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Issue #211

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Issue #211
  • THIS WEEK:

    COMICS MONTH IN REVIEWS

    BUILDING THE BETTER BASTARD, PT. 1

    BUILDING THE BETTER BASTARD, PT. 2

    TV EYE, TAKE TWO

    NOTES FROM UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS

  • It’s been awhile since I’ve had the chance to review any comics, so let’s get to it:

    NIGHT FISHER by R. Kikuo Johnson, 140 pg b&w graphic novel (Fantagraphics Books;$12.95)

    Wow. Turns out anyone who thought there’d never be another Eddie Campbell was wrong. Johnson’s debut graphic novel is visually and spiritually a stark slice of life as a bored, doubtridden top student at a private Hawaiian prep school takes to tweaking and the petty crime needed to support it. He’s got Campbell’s eye for the strange moment, and draws a bit like him too, but his art evokes lot of people’s, like Mike Allred and David Mazzuchelli, and the creeping corruption of his world smacks of Charles Burns as well. Without actually imitating any of them. The story doesn’t end so much as stop, as the hero finally realizes the depth of his friendships, but it’s a fascinating ride in a little mentioned (at least in comics) culture, and a strong advent. I hate throwing around book jacket claptrap like “destined to be a major talent,” but Johnson certainly shows signs of it. Worth checking. (It’s due out in November.)

    GURU GURU PON-CHAN by Satomi Ikezawa, b&w trade paperback (Del Rey Manga;$10.95)

    This is where manga generally loses me. From the writer-artist of OTHELLO, this is the story of a dog that swallows a magic dog biscuit (there’s really no other description; she changes back when she coughs it up) and becomes a barely pubescent teenage girl obsessed with a cute teenage boy. It’s kind of sweet – the dog behaves as a dog, even when human, with a pet dog’s innocence and desire to please – but it’s kind of creepy too, since the suggestive elements in the book just barely stray clear of both kiddie porn and bestiality. It’s strongest when the dog starts to face up to the complexities of being human, and it’s well done enough. But my skin crawls when I think about it.

    WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, 102 pg color graphic novel (Vertigo;$12.99)

    Quite simply one of the best mini-series ever. Morrison’s concept is dead simple: household pets are experimentally engineered into programmable cyborg killing machines, then escape their lab to find the homes they were taken from, and the military wants them destroyed before someone finds out. In most hands that’d end up stultifyingly predictable, but where Morrison’s work traditionally takes a dim view of humanity, he obviously has a soft spot for household pets, and amid all the violence this turns out to be one great plea for the humane treatment of animals and appreciating them for their finer qualities, like trust and loyalty, and he plays them as animals, treating attempts to anthropomorphicize them as an abomination. Quitely’s art is beautiful, as usual. Punctuated with “missing pet” posters portraying the stars in pre-transformation, the story is summarized when one researcher says “You know it’s best not to get attached to things” and another replies, “But isn’t that the point of it all?” The ending made me cry. Seriously. Great story.

    GACHA GACHA by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi, 204 pg b&w trade paperback (Del Rey Manga;$10.95)

    More borderline manga porn. Due to a strange accident during her summer vacation, a high school girl unpredictably reveals a second personality – a sex-crazed slut – and remembers nothing of it afterward. The boy who’s secretly in love with her is enlisted to keep her virginal during her “blackouts” and cover for her strange behavior. Hilarity ensues, of course (some of it is pretty funny) and things take an sf turn when the cause of her condition is revealed, opening some potentially interesting possibilities. Nicely drawn, decently written. It’s no HOT GIMMICK, but it’s okay.

    GENSHIKEN by Kio Shimoku, 190 pg b&w trade paperback (Del Rey Manga;$10.95)

    One of the best manga I’ve read in months. “Genshiken” means “society for the study of modern visual culture,” a fancy name for a school club whose members are fascinated by manga, anime, videogames and action figures. This take on Japanese comics culture is simultaneously loving and savage, and funny as hell, as it makes otaku look harmlessly seedy and the lifestyle look like a blast. And I finally understand the Japanese context of “otaku” (less “fan” than “fetishist”). Too bad American comics culture can’t produce something as self-aware as this. Get it.

    CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE #4 by Tom Waltz & Casey Maloney, 32 pg b&w comic (Shooting Star Comics;$2.99)

    This horror story set in a wartorn Middle Eastern nation wraps up nicely, as the ghosts of murdered children help three American soldiers end the reign of a vengeful madman. There aren’t really any great surprises in it, but there are nice elements of forgiveness and understanding that aren’t very common in these things. Artist Maloney’s shaky moments of earlier in the series are much more sporadic here and he’s teetering on becoming a professional quality artist, and writer Waltz has the good sense to not go overboard in places that are practically begging for it. It’s about as satisfying an ending as one can hope for from the setup. Good.

    KEIF LLAMA: XENOTECH #1 by Matt Howarth, 32 pg b&w comic (Mu Press; price unknown)

    Besides his anarchic “Bugtown” saga (mainly THOSE ANNOYING POST BROS. and SAVAGE HENRY), Matt Howarth – have I mentioned how he’s one of the unsung greats of comics – also produced a “hard science fiction” series called KEIF LLAMA (not coincidentally, Mu Press is also collecting the KL stories originally published by Fantagraphics in a companion trade paperback called KEIF LLAMA: PARTICLE DREAMS), about a spacefaring troubleshooter in a galaxy filled with strange species. Llama herself (himself? I’ve never been quite sure) is, in contrast to most of Howarth’s heroes, a calm, deliberate investigator, but there are more wild ideas in an issue of KEIF LLAMA than in any dozen other comics. Worth a look.

    FOUL PLAY by Grant Geissman, 272 pg color trade paperback (Harper Design; price unknown)

    If you’ve ever wondered what the EC Comics horror craze – you know, the one that triggered the Comics Code in the ’50s – was all about, this handsome book is a great introduction. Hardcore EC fans will find little new in Geissman’s text, but he gives a nice, fairly comprehensive overview of EC’s history and its lasting contributions to the medium, honors most of the artists that made EC famous (and includes a few famous artists like Alex Toth and Joe Kubert whose EC contributions were impressive but rare) and reprints sample art and entire stories by them, and caps it off with thumbnail comics covers done for an EC Christmas party and previously unpublished art including an entire story drawn by Al Williamson and probably his many collaborators of the era like Frank Frazetta. This is more than just an overview of EC; it’s a great introduction to many of the greatest artists who ever touched a comics page, like John Severin, Bernie Krigstein, and Harvey Kurtzman, making it an absolute must for any real lovers of comics art. It’s not the definitive study of EC Comics, but it’ll do for now.

    RED ICE by Matt Bellisle, 12 pg color mini-comic (Gravity DSN; price unknown)

    I’ve been a fan of Matt Bellisle for some time now, and his work just gets better. This one’s a terse little fable about men seeking the fountain of youth in an Antarctic cave, where they run into a couple unpleasant surprises. Bellisle’s art reaches a new level of attracive slickness here. The story itself doesn’t really qualify as more than a minor work, but his pacing, economy, storytelling and style prove he’s got much of what it takes to be a top talent. Check it out.

    STRANGEHAVEN #18 by Gary Spencer Millidge (Abiogenesis Press;$2.95)

    Continuing Millidge’s series about sinister and weird goings-on in a small English village, deceptively interweaving a mystery storyline with a slice of life dynamic. As the story’s apparent hero goes undercover in the town’s controlling occult marginally secret society (everyone knows about it), and a pair of would-be murderers find themselves in desperate straits. As usual, the series uberplot only creeps along, but that’s fine; Millidge invests his characters with such life and his story with enough twists that watching them go through their paces is entertainment enough. I liked it.

    Due to circumstances (see below) that’s all there’s time for this week, but, since a huge flood of review copies arrived in today’s mail (I think the post office has been storing them up), look for a mammoth review section next week.

  • I spent much of the last week building a new computer, despite one reader imploring me not to try it. He was probably right, as I discovered two things:

    It’s amazingly easy to build a computer.

    It’s amazingly easy to screw it up.

    The virtue of building your own computer is that you know exactly what parts are in it. When you buy from a computer store or many online manufacturers (not certain if this is the case with Dell or not) you often end up with proprietary equipment that’s not easy to swap out or upgrade, but all the parts are more or less guaranteed to work together. When you BYO, you get parts that are easy to swap out, but there are a lot of hidden possible compatibility problems. I know from a friend at Microsoft, where they’re constantly testing these things, that software tends to crash on some motherboards more than others. In the course of my research, when I was trying to figure out why my completed computer wasn’t so much as twitching when I switched it on, I discovered the little known secret that some major manufacturer power supplies simply don’t work and play well with some major manufacturer motherboards, though I couldn’t find out which ones. Despite many conferences and much talk about standards in computer equipment and software, computer standards remain semi-elusive. That might have been part of my problem.

    The trickiest part of building a computer is motherboard-CPU-heatsink/fan assembly, and it turns out not to be that tricky, though care is demanded. I ended up with an ECS NVidea-3A motherboard and an AMD64-3000 chip (combo special at Fry’s) with a big honking Thermaltake heatsink/fan, housed in an Antec P180 case. The P180 is big, with three variable speed fans and different chambers to limit heat and aluminum and plastic layers sides to cut noise levels way down. It’s funny, though, but no matter how big computer cases are, once you start loading equipment in, and the necessary cables, there’s never enough room. The scariest part of putting together the mobo combo is adding thermal compound to the CPU, for best contact between the CPU and the heatsink meant to keep it from overheating; without enough, the heatsink might not draw off enough heat, and with too much it’ll insulate the CPU from the heatsink. Second scariest part, particularly with AMD CPUs (as opposed to Intel, but I have the sort of revulsion to Intel that many have to Microsoft), is putting the heatsink/fan on, since AMD CPUs can crack easily. But it went smoothly enough. I stole a couple hard drives out of my old machine and added two new ones, including an 80 gig Western Digital SATA drive to be my new C: drive. (Always make your fastest drive the C: drive.) So there’s a lot of space in there for when I start lettering my own comics. (It’s coming.) I started with an Antec Smartpower power supply, hooked up everything nice.

    Until the first complication arose. The P180 has a completely different design to most cases: the power supply goes at the bottom, not the top. Which meant the power cord to the motherboard couldn’t reach far enough. (In Antec’s instruction book for the case, they recommend Antec Truepower PSs instead, but I ordered the power supply before I knew what case I was getting. Don’t do that.) So, vrrrroooom, off to Fry’s to buy a 20 pin extension cord. Snagged their last one. Got home. Hooked it up.

    Nothing.

    Tried various solutions. Nothing. Got a different power supply, a Truepower this time. Reached fine, plenty of length. Nothing.

    I checked with my IT connection in California, and with the reader, another IT guy, who’d cautioned me against this madness. Both said the same thing: unplug everything except the motherboard, the power supply and the videocard, and see if anything twitched. I did. It didn’t.

    Which meant, vrrrroooom, off to Fry’s, to exchange the motherboard and CPU. First I had to get the heatsink off, which was also a little scary, since I imagined destroying the CPU in the process. But it slid right off, once I’d disengaged it from the motherboard. I have to say, Fry’s is terrific with returns. They never bat an eye as long as you’ve got the receipt and you’re within time limits. The problem had to be with either the motherboard or the CPU, since it was unlikely two power supplies from two different sources were nonfunctional.

    Start from scratch. I’m uncertain, but I have the vague suspicion I may also have set the CPU in the motherboard socket wrong, though that may just be paranoia, I have no idea if that would keep power from flowing or not, and, at any rate, I did it right the second time. Plugged in the Smartpower PS.

    Nothing.

    By this time, I’d lost a couple days of work and I was starting to feel really ill.

    Swapped that out for the Truepower PS.

    The thing lit up like a Christmas tree. Suddenly things were humming, fans were spinning, and I’m shouting to the heavens WE HAVE POWER! A rare triumphant moment. I don’t know whether the Smartpower was beat – not having an alligator clip or anything else sufficiently insulated on hand I didn’t bother the test they suggest on their website, which involves sticking a paperclip into two of the connectors for a second to see if the PS’s fan kicks in – or whether it just didn’t agree with the motherboard, but the long nightmare was over. Sort of.

    Once everything was back inside, another problem showed up. Antec designed a nice case, but there are too many ways cables can interrupt the fans, specifically the one in the bottom chamber, which is exposed to cable on both sides. I had to force cables into position and lock them there with sliding hatches the company includes to limit heat spill from one chamber to another. They seem to be working fine, though.

    Then came the software. Though I’d known better, I had a moment of panic when I couldn’t load Windows XP Pro (why dick around with the crippleware Home version, right?) before I realized I’d forgotten to format the new disks. Western Digital makes that terribly simple, at least for drives under 137 gigs in size, by including a bootable formatting CD. So it’s into the BIOS to set up the CD-RW (you can now get a LiteOn 52x CD writer at Office Max for $30; it’s amazing how relatively cheaply you can build a decent computer these days; I paid $40 after rebates for a 160 gig hard drive when a 520 gig hard drive cost me almost $500 ten years ago…) as the primary boot device. At least Microsoft has finally made installing Windows fairly painless, if still lengthy.

    And my new computer was born.

    Just finishing loading software, in between trying to get paying work done; I’m spending five or six hours right now – yeah, I’m still on dialup, though hi-speed is on my Christmas list – getting the Microsoft Office 2003 upgrades, and spent the first evening as a modern computer owner getting all the Windows upgrades. So what’s on the new machine?

    Utilities: Zone Alarm. Avast antivirus. Search And Destroy. Ad-Aware. Eraser. DataGuard Tools. WinZip. Powerdesk.

    Work-related: Microsoft Office Professional (including Word and Publisher). Final Draft. Info Select. Adobe Reader. Photoshop to come, though I have to decide whether to use my old version or spring for a new version.

    Media: RioPort (it’s an outdated music player, but nothing yet beats it for editing track information), the latest WinAmp, DiVX, Artisan DVD Player, ATI Multimedia Center, Nero Burning Rom.

    Internet: Firefox. Thunderbird. Mailwasher. Xnews.

    Plus all the stuff Microsoft loads up, like solitaire games and Messenger, much of which will be wiped out in the weeks to come. It still amazes me how much great free software is out there, either available on the web or bundled with hardware. Anyone got any other suggestions?

    The upshot of all this is that the last couple years, when I worked with two dying computers that occasionally collapsed on me, are over, and, lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise, I won’t have any more excuses like that for a long, long time. Of course, there are always complications, like when it turned out that if I run my ATI All-In-Wonder 128 videocard and Viewsonic monitor, both cribbed from the old rig, at the top available resolution (1280xwhatever it is), a quarter of the screen suddenly shifts offscreen, so I probably need a modern videocard, though I wouldn’t want to do without an All-In-Wonder, and monitor (an LCD, I think) sometime in the not-too-distant future. I wouldn’t mind a modern soundcard and a decent speaker setup. But up first, I think, is a workaholic phase, starting with the PAT NOVAK and CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES scripts I have to finish the instant I get some hush-hush paying work out of the way. It’s an interesting year coming up; I finally feel armed for it. At least I can finally run programs and files people have been sending me for years, like the latest season of DR. WHO on VideoCD…

    One last thing, though: anyone know how to migrate Thunderbird address books and email from one installation of Thunderbird to another? That’d make my life SO much easier.

  • That’s the power of compromise for you. Now that John Roberts has taken his place at the head of the Supreme Court (By the way, did you know Roberts told Congress he sees nothing wrong with American citizens being imprisoned indefinitely by the government without being charged with a crime and without access to a lawyer? And he believes being proven innocent following a conviction is no reason to overturn a death penalty? Neither did most reporters in this country, and certainly Congress didn’t care.) by following what has become

    standard White House procedure under the current administration and responding to any question asked by Congress as if the question never existed and the answer is irrelevant, the search for Sandra Day O’Conner’s replacement kicked into weird gear with the nomination of a longtime Hand Puppet flunky, Harriet Miers, who has never been on the bench in any capacity but who has the Democrat-pleasing quality of being a woman and a freshly minted legend, no doubt in imitation of Roberts’, of having no preconceptions about anything, and no paper trail to prove otherwise. Which, when you think about it, makes her more qualified for her job than defrocked FEMA head Michael Brown was for his. (Brown has been rehired by the White House to determine what went wrong with the response to the Katrina catastrophes, and his exhaustive seven minute investigation somehow led him to exactly the conclusion the administration preferred Congress hear: the fault lay entirely with Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. Even as the Feds have abandoned their previous plan to provide those devastated by Katrina with debit cards, now favoring instead mailing out checks to the affected. Many of whom, at the moment, have no permanent addresses. But you can’t really blame the Hand Puppet for any failures, since by his own admission he doesn’t watch TV news or read newspapers, so there’s no way he could have known what was going on.)

    Too bad Miers’ legend is already unraveling. We know she’s soft on crime, and possibly even partial to it, since the law firm she ran copped a plea on a rap that it helped a client defraud investors. Which means we know she’s soft on business as well. We knows she’s soft on the military, since, according to Michael Isikoff (if you’re going to believe him about Clinton, you have to believe him about the Hand Puppet as well), she took $19,000 from the Hand Puppet’s gubernatorial campaign a decade or so ago to squelch stories that HP had gotten his daddy’s help in jumping queue to get into the Texas National Guard and escape a two year vacation in Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War. And for some reason Republicans are much more concerned about all of this than Congressional Democrats are. Republicans are screaming “cronyism!” Democrats are just trying to prove they’re not obstructionists, though that’s what opposition parties are supposed to be.

    Though Republicans have their own distractions, like the indictment of Tom Delay on charges of campaign fraud and money laundering, which brought out seemingly every Republican in Congress on TV over the weekend to remind us that what grand juries determine means nothing because they’re all a bunch of credulous tools, and Tom’s as pure as the driven snow. Funny they never seem to apply those standards when, say, some black kid’s busted for walking down the street. And complicating everyone’s lives are high-ranking generals now openly talking, in contradiction of the White House’s official story, about what a botchjob Iraq is; as with New Orleans, the only thing we’re really doing there now is preserving Halliburton’s profits.

    I’d swear I’ve seen this plot in some other movie…

  • Haven’t caught this week’s episode but I was underwhelmed by the debut of Ricky Gervais’ EXTRAS (HBO, 7:30P Sundays). Then again, I was lukewarm to the first season of THE OFFICE (the original, not the current NBC version at 9:30P Tuesdays, though they apparently have wisely chosen this season to throw more focus on Jenna Fischer, who’s maybe the most natural comedienne working in American media today) and thought the second season, when they knew they were done and throwing caution to the winds, was great. It isn’t that Gervais isn’t playing Brent again, it’s that the character he does play – an aspiring actor used as window dressing in other people’s movies – is pretty much a dull lump. (His one lively scene, when he’s trying to lie his way out of lying his way into a Catholic prayer group in order to pick up one of the members, is pretty much successful because he’s channeling, for just a moment, Brent’s obsessive self-justification.) While the spectacle of Kate Winslet wearing a nun’s habit while giving advice on making dirty phone calls, smoking, and ranting about how you have to be in a Holocaust film or play a cripple to win an Oscar is amusing, it’s only that. True, the premise is no thinner than the premise of THE OFFICE, but Gervais, at least in the first show, has saddled himself with a persona that’s about as interesting as a lump of oatmeal. You sometimes look right at him and forget he’s on the screen. Which, come to think of it, may be the show’s theme.

    On the other hand, the season premiere of VERONICA MARS (UPN, 9P Wednesdays) was a revelation, deftly covering the character’s entire summer since last season’s dramatic finale in a dizzying jigsaw puzzle of events that drastically change her life and her town’s and immediately sets up at least two continuing mysteries while quickly resolving high school intrigue of the sort that has helped make the show a lot of fun, with the case underscoring the social meltdown that’s occurring. Kirsten Bell covered such a gamut of emotions and intellectual gymnastics in the hour, making every one equally credible, that she really deserves an Emmy. Easily the best hour drama on American network TV today, with good writing, good acting, a keen if flexible moral sense, a host of terrific actors, and, goddammit, decent payoffs! Screw what else is on Wednesday nights. If you aren’t watching this, you should be.

    The latest season of AMAZING RACE (CBS, 9P Tuesdays) threatens to be a bit more tepid than others, mainly due to families of four racing – apparently across the USA instead of around the world. (That’ll save CBS on fuel costs, anyway, and it also explains host Phil Keoghan’s American goodwill tour last winter.) I guess it wouldn’t be a good idea to have kids riding the commuter trains in Calcutta. But the first episode was kind of endearing (families fleeing the starting point in Brooklyn first had to find my old stomping grounds of Soho and then head way uptown to where favorite first season contestants Kevin and Drew were manning a hotdog stand unannounced) and educational (the point on the Trenton River where George Washington made his renowned Christmas night crossing to capture the Hessian troops is only a few feet deep and not particularly wide). Sad, too, as when the kids in the first family eliminated got the harsh lesson that even when you do your best you sometimes lose. Not that they wouldn’t learn it sometime, but learning it on national television is rough. I’m sure there’s enough in the States to provide thirteen weeks of sufficient challenges (maybe they’ll hit Canada too), but this already feels like lighter entertainment than earlier seasons, pleasant enough to watch, but only a warm-up for the real globehopping deal in the Spring.

    If Jenna Fischer is the most natural comedienne currently on American TV, Jason Lee might be the most natural comedian, fully sinking his teeth into his semi-reformed reprobate character in MY NAME IS EARL (NBC, 9P Tuesdays). The second week was as strong as the first, with Earl playing at quitting smoking (to make up for all the people he might have harmed with secondhand smoke) to avoid fessing up to a psycho ex-partner-in-crime who got sent to prison in Earl’s place. So far they’ve been really good at seeding episodes with seemingly random bits of business that abruptly and unexpectedly tie together, as when the confession to the psycho comes to a head and suddenly resolves with a good third of the show left to go. Definitely the best new network show of the season so far. Unfortunately, the much touted EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, strong in its opener, took a nosedive, both comedicly and in the ratings, with the second episode. Not that it was bad. It was just… tepid. Everyone in the cast is good, and the heart’s still there though it already went a bit sentimental, but where there should have been laughs there were only giggles, and the odd suspicion that it’s not going to change back.

    By the way, someone asked me if I’m going to check out the new Geena Davis show, COMMANDER IN CHIEF. Uh. Yeah. It’s there on my list of things to do right after putting a bullet through my head. Really, all I had to do was read the producers’ own description of the show – they’re steering clear of that annoying policy and issue stuff and focusing on a working mom who happens to end up as president of the United States – to be thankful I don’t see things just because Donald Sutherland is in them anymore. Then I heard the full premise: see, somehow the Republicans (I could believe the Democrats, but the Republicans?!!) are so desperate to have a woman on the ticket that instead of, oh, calling on Elizabeth Dole, they break down and put an independent on the ticket, since her only job is to lure the women’s vote and put the Presidential nominee in the White House, and it never occurs to them that they’re putting the woman a breath away from the Oval Office. It’s like Warren G. Harding never existed. Any show that works that hard and asks us to swallow that much just to set up its premise… as my grandmother used to say, you don’t have to cut your finger off to know you’re going to bleed…

  • Notes from under the floorboard:

    It suddenly occurs to me that since the San Diego Con, I have paid functionally no attention to comics. Aside from 7 SOLDIERS OF VICTORY, which Alternate Reality kindly holds for me (love most of them, MISTER MIRACLE left me a little cold but I’ll give it time), and what people send for review, I really don’t know what’s currently being published. I used to be obsessed with things like that. Not that I’m Marvel or DC’s target audience these days. I don’t know that I’m anybody’s target audience. People used to say comics was a niche market, but, even as the popularity of the medium is expanding again, it has become, like the music industry, more a niche filled with niches. That may be where we’re heading: a few sprawling behemoths (or should I say spider-, X- and bat-behemoths) and a million niche markets. Which might not be the worst thing in the world. Ross Richie has spelled out for me how you can make a lot of money in niche publishing if you play it smart. All kinds of strange new things going on, if you can adjust to strange new thinking. Not that I’m the first to suggest it.

    More Cover Challenge madness. As usual, one I thought was tough was answered almost instantly. This week’s winner is Christopher Freiberg who correctly “guessed” the theme was comics written by writers who were also novelists: Alfred Bester in CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES, Denny O’Neil in CHARLTON PREMIERE (in addition to his DC novels, Denny also wrote a paperback original, THE BITE OF MONSTERS, which I’ve still got around here somewhere), Mickey Spillane in DICK COLE, Michael Moorcock in HEAVY METAL (Christopher points out Norman Spinrad was published in that issue, too, which I’d completely missed), Steve Englehart (his novel was THE POINT MAN in COYOTE, science fiction novelist Edmond Hamilton in THE BLACK TERROR and Max Allan Collins in MS. TREE. I swear, it’s like he had my room bugged. But then, in the midst of ISP problems (since solved) and my computer crisis, I never notified him that he had won. Christopher, you won! Let me know what you want to pimp.

    Fortunately, Alonso Nunez, who won the week before last, got back to me with what he wants to promote: The Joe Kubert School. “As the only art school aimed specifically at comics, I don’t feel it gets enough mention. I’m a first year student there, and I can’t believe more people don’t attend. We have so many people interested in getting into this medium (as anyone who’s ever been to the conventions knows) and this school is perfect for those people. The workload is incredible, but so are the atmosphere, the students and, of course, the faculty, which includes Joe Kubert, his sons Adam and Andy, and other pros. (I was ecstatic when I learned my Life Drawing teacher was former POWER PACK artist June Brigman.) I can’t recommend it enough to anyone trying to make it in the comics industry.”

    You too can plug the site of your choice (we reserve the right to reject them, though) if you’re the first one to email me the solution to this week’s Comic Cover Challenge. All the covers, or the books they’re on, have something in common. What is it? (To clarify, it has to be what I say it is, not other links that the more inventive among you come up with.) Let’s see if this week’s is as tough as I think it is.

    Finally, as usual, you’ll make me a happy man if you bop over to Paper Movies, and pick up one or more of my two ebooks, TOTALLY OBVIOUS (collecting my essays about comics, culture, creativity and the freelance life originally done for my MASTER OF THE OBVIOUS column and still ridiculously relevant today) and IMPOLITIC: A Journal Of The Plague Years, Part 1 (political writings since the advent of the age of terror). Both run between 250-300 pages, both cost $5.95 each, and both may be bought at a package price of $10.95. Trust me, they’re worth it. (And you can trust me, because I never lie and I’m always right.)

    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. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. 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.

    Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should 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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