Saturday, February 26, 2005

Rambling Saturday Evening Thoughts -- Just a weekend full of rambling, I guess.

Well, one continuing problem with this blog has been that for some reason, the bottom of the blog was getting cut short, ending wherever the right sidebar did. Using my puny HTML-Fu, I was able to finally fix this problem, by inserting an invisible image that is really freaking long into the sidebar. But at least the entire blog is visible again now. If anyone has a more elegant solution, please do e-mail me.

As expected, my wife spent the day helping her sister -- she's still doing that, in fact -- and took our daughter with her to help. That left me and my son Aaron to pal around through the day. I took him to his favourite seafood restaurant for lunch, where he pigged out on fish and chips, and as much of my shrimp, clams and scallops as I could foist off on him in the name of better health.

After lunch, we went to Troy, a small city near Albany that boasts exactly one comics shop, and a wonky one at that -- Aquilonia is the place where I found a mint condition of the incredibly rare Rubber Blanket #2 right on the stands at cover price, thereby completing my collection and forever cementing my concept that this is a shop where you can occasionally find something really extraordinary, if you just look around a little.

I didn't find anything that spectacular today, but my son picked up a back issue of Young Justice, a series he loves in large part because of its Teen Titans connections; he got #3, a halloween-themed issue that he was quite delighted to read on the ride home. He also wanted and received a Green Arrow action figure from the Total Justice line of the mid-1990s. The Connor Hawke incarnation of GA set us back a startlingly reasonable six bucks, exactly what he went for when the toy was new. Checking the date on the back of the package, we determined that Green Arrow had likely been sitting there in the shop waiting for Aaron to discover him since my son was 2 years old. He seemed impressed by that thought.

As I wrap this up, my son is here in the living room with me, still playing with Green Arrow (along with a batch of Titans figures from the current cartoon) and just finished watching Static Shock on Cartoon Network. We're waiting for Teen Titans Go and Justice League Unlimited to get underway at 8 tonight, as both have been quite good as of late, entertaining the hell out of both of us.

Aaron still wants to know why there's no Static action figure. Apathetic, passive racism is my theory.

Rambling Saturday Morning Notes You're Just as Well Off Not Reading -- Well, last night was a bit strange. Usually my wife and I spend some family time with our kids on Friday nights, as I have them by myself in the evenings during the week while she works. Immediately after work last night, though, she went over to her sister's to help her family move into their new apartment -- same complex, different apartment. So, on my wife's schedule, that means she worked until 1 AM Thursday night/Friday morning, then had to be back at work at 11 AM Friday morning (her Friday schedule is weird anyway), then she had go directly from work at 4 PM to her sister's, where she helped haul furniture and whatnot until about 1:30 this (Saturday) morning, when I woke up and noticed she was crawling into bed with me.

The weirdness was multi-faceted. As I say, usually we are all together on Friday nights, but since she was off doing that, it was just me and the kids, and my buddy Marshall came over with a frozen pizza and we watched some of Spaced on DVD (thanks again, Leo!), laughing our asses off at the last three episodes of Series One and the first two of Series Two. Stayed up a bit later than is usual, and I let the kids stay up; my daughter watched a bit of Spaced with us, then retreated to my bedroom to watch cartoons on the TV in there with her brother. I was glad Marshall came over, as he usually doesn't come out so late in the evening (he just turned 40 and I just turned 39, so, yes, 9:30 is, pathetically, "late in the evening" for us both), but also because he returned to me the one object I possess that I actually consider to have magick in it, the first, British printing of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire, which was nicely reprinted in hardcover by Top Shelf last year.

As to why I consider it a magickal object, well, there's a bit to that, skip to the end, I thought it had been lost, and Marshall found it in his stacks of magickal books and other ephemera, so, I am thrilled to have it back.

Anyone who enjoys Alan Moore's comics, by the way, would do well to read that book in whatever iteration they can find it -- he clearly enjoys the freedom to paint his entire canvas in words in Voice of the Fire, and by the very last chapter, you may become convinced, as I am, that writing it was an actual act of magick for Moore, one that will have a definite and measurable impact on your own consciousness when you experience the work, especially -- nah, that would be telling.

Oh, I promised strangeness, didn't I?

When my wife has had little sleep -- as I hope I have established above -- she tends to sleep poorly, waking up often and tossing and turning. Twice between 1:30 AM and 4:20 AM she woke up asking where our son is -- you may recall she also did this the morning I found out Dr. Thompson was dead -- and I had to reassure her that he was asleep in his bed and all, indeed, was right with the world. The second time she did this, this morning, she in fact was interrupting a nightmare I was having -- related to stresses of the past half-year and intensely personal, humiliating and frustrating, was this nightmare.

Now, in the normal course of events, I might have forgotten it before even waking, but Lora woke me up with her Aaron-is-missing routine right at a key and horrible moment in my own bad dream, and instead of falling back to sleep and forgetting it, I was, rather, more than a little shaken from the memory of the whole freaky experience I was having in my head, and damn if this day isn't off to a pretty lousy start.

Hey, I told you you'd be better off not reading this. I just needed to get it out of my head, and there it is.

Ah, Saturday is ahead of me -- and first things first, Lora is supposed to go back to her sister's to help them finish moving, first thing after she wakes up. Well, you try to enjoy your Saturday, anyway, won't you?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Cheers for Five Years -- Happy Anniversary today to My Favourite Palindrome.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Random Thrusday Night Blogging -- I'm getting sleepy and really should go to bed. The huge mug of green tea I had about an hour ago made me feel sleepy and contented with its warmth, but the caffeine is probably keeping me awake.

Only days remain for you to enter our ULTIMATE STREET ANGEL CONTEST, so I hope you'll click over, carefully read the instructions, and enter to win comics and original art from one of my absolute favourite comics.

Finally, (tea...making me...sleepier...) I've still got a batch of comics and stuff for sale or, preferably, trade -- take a look at my list (scroll to the last message in the thread for the latest version of the list) and see if there's anything you need, won't you?

All right, nighty-night. Hopefully I'll see you in the morning with a pretty good-sized site update and some new reviews.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Problems with the Direct Market -- An ongoing frustration with the direct market, that is to say, most comics shops, is the way they limit their customers' perceptions of the industry by focusing so narrowly on one genre (superheroes).

Eric Reynolds discusses this quite eloquently in this letter to the Comics Reporter website.

Basically, my perspective is, if I can't find the latest offerings from Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Alternative Comics, Top Shelf, or Slave Labor in a given comics shop, it's not a comics shop. It's a superhero store. And when I want to go grocery shopping, I don't want to go to "The House of Grape Jelly," I want to go to a goddamned supermarket that has the fullest selection of product possible.

Get it?

Yet Another Goddamned Meme -- This one nicked from the LiveJournal of Andrew Foster.

1. Copy this whole list into your journal.
2. Bold the things that are true about you.
3. Add something that is true about you.

01. I miss somebody right now.
02. I don't watch much TV these days.
03. I love olives
04. I own lots of books.
06. I wear glasses or contact lenses.
07. I love to play video games.
08. I've tried marijuana
09. I've watched porn movies.
10. I have been in a threesome.
11. I have been the psycho-ex in a past relationship.
12. I believe honesty is usually the best policy.
13. I love ice cream.
14. I like and respect Al Sharpton
15. I curse sometimes.
16. I have changed a lot mentally over the last year.
17. I have a hobby. I just go to school for it.
18. I've been told I have a nice smile.
19. I carry my knife/razor everywhere with me.
20. I'm partially TOTALLY smart.
21. I've never broken someone's bones.
22. I have a secret that I am ashamed to reveal.
23. I hate the rain.
24. I'm paranoid at times.
25. I would get plastic surgery if it were 100% safe, free of cost, and scar-free.
26. I need money right now.
27. I love sushi.
28. I talk really, really fast.
29. I have fresh breath in the morning.
30. I have long hair.
31. I have lost money in Las Vegas.
32. I have at least one brother and/or one sister.
33. I was born in a country outside of the U.S.
34. I shave my legs (females) or face (males) on a regular basis.
35. I have a twin (or a triplet, or somesuch).
36. I have worn fake hair/fingernails/eyelashes in the past.
37. I couldn't survive without Caller I.D.
38. I like the way that I look sometimes.
39. I have lied to a good friend in the last 6 months.
40. I know how to cornrow.
41. I am usually pessimistic.
42. I have a lot of mood swings.
43. I think prostitution should be legalized.
44. I think Britney Spears is pretty.
45. Slept with a Suitemate.
46. I have a hidden talent.
47. I'm always hyper no matter how much sugar I have.
48. I have a lot of friends.
49. I am currently single.
50. I have pecked someone of the same sex.
51. I enjoy talking on the phone.
52. I practically live in sweatpants or PJ pants.
53. I love to shop.
54. I would rather shop than eat.
55. I would classify myself as ghetto.
56. I'm bourgie and have worn a sweater tied around my shoulders.
57. I'm obsessed with my Xanga or Livejournal.
58. I don't hate anyone. I dislike them.
59. I'm a pretty good dancer.
60. I don't think Mike Tyson raped Desiree Washington.
61. I'm completely embarrassed to be seen with my mother.
62. I have a cell phone.
63. I believe in God.
64. I watch MTV on a daily basis.
65. I have passed out drunk in the past 6 months.
66. I love drama.
67. I have never been in a real relationship before.
68. I've rejected someone before.
69. I currently have a crush/like someone.
70. I have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life.
71. I want to have children in the future.
72. I have changed a diaper before.
73. I've called the cops on a friend before.
74. I bite my nails.
75. I am a member of the Tom Green fan club.
76. I'm not allergic to anything.
77. I have a lot to learn.
78. I have been with someone at least 10 years older or younger.
79. I plan on seeing Ice Cube's newest "Friday" movie.
80. I am shy around the opposite sex.
81. I'm online 24/7, even as an away message.
82. I have at least 5 away messages saved.
83. I have tried alcohol or drugs before.
84. I have made a move on a friend's significant other or crush in the past.
85. I own the "South Park" movie.
86. I have avoided assignments at work school to be on Xanga or Livejournal.
87. When I was a kid I played "the birds and the bees" with a neighbor or chum.
88. I enjoy some country music.
89. I would die for my best friends.
90. I think that Pizza Hut has the best pizza.
91. I watch soap operas whenever I can.
92. I'm obsessive, anal retentive, and often a perfectionist.
93. I have used my sexuality to advance my career.
94. I love Michael Jackson, scandals and all.
95. I know all the words to Slick Rick's "Children's Story".
96. Halloween is awesome because you get free candy.
97. I watch Spongebob Squarepants and I like it.
98. I have dated a close friend's ex.
99. I like surveys.
100. I am happy at this moment.
101. I'm obsessed with guys.
102. I am bisexual.
103. Democrat.
104. Conservative Republican.
105. I am punk rockish.
106. I am preppy.
107. I go for older guys/girls, not younger
108. I study for tests most of the time.
109. I tie my shoelaces differently to anyone I've ever met.
110. I can work on a car.
111. I love my job.
112. I am comfortable with who I am right now.
113. I have more than just my ears pierced.
114. I walk barefoot wherever I can.
115. I have jumped off a bridge.
116. I love sea turtles.
117. I spend ridiculous amounts of money on makeup.
118. I believe in prophetic dreams.
119. I plan on achieving a major goal/dream.
120. I am proficient on a musical instrument.
121. I worked at McDonald's restaurant.
122. I hate office jobs.
123. I love sci-fi movies.
124. I've never been in love.
125. I think water rules.
126. I am going to college out of state.
127. I am adopted.
128. I like sausage.
129. I am a pyro.
130. I love the Red Sox.
131. I have thrown up from crying too much.
132. I have been intentionally hurt by people that I loved.
133. I love kisses.
134. I fall for the worst people and have been hurt every time.
135. I adore bright colors.
136. I love Dear Abby.
137. I can't live without black eyeliner.
138. I think school is awesome.
139. I think pigtails serve a purpose.
140. I don't know why the hell I just did this stupid thing.
141. I usually like covers better than originals.
142. I donít like multi-textured ice cream (ex. Chocolate chips, nuts, marshmallows)
143. I think John Cusack is adorable.
144. I fucking hate chain theme restaurants like Applebees and TGIFridays.

Win The Comics Journal -- The best issue every year of the best magazine ever about comics is usually their Year-End issue, where the magazine's pundits, critics and columnists assess the previous year's comics output.

Now, the magazine has gotten fantastically good these past few months, but perhaps you haven't checked it out yet, because you really need to buy a goddamned clue about the comics industry it's an expensive read?

If that's the case, check out Shawn Hoke's Comics Journal Giveaway, where my buddy Shawn -- Shawn, I hope you don't mind me considering you a buddy -- anyway, he's giving away not only an issue of The Comics Journal, but the actual Year-End issue at that!

As my son would say, "Sweet!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

15 Ways to Make Comics Better -- There's a lot of people who want to make comics better. Here are some ways I believe that could actually be accomplished.

1. Creators: Create, always, human stories with a strong narrative voice, a clear point of view, and a reason for existing. Anything less insults the reader and devalues you as a creator.

2. Creators and publishers: Ensure high-quality reproduction at every step of the process from the creation of the artwork to the final print job. Poor reproduction removes the reader from the story. You are the ultimate advocate for the work, and for the reader. Fail them and they will flee from you.

3. Publishers: Allow corporate-owned characters who have become creatively bankrupt through mis-handling to lay fallow for a few years. There's no reason at all why Green Lantern, Iron Man, Thor, or most other second-tier characters must be published month-in and month-out. Wait until a creator or creators have solid, original ideas with which to stage a true revival rather than a lame renumbering. If you must publish these characters for trademark purposes, issue affordable, monthly reprints of landmark runs until such a time that a worthwhile new take on the character can be published.

4. Publishers: Publish complex, riveting titles like The Invisibles, Sleeper and Promethea as original graphic novels, a complete storyline published in HC every six months, with the SC to follow six months after initial HC release. If you cannot find an economic model in which to make this work, you have no business being in publishing. If you don't want to put your hands in the toilet and fix things, you shouldn't be a plumber.

5. Would-Be Publishers: Realize that no new comics company can be expected to make any money whatsoever within the first five years of its existence. If you do not have the capital shored up to protect against that fact, and do not have the confidence that your books will be of such high-quality as to ensure a large readership that builds over the first three years, then do not start your new comics company until you can meet those marketplace realities. Wishing will not make it so, and if you build it, history has shown that they will not come.

6. Publishers: No one wants your new superhero universe, American-created Manga, or fifth-week event. No one.

7. Publishers: If you cannot give away 200,000 copies for free or for a quarter, you cannot sell 10,000 for $2.95.

8. Publishers: Because you like a writer or artist, that does not mean that readers will like their work. The worst thing an editor or publisher can do is be buddies with the talent they publish. If your judgment is thus compromised, you owe it to yourself, your creators and your readers to seek out blunt, critical analysis of the quality of the work and its liklihood of success before publishing it.

9. Would-Be Publishers: If you must publish comics and are not already an established company with a well-known line and a reliable slate of books, then start your new company with one bulletproof book that is so well done and wildly entertaining that it can serve as the foundation of a steadily-growing company over the course of the next five years.

10. Creators: At all stages of the creative process, seek out the opinions and evaluations of people whose tastes and critical faculties you trust implicitly. Ask them to be brutally honest in judging your work, and accept that there is at least a grain of truth in everything they tell you, and likely a lot more than a grain.

11. Readers: Do not continue to buy and support comics that do anything less than dazzle you with their ingenuity, their quality storytelling, and their elegance of purpose and design. The only reason any publisher can continue to produce bad comics is because people buy them. Just stop.

12. Readers: Find critics whose tastes clearly intersect with your own, and follow their recommendations into places you might previously have avoided. If Critic A's explanation of why they like a book you like makes sense to you, then find a book they recommend that you haven't read, and try that one. Watch the magic happen.

13. Do not ever buy a comic book with the expectation that you will sell it at a profit later on. 99 percent of every comic book you ever will buy over the course of your life will be worth 12 cents or less within a month after you buy it. Selah.

14. Publishers: If you cannot afford a full-time publicity department that is dedicated to getting your books the maximum exposure possible, then you cannot afford to be a publisher. Hiring the talent and printing the books is no more than 50 percent of the equation that results in a successful book.

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

Preview The Event of the Year! -- The Countdown to Countdown has begun! Click here for an exciting preview!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Comics and GNs for Sale or Trade -- Click here to view my latest list of comics and graphic novels available for sale or trade.

Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005 -- I awoke at about 1:20 AM with a startling, breathless revelation from my wife: "There's something in here with us."

There wasn't, she was just having a nightmare that somehow crossed over into her waking life. It happens from time to time, she awakes with the certain knowledge that, well, whatever it is that she's sure of has come to pass. Last time, a month or so ago, our son was missing. He wasn't, of course, but she awoke from a dream quite sure of it, and demanding to know where he was. He was in his room, asleep, I assured her. She was just having a dream.

I wish this was a dream.

I awoke at about 1:20 AM and after assuring my wife that she was just dreaming about there being "something in here with us," (and frankly, that's not something you want to hear upon suddenly being awoken -- is there something in here with us?), I stumbled half-blind and half-awake to the bathroom (which is on a goddamned separate floor in this stupid frigging house -- thoughts I only have when being suddenly awoken like this,) and especially, and this is crucial, having to pee really, really bad.

All right, peeing completed there in the half-dark, a quick glimpse at the hamster cage there in the upstairs hall (what if it was the hamster that had made a nocturnal invasion of my wife's slumber? Nope, still there) and came downstairs. Checked quickly my e-mail, to see if any good news or letters from long-lost friends awaited. Two good pieces of news, much-needed virtual items had been secured by a friend and colleague. "Excellent, Smithers, excellent." I would have rubbed my hands together with glee, but I started poking around on blogs quickly, instead, Always checking the blogosphere, hate to miss the latest meme.

Ian Brill had the story. It kicked the shit right out of me, that headline: "The Gonzo Journalist is Gone." What? Fuck, WHAT?!?


When asked from time to time -- and it's not very often, but it does happen -- when asked who my favourite authors are, who influenced my own writing, who do I read to replenish my batteries and jumpstart my heart and blah blah fucking BLAH -- yeah, The Doktor was pretty much at the head of the list. Oh, Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert both have written criticism that makes me ache with a feeling of unworthiness, Gary Groth and Kim Thompson's energy and dedication to good comics inspire me and Tom Spurgeon's writing about comics is just goddamned sublime -- but Hunter S. Thompson was the first writer that made me want to write.

Here I would love to write at length, in startlingly lucid and convincing prose, with only the occasional burst of profanity used to laser-like effectiveness, in grand homage to the man who in a sense was the Greatest Journalist Ever (and take that Edward R. Murrow!) -- I would love to do that. But I'm not even sure I can compose a sentence now, knowing what I know, feeling quite like I've been punched in the gut and kicked in the head and knowing that Herr Doktor left this sad, sick fucking world never seeing any brighter days ahead, never knowing if this dark cloud that has descended over our times will ever fucking lift. Hell, is this why he took his own life? Did he see the darkness and the lies and the blindness of a nation that he loved and find himself unable to process it all any further? Or did he just get drunk and high and mad and batty and trip over his shotgun? What the fuck, Doctor Thompson? What the fucking fuckity fuck FUCK?!?

The thought of suicide, it has been said, is something of a comfort for many people. It lies there at the back of our minds, a means of last resort, a get-out-of-jail-free card in the game of life.

I find nothing comforting in the thought that the demons of this world finally conquered perhaps my greatest hero in life. I find waking up from my wife's nightmare only to learn this horrific, awful news to be one shitty way to start the day. It makes me want to kick something, or hit something, or write something. And it scares me.

"There's something in here with us." That's what my wife said, as she woke me up from a sound sleep and tossed me out here into the world, where there's no room for Hunter S. Thompson anymore and so for whatever reason he took his own life, BANG, and by the way, there never would have been any goddamned Transmetropolitan at all if not for Thompson, goddamnit, so you should care. I know you don't, but you should.

"There's something in here with us."

Damn it. Was it Thompson? Was he in our room, scaring the hell out of my wife as she slept? Tearing through our ideaspace one last time on his way to hell, where, if there is any justice, he finally will be elected sheriff?

Good night, dear Doktor. Go to sleep. Your work is undone, yes, but we all, always, leave something unfinished. I wish I could say that someone is up to the task of finishing it for you, but, I don't think so. Just grab a handful of pills and a big bottle of something and go off to sleep.Try not to think about it:

"There's something in here with us."

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