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Issue #295

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Issue #295

I’ve got a producer friend I kind of do field work for; he keeps an eye on the current sales trends and studio wish lists in Hollywood, and then asks me what comics are out there that fit that kind of thing. Yes, the Hollywood love affair with comics continues, not that things like 300 and SPIDER-MAN 3 are likely to hurt it. Every so often someone tells me Hollywood’s getting “soft” on comics, that they’re getting burned out on buying comics properties, but that doesn’t seem to stop them. As I’ve said before, the appeal of comics for Hollywood is obvious: unlike with a screenplay or even a pitch, they don’t have to imagine what the story will look like visually (or even really read the story), they can see what it will look like.

Or something like that. I suspect there’s an automatic fanboy mode at work too, that sense of wonder thing even hardened film executives inadvertently slip into as they get sucked into the art or story of the comic put before them. A guy dressed up like a cavalier, leading a rebellion against a fascist regime in future England? (V FOR VENDETTA, for those who came in late.) Are you insane? 300, for another example, doesn’t on story level scream great movie: a handful of crass, naked Greeks 2500 years ago (give or take) fight against a monstrous force and are ultimately slaughtered to a man. Stick that in front of an exec by itself, and even if you toss in that this was the moment of life or death for western culture, you can expect eyebrows to be raised. A period piece. The heroes die, to a man. They don’t even reaffirm our values; the closest they come is in their willingness to die. The story has nothing in the way of nuance or twist. Why on earth would audiences be interested?

Then you see the comic, and damn if the art doesn’t scream great movie. It unfolds right there, you can see it on the screen as you read it. That’s the power of the comic as pitch material, and why more and more producers are jumping to adapt original screenplays into comics, because the comic book is becoming more effective than the pitch or the screenplay for selling a movie, if the comic’s done right. On a Hollywood scale it even makes economic sense for a producer. If they’ve got some idea they want developed into a marketable pitch, Writers Guild minimum for a feature film screenplay is what these days? $65,000? A graphic novel can be produced cheaper than that, and fairly easy to get published (if it’s any good), especially if it’s intended for narrow consumption (movie studios) rather than a wide audience. (As I’ve also mentioned before, the other virtue of doing projects as comics first is that comics create underlying rights, which studios pay a lot of money to obtain.)

My deal is that I get a piece of whatever I recommend that my producer pal gets to the screen. It hasn’t happened yet – most people don’t realize the average Hollywood film takes between five and seven years to get from concept to screen, and it’s not just to idea you usually have to take to studios but what’s considered a marketable package, replete with some combination of studio-acceptable actor (or two), producer, director or screenwriter, all already on board with the project, and “the package” is really difficult to come by, which is how agents and managers earn their keep – but a couple things are chugging right along so I’m looking at it all as investing for my old age. But what I find interesting is:

Most comics just aren’t that conducive to what Hollywood looks for.

You can argue that talent shouldn’t mold their output to what a secondary market might or might not, and that’s a fair criticism. It’s also not what I’m talking about. And if talent wasn’t already mostly molding their output to the semi-conscious biases of the comics market, it would be a criticism with a lot more bite. I wonder how many comics creators over the years have looked at what was hot at the moment then molded whatever idea they were working on at the time to fit it. Certainly publishers are no stranger to it.

Yet there’s a huge difference between, say, figuring out how to reconstruct your 19th century conspiracy thriller centered on the court of the Russian czars into a modern day war of superheroes and supervillains in downtown Manhattan and learning to think of, say, a crime story as a crime story instead of jumping it up in superhero or horror drag.

What I’ve mostly noticed in my side gig is how few projects are done in comics anymore that cleanly fit into areas that other media like film, television or novels show marked preferences for. The only real exception is horror, and it’s no surprise that over the last ten years horror is the only genre that has made serious inroads in comics against the superhero dominance of the American comics market and serious inroads from comics to Hollywood. (And it wasn’t that long ago that Hollywood considered horror films all used up, and not worth bothering with. Then again, Hollywood goes through that cycle with virtually every genre – until someone makes a successful film in that genre.) Perhaps the weirdest omission in comics is the pure action-adventure thriller, a Hollywood staple that’s almost universally ignored in the comics market these days.

Again, none of which is an argument for molding material to the perceived dictates of other media. But what we need to learn to do, as comics creators, is to think in terms of the pure concept, and the whole story. (Movies and novels, whatever their respective faults, at least focus on the whole story, regardless of how good or worthwhile the story is.) We have, as a medium and a business, developed the habit of automatically thinking syncreticly, of thinking less in terms of what the story needs and what it should be about than in what elements we can accrue to it and what ticks and pieces from existing material we can fuse it with, however clumsily. We don’t not do it because we’ve been doing it for so long that it’s automatically taken as the right way to do things. It isn’t. It’s just a habit, a bad habit.

And in comics we tend to call this “creativity.” (Yes, they do it in movies and on TV too, and it’s rarely any more creative there.)

Again, this isn’t about molding anything to other markets. It’s about making ideas and projects true to themselves. It’s worth doing for its own sake, and because it will weed out the real players from the wannabes, because it’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s hard to ignore the distractions, and the impulses that tell you something will be more “commercial” if it’s done this way than that, like some artists were trying to convince themselves in the mid-’90s that they’d have careers and sell comics if they forced themselves to draw like Rob Liefeld while in private despising Rob’s work. But what gets through to audiences is focus and purpose; doing comics just for the sake of doing them, and doing them like everyone else is doing them, won’t get anyone anywhere. Know what grips the Hollywood imagination more than anything? Vision and power, a sharp idea and the skill to make it explode onto the page: the pure experience. This isn’t selling out, this is aiming for the stars. Especially if we’re talking about crossing over into other markets, we need to deliver that pure experience and grab attention now, or we’re back to novelty items in a novelty medium that has no long haul to be in it for.

For a few letters more:

“[Supergirl’s] current look is just god awful… And that’s saying a lot for a character who’s gone through some of the fashion disasters she has. I say go back to the original all blue tennis dress look she had in the beginning, maybe updated for the 21st century. Or an update of her 70’s hot pants and blouse look (mostly because there’s something weird about a character who flies around all day wearing a skirt. Is she an exhibitionist?) Anyway, they definitely need to get rid of her current “Britney Spears circa 1999″ look.”

I’m not sure how one would update the tennis dress look to the 21st century. Over at The Engine someone suggested dressing her in the fallen Superboy’s costume, minus the Fonzie jacket and provided an illustration, and it looks amazingly good on her, considering it always looked a little dippy on Superboy. But that would probably screw up the inevitable return of Superboy…

“Some interesting thoughts in your article on the comics shops, especially those about how there are other “outlets looking to carve up pieces of the traditional comics shop niche.” I think this is exactly what should be happening if comics want to increase their readership. Remember the spinner racks that you used to see in grocery & convenience stores? When I was young that was where I was first exposed to comics… when mom was grocery shopping or at the local Waldenbooks. If the industry wants to cultivate a younger reading base, then they need to have the books in places where kids can have access to them. I rarely see anyone in the comic shop I frequent who’s under 25.

This is not to say that would completely solve the problem of waning readership. Maybe publishers should consider ditching the glossy paging and returning to the newsprint type paper in an effort to lower prices on their books. The current 2.99/book is getting a bit steep…”

I’m certainly not against more outlets for comics, I was just pointing out that, at the moment, what other outlets there are seem to be at the expense of, not in addition to, existing comics shops, which isn’t good for the comics shops. From a strictly cutthroat capitalist perspective, that’s the comics shops’ problem, not the publishers’, and publishers are obviously free to pursue whatever channels they want (if they’re not afraid of a backlash from comics shops) but what is the publishers’ problem is if such movement isn’t expansionist (in terms of audience) but just moving pieces around. I certainly remember spinner racks – hell, I remember comics vending machines – but spinner racks take up space stores are usually more interested in putting to more profitable use. And that remains a problem for the standard comics package, and part of the appeal for publisher and store alike of the graphic novel/trade paperback format: at $2.99 (and often higher these days, esp. from smaller publishers) the comic book has priced itself out of the mass market and, barring special circumstances, beyond the interest of anyone not obsessed in some way with comics (or particular characters or concepts) to buy them. Which remains the main challenge for comics, if they want to retain the standard comics form: to make the contents compelling enough to overcome the price for an audience wide enough to make them profitable. Oddly, lowering the price doesn’t seem to generate enough additional sales to do the trick, and further limits the willingness of (now) non-traditional outlets like grocery stores to wander into comics sales, because at lower prices there’s just not enough profit in it to make it worth their while, and not enough perceived interest in comics to make comics worth stocking as a loss leader.

“Gaff of the week. And I only make this correction because you’re a writer and would probably want to know.

(As opposed to the book trade and newsstands, where unsold copies can be returned to publishers, who bear the lion’s share of the financial risk.)

Everyone uses the phrase “the lion’s share” to mean “the majority share.” Incorrect. In the original fable (Aesop?), when it comes time to divide up the food among the animals, the lion takes it all because he’s, well, a lion. So “the lion’s share” is to grab it all.”

Of course you’re right – and I’m sure there are comics retailers out there who feel what I wrote adhered totally to your definition – but a few hundred years of common usage counts for something in the English language as well.

“I very much enjoyed your latest installment on the state of Comic Book Shops today. I’ve always fantasized about opening one, and had a few questions for you. I’ll give you a little background – I grew up during the late 80s, early 90s when comic shops were everywhere and seemed to me as a kid to be doing great. Then I stopped reading comic books for a little while during the “slump” that the industry experienced in the late 90s and early 2000s. I’m 25 now and getting back in, during a time that seems to me to be coming somewhat close to the boom of the early 90s. I’ve always believed comic books are a cyclical business and will go through long periods of success followed by long droughts followed by success, as comics gain and lose popularity. Certainly, as your article states, there are many good signs for comics nowadays, the popularity of the movies that have been released, the growing readership of manga and graphic novels. You seem to think that these factors will not have an impact on direct sales via the comic book shop? I am curious as to why you think so. I would think that anything that can garner mainstream attention and attract kids to read comics would be a plus.

If you only have time to address one question, this is the one I am most curious about: You wrote: “Let’s be clear on something else, while we’re at it: a lot of what happened to comics shops was the result of their willingness to go along with and even encourage the forces that eventually destroyed them.” Can you elaborate on this? You mentioned the gimmicks that publishers brought upon the reader but then said that comic book shops could have survived despite this, you say, “the comic shops didn’t know how to do their job.” You refer mainly to marketing and sales, which is definitely something all small businesses need to know how to do to survive (you need to know how to sell your product regardless what it is – I’m in sales myself and certainly know that). However, is marketing and sales the only thing you are saying here that comic shops didn’t know how to do? What forces were comic shops willing to go along with that eventually destroyed them?

Lastly, you seem to be against the idea of comic shops that become hobby shops and other interest shops, but it seems to me that this idea is not that bad. A comic shop may not be able to survive solely on comics, but if you turn it into a hobby/media store, selling maybe dvds, sports memorabilia, hobby-ist stuff (which granted I know little about, but I’m sure it makes money), it would allow you to make money off of the combined forces of the different media. I know of a couple of comic book shops in Connecticut where I’m from, one is the multimedia store I just described and the other is just a standalone comic shop, and while they both do well, it seems the former enjoys greater success, i.e. bigger store, more customers, etc. etc. They are only located down the street from each other and both survive well.”

I’m not against comics shops doing whatever they feel is necessary to survive. The problem for the comics business comes when comics become marginalized by everything else the store sells, which certainly doesn’t happen in every case but is hardly unheard of. Marginalization isn’t a pleasant option; it usually means, ultimately, less or no overall interest and fewer titles (particularly new ones) stocked and promoted, and when you follow the logic of that path it suggests a transition somewhere down the road to comics shops with no comics in them at all. When a shop’s fate hinges on how many comics it sells, that’s incentive for them to sell more comics. But that’s the business’ problem, not the shops’, when they have something else to fall back on.

A lot of comics shops didn’t know how to do their job. They came in on a rising tidal wave and raked in relatively easy money for a few years, pushing hard on whatever idiot trend any publisher came up with and promoted the pretense that various gimmicks meant greater value, even when the gimmicks raised the piece price. Most shops were as eager as publishers to shift to a single distributor system, without any concern beyond the moment with how such a shift would affect them. The vast majority of those shops ran headlong into the crash and got swallowed by it, because they really did have no concept of how to sell comics because their whole concept was that comics sell themselves, and they really had no concept of customer service and support because their relationship with customers had been largely parasitic. Unfortunately, a lot of other good comics shops got taken down with them.

“I have a complaint/suggestion for you. I’ve noticed that recently your column always has some jab at the Republican party or President Bush – yet I’ve never noticed you being critical of the Democratic party in any way. In your most recent column you mentioned voter fraud in Nevada but completely skipped past the documented voter fraud in Washington (Seattle) or Al Gore’s push to dismiss mail-in military votes in Florida in the 2000 election. Please consider being even handed within your column. I can only assume that we come from very different places politically but I am willing to admit to shortfalls within my political affiliations – it would be nice to see you be even handed with the shortfalls of both parties, not just one that you continue to target.”

Oh, I whack at the Democrats now and then, but the Democrats aren’t in power in the White House and running roughshod over two or three countries; they’re just rubberstamping it then acting all shocked when it starts blowing up in people’s faces. (It’s worth remembering that the Ghost couldn’t have marched off to his idiotic war without the “patriotic” support of Democrats – but, then, liberals have almost always supported wars until support became impolitic.) As for voter fraud, well, the US attorney in Washington looked into it and couldn’t find anything worth prosecuting, which was what put him on the Attorney General’s hit list, and Gore’s argument against mail-in votes from the military wasn’t voter fraud, it was just a badly reasoned legal argument that failed. Don’t worry, though; if the Democrats take the White House in 2008 and start trying to rig things, try to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Republican, and pursue unnecessary prosecutions to keep themselves in power, I’ll be on it. (By the way, the Nevada business got mentioned because it was particularly vile and because I live in Nevada.)

Bad week to be the Ghost. (Then again, when has it ever been a good week to be the Ghost?) First the Queen Of England comes to town for a lovely state dinner (where Laura gleefully tells the press how she and Condi Rice had to force the Ghost to dress properly for it) and gives a speech praising the wisdom and executive skills of former presidents. Exclusively. Then eleven powerful Congressional Republicans have a private meeting with the Ghost – and tell him the White House should never again deliver “news” about the Iraq situation because no one in the White House has any credibility anymore, that if something isn’t resolved over there by September he’ll be facing open revolt from his own party, and that he damn well better knock off the vacations. (Karl Rove then excoriated the same Republicans for discussing the meeting with the press, but that previously unthinkable course of action shows just how much Republicans are looking now to distinguish themselves from the administration.) The anti-American/anti-war riots erupt in Italy, though the American press has been suspiciously quiet about it. Then it turns out 100,000-300,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day has gone missing – billions of dollars worth – since we occupied the country, and eyes are starting to look toward all the “private contractors” the administration sent (or, in most cases, gifted) in. So much for the Ghost’s one-time claim that Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people. Then the Iraqi parliament puts in motion a bill, against the wishes of the Prime Minister, demanding Americans vacate the country, then resisted an oil bill the White House was pushing that would basically privatize Iraqi oil and place control over it in the hands of foreign investors, leaving Dick Cheney to mope to reporters about “undue delays” in the administration’s Iraq agenda.

Then the CIA gets cited by Congress for carrying out covert missions without the required Congressional permissions. (The CIA called the failure “inadvertent,” which I seem to recall was what the FBI called it a couple months ago when they were caught willy-nilly breaking the law. It’s always “inadvertent.”) Further marring the covert action front was the revelation that the U.S. military attempted and failed a covert raid into Northern Iraq to kidnap two Iranian diplomats – who were there on official invitations from the Iraqi government. Then more information surfaced in the “prosecutor scandal” indicating the U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department were targeted because they weren’t enthusiastic enough in bringing “voter fraud” cases against Democrats in their region, with indicators pointing more and more toward Karl Rove as instigator. The question now becomes whether there was true cause to assume voter fraud in those areas – most of the attorneys in question said when accusations came their way they looked into the cases and found none – or whether it was part of a strategy to use the Justice Department to interfere in elections. Complicating matters for the Ghost: Attorney General Gonzales’ refusal to give solid answers to questions (he’s too busy concocting band new crimes to indicate his dedication to freedom) during his Congressional testimony, the granting of immunity to Monica Goodling (whom Gonzales put in charge of DoJ hiring; she then made a special point of hiring Republicans), and the abrupt resignation of Gonzales’ deputy Paul McNulty, who claims his leaving has nothing to do with the prosecutors case even though he has no other work lined up and he had given Congress false information about the case. Then it’s announced that George Tenet’s testimony to Congress has been postponed – so he can clash head on with Condaleeza Rice in front of Congress over the claims for war.

Then the board of the World Bank determines that Ghost-appointe WB head Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq War, knew he was breaking the rules by lining up a big salary new job for his girlfriend. Then the Ghost goes decked in a FEMA jacket for a nice little photo open in tornado devastated Greensburg, KS (Check out the before and after shots here. They’re pretty spectacular.) only to have the head of the Kansas National Guard read him the riot act for carting most of the Guard off to Iraq for jobs they’re not trained so they can’t do the jobs they’re supposed to be doing in the USA when they’re needed – and now governors all over the country, their states ravaged by flooding, fires and tornadoes, are joining in.

Then the April economic summary appears, and the results are dire: as an economist put it on the Today show, people who spend all their money on gasoline don’t have it to spend on anything else, and people who don’t spend their money on gasoline don’t go anywhere to buy anything. While the president of Shell does a good will tour explaining how it’s simply cause and demand determining the price of gasoline, despite how the price goes up when the cost of crude goes up and the price goes up when the cost of crude goes down, and oil companies are declaring billions in profit way out of proportion to how much more the gasoline now costs them to produce and distribute.

Man, that’s some week. To top it all off (for now), John Ashcroft’s former deputy attorney general James Covey testified to Congress today about how the White House illegally continued the NSA wiretap program that bugged American citizens after then White House chief of staff Andrew Card and then WH counsel Alberto Gonzales tried and failed to obtain the required permission from Ashcroft or Covey, who was acting AG at the time due to Ashcroft being in the hospital (where the confrontation apparently took place) for an operation. (It wasn’t an oversight; they both determined it was illegal and refused to sign off on it.) In other words, a former high ranking member of the Justice Department just flat out accused the White House of knowingly committing a crime. Next week might make the Ghost’s last week look like Mardi Gras.

But it wasn’t all about the Ghost. The Pope has been on a tear too. It started a couple weeks ago when the Vatican redefined “terrorism” for a new day: a terrorist is anyone who criticizes the Pope! Then he goes to Latin America – and announces that Catholics cannot believe in a separation of Church and State (apparently siding, though not openly stating it, with the wacky Protestant movement that has declared Jesus will not return for the second coming until we prove we want him to return by turning all secular governments into Christian theocracies). You can take that as the Pope not quite understanding the concept, or as him desiring to assert his influence over secular affairs, but if you think it doesn’t have anything to do with the United States, bear in mind that the Supreme Court is now more than half composed of old white fart Catholics, and more than one of them has close ties to Opus Dei, a now officially recognized Catholic lay organization that, whatever other stories you choose to believe about it or not, nonetheless endorses a style of Catholicism – absolute submission to the will of the Church – that was the stuff of 12th century Poland. And now il Papa is demonstrating his keen insight into history and politics by proclaiming, much to the annoyance of Brazilian Indians, that native Brazilians welcomed and were “purified” by Catholic priests who visited them in early colonial days after Columbus. Apparently those priests no longer enslaved them to build churches and missions, systematically obliterated their culture or oversaw their wholesale slaughter as the hands of colonizers who were subsequently absolved of their sins, so all is well.

Not that I’m criticizing him, mind you.

Meanwhile, Project Censored’s 25 Top Censored News Stories of 2007 list is up. Enjoy. Last minute note: Jerry Falwell just died. I guess that means Pat Robertson’s running things now. Or maybe Franklin Graham.

Notes from under the floorboard:

I’d like to mention that last week I was being hyperbolic and Supergirl doesn’t really flash Lobo in BRAVE AND BOLD #3. It just looks like that. Sorry for any corporate palpitations that resulted. Sort of.

I haven’t been to a comics shop this week, so I don’t know whether TWO GUNS #2 came out last week as scheduled or not. Meanwhile, though, there’s a new interview about TWO GUNS up at Comixfan.

Budding b&w comics culture magazine COMIC FOUNDRY seems to have gotten a little insight into capricious decision making by functional monopolies when Diamond opted out on carrying the magazine. Not that there aren’t probably good economically-based reasons for thinking a b&w magazine about comics isn’t necessarily viable in today’s comics shop market – and I’m not sure it’s fair to drag TwoMorrows Publishing into the argument, since they’ve spent the last decade+ building up their line of b&w magazines like BACK ISSUE and DRAW! (sorry, Danny, but I can’t justify mentioning WRITE NOW! every week) and there’s no saying how well they’d fare if they were starting up today – but “When I was looking though it and reading a magazine of that type, which is about comics, which has lots of images of comics characters, that is looking to be timely and topical, I was expecting color. That, just for me, is how my brain is wired” wouldn’t seem to be one of them…

Though I knew I had some reason to mention WRITE NOW!. The issue that just went on sale and features the beginning of my series on Down and Dirty Comics Writing is #15, not #17 as I said last week. #17 is the end of the series. (But not the magazine.)

Congratulations to my old pal Warren Ellis, who swept the Eagle Awards mainly on the strength of NEXTWAVE. While the Eagles are a mostly British award and it’s commonly assumed the English are more open to irreverence in their superhero comics than Americans, it also suggests (along with previous Ellis triumphs in the genre like THE AUTHORITY and PLANETARY) that reverence for the old tropes is highly overrated and doing the best damn ’60s superhero retread you can muster perhaps isn’t the way to go if you want to catch some attention. On the other hand, the Brits seem ready to retire Warren, and dumped some sort of lifetime achievement award on him. I guess with NEXTWAVE dead and buried, his best days are behind him now. (Something that’s very hard to remember when Marvel keeps shoving NEWUNIVERSAL in our faces month after month.)

Computer techs in the audience: I’ve got an old Compaq laptop (model Presario 1200-XL110) that served me well for seven years but maybe has given up the ghost. I’m not quite ready to give up on it yet, though. What it does now is when I turn it on, it sounds like the hard drive grinds (uh-ruh uh-ruh uh-ruh) and it doesn’t boot. Leads me to think maybe the CMOS is kaput, but does anyone have experience with this kind of thing? Anything I can do about it to get the laptop working again? (Absent that, anyone got any ideas on how to get Gateway to donate a T2060 or TL-52 to the cause? I hear Gateway’s making very rugged notebooks these days…)

For those who’ve been asking, no, I still haven’t seen SPIDER-MAN 3 even though it’s the climactic event of the ’60s, and I’m not likely to until it surfaces on DVD. I may go see 28 WEEKS LATER, though, and almost certainly PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3

Is it just me, or does the TV season seem to be evaporating more than ending this year? This is about the lowest key May sweeps I can remember… Next week we’ll hopefully take a look at the announced fall schedules…

Congratulations to Luke Foster, the first to correctly identify last week’s Comics Cover Challenge theme as covers by foreign (like, not from North America) artists. Some guessed European artists, but that left out the vast artistic paradise of Central and South America. Luke would like to direct your attention to Connecticut Valley Comics, which has nothing to do with comic books. It’s a networking tool for stand up comedians in the Connecticut-Western Massachusetts area.

For those who came in late: you may notice several comics covers posted in the column. This is what I call the Comics Cover Challenge. The covers are connected by a single secret theme – it could be a concept, a creator, a character, a historical element, pretty much anything – and the first reader who emails me the correct solution may choose a website of their choice (keep it clean!) for promotion in next’s week’s column. If you need any clues beyond what’s here, you can search for them at the online source of our covers, The Grand Comic Book Database, and I usually include a hidden clue somewhere in the column. There’s one hidden in this week’s column, but this one shines enough to spot. (No, that’s not the clue. It’s the clue to the clue, which I guess is also a clue.)

As usual, you can find ebooks and other books by me and recommended by me available at The Paper Movies Store. Go buy something; I need the money. Then again, who doesn’t?

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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