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Monday, December 28, 2009

 
Double Dose of Vitamin C-A -- Couldn't let today go by without pointing you to two great Christopher Allen pieces -- his year-ending Breakdowns ramble, so good and so dense I want to cut off a slice and freeze it to enjoy later, and his long interview with Tom Spurgeon on the topic of Powers by Bendis and Oeming. Tons of insight from Chris Allen, one of the smartest people ever to write about comics, and truly a great friend.

Posting of substance here is unlikely before New Year's Day, so if I don't talk to you before the new year, Happy New Year, already.

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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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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

 
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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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

 
Hey, Look: Spurge Calls for an End to the Harvey Awards -- In one of the most unusual and compelling pieces of writing he's done, Tom Spurgeon calmly, rationally and convincingly calls for an end to the Harvey Awards. I especially agree that there's a need to pay better tribute to Harvey Kurtzman's legacy than the diminishing returns the awards that bear his name have delivered in recent years.

This is important stuff to anyone interested in the bigger picture of the comics industry. Go look.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

 
Whatever Happened to The Comic Book Message Board of Tomorrow? -- This report card on a number of currently active message boards pertaining to comics is a good, funny and mostly accurate summing-up of the state of the, uh, art.

It does leave out my favourite comics forum, but that's okay, they wrote their own entry.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

 
New Comics Day -- It's Wednesday, the day new comics come out in comic book stores. There, title justified, I can move on to things I am interested in.

* Tom Spurgeon's Melvin Monster review is really good, and really lays out why these comics are of interest all these years later. I agree with pretty much every point Tom makes, although I did say to myself all the way through the book, "Why aren't the covers included?" The thing I loved most about the design is the same thing I loved about the Free Comic Book Day version, which is the vintage look to the paper, as if you are actually reading the old comics. Which is funny, because I actually hate actual old comics that have browned with age. I think the difference is that new books that utilize this as a design element (see also that Image Next Issue Project) don't have the texture of cornflakes and the smell of Grandpa's underwear.

* Tom also had some good comments on the end of Z-Cult FM, which in its heyday was the place to download pirated comics scans. There are plenty of better and more reliable places extant right now, but like Fight Club and Judy in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, we're not gonna talk about that.

* If you ever doubt that Sean T. Collins is sharp as a tack, check out the first two points he makes in this edition of Carnival of Souls. Ouch.

* The general buzz seems to be that this year's MoCCA was too hot and not as well-organized as previous years. I've never been, although I would love to go some year, but "too hot" and "me" really do not mix well and I am quite glad I missed out this time around. Note to all convention organizers, everywhere: If you can't keep the air conditioning at a constant 65 degrees, don't bother. Sweat and comics fans are a lethal, disgusting combination.

* Man, I wish I had one more point so I could go out on a more positive note than that. Sorry.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

 
Post #1501 -- Hey, damn, I missed commenting on my 1500th post. Ah, well. Anyway, just wanted to link to Timothy Callahan's outstanding rundown of this past Sunday's Albany Comicon, over at CBR.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

 
Random Notes -- I miss when Christopher Butcher used to write Previews Review, a monthly tour of the goddamned Diamond Distribution catalog. This week he posted something similar. Part One, Part Two.

When I wrote my somewhat glowing review of the new hardcover Alan Moore Swamp Thing release, I didn't realize how much DC had screwed it up (although I am not surprised at all).

The silver lining has been artist Steve Bissette looking at the project and sharing copious notes about Alan Moore's collaborative process. Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Jesus, what I wouldn't give to have a complete set of the photocopies Bissette says he has of all of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing scripts. (Thanks to Leigh Walton for turning me on to all this discussion, and also in general for being a rockin' comics-type human being. My favourite quote from him on this Swamp Thing cock-up is this, regarding DC Comics: "Is not making your creators hate you really such an impossible task?")

Noteworthy: It only took a decade, but Chris Allen has finally written about something I hate so much I am not reading his comments. No offense, Chris, I just really, really fucking hate American Idol.

I wish I could afford to go to the Toronto Comic Art Festival this (or any) year. If you go, do have fun for me, eh?

I haven't read Sean T. Collins's review of the new David Mazzucchelli graphic novel yet, but once I've read the book, I will. Two things I love are comics by David Mazzucchelli and reviews by Sean T. Collins.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

 
Pain and Drugs -- Anyone who thinks they understand public health policy and the "war on drugs" needs to read this extraordinary essay by former Albany-area news anchor Ed Dague.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

 
Monday Reading Recommendations -- A couple of pieces that caught my eye in the past couple of days and may be of interest:

Tom Spurgeon looks at the various modes in which one can read Watchmen. None of them will be particularly compelling to anyone who hasn't read it yet, but all his points are of interest to those of us who have and are still thinking about the book's many layers all these years later (speaking as someone who bought issue #1 new off the stands).

Roger Ebert remembers Gene Siskel on the 10th anniversary of his death. This is one of those links I post and wonder if my readers are as interested in it as I am...I link to Ebert frequently, because he's a brilliant and crystal-clear critic and an engaging, top-notch writer, but also because in recent years as his health has suffered he has become even more vital and reflective a talent. This piece on his longtime friend and partner moved me more than anything I've read in a long time, and while I don't know if it's the type of thing you come here to be directed to, I really kind of hope that it is. I long ago stopped feeling bad about not writing much about superheroes, and as my interests have moved on to other concerns, I hope yours have too. I'll always write primarily about comics, but pieces like this Ebert one are sort of the real-world essay version of the comics I love: profoundly human and filled with humour, insight and a frank look at genuine life experience in all its sad and wondrous facets.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

 
All You Need to Know About Minx -- Here's Christopher Butcher with the informed analysis about the implosion of DC's Minx imprint.

I didn't like the two or three Minx titles I tried, but I was well aware that they were in no way aimed at me, so I didn't really hold it against them.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

 
Chris Allen on Blake Bell's Ditko Book -- Go read Chris's take on Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko. Makes me want to read the book again. And Speedball, strangely enough...

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

 
Batman and Teddy Roosevelt -- Check out a feature in the Glens Falls Post Star on parallels between TR and Batman, which includes a couple of quotes from your humble correspondent.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

 
Kramers Ergot #7 Dialogues -- Here are posts on the subject of the week, at Jason Marcy's LiveJournal and a comics retailing blog called Comics are Serious Business, which I hadn't heard of but now have subscribed to.

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What Are YOUR Fantaco Memories? -- Roger Green wants to know, and I want you to go tell him.

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Quote of the Day -- Dick Hyacinth on Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's 1990s JLA run:
Almost every superhero comic looks dated once you're far enough away from its original publication, but harpoon Aquaman, electric Superman, and crab mask Green Lantern are quite the trifecta.
Yeah, pretty much sums it up. Too bad the issues couldn't have been redrawn (and tweaked to remove references to the bad '90s "updating" missteps) for the deluxe hardcovers that will be showing up in stores soon.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 
The Omnivore's Hundred -- Go play this fun food meme. I posted my answers and a link to Andrew Wheeler's original post at my LiveJournal.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

 
Comics Blogging: The Next Generation -- Andrew Goletz's 7-year-old son is now reviewing comics on his own blog, and man, he has a lot to say! Click over and have a look.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

 
Reflections on Japan -- Toronto comics retailer/activist Christopher Butcher shares his thoughts on his 2007 trip to Japan. Different from his excellent series of photo essays, in this post Chris kind of wraps it up with his views on why he enjoyed his stay in Japan as much as he did, and many of his points -- ease of public transit, the scale and design of the urban areas -- rub elbows with what James Howard Kunstler talked about in his book The Geography of Nowhere.

Having spent a few hours in Toronto with Chris and some of his friends (and pal Jay Marcy), it's interesting to me to note that Chris feels about Japan like I feel about Canada; everything seemed cleaner, safer and saner that it does here in Los Estados Unidos. I have thought of our Canada trip (over three years ago, now) and how much we enjoyed it nearly every day since we came back, and I would love to go back, but it doesn't seem to fit in my family's financial picture any time soon.

We're lucky Chris is such a gifted and thoughtful tour guide. If you've not seen his Japan photos, click over and read his new piece, then dig into his archives and check out the amazing pictures he took while he and his husband were there.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

 
Kunstler Reviews The Dark Knight -- And does it really, really well.

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Blake Bell's San Diego Report -- I enjoyed the hell out of it. Sounds like he had a great time, and his Ditko book was deservedly well-received. Lots of great pictures too. Go read it.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

 
The Anemic Monday Briefing -- I got nothin', I'm telling ya. Go read Spurgeon's excellent Blake Bell interview, which pretty much answers all the questions I had about Bell's excellent book about Steve Ditko, Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, which I reviewed recently and can't recommend enough.

Sorry to hear the new X-Files movie apparently was a huge flop over the weekend. I liked it a lot, and recommend you see it if you like the series, but I guess in the summer of Dark Knight and Iron Man, it's no surprise that an excellent, character-based suspense movie like X-Files: I Want to Believe doesn't blow away the competition.

Makes it seem even more unlikely that we'll ever see the continuation -- or conclusion -- of the alien invasion mythology that was woven throughout the entirety of the series. Well, maybe they can do it in comics form, like Buffy Season Eight. Which, if it was as good as that series, I would have few complaints.

Oh, one other thing to mention -- James Howard Kunstler writes about driving up Route 4 in New York's Capital District. This decrepit stretch of lost American highway is almost literally in my backyard, and I travel it a few times a year. Kunstler's description is evocative and dead-on.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

 
A San Diego Story Worth Reading -- Here's Roger Green's reflections on his visit to 1987 the San Diego Comicon. I love reading Roger's thoughts about just about anything, and in a week where there will be a lot of irrelevant stories with "San Diego" and "Comicon" as keywords (likely along with even worse words, like "Loeb" and "Johns" and "Exclusive"), it's nice to have a San Diego post to read that is interesting and worth reading.

Colour me ambivalent about the news that Darwyn Cooke will be adapting Donald Westlake's Parker series for IDW. Cooke's last adaptation/reimagining, The Spirit for DC, ultimately felt like a year of wasted time, with Cooke only catching fire in the last issue. Everything he does is beautiful to look at, but I'd like to see him do something of his own, infused with the energy and imagination he brought to Catwoman and New Frontier. I'll be first in line to cheer if the Parker comics are up to the high standards Cooke has previously set, because we could use another great Pop Noir crime comic on the stands alongside Criminal and Femme Noir. But given Cooke's recent Spirit run, I'll definitely have to wait and see how it shakes out.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

 
Worst Slideshow EVER -- Click through this set of eight pictures and see if you don't agree. The tide starts to turn around picture #5...

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

 
Christopher Butcher's Manga Prescription -- Chris's series of commentaries on the state and future of manga gets better and better, and in his latest post on the subject, he hits the home run.
So what do I want the manga industry to look like then? I think that Drawn + Quarterly has a good idea, with one prestige-format (meaning a format with actual prestige, like a hardcover book with lovely thick paper and a beautiful design, and not those flimsy little 48 page superhero comics with a spine) release of “mature manga” per year. If there were 3 or 4 publishers doing that, each with a nicely designed manga release per season (spring/fall), that’d be maybe 8-10 wonderful books per year, which I think that the market could bear, and that’d be lovely. Currently the number of high-end manga releases in a given year is about half of that, which accounts for the loud noises I make when they manage to drop.
Butcher goes on to talk about watching the tastes and purchases of young manga customers mature over time at his shop, The Beguiling in Toronto, and it's a very realistic and hopeful portrait he paints of how easy it can be to use a comic book store to build the industry you want.

I guess my fear is that the worst instincts of the direct market have already done that, that most comic book stores want a marketplace hinging on ephemeral, hyperhysterical junk like what Marvel and DC generally make their nut on these days (Secret Invasion, anything at all by Geoff Johns), with that precious, lofty 5 to 10 percent of comic book stores like The Beguiling or Modern Myths or Million Year Picnic or, closer to home, Earthworld in Albany, actually bothering to take the risk and spend the capital required to stock a truly full-service comic book store that welcomes the presence and buying power of readers of all interests, ages and genders. Those are the type of stores building the future Butcher describes, and they deserve every goddamned bit of support you can possibly eke out of your wallet.

Anyway, go read Butcher's latest post, there's a ton of great ideas and advice in there for retailers and readers alike, and it's absolutely essential reading.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

 
Santoro on Drawing -- If you've seen Storeyville, or Incanto, or Cold Heat, you know Frank Santoro can draw like very few other artists making comics. There are panels and pages in Storeyville that I am sorely tempted to tear out and have framed. That's how well the man wields his drawing tools.

On the Comics Comics blog, following up to his much-discussed earlier post about photographic styles in comic book art, Santoro goes into his philosophy of drawing and how it was hammered into his head.

If the results are something as sublimely beautiful as Storeyville, I say it works. His comments on art are always worth reading and thinking about, but this post is exceptionally informative. Check it out.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

 
The Eagle and The Dragon -- If you're not interested in the ongoing discussion here about the breakdown of the American way of life, feel free to skip this post.

On the other hand, if you are interested in current events, Peak Oil and all the other crises facing the United States and the world now and for the next few decades, I have some fantastic reading for you.

On his blog, James Howard Kunstler recently pointed to a series of articles published by the UK Telegraph titled "America and China: The Eagle and The Dragon." Writer Mick Brown and photographer Alec Soth are documenting, in astonishing detail, where the relationship between the two world powers is, and how things are going in each nation. It's scary, but brilliantly written stuff. So far three parts have been posted in the series, with more to come in the weeks ahead. I'll try to update this post as the series progresses, but here's what's available so far:

America and China: The Eagle and The Dragon: Part One

America and China: The Eagle and The Dragon: Part Two

America and China: The Eagle and The Dragon: Part Three

America and China: The Eagle and The Dragon Part Four

There's about forty pages worth of very good reading so far, and I encourage you to check the series out if you have any interest at all in the state of our world, now and in the near future.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

 
Butcher on The Shape of the Industry -- Christopher Butcher's been promising something interesting for a few days now, and he's made good on his hints with a fantastic new thinkpiece on the evolving marketplace for manga and graphic novels:
"[O]lder customers would like a different shopping experience than trying to find the latest Tatsumi or Inoue manga jammed in-between Ultimate Spider-Man and Naruto whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the outstretched gangly limbs of sullen teens thoroughly immersed in the Universe of the Four Gods."
Much more, as they say, at the link. And a little bit more from me about Mr. Butcher and his value to the ongoing discussion about comics, on this blog tomorrow.

Update: Butcher has posted Part Two, and it's even more in-depth and insightful.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

 
Frank Santoro on Bad Comic Art -- Here's the creator of Storeyville (so you goddamned well better know he knows what he's talking about) on bad comic book art that some people mistake for good.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

 
Ebert on Redemption -- I agree with a lot Roger Ebert has to say about art and storytelling, and I definitely found resonance in his thoughts on redemption. I think most of the stories that reach me most viscerally involve this theme, whether it's Spike on Buffy, or Bluesman, or even Mr. Arkadin, an Orson Welles movie I think is profoundly underrated. Anyway, go read what Ebert has to say. He's always thought-provoking and entertaining to read.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

 
Good Star Trek Omens from AICN -- Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News has posted his thoughts after getting to see a few minutes of the Star Trek movie J.J. Abrams is working on for next summer, and the early word looks very good. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this movie to be worthy of the Star Trek name, which no Trek movie really has been in quite some time.

And if you missed it, I posted a much longer piece about Star Trek earlier this week.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

 
Go and Read: Spurgeon on Uncanny X-Men -- Unexpected pleasure of the week, Tom Spurgeon's longish essay on why Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne/Austin-era X-Men were popular then and well-remembered now. I particularly like the passage where Tom, off the top of his head, mentions some visual high points like Jason Wyngarde's revealing shadow, images that stick with fans from that era even today.

I do think Claremont and Byrne set up the reason why Colossus put on his Soviet gear and declared himself a hardcore commie, though, Tom -- wasn't he brainwashed? Maybe not in a way that convinces us 40ish readers decades later, but when I was 13 or 14, it seemed reason enough for him to turn on his teammates.

Reading Tom's excellent thoughts on what remains my favourite corporate superhero stories of all time reminds me: Marvel, isn't it about time for Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volume Two?

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

 
The Ethics of Downloading -- Here's some food for thought on downloading and ethics over at TorrentFreak.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

 
First Thought of the Day -- I really miss Dirk. I hope he's enjoying his vacation, but man, I really need me some high-quality comics blogging.

Second Thought of the Day -- Thank God for Tom Spurgeon. His holiday interview series continues today with Frank Santoro in the spotlight. If you don't know who Santoro is, you should. His Cold Heat with Ben Jones, and new hardcover Storeyville (collecting a '90s comic in a new format) are some of the best-looking and most exciting comics in years. And Santoro's Incanto blew my mind with how good it was.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

 
You Got to Know When to Hodler -- Tom Spurgeon's interview with comics critic Tim Hodler is good, crunchy fun from start to finish. Hodler's taste in comics is exquisite, and Tom draws him out wonderfully well on topics ranging from Hodler's contributions to Comics Comics, to what he thought was great in comics this year. Required reading.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

 
Tom Spurgeon's Holiday Shopping Guide -- In a word, wow.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

 
Criminal to Relaunch with New #1 -- After two excellent story-arcs, Marvel/Icon is relaunching the title in February with a new Vol. 2 #1.

Probably a marketing move, and probably a good idea. More people are likely to pick up a new #1 than a third story-arc beginning in what would have been issue #11.

More details at the very bottom of this post at Warren Peace Sings the Blues. (Apologies for earlier mis-identifying the source).

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Monday, November 19, 2007

 
Hunter's Best of 2007 -- Over at Comichacks.com, Galaxy alum Chris Hunter responds to my Best of 2007 list and provides his own. As I mentioned in my comment following his post, I did consider Ellis's Black Summer for my Best of list, but I want to see how it plays out to the end. Ellis's 12-issue arc on the original Authority run was a masterstroke of tension-building with an awe-inspiring finish, and I'm hoping Black Summer is as well-constructed and entertaining a ride all the way through.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

 
Highwaymen "Correction" -- I made somewhat of a misstatement the other day in my year-end wrap-up, saying Wildstorm's Highwaymen had been canceled. Not that I was the first person to state this, but since I also pointed out how mediocre and unimpressive a comic Highwaymen was, I got the writer's attention. Of course, even he has already gone on record explaining that, while the initial arc may always have been planned for five issues, if it didn't suck, there would have been more:
A fella could ask himself, "Why?" Not, "Why isn't Wildstorm going to do another arc worth of Highwaymen stories." I know why. Because it didn't sell. We moved a hair under 10,000 copies of issue #1. At the time, we were told that was as good a number as one could expect for a book about two characters no one had ever heard of, created by three guys no one had ever heard of. But issue #2 took a 40% dive—which would be fine if we were a movie; that's considered a pretty good hold in week two. However, we're not a movie. And it's not enough to warrant doing more. I get that. So, the question is, "Why didn't it sell?"

Of course, Planetary, which Highwaymen kind of desperately wanted to sort of be, when it wasn't aping The Authority (specifically Frank Quitely's bloated-but-presidential Bill Clinton talking to the protagonists via high-tech), was also about characters no one had ever heard of and created by a mostly unknown creative team. And it was one of the best things Wildstorm ever released. It's also largely why Highwaymen failed; it called too much attention to its "inspirations" (government conspiracies investigated by a team led by a white-haired guy in a white suit, hello!) not to beg comparison in the minds of its readers.

But in all fairness, as a completely fair blind taste-test, I left Highwaymen #1 on a table in my house, where either one of my children -- both of whom love good comics -- could easily find it, read it, and ask for more. Possibly based on the cover, about which a fellow critic privately told me "you can tell right from the cover you're getting watered down goods," neither of my kids -- who again, like good comics and are willing to give just about anything a chance -- ever even bothered to pick it up, never mind ask me to get them more. Which I would have, if they asked, because my policy is to buy any age-appropriate comic for my kids that they ask for. I'm just a good dad (and good comics evangelist) in that way.

In short, don't blame me because your comic got canceled wasn't good enough to continue past a limp, initial story-arc -- blame yourself. Or blame Warren Ellis, John Cassaday and Laura Martin, if you must deflect the blame that is so obviously yours and yours alone.

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Jog on Betsy and Me -- Every once in a while, you read a review you wish you wrote. I wish I was even capable of writing as insightful and nuanced a review as Jog's review of Jack Cole's Betsy and Me. I mentioned earlier this week that I thought the book was worth reading, but damn if Jog doesn't explore why in unimpeachable terms.

I can't remember the last time, as a writer, that I was as jealous of someone else's gift as I was when I read Jog's observation that "I think there's a risk with a book like this, an admirable and informative book, to let the sadness behind this material permeate everything, so strongly is it broadcast by the collection's contours." (Emphasis mine).

Anyone worried that we don't have enough language to criticize comics as a distinct artform needs to read more of Jog's reviews, especially this one. To quote Kevin on The Office:

"Niiiiiiiiice."

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Friday, November 09, 2007

 
The Answer is Yes -- The question, asked by Dick Hyacinth: Does Geoff Johns Still Suck?

Thanks to Dick for the props for my early and enthusiastic loathing of Johns's retarded, unnecessarily violent and damaging-to-comics-as-an-artform-and-an-industry "writing."

There's not a Johns comic I've read that doesn't bring to mind a brain-damaged middle-schooler playing in the tub with action figures while his mother begs him (to no avail) to wash out his ass-crack.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

 
Transitioning Into The Future -- Christopher Butcher once again proves to be the smartest retailer writing about the industry with his essay on the ongoing move away from periodicals in the comic book marketplace.

His view is that of a reasoned expert with a longterm view of what he wants his business to be, and a love of comics fueling his desire to keep the artform alive and healthy. His prescription for the future will do just that.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

 
Spurgeon on The Spirit -- Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon reviews the first hardcover collection of Darwyn Cooke Spirit stories. It's the best think-piece Spurgeon has done in some time, and think-pieces are his stock in trade, so click over and give it a look.

Cooke's Spirit is a temporal anomaly that demands just this depth of analysis; Cooke is fantastically talented and yet out of step with the current corporate superhero comics zeitgeist in profoundly fundamental ways. I've enjoyed the series to date in single-issue form, but probably not enough to invest in the hardcover. And I don't find myself lustfully drooling over it like I do the New Frontier Absolute Edition, which sooner or later I hope to find the cash to own. Most interestingly to me, the fact that Cooke is off the book after issue #12 comes as a relief, in the same way the end of the Millar/Hitch Ultimates did. I enjoyed it while it lasted, but it's time for it to be over, and I'm glad it is.

Which is a weird state of mind to be in for someone who loves excellent comics, and maybe points to fairly basic problems with each of the titles. In the case of The Ultimates, I think the party went on about 13 issues too long. With The Spirit, I think it was a noble but ultimately futile effort to bring Will Eisner's characters into a 21st century that only really has use for them as 20th century icons. I know I'll be re-reading DC's The Best of The Spirit, collecting many of the very best Eisner Spirit stories, far more often in the future than I will ever re-read Cooke's stuff. Cooke really should be pursuing his own vision, as Spurgeon seems to hint at, and hopefully now he will. Some icons, like Batman and Superman, are wide-open enough that Cooke's approach fits them like a glove. Eisner literally said everything that needed to be said about The Spirit before Darwyn Cooke was born. But it's no shame for Cooke to have tried and ultimately not really succeeded at making The Spirit his own. If Alan Moore couldn't do it when he took a stab at writing Eisner's creation, chances were probably pretty good no one else would ever really be able to either. But both Moore and Cooke made noble efforts, it was fun while it lasted, and again, it's probably better for all concerned if we just move on to something else now.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

 
Butcher on Script Writing -- Back from Japan, Christopher Butcher goes into detail about the creation of a comic script he wrote, for the Belle and Sebastian tribute collection. Included are lots of background details, art (including photo reference used for the story) and best of all, the entire script. Click on over if you're interested in how comics are made, it's a great piece.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

 
Paul O'Brien is Not A Comics Critic -- Shocking, I know, but it's a conclusion I came to some time ago. And Dick got me talking about it in the comments after this excellent post.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- In which I try to catch up on recent goings-on...

* I was really, really surprised by how much I enjoyed Buffy Season 8 #6 from last week. I was enjoying Joss Whedon's writing and dreading Brian K. Vaughan's arc, both because it was notWhedon and because Vaughan is generally not my cup of tea. But damn if he doesn't capture the voices of the characters extremely well, and the plot itself is worthy of Buffy mythology overall. The single off-note for me was Faith's anatomy on the final page, which looked just slightly inhuman, but the story itself is very, very good and gives me hope that all of Season 8 is going to be as much fun as the first few issues have been.

* Have you been checking out Christopher Butcher's amazing photos of he and his husband's Japan trip? They are some amazing shots. Here's Day One and Day Two.

* What are you doing tomorrow? Have you had enough yet?

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Friday, August 31, 2007

 
Things Comics Retailers Don't Want You to Know #4671 -- As often as I say the direct market is a broken, inbred environment rabidly committed to its own destruction even as the rest of the universe embraces comics as a viable artform, some retailers continue to champion it as the last, best hope for comics. Here's another reason why I don't quite believe it.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 
Roger on FantaCo's FF Chronicles -- Roger Green's been promising some FantaCo related articles for a while, and today he delivers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of The Fantastic Four Chronicles. Unsurprisingly, Jim Shooter turns up as the turd in the punchbowl.

Roger notes that today is the anniversary of the birth of both FantaCo and Jack Kirby, both sadly gone and much-missed by me. Both loom as giants in my memories and are thought of on a daily basis; I hope you'll take a look at Roger's essay, as well as Tom Spurgeon's wondrous visual tribute to Jack Kirby.

Coincidentally, today is also my wife Lora's birthday. I'd wish her a happy birthday here, but she doesn't read my blog, so instead I'll tell her when she wakes up, and again when the kids and I take her out for her birthday dinner tonight.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

 
Quite Improved -- Tom Spurgeon pointed out this illustrated essay on how Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman art could easily be improved. As someone who has greatly enjoyed the title but is not happy with the -- balllessness? -- of Quitely's work in recent years, I found this essay quite eye-opening. I think the ultra-thin digital inking worked okay on We3, but on superhero stuff, the bolder line evinced in this piece really is called for. Take a look if you're at all interested in the process of creating assembly-line comic book art.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Just a few quick thoughts this morning after a fairly busy weekend, probably the highlight of which was a Sunday afternoon picnic at a local park in which we brought extra bread to feed the ducks, and the ducks got a bit testy when we started eating our food instead of feeding them theirs, and started biting my wife's sandaled feet. "It wasn't painful at all," she told me, "Just surprising." Apparently ducks don't have teeth, so, at least there's that. Also: They like Cape Cod potato chips better than cornbread. Very interesting.

* I posted a couple of new essays to the ADD writeblog, if you're interested in my non-comics writing. I also reviewed Warren Ellis's Crecy, which was very good, certainly better than being bitten by ducks. Which is more than you can say for a lot of comics these days.

* Reader David Wynne also got me talking about non-fiction and historical comics and graphic novels over on the CBG forum. David's a guy who knows how to get me babbling about stuff I love to talk about; you're invited to stop by and join the conversation.

* Newsarama has a pretty amazing Mike Wieringo tribute up, a week after his tragic, much-too-early death. Thanks to Chris Hunter for pointing this out to me.

* After some lengthy delays, Avatar Press is releasing a mammoth 336-page collection of Alan Moore's Yuggoth Cultures. The title was originally a humble, three-issue mini-series, but Avatar has added a ton of special features and goodies to make this a truly impressive collection. And in the enlightened self-interest department, one of those features is a 5,000-word (or so) interview I conducted for an NPR affiliate a few years back. We discuss, among other things, Miracleman, Moore's prose novel Voice of the Fire, and his feelings about his impact on comics in the 1980s. It's one of the best and most rewarding interviews I've ever done, and I'm thrilled it will finally be in print. Bonus: The comics in the collection are pretty good, too!

* Get out your checkbook or debit card before you read Tom Spurgeon's great, illustrated rundown of notable fall, 2007 graphic novel releases. You're gonna need lots of money.

* Check out Blake Bell's fantastic TCAF photo roundup.

* Man, I hate that I missed out on TCAF. Thanks go out to Diana Tamblyn for offering to keep an eye out for any interesting-looking items, as she did for me back in 2005, too. She, like her comics, seriously rocks.

* Chris Allen doesn't talk about what passes for "comics news" much anymore, and here he explains why and talks about some anyway. He is large, he contains multitudes. Bonus: Some Chris Allen reviews of recent graphic novels.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

 
Idiot America -- Writing for Esquire, Charles Pierce deconstructs how the United States has fallen so very far.

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A. David Lewis on Autobio -- Comics writer A. David Lewis is bored to tears by the "glut" of autobiographical comics. He acknowledges that there are some good works, but goes on at length about why he will never write an autobiographical story.

As you may be aware, autobiography is probably my favourite genre in comics, so Lewis's mini-rant raises a few contrarian hackles. But mostly I am struck by the fact that I would rather read bad autobiographical comics than any of the fiction of Lewis's that I have read. The Lone and Level Sands was one of the most boring graphic novels I've ever tried to slog through (and I tried two or three times, because obviously some effort had been put into its creation).

I also wonder why Publisher's Weekly would give such valuable commentary space to someone who really has had nothing of substance to offer the comics artform as of yet, other than an obvious and all-too-common desire to be in comics whether his comics are really any damn good at all or not. I'm sure Lewis is a great guy, pays his bills on time and is kind to small animals and children, but, I'd rather read an essay by someone with genuine experience and perspective, and not a glorified wannabe with a half-thought-out grudge against a genre he likely isn't fit to work in.

Give me more experimental -- even failed autobiographical comics any day, and deliver me from fiction writers who just really, really wanna be in comics.

Edited to add: I guess Lewis pissed off Tom Spurgeon, too. Although he does not bring in the issue of the quality Lewis's own comics, which is his right. But I think it's fair game, when Lewis expends so much bluster on a straw man argument and yet has nothing of his own backing up his claims that fiction is somehow superior to autobio. Again, I'd rather read a thousand bad autobio comics before one more dull, plodding piece of Lewis fiction ends up in my lap.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- Only one piece of news worth talking about from Wizard World Chicago...

* Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch Take Over Fantastic Four in January. The Stan and Jack FF, by the way, not the Ultimate version. As of now, the claim is that Hitch has drawn five issues, while Millar has written ten. As is usual with Hitch-illustrated projects, the talk will be more about how soon the book will run off the scheduling rails, rather than what their plans are for the characters and storylines. Me? I find myself caring less than I might have a few years ago.

Millar and Hitch and company obviously created some exciting comics with The Ultimates, although Ultimates 2 seemed to lose the sense of purpose the first series had, and by the final issue I was just glad it was over. There's not a force on Earth that could move me to buy -- or even download for free -- Ultimates 3, given that the new creative team is Shitty McBadstory and Lousy McGoofyart. So I'm well and truly done with that title and those characters.

Honestly, I wish Millar and Hitch would get their way and be given free reign on Superman. I think it would require both of them to stretch muscles they haven't in a while, and I'd guess the resulting comics would have the potential to be as great as All-Star Superman and Superman: Secret Identity, to name two of the very few great Superman comics of the past 15 years. One of the other ones in that rarefied territory is Millar's own Superman Adventures work, which deserves a far better fate than the miniature digest-sized reprints it's been collected into. Despite his sometimes grandiose claims, Millar really was born to write Superman, and you can feel that on every page of his Adventures work.

Hitch's style is so far away now from its original Alan Davis/Jose Luis Garcia Lopez-inspired look that I hardly recognize it, although it remain appealing to the eye. I do wonder if the added levels of detail contribute to his scheduling difficulties, and I honestly like his work best around Stormwatch Vol. 2 and the first 12 issues of The Authority, but I'm always interested in seeing what he does.

So I'm open-minded about what comes out of this announcement, but it would be incorrect to say I am excited about it. Excited would be if Grant Morrison and JG Jones got to do Marvel Boy 2, or if Warren Ellis and Tom Raney were working together again on a monthly title, or if Garth Ennis and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez had been the creative team for Ultimates 3.

Related: ADD interviews Mark Millar; and then he does it again.

* I really enjoyed Roger's Household Hints.

* Check out Matt Brady's reviews of the new Love and Rockets collections Human Diastrophism and The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., and please tell me you're getting these low-priced volumes of some of the greatest comics of the last 100 years. Matt's review prompted me to pull my massive Locas volume down off the shelf, and damn, "The Death of Speedy" is some goddamned storytelling.

* Echoing my recent interview with James Howard Kunstler (and thanks for the link, Tom!), it appears Peak Oil is officially here. Well, don't say I didn't tell you so.

* If you're a blogger (and these days, who isn't?), you might find this useful: 31 Days to a Better Blog. I'm trying some of these tweaks already.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

 
The Friday Briefing -- Not much to discuss this morning; yesterday I did one of those once-or-twice in a lifetime radio interviews which went spectacularly well, I thought, and which I am in the middle (literally, I'm halfway through) of transcribing and hopefully will have up here by Monday. It'll also be on the ADD writeblog at the same time, given that it's not about comics, and that's my new repository for my non-comics writing. But it's a piece I think you'll enjoy reading, if you spend any amount of time here at all.

Something that is about comics, and that I'm happy to direct you to, is Rob Vollmar's San Diego Comicon wrap-up. I wish I'd been in San Diego just to get to meet Rob in person. That would have made the trip worthwhile all in itself. His recollections are intimate, funny and well worth a look.

Stop by James Howard Kunstler's website for a photo essay and commentary on his daily bike route. I find this fascinating for a number of reasons. I used to live maybe a mile from there, on Hyspot Road in Greenfield Center. Well do I remember the difficult hill he describes early on, especially the winter day I got stuck in an icestorm halfway up that hill and my car started sliding back, back, back...I had to sit on tenterhooks until a sander came along and left enough salt and sand for me to get some traction and get the hell out of there. Also, the route is about two or three miles from my current comic book shop, Comic Depot on Route 9N in the Stewarts Plaza, just a bit north of the places Kunstler describes. And finally, I enjoyed the piece because I enjoy the hell out of pretty much everything Jim Kunstler writes, as I've mentioned here in the past. He has a new novel coming out in March of '08, and I'll be talking about that a bit more in the days ahead.

And that is all I have for you at the moment. More next week, I promise.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

 
Roger on Raoul and The FantaCo Chronicles -- My formative comics-reading years saw me buying my comics at the much missed FantaCo Comics in Albany, New York. You may already know this. Today former FantaCo employee Roger Green remembers cartoonist Raoul Vezina and the creation of the ahead-of-its-time FantaCo Chronicles series. It's good reading. I only knew Raoul from his comics and from the times he checked me out when I was buying my weekly haul, but he was a good guy and a great cartoonist, and I miss him too.

Someone should get his comics back into print. In fact, someone should get a lot of the FantaCo-published material back into print. Those were heady times for comics, and it was a thrill to experience the way in which FantaCo pushed the artform forward, in its time on the stage.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

 
Cooke Off The Spirit -- Kevin Church has the worst superhero comics news of the year: Darwyn Cooke is leaving The Spirit after issue #12.

With Cooke as writer and artist, DC has done the impossible in continuing Will Eisner's characters in spirit without wallowing in nostalgia or aping Eisner. It's been a rollicking, exciting adventure comic, and I'm gonna miss the hell out of it.

Like I say in the comments section, it's impossible to imagine continuing to buy the book, unless the publisher announces some amazing creator or creators that could do as well or better than Cooke has.

Somewhat related: I saw the first post-Millar/Hitch Ultimates art posted somewhere. I won't even bother posting a link, just trust me: The Ultimates ended the moment they were off the book (if not the issue before, ahem).

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

 
Quote of the Year -- I realize there's a lot of year left here in 2007, but I love how this quote from Tom Spurgeon perfectly captures everything that is wrong with 95 percent of startup comic book publishing efforts:
"It's nice to be reminded that a publisher can contribute something to the making comics beyond good intentions, a childhood desire to be involved in the comics industry and a vague desire to become a movie producer."

The number of failed publishers from the past ten years that spring immediately to mind is almost mind-boggling, isn't it? Man, if I could hold any would-be publisher's face to the screen and make him study just one sentence that exists on the internet, that would be the one.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 
ADD Elsewhere -- Hey, I've just posted my first essay to thisisby.us. The essay itself may or may not be familiar to you if you spend any amount of time here, but I'd appreciate if you would click over and maybe give my debut effort there some support. I just learned about this site, which pays for content based on the feedback from readers, and it looks like a great place to get your ideas out and possibly pick up some beer money.

If you like what you see and decide to post your own writing, let me know. I'm curious to see what develops now that I've dipped my toe in.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 
Two to Get in San Diego -- I won't be at the San Diego Comicon this year (my unbroken streak continues!), but two graphic novels spring immediately to mind as worth recommending to you if you're going and you see them up for sale.

* I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets (Fantagraphics Books) -- This big collection of truly freaky superhero comics by Fletcher Hanks is edited by Paul Karasik, and includes an illustrated comic-style afterword about how the project came to be. Hank's talents combine the rubbery stylings of Basil Wolverton interpreting the twisted scripting of Michael Fleischer, with a singleness of purpose to each and every script that at first seems like laziness or a lack of imagination, but by the end of the book will have you realizing in its own way, this one-track mind of Hanks's may have been his greatest gift to comics. He apparently wasn't a very nice guy, if you believe Karasik's afterword (and there's no reason not to), but in his own way his comics seem like a distillation of everything that is possible in superhero comics, and everything that is utterly retarded. This is one of the essential books of the year, without question.

* Spent (Drawn and Quarterly) -- The four issues collected here seemed somehow more monumental when I was buying them in single issues over the years they took to come out, but Joe Matt's latest collection is still, in some ways, his most personal and interesting. The intimate details of his repugnant private life when he was living in Canada are all on display, and no doubt many who knew what he was up to may be glad he's living back in the States now. Matt, Seth and Chester Brown (the latter two are characters in the book) all make up a sort of mini-movement in artcomix, and I find just about everything all three do to be revealing and progressive comics that move the artform forward no matter what their individual tics and foibles. I can't say you'll like the guy once you close the covers of this very well-designed hardcover, but if you're like me you'll find it impossible to stop reading and even admire Matt's ability to depict his own worst nature with what appears to be brutal, if elegant, honesty.

* San Diego Bonus -- Here's Christopher Butcher's Five Favourite San Diego Memories; tell him I said "hi" if you see him there, would you?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

 
Thursday Comics Headlines -- Ach, I didn't sleep much last night. Dreams of ex-girlfriends and annoying ex-co-workers and bees, big fat fluffy bees stinging me. Bastard bees.*

So, today you're only getting headlines I am interested in.

* Best reading of the day: Comics retailer Mike Sterling answers questions from readers about the 1990s crash of the speculator market for comics. Really good. I love it when retailers share their personal experiences selling comics. Related: My son got some pogs at that comics convention in Saratoga Springs last weekend and is now fascinated by them. Hey, Mike, you got any Spider-Man pogs left in the back room?

* Dick on The '90s Part Three.

* Joss Whedon Finds Writing Comics More Rewarding Than Movies and TV. While Astonishing X-Men is not really doing it for me like I hoped, Buffy Season 8 delivers everything it promises.

* Jog Looks at Rogan Gosh, at the new Savage Critic. I haven't read this piece yet, this is actually my reminder to do so later when I am more awake.

* This is just bizarre. Have you no sense of quality control, corporate comics industry? Have you, at long last, no sense of quality control?

* I swear I actually had all those dreams last night.

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Wednesday Comics Headlines -- All right, I'll be honest with you. This "getting-comics-headlines-cuz-Dirk-is-on-vaycay-and-I-thought-it-would-be-an-interesting-experiment?" I'm exhausted already, and the week's only half over. Onto the goddamned headlines:

* Abhay Khosla Posts First Savage Critics Column. We may very well all have died and gone to heaven, valhalla, whatever. FUCKING AWESOME, from the first sentence on. Note to Hibbs or Lester or whoever: The logo should be a link back to the main page, for ease of navigation. But other than that, so far, so very good.

* Blogcritics Looks at Harvey Pekar's New Graphic Novel Macedonia.

* Mobile Comics Daily Launches in Taiwan.

* Dick Says Millar Was Right About DC Needing Saving.

* CBR's Homosexuality in Comics Part Two. Part Three promises to examine "whether homosexuality is a lifestyle choice or a genetic predisposition," then presumably in Part Four, they'll argue over whether water is truly wet.

* Fantagraphics Posts San Diego Comicon Plans. If I were going to San Diego, this is the only information I would need.

* Christopher Allen Reviews The Black Diamond Detective Agency.

* DC and Marvel Fail to Top List of Best-Known Brands. Again.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

 
Tuesday Comics Headlines -- With Dirk on vacation all week, I thought I'd try to cover at least some of his bases. Let's see if I can keep it up all week, shall we? As an actor said to the bishop...

* Despite All Available Evidence, Zuda is A Comic Creator's Dream Come True, This Site Says.

* What Are The Consequences of Cartooning Being Named A Fine Art in India?

* New York Magazine Previews Percy Gloom.

* Funnybook Funk Briefly Brightens.

* Bible Stories in Comics Form.

* Pekar Travels Outside Comfort Zone in Creating New Book.

* Butcher Excited About THEREFORE REPENT. I loved Salgood Sam's Revolver.

* Comic Book Resources Begins Series Titled Homosexuality in Comics. Lengthy interviews with gay creators, and creators who have portrayed gay and lesbian characters in their stories. Also: Mark Millar says Ron Stoppable is gay? I'm going to have to ask my kids about that.

* Johnny Bacardi Rolls Out More Sexist Batgirl Covers.

* Image Founders Reunion Needs Twice the Space Originally Planned. Perhaps they measured the collective egos involved before making this adjustment? I kid because I love. I love Savage Dragon.

* Spurgeon Says Tales From the Crypt Revival is "A Great, Heaving Collapse on All Levels." He's not wrong.

* What Randy Lander's Doing at The San Diego Comicon.

* Comics and More Reviews Dragon Head. People keep saying this is good.

* Rob Clough Reviews Comics Comics.

* Comicbloc.com Interviews Mike Wieringo. He says he'd like to draw The Flash again if Mark Waid were to write it. Mark Waid is currently writing The Flash. Note to DC: Make the magic happen!

* Johanna Says All-Flash #1 Not Magic, Not Happening. And I had it right here to review when I found her review, too. I was going to say something about how the book is more like a flushing away of the turd that was the failed Bart Allen Flash series than the fine meal I had been hoping for from Waid's return to the character. Like Johanna, I think this issue was narratively necessary given the circumstances, but not anything you need or want to read. Wait for August's Flash #231, Waid's real first issue back.

* Mutts Creator Opposes Animal Traps.

* Wildstorm Plans Authority-Related Comics I Won't Be Buying; Where The Hell is Grant Morrison?

* Beetle Bailey Creator's Free Magazine Sells Out.

* Editorial Cartoons "Darker and More Pungent," Says Editorial Cartoonist.

* Adult Filmmaker Who Was Friend to R. Crumb and Hunter S. Thompson Dies.

* Former Marvel Writer Lobdell Writing Screenplay. As long as he's not writing comics, I'm happy.

* Presidential Candidate Creates Graphic Novel, I Think.

* Almost Comics: How to Wrap a Burrito.

* The Pet Shop Boys Are to Kevin Church What James Kochalka is To Me, Apparently.

* Kochalka Posts Vacation Landscape Paintings. I really like me some James Kochalka.

* I Also Like This Andrew Foster Self-Portrait.

* Tuesday Reading: Abhay Khosla's Title Bout Archive. It's gonna be great to have him talking about comics regularly again, isn't it?

So, seriously -- Ron Stoppable is gay?

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Monday, July 16, 2007

 
The Monday Briefing -- This past weekend seemed to go by faster than usual, probably because of:

* A comic book convention smack dab in the middle of it. I wish it had been one of those conventions where you come home with piles of mini-comics and graphic novels and other goodies to occupy your time, but the truth is my son spent more money on comics (and action figures) than I did. I bought three books at an "all for a dollar" table, including an Ed Brubaker Batman annual that ended on a cliffhanger (kind of aggravating) and that I soon realized I had already read when it originally came out (really aggravating). I also got a cheap copy of the Roy Thomas/Wayne Boring/Jerry Ordway Secret Origins #1 featuring the Earth-Two Superman, and a DC Millennium Edition reprint of Detective Comics #1, just out of historical interest.

* The dealer I bought those from had a huge box of Millennium Editions for a buck each, which has to be selling them at a loss, as most of them were $2.99 to $3.99. That's a shame, because that brief reprint program put some of the most significant superhero comics in history back into print, and while it's nice to be able to buy them for a buck, it's too bad dealers seemingly took a bath on them.

* I would have loved to spend more money at the convention, but I didn't have a lot to spend, frankly, and (I guess thankfully) there weren't many of the kind of things I am likely to drop coin on anyway. It was mostly back issues, and I'm not into those at all, as you might have picked up on over the years.

* Local newspapers covered the convention. Here are day-after reports from The Glens Falls Post Star, The Albany Times Union and local Saratoga Springs newspaper The Saratogian.

* What else did I do this weekend? Well, I reviewed Tyler Page's new graphic novel Nothing Better Vol. 1, and the comic whose title tells you literally everything about its contents, Martha Washington Dies. As someone once said, "I read it so you don't have to."

* Matt Brady looks at some great, silent panels in American Splendor Presents Bob 'n Harv's Comics, an absolutely essential collection. If you've never sampled American Splendor, or have read a story or issue here or there and thought it wasn't for you, Bob 'n Harv's is the one book that will make you understand why Pekar is one of the most important and entertaining writers in North American comics history.

* You know, at one time I kind of liked Alex Ross's work. Both Kingdom Come and Marvels had some real storytelling high points, and even came by them honestly. But this solicitation for an upcoming issue of JSA is enough to convince me Ross is strictly in it for the money, now, not a love of superhero comics: "Alex Ross joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for Part 1 of 'Thy Kingdom Come,' the epic story years in the making, springing from KINGDOM COME! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Welcome the newest member to the Justice Society of America: the Kingdom Come Superman! Coming from an Earth plagued by heroes-gone-extreme, how will this Superman react to an incarnation of the Justice Society he never knew? This Superman’s world needed better heroes. So does ours." Well, this world needs better superhero writers than Geoff Johns, that's for goddamned motherfucking certain. Isn't Ross the guy who once criticized Mark Waid for his sequel to Kingdom Come? And now here he is working with the chief perpetrator of The Fan-Fiction Age of Superhero Comics, on a storyline that could not be more fan-fictiony. Pardon me while I choke on the sad, pathetic irony.

* At Comic Book Resources, Todd Allen examines DC's public statements to date about Zuda Comics, with special focus on how to protect your rights and what sort of money you can expect to make (hint: not much, at least at first) if you decide to participate.

* Roger Green talks about Albany, New York and other issues in a new Five Questions meme; I'm hoping Roger throws five at me. (Update: he did).

*Tony Isabella looks at Comics in the Comics. META!

* Comic book retailer (and all around good guy) Mike Sterling talks about the rise and fall and rise again in value of a key Marvel comic from the 1970s. This is of interest to me both because I remember buying that issue new off the stands, and more so because of what it says about "hot" comics and their grand place in the scheme of things. Also, note to Mike: Those Punisher comics that tanked in the 1990s? That had to be in part at least because they weren't very good, like most Marvel comics prior to the Heroes Return event that briefly ushered in an era of quality storytelling in some of Marvel's core titles. Briefly. Then Chuck Austen came along...

* With Dirk on vacation this week (have fun!), I thought I'd grab some interesting comics news headlines. And here they are:

* Red Sonja Ownership Trial to Begin.

* Retailer/Blogger Christopher Butcher Rips DC's Sexist, Misogynist Batgirl Cover.

* Tintin Book Called "Racist" Sees Skyrocketing Sales.

* Graphic Novels Aid in SAT Prep.

* High Schoolers Advised to Read "Something Other Than A Comic Book".

* Doug Marlette Laid to Rest

* Nerd Know-How Required to Work in Specialty Shops.

* Sean Penn and Iggy Pop Voice Persepolis Characters.

* New Site Needs You To Sell Your Comics There; Thousands Waving Cash As They Wait For You To Click This Link.

* Read Yourself Raw July Edition now Online. Go read it.

* Star-Tribune Reviews Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds.

* Christopher Allen Reviews Invaders Classics Vol. 1.

* Tom Spurgeon Interviews Cartoonist Graham Annable.

* The Savage Critic Gets New Look, New URL, New Critics. ADD faves Abhay Khosla, Jog and Johanna are all signing on to the new incarnation of this long-running review blog. Abhay talks about joining the new Savage Critic site here; Johanna does the same here. Good luck, gang!

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

 
The Business of Comics is Broken -- That's Top Shelf Productions Co-Publisher Brett Warnock's assessment following this week's news about the possible end of Cold Cut as a distributor of artcomics to the direct market:

"[T]he BUSINESS of comics is broken. This is the sentiment with the recent announcement that Cold Cut Distributors are selling their company...in fact my experience would seem to indicate that the glut of Marvel and DC titles currently flooding the market, as well as an overabundance of weak comics everywhere else has created a situation where it's really very difficult to get much support from the retail community for indy comics, except for only the biggest A-List books in a given season."

Few are in as ideal a place to diagnose the current situation as Brett Warnock; he and co-publisher Chris Staros publish both some of the biggest artcomics you could name, such as Blankets and Lost Girls, and some of the very smallest and least likely grab mainstream headlines or score NPR interviews. And more power to them for continuing to support less major (if not virtually unknown) creators, by the way, in the face of the existing market conditions.

Warnock goes on to say:

"Clearly there needs to be more efficient methods of both retail and distribution. I love what i do, so i want a healthy marketplace. And God only knows, i'm NOT a believer in comics' sole future domain being online. I want to hold a book in my hands, feeling its pulpy goodness, the smell of ink on my fingers. And those are the kind of books i want to publish."

So, is there a way for direct market retailers and creators to better benefit from the increased readership for comics out there in the real world?

As I said yesterday, the revolution is over and comics have clearly won. But it takes time and many adjustments before that victory can be fully felt. Clearly a first step is needed.

I wonder how much would change if Diamond initiated a first-phase toward making its product returnable? A first step toward growing up and actually being a responsible, professional book distributor? It would take a lot of unnecessary risk off of comics retailers, and it would force Diamond to take ownership of its own place in the grand scheme of things. The current, dying system obviously allows Diamond to possess all the power and virtually none of the risk -- so much so that operating a comic book store with Diamond as your only source of product is clearly a sucker's game -- if not the ethical equivalent of being the black-eyed wife in an abusive marriage, shrieking at the cops "But I LOVE HIM!" as the cops haul him into the back of the squad car once again, certain he'll be back at home with all forgiven within 24 hours. Wednesday's always just around the corner, after all.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

 
The Golden Age of Now -- That's what Tom Spurgeon calls the current moment in comics history in this examination of the current comics boom and its lack of immediate benefits to some of the creators and retailers who make it happen.

Revolutions can be painfully slow; it's clear Bush and his cronies are crashing and burning at an ever-accelerating pace, but I've wanted them in prison since December of 2000, so imagine my frustration. What's happening now in comics -- what's been happening for seven years or so -- is a slow but almost-certain transformation from the direct market model of the '70s through the '90s, to a more holistic and global appreciation for and recognition of comics as just another artform.

I think we've long since reached a tipping point from which there is no return -- but that doesn't mean more distributors, creators and publishers won't fall between the cracks as things continue to develop. The best thing anyone in comics can do right now is be as aware and educated as possible about what has happened, what is happening, and what is likely to happen in the near- and far-term. That's no guarantee of survival, but it's the best and most practical way to prepare for an expanding but still-transforming marketplace for comics.

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The Friday Briefing -- What a week in comics, from DC's hapless Zuda tap-dancing to Cold Cut possibly shuffling off to Buffalo...

* Christopher Butcher gets emotional about Cold Cut, offering up some insight into how important the artcomics distributor has been to one of the most important and progressive comic book stores in North America. I posted my thoughts about Cold Cut late yesterday afternoon, in case you missed it.

* Up now: The Comics Journal's guide to this year's San Diego Comicon, which could double, for those of us not attending, as a checklist of notable artcomics worth keeping an eye out for over the next few weeks.

* The new issue of The Comics Journal is arriving in at least some shops next week. I'm most looking forward to the Roger Langridge interview, conducted by Gary Groth. So much so that I am not reading the excerpt posted online, although you may want to. That's right, I avoid spoilers for interviews with artcomics creators. My true nerditry unveiled! Related: I really wish Langridge's The Thirteenth Floor would see the light of day as a printed graphic novel. Somewhat related: Happy Friday the 13th!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

 
Zuda Doobie Doo -- What, you thought we were finished with this subject?

Over at Comixmix, Glenn Hauman has some extremely apt observations about the non-rollout of DC's new attempt to poach unwitting amateurs in their web of webcomics.

"We have no idea what they'll be launching with, they have nobody lined up that they're willing to talk about. Way to build confidence, guys. You couldn't find anybody? Every other time there's been a launch of a line from DC (Piranha, Paradox, Vertigo, Helix, Minx, CMX) there was content to go with it, to show what they were talking about. Here, nothing."

Also worth noting is this comment from myideais.com:

"I remember reading a longish historical essay about Marvel’s attempt to put out an 'underground' comic in the early seventies, which was called 'Comix Book.'

I have a vague thesis floating around in my head that Zuda Comics from DC, an attempt to emulate existing webcomics collectives, might be comparable to Marvel’s effort back then, in that they’re trying to to take on the hip new kids on their own turf. I’d like to read that essay again and see if I can look more closely for parallels."

In my original post on Zuda, I was quite explicit in referencing Epic Comics and DC's New Talent Showcase as other historical examples of the corporate companies trying to lure talented amateur creators more with the promise of greater exposure than any solid offers of a prevailing wage or (Good God, Y'all!) creators rights. There's no question in my mind that Zuda is just the latest, if by far the most under-developed and ham-handed iteration of this somewhat sleazy and pathetic scheme.

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Imagine Superman in the Public Domain Since 1952 -- According to one expert, the world would be a better place if this were so.

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The Days of Our Lives in Comics -- Now threatening to become a meme, but at least a fascinating and entertaining one, Johnny Bacardi digs into his archives for the story of his life in comics, prompted by Dick Hyacinth's recent forays.

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