Friday, March 30, 2007

Rare second Friday post

-JMS lets us know why his Thor will suck:

"I've just never understood why a Norse god would speak in Medieval English. Never parsed for me, even as a kid. So I'm going for more of a sense of antiquity in the grammar and style rather than tarting it up with "these" and "thous." The closest tonal parallel would be Aragon in Lord of the Rings. The sense of dialog there has the feeling of formality and otherness, but without resorting to tricks."

First, that's not a medieval dialect; if it were, we'd have a much harder time understanding Thor. Elizabethan English is, IIRC, considered Early Modern English, which is why we can basically understand what Shakespeare wrote. Second, this reminds me of what Brian Cronin wrote about the Hulk--writers are afraid of writing genuine Hulk dialogue. I guess that's the case for Thor now too. Look--Thor is a weird character. He's a mythological figure AND an intellectual property of Marvel's. The Marvel version of Thor is not the same thing as the Thor of Norse mythology. So it's okay to have Thor talking like Shakespug; in fact, it's the right thing to do.

And then Joe Quesada reveals that Jeph Loeb's plans for Ultimate Thor include "medieval speak" [SIC!!!]. So JMS is now officially inferior to Jeph Loeb.

-Nobody's talking about it, but Douglas Wolk made a really interesting point about digital comics piracy this week. I still think my system (replace work-for-hire with work-for-nothing) is morally and economically sounder, though. Just let someone like Adrian Tomine re-tell the issue of Metal Men in question. I mean, yes, there will be some subtle changes: Platium will be wearing barrettes in her hair, and all the male robots will look like they've got a big wad of chaw in their mouths. And it will be far less entertaining than the originals. But that's the price you will have to pay for free comics in the future. (If none of this makes sense, click here.)

-Speaking of Joe Fridays, this week's edition featured this picture:

At first I didn't realize that Optimus Prime was standing behind Captain America. Which made me realize that Optimus Prime is really just a machine. Which, in turn, led me to compare Optimus Prime to Mechazawa. And now I realize that I would buy this ludicrous mini-series if and only if the relationship between the Avengers and the robots is sort of like that between the students and the robots in Cromartie High.

-One final item from the Quesada Q&A: Matt Fraction is rumored to be writing Amazing Spider-Man after JMS leaves? Really? I like Fraction a lot and I'll certainly check it out, but I'm a little wary of such a development.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tell me what I want to hear

-Dirk vs. Heidi now looks something like tenured professors debating the similarities between Dutch and American Quaker abolitionists. (History quiz: anyone know what I'm referring to right there?). There's something important buried underneath all this, but I'm not really eager to dig it out. I need more personal invective or denunciations of each other's approach to journalism. Implications of ethical shortcomings would also be welcome.

But wait! McDonald's response broadens the scope of the argument to manga vs. non-manga (she's calling them "Occidental" comics; I'm going to stay away from that terminology cause it seems problematic in a way that I can't quite put my finger on at this time). But then the scope of the argument narrows again at the end to something along the lines of "Dirk Deppey is prejudiced against non-manga comics, to the point of denying their apparent success." I do take issue with this, however:

"I’m all for a return in Occidental comics to accessible, populist work that is driven by a single creator’s vision."

I don't know. This seems to be setting up a golden age* that didn't actually exist. My understanding is that DC's editors always had a pretty heavy hand in plotting, while at Marvel Stan Lee was both editing AND plotting. Plus all these comics were collaborative. I guess McDonald could be referring to newspaper comics or Underground Comix, but I have the sneaking suspicion she's actually referring to Jim Starlin or something.

*By which I don't mean THE Golden Age.

-Do we really have to call non-comics readers "civilians?" I think I've heard Brian Hibbs use this term as well. It's just so haughty-geeky. Can't we call them "normal people" or "squarejohns" or something?

-Something about linking to comments I made on other blogs strikes me as unhealthy, but here we go. Greg Burgas wanted a bit more detail on my complaints about Andy Kubert's art. My poorly-worded thoughts are in comments 14 and 16.

-Great tragedy we can do nothing about of the day which has nothing to do with comics: I've been listening to a lot of Dils lately, wishing that they'd managed to record better versions of their best songs in the studio. Their best studio work was probably the "I Hate the Rich"/"You're Not Blank" single, but this was recorded before they had matured into a really great band (their later re-working of "You're Not Blank" is far superior to the original, for instance). I love the existing live material, and after listening to it for 10 years I can almost imagine what they would have sounded like if they were playing in a venue with better sound and actual monitors. There are a few existing studio tracks from their later period, but they lack the energy of the live material ("Red Rockers" is probably the best of the bunch, maybe their best studio recording aside from "You're Not Blank"). And there's no studio versions of "Give Me a Break" or "Tell Me What I Want to Hear," at least as far as I know. It just doesn't seem fair, especially when I remember that there are enough terrible UK Subs studio albums to fill a small record store.

-I try to stay a little updated on manga, but the title to this post (NSFW) looks like it was written by someone doing the 22nd century equivalent of text messaging.

The hardest part of maintaining this blog is trying to come up with non-descriptive titles for my posts

-Oh man, stuff like this makes writing a blog of this nature so much easier. Dirk Deppey has this to say about Heidi McDonald:

"It’s rare to see Heavily Networked Heidi taking a bold stance on anything, even if it’s only on the extent to which I suck. It’s a nice start, and I’d hate to discourage such behavior. Who knows? Perhaps one day, she’ll voice an opinion that might make one of her friends, industry colleagues or possible gossip sources frown a bit! One can only guess at the sort of interesting things she’d write after that happy day has dawned…"

Well, she referred to something I wrote as "clueless" recently, but I don't know if that counts as "a bold stance." (UPDATE: McDonald responds, but it's mostly stuff about how well 300 is selling. Bo-ring.)

-Also via Mr. Deppey, this Seattle Weekly article on the Ellison v. Fantagraphics suit, beginning thusly:

"Here’s a line you’re unlikely to hear the next time Dan Clowes does a signing at the Fantagraphics store in Georgetown: 'Hey, dude, didn’t you pitch your tent next to mine outside the Cinerama before Revenge of the Sith?' There’s a reason their books aren’t shelved together, often aren’t even stocked in the same stores and newsstands: You see, comic dorks and sci-fi geeks just don’t get along; they’re two different breeds. It’s like cats and dogs, Vulcans and Klingons, DC versus Marvel, Chris Ware against Stan Lee. Some people doodle in their unlined black journals; others play massive multiuser games online. I collect vintage issues of Plastic Man; you religiously TiVo every episode of the new Battlestar Galactica. There’s ComiCon (this weekend at Paul Allen’s QwestField) and the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration & Conference (last September at Paul Allen's Science Fiction Museum), and the laminated pass from one won't get you into the other."

That is some lazy-assed writing. So it's just my imagination that seemingly half of all comics bloggers talk about Battlestar Galactica and/or video games? (Instead of relevant stuff like Takanori Gomi's chances at 155 lb., or the best combination of herbs, cheese and nuts for a tasty-yet-affordable pesto.) What's equally stupid is the implication that all comics fans are Fantagraphics supporters, which is demonstrably untrue (and it's not a subtle nuance or anything--30 seconds at Newsarama would make it clear). Worst of all, I frequently see graphic novels housed in the same vicinity as science fiction! Anyway, there are a few other howlers (most notably a truly wretched passage about the brief confluence of sci-fi and underground culture), but the author manages to make a pretty good case that Groth seems to have a history of actively seeking trouble with Ellison. And there's no ill-informed speculation on Fantagraphics' insurance policy either, which is certainly a plus.

-Stuff I've read so far this week dept:

Batman still isn't great, and I wonder how much of it is Andy Kubert's art. It's just so vacant. This is not a problem of lacking detail--it's just that the details are utterly unconvincing. Kubert draws the least majestic Alpine vista imaginable. His depiction of a restaurant interior makes me wonder if he's ever gone out to eat in his life. The lower half of characters' bodies disappear during a fight scene. And his composition is just plain weird, almost like they were distorted with Photoshop or something. I mean, just look at that opening splash page! What the fuck is going on there? Morrison's story isn't really doing much for me either, but I might be distracted by the art. I feel like there must be some link between the two halves of the story which I'm missing or something. Maybe it will become clearer next issue, which I'll probably buy like a sucker.

52: I'm having a hard time remembering what happened this issue. The art was better than usual, making me wonder how closely Camuncoli followed Giffen's breakdowns. The art in the backup feature was very nice indeed, making me wonder why DC is letting a talent like Kerschl go to waste. I've always liked his stuff, but this was light years beyond what I've seen in the past. All in all, an issue full of wonder.

Fables: Kind of a waste. I think I chuckled a couple of times.

Everything else: Haven't cracked open yet, too busy reading Shadowland (which I bought last week but haven't had the time to finish).

-Mike Sterling's dissection of the stuff in Previews is one of the few blog-related things that I find genuinely funny. Wow, I think that last sentence actually might read as an anti-endorsement: "Rarely do I laugh, but if it's unavoidable I suppose Mike Sterling is as painless as any other method of inducing mirth." Really, even if more bloggers miraculously became funny, I would still find Sterling's musings on She-Dragon statutes pretty uproarious.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I think the bread got wet on the way home today

-I was set to post something along the lines of "Underground Comix are kind of overrated cause they mostly sucked except for Robert Crumb." Then I started thinking of all the other qualifiers I would have to add, and I decided the whole thing would collapse under the weight of my equivocation.

So here's another potentially controversial question: How would we view Underground Comix if it weren't for Robert Crumb? From a historical perspective it's hard to fashion this counter-factual. My first instinct is to the locus of the movement would have been Austin instead of San Fransisco, but in reality I think a lot of cartoonists would have moved there regardless of Crumb, given the popularity of the concert poster guys like Moscoso and Griffin. But would either of those guys (or Robt. Williams) have ever drawn comics if not for Crumb? I would guess that Spiegelman and Wilson would have, but what about Bodé or Spain? Would Kim Deitch have gone into animation? How about the cartoonists who bloomed in the 70s like Green, Hayes, Kinney, Veitch/Irons or Griffith? It's strange to think of Harvey Pekar's comics in a world without Crumb, to say nothing of Aline Kominsky (actually, I guess you could argue that people might take Kominsky more seriously if not for Crumb).

But let's say all that stuff somehow existed without Crumb. How would we view it? Would Underground Comix enjoy the same credibility without Crumb, or would we single out a few artists as transcending a limited genre? Would we see them as some primordial ooze out of which Art Spiegelman emerged?

One final question to ponder: How many other figures are as pivotal to comics history as we know it?

-I had a dream last night that Kraven the Hunter was in the New Avengers. I mean, it wasn't a big part of the dream (which I think was another dream about playing video games), but it's the most memorable part.

-Proposition to Kevin Church: I'm willing to moderate/administer your new message board if you include a forum for MMA discussion. Only members which I approve will be allowed to participate in this section of the board (I don't want a lot of "Ghost Rider could beat Brandon Vera" talk from comics fans who don't know a gogoplata from an omoplata). As it stands, your forum runs the risk of being really fucking boring. I'm sure there are several people there who hate me or my balls-out, go-for-broke, wing-and-a-prayer, extra-hot-ginger approach, so granting me mod/admin powers will surely spice things up. My presence will also raise the average IQ there by about 10 points, I suspect. There's no universally accepted system of quantifying good looks, but my participation will also make your board handsomer--probably 20% handsomer, I'm thinking. Consider this offer; I won't keep it on the table forever.

-As I sit here staggered by the reaction to the Fertittas (owners of UFC) buying Pride, I wonder. If Marvel wereto buy DC's assets (or vice versa), how many of you would swear off all comics forever, then tearfully contemplate the tragic legacy of Dan Didio (or Joe Quesada)? More to the point, how many people on the Newsarama boards would do this?

-Tom Spurgeon sounds like a feeble old prude:

"It should be interesting to see how a generation of teens and early twenty-somethings will develop into accomplished artists coming of age in an era that has somehow managed to ascribe more significant cultural value to the act of stepping out of a car while flashing one's cooch."

So: the actions of the paparazzi/bored rich women are really the defining elements of an entire generation. And previous generations would have had no interest in the exposed privates of their sex symbols, since they were preoccupied with the importance of craft and hard work. This is flawless reasoning.

[UPDATE: Spurgeon has since softened his stance a bit, appending this to the end of the above sentence:
"or in less crude terms, how one gets past making art that offers status within a circle of friends and family and into the habit of making art that will, as much as the world allows, have wider, lasting value."
Well really, flashing for the paparazzi dovetails nicely into this point.]

-Wow, I really never expected to hear about a comic based on the old Exposing the Secrets of Stage Magicians (or whatever it was called), and yet Graeme McMillan tells me this is part of our shared concept of reality. It's just hard to believe--I've wanted this for so long, and it's finally happening. My heart's racing at the possibilities inherent in a superhero who solves crimes by revealing trade secrets. Maybe now Virgin will listen to my proposal for a comic about Cris Collinsworth solving crimes with the help of a crack team of Guinness World Record holders.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nasty spring weather

-I wasn't really prepared to hear Marshall Rogers had died. The first superhero comic I collected, rather than bought only when the cover looked interesting, was the 80s/90s version of Silver Surfer. So Rogers (along with Steve Englehart) was a somewhat seminal figure in my development as a comics reader. In recent years, I've come to think of him mostly as the artist on the greatest run of Batman in the history of the character. Sad news.

-I know that I'm not really in a position to criticize someone for this kind of writing, but I had a hard time following Rob Vollmar's review of Ode to Kirihito. This passage in particular had too many clauses (or is that phrases?):

More damning is the frequent use of coincidence to bring the plot around to where you know it’s going, some three hundred pages before it gets there. This sense of expectation is more forgivable when brought about by a clearly articulated motivation of a major character by virtue of their actions but too often in Kirihito, Tezuka goes back to more primitive devices that don’t deliver the same sense of satisfaction.

On the other hand, it's a useful review and I think I agree with Vollmar's conclusions. Did I miss all the initial reviews, or did it actually take a few months before people started reviewing this book? I think I only remember one mention of it in the Best of 2006 edition of the Comics Journal.

Related: this sentence from Tom Spurgeon is no picnic either:

This is an interesting issue to me because I do think there are comics that are like that because of market pressures or failure of ambition on the behalf of a creator or creators, but I also think there are artists who create surpassing works composed of building blocks restricted to the surface elements of comics.

Is he talking about cartoonists who emphasize form and craft over literary content? Reading this sentence makes me feel dumb, and I'm really not that dumb.

-Isn't this the sort of post one of the animals usually makes? Is the dog spoken for? Maybe a "Prescriptive Pooch" or something like that?

-I discovered yesterday that, for a brief time, we had three distinct brands of split peas in the cupboard: Jack Rabbit, Shur-Fine, and Goya. And I'm pretty sure there's another variety sold at the supermarket where we bought the other three packages. I'm not sure if this reveals more about the dried legume industry or the particular grocery store at which we shop. Also, I can strongly recommend this split pea soup recipe.

-As long as I'm talking about non-comics things: Devil Summoner is a lot of fun. I really, really like these Shin Megami Tensei games, especially the ones involving demon fusion. For those who have played it, is Demi-Kids worth the effort of tracking down? (I haven't played either Disgaea, but I really don't like tactics games.)

-A defense of body odor in gaming conventions. The thought of being forced to attend a gaming convention puts my fear of forced attendance of a comics convention in perspective.

Friday, March 23, 2007

You can help improve comics and get something free at the same time

-More on downloading comics: Yesterday I suggested that future superhero comics might read like fan fiction--uh, even more like fan fiction--if downloading becomes the main way comics are distributed. But discussion in the comments field has made me think this might not be such a bad thing.

So here's my new stance: downloading of comics is potentially a very good thing. Right now the intellectual property-dependent comics we read are filtered through a 16 year old boy mentality. But if Marvel/DC/Disney/whatever are no longer able to control such things, we might finally get some worthwhile comics. We just need creative types willing to work for free in order to support it. The next Michael Kupperman is out there, ready to write a dialogue-heavy Daredevil. Tony Millionaire (or his spiritual descendant) could finally do all the Batman stories he's always wanted. Peter Bagge's Spider-Man (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) might finally see the light of day, for Christ's sake. If none of that entices you, how about Alan Moore writing Dr. Strange? All we need is for these creators to abandon all hope of actually being paid.

Here's a bold thought: illegally downloading Marvel and DC comics might actually help speed this along. The corporate powers-that-be already view these publishers as IP laboratories, where creative technicians experiment with new ideas for movies, TV, and various merchandise. If downloading comics makes these publishing laboratories unprofitable, the higher-ups will simply eliminate them. And in their place will spring hundreds of unofficial, fan-produced comics. If one of these creators is especially good, Time-Warner or Marvel Characters might actually sign them to contracts to keep them working on material that might bear fruit in other media. The intellectual properties won't suffer from image abuse due to the overwhelming number of such projects; the signal-to-noise ratio will be too low for anyone to notice.

So there you go: if you truly love comics, you'll quit paying for them. Only then will we get the (superhero) comics we really deserve.

-I can't help that notice that ever since he's been back, Scipio of the Asorbascon (NIM) has been sticking to mostly non-controversial type stuff. I thought that in his premature farewell address he scolded those who wanted him to concentrate on this type of content. I want to see some of his fire breathing antics when they happen, rather than having them pointed out to me months after the fact. The current stuff is just boring; rectify this situation at once, Scipio.

-I'm shocked that no one noticed that I misspelled "pomegranate" in the original title to my now infamous 70s comics post. Look at the URL.

-On the same subject, tmurray (who apparently created an account on the TCJ message board for the sole purpose of discussing this subject, given that he only has one post so far) is the only person I've seen so far who seems to understand what I was trying to say:

Wow. This is a purely academic argument, isn't it? Comic book history seems to (loosely) run in cycles, and I really think the people suggesting that decade is all "-pre and -post" are just describing one phase of a repeating cycle that happens to coincide most neatly with the 70's. This was mostly a "down" cycle in American superhero comics: the phase of shrinkage and developing experimentation, which ends with some kind of consolidation of the experiments (of which we seem to have a facination with arbitrarily picking something specific to represent, like Action#1, FF#1, the Death of Pheonix, etc) which leads into the next expansion and exploitation phase like we were in in the 60's and mid 80's, and like we're in now. Anyway, these designations are arbitrary and the lack of a 70's "identity" to comics is really a goofy thing to fret about. Reality doesn't compartmentalize that easy.

I've never bought that history is cyclical--I'm closer to being a One Damned Thing After Another type, frankly. But this is a totally valid criticism. In my defense, I was responding to Greg Burgas' original post about 70s comics; I agree that breaking down comics (or anything else, really) by decade isn't the most effective compartmentalization. Having said that, the 70s, at least for mainstream comics, definitely seem distinct from the 60s and 80s. If I were willing to subject you to some ponderous academic musings, I might suggest a long 1970s (beginning when Green Arrow became a righteous dude in the pages of Justice League or possibly ending with maybe Contest of Champions). Or a short 1970s (beginning with Tomb of Dracula, or ending with Giant Sized X-Men #1). Underground Comix also suggest alternate start/stop dates for the 70s, like "Joe Blow," Arcade #1, or even Cerebrus #1. But yes, history is not dictated by our system of numbering years.

Anyway, tmurray, whoever you are, thank you for making an effort to engage my original point on its own merits, even if you disagree with me for some unfathomable reason.

-Grame McMillan wonders about the lack of outrage from the latest New Avengers solicitation. Part of it might be because Newsarama didn't publicize the full solicits like they usually do. For those of you unfamiliar with how they normally do this, Newsarama typically features a few select solicits the weekend before the release of a new Previews. Then, at the beginning of the week, they post the full solicitations at the same URL, and move the story to the top of the page with a title like "MMMMMMARVEL FFFUUUULL SOLICITATIOOONNNSSSS FOR JUUUUUNNNNNNEEE!!!!!" (Imagine that read in a Bruce/Michael Buffer voice.) This month the solicits were not moved up to the top of the page (or if they were, I didn't notice it).

Of course, I guess some bloggers get their info from CBR or even Previews itself. If so, I see a few possible conclusions: (1) We really are immune to Marvel hype, either because it's (a) like a grating noise which has become familiar and unremarkable over time, or (b) we're still numb from Civil War, Infinite Crisis, House of M, etc. (2) Bloggers who talk about solicitations in microscopic detail tend to get their info from Newsarama. (3) Someone out there is complaining about this and McMillan hasn't noticed it yet. Overall, it seems like there's a bit less solicitation hype than last time. Maybe the convention season alters the properties of hype, meaning that solicitation hype is an off-season phenomenon. I'll try to keep an eye on this development.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Canned worms on sale; some may be slightly dented

-Steven Grant seems to have harsh words for Jim Starlin (and/or his followers; it's a little unclear):

While officially acknowledged as such by no significant Christian sect that I'm aware of, in the popular imagination the God-Devil relationship is pretty much Zoroastrian: like thousands of bad heroic fantasy novels, a war between the forces of good and evil for the souls and future of humanity. Not that there aren't plenty of other interesting theological issues born of Christian thought, but throw these concretized concepts into a literature already obsessed with good vs. evil, and everything suddenly becomes Good vs. Evil, and usually far more simplistic than discussions of more complex issues would allow. Throw in generations now of comics writers and artists compelled to use their art to detail cosmic secrets of the universe (it was Jim Starlin who popularized that particular runaway train) they somehow managed to stumble on while living over their parents' garage. (Mainly, I think, the cosmic secret is that if you can't get a date you can always draw pictures of your perfect inflatable dream girl, even though, if she were real, she certainly would never give you the time of day either.) Thing is, these stories are almost universally dull; the binary viewpoint of Good vs Evil automatically rigs the game, and a rigged game is only interesting in the long term to him what rigged it. Everyone else just keeps playing in a desperate hope of somehow making their money back.

Sorry for the long quote, but it doesn't make any sense otherwise. He goes on to diss Vertigo, but you probably already know that from Graeme McMillan. Actually, I have a bit of a bone to pick there. More from Grant:

It's been in vogue for almost 20 years now - whatever you can find in Vertigo, you can find dozens more independent comics treading the same rancid water as if, wow, this is the coolest, most original thing anybody ever thought of - and maybe it was a "cutting edge" notion once to play with Christian theology like it's Norse mythology, but now it's tired, and tiresome. If it's tiresome for non-believers, I can only imagine how tiresome it is for believers.

So how about a halt to all this now? If you want to say God doesn't exist, fine. Do a story that says it. Don't do a story that says God exists but he's a right wanker. It's not the same thing. Unless you've got something genuinely original to say, let the Christians have God back and move on. There are more interesting things to write about.

Don't know if Grant is giving Vertigo writers enough credit here. I'm not a huge fan of Vertigo by any means, but I've read a good chunk of Hellblazer and all of Preacher. Actually, I suppose this means I'm mostly familiar with Garth Ennis' Vertigo work, so I'll try to stick to that. (I'm an avid Fables reader as well, but Grant seems to be using "Vertigo" as a synecdoche for...I don't know, Hellblazer, Preacher, and Lucifer? Maybe Sandman as well?) I don't view these books as simply denunciations of Christianity--they're more allegorical than that. I find that Ennis approaches the war between heaven and hell like he would a more mundane, terrestrial war. The generals are amoral and sometimes incompetent while the soldiers suffer in the trenches. These are the lasting impressions I have from Ennis' Hellblazer: Constantine's camaraderie with his ostensible enemies; his contempt for pointlessness of the war, especially given the toll it takes on innocents; his determination to survive; the betrayals necessary to do so. Maybe subsequent writers were much more ham-fisted, but I thought Ennis' approach was more anti-authoritarian than specifically anti-Christian. Preacher: sort of the same, only through Ennis' America-as-a-John-Wayne-movie prism, plus Ennis is a great deal more misanthropic, especially in his depiction of rural America.

Hey, maybe this means Grant's wrong about Jim Starlin as well! Surely someone will let me know if he is.

-Via FLOG, this Peter Bagge interview on what I finally figured out was a porn site about halfway through. Worth checking out for the picture of Bagge alone, which makes him appear to have an enormous left ear.

-I had no idea until today that my post about 70s comics partly inspired a thread on the Comics Journal message board. I still think people have grossly misinterpreted what I was trying to say, but it's good to see some folks still milling 'round the old cracker barrel, which thankfully seems to have been relocated from my front porch to the aforementioned message board. Note to the wizened culture warriors: I'm shocked no of you have mentioned the exponential increase in quality at Chick Publications yet. Surely that's an important legacy of the 70s on par with the others cited thus far.

-Speaking of stuff already covered here, I didn't really expect the whole Dan Slott vs. Piracy thing to explode like it has. Spurgeon and McDonald both covered it today (Spurge=it's against the wishes of the author/publisher/owner to get these comics without paying for them; Heidi=who wants to read comics on a computer screen, anyway?). Haven't seen too many people comparing the situation to the music industry, thankfully. Briefly, the comparison is inherently flawed because: (1) Live concerts are a part of a band's income, whereas the closest thing in comics are sketches and original art sales--which only benefit artist(s), leaving writers out in the cold. (2) Intellectual properties in comics are a different than in music. The American comics industry is (for better or worse) driven by trademarked characters like Batman; there is no equivalent in the music industry. So it's not like we're going to see a whole lot of DIY Incredible Hulk comics all of the sudden (unfortunately). Or wait--maybe we will, if the distribution system is totally decentralized, thus making Marvel's attempts to protect its copyrights much more difficult. The main drawback here is that nobody would be paid for making such comics, thus increasing the likelihood of a fan fiction level of quality for these hypothetical punk rock Alpha Flight comics.

All the same, I'm shocked at the respect people are giving 20th century capitalism here. This is the decade where we finally get to FUCK SHIT UP and SHOVE IT UP THE MAN'S WHITE ASS. When the revolution comes, anyone who paid for Wolverine: Origins will be among the first earmarked for execution.

-I'm seriously not watching the Superbowl if the Patriots are in it again, as Peter King seems to think is inevitable. Well, I'll watch it if the Eagles are in it as well, which is a pretty strong possibility given the apparent weakness of the NFC.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Because nobody demanded it

Here's one of the playlists I made for playing Saint's Row on the X-Box 360. I've got another one, but I can't easily list all the songs on it. I guess it's similar in spirit to this one, only less prog rock/British folk rock and more early rock and roll/punk. "The Girl Can't Help It" by Bunker Hill is the perfect soundtrack for pointless chaos, BTW.

1. Nick Lowe - Marie Provost
2. Gentle Giant - The Boys In the Band
3. Dick Hyman - Blackbird
4. Mekons - Last Dance
5. Music Machine - Talk Talk
6. Exuma - Damn Fool
7. Genesis - I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
8. Pink Faries - I Wish I Was a Girl
9. Amon Duul II - The Return of Ruebezahl
10. Dovers - Your Love
11. Pavement - Silence Kit
12. Kinks - All of My Friends Were There
13. Dinosaur Jr. - Almost Ready
14. Strawbs - Benedictus
15. Mott the Hoople - All the Young Dudes
16. Slade - Everyday
17. T. Rex - New York City
18. Sepultura - Ratamahatta
19. Hollies - Sorry Suzanne
20. Hackamore Brick - I Watched You Rhumba
21. Dovers - What Am I Going To Do
22. Rabble - Candy
23. Velvet Underground - Stephanie Says
24. The Nazz - Open My Eyes
25. Richard & Linda Thompson - When I Get to the Border
26. Leatherface - Not a Day Goes By
27. Ian Hunter - Once Bitten Twice Shy
28. Neil Young - Too Far Gone
29. Undertones - Teenage Kicks
30. Barclay Jame Harvest - Taking Some Time On
31. Neil Young - Like a Hurricane
32. La Peste - Better Off Dead
33. Pretty Things - The Letter
34. Sweet - Action
35. Harmonia - Sonnershein
36. Hollies - Jennifer Eccles
37. Elastik Band - Spazz
38. Dovers - I Could Be Happy
39. Lazy Cowgirls - You're Gonna Miss Me
40. Motorhead - Overkill
41. Germs - Now I Hear the Laughter (This was a mistake; I meant to have ripped "Not All Right," but my finger must have slipped or something. "Now I Hear the Laughter" is not on the short list of Germs songs I can tolerate, much less the extremely short list of Germs songs I like.)
42. Kinks - Wicked Annabella
43. Caravan - Golf Girl
44. Meat Puppets - New Gods

Newsgroups, dude. Newsgroups.

-Via Johanna Draper Carlson: Dan Slott apparently goes to torrent emporium Demonoid and beseeches people to not download torrents which include his work. People in the thread wonder about Slott's 3+ gigs of downloaded material. (And don't forget that he's uploaded about 2 1/2 gigs as well. For those of you unfamiliar with torrents, is simply standard etiquette--he's (presumably) not uploading new material, but he is seeding material he's already downloaded. Most private torrent trackers require a 1:1 seeding-to-leeching ratio.) I've a couple of thoughts: (1) Demonoid is not just a comics downloading site; there are lots of other things, like software, games, music, television shows, DVDs, and even non-comic books. If Slott has downloaded 3 gigs, that's a ton of music, books, and/or software. So it's probably some combination of games, TV, movies, or...comics. (2) If it is comics, Slott may be downloading stuff that's out of print, not yet translated into English, or tied up in court. (3) Bit torrent is the Live Journal of downloading free shit. There are plenty of other ways to get stuff that are more convenient and less risky. I thought Slott would be smart enough to recognize this. (4) I'm assuming this is actually Slott, and not some concerned citizen who considers illegal downloading to be worse than assuming someone's identity.

-Prediction: Draw Mary Marvel! and Draw Aunt May! are coming sooner rather than later. (FYI: Any of you interested in seeking out more info on Ross Campbell should be advised that his website documents a recent appendectomy with photographs, which I must say are not the best accompaniment to a morning bowl of pecan muesli.)

-Dirk Deppey basically agrees with me re: 70s comics, though I expect this is more like throwing gasoline on the embers of a dying campfire--it might spread the flames, or it might just douse them. (Feel free to correct me on my understanding of science here.) I would like to point out that his opinion of 60s Crumb vs. 70s Crumb is exactly how I feel, though I feel compelled to add that Crumb also produced some of his worst comics in the early 70s. It's just (rightfully) overshadowed by his much, much better work in Arcade. Speaking of which, if any publisher could manage to get the rights to reprint the entire run in one or two oversized volumes, I would gladly pay the surely exorbitant price necessary to secure a copy for myself.

-Meme watch: Grame McMillan vs. Mark Millar. I don't have the time or inclination to read the whole thread, but Brian Hibbs and Dirk Deppey are already linking to it (Hibbs manages to get in a bald joke; I'm still kind of strangely disillusioned to find out McMillan looks so much like Moby). My main concern is Millar's claim that he first heard of McMillan only six months ago. I'm not sure if this reflects the irrelevance of comics blogs or Millar's dependence on his own fiefdom to filter the dark mysteries of the internet, processing them into a cheery, appetizing pablum (which would explain his insistence that Civil War was an unqualified hit among readers of all stripes). I mean really, Fanboy Rampage wasn't some stupid blog where a sociopathic ex-con was attempting (and largely failing, sadly) to exorcise his blinding anger at his stupid fascist father, stupid preening teachers, various stupid girls who wouldn't talk to him, the stupid jerk boss at the tire store who insulted his haircut, the stupid judge who sentenced him to five years behind bars just for a little aggravated assault with a tire iron, and the stupid warden who made him shine his shoes three times a day just in order to stay out of gen pop by attacking more famous bloggers and the beloved comics of their youth. No, Fanboy Rampage was a beloved institution. If Millar had never heard of it, then either he's out of touch or I've got to find a new surrogate for my white hot rage.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interesting stuff happening--just not in comics

-I had written out a whole long deal about how Heidi McDonald misinterpreted my point about 70s comics, with point-by-point refutations and that kind of stuff, but I don't really feel like getting into an academic type of debate about Man-Thing. I was also going to write something about how the children of the 70s apparently are rather thin-skinned about all this stuff, but I decided that was uncharitable. Instead, I'll just say that I'm glad I gave all these venerable codgers something to rally around, an online micro-con. So please, my respected elders, feel free to use this blog as your virtual cracker barrel. Hobble on up to the porch, sit in the rocking chair, and tell us young punks about the wonders of Killraven or whatever it was you were talking about after I kind of quit reading the comments very closely. I only know these characters from The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe: Dead and Forgotten Edition; I'm ready to learn.

-Non-comics related note to Ms. McDonald: Since you obviously follow the sport, are you excited about the potential UFC-Pride quasi-merger?

-Tom Spurgeon reports that IDW will start collecting Terry and the Pirates in a six volume series. Well, that should make Christmas shopping for my brother easier. Man, when did IDW decide to start publishing stuff I want to read, anyway?

-I guess I missed the big news out of the recent big convention (L.A. I think, right?): Extreme Mary Marvel. I think that's an Ed Benes drawing, but it could pass for Michael Turner. This is clearly the early leader for outrage of the week on the blogosphere. I'm trying to summon something asshole-ish to say about this reaction but...they're basically right. It's stupid and creepy, and, frankly, entirely too predictable coming from DC (which might indicate there's some crazy twist coming; but then again maybe the crazy twist is that there is no twist). I'm starting to wonder if Countdown might elicit bilious denunciations on the level of Civil War after all. Oh goody. (If you want to spend the rest of your afternoon reading about Power Girl and Mary Marvel, here's a really long list of links that will facilitate your plans.)

-Is this a really sub-par week for new comics or what? And what the hell is Orson Scott Card's Wyrms, which is apparently already on its second issue?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Have to wrap this up--need to get groceries

-Man, catching up with all the con-related news after a weekend of doing stuff other than reading con-related news is a stone cold drag, dude. I mean, the NY con had the momentum of Civil War to build on, it was the first of the recent string of fairly big conventions, and apparently 79% of all active bloggers live in the greater NYC area, and thus traveled to it and covered it in excruciating detail. (I mean really, NYCC sounded excruciating. I'm glad I don't live near NYC, thus obligating my attendance and subsequent bloggery on the subject).

Anyway, I guess Marvel cranked up the hype machine for the summer X-Men event. DC revealed that two failed 80s properties (Booster Gold and Infinity, Inc.) are back. I haven't heard much reaction to these announcements--Geoff Johns is co-writing Booster Gold, so I expect to hear a few dismemberment-oriented jokes soon (though I would personally steer more towards commenting on Johns' apparent fetish for time travel stories--perhaps this will get it out of his system, maybe just enough to prevent further Kingdom Come-ization?). One positive side effect of Johns on BG--it makes my prediction of a Johns/Daniel LSH a bit less likely. (Related: Mark Waid leaving LSH is news? I thought Barry Kitson said so in one of the other recent conventions. Informal poll: who's more likely to be a Marvel exclusive by the end of the year--Waid or Greg Rucka?)

Also: Peter Milligan is writing Infinity, Inc., making the relative silence on this issue a bit perplexing. I thought you people liked him? Or did his run on X-Men turn you off?

-Another piece of news to which you bloggers have not given enough attention: JH Williams is drawing an upcoming issue of Batman. The Seven Soldiers bookend team is reunited~!

-Courtesy Heidi McDonald: Jerry Beck hated the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie:

"I’m clearly not the intended audience for this. But who is? High School drop-outs on pot? I suspect there may be 7 year old out there who may think this is the funniest film they’ve ever seen. If so, I’d be worried about that 7-year-old."

Hipster nerds=adolescent users of recreational drugs. I think I already knew that. Really though, I sometimes wonder who the hardcore Adult Swim fan is these days. Most of the Williams Street stuff was pretty marginal to begin with, and the quality really took a nosedive about three or four years ago (it didn't help that repeated viewing made most of the series less tolerable). Few of the replacement shows have done much for me (I do watch Saul of the Mole Men because it's an interesting Croft pastiche, but it's not really funny; Venture Brothers is good, but that's kind of a given). I can't imagine trying to sit through a full-length ATHF movie, even if the concept was still fresh. The prospect terrifies me more than being forced to attend a comics convention.

-There's not much noise out there in the blogoverse right now. Civil War: The Confession seems to have died with basically a whimper. I guess after the Civil War #7 tantrum, and the Civil War: Frontline #11 aftershock tantrum, bloggers needed a little nap to get recharged for the next outrage. Are there any strong candidates this week?

52-Always a possibility, especially if the violence hasn't quite reached a crescendo.

Justice Society-It's written by Geoff Johns, so there's always the possibility of seemingly inappropriate blood letting (usually via full body cleavage). Bonus points for being an active meme.

Amazing Spider-Man-Very good possibility, especially if Aunt May says something stupid as she slips from this mortal coil, like "Peter, this is all Iron Man's fault. Avenge my death, Peter. Consider doing it while wearing...blaaaccckkkk." [SFX: flatlining heart monitor]

Ultimate Power-Greg Land is photoshopping drawing it, but I think this meme might have been ground into a fine, unpalatable paste by now.

Hate Poll: Byrne vs. Turner

Okay, I don't think I can come up with any more anti-Quesada jokes. I've long since passed the point where the jokes have any bearing on (apparent) reality, anyway. So stepping up to the metaphorical plate is the only man Mr. Quesada wasn't able to beat--John Byrne.

The case against John Byrne: Has a limited repertoire of human faces; bearded; might refer to a Black co-worker or neighbor as "one of the good ones."

The case against Michael Turner: Has an extremely limited repertoire of human bodies; seems to draw the cover to every book being published by Marvel and DC these days; probably not good at maintaining eye contact with certain co-worker, if you know what I mean.

Poll is open until noon EDT/9 am PDT

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hate Poll follow-up

Okay, so Joe Quesada beat Dave Sim. He won only a plurality, meaning that Sim was a worthier opponent than, say, Paul Levitz. But in the end, I guess you folks just don't hate him as much as Quesada (or Byrne, for that matter).

Friends, I find this somewhat distressing. There are good reasons to vote for Quesada over Sim--I might not share these concerns, but I can understand them. But there are also very bad, somewhat distressing reasons to pick Sim over Quesada. So if you voted in the poll, please consider voting in this one as well:

For those wondering, Crazy Cat Lady narrowly edged Moe as the Simpsons character Sim most resembles. This one wasn't as popular as the last Simpsons Resemblance Poll. Do you folks want any more of these?

Pomegranate and cranberry bran muffins might sound good, but....

-Greg Burgas suggests comics were better in the 1970s. Is there any other decade that gets shorter shrift than the 70s? Every other decade in (American) comic book history has an identity:

1940s-The Golden Age of superhero comics
1950s-EC Comics; Wertham, Senate hearings, and the Code; the golden age of romance comics
1960s-Wacky Silver Age fun; birth of underground comics
1980s-Event comics/crossovers; "dark" superhero comics are born; the independent publisher explodes onto the scene; the direct market begins to overtake the newsstand
1990s-Crap-tacular comics with stupid gimmick covers; rise and fall of the major independent publisher; the big speculator bust
2000s (so far)-Manga gains major ground, overtaking Marvel/DC in several categories; graphic novels begin to supplant the pamphlet format; probably a bunch of other stuff that will seem clearer in hindsight

The 70s, however, don't have such a clear identity. We often portray the comics industry in that decade as either an outgrowth of the 60s or a precursor to the 80s. There are some notable exceptions. Underground Comix were generally coasting along, seemingly content to nurse a hangover from the previous decade until Arcade, a wonderful anthology which reinvigorated several cartoonists, most notably Robert Crumb (and, IIRC, it's Alan Moore's favorite comic of all time). Yet it's often viewed as more of a bridge to the more important 80s anthologies RAW and Weirdo, both of which lasted longer and featured numerous young cartoonists in addition to stalwarts of the 60s Underground. Marvel and DC were likewise rehashing the previous decade until Claremont and Cockrum (with much help from Len Wein) reinvigorated the superhero team comic. But again, the new X-Men are often lumped in with the comics of the 80s, perhaps because it was so influential on the comics of that decade.

The horror comics of the 70s certainly get their due, particularly those appearing in b&w magazines. But why stop there? Mr. Burgas suggests the bizarre work of Jim Starlin as another touchstone of the 70s; I think we can give the two Steves, Gerber and Englehart, similar consideration. And yet! Can we not consider the comics produced by these men to be precursors of later trends? All three had a darker approach to superheroes than Stan Lee or Gardner Fox. And their epic, cosmic style (esp. Starlin's) might have presaged the event comics of the 80s. Okay then, what about Heavy Metal? Clearly a break from tradition, but one could argue that it set the stage for the early independent "ground level" type comic. Cerebus? Even more so. Jack Kirby's Fourth World? A continuation of the themes from his earlier work at Marvel.

So basically: there were many good comics published in the 70s, especially if you're into idiosyncratic superhero comics, Underground Comix, or horror. But I'm skeptical that the 70s will ever be considered a monumental epoch in the history of comics. Some important wheels were set in motion, but the industry didn't undergo any of the extensive changes (on either the art or business front) seen in other decades. So maybe it's not such a great crime that the 70s dwell in the shadow of the two decades bookending it, an island of humility between two oceans of conceit (I think that's how that saying goes).

-Hey Howling Curmudgeons--don't you guys have anything better to talk about? I mean, nobody else is complaining about The Confession (well, Graeme McMillan reviewed it, but at least it was a review rather than a bunch of "here's what should have happened"), perhaps because they flipped through it in the store, realized it was an extended monologue with a brief and pointless vignette appended, and decided it wasn't worth their time/money. But then again, Howling Curmudgeons reads like a typical wacky nostalgia blog, only someone took away their (communal?) scanner and it made them REALLY, REALLY ANGRY. Also, I assume "I keep getting tempted to write a fanfic version Civil War...." is a jocular rhetorical flourish, right?

-Will Joe Sacco be writing the foreword?

-Chris Allen Butcher expresses a few fears about linkblogging, a post so important I thought it deserved the widest possible circulation. (There will probably be about 20 other bloggers who beat me to this joke, but I consider it a matter of honor to run it anyway since I hadn't read any of those (hypothetical) blogs when I wrote this, plus I think I've added my own subtle twist.) Also: the stuff on Death of Superman? Newsarama message board quality, chief. (And no, I'm not referring to this.)

-I think I figured out why my blog was the top Google entry for "Asorbascon"--I'm misspelling it. And yet none of you have noticed/felt the need to comment on it. No need to break with tradition now!

-Outrage of the day: Michael Turner's cover to an upcoming issue of...Justice Society, I guess? Maybe Justice League? Anyway, outrage is expressed here and here, and probably a bunch of other places too. Well, it is a pretty crappy drawing. Does he have to draw every woman with a pointy little chin?

And I thought Turner signed an exclusive contract with Marvel during last year's convention season. Why is he still doing covers for DC? Let's try to contain him to just one company, okay?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Audience participation

-Hate Poll and bonus Simpsons-related Hate Poll. The preliminary results has me wondering about you folks; perhaps a post-poll audience survey will follow on Friday.

-Somebody sent me an email pointing to this farewell address, apparently in hopes of me tearing into it. I've never heard of this blog and I have no idea what issues are being discussed in it. I didn't read all the back-and-forth between the blog author and an anonymous poster because it was kind of vague and boring. The only reason I'm linking to this at all is the apparent feud between Marionette (the author of the blog in question) and Scipio (who recently left his blog the Asorbascon, only to return a few days later--and holy shit, if you type "asorbascon" into Google, this blog is the first thing that turns up! Well, at least it was yesterday. Really!). People leaving comments agree that Scipio is kind of a mean asshole. Seriously? I always thought he was one of these harmless antiquarians (or to use the academic term, cultural necrophiliacs) who posted wacky scans and waxed poetic about the different haircuts Barry Allen has sported over the years. Maybe I underestimated him. Please, friends, tell me of Scipio's crimes against bloganity.

-For those of you who play video games, I don't think there's any greater fun to be had than running from cops in Saint's Row while listening to "All the Way From Memphis," or slaughtering a rival gang to the soaring harmonies of "On a Carousel." Also recommended: the theme from Deep Red. Future plans: "I Wish I Was a Girl," Gentle Giant.

-Guy brings up an interesting dilemma--the Punisher as Captain America would be hilarious, especially in that costume and especially with Matt Fraction as the writer. In the hands of another writer, it could be terribly banal--"America is like the Punisher because it's a war machine that executes its prisoners, unlike the rest of the civilized world," etc.* On the other hand, it would mean plenty of annoying blog posts. You would think that would be a windfall for this site, but I find that sort of hive mind outrage more depressing than inspirational. I guess those of you who come here looking for that kind of thing would win, though.

*Which is not to say I'm pro-death penalty, cause I'm very much not so, but I don't need Judd Winick to validate my beliefs. In fact, I really would prefer he didn't. Which is not to say Winick is anti-capital punishment, just that he' s one of these writers whose politics are similar to my own, and yet whose views on politics I would be happy to never see again. Avoiding his work makes this easier, but I think of it as a special bonus given that I have no interest in his comics in the first place. Was his Real World-inspired comic actually any good?

-I have to cut it short today, since it's my anniversary. And I don't mean "blogoversary." If any of you thought that's what I meant, I strongly advise you to go somewhere quiet and reexamine your life. I mean really, you should know this blog only started a little over a month ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hate poll: Quesada vs. Sim

Quesada stomped Levitz but good. And apparently a strong plurality believe the Simpsons character he most resembles is Mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby. I assume this is a commentary on his effectiveness as a leader, unless you all know something I don't know. Tied for second were Barney Gumble (again, do you folks know something I don't?) and Comic Book Guy (a little obvious, friends, plus CBG seems like the type who would complain the loudest about Quesada). Apu received no votes, which kind of confused me; I thought more of you would see parallels between Apu's operation of the Kwik-E-Mart and Quesada's stewardship of Marvel. Live and learn, I guess.

Anyway, the Simpsons poll was such a success that I'll include it in all polls for the near future, starting with this one. But first, Joe Quesada must turn his attention to a most formidable foe. Levitz was no match for him, but I think Dave Sim will prove a worthier contender.

The case against Joe Quesada: Seriously, what else can I say? He seems like the type of guy who would take your laundry out of the dryer prematurely so that he could dry his own load of clothes. Or maybe he's more like the kind of guy who would put some of his own clothes in with yours without asking, cause he figured you'd be cool with it, bra'.

The case against Dave Sim: He's the kind of person who hangs out all day in the periodicals room of the library, or the guy at work who sits with you at lunch and complains about how much he has to pay in child support.

Poll is open until noon EDT/9 am PDT. And here's your bonus Simpsons poll, open for the same period of time:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pretzels and soda

-Hate poll, with special bonus poll content (which is actually proving more popular than the current Hate Poll--are you folks burned out on hate, or are you just big Simpsons fans? Is there untapped demand for an ongoing series of "Which Simpsons character does _______ most resemble"-type polls?).

-Trying not to be too hypocritical dept: I'm going to try to lay off the Fantagraphics-Ellison lawsuit this week, not because I've been persuaded to do so, or because I think it's not important, but because I'm kind of tired of writing about it. It's becoming my Civil War--a crutch, an invitation to lazy blogging, an impediment to the sort of non-linear thinking which has defined this blog ever since I finished writing the sentence you're reading right now. I do reserve the right to violate this self-imposed moratorium if anyone says anything interesting this week, though (not that I'm, uh, fishing for material or anything).

-I think Greg Rucka is a little disillusioned with DC. Especially Didio, who Rucka portrays as something of a buffoon. And maybe his 52 collaborators as well--here's how he describes them all:

Grant Morrison-Spacey; no attention span
Geoff Johns-The Rob Liefeld of comics writing
Mark Waid-Obsessive fan-geek
Greg Rucka-Good with thing related to the vital human experience; not so great at writing stupid outer space shit

All the same, these guys are (ugh) "rock stars" who are "at the very top of their game." Even if their games are stupid childish escapism, divorced from the cold, sports bra reality of life on the streets. Also, Civil War sucked.

-Lots of aggravation out there about Dark Horse bringing Museum of Terror to a premature close, and some questions about why this came to pass. Speaking only for myself: I don't read everything, but I do consider myself a fan of horror/suspense manga. I really didn't like the first volume of Museum of Terror, and I never considered getting the subsequent volumes. I've since heard that the quality improves dramatically at some point, but there was something about the whole Tomie concept which kind of turned me off.

-Whenever I check out the latest batch of When Fangirls Attack links, I started thinking: who are all these people blogging on Livejournal? I've never heard of any of them. They all* write stuff like "I'm giving up comics forever now that Robin is wearing red pants" or "I'm depressed but at least I have my back issues of Firestorm to remind me of that brief, shining moment when comics actually transcended their perceived limitations and became a timeless work of art/literature." They all have a bunch of comments, all left by other people of with whom I am unfamiliar.

Now I don't have any kind of prejudice against any particular blogging program/site--I chose Blogger because I'd heard of it and it seemed fairly easy to use once I signed up. In fact, I am completely unfamiliar with the hierarchy of free blogging services, assuming such a hierarchy exists. If so, are my observations re: Livejournal comics blogs consistent with Livejournal's reputation on the non-comics oriented internet? Please limit your responses to 20 words or less, as I estimate this is the limit of my interest on the subject. Thank you.

*Fun activity: find the most creative way to tell me that my blanket statement is incorrect. Bonus points for anyone who works in an amusing reference to Time on the Cross. In fact, I'll start a new sidebar category just to celebrate your achievement, called "Dick's History Buddies" or something like that.

-I'm sorry I insulted your scanner, Jonesy.

-I talked on the phone about 300 with my mom on Sunday. She brought it up. I know that this is anecdotal evidence, and some might say that the mother of two comics-obsessed lads might be more likely to broach the subject of a comics-related movie than the mother of children more obsessed with soccer or procreating up some grandchildren, but to me it's a sign that comics are here to stay no matter how badly Joe Quesada wants to destroy them.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Current events in comics retailing

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of interviews with my local comics dealer, a veteran in the field with over 30 years of retailing experience. In the future I hope to discuss his philosophy on running a comics store, changes in the industry, and his role in the development of comics retailing (seriously). This retailer, however, spends almost no time on the internet and has never read this blog. I'm not sure that he'd want to be associated with it (hell, I'm not sure I want to be associated with it), so until I can give him a better sense of what I'm doing here, I'm keeping him and his store anonymous.

I’m assuming you sold out of Captain America #25?

Yes we sold out, but we had no problems supplying our regular customers. Within an hour we were besieged with phone calls from people who had read about it—I believe it had made national news by Wednesday morning, and we just told them we didn’t have any additional copies. We also had people calling who patronize other stores and asking if we had it, but our priority is to our regular customers. We didn’t really have a problem other than having to answer the phone with a greeting that we were sold out: "Hello, ________ Comics, we are sold out of Captain America #25." And we were then greeted with silence, then they asked if we had any copies of Captain America #25, and we told them no. Then they then asked if more were coming in, and if they could reserve some copies. We told them that it would be on the newsstands in a few weeks. But our regular customers had no problems. Anyone who wanted it got a copy. I could have sold more to the lunkheads, but I saved copies for our regular customers.

I think this kind of stuff keeps comics interesting, keeps retailers on their toes. We did place an immediate reorder that morning, and we’re getting it on the 21st. Once again we won’t be selling them to non-regular customers for the time being. Hopefully anyone buying it will buy the Ed Brubaker trades, which we've been selling the dickens out of.

Did you suspect Capt. America was going to die in this issue?

Absolutely not. Nor do we expect that he’s dead now. I know Brubaker is playing it straight faced, but even if they killed him, so what? Some editor will come in and bring him back. I told customers that if they believed he was really dead, Mickey and Donald are going to double suicide next week in distress over Michael Eisner failing to take over Topps. This would be the first time I would be wrong in 30 years of retailing if he actually stays dead. I hear people online are expecting that the Punisher or the Winter Soldier will take his place. We expect Steve Rogers will eventually come back to great fanfare, and Marvel will sell a title featuring him alongside a title with Bucky or the Punisher wearing the Captain America costume. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint. Ultimately, we hope it will shine attention on Captain America and more people will read the comic, cause it’s darn good. And Ed Brubaker too. We always try to sell his comics, and they’ve always done well. Except Dead Enders for some reason.

Would you have ordered more copies if Marvel had given you more information in its solicitations?

I would have ordered at the same levels that I ended up ordering at. My initial order I would have doubled, maybe slightly more than doubled. With the new quantities coming in on the 21st, I basically ended up doubling my order.

[If I had known ahead of time] I just would have gotten them all the same day, but we still would have had a problem with the individuals wanting to come in and buy multiple copies for them, their friends, and relatives. But I called that morning and was able to take advantage of Marvel’s production overrun, although our Diamond rep says there will be shortages still. So we cut our order by 15. By then the bloom will probably be off the rose a little. Our customers are pretty informed, we’re not a mall store.

Did you sell any copies of 300 this weekend?

No, we’ve been unable to get them from Diamond since before the holidays. It’s been very frustrating, we’ve been trying to get them for a long time. I probably could have sold 20 copies the last couple of months. We had some before the holidays, and sold out then. There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t call asking about 300. I consider that more of a flaw in the distribution system than the problems with Captain America #25. It’s part of our larger gripe with Diamond, how they treat publishers like Fantagraphics and NBM, telling me that their titles are unavailable. I have to call Gary Groth to get more copies of Fantagraphics books. We suspect it's because they’re not Diamond exclusives.

The fact that there have been no copies of 300 in the pipeline to retailers is ridiculous. It’d be like having no copies of Spider-Man trades when Spider-Man 3 hits. So I’m more perturbed about that, actually. We’re supposed to have five copies coming, but it’s not enough. I have no idea who’s getting their orders filled.

So do you blame Dark Horse or Diamond?

I suspect it’s probably a Dark Horse problem, not a Diamond problem. [EDIT: I have since received a phone call from my retailer friend confirming this, based on his conversation with a Diamond rep; he also mentioned that Dark Horse is a Diamond exclusive.]

Are you worried that demand will drop before you get them?

You’re always able to sell more when the immediate demand is there. We always want it in stock anyway, but we were impressed with the previews [for the movie] that came out last year. Based on the quality of the previews we expected greater demand once the movie came out. But Sin City has legs, it’s done very well on DVD. And it’s fueled demand in Frank Miller, and comic book-y, ultra-violent movies. Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino type stuff.

How is Beasts selling? I hear it’s out of print already. [I then have to explain to my retailer friend what Beasts is.]

Oh that’s that real goofy one. I can’t imagine the production run was really high on that. I know what you’re talking about now. I suspect it wasn’t a really large production run. It did okay at best. It’s not really up our alley; I think it might sell better in a bookstore. It’s not really a comic book; I think most of the contributors aren’t coming from comics, but commercial art. There were some comics artists, but most of the contributors weren’t. And the comics artists were all coming from alternative comics. I think it was designed for a different audience [than what we have at the store].

Hate Poll: Quesada vs. Levitz

Byrne and Quesada tied! Actually, one might pull ahead of the other by the time you read this, but that's only because I forgot to specify a closing date. As far as I'm concerned, the poll is over. So don't bother voting if you haven't done so yet! Vote in the new poll instead.

I'm going to let Quesada finish out his run here, assuming he can get past his last two challengers. I'll bring Byrne back next week; if he can beat four contenders, he'll get his rematch with Quesada. For the time being, though, we have another contender for Mr. Quesada:

(I know I'm being a bit loose with the definition of "barbarian," but I wanted to work in a reference to Solomon Kane.)

The case against Paul Levitz: Clearly the Ned Flanders of the comics industry; his recent run on JSA seems to have induced mass narcolepsy in large chunks of the east coast and midwest; probably was more interested in model kits than sex during his adolescence.

The case against Joe Quesada: Hard to pick out a single Simpsons analogue; his forthcoming run on some Spider-Man limited series likely won't finish shipping during the Bush administration; probably more interested in burning ants with a magnifying glass than assembling model kits during his adolescence (though he might have been really into the glue; I know I was).

Polls close at noon EDT, 9 am PDT on Wednesday.


Poll will be open for the same period as the current hate poll.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The first cut is the loudest

-Our first Waver of the Bloody Shirt: Jonesy (it's what we called him in prep school). Oh Jonesy, why do you hurt the ones who love you? Also: 1994 called, and it wants its scanner back. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

-I was listening to Mastodon a few nights ago, and it occurred to me that they are totally the Grant Morrison of heavy metal. I meant to share this with you yesterday, but I forgot.

-Hey remember Chris Mautner's post on Newsarama Blog with the quote from Meth? The one from several days ago? People are still leaving comments on it, for now at least. Given the prevailing tone, I expect someone to eliminate this forum for discussion by midafternoon, EST. (EDIT: And that's just what happened!) In fact, I have a feeling all these comments are going to disappear into the ether soon, so I'll go into a bit more detail than I normally would. First up, a post by "fangirl":

"Groth’s brownshirts should have a field day with Michael Netzer’s take: 'Gary Groth has been a self-proclaimed extremist critic within the comics community for decades. Such a mission gives rise to actions of self-defense, on the part of his targets. When the sparks reach the level these have, it would behoove Mr. Groth to take responsibility for his own messengership rather than play the victim in need of community support. His targets are more the victims, in many cases, than he is.'”

Unfortunately fangirl didn't provide a link, and Google isn't really helping either. Still, based on what I'm seeing here, this is the current frontrunner for Dumbest Thing Anyone Has Said About Comics This Month. I'd love for Mr. Netzer to elaborate on that last sentence, assuming he can take time out of his busy schedule of tirelessly defending Ronee Bourgeois (perhaps the "fangirl" in question?) and helping Neal Adams change his legacy from "great artist" to "great artist who later became a depressing crackpot" (which presumably entails a lot of time spent arguing with actual scientists on wikipedia).

Also: brownshirts? When did FOE become the SDS? When you all went down to Berlin and joined the Ice Capades (ayyy-yeeeds)?

Another basically anonymous commenter going by the handle "NickW" calls Ellison a "geriatric old perv." I'm surprised the Newsarama legal team is letting that one stand. Same poster goes on to chide those offended by the Comics Journal's handling of certain stories: "[T]he comics world is this insular, little, inbred, pond that even a small pebble can make a big splash."

This leads to someone adopting the handle "Pity NickW" to claim Groth is driven by jealousy, which can apparently be blamed on his parents. The comment also compares Groth to Ann Coulter, thus convincing me it's the same person comparing Groth's admirers to fascists. Worst of all, "Pity NickW" suggests that Gil Kane might not have been any better than Don Heck. Remember that: the pro-Ellison camp is deluded to the point of thinking Don Heck is in Gil Kane's league, simply because Kane was a friend of Groth's. Awesome.

-From this week's Joe Rice Media Review, a rather baffling turn of phrase in a review of the current Ennis Ghost Rider (horse version) limited series:

"This book is like if my dad and I combined into one person and wanted only one thing."

I was just saying the same thing about Magnus, Robot Fighter just the other day. There might be other stuff worth pointing out, but I haven't read Shazam or Criminal yet and I forgot to buy The Authority altogether, so I only read the parts of the column dealing with stuff I had no interest in buying.

-Achewood has some suggestions for Sleestak.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The gift that keeps on not shutting up

-Hate poll still in action. At the time I'm writing this, it's still pretty close.

-For those expecting a volcanic eruption re: everyone blogging about Captain America, I'm just not feeling it. I wish people would have been a bit less spoilery in the titles to their posts--some of us don't read the New York Daily News or visit Yahoo--but that was all rendered moot by the loudmouth in my LCS who complained about the spoilers, thereby revealing them to everyone in earshot. As for the blog entries, overall they seem to be settling into two categories: (1) You know they'll bring him back, and (2) What does this tell us about America? (There are a handful of entries in a third category, Fuck you Joe Quesada, but most eventually reveal themselves as variations on category 1.)

My analysis? The first category is obviously "duh" level material, and seems mostly driven by bloggers' apparent sense of obligation to say something about the situation. I don't really have anything to add. The second category also yields rather "duh"-ish results, typically "Marvel doesn't have a message other than money is good," with a strong undercurrent of "We trust Ed Brubaker to tell a good story". I can't argue with these sentiments either.

(For those looking for something related to the business side of things, Heidi McDonald contends that the media blitz will pay modest returns and Brian Cronin speaks about the speculator market which, against all logic, has emerged due to a fairly mild shortage problem. Anyone desperate to get your hands on this issue: I'll sell you my copy for $40, postage paid.)

-What the hell is going on with this Clifford Meth/Dirk Deppey thing? Yesterday at the Newarama Blog, Chris Mautner printed a statement from Clifford Meth (which contained all the candor and wisdom I've come to expect from him, but that's not the point). Apparently someone left some untoward comments, cause JK Parkin came in at 9:22 EST/6:22 PST to say:

"The sex lives of the folks involved really aren’t relevant here … posts have been deleted. Please don’t make me shut the comments down."

I've got a pretty good idea what this means, but I'm holding out some hope that the deleted comments were ruminations on Meth's sex life--sexy ruminations, I'm sure. But in all likelihood, it's something far more troubling--and, sadly, kind of predictable. Peter David, you're a pretty liberal guy. Couldn't you stand out on Mr. Ellison's balcony and address the hordes? Maybe speak to them in your common language, by comparing the situation to that episode of Star Trek with the guys painted black and white? Or maybe the one with Abraham Lincoln? You know best.

-Did anyone try that recipe from yesterday? It really is pretty good, I promise.

-Jacob Covey celebrates Estrus and Art Chantry (shouldn't there be an "Esquire" appended to that?) at the Fantagraphics blog. I was a huge garage-head about ten years ago--yes, it curiously coincided with my decision to go vegetarian--and I had my share of Estrus albums. This, in turn, meant I also had my share of albums with covers by Chantry. I have to be honest--I never much cared for Chantry. I think it gave all of Estrus' releases an irritatingly consistent look, which didn't help my impression that most of the bands on Estrus kind of sounded the same (Untamed Youth and of course Teengenerate were cool, though). Plus Estrus, along with Gearhead, seemed like part of a goofy tough guy/retro car culture scene which consistently rang false to me. (Side note: Was it Kozik who drew the cover to that issue of Gearhead with all the Confederate troops on the cover? That issue pissed me off--why do a bunch of guys from California (as Grant Morrison would say) feel the need to appropriate the symbols of the slavocratic Old South? As someone who actually grew up in the South (and not as the son of transplants--my ancestors arrived at Jamestown, dude, and they never left), I thought it was stupid and offensive.)

At the time, I lumped Estrus together with several other labels specializing in garage: Sympathy for the Record Industry, Telstar (which also released vintage material under the Satan imprint if I'm not mistaken, most notably comps like What a Way to Die and Get a Board), and Dionysus.* But to me, the clear alpha label was Crypt, which split its releases between active bands (like the New Bomb Turks and Teengenerate) and several legendary compilation series (most notably Back From the Grave, but also Strummin' Mental, Garage Punk Unknowns, and Sin Alley). While Estrus always had very slick packaging for its releases, Crypt's records were packaged in sleeves that I could have produced with Corel Draw back in high school (for all I know, Crypt founder/owner Tim Warren had some teenage neighbor designing his CDs for $20 a pop). While Estrus had hip guys like Chantray and Kozik providing them with art, Crypt had former Cracked editor Mort Todd drawing the covers to its signature Back From the Grave series. This was a longstanding gig for Todd--he provided cover art for all eight volumes, dating back to the 80s. Some of those covers were really dated by the time I was buying them--one of them takes aim at Boy George and Cyndi Lauper, for instance. And these covers were ugly. Many of them drew from a very limited palette of colors. Garish magenta, murky blue-ish purple, and a whole lot of white were pretty common.

And yet I thought Crypt was much cooler than Estrus because they consistently released better albums. These albums looked like shit, but that impressed me in a way; Tim Warren seemed to be saying that his records were so good that they didn't need competent design or attractive art. Estrus, on the other hand, seemed to rely on their packaging to a much greater extent. I can't say this realization caused me to develop a Crypt-like aesthetic; whenever I encounter a product with laughably amateurish packaging, I tend to question the quality of the goods inside (nobody wants to buy food with misspelled words on the label, right?). But I'm also skeptical of a product with packaging that's just too slick; I wonder what it's trying to hide.

My favorite Art Chantay cover, BTW, is Thee Headcoats Conundrum. Not the one that show up on AMG, either--I'm talking about the version I have. But that's not nearly as good as Covey's design for Fantagraphics' first Popeye volume. Even though Covey credits Chantry as a major influence on his work, I think he's clearly the much greater talent.

*Bomp/AIP were also around, but nobody seemed to be talking about them at the time. And Tim Warren was always dissing Greg Shaw, which made him seem incredibly uncool and irrelevant to me back then.

This is what happens from now on when nobody says anything interesting all day long

If you're a vegetarian, you either have to learn how to cook or accept that you'll be lucky to scrounge up any halfway decent food for the rest of your life. I quit eating meat 10 years ago, and I can honestly say I'd probably have only a fraction of my present cooking knowledge if I were still eating meat. Vegetarianism forces one to make a choice: am I going to eat bland frozen food, pizza, and bagels for the rest of my life, or am I going to learn how to cook? I chose the latter, and now I'm going to share some of my favorite recipes with you.

Black bean soup
Serves four

My wife and I ate this last night. Like most of the food I cook, I adapted an existing recipe to better suit our tastes. This recipe is actually derived from two separate recipes in two separate cookbooks--Colorado Collage and The Feast of Santa Fe. The former has a recipe for Mexican Bean Soup, but it turns out disturbingly bland and smooth if you follow the recipe exactly. The latter has a recipe for refried beans which, while delicious, calls for half a stick of butter! This recipe cuts that in half, and it's much more flavorful than the Colorado Collage soup recipe. It's not a low fat recipe, but it is high fiber.

-1 medium onion, diced
-At least 4 cloves of garlic (I recommend 6), crushed
-3 cans black beans
-1/4 cup of liquid from the beans
-1 stalk celery, diced
-2 T olive oil
-2 T butter
-2 small cans of diced chilies
-1 t cumin (more or less depending on taste and the intensity of your cumin)
-1 t chili powder (see above)
-4 cups vegetable stock
-6 slices of vegetarian bacon

1. Pour the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Fry the mock bacon; remove and set aside.
2. Melt the butter with the remaining oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent; add the garlic and spices. Cook for another minute.
3. Remove pan from heat. Add the beans, stirring and mashing as you go along. Add as much of the liquid as necessary to make the mixture into a paste. Don't worry about making it an especially fine paste, though--it looks better if it's a little on the rustic side. (Note: You can stop here and if all you want is some pretty tasty refried beans. And, uh, six strips of vegetarian bacon--I guess you could make a sandwich or something. If you prefer smoother refried beans, keep mashing. Maybe you could even use a stick blender, but I don't have one so I don't know for sure. If you want more authentic refried beans, use pintos instead. If you want to use dried beans, a pound will do the trick. You'll need to cook them first, of course.)
4. Thoroughly combine the bean mixture with the vegetable stock. Add the diced chilies, "bacon," and celery.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for ten minutes. Serve while hot. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, if desired. Like many TexMex soups, it's also really good with some tortilla chips; add them as you would crackers.

A few words on ingredients: For the "bacon," I recommend Morningstar Farms because it's fairly cheap and available throughout the US. (Carnivores could presumably use real bacon, but you're on your own as far as picking out a particular brand.) I like Progresso black beans because they retain their structural integrity better than competing brands of black beans. But this is the sort of recipe where structural integrity is pretty much irrelevant, so use any brand that tastes good. I've never had any problem with any brand of canned diced chilies. Old El Paso works just fine, and it's probably the most readily available brand.