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Issue #215

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Issue #215
  • THIS WEEK:

    NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE REVIEWS: catching up with the comp lists

    WE’VE GOT MAIL: catching up with feedback

    NOTES FROM UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS: catching up with miscellanea

  • I’m getting so far behind on reviews that they’re this week’s priority. If there’s time, we’ll get to other things.

    From Del Rey Manga:

    GENSHIKEN Vol 2-3 by Kio Shimoku (174 pg b&w trade paperbacks; $10.95@). I read a lot of manga now, and while TokyoPop’s HOT GIMMICK remains the best overall, GENSHIKEN, about a nerdy college club dedicated to manga, anime, videogames and related cultural phenomena (like comics conventions and otaku porn). There’s no story substance to speak of, though it does take on new layers when the gyaru younger sister of one member shows up and falls for handsome but oblivious videogamer Kousaka (incurring the wrath of the series’ true main character, Kousaka’s longsuffering non-otaku girlfriend Kasukabe), drawing subtle parallel between otaku and gyaru (teenage girls obsessing on makeup and boys) culture. But the series is mainly about character, as even minor characters get interesting development, it’s hilarious, and Shimoku’s writing and art show amazing comic timing and emotional expressiveness. What’s not to like? Get it.

    XXXHOLIC Vol 6 & TSUBASA RESERVOIR CHRONICLE Vol 7 by Clamp (188-200 pg b&w trade paperbacks; $10.95@). Overall, I’m not particularly enamored with Studio Clamp’s output – it tends to get a little sloppy – but these two intertwined series remain among their best and most attractive work. These are light and fairly pleasant fantasies tinged with dark moments, dark humor and dark forbodings, built on foundations of Japanese mythology, international literature and pop culture. In XXXHOLIC, reluctant hero Watanuki has more encounters with the spirit world as his witchy employer Yuki disappears on an odd mission. Not much really goes on in the book, but the imagination behind it is so odd and complex, and the presentation so precise and appealing that it’s hard to find fault with it. TSUBASA is more juvenile in nature, a quest story of four heroes traveling across dimensions to recover fragments of a girl’s memory. In this volume they’ve become demon hunters (with guest stars from other Clamp projects) but, as usual, things aren’t what they seem. It’s also imaginative and stronger on action-adventure but it’s got a tiringly fatalistic undertone that makes it more of a chore to read, and I’m not sure how easily someone new to the series could walk in seven volumes in.

    THE WALLFLOWER Vol 4 by Tomoko Hayakawa (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). Continuing the adventures of four hot high school guys living with a Goth chick and trying to turn her into a proper lady in exchange for free rent. By this volume – I haven’t seen the last couple – the arrangement makes heroine Sunako, who just wants to be left alone, a celebrity in her high school because her presence ensures the presence of the hot guys. The series has had its moments, but they’re hard to come by in this volume, as the joke is starting to wear thin. The Valentine’s Day chocolate story was amusing, but amusing’s about as good as this series currently gets.

    OTHELLO Vol 5 by Satomi Ikezawa (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). Split personality shenanigans, as meek high schooler (and would-be rock singer) Yaya unwittingly transforms into brash, fearless Nana, who takes great pleasure in meting out her own brand of justice to various transgressors, including punk rockers, crooked pervert politicians, and her arch-rival, who has discovered her double identity. It’s readable enough, and I like the Yaya/Nana character, but it’s one of those manga that’s starting to get too repitious without ever getting to its supposed point. It does start to pick up a little at volume’s end, though, with Yaya starting to come out of her shell and Nana nowhere in sight. It’s okay.

    NEGIMA! Vol 7 by Ken Akamatsu (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). I still don’t get NEGIMA!. A kid wizard is the teacher for a dormful of sex-obsessed high school girls, winky smut jokes and lots of panty shots ensue. It’s kind of like if Playboy and Scholastic Books teamed up on a Harry Potter parody. Lots of people are nuts about this (it’s certainly a “harum” story, but does it qualify as fan service?) but it leaves me cold. This “innocent sexplay” stuff is creepy.

    GURU GURU PON-CHAN Vol 2 by Satomi Ikezawa (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). This dramedic saga of a young dog that transforms into a cute schoolgirl via a “magic” dog biscuit gets mildly more interesting as the romantic triangle between her, her schoolgirl owner, and the cute guy next door straightens out a little and a new character is introduced and immediately falls in love with the title character, unaware she’s really a dog. The overall concept still falls unnervingly close to bestiality, especially when the would-be boyfriend tastes the biscuit to see if it’ll turn him into a dog while the heroine’s flirting naked with him, but it’s sort of endearing as well, at least until they get into the rape fantasy. Strange series.

    SUGAR SUGAR RUNE Vol 1 by Moyoco Anno (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). An oddly drawn fantasy about two young witches on earth to vie for the queenship of their magical world by getting human boys to fall in love with them. Not really my cup of tea; it’s obviously aimed at young adolescent girls who might get a kick out of its vaguely perverse romanticism, fixating on the meaning and power, not to mention downsides, of love as they adapt to human life and learn about feelings. Not bad, though.

    GHOST HUNT Vol 1 by Shiho Inada & Fuyumi Oni (188 pg b&w trade paperback; $10.95). A fairly routine “high school detective” manga, this one is redeemed by some interesting character interplay and a strange balance of occult phenomena and rational explanations for them. Various ghostbusters come out to discover what’s “haunting” a high school library, drawing a couple high school girls into their orbit as ghost attacks start to increase. It’ll never be the greatest manga ever, but enjoyable enough for this sort of thing, though it’s a little too easy to figure out the mystery’s solution.

    From Fantagraphics:

    KRAZY AND IGNATZ: The Complete Full Page Comic Strips 1935-1936 by George Herriman (120 pg color paperback; $19.95). It’s the same old story – dog loves cat, cat loves mouse, mouse hits cat in head with brick – but if you haven’t experienced the surreal genius of George Herriman, one of the great cartoonists in American history, it’s hard to imagine a better introduction, from one of the strongest periods of the strip where every week produced a gem. The extra material includes a good, short introduction by Bill Blackbeard and a good discussion of racial themes in the strip by Jeet Heer. (Though it wasn’t widely known during his lifetime, Herriman was of mixed race, which makes his accomplishments, given his era, even more remarkable.) Like all the Fantagraphics Herriman volumes, this is a loving, well-produced and designed volume, worth every penny. Get it and see for yourself.

    BLAB #16 ed. by Monte Beauchamp (120 pg color paperback magazine; $19.95). Still a great alt-comics anthology, it’s a little sketchier this issue with really terrific material like Geoffrey Grahn’s expose of how close the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to WWIII and Spain’s “The Return Of James” bumping up against more ephemeral pieces like Andrea Deszo’s “Names In A Random Order” and Gary Taxali’s “Notty.” Still, BLAB continues to serve it’s prime objective – spotlighting some of the best international alt comics, strange art, and cultural ephemera (there’s a good text series of “lost liner notes” running throughout the issue), and the quality of production is just so good that the magazine is overwhelming; no matter how much you read, it always feels like there are still hidden treasures there to be found. There’s an interesting zeitgeist at work in BLAB! where every piece – text or art, new or old, fiction or non- – takes on the weight and importance of curio, and that odd tone is one of the reasons it’s one of the most cohesive and striking anthologies out there, and far better than virtually all the competition. Good job, as usual.

    THE COMICS JOURNAL LIBRARY: CLASSIC COMICS ILLUSTRATORS ed. by Tom Spurgeon (148 pg color paperback; $22.95). Say what you will about the Comics Journal, they’re still practically the only game in town when it comes to well-illustrated in depths texts on comics history that presents it in a format that suggests the material is important. It helps that the interviewers are capable of comprehensive, intelligent questions that manage to toe a fine line between respect and deconstruction when interviewing the artists represented here, most of whom are legends – Burne Hogarth, Russ Heath, Frank Frazetta, Russ Manning and Mark Schultz. Between the seeming thousands of ideas the artists discuss, and the absolutely gorgeous art accompanying the pieces, this is practically an education-in-a-volume on how to draw action-adventure comics really, really well, not to mention how to think about comics. Absolutely terrific; if you buy any one book mentioned in the column this week, buy this.

    THE COMPLETE CRUMB COMICS Vol 17 by Robert Crumb

    (122 pg b&w trade paperback; $18.95). Another of the great American cartoonists. This volume covers Crumb’s work in the late ’80s, when his readership was down considerably from the millions who read him when he was the great man of underground comics. I wasn’t familiar with much of this work either, and while the material’s mostly classic Crumb (mainly joyously, guilt-riddenly sexist with great social commentary), it’s intriquing to watch his technique and storytelling tighten and refine. Besides the usual comic strips, there’s also sketchbooks, character designs from an unmade film about Sasquatches, an homage to Harvey Kurtzman, and gobs of panels. It’s more scattershot than most Crumb collections have been so far, but think of it as discovering great new work from a creator all of whose work you thought you’d already seen. Good.

    From Devil’s Due:

    This company’s really putting out a slew of color these days, aren’t they? I gather GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO gave way to GI JOE: AMERICA’S ELITE, and, really, not a moment to soon. The final issue of the former ($4.50), by Brandon Jerwa, Emiliano Santalucia, Tim Seeley and Corey Hamscher, is a passable mess, with things incoherently explained (how exactly do they overcome the Red Shadows?), an insufferable villain whose basic ineptness makes the heroes look even more inept, and why bother with mock Ron Lim artwork when the actual, and better, Lim is still available? The newer version ($2.95@), by Joe Casey, Stefano Caselli & Andrew Pepoy, is a considerable improvement in tone and style; the art’s sharper and more idiosyncratic, and Casey’s got a less frenetic pace and a better grasp of tactics and motivation. As GI JOE comics go, it’s pretty good. Which I can’t really say about SNAKE EYES DECLASSIFIED #2 ($2.95), by Brandon Jerwa, Emiliani Santalucia & Robert Atkins, which is so determined to be dramatic that every single moment is unrelentingly melodramatic. It’s okay, but that’s about all that can be said for it. The same can be said for Jerwa’s GI JOE MASTER & APPRENTICE #4 ($2.95), unevenly drawn by a small army of artists (it doesn’t help the overall effect), as former Cobra ninja and current Joe Storm Shadow confronts his dark past in some Tibetan mountain, complete with a bit lifted wholesale from CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. Jerwa’s not a bad writer, but man! Learn to relax. A little contrast of tone would go a long way in making these things better reads. Apart for Joe tales, there’s the HACK/SLASH-EVIL ERNIE 48 PAGE SPECTACULAR ($4.95), as slasher hunters go after Brian Pulido’s old serial killer character, in a story by Tim Seeley & Aadi Salman. I worked with Brian for awhile before Chaos! Comics collapsed, and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t Brian’s characters that connected with his audience so much as Brian himself, which is why his line lost readers the more he distanced himself from it. Certainly there’s nothing about Evil Ernie here that would indicate he has the chops to be a popular character. Characterization for both characters is all over the board. The painted art’s kind of fetching, in a Mark Texiera by way of Bill Sienkiewicz kind of way, until you look closely enough to see the draftsmanship’s not all that good. The book’s about as good as most crossover team-up/battle books, which is to say not very, since it has to go through so many gymnastics just to get the thing to work at all.

    From Alex Sheikman:

    ROBOTIKA (not sure of the price) is one of those books that’s good enough to be irritating. The art’s really nice for the most part, merging the Jeff Jones-Berni Wrightson school of art with the Steve Rude-Adam Hughes school… which makes it painful to see in the places where Sheikman doesn’t draw well. Weirdly, his inking has a tendency to make his fluid, very attractive pencils look blocky. The story’s the weak part, though, set in a far enough future that cowboys and samurai can mingle with killer robots and bubbling gene tanks like they all belong there. Or we’re supposed to accept that, anyway. It’s basically sloppy fantasy to give the artist an excuse to draw what he wants, and so far it doesn’t hold together very well. ROBOTIKA‘s so far mostly a book to look at (or will be if Sheikman doesn’t keep undercutting himself; he needs to ink like he pencils) and not a particularly good book to read.

    From Chibi Comics (32 pg b&w comics; $3@):

    FOR HIRE

    #1 & 2 are just sort of there, with a competently written story about a skyscraper-sized monster out to become a movie star and the agent who reluctantly takes him on (it could use a proofreader who knows things like the difference between “strait” and “straight,” though), and fairly incompetent art. The first issue’s got a twist that was old when Stan Lee was doing it in monster comics in the ’50s, the second issue really doesn’t do much at all. There isn’t a lot else to be said about it. The general characteristics are shared by the zombie “thriller” BODIES #1 & 2 (not surprising, since it’s by the same creative team, Celina Hernandez & Michael Murphy, though they don’t specify who does what), which doesn’t add anything to the genre so far; the dead inexplicably return to ravenous life, and the heroine kills them and screams a lot. The company’s final offering, RAMEL #1, is a medieval fantasy about a boy with strange powers who turns out to have adoptive parents, and sets out to find his true origins, by Nelson Forero, Michael Murphy & Rafael Correa, that’s a little better drawn but also isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen a thousand times before, at least so far. I can understand the appeal of wanting to do your own comics, but it doesn’t hurt to bring something new to the table once in awhile. (And, yeah, I know everything’s new when you do it for the first time, but that’s why you do existing things for the first time on your own time and don’t ask other people to pay for them.)

    From Rorschach Entertainment (32 pg b&w comics; $2.99@)

    It’s funny how easy it is to go off a comic when practically the first thing you read in it is a caption that goes, “I’ve got the finest suits and shoes to choose from courtesy of the finest designers of whom I will not speak of for fear of a lawsuit just because they can.” Most of Sean Dietrich’s demonic fantasy Fervor has better writing than that (where was the editor?) and lots of strange images, but the story, such as it is, is as convoluted and almost as coherent. He sure loves that poetic imagery, but it’s all Shakespeare’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. Ben Hooper & DeAndre Truesdale’s CHRONICLES OF A BOUNTY HUNTER #1 is somewhat more coherent but not particularly good, a mishmash of Dirty Harry clichés set in a futuristic “new crime capitol of the world,” abetted by Liefeld knockoff art. It’s not terrible but not terribly inspired either.

    From AiT/PlanetLar Books (88 pg b&w graphic novel):

    You can almost hear the high concept thought processes behind this Joe Casey, Caleb Gerard & Damian Couceiro’s FULL MOON FEVER: “30 DAYS OF NIGHT had such a simple concept – vampires in Alaska when it’s night for a month. There’s got to be something else that simple and cool!” Fortunately for Casey et al, there was: werewolves on the moon. Not that Marvel didn’t kick up this same turf a few decades back, but it plays nicely here, like an EC comics story by way of ALIEN. Good pacing, decent dialogue, very effective high contrast art. Not the greatest graphic novel you’ll ever read, but it goes a long way toward showing how much entertainment can be got from a simple idea well executed. (For those who care, the book also reprints a portion of Casey’s script.)

    I’ve still got a few to go, but I’ve been doing this all day, and reading comics all day has made me tired and cranky. And by next week I’ll have had the chance to read Greg Rucka’s QUEEN AND COUNTRY novel PRIVATE WARS

  • A few letters, just to catch up:

    [Re: DR. WHO] “I do believe that he won’t be in the Christmas special as he changed into the new Doc Who at the end of the last episode. So he has already left the series making way for David Tennant in the Christmas special. I hear he left because he was too expensive for the BBC. Lots of interesting things are going to happen in the next series. At least from the point of an Englishman. The return of Sarah Jane in one story! However, I am a bit wary of the return of the electronic dog K-9.”

    As far as I know, Eccleston’s short stint as DR. WHO was always the plan, and David Tennant was always the actual first choice for the part. But the BBC wanted a name that would draw attention to the series, and it seems to have worked. (Eccleston’s abrupt departure was also supposed to have been a surprise, from what I’m told, but some press flak at the BBC stupidly let it leak ahead of time.) The return of Sarah Jane is certainly a lure for those of us who started watching DR. WHO in the early Tom Baker years, but I’m with you on K-9.

    “I’m probably not the first to mention this to you, but ELECTRIC GIRL has been optioned for a cartoon series.”

    You are the first.

    “Always enjoy the column with its great mix of comics and politics.

    I never spend the time to figure out the cover game, but I do enjoy looking at the covers. I was surprised to see the CROSSROADS cover – I don’t recall ever seeing that book. I really liked the WHISPER series way back when and remember the first books from Capital Comics (I was living in Madison at the time). I will have to go look for that set.

    I really like the reviews in your column and the Pipeline column. I find myself almost overwhelmed to try to find good books. I have had pretty good luck using these reviews to help me look in a certain direction. I have no idea how the “industry” can support so many books these days. The audience number seems like it gets continually smaller and there are more and more books and even more small publishers. I don’t understand how these small folks can make a go of it.

    Oh, and you’ve probably heard this 100 times now, FELL is 24 pages thick, but the comics story is only, I believe, 16 pages long. There is text material in the back that talks about the story. All in all, it was a good book and there was much more story there than in the typical 22 page book. I really like the price. Just as $1.99 was a barrier 15 years ago, $2.99 is a barrier to me these days and I have to think very hard about buying something for $3.50. It’s funny how $3.25 doesn’t even look to be an option.

    Anyway, it is strange month in politics. Bush having to defend his supreme court pick to his own party, the New York threats that were a hoax, the anti-torture language in a bill proposed by John McCain that Bush promises to veto. While I haven’t heard him talk about the torture language I can just imagine some convoluted interview about it…”

    McCain has rarely endeared himself to the Hand Puppet’s wing of the party. Sorry no politics this week, but with conservatives ripping each other to shreds and liberals mostly in comatose or collaborator mode, I didn’t have a lot to write about this week.

    If you can keep your costs down, it’s still possible to make a real go at comics even with fairly low sales levels. But I suspect most smaller comics companies really survive on hope and dreams…

    “long time reader of your “Permanent Damage” column (and you were kind enough to print a contribution of mine while you were on vacation
    once), so I noticed in yesterday’s column that you mentioned how you were using Nero to translate the WHO videos into a format that could be used on your DVD player.

    Having some, ah, extensive experience with this sort of thing, I thought I’d give you a few tips.

    Most videos that are downloaded from the Internet with an .AVI extension are encoded using either DivX or XviD. Normally you’d need to convert this to a DVD player friendly format (MPEG) or watch them on your computer.

    However, Philips makes a $60 DVD player that will handle these formats. You simply burn the files to a CD like any normal disc, throw it in the player, and then pick a file from the onscreen menu. With a simple one-time remote control hack, the player can be made region free, and given the fact that it handles PAL and can read “soft subs,” is very handy for watching files and DVDs from around the world. Oh yeah, and it has component outs and can do progressive scanning. Pretty impressive package for the cash. I’ve owned one for a couple of years and so far it’s played 100% of the DivX files I’ve tried, and around 75-80% of XviD files (the two codecs are different, but do share some common source code).

    You can order one from various online retailers, but I got mine in-store at Target. I’ve also heard that they turn up at Sam’s and Costco from time to time.

    BTW, good thoughts about the new WHO. The first episode was a bit on the
    goofy side for me, but subsequent episodes get much better with some nice
    nods to anyone who knows their Who mythology. As much as I like
    Eccleston (who I mostly remember for SHALLOW GRAVE), I think the new
    Doctor – David Tennant – will be quite good based on his work in the
    excellent BBC series CASANOVE (unfortunately unavailable over here).”

    I’ve only seen Tennant in a recent between-the-wars British thing whose name I forget – BRIGHT PRETTY THINGS? – but I’m looking forward to seeing him as Dr. Who. Thanks for the tip on the Philips DVD player. Do most recent DVD players have a secret all regions setting? The cheap little Coby I bought a few months ago has, and it plays virtually all formats but DivX.

    [Normally, I don’t identify letter writers, but Marvel heir appearent Dan Slott dropped me a line…] ” Read your latest column over @ CBR, and am sad to hear that you haven’t read any of my recent work. I’d really appreciate it if you could give some of my stuff a read.

    All of last year’s SHE-HULK #5 online for free, and so is SHE-HULK #8.

    We’ve been bucking a lot of current trends with this title: Favoring one-part, two-part, and three-part stories over six issue arcs. Reveling in ALL of Marvel’s continuity. And, in an age of dark-n’-gritty, aiming for fun-n’-quirky.

    And Marvel’s been very supportive! They’ve given us lots of free reign, a nice push here and there, and no “straitjacketing” whatsoever. Honest. Back when we were starting up, I was hardly one of the “blessed.” In fact, I was the guy just coming off of the low-selling BATMAN ADVENTURES and LOONEY TUNES titles at DC. So I am very appreciative of the “Ten Terrific” initiative! Though I’ve been around in the industry for some time, SHE-HULK is the first ongoing mainstream superhero title that I’ve worked on. Most people know me as someone who’s been laboring away on licensed children’s books. So, relatively speaking, I’m a bit of a newcomer to this corner of the market – and it’s amazing that Marvel has been so supportive of my work. It’s even more surprising to me that they’re taking the time (in a very visually oriented medium) to shine a light on a bunch of writers – and grouping us alongside some deservedly big names like Whedon and Heinberg.

    If the Ten Terrific initiative helps bring ANY new readers to the SHE-HULK book – a title that the entire creative team puts a LOT of love into – then I’m all for it!”

    But, Dan, didn’t they tell you: aside from the odd Jim Lee, writers are the new artists! I’ll get around to reading your SHE-HULK‘s one of these day, but it’ll probably have to wait until I get hi-speed.

    “After reading your permanent damange column I wasn’t really surprised that you wouldn’t be interested in COMMANDER IN CHIEF. The way they pitched it does not describe the show.

    I just think you should give it a try. It’s a really good drama with a strong lead in Geena Davis and back up with Kyle Secor from HOMICIDE and VERONICA MARS in addition to Donald Sutherland as the Republican Speaker of the House. It is not about a mother dealing with a career and her kids. That is so off. That may have been how they pitched it, but it’s just not about that, anymore so than President Clinton dealing with Chelsea and his office.

    COMMANDER IN CHIEF is about the first female President and independent candidate dealing with Donald Sutherland’s attempts to depose her. In the first ep, the dying President asked her, then Vice President, to step down so that he would take over as President. This has set up the ongoing conflict which invigorates the show and distinguishes it from WEST WING -which bored me to tears every time I tried to watch.

    Anyway, I enjoy the column, and I hope you’ll give the show a try. I’ve watched three eps, and I’m hooked. It’s not like it will cost you anything to watch.”

    Nothing but time, which I don’t have a lot of. And with four other shows – AMAZING RACE, HOUSE and MY NAME IS EARL/THE OFFICE – vying for viewing and VCR time at the exact same time, it’s going to be quite a while before I can work in even a cursory glance at the show. But I knew the premise you mention – even described it in the column as a reason I can’t take the show seriously, because it postulates the Republicans would ever conceive of running an Independent female candidate on their ticket as Vice President and never once take into consideration that it put her a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Like I said, any show that goes through those sorts of gymnastics to set up its premise already stands on shaky ground…

    “Liked the article on comics discussions/reviews and creator’s (small ‘c’) rights.

    I have found that there are too many internet sites that review comics and I lose track of them when looking for reviews. I have found the Pipeline reviews and reviews from your column to be the most helpful in looking for non-superhero books. The Comics Worth Reading site has some interesting reviews as well.

    I think a problem with discussion of comics is that many people (readers), including me, really don’t have the time or inclination to write anything that could possibly represent a thought-provoking blurb about comics (I just read SEVEN SOLDIERS #0 and thought the LT. BLUEBERRY -like art switch was the coolest thing – although I thought Doug Wildey and not the L-T series). I know, not a though provoking comment, but it made me want to see more western comics material.

    Another problem with discussion boards is that there are just too many of them! I click on the Permanent Damage link and there are just too many threads. Well, maybe not, but it seems daunting and I prefer emails to blogs.
    I go over to Warren Ellis’ The Engine and it seems like 95% of the stuff there is a pretty much insider-groupie talk and it would take somebody an entire day to make it through all the threads. Who can manage all that? I did see some of Colleen Doran’s artwork for her new series and that was enough to make me want to buy the series, so there’s some value there.

    I have never really understood why creator’s rights sort of fell flat. I would think that the best talents and most popular creators would find publishers that would allow them ownership and that the fans would flock to those creators. After all this time, I have a hard time remembering what publishers/lines provide for creator ownership.”

    You’d have an even harder time if you ever read the contracts…

    ‘Comics pros, as a group (there are always exceptions, and you know who you are), tend to follow the example of one pro I knew many years ago: he had a set idea of what comics “should” be – 12 cents, 32 pages, printed on cheap paper – and claimed anyone who thought they should be more than that were being pretentious and anything else wasn’t really comics, but the moment anyone else got more, he felt it was his right to have the same thing. Considering what a fluid and still unsettled medium this is, you’d think there would be many more talents interested in innovation and invention, in finding new and better ways to produce newer and better comics.’

    Holy crap. If you replace the word ‘pros’ with the word ‘retailers’, and the word ‘produce’ with the word ‘sell’, that’s my frustration with far too many of my own peers in a perfect nutshell.

    Eerie.”

    It’s a small world, after all…

    ” Thanks for putting up [the Joe Kubert Crimebuster story]. Fun to read, plus I hadn’t realized Kubert’s style was so strong so early.”

    You’re welcome, and if you ever seen Joe’s work c. 1945 (the Crimebuster was c. ’48-’49), you’ll find that, while much cruder, his essential style was in place even then. The interceding years have only continuously refined and strengthened it (and he has learned more complex storytelling). But much of Joe’s style is raw expression of personality, and that he always had.

    ” Could it be that the lack of “serious” discussion on comics, at least online, could also be because there’s seemingly no appropriate venue for it? Even over on Warren Ellis’ The Engine, where I was actually expecting some level of discourse on theory and aesthetics, the board is filled up with discussions on craft and technique (which, in some ways, is fine, but it does get tiring when it’s all along the lines of “how do you submit to publishers?” or “how do you use a brush to draw those cross-hatches properly?”). Comics sites like CBR, which covers largely DC and Marvel, and consequently almost invites discussion along the same lines, don’t also actually inspire much discussion on the level you’re looking for, after all.

    I do see what you’re trying to get at. I’ve had a couple of instances elsewhere where I’ve tried initiating a discussion on the aesthetics of comics, but have been met mostly with silence. I felt like the loser geek at a frat house party who decides to announce that Mensa rules. I’m just thankful I have fellow comic creators here in Manila that I can actually engage in intelligent conversations with.”

    You may be right. I think the main problem with an open sort of “serious” discussion forum is that it would take so much work just to keep the lout crackers at bay, since there’s always some idiot whose idea of contributing to a discussion is to spew irrelevant rubbish then get defensive when they’re called on it and indignant when they’re removed. Closed forums are an option, but with a closed forum you’re automatically limiting your thought pool.

  • Just a couple notes this time:

    If you live around New York City, Danny Fingeroth is starting up a new seminar on analyzing comics scripts at NYU for four Wednesdays beginning Nov. 9 at 6:20 PM. Click here for more information.

    Bob Andelman’s book WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE (from M Press/Dark Horse Books) debuts at the St. Petersburg Times Festival Of Reading this Saturday, October 29.

    Thanks for all the birthday wishes.

    Scattered throughout the column are the covers for this week’s Comics Cover Challenge. Seven comics, one secret theme connecting them. Be the first one to tell me what it is in an email, and you can promote any website of your choice here. (We reserve right of approval, but that hasn’t been an issue so far.)

    And don’t forget my two books are available in pdf e-book form at The Paper Movies Store: TOTALLY OBVIOUS, collecting my Master Of The Obvious essays on comics, culture, creativity and the freelance life; and IMPOLITIC: A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEARS, a running commentary on American life and politics in the first half of the Terror Decade. 250+ pages each, $5.95@ or both for $10.95. What are you waiting for?

    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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