- The weekend is nearly upon us, although I have to work Saturday morning so I'm neither excited about the prospect or optimistic that I'll get much writing done this weekend.

Well, that's preferable to spending even one minute pontificating on the relative value of blogs vs. message boards, or even more ludicrous, blogs vs. blogs-that-claim-not-to-be-blogs. Some days comics is filled with such creeps and losers that it's sorely tempting to send the computer back to Dell and pare the pull list down to Forlorn Funnies, Street Angel and Sleeper and have the shop mail 'em to me once a year.

In the real world, meanwhile, I made a meatless lasagna for dinner last night that kicked ass and satisfied even my meat-craving wife, although her ultimate 7/10 rating of it hurt just a bit. My daughter really loved it though, and that was gratifying. The transformation continues. If anyone had told me a month or two back how different my life would be in just a few weeks, I never would have believed it.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

 
Anemic Thursday Blogging -- Ah, I got nuthin'. The comics arrived late at the shop I go to yesterday, so I wasn't able to pick up (and therefore cannot comment on) Cerebus #300, the new Promethea, or any of the other interesting things that happened this week. I already read a complete preview of Street Angel #1, but I was looking forward to holding the real thing in my hand. Hopefully I'll get to the comics later today.

I feel compelled both to point out that Chris Allen has posted a new Breakdowns and to correct his estimates of the readership of the comics blogosphere. In his interesting opening paragraph on comics blogs, Chris says "Even the most popular blogs only receive about 2,000 unique visitors a week." Unless he meant "unpopular," that's way off. I know Journalista! was getting way, way more visitors than that, and since I posted my Five Questions for Alan Moore, this site has more than doubled its previous daily average -- which even pre-Moore was a bit more than Chris's estimates.

Most importantly, though, is the fact that the people who frequent comics blogs seem, from my admittedly anecdotal experience, to be an informed and influential group of people including comics creators, editors and publishers, retailers and readers of discernment. A quick slog through the nightmarish message boards that pollute some of the old-paradigm comics news sites shows that intelligent discussion there is mostly dead, buried under mountains of angry screeds and under-informed opinionating.

Not that there isn't hope for the once-major sites. The first step -- and at least one comics-related site has ignored my private advice to their later-admitted peril -- is to not provide message boards directly under the content of the news and columns you present. Nothing says "amateur" quite louder than the appearance that you're just the first idiot to begin posting in a message board thread, which is what the end effect is for such columnists who continue to waste whatever talent they have on sites that perpetuate this egregious format. This is likely why Comic Book Resources continues to enjoy a better reputation than, say, The Pulse or Newsarama even though their glory days of being a must-read site every day are long gone. At least the good columns they retain aren't polluted by mindless bullshit immediately underneath that overshadows the content of the column itself.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

 
Calling Bullshit -- Christopher Butcher's bullshit detector is working flawlessly. Nice catch, Chris.

 
Get Street Angel Today, Damn You -- Steven Wintle provides yet more reasons why Street Angel #1 is today's must-buy choice at finer comics shops everywhere.


 


Tom Beland -- One of the biggest success stories of the past few years in the world of independent comics has been Tom Beland's True Story, Swear to God. Unapologetically romantic, funny as hell and a joy to look at, Beland's comic book manages to appeal to a wide variety of readers by telling an intensely personal story. He wrestled the Five Questions to the ground.

As an autobiographical cartoonist, how do the people in your life react to being depicted in your work?

It's funny...the people who you'd think would be the most interested in this stuff, family and friends, are the ones who don't know what issue I'm on, or that there's a trade paperback or anything. When they FIND OUT, they're very supportive, but otherwise, they don't go looking for it. Which is weird, because these are the people who saw you drawing at the dinner as a kid and talked about how cool it would be to you to be a cartoonist one day. Then when it happens it's "oh, you've got a book out..?" [Laughs]. I compare this to the last Lord of the Rings film, where the hobbits save the world and are riding into the Shire, all decked-out in their hero bling and looking all proud...and to the older hobbit sweeping his porch, he looks at the four heroes and has this "aaahhhh those fucking kids are back" attitude. I nearly DIED when I saw this, because whenever I go back to Napa Valley (my Shire) I have to admit that I always expect people to be jacked about me coming home and wanting to see my work...and it never happens. It totally puts you back into reality. They also think that the Eisner awards are in honor of Michael Eisner. YeeEEeeg.

But when they DO find out a book is out, they're very cool about everything. My brother Joe is a great supporter.

True Story, Swear to God seems to have achieved universal acclaim...how has the book's success affected your life and your approach to your cartooning?

I think that it's allowed me to meet people I'd normally be way too shy to say hello to. In San Diego last year, I had Wil Wheaton come to my table and hang out there for a bit and I was like, "You're Wesley Crusher!!" I'm a Trek fan, so this was very cool. I mean, this guy's hanging at my table and telling me he wants to do what I do....and HE'S BEAMED DOWN!! Who else do you know that has BEAMED DOWN??

When Kurt Busiek walks over to say hello, it fucking blows my mind. Every time. Doing a panel discussion with Craig Thompson was a big thrill for me. Paige Braddock is great to panel with too.

But the absolute highlight for me was meeting Sal Buscema. Huge fan. Gigantic fan. I thought he cranked out more comics in the '70s than anyone when I was a kid. He was all over the Marvel books. I jumped from my seat, said hello and had a picture taken with him. I totally geeked-out. The photo is hanging in my ofice

The bizarre thing of the success is when other artists bring their portfolios for me to review. My style isn't in super-heroes, so I'm not exactly the place to go for advice. But I'll look at it and tell them if the anatomy is weak or they need to work on their perspective and backgrounds.

Do you have any ambitions in comics beyond TSSTG?

There's a project I'm really trying to get to that was written by Neil Kleid about a robotic boy on a quest. It's a great story and I'm sketching during my free time on it. I'm also working on a side TSSTG project titled CLIB'S BOY about my childhood leading up to my parents' death while I was a senior in high school. There's a lot of comedy, but also a lot of emotional pages that are very difficult, yet therapeutic at the same time.

You uprooted your life in the U.S. and moved to Puerto Rico to be with the woman you love -- tell me what that change has been like.

Best decision I ever made. Period. It allowed me to cut loose the anchor that familiarity can bind you to. I was able to live in a new place and take chances with my work. I hope that makes sense. Sometimes, your family, friends and co-workers only remind you of what you haven't achieved in life. The focus is more about "you should've tried this" or "why haven't you done that?" and when you leave that atmosphere, you begin to get it done. At least that's how it was done for me.

Lily. Jesus, where do you really begin with her? She's the one who told me to make my comic strip zines and when I told her I didn't know how to do that, she told me to go learn how. I did and then BOOM, we got an IGNATZ nomination for Best New Zine. When it came to printing my first comic book, again, I didn't know how to do it and she told me to just give it a shot. I did and then BOOM, Eisner nominations. Everything...EVERYTHING I've achieved in this business is because she told me to get off my ass and try.

If you have a person in your life that wants you to succeed, you have to listen to them. I don't care if you're depressed, can't draw cars, no one else is buying your work, whatever...that one person believes in you. They want to see you do the best you can do...and the one thing you should focus on is making them proud they believed in you. It's that easy.

You have your muse.

Clib's Boy is a one-man show so far. Tell me about the hazards and advantages you see in self-publishing.

Hmmmmm...okay. Issue #1 is the easiest thing to publish. I don't care HOW MUCH blood, sweat and tears went into completing it. It's the easiest book to publish. It's new. It's your first work. There's energy to burn in that issue and it's great to see it hit the stands and see people buying it in conventions.

But then you never see issue #2. The writer's still working on the story... even after a year. The artist is dragging his ass or doesn't like the next script and wants to have a bigger say in the plotline. It's evolved into a job. And if you're doing both, it's a huge load.

By issue #3, the drive is hard to maintain. Sales aren't the same as Batman, so you get bummed out and want to quit.

The thing that you have to do in self-publishing is get the work done. Period. Get it done. Getitdonegetitdonegetitdone. Because issue #1 looks retarded sitting by itself after a year and a half. Any reader you obtained has moved on. There are lots of other great books on the rack and if you can't get the job done, they'll move on. They don't want to know what the excuses are...especially if they keep piling up.

And this is what you've always wanted to do! Never, ever underestimate that...doing what you want to do. Quit putting everything off and get it done.

This can also be said for the bigger publishers. How anyone can invest in a Kevin Smith comic book these days is baffling. He never finishes what he starts, but when it's announced he's writing a series, everyone's all ZIPPIDYDOODAH!! And when he's on Leno, he's going on about his love of comics. But how many series has he finished? Good lord. He gets issue #1 and #2 out, then he pulls a Nightcrawler act and BAMFS out of the schedule. Do a completed series, THEN solicit it THEN get it out. Kevin should know better and so should Marvel.

Brian Bendis writes a BiLLION titles a month and they hit the stands when expected. If not, he's right there to tell you why and it's there a short time later. Look at his workload, the quality of his stories and give props to making his deadlines. He's Stan Freakin' Lee.

So get the work done. Get the books out. A page a day. That's what Terry Moore told me. That's what I do.

The advantage is you're the boss. You decide how it reads and how it looks.

But because of that, you make sure that the buyer is going to like this book. Make the book, wait a day, then reread it from a BUYERS point of view. Here's the thing: someone goes to the store on a Wednesday and they have twenty bucks. They buy their Spidey books, Fantastic Four, Batman, Powers, Gotham Central, Promethea, New X-Men and that leaves them about three bucks left. Out of all...ALL the remaining comics on the rack, this person can only afford ONE BOOK. So you have to make them want to give up Runaways, Rose and Thorn, Arrowsmith, Bone or any other impossibly cool book and buy yours.

If after reading your book again, you see flaws the reader will see...you have to fix it. You have to be totally honest with yourself on your work. You have to know it's worth if before they do.

I have to say, Alan, that there's something else that sucks about self-publishing. You make a book, call it "Super Hero Happy Hour"...it's a hit...you're on a roll...and then you get a legal notice from Marvel and DC saying that they own the rights to the term "Super-Hero" and now they want you to change your name to "Hero Happy Hour." I've never seen a more asinine thing in my life than this. Buying the trademark on this term does absolutely fucking nothing to help comics. Nothing. It's nothing more than a way to bully the smaller indie publishers. And then they won't even comment on it...but will go on and on about how their companies are "indie friendly." It's a load of crap and I'm embarrassed for Marvel AND DC for doing something so ridiculous. They should focus their attention on getting books out on time and getting their talent to complete mini-series that are a year late.

When you're a small press publisher, you don't have the money to take on larger publishers and so you're forced to change the name of your book because of two moronic publishing companies can't find any other way to ruin the industry. There was nothing positive to come out of owning a trademark on such a general term.

That's why I love APE and SPX and MOCCA. The big companies aren't there and it's the real deal. People making their own comics because they LOVE COMICS.

Thanks to Tom Beland for participating. Visit his website and the TSSTG page at AiT-Planetlar.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

 
A Whole New World -- Went to Hannaford and hit the natural foods section (which is large and almost a store within the store, conveniently right in the middle of the place), but I was beat after work and not firing on all
cylinders, sadly. So I didn't get as much -- or as much variety -- as I had hoped. It didn't help that I forgot my pen and couldn't cross stuff off my list.

Anyway, I got:


Most things didn't cost much more than the regular "evil" versions, so I am pretty confident that this can be done without breaking the bank...anyone with any specific shopping tips they recommend is welcome to e-mail me.

And my apologies if this is boring...it's a whole new world for me, and as I used to say on the radio, you can't say "A whole new world" without saying "A-Hole."

 
More Love for Street Angel -- Hey, John Jakala has his review up of Street Angel #1, and so do the guys over at Previews Review. My review is here and I am telling you, this is the coolest book yet to debut in 2004. Don't forget to pick this up on Wednesday.

Monday, March 08, 2004

 
From Chewing to Eschewing -- I don't think I've mentioned this here, yet, but for the past couple of weeks I have been eating a vegetarian diet, finally convinced by the realities of the meat industry that eating meat is extremely dangerous for one's health and well-being.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions for particularly good books or websites for me to explore as I try to readjust my entire life around this new paradigm (which is not a fad, I am just about physically repulsed by meat by now), I could really use some suggestions from those more experienced than myself. E-mail me your links and suggestions, if you would.

And I know about the Vitamin B-12 thing, just to save us both a little time.

 
So Impressed with Myself -- Wow, I actually figured out how to change a basic element of my Blogger template!

 
Comfortable with Occultists -- Jessa Crispin of Bookslut has thanked me for not dwelling on Alan Moore's appearance or interest in the occult in my recent interview with Moore.

Perhaps this is because my oldest friend, Marshall, is also an occultist who has long hair. In fact, when my kids see pictures of Alan Moore, they always ask "Is that Marshall?" So, Jessa, you're welcome. I guess I'm just comfortable with hairy occultists. I'll have to post a photo of each of them later today so you can all compare and contrast.

 
Monday at the ADD Blog -- It was a big weekend here at ADD Central, as I tried to get back in the blogging groove and provide you, the home reader, with a good dose of Monday Morning Blogging Goodness. Here's what we have to whet your appetite today:


Scroll down or click the above links to begin reading.

I should say thanks to fellow comics blogger Mick Martin, who bought me lunch yesterday and sat and listened to my fevered ramblings on Mad Cow Disease, What's Wrong with Television, and of course, The Comics. I had a great time and it was interesting to see what happens When Bloggers Collide. One of these days we're gonna have to host, at the very least, a Northeast Blogosphere Conference or summat.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and enjoy your Monday, to the extent that any given Monday can be enjoyed.

 


Damon Hurd -- The writer of My Uncle Jeff and A Sort of Homecoming last week entered the battle over equal marriage rights for all by offering up his comics as a premium in a fundraining effort to support embattled New Paltz, New York Mayor Jason West. West is the first elected official in New York State to recognize the equal marriage rights of gays and lesbians. Not coincidentally, Hurd is a resident of New Paltz. He tells us about his career as a comics writer and his efforts in support of equal marriage rights in his responses to the Five Questions. Special thanks to Shawn Hoke for transcribing this interview.


Your first graphic novel, My Uncle Jeff, was released last year to no small bit of acclaim. Tell me a little bit about how you got started writing graphic novels.

Well, I’ve been writing since I was about five and I used to do a lot of comics and such with crayons and the like as a kid. And then I realized I couldn’t draw, so I turned, focusing just on writing and I’ve always been in love with the comics medium. So I tried my hat at that and after a stint of doing some bad Vertigo rip-offs in college, I decided to move towards more serious graphic novels. And after spending a weekend in Pennsylvania with my family, the weekend that’s detailed in the book My Uncle Jeff I came home and wrote it in about two weeks. When I did the book, I actually did it rather quickly and hired an artist to draw it and that’s how I began my professional relationship with my artist Pedro Camello. And at the time, I printed up about a hundred xeroxed mini-comics that I sold and it sold out pretty quickly at the MOCCA art festival that year. That’s what prompted me to go to a larger print run on my own.

I’ve actually done about four books now and I’ve worked with three different artists. Each one brings something different to the table. In the case of Pedro, he really was mostly just interested in drawing the script as it was. He didn’t really want to change anything or contribute anything graphically that way. For him it was a little bit more of a job, but he did such amazing work and actually with my second book, A Sort of Homecoming, I think that he enjoyed that story a lot more and I think that he put a lot more of his own personal touches into it. So that is where you see a little bit more of him in the project. Whereas, my other books that are yet to be released and are coming out this year, The White Elephant and The Strange Day, both of those artists really took on much more of a collaborative role and kind of shaped the way that the book is presented.


As a resident of New Paltz, New York, you’ve certainly been witness to some chaos and controversy over the past few days, in kind of an interesting way too. If you could relate the story of how you found out about mayor Jason Wet performing same sex wedding ceremonies in New Paltz.

Yeah, actually I had been in San Francisco for the previous week leading up to this event. I was attending the Alternative Press Expo, which was held on February 21st and February 22nd and then my wife and I spent the rest of the week in San Francisco for a vacation. We had an incredible time. It’s such an amazing city and as we got off the plane at JFK and were collecting our bags, all the different TV stations were set to CNN and lo and behold, there was our town hall. It was very strange, since we live in a very small, upstate village that doesn’t normally get such media coverage. That was how we found out that those wedding ceremonies had taken place that day.

I don’t think it should have come as a complete surprise to anyone, considering that New Paltz has always been, I mean it’s a college town, there is a university there. It’s a very liberal town, which is kind of strange given the political makeup of the Hudson valley, which is primarily Republican. But, it’s always been labeled as a "hippie town," and such, due to the residents, its proximity to Woodstock and the like. But I don’t think it should have been a surprise, simply because I think someone standing up for an issue is always important.

Having this go on in your hometown, how is that affected your life since you’ve been back?

Well, I’m very proud of it. I’m proud to live there and I’m proud to live in a town where someone is trying to make a change in this issue. In terms of traffic, it’s always traffic-y there, so that hasn’t changed much. There’s a lot more news vans and coverage, but other than that it hasn’t changed my life too much, simply because I’m gone twelve hours a day, between my commute and working.

And you’ve undergone sort of a grass roots effort to raise funds to help Mayor West in his effort in recognizing equal marriage rights for same sex partners. Tell me a little bit about that.

I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days and I really wanted to do something to help this cause in any way that I can. Like I previously said, I’m at work a lot of the time and don’t have a lot of time to donate to helping with any of these efforts and I don’t have the financial resources to donate a large portion of money. So what I decided to do was to appeal to the comics community, of which I’m a member, in order to hopefully raise funds to help with Mayor West’s legal defense fund if necessary, or his personal finances, which are going to take heavy hits due to all these legal challenges against him. I’ve set up a donation system through my website origincomics.com, where people can come and make donations of any amount they wish. If they make a donation of five dollars or more, I’m going to personally send then a copy of My Uncle Jeff, or another one of my comics if they choose a substitution, as a personal thank you for their support.

Do you have any concerns that your efforts may cost you readers, among those that are opposed to same-sex marriage?

Actually, I’m not too concerned with that. I would hope that my readers could separate my work from my own social and political beliefs. I understand that this is a polarizing issue in our country, but our country was founded on the principals of freedom and equal rights for all citizens. We cannot allow civil rights to be suspended based on religious principals. I think that we must maintain a clear separation of church and state, so that everyone in this nation can enjoy the same rights and freedoms, regardless of their race or their sexual orientation.

I think I’m doing this because I feel that this is, if not the most important issue before our nation, I think we are in the edge of what could be the last civil rights movement in this country’s history and I sometimes think that actually people have forgotten that women couldn’t vote eighty years ago, and that African Americans were segregated forty years ago. I think one could easily make the argument that both group’s fight is far from over, even in the year 2004. I think my greatest fear is that this movement for marriage rights for same sex couples is going to die out and less people like Mayor Jason West can emerge from this legal battle victorious. That’s what I’m raising money to insure.

Learn more about Damon Hurd and his effort to raise funds in support of equal marriage rights at the Origin Comics website, and learn more about the battle for equal marriage rights here.

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Short, Sharp Shocks -- It's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to knuckle under enough to get some reviews done, so the stack has managed to get tall enough that stuff keeps sliding off. I had hoped to whittle the stack down a bit more than this, but maybe I'll get to some more reviews later in the week.

Forlorn Funnies #5: My Love is Dead, Long Live My Love -- Probably the biggest bargain of the year, this standalone issue provides a myriad of examples of Paul Hornschemeier's brilliant cartooning and design sense. A flip-book half dedicated to the forlorn, half dedicated to the funny, with standout pieces like "America, Your Boyfriend," which frames the debate over U.S. foreign and domestic policy in terms even an idiot can understand -- quite a handy thing to have around, if you think about it. "Whatever Dude" and "It's Just So Cute" demonstrate how Hornschemeier can absolutely dazzle with his fearless exploration of what it is to be a cartoonist. "These Trespassing Vehicles" and "The Underneath" both point the way to new directions Hornschemeier may be exploring in the near future. This is incredible, essential stuff, absolutely the best comics money can buy, and this issue has so many wild examples of Hornschemeier's gifts that it's guaranteed to hook you for life. Grade: 5/5

The Gypsy Lounge: Lunchtime Variety Criminals -- An epic post-superhero story that constantly teeters on the edge of an appealing insanity. Writer/artist Jasen Lex combines his angular cartooning with seamlessly integrated phtographic backgrounds throughout, his story focusing on the daughter of a noted superbeing who gets caught up in the bizarre scheme of a brilliantly deranged scientist. Lex's style is uniquely his own and extremely accessible, and should appeal to readers of books as diverse as Powers, Grrl Scouts and, perhaps especially, Automatic Kafka. Unlike that last title, though, Gypsy Lounge works as a complete narrative and never gets so fascinated with its own chaos that it loses your attention. Lex's combination of cartooning and computer techniques is both forward-looking and thoroughly comics. Order through the Aweful Books website. Grade: 5/5

Further Grickle -- My first exposure to Graham Annable convinces me I need to see more. Deceptively simple cartooning gives way to cogent insights about human fallacy, with just enough "there" there in the art to breeze along without seeming anorexic. "By Necessity" is a serio-tragic and utterly relateable suburban misadventure, while "Living for the Moment," which opens the volume, sums up social insecurity with wit and insight in three short pages. Great stuff, highly recommended. Grade: 4.5/5

Skidmarks: The Complete Bic Cycle -- Surprisingly human graphic novel that most readily evokes Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez and Paul Grist as it documents the awakening of a self-involved young adult always involved in one scheme or another. This isn't a fully-formed masterpiece, but writer/artist Ilya shows great potential and an emerging unique voice and sensibility, and at less than thirteen bucks, artcomix fans may find this a worthy addition to their libraries. Certainly it indicates Ilya may be a name to look for in the future. Grade: 3.5/5

 

The Week in Comics -- Here's a preview of some of the noteworthy titles arriving in shops Wednesday, March 10th, 2004.

DRAWN AND QUARTERLY

OPTIC NERVE #9 $3.95 -- One of two ADD Blog Books of the Week. Here's how you know if your comics shop is truly on top of things in the industry -- did they have this weeks ago? Because it's been available from the publisher and other distributors for some time, but Diamond is only getting around to it now. Here's my review from a month ago. Probably the best issue yet, and a must-read for artcomix enthusiasts.

SLAVE LABOR GRAPHICS

STREET ANGEL #1 $2.95 -- Here's the other ADD Blog Book of the Week. My review of this smart, forward-looking adventure comic is right here. Oh, and, Randy Lander likes it too.

AARDVARK/VANAHEIM

CEREBUS #300 $2.25 -- You'd have to be crazy to pass up this issue. My friend Marshall thinks it'd be a hoot if Dave released #301 next month just to fuck with everybody's heads.

DC COMICS

COUP D'ETAT AFTERWORD $2.95 -- Half of this issue is drawn by Whilce Portacio, but the good news is that the other half is a preview of "Season Two" of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's Sleeper, America's Best Monthly Funnybook. Not to be missed.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #17 $2.50 -- No idea what's going on in this issue, but I always enjoy the book. I do find that my enjoyment is inversely proportional to the presence of Batman-related characters and refrences, but your mileage may vary.

PROMETHEA #29 $2.95 -- The last few issues of this title -- literally the end of the ABC Universe -- are among the best comics I've ever read, and certainly among the best Alan Moore has ever written. Essential reading.

MARVEL

MARVEL MASTERWORKS UNCANNY X-MEN VOL 3 HC $39.99 -- I've been trying to reacquire all the Claremont/Byrne issues I long ago sold off. The reproduction of the artwork in these Masterworks volumes is often lacking, but usually better than the shoddy job that was done on the recent Wizard X-Men hardcover.

Friday, March 05, 2004

 
The Morning After -- It's been just about five years now since I started writing about comics online, and yesterday was as fascinating and exciting a day to mark that occasion as I could have hoped for. The Five Questions for Alan Moore piece brought a 400 percent increase in unique visitors, and as I tracked back where they were clicking in from, it was interesting to me to see how many of the message board posts said things like "I hate to link to Doane's blog, but..."

I'm not blind to my reputation, although it is a little disorienting to even realize that I have one. But I'm grateful to all who linked to the piece, and further to everyone who read the interview. Just about every last bit of credit has to go to Alan Moore himself, whose willingness to share both his time and insights gives pause. I think a lot of his thoughtfulness and humility comes shining through in the interview, and he really provides a great example of how a creator should approach not only their work but their efforts to promote and discuss it.

At least one message board poster asked "Who's next?" in regard to the Five Questions, and luckily I do still have some ideas in that regard. Yesterday was a high-water mark in many ways, and there's a strong temptation to say "Glad you enjoyed the show, folks! Good night and drive safely!" after such an exciting and well-received event. But the show will go on, after I take a couple of days to continue recovering from this respiratory whatever-it-is and hopefully resume my regular blogging schedule.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

 
ADD Central -- Stop by the new ADD Central Delphi forum if you'd like to discuss comics, blogging or anything else that's on your mind.

 
Baby Got Feedback -- Firstly, thanks to everyone who either wrote me privately or posted a note in their blog about how much they enjoyed yesterday's Five Questions for Dave Sim. Special thanks to Dave Fiore who suggested this particular 5Q in the first place.

Second, here's an e-mail I received early this morning that really made my day:

Hello Alan,

A quick shout out of thanks to you for urging folks to read Palomar. I've
read comic books and graphic lit for years yet had never once cracked open
Love and Rockets. My loss: Palomar was indeed great.

Thanks to your insistence, I convinced the book club that my boyfriend and I
belong to read it for our latest book (others have included The Corrections,
The Left Hand of Darkness and When We Were Orphans). The group loved it.
The majority of the group (well, all other than me really) hadn't opened a
comic book since they were children and were pleasantly surprised to say the
least.

We also enjoyed a delicious homemade Mexican dinner replete with handmade
tortillas, skirt steak mole, Margaritas, and these delicious chocolate bars
with cinnamon and ancho chiles. No babosas though unfortunately!

Thanks for the heads up. I may not agree with everything you say, but damn,
if you haven't made for interesting and informative reading. Your blog is a
treasure to the comics community.

Ariel


You might not realize it, but those of us who spend our time writing about comics really do love to hear about it when we've turned you on to new stuff, so thanks to Ariel for the kind comments, and to everyone reading this, if you end up liking something because you read a recommendation of it somewhere, you should drop a line to the critic in question and let them know. It's extremely gratifying to know when you've made a difference, and Ariel's note certainly brightened my day.

 
March of Comics -- It's too late to pre-order 'em, but Previews Review has a rundown of this month's expected new releases, and I bet if you have a savvy retaier, he could still track down most of what you ask for off the list anyway.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

 
Cerebus Reflections -- Bruce Baugh offers up some considered insights into Cerebus. Good stuff.

 
By The Time I Get to Cipital -- My bout of bicipital tendonitis has recurred after a couple of years of relative quiet. In layman's terms, my arm feels like it's being ripped out of the socket. Thankfully, this incident is much less severe than the previous one, but it's still extremely distracting and occasionally very painful.

This, anyway, is why there were no reviews yesterday -- I just couldn't wrap my brain around that task over the weekend. I would strongly recommend Dennis Eichhorn's Real Stuff TPB as one of the best graphic novels I've read recently, though. My wife and I also watched Thirteen over the weekend, and while it was a bit more "Lifetimey" than I was expecting, it was well-acted and worth a look.

Later this week, the long-promised interview with the best writer ever to work in comics. I think we'll eschew the 5Q format for this one, as there's just too much good stuff to pare it down that much.


 
Hard Time is Hard to Read -- I guess I wasn't the only one that hated the first issue of DC's Hard Time. Previews Review's Christopher Butcher:

The first issue of this was terrible. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of LAW & ORDER can see right through this piece of crap. I feel bad for artist Brian Hurtt; this script really didn’t deserve his lovely art, and his lovely art really didn’t deserve the creepy pastel colour scheme that attempted at every turn to rob it of its charm. Avoid.

Monday, March 01, 2004

 


Dave Sim -- I first started reading Cerebus in its first two or three years, when Sim was casting off his Conan/BWS influence and beginning to explore a deeper sociopolitical sphere, reaching creatively but always staying funny no matter how complex the series became. Over time I lost touch with comics -- pretty much all of them -- including Cerebus. Nearly three decades later, Sim is just days away from fulfilling his promised 300 issue goal, and Sim has become a polarizing force among comics readers, some of whom continue to love Sim's work, others who are disturbed or angered by his outspoken, iconoclastic views on sex, politics and religion. I had a hard time trying to come up with Five Questions to sum up a very complex creator and his three decades in funnybooks, but he was extremely cooperative and I think his answers represent him well.

In just a few weeks the goal you've worked toward for decades -- 300 issues of Cerebus -- will be realized. As you look back over your time spent creating this landmark series, what do you think were your biggest creative successes in the series, and was there anything you wish you had conveyed better or differently to the reader?

I'm not sure that I had any creative success in the series. The biggest potential creative success, I think, will be the integration of large blocks of text into a comic book story. Certainly Steve Gerber pioneered the use of text with his "Dreaded Deadline Doom" issue of Howard the Duck, but that was really a replacement for formal comic book pages, not an integration with them. Personally, I'm not sure if it's a success or a failure. A lot would depend on how much you think a creative work has to have a pleasing effect the first time through. I think it takes a number of readings of Jaka's Story to come to the conclusion that it functions as a coherent unit. The first time through the text is just off-putting, an impediment when what you want to do is read the actual comics.

The biggest success I could hope for is to have made a place for large, self-contained graphic novels in the comic book medium, as opposed to open-ended, iconic, trademark-based creativity. No sequels, no prequels. Beginning, middle and end.

What was the biggest challenge you faced over the course of the 300 issues, and what would you say was the prime creative engine that kept you moving forward?

The biggest challenge was resisting the lure of conventional life -- marriage, children, family, friends and other frivolous diversions -- and to basically live my life on paper for the better part of twenty-six years. Fornication was the most problematic. I traded a lot for the fornications I participated in. The prime creative engine -- at least until I discovered God -- was the awareness that anything less than actually finishing the 300 issues would make the book a failure. Literally, "300 or Bust."

Two of the best interviews I've ever read were the ones you did with Chester Brown recently, and the one you did with Alan Moore a few years ago in regard to From Hell. What did you take away from those and similar experiences, and how important do you think it is for cartoonists to discuss creative and other issues with each other?

Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the dialogues with Alan and Chester that much. I found that extended, exhaustive, on-paper communication helps reinforce what a marvelous tapestry human experience is. When someone else shapes as exact a description of their own beliefs and ideas as Alan and Chester are -- it helps you define your own beliefs more clearly and to avoid the generalized "I don't know where you're wrong, but I disagree with you" which seems the universal lowest common denominator in a world gone mad with political correctness.

I think it's important for the sorts of cartoonists for whom thinking is an important part of life. Thinking is very much out of favour in our society, so it isn't just a matter of cartoonists, I don't think. I think the vast majority of cartoonists and people in general would "strongly agree or somewhat strongly agree" (as the pollsters put it) with the view, "It is a bad thing to think too much." Needless to say, I strongly disagree. I hope I've given aid, comfort and reinforcement to the minority viewpoint which, I think, is going to be under seige for some time to come. We don't want to pass a law forcing people to think, but we do hold rigorously to our opinion that thinking is a good thing and that you can never have too much of it.

Your views on the differences between males and females has certainly had an impact on the way people perceive both you and your work. How would you say the rather public development of your philosophies impacted Cerebus, and yourself?

How my views on gender relationships impacted Cerebus and myself is impossible to say, because I don't have a "control group" Cerebus and Dave Sim who went through the entire 300 issues without once raising gender issues. That hypothetical Cerebus and Dave Sim might have been wildly successful or they might have long ago vanished into obscurity. In the former case, I have made a terrible, life-diminishing error in judgment in addressing gender issues in my work. In the latter case, I have saved myself from the yawning face of the abyss in addressing gender issues in my work. I'll just have to see how it all hatches out and try to preserve Cerebus as best I can.

What would you say the most important thing individuals should realize/study/discover in order to make peace with and live more ideally with themselves, humanity, and God?

The five pillars of Islam: Acknowledgment of God's sovereignty everywhere and over everyone and over all things, giving alms to the poor until it hurts and then giving some more, praying five times a day, fasting on a regular basis and in the sacred month of Ramadan, and (if the United States and other freedom-loving people are able to overturn the corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia in our lifetimes) making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once if you can afford it.

I can vouch for the efficacy of the first four of those five.

My thanks to Dave Sim for taking the time to answer the Five Questions, and congratulations on reaching his 300-issue milestone.

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Monday Reading -- I notice Tony Isabella is back on the clock as of today, with his Online Tips. Tony pays well-deserved tribute to Harvey Pekar, mentions my all-time favourite Daredevil story, and much more, in one of his stronger columns. Give it a look. If you scroll down a line or three, you'll find my Five Questions for Johnny Ryan, and below that The Week in Comics.

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