Thursday, October 4, 2007

No reviews this time

-I've only briefly looked over this week's comics, with the exception of Grotesque #1. Which was a blast, totally recommended. I'll have a review of Niger #2 up soon.

-So, if I'm reading him correctly, Steven Grant is saying that the UPC barcode thing is going to eliminate the ultra-small publisher, but that was probably going to happen anyway. And it might not be such a bad thing, quality-wise. A couple of things: that part in the middle about single creator vs. multiple creator comics? I assume he's talking about stuff like Ex-Mutants* and the ninja funny animal genre, right? Cause otherwise, that bit about "craft" reminds me of Frank Cho's immortal words when he nominated himself for an Ignatz: "It seems like anyone who can do thick brush lines is a hip, alternative creator. There are a lot of artists out there who can't draw worth a damn." I don't think this is what Grant is saying, but I'm not absolutely sure. His conclusion further muddies the waters: "The challenge is rebuilding the general quality of material." If the quality of small publisher comics was never all that high, then shouldn't that be "building the general quality"? This would be a lot easier to parse if Grant would have been a bit more specific about what comics sacrificed "craft" for "heart." I'm especially curious if he's referring to contemporary equivalents of Ex-Mutants, since amateurish superhero comics (at least those which aren't published by Marvel or DC) are completely off my radar.

Second, despite these qualms about the quality of small press material, Grant bemoans the impending de-democratization of the Direct Market; he suggests "the book market" and the internet as an outlet for comics that Diamond is about to shun. I assume that the former refers to the bookstores market. If so, it's almost laughable: if a comic can't meet the Direct Market's modest standards of professionalism, how on earth will it compete in the bookstore market? I can see some potential for small press, DM-unfriendly comics appealing to special interest bookstores (though I think specialized record stores would be a better bet), but I'm not sure if that's what he's driving at.

As for the internet: it's just too obvious to go over in great detail. But here's a few relevant links: the new Comic Mix webcomic initiative, the serialization of Finder online, and the growing number of mini-comics types offering online comics (see Drew Weing's site for instance--lots of great stuff there). Why invest thousands of dollars on a traditional comic book that the Direct Market will by-and-large ignore when you can put it online for a fraction of the cost? If you're not at the point where you're making money off this stuff, you're really going out on a limb to print it in hopes of it catapulting to success from the back pages of Previews. Unless your comic's production values rival those of the larger, more established publishers (as is the case with Tom Neely's self-published The Blot, a copy of which I'm happy to say I finally obtained), then it's a sad kind of hubris to insist on having it available in corporeal form.

*Except Ex-Mutants was a collaboration between David Lawrence and Ron Lim. For that matter, TMNT was a (much more famous) collaboration as well. As was the hamster ninja book. Hmmm.

-I really enjoyed this dismantling of 300 (courtesy of the Beat). The authors' treatment of "the comic book genre" is pretty fucking ill-informed, and some might be put off by the academic tone. More troubling to me is the linkage of morality and aesthetic quality. Still, it's by far the best thing I've read about 300. Consider it kind of like the skeletal underdrawing for a fantastic piece of cartooning. It's easy for me to say that 300 is dangerous in its stupidity. I can clarify this by saying that 300, while hardly unique in being an intentionally stupid movie which (loudly) demands its audience to shut off large portions of their brain, is far more vile than the average action blockbuster in that it's an inherently political piece of work, the acceptance of which absolutely requires that the audience not think too hard. But even that would require some unpacking. Thankfully, these three historians (DING DING DING) have saved me the work of explaining myself. I can only add that, by the end of the movie, I never wanted to see another CGI effect again in my life. Anyway, if you liked Gary Groth's evisceration of Quentin Tarantino in the pages of The Baffler (way back in the bygone days of my youth), you might also enjoy this review.

-Okay, this is the last Asorbascon (NIM) thing I'll run; in fact I'll drop the blog off the newsfeedreaderthing after this. But I'm struck by two separate passages that Scipio Garling has run in the last week or so. First*, in response to some sort of criticism of the latest issue of Justice League:

For all those people bitching, "It's been done before"-- yeah, ya think? Heroes fight villains. Groups of heroes fight groups of villains. That's kind of how that works. If you have a problem with that, maybe you should be reading Blankets instead.

Second, while further contemplating the same subject:

Then, when the villains show up, Black Canary shows that she's not a very good leader or, for that matter, Heroclix player. Canary; you're a Secondary Attacker. Use your Primary Attacker, Superman, first. Then, once they are softened up, your own attacks will be more effective. If you'd attacked with Superman and/or Vixen first, then you would have been free to tie up Parasite.

Having absorbed (GET IT?) these two expressions of the Scipio Garling aesthetic, it occurred to me that this dude actually (co-) owns a comics shop. A couple of them, actually. The immediate question that springs to mind is whether or not a copy of Blankets has ever been within 100 feet of either store. But after further reflection, I'm guessing that a copy has somehow found its way into the store, and now resides in a section marked "ALTERNATIVE/INDY," where it sits with a few old Ultraverse collections and maybe one of those wacky "alternate reality" comics where Batman is a cowboy or a robot or something. Actually, that's unfair to Garling's business partner, who may very well have installed an extensive minicomics section adjacent to the Heroclix proving ground.

Some bonus coverage from my "research" for this piece: I didn't realize the Big Planet-Big Monkey feud had been settled. Some of you might remember last year's controversy between the two stores, with Big Planet owner Joel Pollack sending a cease-and-desist order to Big Monkey after the latter moved into a location within two blocks of the former. Anyway, the "barbershop for geeks" (as Garling describes his store) has since moved to a different neighborhood. (Check out the link for some sour grapes and and one final dig at Big Planet). I don't recall anyone reading about that story anywhere in the comics blogoverse.

Also, while checking out Big Monkey's website, I noticed that Garling's biography mentioned that he'd written "several really boring books." Here's his Amazon bibliography. I was hoping Garling had reviewed 300, but if he did, I can't find it.

*Which is to say "second," cause these things actually ran in the reverse order. Also, please note that I've never actually read Blankets, mostly because (a) I didn't like Goodbye Chunky Rice and (b) it looked about as appealing as an issue of Witchblade.


Jones, one of the Jones boys said...

Obviously I can't speak for what Grant really had in mind re: heart v. craft. But I naturally thought of Kochalka's infamous manifesto against "craft", even if that wasn't what Grant meant.

Also, 300? I thought it was awesome how the saviours of democracy and reason killed that diplomat right at the start. The laws of diplomacy are totally quaint and outdated. Not to mention all that orientalism and Reifenstahlian fascism. Yummy!

Dick Hyacinth said...

Kochalka sounds right, but I'm not sure if makes sense in his timeline. Or am I reading into the column too much to say there's a timeline? Plus, "fan projects" doesn't sound like an accurate description of anything Kochalka's done. Maybe Grant just really hates minicomics and their progeny?

MarkAndrew said...

I'm pretty sure Steven Grant is just saying that some independent comics suck, and it's silly to say some superhero stuff isn't just BETTER than many(most?) indpendent comics.

Or did you mean another part in the middle?

And Scipio likes the DC Universe. And prefers to write about it exclusively. That doesn't mean he's completely ignorant about, say, Blankets.

Just that it's not his primary interest.

I, of course, could give a rat's big behind about the DC Univese, but I think Scipio's stuff is often very funny. So I read it.

And, um, I quite liked Blankets. Be warned, though, I liked Chunky Rice EVEN BETTER. But I have a pretty high tolerance for emo.

And what's "Grotesque?" Google tells me nothing.

Dick Hyacinth said...

1. I still think Grant's talking about something in particular, what with all the references to professionalism and fandom. I just can't tell what it is. I know his background is from the world of fanzines, so maybe that's informing the discussion in some way I can't quite identify. I'm mostly talking about the paragraphs beginning "What doesn't change...." and "Top it off...." Maybe he's talking about Image. I really can't tell.

Of course most independently produced comics are utter garbage. I'm sure that's why Grant wrote such an ambivalent piece--it feels wrong that fewer small press titles will be available through Diamond, but you can't help but think it's no great loss for the most part.

2. Re: Scipio: I didn't know you were so interested in Heroclix, MarkAndrew.

3. Grotesque is another Ignatz book. Here's a description, plus the cover.

Scipio said...

"The immediate question that springs to mind is whether or not a copy of Blankets has ever been within 100 feet of either store."

It's in our "Recommended Reading" section, actually.

Not that that would matter to you.

bitterandrew said...
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Dick Hyacinth said...

Yeah, I've got limited interest in Blankets and I don't live in the DC area.

BTW, still work for FAIR? There's some interest in that, apparently.

bad wolf said...

And here i always thought the title of your blog was meant to be ironic.

Matthew J. Brady said...

For what it's worth, I thought Blankets was great, and I didn't especially like Chunky Rice. So you might enjoy it, if you like the nicely-illustrated autobio type of thing. Or you could just read Johnny Ryan's summary.

Re: Scipio - I used to read his blog, but as my interest in superhero stuff waned, I stopped bothering. I guess he writes interesting stuff if you're into that sort of thing.

Also, note to bad wolf or whomever: you've got to have your sarcasm detector turned on to read Dick's blog. Alternatively, you could just ignore it. That also works.

MarkAndrew said...

Oh, I've still got a bunch of heroclix.

I used to babysit for my cousin's kids, and they'd want to play Pokemon. I always lost and got pissed off, so I tried to get us to switch to Heroclix.

And, honestly, (A) a Board Game where (B) You make Superheroes fight and (C) has Ambush Bug in it, but you have to trade a Batman to this 9 year old kid to get him..

Well, that pretty much hits all my nerd buttons, except Inuit mythology and early sixties Charlton Monster comics.

Ginger Mayerson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger Mayerson said...

I wonder about this bar code thing. There's a guy named Karl Christian who's been picked up by SLG, but before that he self-published, like at Kinkos, for years. J LHLS first saw the Byron comic at APE in 2003 and have reviewed whatever Karl has done since then. We love Karl, he makes us laugh.

So maybe the small presses will pick up the DIY comics makers who really have something to say and make a product a small press is willing to invest in. And hopefully it will all be as good as Karl's work.

I don't think the bar code thing is going to stop anyone from making comics. If you've got a comic to make, then make it and hope for the best. I know my comics store doesn't carry DIY comics, so I don't look for them here. I look for them on review sites and places like APE and SPX.

gene phillips said...

I don't understand the context of the Blankets remark. It sounds like an off-the-cuff slam against superhero fans who express disdain for indy comics, but I thought I'd read the whole Absorbascon site. I can't remember Scipio even saying anything about indy comics.

Is this one of those things that ends with, "if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem?"

Dan Coyle said...

20 minutes into 300 and I realized I was watching the best Aryan recruitment film since Burton's Planet of the Apes.

What happened on the lean mean streets of Vermont 30 years ago that made Frank Miller so bugfuck insane?

LurkerWithout said...

Dude, I don't know why you think you can go after the Absorbocon. I was playing BloggerClix and the Scipio fig totally kicked the Dick fig all over the board. It wasn't even a contest...

Of course its total bull-shit that Dick doesn't have Outwit...

Katherine said...

Here's a recent skewering of 300 by three people who know their ancient history. I'm not clicking the link to the Spiked piece, because I don't trust Spiked Online as far as I could spit upwards in a blizzard, and I don't want them to get the extra hit; Spiked is a project of the LM group, who used to be Living Marxism, who used to be the Revolutionary Communist Party; I went to one of their conferences lo these many years ago, and discovered that they're a creepy bunch with a... flexible attitude to truth.

I hated Blankets, by the way. I could see that, for what it was, it was extraordinarily well-done, but reading it was like being stuck in the brain of an overly romantic 16-year-old boy: at best claustrophobic, at worst suffocating. It would have been a lot better if he'd left out the words.