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Monday, August 31, 2009

 
Conversations with ADD Now Available -- My third eBook is now available for download here on Comic Book Galaxy.

Nearly 300 pages in length, Conversations with ADD compiles almost all of the interviews I have conducted with writers, artists, editors and publishers since I started writing about comics ten years ago. The Foreword is by writer Christopher Allen, and the Afterword is by autobiographical cartoonist Jason Marcy.

The lineup of interviewees includes cartoonists Peter Bagge, Tom Beland, Charles Burns, Chester Brown, Colleen Coover, Renee French, Roberta Gregory, Paul Hornschemeier, James Kochalka, Jason Marcy, L. Nichols, Ted Rall, Johnny Ryan, Seth, Dave Sim, James Sturm, Walter Simonson, Ty Templeton, and Josie Whitmore; writers, artists, publishers and editors, including Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Kurt Busiek, Howard Chaykin, Steven Grant, Tony Isabella, Barbara Kesel, Ron Marz, Erik Larsen, Mark Millar, Denny O'Neil, Harvey Pekar, Sean Phillips, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, Greg Rucka, Rob Vollmar, Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Brett Warnock, Barry Windsor-Smith and Larry Young; comics retailers, including Jim Crocker, JC Glindmyer, and Robert Scott; and bloggers, including Dirk Deppey and Roger Green.

I had a great time reliving these interviews (conducted from 1999 to 2009) as I was putting this project together, and I hope you'll enjoy reading them and learning what each of these folks had to say about their careers, the industry, and the future of comics.

Click here to download Conversations with ADD. And I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know if you have any comments or criticisms. Feel free to email me your thoughts or leave them in the comments section.

Note to new readers: Thanks for stopping by! If you like what you see here, please feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed, and if you enjoy my free eBook, you can download and read my previous eBooks Anhedonia and Strange Whine as well.

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As I said on Facebook -- I care about Disney buying Marvel about as much as I care about the Jonas Brothers buying an accordion.

But there's a link to the CNN story, if you're so inclined.

Edited to add: I am a bit annoyed by all the fawning over "Stan Lee's creations" in the Disney/Marvel coverage. Stan Lee didn't draw any of the comics he co-created. His most important creative partners, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko among them, deserve to be mentioned in these stories.

And edited again to also add: About the only thing I buy from Marvel these days is the occasional Omnibus or Masterworks hardcover. I'm much more interested in their history than the current egregious state of their "universe," mishandled as it's been the past five or six years.

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The Best Comics of the Decade -- I don't know that I would have had the time to create this post if it weren't for Tom Spurgeon and his readers creating their superb list of titles for consideration as the best comics of the decade. Even so, the list as seen at The Comics Reporter is both enormous and enormously intimidating, and of course I have not read everything on it. Far from it. But of what I have read, I've decided to pick five from each category as the very best that I have read.

Note: Where I've reviewed a title, the title appears as a link to my review.

Thanks to Tom for making this possible, and I encourage everyone to check out the full list at TCR and start working on their own best-ofs.

A note on methodology: I had a very hard time narrowing some categories down to ten choices, never mind five. Ultimately I whittled each category down to which titles I felt were essential, and then from those (sometimes as many as two dozen titles) I picked the five that, if I were going to spend the rest of my life alone with just five books, those were the ones that I would pick. In some cases I had to leave off titles that were painful not to include (Fun Home), but I felt that sticking to five titles in each category would create the most essential and useful list (for me, if not for you).

Anthologies

* Art Out Of Time, Edited By Dan Nadel, Harry N. Abrams (2006)
* Best American Comics, series, various editors, Houghton Mifflin
* Drawn & Quarterly, series, Edited by Chris Oliveros, Drawn & Quarterly
* McSweeney's Quarterly Concern Vol. 13, Edited by Chris Ware, McSweeney's
* MOME, series, Edited by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics

Archival Editions and Re-Releases

* B. Krigstein Comics, edited by Greg Sadowski, Fantagraphics (2004)
* Complete Peanuts, series, Charles Schulz, Fantagraphics
* Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, series, Jack Kirby, et al, DC
* The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, Andrews McMeel (2005)
* The New Love and Rockets Books, massive volumes, Los Bros Hernandez, Fantagraphics

Original Long-Form Comics/Translated/Definitive Collection

* A Treasury of Victorian Murder, series, Rick Geary, NBM
* Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly (2008)
* Ice Haven, Dan Clowes, Pantheon (2005)
* The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner, Frog Press (2002)
* The Ticking, Renee French, Top Shelf (2006)

Comic Book Series

* Conan, Kurt Busiek et al, Dark Horse
* Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Oni Press
* Sleeper, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, DC
* Street Angel, Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca, SLG
* The Filth, Grant Morrison and Chris Weston, DC

Manga (Translated)

* Abandon the Old in Tokyo, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly (2006)
* Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly (2008)
* Monokuro Kinderbook, series, Kan Takahama, Fanfare/Ponent Mon
* Solanin, Inio Asano, Viz (2008)
* The Push Man and Other Stories, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly (2005)

Newspaper Comics

* Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel
* Maakies, Tony Millionaire
* Mutts, Patrick McDonnell
* This Modern World, Tom Tomorrow
* Zippy, Bill Griffith

On-Line Comics

* Achewood, Chris Onstad
* American Elf, James Kochalka
* George Sprott, 1895-1975, Seth, New York Times Sunday Magazine
* Mister Wonderful, Daniel Clowes, New York Times Sunday Magazine
* Perry Bible Fellowship, Nicholas Gurewitch

Works On The Subject Of Comics

* B. Krigstein Vol. 1, Greg Sadowski, Fantagraphics (2002)
* Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff, RC Harvey, Fantagraphics (2007)
* Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers and Pirates, Bob Levin, Fantagraphics (2005)
* Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution, Patrick Rosenkranz, Fantagraphics (2003)
* Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Blake Bell, Fantagraphics (2008)

Websites and Blogs About Comics

(This category was not on Tom's original list, but I found the idea of comparing the best comics writing online vs. the best comics writing in print too crazy-making to adhere to on my own list. I suggested to Tom that he spin off sites and blogs to their own list, but I don't know yet what he thinks of that suggestion.)

* Chris Allen Online, by Chris Allen
* Comics Comics, by Dan Nadel, Frank Santoro, Tim Hodler, et al
* Jog the Blog, by Joe McCulloch
* Journalista, by Dirk Deppey
* The Comics Reporter, by Tom Spurgeon, et al

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Download my free new eBook of nearly four dozen interviews with comics creators, Conversations with ADD, by clicking here. A full list of interview subjects can be found here.

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Beyond the Galaxy 083109 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Tom Spurgeon moves his Best Comics of the Decade list into the next phase.

* Eddie Campbell makes a long, impassioned argument for the relevance and beauty of Will Eisner's work on the military maintenance magazine PS. Campbell's ultimate conclusion is a bit startling, and definitely thought-provoking. I hope this one gets people talking.

* Chris Allen reviews the Xeric Award-assisted Old Man Winter by JT Yost.

* I'm looking forward to seeing what Sean T. brings to Robot 6 this week.

* Reminder: Tuesday (tomorrow) is the day my new eBook Conversations with ADD becomes available for download. I hope you stop back here and have a look. It kind of freaks me out that I've already published the download post in Blogger, so even if I drop dead five minutes from now, you'll still get to read it. Not that I want to put any pressure on you or anything.

* Not Comics: Roger Ebert on The Plague of Movie Trivia. Applicable to discussions of comics trivia as well. I find much of what Ebert says is relevant to comics as well...just substitute "comics," where he says movies, "Alan Moore," when he says "Orson Welles," and "Geoff Johns," when he says "Michael Bay."

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Friday, August 28, 2009

 
Marvel's Happy Birthday to Jack Kirby -- Spotted today at The V:

I guess the question isn't so much whose as it is how many heads will roll. At the very least, a deeply contrite apology should be issued far and wide.

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In Case You Think I Hate Superheroes -- This is coming in to the comic shop for me on Wednesday of next week:


Batman: Black and White statue, based on the art of David Mazzucchelli. From the solicit: "This pose, designed by David Mazzucchelli, was used in one of the original promotional images for [Batman: Year One], and the artist himself was consulted for the production of this statue. The statue measures approximately 7.75" high x 4.5" wide x 2.75" deep, is painted in monochromatic tones, features a Bat-logo-shaped base and is packaged in a black and white box."

Can't wait for this!

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Conversations with ADD Coming Tuesday -- Just an end-of-the-week reminder that September 1st, 2009 is the ninth anniversary of Comic Book Galaxy, and on that day I'm releasing my third eBook, Conversations with ADD. It'll be available for download just after midnight on September 1st. If you're a bloggers or reviewer and would like an advance copy, please email me and I'll send you one.

Conversations with ADD is nearly 300 pages in length, and includes a Foreword by comics critic and former Eisner Awards judge Christopher Allen, and an Afterword by autobiographical cartoonist Jason Marcy.

The nearly four dozen interviews in Conversations with ADD include cartoonists, writers, artists, publishers, editors, comics retailers and bloggers.

Conversations with ADD will be available for download beginning one week from today, September 1st, 2009, right here at Comic Book Galaxy.

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Borders -- I'll be honest with you, my contrarian streak against corporate chains runs deeper than the Marianas Trench. I'd rather eat at the seediest roadside diner than Chili's, Applebee's or any of those places. Give me a family-owned, single-location small business every time.

I do love independent bookstores, like The Bookhouse in Albany, New York or Northshire Books in Manchester, Vermont, or Crow Books in Burlington, VT. But I have to admit I love Borders. And I love it because of my addiction to comics.

Tom Spurgeon talks a little about the importance of Borders to the comics industry here.

For many years, the Borders location on Wolf Road in Colonie (an Albany suburb) was a nearly-weekly destination for me, carrying a dazzling array of graphic novels and a manga section you could comfortably fit a family of four into. When it closed a few months ago, part of a devastating one-two punch that also saw the closing of the nearby Garcia's (an unbelievably great Mexican restaurant), I was just about moved to tears at the end of an era for me -- my two favourite places to spend money in the Albany area were gone. Sure, there's a Borders down the road a piece in the mammoth Crossgates Mall, but I hate malls more than I hate Chili's (don't even get me started about Chili's in the mall), and besides, the Borders on Wolf Road was right near Garcia's, which is gone too. Garcia's had this one server, Sergei? He was amazing, always remembered what our whole family not only liked to drink, but our usual food orders, too. But I digress.

Borders. I hate that they're in so much financial distress. As Tom points out, you can feel it every time you go in there, at least I can, at least in some of the local branches. The Saratoga Springs Borders seems to be losing more and more inventory, and spreading out more and more of the displays and shelving in the hopes no one will notice the ever-increasing space where there used to be merchandise. If that store is there in a year, I will be shocked. If it's gone next week, I will be saddened. Borders has been so good to my comics obsession.

See, one of the key weaknesses of the Direct Market comic book distribution system has been that Diamond focuses much more heavily on floppy, stapled, 32-page comic books than it does on manga or graphic novels. So at Borders, I would often find a graphic novel I'd been looking forward to weeks before Diamond bothered to get them to comic book shops. This was especially true three or four years ago for publishers like Pantheon, although it seems like Diamond has gotten better at getting stuff into comic shops, as a result of the enormous shift away from stapled comics and toward books with a spine and a complete story. But when Borders had the shipping advantage, man, I'd be there every chance I could in my fevered obsession to see what's new and what's next in comics and graphic novels.

A year-and-a-half ago, I thought Borders was going to change the face of graphic novel retailing in North America. Then, of course, the economy fell apart and their economic woes were probably magnified tenfold. Now I wonder if Borders has any future at all.

As Tom notes, Borders has been pretty innovative and good for comics. I've probably spent thousands of dollars on comics in various Borders branches over the last decade, and despite my loathing of corporate shopping environments, I admit a huge fetish for the clean shelves and high ceilings and wonky, unique individuals you always find working in their stores. If the writing's on the wall and their days are numbered, I just wanted to take a moment to say that I really liked buying comics at Borders, and I've loved exploring the nooks and crannies of their other sections, too. I recently finished re-reading a hardcover edition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, purchased on a hot summer day a year or two back at the Wolf Road Borders, with a 25 percent off coupon easing the impact of the book's high price, and I think the receipt is still tucked away in the book somewhere. I always save my receipts from Borders, not in case I want to return something, but to remind me of the day and time that I bought it. Because for me, every trip to Borders is worth remembering.

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Beyond the Galaxy 082809 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Only Chris Allen could convince me that maybe I should check out the new issue of Fantastic Four.

* Today is the anniversary of Jack Kirby's birth. I recently read Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2, and taking in that much Kirby/Sinnott artwork all at once made me really and truly realize how powerful and paradigm-shifting their creative partnership was. Kirby could be, and frequently was, great under the hands of other inkers. But his FF work with Joe Sinnott redefined what superhero comics looked liked for an entire generation, and not just of comic book readers, either. I doubt the industry will ever see Kirby's unique combination of talent, energy and work ethic combined in one artist ever again.

* Hmm, this is intriguing. The Rolling Stone of comics discussion, you say?

* Not Comics: This came in handy as I was rebuilding my PC after having to reformat the hard drive -- 43 free Windows enhancements you should know about.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 082709 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Sean Phillips draws the living hell out of The Spirit. Man, that is one of the nicest pieces of art I have seen in a long, long time.

* My daughter needs to see Christopher Butcher's photos of this mammoth manga store in Japan.

* Tom Spurgeon's list of works to consider as best comics of the decade is getting longer and longer. One of the more useful projects on a comics blog in some time.

* Not Comics: My thanks to Brian Florence for saving my computer in a four-hour reformatting session Tuesday night. I wouldn't be here without him.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

 
ADD: The Lost Interview -- I lost the contents of my C drive yesterday, after a total failure of my operating system that required four hours of work (thanks, Brian!) to restore my computer to (newly zippy) life. Luckily I had backed up a ton of stuff, and as I was browsing the files, I found this 2005 interview someone conducted with me. So far as I know, it was never posted online, so to whet (or destroy) your appetite for Conversations with ADD, my 300-page eBook collecting many of the comics interviews I have done since 1999, here is an interview somebody, somewhere, did with me four years ago.

What makes comics a unique and popular form of entertainment?

Stories told in comics form are capable of reaching the reader's consciousness in a way unlike any other artform -- they are both verbal and visual, like movies, but because they are also static, the pace of the story and the impact of the moments within it are under the control of both the artist and the reader. It's a creative contract between artist and the observer of the art that doesn't exist in any other artform, and allows the best creators to explore different methods of pacing, depicting emotion and the passage of time, and other narrative surprises.

What do you put the longevity of comics down to?

The appeal of comics is clear to anyone who has ever seen a child reading them. They can contain the simplest narratives of children's stories or deeply profound, visionary artistic statements designed for mature minds capable of synthesizing a complex blend of theme, narrative and other elements. Ideally children learn to love comics in their earliest years and as they mature they can seek out the greater breadth of works of comic art that are out there waiting for them to discover.

How has the format of comics changed in its long history?

Comic books started as cheaply printed pamphlets given away for free or for just a few cents. By the year 2005 comics can encompass virtually any format imaginable. I have seen comics no more than two inches tall, and massive hardcover graphic novels 18 inches tall. They can be as short as eight page mini-comics or as long as a thousand pages or more in a single volume, and in the case of Japanese comics, many, many thousands of pages spread out over dozens of volumes. This great diversity of formats is one of the things that I think artists find so appealing, the opportunity to create a story and then design a format for it that plays a tactile role in the reader's experience of the work. We see this, for example, in the works of noteworthy cartoonists like Chris Ware or Paul Hornschemeier, and more recently with Kevin Huizenga and other creators who started in mini-comics and are experimenting with form and format in addition to the formal experimentation of the actual stories they create.

With the increase in other entertainment formats, do you think the appeal of comics is still as strong as it ever has been?

Comics has made some impressive inroads into new arenas in the past couple of years. You see more Japanese comics and more North American art comix than at any other time in living memory on the shelves of mainstream bookstores, from chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble to small independent book stores. This has been fueled in part by a surge in interest in comics on the part of new audiences, and also by increased coverage in such influential mainstream publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Publisher's Weekly. And while entertainment options such as videogames and the internet compete for the interest of some readers, the great recent boom of quality graphic novels and collections of classic comics like Peanuts, Dennis the Menace and Gasoline Alley has made comics more than able to stand on its own as a diverse medium filled with wonders to behold.

Have the many movie adaptations of comic book heroes been a positive thing?

That's a tough call, and I can only speak to it anecdotally. My two children are 9 and 11, and they have seen most of the recent superhero movies from Spider-Man to Batman Begins to X-Men and even Ghost World and American Splendor. But I find my daughter most interested in comics like Lenore and the Archie line, and my son's favourites are Teen Titans Go! and The Simpsons. Neither of my kids has really had a long-lasting interest in specific comics as a result of seeing any movie adaptation, although my daughter did pretend to be Matt Murdock for a couple of weeks after seeing Daredevil, sunglasses, cane and all.

Are comics only read by young boys? Who reads comics?

The main audience for North American superhero comics seems to be males from their 20s to their 40s. But the recent boom in more diverse (and often higher-quality) comics has brought an influx of readers in of all ages, both male and female. And after over three decades of observing the comics industry, I have come to the conclusion that comics are really in a transition right now -- the comics shops that survive the next five to ten years are the ones that will embrace the full range of potential readers that are out there, while the shops that are ignorant of the wider diversity of product, or even outright hostile to it as many retailers seem to be, will continue to wither and die.

Are comics misinterpreted as purely an adolescent obsession? Is this fair?

It's certainly fair to aim that criticism at the North American superhero industry, which is painfully juvenile in nearly every aspect, from the writing and artwork to the marketing and retailing of them.

Will comics always be around, what does the future hold?

Stories told sequentially in words and pictures are nearly as old as mankind itself, depending on who you listen to, and almost certainly older than, say, movies. I think it's safe to say as long as humans are around, there will be comics in some form, whether they are called that or not.

Are comics unique to only certain cultures? How do they differ around the world?

There are certain stylistic elements that are common to comics from France, or comics from Japan, or comics from North America, but if it's a sequence of images telling a story by combining those images with words, then it's comics, no matter how badly some superhero fetishist would like to believe that, say, comics from Japan "aren't comics."

What do you think of the graphic journalism popularised by artists such as Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman?

I think that it's among the very best things to come out of the artform to date. Personal stories that resonate with the reader's life experience and knowledge of the world are those that will find their way into the deepest part of the reader's consciousness. Creators like those you've named, and Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, John Porcellino, James Kochalka and others are among the most exciting and fascinating in the history of comics. And even those who traffic primarily in fiction like Dan Clowes, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison or Paul Hornschemeier, still inform their work with a sense of verisimilitude that has its roots in keen observation of human interaction, which is why their work will still be read, remembered and argued over a hundred years from now.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

 
One Week From Today -- September 1st, 2009 (or 090109 as I like to think of it) marks the ninth anniversary of Comic Book Galaxy's original launch, and approximately the tenth anniversary of my beginning to write about comics online.

To mark the occasion, on that day I'm releasing my third eBook, Conversations with ADD. It'll be available for download just after midnight on September 1st. A preview version has been made available for selected bloggers, reviewers and other writers, and if you feel you meet that description, are interested in the project but have not been contacted by me, please email me and I'll hook you up.

Conversations with ADD is nearly 300 pages in length, and includes a Foreword by comics critic and former Eisner Awards judge Christopher Allen, and an Afterword by cartoonist Jason Marcy.

The nearly four dozen interviews in Conversations with ADD include cartoonists, writers, artists, publishers, editors, comics retailers and bloggers.

Conversations with ADD, will be available for download beginning one week from today, September 1st, 2009, right here at Comic Book Galaxy.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 082409 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Chris Allen reflects on his 40th birthday with a bravura post that you really have to read for yourself.

* Tom Spurgeon begins collating nominees for the best comics of the decade. This could be a very interesting project to keep an eye on.

* Not Comics: Mikal Gilmore examines the process of writing his new Rolling Stone cover article on the breakup of the Beatles. Planning to buy the issue as soon as I can, really looking forward to reading this piece.

Sorry so short today; spent most of Sunday editing the upcoming eBook, and besides, hardly anybody talks about comics over the weekend.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

 
Glourious -- This started off as just a link, but I discovered, hell, I have something to say.

The link: Jog takes along, nuanced and well-written look at Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

Now, I don't agree with Jog's overall assessment of the film, finding it much more successful than he does at what it wants to do, but there's no denying he explains his reasons for seeing the film as he does very well indeed, and that's why I'm linking to it. You should see the movie, then read his review. I went Friday night, because I have had enough of a blast at every Tarantino film I've ever seen that I need to see him on opening night.

I'd need to see Inglourious Basterds again at least once (and I will) in order to really coagulate my feelings about it in any sort of detail; but I think I'm with Roger Ebert on this one. Tarantino's brass balls never clanged louder for me than while I was watching this movie, and I thought he'd already hit that peak with Death Proof, which I realize some people disliked but I thought was a brilliant summation of QT's love of moviemaking.

Inglourious Basterds is far ballsier, and its most amazing scenes -- the opening life-or-death poker game between a French dairy farmer and a Jew-hunting Nazi, or the face in the smoke, or, Jesus, that David Bowie scene, holy shit! -- they're all better than anything Tarantino has ever committed to film before, and who the hell thought that was still possible after Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown?

So, I respect Jog's views and I enjoyed reading his thoughts (always do), but I absorbed Inglourious Basterds more the way Ebert did, like a force of nature. If a tornado lifts you up into the air, you don't argue with it about gravity, man, you just go along for the ride. That's what I did Friday night, another unforgettable night at the movies courtesy of Quentin Tarantino, who has given me more than any other director in my lifetime.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 082209 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Frank Santoro explains his comment about 80 percent of alt.comix lacking structure, and yeah, I get it now. Makes sense. I think I'm down with what he's saying here. That said, I'll take just about any "unstructured" artcomic over the "structure" found in 100 percent of current Marvel and DC titles any-freaking-day.

* Sean T. Collins looks at West Coast Blues.

* Chris Allen likes The Lone Ranger Vol. 2.

* In a rambling but extremely thoughtful essay, Geoff Grogan examines the effect of format upon the experience of art. Grogan knows from formats, being the creator of Look Out! Monsters.

* Not Comics: Wil Wheaton looks back at a key moment of his early fame, and remembers his experiences filming and promoting Stand By Me. Wheaton's reminiscences and anecdotes are always entertaining and insightful; I can't believe someone who's had the career he has is so straightforward and balanced, which is why I love his writing.

* Say, reader, you enjoying these Beyond the Galaxy posts at all? Just curious if you find them useful. Let me know.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

 
Roger Ebert Settles The Universal Health Care Question -- A rich, white man who has had several major, life-saving surgeries in the past few years, Roger Ebert has what should be the last word on the health care "debate" in the United States.

Marvel as Ebert eloquently explains the benefit to society and the moral imperative of universal health care. I can't urge you to read this one enough.

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Beyond the Galaxy 082109 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Sorry to see Shawn Hoke's Size Matters (which started here at Comic Book Galaxy) is calling it a day. Shawn's giving away a big box of mini-comics as a farewell gesture, so get over there and enter his contest. (Link via Sean T.)

* Tom Spurgeon reviews the new Jacques Tardi crime graphic novel from Fantagraphics, West Coast Blues.

* Do you know what Eddie Campbell's favourite TV series is? The answer may surprise you.

* Ah, Jason Marcy. Still willing to express the truth about your inner life at the cost of a peaceful dinnertime with the wife. It's just these kind of brutally honest strips of his that keep me coming back for more. I could find a way to link to the exact strip I am talking about, but scroll down -- it's the one with "July 13th" handwritten at the top of it.

* Not Comics: Nik Dirga writes something of an open letter to Kevin Smith. I'm kind of in the same place as Nik, although I haven't seen Zack and Miri Make a Porno and don't really plan to. I did get a review copy of Smith's latest book, a collection of transcripts of his podcasts, and other than a hilariously filthy story about his dogs mating against his will, the whole thing was really a waste of time, energy and paper. I love enough of Smith's work to think he could be pretty close to a Tarantino-level talent if he knew how to focus the gifts that he has, but it seems like he tends to go for the easy laugh and passive income-earning (how much work did he have to do to make the book happen once he'd recorded the podcasts?) rather than really planning out a career for himself.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

 
Free eBooks -- Just a reminder that my first two eBooks, Anhedonia and Strange Whine remain free and available for download any time you like. Anhedonia is mostly comics reviews and essays, while Strange Whine is a blend of comics articles and more personal, autobiographical writing.

I'm planning to release my third eBook on September 1st, the ninth anniversary of Comic Book Galaxy and approximately the tenth anniversary of my beginning to write about comics. If you'd like to be on the mailing list to be informed when it's released, just drop me an email.

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Beyond the Galaxy 082009 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Abhay Khosla's Bram Stoker's Dracula is definitely in the running as one of the best comics of the year. And I don't say that just because I want to have a sex change operation and bear Abhay many ugly Doane-Khosla babies; I say it also because it's just the greatest thing since Street Angel.

* Tom Spurgeon weighs in with some of the negative effects the planned Diamond skip week could have on the direct market.

* Also in Spurgeville, Tom gets a quote from Eric Reynolds at Fantagraphics about the hiring of Jacq Cohen (congrats, Jacq!) as the publisher's new publicist. Having worked with Eric Reynolds for a decade now on all things publicity (both here on CBG and in my radio gig), I must say it's strange to see such a huge change at my favourite comics publisher, but Eric and Jacq are both extraordinary professionals who make the comics industry better by their participation in it, and I am pleased as punch for both of them.

* Chris Allen posts the second part of what it means to be a fan of an artist over the long term.

* Mark Evanier wants to bring back the comic book letters page. This kind of dovetails with my strong feeling that any first issue that doesn't have a well-written introductory text piece is really a failure as a first issue. I really find more value in any comic that takes the time and space to speak to me as a reader, recent good examples being Fell, Casanova and Criminal. The Conan letters pages are always of interest, as well, and I like the "Two-Gun Bob" strips they always include. That definitely rings of added value and caring about the reader beyond the basic demand of filling up 22 pages with comic book storytelling.

* Over on CBG spinoff A Criminal Blog, Bubba relates the latest news on Criminal and Incognito.

* Sean T. Collins shares his formula for graphic novels likely to get sales boosts from movie adaptations.

* Not comics: HP Lovecraft was born 119 years ago today. Read his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 081909 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Chris Butcher on Diamond taking two weeks off from delivering comics at the end of this year. Having given up the weekly comic shop habit (I stop in once or twice a month to pick up my subscribed books, and buy more often online and at mainstream bookstores like Borders), I don't much care one way or the other, but the reaction could be interesting.

* The new Comics Journal (#299) is in Direct Market stores today. I got mine a week ago and love it, especially the absolutely essential Bob Levin cover article.

* TCJ message board discussion of the end of Richard Sala's Delphine, which I really dug and need to reread in its entirety.

* Hipster Dad looks at Bring on the Bad Guys, one of the essential superhero anthologies of my childhood. I've managed to find cheap copies of Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins, wish I could find this one.

* Augie remembers the late and truly great Mike Wieringo, with lots of art and a great final quote from Ringo.

* Not comics: HP Lovecraft Wikipedia entry and archive of his fiction.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 081809 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* A succinct summation of how the Watchmen movie missed the point of the graphic novel.

* Christopher Allen (and Happy Birthday, Chris!) begins a look at the fickle finger of fandom.

* Frank Santoro loves Tom Kaczynski's comics as much as me, and understands and explains them even better.

* Christopher Butcher does one of his long-ass posts that I always love, this one about the emerging Mega-Culture.

* Spurge interviews Josh Neufeld. I am really looking forward to reading AD: New Orleans After the Deluge.

* My favourite quote of the week, from Dirk Deppey: "Wesley Smith asks why movie sales don’t translate into comics sales. Actually, they sometimes do: Dan Clowes’ Ghost World and various Alan Moore-written books do in fact see a distinct increase in sales following the release of film adaptations. The trick is creator-centric, as the books that do well tend to be made by skilled storytellers and possess novel-like beginnings, middles and endings."

* Not comics: I loves me some chicken.

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I'm with Rick Veitch -- When it comes to my feelings about the term "graphic novel." (Link via Spurge)

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Monday, August 17, 2009

 
The Oral History of Marvel Comics -- I really dig this article Sean T. Collins assembled for Maxim.

My favourite quote comes from Roy Thomas: "After a few years at DC, Jack wanted to come back, but he knew he had set a few fires. Stan hadn’t been too happy about this [DC character] Funky Flashman that Jack had based on him. Jack joked, 'Well, it was all in fun.' It wasn’t all in fun."

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

 
Stitches -- In this autobiography, David Small's family members are bleak and nasty in ways Chris Ware never thought of, scarring Small (literally and metaphorically) for life in ways that would have sent Jimmy Corrigan off a rooftop.

For reasons we never entirely know (because Small himself only gets hints after his childhood is over), his mother and father are critical, mean-spirited people who seem to provide the bare minimum of physical necessities to him as a child, and far less of what any child needs emotionally. Dinner time is a thinly-veiled battlefield, and the next crushing blow to his psyche is always one misstep away.

There's no getting around the fact that Small's parents do monstrous things to him, either with the best of intentions or out of their own selfish needs and inadequacies as human beings. Despite that, the parents (the mother, especially) is given a bit of three-dimensionality through what Small eventually learns of her life, and if the information he shares is scant, it's no less real for its resonance with the way we learn about our parents in shadowy vignettes that never quite reconcile into a whole human being we can understand, relate to, or even like.

There's a narrative symmetry here that would seem forced and unreal if this were fiction, but the role Small's father's career ultimately plays in the events of the author's life become more terrifying the more you think about how easily any parent could make the same mistakes in some other, modern manner.

The novel is like a map of a destroyed adult's inner child, which makes it slightly miraculous that Small is a successful children's book author and apparently is happily married. He somehow rose above the horrific events of his life to make a better path for himself, and I suppose Stitches could be seen as a cautionary tale, when it's not being seen as a compelling life story or emotionally ravaging autobiography.

Small's art is urgent and elegant, with echoes of Frank Santoro's Storeyville scene-setting in some spots, and hints of the frenzied line of Jules Feiffer in the more emotional passages.

The places Small takes us in Stitches are not fun; the tension is high and the mysteries are many. The cruelty that defined his early life will stay with you long after you finish the story, but the true wonder is that David Small lived and thrived enough to bring his story out into the world. It demands to be read and reflected upon, and if you're a parent, I warn you: you'll never think the same way about your responsibilities after seeing how Small's parents handled theirs.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

 
Publishers Weekly Interviews Fanta's Eric Reynolds -- I can't say enough about how good Eric Reynolds is at his job. Hands-down the canniest and most professional publicist in the comics industry, he also bends over backwards to make sure people like me, who write about comics, have the information and access they need to get the job done.

Sure, it's all to the good of his employer to do his job as well as he does, but considering that that employer is one of the two or three most vital comics publishers on the planet at the moment, well, the fact that he is as good at what he does as he is means that Eric Reynolds is one of the most valuable, and valued, people in comics.

Here's an interview with the man, at Publisher's Weekly.

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Isotope Awards: Submissions Being Accepted Through 10/1 -- Here's the press release...

SAN FRANCISCO (August 11th, 2009) San Francisco comics retailer James Sime, proprietor of Isotope - the comic book lounge, announced today that submissions for the 2009 Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics will be accepted until October 1st at midnight. "It's our seventh annual award, and I've got a feeling we're going to be especially lucky and help discover an amazing new talent this year!"said Sime, "In 2009 one mini-comic creator's career will be forever changed, so fire up your xerox machines and get ready to submit your minis!"

The five comic professionals who will serve as this year's Isotope Award judges include:

Brett Warnock- Co-publisher and art director of the amazing Top Shelf Books. Brett's great taste in comics and enthusiasm for the artform are legendary. His shrewd eye for discovering new talent has played no small part in unearthing and introducing some of indy comics greatest talents to the industry. We love Brett, don't you?

Tom Spurgeon - The editor of The Comics Journal during its best years (1994 to 1999), Tom has gone on to become the industry's most esteemed comics scholar, historian, and journalist. Often referred to as "the smartest man in comics" by at least one comic book retailer, there simply is no better place for interviews and news from the world of independent comics than on Tom's website www.comicsreporter.com.

Eva Volan - Supervising children's librarian for the Alameda Free Library in Alameda, California, the chairperson of the ALA/YALSA 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee, a former judge of the 2008 Eisner Awards, and also a writer for www.graphicnovelreporter.com. She is amazing!

Kirsten Baldock - The Isotope's Special Projects Director, acting manager of the Oakland Main Library's Magazines and Newspapers Department, and Kirsten is also the author of the warring-gangs-of-cigarette-girls graphic novel Smoke & Guns.

James Sime - Proprietor of Isotope - the comic book lounge in San Francisco.

The award, which comes with a particularly dangerous-looking carved ebony fossil stone and satin silver trophy by famed designer Frank Crowe, has been instrumental in bringing attention to mini-comic creators the world over and launching the professional comic careers of Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (ASTONISHING TALES: IRON MAN 2020), and two Eisner Award Nominated cartoonists Joshua Cotter (SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST), and Danica Novgorodoff (A LATE FREEZE).

Entry to this competition is five copies of your mini-comic sent to Isotope's address (326 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102) before the October 1st deadline. The award will be given out at a grand ceremony during APE AFTERMATH at the Isotope in conjunction with San Francisco'sALTERNATIVE PRESS EXPO. The 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, October 17th for the award presentation ceremony.

"I consider each year's winner of this award to be the Isotope's Miss America for the year and always love helping to get their work under the noses of the entire industry!" Sime said, "Oh... and speaking of which, don't forget to place your preorders for two previous winners of this award who both have new original graphic novels coming out this September, Danica Novgorodoff's Refresh, Refresh from First Second and Joshua Cotter's Driven By Lemons from AdHouse Books!"

More details here.

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Daily Comics Commentary from Christopher Allen -- That appears to be the plan, which is great news as far as I am concerned. The first Daily Breakdowns is here.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

 
What Kind of Comic Book Reader Are You? -- Take this awesome quiz and find out!

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Are You A Reviewer? -- When I wrote my last eBook, I was surprised as hell that my buddy Chris Allen reviewed the thing. It never even occurred to me that anyone would find it review-worthy.

Well, with my third eBook set for release on September 1st, I'm wondering if any other reviewers might be interested in reviewing me. If you're an experienced reviewer and would like an advance copy for review, drop me an email. I'd love to get some feedback on this one, especially, because it's been far more work to assemble than the two previous ones combined, and because I would love to get the word out to readers that the thing exists.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

 
New ADD eBook Coming 9/1 -- September 1st, 2009 is the ninth anniversary of Comic Book Galaxy, and I hope to have my new eBook ready for release on that day. I'd tell you the title, but unlike the two previous eBooks I've done (you can download them from the top of the sidebar on the right side of this page), that would give away the contents.

If you're interested in being notified when the new eBook is available, please email me with "I Want Your New eBook" or something similar in the subject line.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

 
Casanova, Fraction, Moon and Ba -- Warning, this is a ramble, not a review, no matter what the tag says.

Almost done reading through the 14 issues of Casanova now. Two complete storylines, #1-7 exquisitely drawn by Gabriel Ba, #8-14 well-drawn but not exquisite, by Ba's twin brother Fabio Moon. The first arc reads like a cross between Steranko and Ellis's Nextwave: Agents of HATE. The second arc is dirtier, the art kind of Eisner/TenNapel-like; the comparison is Ba is Jaime to Moon's Mario.

The narrative is packed; they're 16-page issues like Fell, and like Fell feel longer. Reading the back matter (what we used to call "text pages," which actually I think there are far too few of these days) Fraction is a little too full of himself, but not quite to the Brian Wood degree. His website, on the other hand, is worse than fucking useless. Better to have none at all than the one he has.

Anyway, the comics are better than good, less than great. The first arc is the keeper. Gabriel Ba is pretty much The Shit. Casanova #1-7 and all of The Umbrella Academy's two minis are some of the most gorgeously drawn genre comics I've seen in some time.

All my exploration of the Moon/Ba axis came out of reading their pretty great Comics Journal interview in the most recent issue. I love it when an interview is so well-done that it convinces me to sample writers and artists whose work I haven't read before.

Fraction seems to have been co-opted by Marvel for the time being, so who knows if there'll be more Casanova in the near future. I'm sure they'll say there's more in the works, but lucrative trademark maintenance always trumps groovy creator-owned comics, right?

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

 
Expanding and Contracting Galaxies -- Man, I was trying to get it clear in my head this morning how many distinct eras Comic Book Galaxy has had. We're weeks away from the site's ninth anniversary (we launched September 1, 2000), and recently Chris Allen and I have been reminiscing in email about all that's happened in that time (Chris wrote a little bit about it here). One thing we're thinking about doing it trying to, in some way, index as much of the old site as we can. Many of the original HTML files are long gone (I have always admitted to being a lousy webmaster, at least give me that much), but luckily a lot (not all, but a lot) of the site is preserved on Archive.org.

I've begun a preliminary project to archive some of the site in a more user-friendly manner, and one of the things I am trying to complete is a master list of everyone who has ever contributed to the site. If you wrote for Comic Book Galaxy in the past decade, but for some reason your name is not here, drop me a line, would you?

So far, here is the complete list of contributors as I can determine:

Christopher Allen
Derik A. Badman
Tom Beland
Alex Jay Berman
Michael T. Bradley
Tom Brevoort
Ian Brill
Nick Capetillo
Johanna Draper Carlson
Sal Cipriano
Jeremy Clifft
Sean T. Collins
Mike Comeau
Dan Coyle
Matt Craig
Michael Crawford
Ed Cunard
Ken Cuperus
Victor Destefano
Loren DiIorio
Alan David Doane
Ed Douglas
Scott Eagan
d. emerson eddy
John Fellows
Adam Fischer
Brian Florence
Jeff Frank
Mark Haden Frazier
Jesus Garcia
Caleb Gerard
JC Glindmyer
Andrew Goletz
Glenn Greenberg
Jef Harmatz
Jeet Heer
Fred Hembeck
Shawn Hoke
Steve Horton
Chris Hunter
Devin Hyde
Brian Johnson
David Allen “Johnny Bacardi” Jones
Joe Lawler
Margaret Liss
Brian Lynch
Jason Marcy
Pat Markfort
Mick Martin
Derek Martinez
Marc Mason
Kevin Mathews
Gordon McAlpin
Joe “Jog” McCulloch
Evan Meadow
Bryan Miller
Brian Nicholson
Rod Nunley
Marshall O’Keeffe
Michael Paciocco
Kiel Phegley
Logan Polk
Neil Polowin
Princess, The
Ted Rall
Joe Rice
Ted Richichi
Dani Royer
Chris Ryall
Joseph Rybandt
Anthony Schiavino
Bill Sherman
Ian Shires
R. Francis Smith
Marc Sobel
Mike Sterling
Jason St. Claire
Diana Tamblyn
Matt Terl
Jerry Turner
Rob Vollmar
Aaron Weisbrod
Paul Weissburg
Dan Wickline
Monte Williams
Jim Witt
Mike Yates

A lot of talented names on that list. I'm grateful to every one of them for the time and effort they expended trying to make Comic Book Galaxy better.

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Literate Discussion of Worthwhile Recent Superhero Comics -- Rare enough a thing that I thought I should share it with you. It's at The Comics Journal Message Board.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

 
Irrelevant to My Interests, or: Five Things I Just Don't Give a Shit About -- Here's a list of five things that some people, maybe you, I dunno -- really seem to think are important. And I just don't give a shit.

1. San Diego Comicon -- Maybe twenty years ago when this was about comic books, if I lived within a two-hour drive of San Diego, I would have gone and seen what it was all about. As it stands, though, it seems to be about movies and TV shows with comics as a far distant third-place concern. Not only do I not give a shit, but the mountains of internet coverage it gets every year is infuriating, taking the place of space that could have been devoted to bringing attention to comic books. Look, I think local and regional conventions are great, but San Diego seems to me to be an International boondoggle that does more harm than good for comics as an artform. That said, Tom Spurgeon and Mark Evanier's annual pieces are usually entertaining despite my hatred for disinterest in the subject.

2. CBLDF -- I probably should care about this, but the contrarian in me rebels against being told to eat my Wheaties. Plus, isn't the hot-tub incident guy still involved? Why was he not kicked to the curb? And why on earth would anyone own a business if they didn't have the wherewithal to defend themselves financially and legally if they get into hot water? Are you a professional or not?

3. Fort Thunder -- Was Reggie 12 from FCBD a few years ago by a Fort Thunder guy? If so, that's the exception. Virtually every other exposure I've had to Fort Thunder-style comics has left me wanting to gouge my eyes out with a rusty melonballer. Hey, Rusty Mellonballer, isn't he a Fort Thunder alumnus? Seriously, much is made of the importance of Fort Thunder as a "movement" in comics. What is it moving towards other than visually incoherent nonsense?

4. Embedded Videos -- Maybe it's my Kaspersky security settings, maybe it's my distaste for having my browser slow to a fucking crawl every time some blogger loads up twelve YouTube videos in one post. But nothing -- NOTHING -- sends me away from your website faster than an embedded video. I JUST DON'T CARE. I like to read, so write some words already, and try to make them relevant to my interests.

5. Cover Letters with Review Copies -- Dear Small Press Creator, Publicist or Whatnot: Nothing you can say in a cover letter is ever going to make the comic book you've published one bit better, and the chances are very, very good that you are going to say something stupid that will make me think less of it than I would have by just reading the damn thing. I'm fine with you enclosing a business card or even a short note with the date of publication and contact information, but almost any other information is extraneous at best and damaging to your efforts at worst. Let the work speak for itself.

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Jeet Heer on The Comics Journal -- Over at the Comics Comics blog, Heer has a good look at the history of the artform's most important chronicle, The Comics Journal. Comics Comics is really heating up in a good way lately.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

 
In and Out of The Trance -- The final line of this Onion A/V Club interview with Steve Bissette (via Spurge) makes me more than a little sad, because I really love Steve Bissette's comics work, and, pursuant to my previous post, I just can't believe comics as a whole is in a place where one of the prime movers of Swamp Thing in the 1980s isn't being wooed by every publisher extant with bucketloads of gold coins and carafes of the finest wines in the land. Anyway, it's a terrific interview that looks at Steve's days working with Alan Moore and John Totleben, gives away some spoilers about the Tyrant issues that never were, and talks about his work with the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Semi-related: Remember the day I met Steve Bissette? That was an awesome day.

Edited to add: Check out Steve Bissette's website. (Thanks for the nudge, Roger!)

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Burning Bridges -- Frank Santoro has a great piece up about how the Direct Market era has come to an end, signified by the disinterest comic shops had in supporting the new Nexus efforts of Mike Baron and Steve Rude.

This is, in retrospect, a glaringly obvious point, and good for Frank for laying it out so well. My earliest days of weekly shopping (and one summer working) in the Direct Market look, through my rose-tinted specs, like racks and racks of nothing but Nexus, Love and Rockets, Cerebus, Elfquest, and The First Kingdom. Of course, there were many other exciting titles emerging at that time, but those are the ones that really stood out, and your knew if you found those on the racks next to Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans, you had found a comic book store that knew what it was doing, staying sharp, looking ahead and looking out for the best interests of its customers and the industry as a whole.

How times have changed. Good luck even finding the best and most vital comics titles at most "comic book stores," these days, one of the reasons why I continue to assert that the vast majority of Direct Market retailers are really superhero convenience shops, servicing the desires of superhero fans, not true comic book stores, catering to the diverse tastes of readers of comic books who seek out whatever genres and styles appeal to them and speak to them as readers, as people.

My experiences over the past couple of years in the Direct Market have been very mixed. There are few truly visionary comic book stores within a day's drive of where I live; the shop I regularly buy comics at is very good at special orders, but there's no depth at all in terms of the sorts of alternative and independent comics that I see as the vital lifeblood of comics at the moment, and if I miss ordering those sorts of books in the narrow one-month window of any given Previews catalog, I'm left to find things on eBay, from online retailers, or often, I'm just, as mom used to say, "Shit out of luck."

That Baron and Rude are "Shit out of luck" within the Direct Market blows my mind and saddens me a bit, because that was a comic I loved when I was 14. I'll admit I haven't read any new issues in years (I have never seen the new run on sale, anywhere, so the news it's failed is really no news at all), but any time I re-read the first batch of issues, they always bring a smile to my face. So much energy, so much potential. For Nexus; for me.

Where did it all go wrong?

Go read Santoro's piece, it's an eye-opener.

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