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Monday, January 30, 2006

 
ADD's Quick Hits -- Thanks to last week's birthday spectacular shopping trip to Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts and a pretty heavy week at Earthworld in Albany, NY, I had a metric fuckload of comics and graphic novels to read this past weekend. I haven't rundown a whole batcha comics like this in a while, but I thought I'd give it a shot...

GANGES #1: One of the very best comics that will come out this year, inventive, expansive and entertaining as hell. The very best comics are those that make you want to make your own comics, and I defy you to read this and not want to get started telling your own stories. Kevin Huizenga is fully installed as a member of the modern pantheon of Great Cartoonists, and every move is a joy to behold. Grade: 5/5

NEXT WAVE #1: Ellis making fun of his own (and everyone else's) silliest comic book tropes. Fun, but not anything I feel like I need to read more of. Grade: 3/5

BLACKGAS #1: This, on the other hand, feels like Ellis exercising some new muscles. A zombie story, and yeah, everybody's doing zombie stories these days, but this one feels, after one issue, like the start of a fun story with excellent, full-colour art. I'll be following this one all the way through. Grade: 4/5

GODLAND TPB AND #7: I wasn't sure if I would love or hate this, but with Joe Casey it's always one or the other. This feels like the best thing he's turned out since the glory days of Wildcats 3.0, and Scioli's Kirby impression is being put too good use. In the long run the artistic success or failure of this book will depend on whether Casey and Scioli can both sustain the fun and make it feel like more than mere pastiche, but I am willing to give them some time to see what they can do with this, so far, very entertaining book. Grade: 4/5

JLA CLASSIFIED #16: The closest DC has come to porting the joy of the animated series onto the pages of the comics, where it belongs. Garcia-Lopez and Janson mesh better than I would have expected (I like them both, but they're not a match made in heaven), and really, this should be the main title istead of the unreadable mess the title has mostly been since Morrison left, what, five years or more ago? Grade: 3.5/5

LOCAL #3: Not enjoying this as much as the best of Demo, but much, much more than DMZ (which I dropped after the first issue). Wood seems to excel best when he's telling character-based stories, and this one kind of goes nowhere but is a pleasant exercise in character delineation. I firmly believe Wood's best work is ahead of him, but it's been fascinating watching him develop and occasionally go far, far off the mark (Pounded, anybody?). Grade: 3.5/5

SERENITY TPB: I didn't get this, but I read the series when it was originally published, and if you like Firefly/Serenity, you'll enjoy this. It's a bridge between the TV series and the movie, and be warned that you're expected to know quite a bit about the series in order for this to make much sense. With that said, though, this is very good. Grade: 4/5

SAVAGE DRAGON #122: A very good issue that was long, long delayed. Larsen's ascension as Image Publisher may have critically wounded this continuity-heavy title, which sufferes from a delay between issues. For diehard fans, though, he seems to be making some artistic leaps and the text piece indicates that he has some pretty worthwhile goals for the title long-term. Grade: 4/5

X-MEN DEADLY GENESIS #3: I am finding all of Brubeker's Marvel work readable at worst (this one) and very good at best (Captain America). I will probably never quite get over the cancellation of Sleeper, but it's nice to have good, solid Brubaker comics on the stand on a regular basis. Grade: 3.5/5

SURROGATES #4: A science-fiction parable about vanity and identity, with excellent art reminiscent of Ben Templesmith channeling Guy Davis. I read and dismissed the first issue back when it came out, but a second read has made me a believer in this dark, Blade Runner-like story. Grade: 4.5/5

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

 
Five Publications That Define Comics Right Now -- See my list and others at The Comics Reporter's latest Five for Friday feature.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

 
The Science Fair -- Issue #4 of Jasen Lex's The Science Fair is the best issue of this four-issue mini-series, an autobiographical reminiscence of pizza delivery and the night it all went wrong. Anyone who read Lex's Gypsy Lounge will want to pick this up, and anyone who loves good comics, period, really.

Very possible a fourth addition to my rapidly-filling-up Best of 2006 list.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

 
Talkin' Ice Haven -- Check out Ken Parille's essay about Dan Clowes's Ice Haven at The Boston Review.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

 
2006: A Great Fucking Year for Comics -- Look, it's just this simple. We're less than a month into the new year and already we have Ganges #1, Schizo #4 and Acme #16. Three of the top ten slots for best of the year are already locked up.

Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon's often-excellent Five for Friday asks folks what they're looking forward to this year. Culling that list, here's what I'm thrilled to be anticipating in the months ahead.

Fate of the Artist by Eddie Campbell (his interview in the new Comics Journal is MUST READING)
Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo Callejo - NBM
More Ganges and Or Else from Kevin Huizenga
My Day in the Life of Jay by Jason Marcy
The Paradoxman and The Thing GN by Barry Windsor-Smith
Get a Life, Dupuy & Berberian
The Ticking, Renee French
The Curse and Other Stories, Kevin Huizenga
Atlas #2 by Dylan Horrocks
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Lost Girls, by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Wildcats by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee
Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart.
Comics as Art: We Told You So - Fantagraphics 30th anniversary history book by Tom Spurgeon
The rest of All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 - Charles Schulz, Seth, Fantagraphics
The Complete Dennis the Menace Vol. 2- Hank Ketchum, Fantagraphics
Walt & Skeezix Vol. 2 - Frank King, Chris Ware, D&Q
Optic Nerve #11 by Adrian Tomine, D&Q
Addition: Kramers Ergot #6 (thanks, Jog!)

Can you imagine just a few shorts months ago there were nerds bitching about how comics are no good right now? This may be the best year for comics in my goddamned lifetime.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

 
Butcher Reveals How Diamond Wants Comic Shops to Fail -- Chris Butcher is one of the most valuable commentators comics has. Here's another example of why.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 
Eddie Campbell Spells It Out -- Nice catch by Christopher Butcher, who highlights a passage of exquisite insight by Eddie Campbell in his interview in the new Comics Journal.

Would-Be JLA Writers Posing as "Indie Creators," Eddie Campbell has your number. Learn the real difference between comics and Graphic Novels. Go now.

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The Ultimate Ultimates Review -- Check out The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon's thoughts on Millar and Hitch's The Ultimates. An excellent summing-up of the methodologies, strengths and weaknesses of one of the few superhero titles I still really enjoy.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 
Submit Now: 2006 Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics -- Acclaimed San Francisco comics retailer James Sime, proprietor of Isotope - the comic book lounge, announced today that submissions for the fourth-annual Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics will be accepted until March 15th at midnight. "The beginning of the new year always rings in that moment of true greatness for our industry's mini-comic creators," Sime told his confidantes at Comic Book Galaxy, and a few others as well, "It's time to fire up your printers and copy machines again, and to score yourself some of the gold and the glory that is the fourth annual Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics!"

This coveted award, known internationally for launching the professional comic careers of Rob Osborne (1000 STEPS TO WORLD DOMINATION), Josh Cotter (SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST), and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (THE LAST SANE COWBOY), is a beautifully hand-crafted statue sculpted by designer Crowe made entirely from carved ebony
fossil stone and satin silver. "It's the pointiest award I'm aware of," AdHouse Books publisher, Chris Pitzer commented, "It could sure do some damage. It also throws the lucky mini-comics creator into the spotlight of the Alternative Press Expo. THAT could mean added sales of your comic, more invites to parties, and a possible deal with a boutique juggernaut of publishing, like AdHouse Books. In
the end, it's your chance to reach for the stars, with your feet on the ground."

The award selection committee for 2006 remains a mix of comic aficionados, entrepreneurs, artists, and industry impresarios. Including self-publishers, mini-comic creators and, of course, a person who sells comics for a living, "Everybody in the industry already knows how this works, we like to keep the committee fresh by
bringing in new blood each year, but still ensure that the Isotope Awards Committee covers the entire spectrum of the mini-comic equation," Sime declared, "Like last year I'll be on the judging committee once again, as will be PopImage columnist Jason McNamara who has a voracious appetite for minis and always keeps his finger on the pulse of what's happening. Representing for the classic literature set we've got our comic lovin' Librarian in the form of Isotope Special Projects Director Kirsten Baldock who heads up our judging committee.
And for our new additions this year we're bringing on board some individuals I'm very proud to have on our judging committee: the mini-comic creator who blew our minds last year and took home the 2005 Isotope Award for his awesome mini, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, and comic publisher, Chris
Pitzer, who has, perhaps, the most impeccable taste in all of comics. As always, the only fee for entry to this competition is five copies of your mini-comic sent to Isotope's Special Projects Director Kirsten Baldock at the Isotope address (326 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102) before the March 15th deadline. As is tradition, the award will be given out at a grand ceremony during APE AFTERMATH at the
Isotope in conjunction with San Francisco's ALTERNATIVE PRESS EXPO. San Francisco’s APE convention has been a forum for small and independent publishers in the industry for many years. Because of the nature of this award, the winner will be contacted in advance and must be present at the Isotope at 9 PM on Saturday, April 8th for the award presentation ceremony.

"These award ceremonies are a blast, and without question this year's will be the best one yet!" enthused Sime, "And this year, I've got a sexy new location that's going to rock people's worlds! And it's right in the heart of San Francisco, only a stone's throw from the Concourse Convention Center and any hotel you could possibly want to say at. Trust me, this year is going to Eleven!"

"I've said it before and I'll say it again. Mini-comics are the basement tapes of the comic industry," Sime said, "And just like basement tapes, this is where the raw creative spark is at it's brightest. We're talking the bleeding edge of comics innovation and this is where the industry's superstars of tomorrow are perfecting
their riffs and chops today. We want to shine the spotlight on the work these future superstars are making... that's what the Isotope Award is all about! I know you people out there have some great minis, so send them in and together let's show the world how hard mini-comics can rock!"

The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics could be yours, submissions of five copies accepted until March 15th at 326 Fell St., San Francisco, CA 94102. For more information contact the Isotope at (415) 621-6543 or at isotopepromotions@gmail.com

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Friday, January 13, 2006

 
Friday Cat Blogging -- Took this image of our cat Chloe using the macro setting of my wife's digital camera. Chloe's almost a year old, and the picture nicely captures her personality, I think.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 
State of the AdHouse Union -- Check out Newsarama's interview with Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books over at Newsarama.

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Passion is the Start of Good Comics (and Everything Else) -- It's not often I disagree with Steven Grant, but his comments on passion in his column today at CBR are sticking in my teeth like last night's spinach:

Over at "The Engine," one person wrote that it's time for people to get really passionate about the comics they create. But y'know what? That's a dodge, too. Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass about passion. Passion's overrated. I've seen hundreds of comics - I've produced some of them - whose creators were undeniably passionate about what they were doing. That didn't stop the comics from being pure crap. Passion can produce pure crap, too. And I've known people who were bored silly by the comics they were working on, and they turned out really good, really popular comics. Fact is that anyone can go do an interview talking about how passionate they were about some idea or comic but there's simply no way of telling from the product what the talent's state of mind was when they were working on it. And doesn't matter. The only thing that matters, the only thing that counts, is the end product. Works of brilliance created in the midst of disinterest and ennui are still works of brilliance (and please don't ask me what works I'm talking about, because you really don't need to know), and passionately created crap is still crap.

Now, after a certain point we may be arguing semantics, and that's a fool's errand. I'll agree with Grant so far as saying that passion is no excuse for shitty comics. For all I know Geoff Johns, Jeph Loeb and other bad comics writers who can't spell "Jeff" are all about passion for the very bad comics they continue to inflict on the marketplace.

However, implicit in that thought is the key problem with what is wrong with corporate -- and many other -- comics today. Too many "creators" are jumping into the game simply because they want to make comics but have nothing to say and no talent to say it with. Maybe it comes down to James Kochalka's unduly-dismissed Craft is the Enemy theory, but give me an amateur comic by a new creator with a passion for comics and stories to tell any day over rote hacks like your Johns, Loebs, Winicks, Ruckas and seeminly anyone else currently writing anything with "Infinite" or "Crisis" in its title or subtitle.

Passion is the beginning of art. If a creator aopproaches their work with passion, a solid understanding of craft will often follow. So, no, passion is no excuse for bad comics -- but more importantly, there's no excuse for creating comics if you're not doing so with passion. And I'd extend that to retailing as well; probably the biggest problem with the direct market is the passionless majority of retailers who accept the status quo and are satisfied with the current customer base. Let me tell you something: In ten years, the audience for comics will be far larger than it is now. It will never be comparable to the audience for the biggest summer blockbuster movies, say, but the new interest in comics over the past two years (including manga, obviously -- a huge factor in the growth of comics that seems to prove that at least some rising tides actually do raise at least some boats) is not going away. There will only be more mainstream media coverage, more interest in the possibilities of comics as a storytelling medium, and more readers discovering them at their local bookstore, library, or even at the one- to two-hundred progressive comics shops serving the wider comics audience in North America.

So, when it comes to comics, whether creating or selling them -- hell, even buying them -- be passionate. Let the energy and excitement of great comics fire your passion for the medium, be it your passion for creating them, reading them, writing about them, or selling them. Because if you're not passionate, you're...irrelevant.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 
Neilalien Awards -- Go see what one of Comics' Greatest Bloggers thinks about the year in comics, 02005: Neilalien's 02005 Best-Of.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 
First ADD Shout-Out Of 2006 -- Thanks to Joe Rice for the name-drop in his Types of Bloggers post today. I feel like I don't quite understand what he means, and yet, I know exactly what he's talking about. Dorian's palms must be mighty itchy right about now...

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Pantheon as Coal-Mine Canary -- I was interested to see Brian Hibbs commenting on his store's inability to stock graphic novels with mainstream appeal at The Beat's Year-End Survey. Diamond clearly isn't interested in serving the wider graphic novel audience, which is why key releases last year (Ice Haven and others) were available days or weeks ahead of time in mainstream bookstores before Diamond bothered to ship them to the comics shops that continue to rely on them. Hibbs can't get Understanding Comics from Diamond. Funny, Brian, I see this book every time I go into a Borders. I really do. Seems to be one of the key titles that they never let go out of stock.

Hibbs says the big comics story in 2006 is distribution, and he's right. Every single comics shop that doesn't find a way around Diamond, to get to the graphic novels everybody wants (as opposed to the superhero TPBs craved by the 40-year-old fat guys that are the DM's stagnant bread-and-butter) is going to lose money and hasten their own demise.

Guys running comics shops need to drive around town and see what their competitors are doing. I don't mean other comics shops, either. See what's being carried at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and that chi-chi independent bookstore run by folks who probably listen to NPR. What graphic novels are they stocking? What ones are they selling? How many Pantheon releases do they have that you can't even get from Diamond?

I love my comics shop, I truly do. But I love my comics more. And most people who read comics are like that: They will buy their comics where they are available for purchase. Telling me "I can order that for you" means nothing when I can hold it in my hand at Borders the same day. And if I am holding it in my hand, I am 90 percent closer to buying it, because that's how it is with comics. Out of sight, out of mind.

In 2006, the comics shops that do well will be the ones that find a way around Diamond. But don't just stand there and scratch your head wondering how to do it.

Just ask them.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

 
The First Post of 2006 -- Food poisoning knocked me on my ass all day yesterday, and last night was pretty uncomfortable as well, but here we are on Tuesday, it's back to work in every sense of the word. Luckily I wrapped up work on my 2006 Roundtable before I ate that goddamned chili at Professor Moriarty's.

I managed to finish Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire last night, and that seems like a good annual tradition around the winter solstice. Of course, the book is so entertaining and hypnotic that the immediate temptation is to just head back to page one and start the whole thing over again right away. Someday soon I would like to write about my feelings about this novel. Like a lot of Alan Moore's work, it seems like almost an impossible task, but with Voice of the Fire it seems like one I should try to take on, just to see if I can do it.

Good to see Chris Allen is back to blogging on his own site.

Well, the wife is demanding I get ready to go, kids off to school and me off to work. The Galaxy is back up to full post-holiday speed, so check out the main page and I'll talk to you again soon.

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