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Monday, September 28, 2009

 
Putting Flash Forward on Notice -- Ever seen Lost? I don't think I need to ask the "creative" folks behind Flash Forward.



Also: That "D. Gibbons" thing? Really distracting, and not in a good way.

 
Alan Moore and the Paucity of Ideas -- Eddie Campbell weighs in with a sterling silver retort to anyone who doesn't get what Alan Moore has had to say recently about the comic book industry.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

 
Seven Things to do at the Albany Comic Con -- The show is coming up November 1st. Click over to Trouble with Comics for my recommendations.

Friday, September 25, 2009

 
Mazzucchelli Market Correction -- Blogger and comics creator Geoff Grogan provides a market correction for the nigh-deified Asterios Polyp.

As I noted in my comment after Geoff's post, I love most everything David Mazzucchelli has done, but Asterios Polyp was not the earth-shaking, career-defining revelation I think most of us were expecting.

Mazzucchelli probably doesn't get enough credit for his visionary superhero work on Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again, both of which expanded the visual possibilities of the superhero sub-genre; but his most personal and visionary work in anthologies like Drawn and Quarterly and his own self-published Rubber Blanket set some pretty high expectations for Asterios Polyp, I think, and those expectations weren't quite met. The few short pages of Mazzucchelli's "Discovering America," contain more emotion, passion and straightforward visual genius than the entirety of Asterios Polyp, the totality of which to me felt ambitious but sterile, sprawling but ultimately not taking me anywhere new, or even anywhere I particularly wanted to go.

I'm a huge fan of Mazzucchelli's comics work, and "fan" is not a word I use often, or lightly. From X-Factor back issues to Batman statues and Italian collections I can't even read, I've spent lots of dollars trying to have everything the man has been involved in. But there remains, in the wake of Asterios Polyp, a feeling that if his career will eventually hit a previously-undreamed-of peak, it won't be with his most recent (and first solo) graphic novel. Maybe his best work is behind him, but I kind of doubt it. I do know that when he exceeds what he accomplished with Asterios Polyp, it will be with a work that feels more personal, more passionate, less sterile, and far less meticulously constructed.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

 
Conversations with ADD Reviewed at Tor.com -- Thanks to Anthony Schiavino for the heads-up that Bruce Baugh has reviewed my free eBook Conversations with ADD for the science fiction site Tor.com.

If you've surfed here via Bruce's review (and thank you, Bruce; I really appreciate seeing your thoughts on the project, and I appreciate the praise!), you can get more information and download Conversations with ADD here.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

 
New ADD Essay at TWC -- Click over to Trouble with Comics to read my new essay, What We Talk About When We Talk About Creator Rights.

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Beyond the Galaxy 092109 -- "A scrampance of links," my co-worker Kathy might say. It means there ain't much. Let's hope they make up in substance what they lack in quantity.

* New at Comic Book Galaxy's Trouble with Comics: Marc Sobel looks at Disappearance Diary and David Wynne goes in-depth on Grant Morrison's legendary Zenith, and d. emerson eddy has a look at recent Batman developments. Lots of good stuff planned for our new group blog in the days and weeks ahead, and I'm thrilled with how it's come together, and the positive reaction its received from readers and pros so far. I hope you'll give it a look.

* Marc-Oliver Frisch remembers Steve Gerber on the anniversary of his birth; here's my own appreciation, written just after his death.

* Tom Spurgeon considers the changes in comics since he started The Comics Reporter five years ago. I hope I remember to do something that smart when Comic Book Galaxy's tenth anniversary comes around less than a year from now.

* Ooh, see? Substance.

* Uncomics: James Howard Kunstler's new essay "Original Sin," nicely explains how Los Estados Unidos gleefully embraced the elements of its own undoing.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

 
Jack Kirby Estate Seeks Copyright to Kirby's Creations -- Kevin Melrose has the breaking news at Robot 6 at CBR. Needless to say, this will be a very big story, and hopefully one that will end up with some justice being done for the family of the man without whom Marvel Comics would have been a footnote in the history of North American comic book publishing. More to come in the days ahead.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

 
Flashmob Fridays Debuts -- Head over to Trouble with Comics for the first outing of Flashmob Fridays, a quick and dirty review by a bunch of TwC stalwarts; up first, the mob looks at Final Crisis.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

 
New 5Q at Trouble with Comics -- My newest Five Questions interview is up now, and it's with former Galaxy writer and current IDW Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall. Have a look!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

 
The Movements of Chris Allen -- Update your bookmarks, CA fans, Chris Allen is moving his Daily Breakdowns to Comic Book Galaxy's new group blog, Trouble with Comics.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 091409 -- I read these and I think you should too.

* Now through Friday, September 25th Top Shelf is practically giving away many of their books at drastically reduced prices, many as low as $3.00. I suggest some stuff you should definitely consider buying here.

* Michael Crawford gives a thorough going-over to the David Mazzucchelli Batman statue that I love so much it hurts.

* Check out Comic Book Galaxy's new group blog, Trouble with Comics. Some new writers are on board, as well as some old faves. Tell your peeps via your tweets, or whatever it is the cool kids do these days.

* Tom Spurgeon's most recent Five for Friday tackles comics anthologies; I'm in there someplace with my two cents.

* Speaking of comics anthologies, here's my review of Abstract Comics: The Anthology, new from Fantagraphics Books.

* Uncomics: Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart talk Fringe and Star Trek. Worth it for Nimoy's comments on Karl Urban's performance as McCoy in this year's movie.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

 
Abstract Comics: The Anthology -- It seems almost beside the point to say that yes, here's a book you can judge by its cover. But other than the introduction by editor Andrei Molotiu and some notes about the individual contributions at the back, the cover image -- chaotic, mysterious, and hinting at hidden dimensions of meaning -- describes the experience of reading the book pretty succinctly.

Needless to say, one could study the art found within Abstract Comics: The Anthology (published by Fantagraphics Books) for months, or one could flip through the entire thing in five minutes, and the conclusions one could draw from either experience of the volume could easily be justified as informed and insightful. Here are hundreds of pages of inexplicable lines, colours and visions, at best open to interpretation and at worst inviting John Lennon's definition of Avant Garde, "French for bullshit."

Having now lived with it for a couple of days, I can't say I love Abstract Comics: The Anthology, but considering that it includes contributions by R. Crumb and James Kochalka, two cartoonists I hold in the highest esteem, and considering that their works are among the best-realized and most thought-provoking in the book, well, I can't dismiss it out of hand either.

Some artists challenge more than they enlighten. Alexey Sokolin's, murky, hairy panel progressions seem to emulate comics form without speaking to it. On the other hand, the images by Elijah Brubaker, Geoff Grogan and Janusz Jaworski use the panels and pages to create a sense of meaning and movement that invite multiple readings.

Just creating panels and putting stuff in them is not always successful, though -- Jason Overby does just that and the resulting images reminded me of nothing more than marginal doodles from an 11th grader's math notebook; diverting for the artist but not necessarily as rewarding for the rest of us.

Mike Getsiv's "Shapes," defines space with lines and colours inside irregular panel borders in a manner that appeals to the eye and is not wholly unsimilar to James Kochalka's stylings. Both use the tools at their disposal to suggest passion and emotion, and Getsiv's striking images are worthy of a collection all their own.

I really liked former Galaxy contributor Derik Badman's rambling, dream-like creations, too, suggesting partially obscured views into a world unseen, unknown and unknowable.

In a sense, there's a lot of art in Abstract Comics: The Anthology and almost no real comics per se. I was blown away, however, by my son's recognition of a Sentinel (a giant mutant-policing robot) from Marvel Comics' X-Men in a page by Noah Berlatsky that the artist says is abstractly based on images originally created by the late Dave Cockrum. I studied the page for quite some time and could not see a damned thing other than amorphous shapes and lines, but when I told my son (who was curious about the book I was reading) that the page I was on was originally based on the X-Men, he casually blew my mind with his comment "Oh, yeah, there's one of those giant robots, what are they called? Sentinels?"

If that isn't proof that meaning is in the eye of the beholder and that the work within Abstract Comics: The Anthology isn't absolutely open to interpretation by every single reader that encounters it, and that every opinion it generates has some validity, than I don't know what else to tell you. I still can't see a frigging Sentinel on that page.

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Learn more at the Abstract Comics blog. Noah Berlatsky kindly provided a link to both the original Dave Cockrum page and his own abstract interpretation of it, which you can see here.

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The New Comic Book Galaxy Blog: Trouble with Comics -- Comic Book Galaxy expands in its tenth year with the new group blog TROUBLE WITH COMICS.

Since launching on September 1st, 2000, Comic Book Galaxy has had as few as one (that would be me) and as many as two dozen contributors at any given time in its history. Now, the Galaxy is expanding once again with TROUBLE WITH COMICS.

TROUBLE WITH COMICS grew out of conversations with my good friend and partner in thoughtcrime Chris Allen as I was assembling my recent eBook, Conversations with ADD. I had to dig into the Galaxy's deepest, hidden recesses to find some of the material for the eBook, and Chris helped me pound it all into shape. As we worked together on all that, I think we both realized just how much we missed feeling the rush we got from the most exciting times we had together (and sometimes separately) on Comic Book Galaxy. With that in mind, we started talking to good writers we knew, some who wrote for Comic Book Galaxy in the past, some who are new faces around the Galaxy Clubhouse but who nonetheless agree with our stated goal of "pushing comix forward."

TROUBLE WITH COMICS is edited by Chris Allen and yours truly, and the mix of contributing writers to TROUBLE WITH COMICS includes returning Comic Book alumni Johnny Bacardi, d. emerson eddy, Mick Martin, Marc Sobel and Diana Tamblyn, as well as writers new to Comic Book Galaxy like Alex Ness, Matt Springer, and David Wynne.

TROUBLE WITH COMICS will include regular reviews and features, as well as interviews, profiles, previews and more. Among the features currently on the blog is the first in a new series of my Five Questions interviews, this one featuring comics writer Ron Marz.

You can read TROUBLE WITH COMICS. by going to www.comicbookgalaxy.com/troublewithcomics, and subscribe to its RSS feed at http://www.comicbookgalaxy.com/troublewithcomics/atom.xml.

And I'll still be blogging here, as well, if you're wondering.

I hope to see you at TROUBLE WITH COMICS.

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New Meme Has All the Kids Talking -- Sean T. Collins launches the greatest meme in the history of memology, WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS.

Amusingly, the father of the meme shows up and objects strenuously, inspiring several other possible memes, including:

* "nobody checks spellling on the internet!!!!"

* "I am what they call the best of the best, so mock all you want, but I have my fans, and they lvoe my stories!!!!"

* "ITS JUST A FANTASY AND WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE!"

* "Oh, I could go on but you get the point I hope. Does anything you write get parise like this???"

Sean follows up with the first WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS LOL-cat type image, soon to be followed, no doubt, by a million more, all over the Interwebs. Here are my thoughtful contributions to the nascent dialog:





Create your own, spread the word, and remember: "ITS JUST A FANTASY AND WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE!"

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 091009 -- Today is gonna be great, because it's the one after 9/9/09.

* In what is rapidly turning into Comics Retailing Discussion Week, Chris Allen responds to despondent, lazy retailer Ilan Strasser's recent plea to please let him keep doing everything the same as he always has. Allen also looks at Ng Suat Tong's recent think-piece on writing and collaboration. I really like that smart people are talking about the comics industry they want these days instead of just accepting the loathsome status quo of the past few years.

* Shaenon Garrity examines her relationship with The Comics Journal on the eve of the magazine's gala 300th issue (link via Spurge).

* Tom Spurgeon looks at the shakeup at DC Comics. Long time coming, but we'll see if ultimately means better comics. Kurt Busiek also weighs in, honing in on Paul Levitz's job change with an interesting anecdote and analysis.

* Tony Isabella's 1000 Comics You Must Read is on the way. Tony's writing is always fun and informative, so I'm anxious to see what he highlights in this new volume.

* I wonder if I have the discipline to start saving now for TCAF 2010. That and MoCCA are the two shows I would like to go to at least once before I die. And yet I've been to a Rick Olney-organized convention. Go figure. At least I met Tony Isabella there. Hey, see how I I tied it all together there?

* Uncomics: Howard Stern explains in plain (and occasionally adult) language why racism is what's at the bottom of the rampant hatred for President Barack Obama.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

 
Matt Springer weighs in with a thoughtful followup on the death of the Direct Market in response to Chris Butcher's think-piece from earlier in the week. Among other observations, Dr. Springs calls Time of Death on the DM as it stands staggers today.

I highlight Matt's piece not because he calls out my frequent references to the current, dying network of superhero convenience stores, but because he makes some good observations about the current state and likely future of comics retailing.
"The experiences outlined by Butcher in his piece are undoubtedly the same experiences many savvy comics retailers are already having. These are the folks interested in supporting a variety of artistic viewpoints and serving readers with the type of customer service that nurtures their habits and embraces their enthusiasm..."
This is the type of comics retailing I have experienced in just a handful of shops, most notably Butcher's own The Beguiling in Toronto and Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts. I often call shops like these the future of comics retailing, because if comics has a future that doesn't look like a dimly-lit crack house for spandex addicts, then it looks like these sorts of stores: bright, open, welcoming, and stocking an astonishing array of every type of comics in the hopes of securing as large a percentage of the community's comics-buying dollars as possible, from as many types of readers as possible within that community. Boys, girls, men, women, gays, straights, and anything and everything in-between and outside those definitions. And they get those comics into their stores by working with not just Diamond, but with any and every good distribution source they can find, resulting in a diverse stock in the store and frequently much-desired titles available weeks ahead of Diamond's sluggish handling of non-spandex titles. It's more work, yes, but ultimately for more money, as well as a wider, stronger customer base and a better reputation in the community. It's the superhero convenience store owner's worst nightmare, and it's the industry's last hope. Embrace it, or go away already.

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Beyond the Galaxy 090909 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Tom Spurgeon follows up on Chris Butcher's analysis of the current, broken Direct Market distribution/retailing model. Must-reading.

* Staying at TCR for a moment, this Tom Spurgeon review of a naff old Teen Titans trade paperback is noteworthy to me because, well, pretty much all Marvel and DC superhero titles read this way to me at the moment. Sometimes pretty, almost always empty.

* Thanks to CBR's Tim Callahan for a very thorough look at my new eBook, Conversations with ADD. It's really intriguing to see what people like and don't like about something like this, and since I have more planned for the near future, I appreciate the feedback. I also totally agree with Tim about Q&As vs. feature interviews pretending to be interviews. Maybe it's growing up with the long Comics Journal interviews, but I love the way a well-conducted and well-edited Q&A can get to the heart of a subject so much better than sprinkling some quotes throughout a feature article ever will.

* Uncomics: The Beatles' 2009 remasters explained (via Sean T. Collins).

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

 
Beyond the Galaxy 090809 -- Updated because Christopher Butcher has upset the apple cart of comics discussion with an amazing and enlightening post on comics distribution and retailing.

* Here's the most important comics-related post you'll read this week: Christopher Butcher goes into deep detail to explain how Diamond broke the back of the Direct Market, turning it from what it was in the early 1980s (a spectacular array of new and different wonders in every comic shop from coast to coast) into what it is now (too depressing to even describe). As I said in the comments to Chris's post, the 1980s DM was "a beneficent byproduct of multiple distributors all vying to be the most relevant and the best at what they were doing. Thatís the model that allowed Cerebus, Love and Rockets and (yep) Bone to find their audience despite the fact that initial orders on all of them were virtually non-existent. Itís heartbreaking to think the next Jaime or Gilbert could be out there right now making nascent miracles of comics in their bedrooms that weíll never know about thanks to Diamondís shortsightedness and eye-poppingly poor stewardship of their role in the current scheme of things." The Beguiling (where Butcher works) and the very few stores like it should be the model for any retailer who wants to still be selling comics in five years. Be active, look forward, find ways around Diamond's self-destructive policies before they kill your comic shop. I hope every single person reading this post will click over and see what he has to say, and do comics a favour and pass the link along.

* I doubt anyone browsing their comics blogs stops here before they stop at Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter, but in case you did and you took the US Labor Day holiday off, check out Ng Suat Tong's piece on Writing, Collaboration and Superheroes; then read Jamie S. Rich's response.

* Chris Allen's Humbug review won me over with the amazing observation that "We've lived long enough that Frank Miller embarrasses Jim Lee with his effort."

* Matt Brady previews this week's new releases (available in most shops on Thursday this week instead of Wednesday, if you care).

* Oh, I posted my own graphic novel shelf porn over the weekend. Have a look, if you missed it.

* Uncomics: How to Speed Up Your Computer. I'm more than a little leery of PC tweaks after screwing up my machine so badly a few weeks ago, but these maintenance tips seem pretty basic and sensible.

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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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Monday, September 07, 2009

 
The Spirit of Eddie Campbell -- There's two great quotes in this piece about creating stories for Will Eisner's The Spirit: The New Adventures, a mixed-quality title from Kitchen Sink from years back. The first one is this:
I've never been fond of the idea of lots of different artists taking a crack at an old comic strip. The best characters in the old days were like an artist's signature while the characters of today are well, meh.
Yes. Just so. And then there's this one, which very nearly made me laugh out loud:
Eisner's late comic book covers always look too much like the Marvel formula to be entirely enjoyable. And also, somebody is always biting somebody else's clothes.
Go read the entire thing, it's pure gold.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

 
No Method, All Madness -- You gotta love the comic book shelf porn. As you'll see here, my graphic novel collection is rapidly outgrowing the space allotted for it. There was a time when I could easily describe the orderly method in which everything was shelved, but the many varying formats that comics and graphic novels come in these days means it's not always easy to shelve books by the same author together. How do you get Seth's tiny Bannock, Beans and Black Tea, say, next to the relatively mammoth George Sprott, without creating visual dissonance?

So there's not as much organization as I'd like on my bookshelves, but there are an awful lot of books I do like. I'll try to explain what's what as we go along.

(By the way, I updated this because I realized I missed a few shelves and had the time.)

Above is the main block of three (unmatching, much to my wife's dismay) bookcases. On the two to the left, I use bookends on top of the bookcases to add another shelf worth of space, while the far-right bookcase has The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Gary Panter as virtual bookends keeping everything between them in place with their considerable mass.

Zooming in, these two shelves probably demonstrate the most effort at organization. On the top we have pop and pop noir comics by such creators as David Mazzucchelli (including some Italian collections I can't read but can look at the pretty pictures in), Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and various Warren Ellis titles. On the lower shelf, Kirby and '60s Marvel predominate, along with the one hardcover and four trade paperback collections of the Kirby-as-genre Godland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli.

Closer-up of the pop noir section, watched over by my new David Mazzucchelli Batman: Year One statue.

Some compromise at work here; the top shelf is all Alan Moore, the middle, scrunched shelf (I don't know how I got myself into this problem) is mostly The Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz and similarly formatted books, then the bottom is more Alan Moore plus a batch of Absolute Editions and R. Crumb. Yes, there are at least four versions of Watchmen there. The most recent acquisition is the Graphitti Designs edition, which was a holy grail of mine for decades. On the bottom shelf, next to the regular ol' Watchmen TPB, is a custom Alan Moore Wildcats hardcover I scored on eBay recently for ten bucks.

Mostly Kochalka on the top here, and the lower shelf features my Los Bros Hernandez collection plus Richard Sala and Renee French.

One shelf down from there, we find Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Grant Morrison and the Dark Horse Conan series.

One shelf further down, anthologies, art books and Hellboy.

D&Q on the top (plus recent Comics Journals and some Alan Moore overspill, you'll pardon the phrase), lots of artbooks in the middle plus French Authority hardcovers, Adrian Tomine and BWS (this is my most endangered shelf, ready to burst at any moment) to boot, and on the bottom, my Marvel Omnibus and other Marvel oversized hardcovers.

I try to keep books about comics on the top of the bookcases, as well as some odd-shaped stuff like the big Acme Novelty Library issues.

Here we see Calvin and Gary bookending other stuff. On the wall at far right are some Star Trek action figures, the top one a Scotty signed by the late James Doohan.

Just another view here, the clearest, probably, of my treasured, signed-and-sketched Hembeck Omnibus (near the center).

On the left of the three main bookcases, here's my repurposed DVD rack, holding manga and manga-sized titles and assorted odds and ends, plus a complete set of MOME on the top.

Closeup of the top shelves of the DVD rack...

...and the bottom.

Most of my loose Playmates Star Trek action figures.

Close up of the shelf dedicated to Star Trek original series characters.

Here are my DVDs, as long as I am showing you shelves of stuff. I draw the line at the soup and canned vegetables, though.

Near the center of this shot is a Mirror, Mirror Spock signed by Leonard Nimoy. You can also see my framed Justice League Unlimited lithograph, and the new Star Trek movie figures I swore I wasn't going to allow myself to buy. You see how that worked out.

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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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Friday, September 04, 2009

 
Alan Moore and Marvelman: Not Good Enough, Marvel -- It looks like Alan Moore's cooperation with Marvel publishing Marvelman is less an enthusiastic "go for it!" than a "do whatever the fuck you want and leave me alone," as seen in this interview at Mania.com.

Now, Moore does say he's happy with Marvel's plans as long as Mick Anglo and his family are compensated, but as I said when Marvel's Marvelman plans first came to light, "Nothing short of a joint Alan Moore/Joe Quesada press conference in which they shake hands and Moore smiles a lot will change my mind," in regards to my profound reservations about Marvel's stewardship of this particular intellectual property. From what Moore says at the Mania interview, he still sounds (rightfully) bitter toward Marvel, and doesn't want his name on the project. He says he expects Marvel to go along with the idea of leaving his name off any forthcoming books, but man, do I ever have a hard time envisioning that happening. Leaving Alan Moore's name off a Marvelman collection means at least some lost revenue, especially outside the Direct Market, and how often do you think Marvel and DC leave money on the table for ethical reasons? More often than Big Bangs, happen, sure, but far less often than Paris Hilton leaves the house with no undies on.

So, given Moore's obviously mixed feelings about the endeavour, I personally can't get excited about any Marvel Comics Marvelman plans. And listen, seriously, there's nothing more that I would like in my collection than a one-volume complete Marvelman hardcover. But I'd feel far better about laying out a thousand bucks for this custom Miracleman hardcover on eBay than a hundred bucks for an Omnibus Edition "officially" published by Marvel, under what appears to be some pretty unsatisfactory conditions for the writer who made the property valuable in the first place, with his brilliant rethinking of a pretty bland and uninteresting character.

Why is it so fucking hard for the corporate comics companies to just treat their writers and artists well and generate the goodwill necessary to make buying their goddamned books something other than a cringe-inducing exercise in ethical compromise?

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Beyond the Galaxy 090509 --

* At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins looks at the wide world of Cold Heat, the comic too tough for Diamond to kill, despite its best efforts.

* Johanna is giving away a copy of X-Men: Misfits, but you have to enter to win before Sunday night, so zip over to CWR now.

* Chris Allen dives into the mini-controversy over comments Marvel editor Tom Brevoort made about the racial makeup of the Marvel Universe (and the Marvel Readership). Some interesting notes here about the way other writers chose to present Brevoort's statement.

* Here's a preview of the next Criminal storyline. Really looking forward to re-immersing myself in this world.

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Nadel on Mazzucchelli -- Dan Nadel writes a great overview of the career in comics of David Mazzucchelli. Mazzucchelli is responsible for some of my favourite superhero comics and artcomix, and I like the insight Nadel brings to the table in looking at his fascinating development as an artist. I find what Nadel describes as Mazzucchelli's interest in "the movement of solid forms in space," to be the one thing that binds together all his comics work, from the 1980s Marvel stuff right up to Asterios Polyp. You can feel that obsession in almost every panel, no matter what point in his development Mazzucchelli is at in any given work.

Apropos of nothing, discovering the very hard to find Rubber Blanket #2 for cover price in a forgotten corner of an area comic shop was one of the highlights of my comics-buying life.

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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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Thursday, September 03, 2009

 
Fantagraphics is Blowing Out Their Comics Inventory -- Trust me when I tell you I would be linking to this even if Fantagraphics didn't advertise here on Comic Book Galaxy. North America's Finest Comics Publisher is blowing out an astonishing array of stapled, floppy funnybooks (and selected other items as well), and the floppies are mostly marked at -- get this! 99 cents a piece. Lots of great titles like Hate, Love and Rockets, Jim, Weasel, Measles and more, and all for less than a pack of gum. Click here to go to the amazing Fantagraphics 99 cent sale.

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Beyond The Galaxy 090309 -- It's the very nearly all about me edition.

* In talking about my new eBook Conversations with ADD, Bubba at Comic Book Galaxy's A Criminal Blog digs deep into the eBook to find an interesting nugget: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips once planned a comic called Black Sails. What happened to it, and what elements from it ended up in Criminal and Incognito? Also: Some Twitter highlights from recent Brubaker posts.

* Related: Chris Allen watches Ed Brubaker's Angel of Death and reports on what he sees. I saw it the wrong way, edited and censored on Spike, and still managed to love it.

* Blogger Stephen Saperstein Frug plugs my new eBook and another interesting new PDF release as well, and makes an intriguing observation about the relative perceived value of internet writing in PDF form vs. blogs or websites. This one has me thinking about the future, for sure.

* Received but not yet read: Jeff Lemire's The Complete Essex County in gorgeous, limited edition hardcover. Buy this book, folks.

* Picked up last night: David Mazzucchelli Batman Black and White statue. I love Mazzucchelli's work, and his Batman is my desert island Batman, if you know what I mean. This statue is so great that I literally now have six bucks left to my name and don't regret it. Much.

* Uncomics: I've been loving Tom Crippen's recent Star Trek writing. Like this one.

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Programs I Can't Live Without -- A recent PC catastrophe resulted in me (well, my friend Brian, really) reformatting my computer's hard drive, and reinstalling windows. Most of my important files were backed up, but of course all my applications were gone. Which led me on the path of finding out what I really need to be happy with my computer.

It's actually a great feeling to start fresh like this; the machine may be over four years old now, but with a new Windows XP install and four years of registry changes wiped out, it hums along now like nobody's business. Here's a list of the applications I find are essential to my computer.

* Panda Cloud Antivirus - I had been using Kaspersky for my antivirus needs, but at $60.00 to renew it and money being tight right now, I was looking for a free alternative. The first day or so I wasn't sure Panda Cloud was the app for my needs, but the past two weeks or so it's been getting the job done quietly and without hogging resources.

* Google Chrome - At the moment I find no one browser meets all my needs, but the speed and reliability of Google Chrome give it the edge over Firefox, the latest version of which I'm not entirely happy with.

* Mozilla Firefox - On the other hand, some sites are just not ready for Chrome yet, so I have Firefox to fall back on. If you're wondering, the only thing I use Internet Explorer for is Windows Updates. Other than that, I don't use it, because it's just too much of a virus and malware magnet.

* Auslogics Disc Defrag - This defragger seems to me to be the quickest and most efficient at getting everything on my hard drive where it belongs and running smoothly. I run it once a week.

* Media Monkey - I've used a lot of MP3 players over the years, but this one organizes my collection and has tons of other features that I really like. Its interface is also very intuitive and easy to use.

* uTorrent - Essential for downloading free, legal torrent files.

* Microsoft Word 2007 - If you've spent much time here, you know how I feel about giant corporations. That said, I've never found a free word processing program that is as useful, fast and essential to me as Word 2007.

* VLC Media Player - Absolutely the best player for all sorts of video files. VLC will play just about anything.

* FTP Client to be Named Later - FTP, File Transfer Protocol, is an essential part of running a website. Most of Comic Book Galaxy these days runs off Blogger's online interface, but for the legacy parts of the site that are still hand-coded HTML, I need an FTP client to get them up to the site. Since the crash, I have yet to find one that works for me, but I am not sure if the problem is with the applications I've tried, or on the server side of things. If you have an FTP client you swear by, not at, leave a comment and let me know what works for you.

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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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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

 
Saving Your Comic Shop: It's in the Hands of the Retailers -- Comics retailer Ilan Strasser, of Fat Moose Comics and Games in Whippany, New Jersey, has exploded the myth of cyclical comic sales. At least in his experience.

He tells retailer site ICv2 (link via Robot 6) that it's the "Big Two" (he means Marvel and DC, not Viz and IDW, for those of you who actually know what sells these days) that are to blame for decreasing sales.

He starts off, "I have wanted to comment on several stories during the past six months, but had serious, recurring email issues with my computer." Now, one might question the business skills of a retailer who allows "serious, recurring email issues" to plague his business for half a year, but let's let that one pass and get on the meat of it: "Marvel and DC, our big 2, have had to notice the decline in sales over the last six months. Overall, the trend has been steadily downward even when accounting for occasional small percentage increases. If they hadn't noticed themselves, I'm sure that Diamond would have pointed it out to them -- after all Diamond tracks all the monthly, quarterly and yearly numbers."

Tracking monthly, quarterly and yearly numbers, by the way, is called in some circles "cycle sheets," and is considered invaluable in monitoring past and current sales and predicting future growth (or lack thereof). Strasser says "You would think that Marvel and DC, having this serious and depressing information at hand, would revise the manner in which they do business. If they care at all about the future long-term health of the pamphlet comic book, you would think these two companies would take immediate steps to stop the irresponsible behavior they have shown over the last 15 years (at least)."

As much of a critic as I am of the policies of corporate comics publishers Marvel and DC, I have to call bullshit on Strasser here. He is asking the "Big Two" to change their policies so he can continue to operate his business as he always has, when in fact, it is the responsibility of the retailer and the retailer alone to adjust to changing market forces in his or her own retail establishment. In other words, if Marvel and DC believe what they are doing is working (and in the case of Marvel, clearly Disney, at least, believes it's four billion dollars worth of working), then they have no obligation to change their policies.

I would argue, rather, that a sharp businessman -- and Strasser claims to have been in business for nearly three decades -- must monitor the market and change his own policies in order to stay alive and even thrive. This is part of what I was talking about in my essay, A Future for Comics.

Diamond, DC and Marvel are all huge corporations that respond to the needs of their retail clients with all the speed and dexterity of a dying woolly mammoth. Changes, if any, will generally be slow and difficult to understand. I'm all for a healthy, thriving Direct Market for comics, as long as it is vital and alive and responsive to the needs of everyone in its community that is interested in any kind of comics at all. And sad to say, the vast majority of comic book stores that I have experienced are not meeting that standard. Because they have always thrived on selling monthly, floppy superhero comic books to an audience of mostly white guys of a certain age, they believe they don't need to change their business model. Meanwhile, the world's definition of what constitutes comics has moved pretty far beyond simply superhero comics. They'll likely always be a part of the pie chart, but if you run a comic shop here at the end of the first decade of the third millennium, you need to be aware of and expert in the retailing of graphic novels, manga, newspaper strip reprints, and any and all things comics. This is your stock-in-trade, after all, comics, so why stake your entire survival -- your ability to pay your mortgage and feed your family -- on the historically unresponsive and disinterested corporations that are DC and Marvel?

Strasser believes his world will turn bright once more if the following changes are made by Marvel and DC:

* Stop the big event with the multi-part crossover storylines.

* Price comics back down to an affordable level based on real costs and not short-term greed -- comics pricing has far exceeded the increase in inflation over the last decade.

* Solicit and publish their books on a timely basis. There is a world of talented writers and artists out there -- use the ones who can deliver product (let's call it what it is) on time and forget the big name, prima donna basis for utilizing talent, and create a system that punishes said talent when it fails to live up to its commitments.

* Stop publishing more than one monthly title of your major characters and don't produce miniseries that aren't exceptionally high in quality. Stop clogging the shelves with shit.

* Work TOGETHER to raise the health of the industry. Stop endlessly fighting to be first. You will always be one or two and within reasonable percentages in terms of volume and dollar sales. Wouldn't a scenario where a publisher isn't always first, but makes exponentially more money overall be better for either publisher?

* Start treating your retail partners like they really matter instead of conduits for your cash flow.

I would address each of these individually, but the fact of the matter is that each one is written with blinders on and an attitude straight out of The Direct Market of 1988. Strasser sounds like he is either unaware of or overwhelmed by the graphic novel revolution, and not responding to it in a sensible fashion that will help him sustain his business. Marvel and DC aren't publishing multiple titles of the same characters because they want to destroy his store, they are doing it because A) They know they can sell more comics that way, and perhaps more importantly, B) Because it gives them more fodder for the lucrative market for collected editions (what Eddie Campbell hates that the rest of the world calls "graphic novels").

I did find it amusing that Strasser says he is basing his demands and expectations on publisher awareness of the cycles in comics retailing, and then says "this notion that comic sales are cyclical is bullshit and always has been. If you know what you're doing as a retailer, sales, cash flow, and profits can be regulated."

Then prove it, Mr. Strasser. Disregard the cycles, disregard the actions of the companies that have you at their mercy, do nothing to respond to the changes occurring right this moment and for the past ten years in the greater comic book marketplace, and regulate those sales, cash flow and profits. Good luck to you.

How Strasser can say on the one hand that "This kind of corporate behavior has persisted in the 22 years since and shows that Marvel (and DC) care little about their retail 'partners' or about the overall health of the comics industry," and then expect on the other that he can do nothing to save his business except complain about the actions of companies he knows don't give a shit about him, is a question for the ages. It's all part of the cognitive dissonance that is rampant within the worst areas of the Direct Market, unfortunately by all available evidence, the vast majority of places that call themselves "comic book stores" in North America.

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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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Early Returns on Conversations with ADD -- I'm very interested to see what you think of my new eBook, Conversations with ADD; it took much longer to prepare than my previous eBook projects, and the editing and finalizing of it seemed like a never-ending process. That said, I'm really pleased with how it came out. I love having all these conversations gathered in one handy place, and I hope you'll download Conversations with ADD and see for yourself what it's all about.

Here are some early comments:

* "Although several of the interviews are almost 10 years old, itís an interesting glimpse into a time now passed." - Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading

* "[T]o be honest, I'd buy a print copy." - Mike Rhode, editor, Harvey Pekar: Conversations

* "[T]here are some good interview subjects in there, and ADD is a thoughtful commentator..." - Matt Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues

* "[A] great e-Book...with a collection of interviews with some of the movers and shakers of the comic industry. Go. Read. Enjoy. Learn." - Michael Paciocco, Michael Paciocco's Mind

* "I know you people like the free stuff, so go check it out." - Mike Sterling, Progressive Ruin

Mike also called me an "Internet stalwart," but that just means I'm older than white dog crap.

Hey, if you see anyone talking about Conversations with ADD, email me a link so I can see what they're saying. Thanks!

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Harvey Pekar Conversations -- I'm a bit stunned to find out via Mike Rhode's blog that his book Harvey Pekar: Conversations has only sold 600 copies. I'd guess ten times that many people went to see the American Splendor movie in its first week.

In the interests of full disclosure, my interview with Harvey Pekar appears in the book, along with many, many other great chats with the man. The book's prime mover, Mike Rhode earned a thank you in my new eBook Conversations with ADD because he was the one who originally transcribed the interview using an MP3 of my chat with Pekar.

Now, Mike doesn't seem particularly ruffled that the book has only sold 600 copies, but my gut tells me that far many more people would be interested to read it if they knew it was available. So if you're one of those people, click here to go to the University Press of Mississippi page for Harvey Pekar: Conversations and consider buying one of the remaining copies. It's a vital oral history of one of the most important areas of comics history of the last 50 years, outlining the struggle to find a place in the comics market for genuinely adult comics, and highlighting Harvey's passion for stories about his life, stories that carry a universal appeal to anyone who reads them.

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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 090209 -- Being an occasional assemblage of links to posts and articles I found enjoyable, informative and/or infuriating.

* Looking at the six-page preview for the final issue of Planetary made me want to re-read every Ellis-written issue of Stormwatch, The Authority and Planetary over a long weekend.

* Steve Bissette is on tour supporting his new book, The Vermont Monster Guide.

* The final (for now) issue of Incognito by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips hits the streets today. As usual, Bubba has the news and analysis at Comic Book Galaxy's spinoff site A Criminal Blog. I'm looking forward to reading the entire series in one sitting, and even more eager to find out what that no-good Lawless boy has been up to when Criminal gets back under way.

* File under things I learned on Facebook: Amazing comics creators Rob Vollmar and John Porcellino agree with me that September is better than all the other months combined.

* Robot 6's Tim O'Shea talks to cartoonist Mike Dawson about his upcoming work, Ace-Face. Looking forward to that, and loved Freddie and Me. What I really want, though, is a Gabagool Omnibus. Come on, comics!

* Thanks for linking to my eBook yesterday: Jog, Johanna, Khaled, Mike, Mike, Tom. And whoever else I missed!

* Hilarious Because It's True Department: The Code of the Self-Checkout.

* Serious question: Whatever happened to Dick Hyacinth?

* Not Comics: Leonard Nimoy explains the emotions behind his return to Star Trek after an 18-year layoff. Fascinating.


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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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