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Since there’s nothing of much urgency in the wonderful world of comics at the moment, let’s catch up on reviews.

One current trend in book publishing that should be applauded and perpetuated is the collection of classic comic strips in definitive multi-volume libraries, and of late many of the truly pivotal comics strips of the ’30s and ’40s have found new homes in these editions, from several publishers. Recently I’ve seen KRAZY & IGNATZ 1941-1942: A RAGOUT OF RASPBERRIES by George Herriman (Fantagraphics Books; $19.95), E.C. Segar’s POPEYE VOL 2 (Fantagraphics; $29.95) collecting strips from 1930-1932; and DICK TRACY VOL 3 1935-1936 by Chester Gould (IDW). Characters like Tracy and Popeye are part of our pop culture lexicon now, mainly from watered down later versions spread by cartoons, bad movies and even the creators themselves (Gould’s TRACY strips of the ’60s and ’70s were often confused, tepid affairs with moon men and goofy sci-fi gadgets, about as far removed from its Roaring ’20s origins as BLONDIE is from THE INVISIBLES), but the original versions are still breathtaking, with sure brisk storytelling and dynamite characterizations. These were people who really understood their medium. Where DICK TRACY amps up the tension – Tracy’s far from a supercop, getting bludgeoned and almost fatally shot with alarming regularity (those who complain of ultraviolence in comics today don’t know their precedents) – POPEYE plays very tongue-in-cheek (on the one hand, he’s telling western outlaws “Here’s the bullet – it went through me an’ stuck in the wall – now I’m goner make you eat it!” and on the other he’s making puppy dog eyes at an early Olive Oyl who doesn’t even like him much), but both are great action strips. Meanwhile, KRAZY & IGNATZ continues the unparalleled surrealism of Herriman’s KRAZY KAT strip, which was never hugely popular but has continued to be influential in comics circles and was the first great argument that comic strips could be viewed as works of art. What’s most interesting about them in tandem is how distinctive each work is; Herriman refined whimsy to a fine art, no one ever merged whimsy and action like Elsie Segar did, and Gould basically painted an amped version of the Chicago he had grown up in. I know volumes like these are geared toward the libraries market, but anyone with any interest in the real history of comics should snap them up. If newspaper strips were still as good and distinctive as these, newspapers might actually sell again.

I somehow overlooked an issue of Richard Starkings’ ELEPHANTMEN (Image Comics; $2.99@), #9, and I have to say while I initially liked the concept, but wasn’t fond of the choppy execution (stories have tended to be more vignettes than real stories), the series has grown on me. This issue’s one of those clever, if inbred, ideas that only comics are much good at pulling off: the hero Hip Flask’s assistant is introduced to the notion that, in their world, people do Elephantmen doujinshi – and it then proceeds to produce a few. Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen produce a Will Eisner pastiche that, aside from the splash, is more Eisner in tone than actual style (nothing wrong with that); Joe Kelly, Peter Gross & Ryan Kelly do an otherworldly sci-fi story, while Jeph Loeb & Ian Churchill generate a Tomb Raider-ish action cliffhanger. Plus pinups by a host of interesting artists. Sure, it’s filler, but it’s so well done and in keeping with the general tone of the series that you forget it’s filler. Very enjoyable.

More new books from TwoMorrows Publishing, which has become one of the more dependable publishers of books about comics. While the new ALTER EGO ($6.95) pulls another Golden Age artist, Marv Levy, and various characters from obscurity (Michael Gilbert assembles a new Avengers from ’40s characters with like names), pays tribute to the recently fallen in our ranks, and takes on continually faltering Captain Marvel (of the “Shazam!” variety) revivals with uncharacteristic vehemence, there are two real surprises in #75: Alex Ross provides sharp and emotive line art that’s so much more appealing than his paintings (I’ve always found them cold) that I wish he’d revert to it exclusively, and Carmine Infantino contradicts/denies, with considerable detail, a legendary story about how he and Stan Lee collaborated in the ’70s to swap page rate information to keep freelancers from playing Marvel and DC against each other. The whole issue’s good, but those things are worth the price. Also out is MODERN MASTERS VOL 15: MARK SCHULTZ ($14.95) by Fred Perry & Eric Nolan-Weathington, with the usual book-length star interview and gobs of artwork. While the series should probably more appropriately be named “Underappreciated Artists Who Deserve More Attention” (I see the marketing wisdom of the existing line title), Schultz is exactly that. I’ve usually found his stories entertaining but unspectacular, but artistically he’s arguably the closest thing we’ve got to a “new Frank Frazetta” (though his art also sometimes resembles Adam Hughes at his best) and that’s paradoxically his major failing as an artist as well; he has swallowed and spits out his Frazetta/Williamson/Krenkel influences whole, and never quite escapes their shadows. Still, an interesting book about an interesting talent, who’d likely be a hell of a lot more highly regarded if he produced work on a more regular basis. If you’re not familiar with this work, it’s a great introduction to it. The “good girl art” fetish continues in Michael Eury’s BACK ISSUE #26 ($6.95), a mélange of “tough guy” features that oddly begins with Marvel’s Black Widow (hence the “good girl art”) before running through a series of entertaining features on James Bond, Moench & Gulacy’s MASTER OF KUNG FU (exposing a little know episode where tried to arrange Nick Fury crossover with Jim Steranko inking, a strange use of Steranko’s talents), Sgt. Rock and other war heroes, way too much on the ’90s Suicide Squad, and numerous other features, with familiar and unpublished art from Gulacy, Howard Chaykin, Joe Kubert, Terry Beatty etc. etc. etc. As usual, a bizarre, well-done mélange, with a stronger emphasis on genuine information than earlier issues. TwoMorrows also sent Benjamin Holcomb’s book MEGO 8″ SUPER-HEROES: WORLD’S GREATEST TOYS ($49.95), which, while beautifully produced, is so far outside my interest/appreciation zone you may as well hit me in the head with a brick as ask my opinion of it. (Which, by the way, constitutes no invitation to do either.)

The first issue of Frank Verano and Nick Klinger’s DEATH OF THE SWEETHEART (Red Twilight Press; $3.50@) is more alt-comics than I expected, a meditation on love, Catholic guilt, and the would-be rockstar life. The art’s not exactly good, but it’s expressive and unique, and the same can be said of the lettering, which in most instances I’d dismiss as amateurish and only barely legible but here also fits beautifully with the story’s angst-ridden, internalized mood. That’s the first issue. The second issue, which delves deeper into the origins and breakup of powerpop band The Bitter Sweethearts is about as close an artifact as any American has produced to Eddy Campbell’s work, and both the lettering and art style shape up Campbellesquely as well. (Which is likely no coincidence, given the band’s first outing is at a club called Campbell’s.) The first issue wasn’t bad, but the second is so much stronger – I’d recommend starting with it, since there’s not much from the first issue you’d need to know (so far) – that I’d recommend Verano and Klinger redo it to match the rest before the inevitable collection. The plot itself is fairly standard rock’n’roll stuff – a band gets together, breaks, hits, breaks up under the strain of success – but it’s all in the execution, innit? The execution of DEATH OF A SWEETHEART – no pun intended – is fine, at least with issue 2. Check it out.

IDW has been pumping out a lot of comics lately, many of them of the licensed or “media star” variety ala Virgin Comics. Their STAR TREK ALIEN SPOTLIGHT: ORIONS ($3.99) by Scott & David Tipton and Elena Casagrande has me confused; I don’t follow Star Trek, but I can’t see how the story fits into what I know about its star, original Enterprise captain Christopher Pike, here apparently in the twilight of a career he couldn’t have had. While the art’s nice, can’t say I liked the story much; the action and dialogue are clumsy and repetitive, while characterizations are slender. Then again, that’s Star Trek in a nutshell. Better is the follow-up issue, BORG, by Andrew Steven Harris & Sean Murphy, despite one of those “sci-fi” premises – in this case Captain Picard of ST:TNG and VOYAGER‘s Admiral Janeway have to stop a “tachyon wave” from the future that will turn all life that ever existed throughout the past into Borg – that might as well be magic. Still, Harris comes up with a neat bit of Picardian pseudo-logic that copes with the situation. Gene Simmons has apparently generated a small group of titles for IDW. His confused “cosmic” meets “street” sci fi thriller ZIPPER ($3.99@) gets much better treatment at the hand of Tom Waltz and Casey Maloney (whose art has really improved since the last time I saw it); three issues in and there’s still not even a hint of a clue about what the extraterrestrial hero or his pursuers want, except that he wants to get away from them and they want to capture him, and that’s just not enough to go on. Simmons is also responsible for DOMINATRIX ($3.99@), which, if the third issue by Sean Taylor & Esteve Polls is anything to go by, is little more than an excuse for girl-on-girl lingerie fight scenes that aren’t much helped by perfunctory dialogue and mediocre girl art. I guess the title’s supposed to suggest something daring and edgy, but it’s just tawdry. Another IDW-licensed property is the videogame-based horror comic SILENT HILL: SINNER’S REWARD ($3.99). It’s an indication of Tom Waltz’s growth as a writer (not that Steph Stamb’s art isn’t also a big contributory factor) that he’s able to turn the concept – a town that’s irrational hell on earth, the kind of idea that works in a videogame but doesn’t necessarily make for good fiction – toward something workable, in this case a defrocked hitman trying to save the woman he loves, but it’s significant that the protagonist only just gets to Silent Hill by the end of it, so it’s a big early to judge the story. Then there’s ROGUE ANGEL: TELLER OF TALL TALES ($3.99) by Barbara Kesel and Renae De Liz, based on books I’ve never heard of. It’s well-written and decently drawn, but so far it’s unclear what the appeal is supposed to be, besides a nondescript tough chick heroine, operating in an apparently ordinary world, with a “magic sword” that makes her stronger and faster. I’m getting pretty tired of series that don’t spell out their concept(s) in the first issue; the concept is supposed to be the hook, and if it isn’t good enough to be the hook, why do the series? If it is good enough, why hide it? Meanwhile, the series adapting sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow’s short stories, FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW continues into its fourth and fifth issues ($3.99@). Something seems vaguely absent in Dan Taylor & Dustin Evans’ adaptation of “Nimby & The D-Hoppers” in #4, about bounty hunters jumping through parallel dimensions while one many tries to preserve the world he knows – a point – while the blocky art often makes the action incoherent, and the text doesn’t make up for it. While Doctorow’s fiction tends that way anyway, adapters should put a little thought into clarification, since in a dialogue-heavy adaptation most of Doctorow’s text vanishes. #5, with Dara Naraghi & Erich Owen adapting “I, Robot” (not the Asimov version), about a cop trying to track his semi-delinquent teenage daughter though a cybertech landscape, is a significant improvement, with sharp presentation and a good punchline. Over on the “original with the talent” shelf, Mike Baron’s new BADGER series continues in #2 ($3.99), with art by Kevin Caron, and leaves my initial opinions pretty much unchanged. Baron can still wrangle a good nutty yarn (a group of international terrorists with the acronym NACHO doesn’t make much sense, but they can’t all be gems), but the art still works against the project and makes it seem much more of a throwback than it deserves. In some ways, the books plays like if Harvey Pekar decided to write superheroes, and there’s room for that, but it needs a slicker look. Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez’s LOCKE & KEY #1 ($3.99) is a good little thriller involving people who’ve survived a massacre by two killers and now try to regain any concept at all of safety – and then it takes a turn into the paranormal. Now this is how to set up a story; without being pedantic about it, Hill and Rodriguez clearly outline the characters’ personalities, experiences and desires, and leave off with a question that makes you want to come back for the answer. Finally there’s Ben Templesmith’s quirky, funny monster story WORMWOOD, GENTLEMAN CORPSE #1 ($3.99), which reinvents John Constantine (for that’s who the ancient yet desperately hip titular antihero effectively is) as walking dead with brains. Templesmith flings all kinds of elements into the soup – transdimensional planetary hijacking, Chthulu’d astronauts, a team of alcoholic monster hunters – with brisk deftness tied together by his goofy, deft artwork. Is it good? Too soon to tell. But it’s a pleasure, so far.

Roaring Press Books has developed a quirky little line with their First Second original graphic novel imprint, with so far mixed results; while their output has been relentlessly interesting, it hasn’t quite been satisfying, even where top talents are involved. The results are somewhat improved on Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria & Warren Pleece’s LIFE SUCKS, a modern urban vampire story where a teen staring down a dead-end life that starts as a riff on Kevin Smith’s CLERKS then spins into the flipside of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER as the book develops a whole vampire culture tucked away in the detritus of ours. Not a long of fanging and staking here; almost none. Which brings up the dissonance of the concept; most of the characterizations could have been played about the same had vampires never been brought up. Still, it’s funny and entertaining (almost a movie pitch on paper, in fact) and while I’ve never liked Pleece’s art much – he’s very skilled, but the style just never played with me; one of those flukes of taste is all – but it works much better in black, white and gray than in color. LIFE SUCKS isn’t a great graphic novel, but it’s good.

A clarification on reviews for 2008, while we’re at it:

I review comic books, trade paperback collections, graphic novels and fanzines. You can send them to me at Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074-3384.

Don’t send me press releases. I’m not Walter Winchell or Paul Harvey, they mean nothing to me. I throw them away, unread.

I don’t review: pre-release Xeroxes, DVDs, online comics or, usually, prose books. Pre-release Xeroxes make me nervous; they’re like promises that haven’t been kept yet. Online comics and prose books are a matter of time management, which for various reasons was something of a constant nightmare last year and I’m looking to avoid repeating the experience. Please save yourselves the cost of shipping and check with me before sending any prose books – you can e-mail queries here. Books take a lot of time to read, and there are already many books I want to read that I haven’t yet gotten to. If the book you want to send is something I’d have read anyway – say, a Steve Ditko biography – I’ll be more than happy to tell you to send it. Fiction, not so much, especially prose fiction having to do with superheroes or TV shows. This is no implied reflection on quality, it only refers to my current tastes and the cold hard fact that I just don’t have the time anymore. If I ever land a paid gig with the New York Times Book Review, I’ll let you know. In any case, please ask before sending prose. It’ll save us both a lot of stress.

Thanks.

Nice to see the administration confronting the “looming” recession head on, but, as with most of their policies, their proposed “economic stimulus” is little more like a shell game. The cornerstone of the plan, at least as far as public relations is concerned, is a $100 billion giveback to taxpayers (there’s still pressure to include all taxpayers, but even Congressional Republicans are balking at giving the filthy rich even more money when in theory the point of this is to appease the middle class) that sounds like the stuff on paper, but when you do the math it gets suspect. Not that I’ll pass up $600 if they send it, but how it’s supposed to “stimulate” the economy is anyone’s guess. Sure, it’s a lot of money to flood into the economy, and an

indication that the standard gimmicks for “helping the economy” – lowering interest rates or just printing more money – don’t really work that well, but it’s also the sad fact of our economic times that for most people $600 isn’t enough to really accomplish much with. For most people, that wouldn’t even equal a month’s mortgage payment or rent, or an acceptable down payment on even a cheap new car, or the price of a decent flat-screen TV, which we’re all supposed to buy by sometime next year. Which isn’t to say it’s an insignificant amount. It’s about a month’s groceries for a family of four, an adequate new computer, maybe a couple months’ winter heating bills. But then what? Is something significant about the country’s economic status going to change in the time it takes to burn through $600? Read the rhetoric, and they’re not telling you to save it (people saving more than they spend is a traditional hallmark of recession, which this giveback is meant to stave off) or even invest it. They want us to spend it. Where’s the average person likeliest to spend money these days? Gasoline and heating costs. Effectively, the measure’s not intended to solve anything, it’s more of a public relations gimmick with the public as the conduit to funnel public money to oil companies. Not, as I said, I’ll turn down $600, but I can’t help wonder if the country might be better served by pumping the $100 bil into building an alternative energy infrastructure, or paying down the national debt. Interestingly, the Ghost, in his predictably tedious State Of The Union address (ever notice how he always sounds like he’s talking to third grade special education classes when he speaks?) warning against legislators loading down the bill with expensive “pork” (like increasing unemployment benefits and financial relief for senior citizens) when it’s his own personal “special project, the Iraq occupation, that continues to bleed hundreds of billions out of the American economy (much of it a “gift” to the multitudes of “civilian contractors” the administration gave sweetheart deals to, and which continue to pilfer untold sums from the war kitty without much oversight) and will apparently continue for years if not decades to come. If he’s looking to flood billions of dollars back into the money stream, he should start with that. If the government can afford such outlays as that and the proposed giveback, how can the economy be shaky? (Answer: we’re borrowing money from foreigners, especially China, like there’s no tomorrow, which may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Meanwhile, Caroline and Ted Kennedy strongly endorsed Barack Obama, which makes the Democratic primary race very interesting. Not because the Kennedys necessarily sway a lot of votes these days, but because their endorsements – both drew very sharp analogies between Obama and the sainted President John Kennedy (when the legend becomes truth, print the legend) – and particularly Teddy’s represent a declaration of war by one side of the party, the old school liberals, on the other, the quasi-Republicans for whom Bill Clinton was the standard bearer. I know Republicans reading this are horrified that anyone could represent Clinton as anything even remotely a Republican, but the “Clinton faction” essentially sprang up around the notion of retooling the Democratic party along Reaganite guidelines – very modified for their purposes, of course – and Clinton during his first presidential run stood out from the other Democratic candidates and attracted a lot of independent voters and a few Republican moderates by “Reaganizing” his rhetoric, and, in fact, despite Bill’s claims that Obama had “praised” Reagan by acknowledging that Reagan as candidate galvanized his base and brought “new ideas” (or, at least, ideas not widely in public discourse since Calvin Coolidge pushed them) to government (Obama is correct in stating he never said he thought they were good ideas), there are many quotes of Bill directly and effusively praising Reagan, which didn’t hurt his ability to attract voters outside the standard Democratic base. Clinton wasn’t a “Republican” like, say, Joe Lieberman is, but he’s sure more of a Republican than Teddy Kennedy will ever be. Anyway, I guess Obama is now the patron saint of the “inspirational” wing of the party. Some of Teddy’s snipes at the Clintons were scarily transparent: Clinton’s criticisms of Obama as inexperienced and unready for the job were directly paralleled to “former president” Harry Truman’s identical complaints about John Kennedy; his statement that Obama can be passionate about his own beliefs “without demonizing those who hold a different view”; his comments about “the counsels of doubt and calculation” and “the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion”; his clear statement that, unlike other Democrats (take that, Hillary!), Obama has always opposed the Iraq Adventure. In other words, no more civilized duels, no pistols at 20 primaries. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

Notes from under the floorboards:

To those who made it to last Saturday’s ComicsFest, sponsored by the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, thanks for showing up and it was great to meet you. While there were fewer librarians in attendance than I (and, apparently, most of the company reps I spoke with) expected, but nearly a thousand area fans showed up and appeared hugely interested in comics in general. As regional cons go, it moved with almost military precision but was comfortable and fun, and the panels were well-attended and entertaining, while the small “dealers’ room” (really a wide lobby) seemed to be doing brisk business all day long. Las Vegas has always been contradictory about comics: no discernable fan presence but seemingly more comics stores per capita than New York City. (The town does support a pretty well-attended anime/manga convention every year, but the local audience clearly extends beyond that.) Since everyone else who’s tried to start a Vegas con has come in from outside looking to make it the second San Diego, to their regret, ComicsFest was a pretty impressive first stab at generating a cohesive comics subculture here, and I hope the library system is willing to sponsor more of them. (If nothing else, I’m glad we gave Portland-based Greg Rucka the chance to finally see some sun after a few months of rain. Good to see you, Greg.)

Curious article by blogger John Seavey on “how to save Marvel.” Marvel, coming off one of its best years in recent memory, can be excused for wondering just why it needs saving – if this is damnation, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to go straight to hell – but Seavey’s argument basically comes down to Marvel needs to recognize they publish children’s comic books. There’s only one flaw in his argument: they don’t. Maybe he thinks they should, and certainly there’s enough breadth to Marvel that creating comics for a kids’ market is not beyond them, but Marvel
doesn’t by any stretch publish comics for kids, as a general rule. They publish comics mainly for teenagers. You can argue that more comics aimed at kids (and I should mention Seavey doesn’t mean “dumb” comics, but concepts like Harry Potter and Dr. Who, though I’d suggest the current version of Dr. Who isn’t aimed at kids either) means more kids will grow up reading comics, but kids don’t want kids’ comics. That’s just another market ghetto. Kids will always gravitate toward “the good stuff,” the stuff they’re not supposed to have. (I suspect one of the big appeals of Harry Potter for kids is that, while there are always helpful adults around, the power structures in both the wizard and human, to the extent we see it, worlds are always hidebound, intransigent, narrow-minded and inept, while the kids are the only ones truly capable of creating a better world, so the books to some extent flash a big middle finger to adults, and a lot of manga functions on this “blows against the empire” ethic as well.) The way to get kids to read comics isn’t to create comics geared for kids, or regear your own comics toward kids, but to read comics. If comics are available, kids will read comics. Not all kids and not all comics; they have their own tastes, and like all of us will gravitate toward what they like, as individuals. The problem with “kids’ comics” is that kids are never their primary audience. Parents are, and to the extent that Marvel wants to make their comics palatable for kids, they have to make their comics palatable for parents – and the vocal parents out there tend to be the ones who are freaking insane, and once you slide into the cycle of trying to appease them it never stops until you stop aiming comics at kids. As even Harry Potter found (not that it affected the books’ bottom line significantly), that way lies booby traps of immense proportions. As for “attracting new adult readers,” according to graphic novel/trade paperback charts, that’s been coming along fairly steadily…

It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything just for the fun of it, so it’s off to UFC open training sessions at the Mandalay Bay for me this afternoon: Frank Mir and Tyson Griffin at 1PM and Brock Lesnar and Tim Silvia at 2. Just one of the things I love about this town.

A few weeks ago, Marv Wolfman told me his graphic novel HOMELAND: THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL, done in conjunction with Mario Ruiz & William Rubin, won the National Jewish Book award, and right before we went to press with congratulations Marv dropped me a line asking me to pull the item since it wasn’t official yet and he didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Of course, five minutes after we pulled the item and the column went to bed, he dropped me another line saying it was official and I could run anything I wanted. Gee, thanks. Since then I’ve been remembering mid-week that I wanted to congratulation him and his collaborators, but every Tuesday I forgot about it until the column was already published. This week I’m not forgetting. Belated, but congratulations, Marv!

We need a term besides “graphic novel” for non-fiction works, though.

Congratulations to Greg Elwell, the first to figure out last week’s Comics Cover Challenge was “windows.” Greg points your attention to Nerdage, a blog celebrating all things nerdy. Go check it out. While you’re at it, check out Library Thing, recommend by last Wednesday week’s winner Adam Hall. It’s a website that helps bibliophiles catalog their collections. Use it, love it.

For those who came in late, almost every week I run a Comics Cover Challenge: the covers of seven seemingly unrelated comics (thanks to The Grand Comic Book Database for the covers) from throughout comics history are spread, usually not in any particular order, down the column. But a secret theme – it could be a word, a design element, an artist… anything, really – binds them together, and the first one to e-mail me with the correct solution can promote the website of their choice, subject to my approval. IMPORTANT NEW RULE: PLEASE INCLUDE WITH YOUR GUESS THE WEBSITE YOU’D LIKE TO PROMOTE IF YOU WIN. (You never know; I might just go on a mass linking spree one of these days, if I can ever find the Internet’s answer to a water tower.) Fair warning: this week’s answer is a little complicated, and there may be a secret clue to this week’s CCC solution cleverly hidden somewhere in the column, but that may be just a clever illusion. Good luck.

Available in pdf e-book form at Paper Movies and The Paper Movies Store:

TOTALLY OBVIOUS. Collecting all my “Master Of The Obvious” columns from 1998-2000, with still relevant commentary on comics, culture, creativity and the freelance life, revealing many previously unvoiced secrets behind all those things.

IMPOLITIC: A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEARS VOL 1. Collecting my political commentary of the early terror years, from Sept. 2001 through April 2005, revealing the terror behind the War On Terror.

HEAD CASES. A collection of comics scripts from work done c. 1992-1995 for various companies, including an unused script. Annotated.

Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it’s not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They’re no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don’t really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE OF COLUMN POLICY: any email received in response to a piece run in this column is considered a letter of comment available for printing in the column unless the author specifically indicates it is not intended for public consumption. Unless I check with you or the contents of your e-mail make your identity unavoidably obvious, all letters are run anonymously.

Please don’t ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

The WHISPER NEWSLETTER is now up and running via the Yahoo groups. If you want to subscribe, click here.

I’m reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I’ll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send ’em if you want ’em mentioned, since I can’t review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can’t do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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