I have this theory (in the prosaic, not scientific, sense of the word) that religion is what people did for entertainment before mass media. The history of theater (the tragedy ne tragōidia, or "goat song") rising up from religious ritual suggests the same, and the development of theater into other dramatic forms like satire roughly corresponds with the decline of myth evolution in Greek culture; even Aeschylus, officially considered the father of drama and the earliest playwright, whose extant oeuvre consists of serious, fairly reverent plays, announces the end of the Gods' rule in THE ORESTEIA, as Orestes, fleeing from the Furies' rage for having murdered his mother (who murdered his father), is saved from divine retribution by Athena, who convenes the first court (it exonerates Orestes of all wrongdoing) and hands law and justice over from the implacable Gods to manipulable mortals, thus instituting corruption as a feature of earthly jurisprudence. (Let's face it, Orestes was guilty as sin.) The previously fearsome Erinyes, or Furies, accept the courts decision and transform on the spot from bloodthirsty she-devils into doddering old Eumenides, or "Kindly Ones," who thereafter watch over humanity, or at least Athens, with granny love; taint the heart, it's the Eumenides. (The play also firmly establishes the man is far more important in a marriage than the woman, setting up the specious argument that gets Orestes off.)

At any rate, though Orestes' plays legendarily evoked the Gods so vividly that patrons freaked out like viewers of the 1903 silent film THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY supposedly did when confronted by the sight of an iron horse rolling at the breakneck pace of 20 mph right for them, it wasn't long before the Greeks were having lots of fun with this newfangled theater thing, inventing irony and various other literary techniques in the process. I don't recall offhand whether there were any direct clashes between theater and the temples of the day, but by the time of Aristophanes playwrights were getting pretty damn powerful, terrorizing movers and shakers with threat of ridicule, so we can also assume theater was immensely popular.

We know the printing press, print being the advent of modern mass media, turned out rather badly for the Catholic Church, which found its traditional standing as interpreter of scripture (and, by extension, intermediary with God) demolished by the sudden easy availability of bibles to a hoi polloi quickly becoming educated enough to read them. Literacy was a cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation, but the Protestants pretty quickly discovered what the Catholic Church learned the hard way some 14 centuries earlier in the heyday of Gnosticism: when you let people do their own interpreting, they go off in all sorts of unexpected directions; soon you've got sects denouncing royalty as the usurpation of God's rightful place and condemnation of private property as sin. Mix all this in with literacy, a smidgen of disposable income and the printing press, and voila! The novel is born.

It's no coincidence that The Novel, as birthed in the era of the printing press, was denounced by churches of all stripes as roadmaps to the Devil, because certainly that's what they were, commemorating all manner of human vice and depredation; that's drama, baby! Churches also continued their longstanding feuds with theater and art, frequently condemned as idolatry, while simultaneously employing both, absolving them of their sins where they served religion's purposes. It's not surprising that movies, TV, magazines and comics also had their battles with religion when their time came around. (Don't think newspapers in general did, and not sure about radio; if churches ever had a basic problem with it, they quickly fell in love with the ability to broadcast The Word in all its crazy variations - see Father Coughlin or Garner Ted Armstrong - though protests against broadcasts of rock'n'roll and "race music" were hardly unknown.) Now ministers regularly preach about the evils of the Internet, video games, etc., and y'know what? Pretty much no one cares, because they're too busy enjoying the Internet and, until recently, videogames.

But in each case, the new media became effectively competition for people's time and attention, generating what amounted to alternative narratives. If you spend your life in a cabin without electricity or running water, with your nearest neighbor ten miles away, little human contact besides your immediate family and the Bible the only book in the house, your daily entertainment options, assuming your life has left you a single moment of energized free time (and don't forget: idle hands are the Devil's playground) are pretty sleep, sex, alcohol if you have any, and reading the Bible. Under those conditions, going to church on Sunday is a pretty good deal. It breaks up the monotony, especially if the preacher/priest is a good orator.

At this point, religion is in tentative detente with media like radio and TV, whose content strives for an audience-hooking balance of smutty and puritanically chaste, frequently in the same show. (ABC's THE BACHELORETTE, for example, whose heroine is routinely portrayed as nobly and pureheartedly only seeking true love as she necks and, it's teased, sleeps her way through more than a dozen producer-handpicked stereotypical hunks on a game show.) But TV, dependent (at least in the USA) on sales, sales, sales, is built to undermine any values it might pretend to preach; the only value sacred to TV is drawing those eyeballs. What draws eyeballs isn't chaste material, suggesting that no matter how much Americans might make a show of faith, they no longer consider religion-supportive material an entertainment option.

Movies and comics, especially movies, have periodically paid lip service to religion. There was that whole Hayes Code thing, supposedly ensuring the wholesome, spiritually uplifting purity of movies for almost 40 years, and I remember the Catholic Legion Of Decency lists, categorizing all films in circulation according to their spiritual desirability and stating which films, if viewed, would put your soul in jeopardy, and whose viewing would constitute mortal sin. (Those, of course, were the ones we all, as kids, wanted to see, and I don't think the Legion even acknowledged porn.) Comics, of course, were considered soul-crushing almost from their inception, prompting companies like DC to list religious leaders among trumped-up boards of directors. There were odd attempts to do religious comics, like the long-running TREASURE CHEST and MC Gaines' short-lived PICTURE STORIES FROM THE BIBLE, and occasional homages to the power and mercy of the Almighty popped up in other stories from time to time (especially on occasions when the hero needed a supernatural miracle to escape certain doom, and got one, though the exact nature of the intervention was commonly a matter of highly weighted interpretation), but if comics of the '40s promoted any religion in force, it was paganism, especially once Billy (Captain Marvel) Batson uttered "SHAZAM!" and opened the floodgates to mythology/magic-connected superhero origins.

It seems to me, though, that comics took a serious wrong turn when it comes to religion. At some point - Stan Lee & John Buscema's SILVER SURFER, with all its heavy-handed weepy Christ symbolism? Jack Kirby's NEW GODS? Jim Starlin's version of WARLOCK or maybe shorts pieces about God, Death & Destiny in STAR*REACH? Or maybe it was the Guardians Of The Universe... - someone decided that comics were a profoundly suitable place for religious/metaphysical speculation, despite culture moving in the opposite direction, with mass media slowly supplanting religion for the population. (Yeah, yeah, I know, never going to happen; you just go ahead and believe that.) With the twin appeals of Imbued Significance and cosmological speculation, the idea caught on like wildfire, generating a plague of religious conjecture unparalleled since Gnosticism turned every nutjob with an imagination and a scribe into a prophet. Not that this stuff can't be fun, or that it isn't sometimes well and cleverly done (Grant Morrison's wild, frustrating THE INVISIBLES, for example), but when it turns into vast cosmologies "answering" questions that have puzzled philosophers for centuries like how evil can exist in a universe created by a benign God, it all gets a bit silly, not to mention pompous. (Not that the question doesn't have a ridiculously simple answer that's not remotely religious in nature.) Religiously speculative stories can be fun, but I've met my share of talents convinced they had The Answer and eager to use comics to spread The Word.

But if people want religion, they already know where to find it. But all readers really want from comics is what they really want from most media: works that in some way mean something to them. We've got nearly 40 years of religion-themed comics (more if you count Jack Chick) under our belts now, some good and some spectacularly bad, some intensely arcane and some almost pedantically populist. Shy of a spectacularly good idea it's time we gave God a rest. It doesn't take a genius to spot that's the direction history and culture are going in anyway.

Ended up at Disneyland for a couple days last week. (Don't ask.) A few quick observations on the Magic Kingdom:

1) Happiest place on Earth or ocean of half-blind shambling lardasses?

2) Thunder Mountain Railroad is a better rollercoaster than Space Mountain, as the latter provides no spatial context. I understand that some people are terrified of falling through virtual darkness, but I've had acid trips scarier than Space Mountain.

3) The best deal on food in the parks is Tortilla Joe's in Downtown Disney. Not the overpriced restaurant; the Taqueria, which produces an overstuffed burrito at fair market value.

4) There's something oddly satisfying about sitting outside Pooh Corner listening to Leonard Cohen singing "The Future" on mp3 player and earphones.

5) While there isn't that much to do in California Adventure, it contains the best two things in either park. The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror was the only thing in either park that had me laughing outright; it's great fun and people were getting off the ride then getting right back in line for another go. I can see why. The live-action Aladdin show, based on the cartoon movie from awhile back, is worth seeing for the exceptional choreography alone.

6) We could use a really good adult theme park. (I know Las Vegas has been called a Disneyland for adults, but that's hyperbole. It doesn't fit the bill.) What Disneyland did better than anyone else was build a theme park around existing, established trademarks; in most other theme parks, like Six Flags, the trademarks are instead imposed, and peripheral to the experience.) (This does happen in Disneyland too, as with Tower Of Terror, derived from the mock-TWILIGHT ZONE series GOOSEBUMPS, with "Twilight Zone" a late addition to the ride's name, or Johnny Depp suddenly popping up throughout the long-running Pirates Of The Caribbean ride.) (Hey, how's that Marvel amusement park in Dubai going these days?) My candidate for a brand name to base a theme park around: HBO. Just imagine what the OZ ride might be? How about shooting it out with Al Swearengen's enforcers in the DEADWOOD ride, or dodging assassination in THE SOPRANOS? An all-you-can-eat & drink orgy in a purgatorium from ROME? Or a robotic Flight Of The Conchords singing their "Robots" song? Dozens of great shows, endless possibilities. Shouldn't someone be pursuing this, as an antidote to Disney?

7) I kept wondering what I could do to get myself permanently expelled from Disneyland that wouldn't result in civil or criminal charges. (I considered looking back over my shoulder on Thunder Mountain Railroad - reportedly that makes them very tense - but, seated in the last seat of the last car, I quickly figured out I was already in danger of breaking my back and didn't want to add breaking my neck to the risk factor.) In the end, it was left to me. I won't be going again.

So I wake up one morning (in Disneyland) to news stations local and national in a frothy panic over 88 year old ex-con White Supremicist James Von Brunn shot up the Holocaust Museum and killed a security guard who moments earlier had held the door for him. While I'm sure there are a few out there gloating over the blow against ZOG or whatever (in the PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION-drenched fantasies of the "Aryan Resistance" - my term - the US government is dominated by freedom-hating Zionists who've stolen democracy from the American people, but the hardcore Zionists to be found in government these days are more likely to be fundamentalist Christian than Jewish, Rahm Emmanuel notwithstanding) I'm also sure no one with an ounce of human decency would deny the shooting was a terrible, stupid incident.

Nonetheless, I'm even more appalled at the sight of liberals, or newly-minted liberals, suddenly lining up to repeat some of the worst mistakes of the last ten years, but with a new focus. Since the "news" networks of all stripes are little more than punditfests these days, it was easy to switch from station to station and hear "expert" after "expert" outline the drastic measures we, as a nation, must take to crush the White Supremicist "threat." Among things suggested: mass roundups, special detention centers, shutting down neo-Nazi Internet websites, outlawing "hate speech," new "spy on your neighbor" schemes of the sort attempted and excoriated during the Ghost regime, and extending prison sentences of known White Supremicists already convicted of this crime or that to keep them imprisoned. All of which amounted to the same thing: imprisonment on the basis of "thought crime," not criminal activity, further expansion of police powers, and fundamental changes in the way Americans deal with each other.

In other words, Patriot Act III.

In fact, the reaction to what by all indications is an isolated event perpetrated by a crazy old man (as if it were instead the trigger event for Day X, the moment in Richard Butler's crazed Aryan Nations science fiction novel about the White Man suddenly rising up to retake America for racial purity) suggests a replay of the Patriot Act, where an isolated though horrific incident (9-11) was used as a rationale to shove through a pre-existing laundry list of police powers and Constitutional bypasses long sought by government agencies, most of which could now easily be applied to any the government pegged as "terrorists." The new laundry list also smacks of pre-existence, an agenda waiting for a excuse, especially in the light of recent ploys to popularly redefine "terrorism" so domestic, not foreign, terrorists are considered the primal issue. This isn't without reason, since virtually all acts of terror on American soil were the work of Americans, but when the Border Patrol starts recruiting among Boy & Girl Scouts with war games where they get to take down a "disgruntled Iraq War veteran" perpetrating terrorist acts of anti-government revenge - itself an eyebrow-raising designation; aren't these the same troops who we've been constantly told merit our unwavering support? What the hell's the agenda there? - there's clearly some other undercurrent at work.

Which isn't to suggest anyone pushed Von Brunn into the shooting. No need. While not exactly commonplace, White Supremicist crime is hardly unknown, so it was always just a waiting game. But laws already exist to deal with Von Brunn's situation, just as existing laws are more than enough to cover bank robberies, kidnapping and murders by White Supremicist, just as they cover those acts by anyone. A week on, and Von Brunn's assault on the Holocaust Museum hasn't triggered any Aryan crime sprees; if anything, that bunch have gone to ground, more eager to dodge the fallout than anything else. (It's been fun also watching ultra-right wing Republicans scramble to dissociate themselves from ultra-ultra-right terrorism, despite the party platform increasingly promoting over the years the same "states rights" programs the Racist Right has always strongly endorsed, and virtually none of them condemning as terrorism the murder of Dr. George Tiller two weeks earlier, though terrorism it clearly was; most entertaining was Rush Limbaugh, fumbling to "prove" that Von Brunn is really an ultra-leftist, presumably in the belief that his audience has been trained to such depths of gullibility they'll swallow anything.)

After 9-11 I stated there was no need for drastically increased police powers to ward off terrorism, or any reason to expect imminent new terrorist acts, since they hadn't happened by the time I wrote that column. Because this is how the mechanism works: someone finds a hole in the system and commits a terrorist act, the act exposes the hole, then we plug the hole, making further acts of terrorism considerably more difficult. This doesn't mean no further terrorism will ever happen, nor should we never expect more, but it means would-be terrorists have to reach new heights of determination if they want to go forward. At the moment, there's simply no reason to expect vast new waves of Aryan "resistance" nor to enact broad laws to ward it off, and focused repression of such groups (really, isn't ridicule a much more useful weapon?) will only make them feel, and look, more justified, the same way grand crackdowns on Muslims increased sympathy for al-Qaeda and spread suspicion their views might not be unfounded after all; repression is the best recruitment tool fringe groups have. Don't think for a second the FBI aren't already keeping tabs on these groups, as they have since the '40s; while a single nut might slip past their notice, they'd be on an "uprising" in a hot New York minute, unless an "uprising" played to some unknown FBI agenda. (And don't imagine for a moment the government doesn't play footsie with these guys, as when the FBI infiltrated and abetted the Klan on orders from J. Edgar Hoover, eager to use them as a bulwark against what he saw as a dangerous civil rights movement, at the same time Attorney General Bobby Kennedy ordered the FBI to monitor and hinder the Klan to protect that same movement, or when parties in the Reagan administration proposed deputizing "state militias" as peacekeeping forces in the event of widespread public unrest over a proposed but ultimately aborted invasion of Nicaragua.)

Above all, it's time for America to get the hell out of panic mode, and to stop leaping to the notion that gutting Constitutional protections, even in the best causes, is a way to protect anything. Even the best motives result in very bad precedents, and anyone who has bothered looking even vaguely at the behavior of law enforcement will note that any police power, no matter how "safeguarded" and "restricted" by regulations, will end up being used in as wide a manner as imaginable. Some may consider it a reasonable risk that a few powers might be abused, but that's a small price to pay for a greater good, but history shows that long after good causes are abandoned, forgotten or disavowed, the abuses continue on, and the police powers we grant to be used against other parties can just as easily be used against us as political winds shift.

1000 reviews in 1000 days (days 143-149):

From Avatar Press:

ABSOLUTION #0 by Christos Gage & Roberto Viacava ($1.99; comic book)

A superhero, scarred by his battles with absolute scum of the earth sociopaths, harbors a dark secret as he pursues a higher justice. Have to say this is pretty familiar territory by now, and there aren't many signs so far of surprises in the offing. While Gage's writing and Viacava's art are both toothsomely clean, I pray there's more to this than what's presented in the preview book, because the "secret," revealed by the preview's end and transparently obvious from the instant it's referred to, isn't weighty enough to keep things interesting on its own. If this is the concept, this did a good job of introducing it but a bad job of teasing us back for more. If the concept is more involved, giving some indication of that couldn't have hurt. As far as it goes, it's not bad, but it should've gone further.

From Marc Sobel:

THE RED STILETTO by Marc Sobel ($4; mini-comic)

We really have to come up with a term other than "mini-comic" for the "standard sheet of paper folded in half" format. More illustrated story and straight prose than comic, it's an interesting experiment, blending a remembrance of lost love with story written by a character with intentionally childish drawings offsetting the somewhat slicker art of the core work. The main problem with placing an intentionally amateurish short story in the piece is that no clear line is drawn between the character's somewhat clumsy prose and Sobel's, leaving the reader to judge whether the text in the rest of the work demonstrates his true skill, the way the two art styles contrast, or if he's just more comfortable with comics. I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

From Marvel Comics:

BETA RAY BILL: GODHUNTER #1 by Keiron Gillen & Kano ($3.99; comic book)

Okay, we're really stretching for dark superheroes here. Beta Ray Bill, the horsefaced alien Walt Simonson created to demonstrate others might be "worthy" of the power of Thor (per the rarely mentioned inscription in the first Thor story), now has a jones for Galactus' hide (I presume Bill's home planet got eaten somewhere or other) and is determined to wipe him out. Cutting deals with Osborn flunkies to get what he wants, Bill eventually realizes (or, rather, remembers) that Galactus dwarfs him in size and might alike, so he opts for plan #2: wipe out any planet Galactus is about to eat. Several problems with that. 1) Isn't Galactus (who's now apparently the object of worship for some intergalactic cult) powerful enough to squash Bill like a bug? (Come to think of it, for decades we've been told what a mighty guy Galactus is, but no one ever really shows it, do they? 2) Since Galactus specializes in scarfing down inhabited planets, doesn't that plan make Bill a, um, genocidal maniac? 3) Wouldn't genocide automatically render him unworthy of the power of Thor? Not that I really care (or that anyone's going to view this mini as more a throwaway, since there's not a chance in hell they'd actually kill Galactus, meaning this series can't be much more than an exercise in fight scenes and genocide) but aren't these the sorts of questions editors are supposed to ask before series go into production? Read okay and looks decent, though, if you're willing to overlook everything else.

From TwoMorrows Publishing:

ALTER EGO 87 ed. Roy Thomas ($6.95; magazine)

I somehow missed pointing out #86 and its wonderful look at the influence of Harvey Kurtzman & MAD on comics and culture. (My bet is it's still available, and worth ordering.) #87 likewise suggests a shift in editorial winds at the ALTER EGO office, subtly throwing gasoline on the brewing new war over Marvelman/Miracleman by interviewing the character's excluded creator, Mick Anglo, about his adventures in the post-war English comics trade and his impending attempt to reclaim the character. The rest of the issue is standard AE fare, delving into the minutiae of '40s comics and interviewing generally ignored artists (like this issue's piece on one of my all-time least liked artists, Frank Bolle) and odd little bits like TwoMorrows' running alternate universe history of DC Comics. Quirky but charming, it helps to share the magazine's obsessions, but even if you don't, the Anglo interview is worth the read.

From Image Comics:

OLYMPUS #1 by Nathan Edmundson & Christian Ward ($3.50; comic book)

Who exactly declared open season on mythology recently? (Like I'm one to talk, right?) Suddenly the stands are crawling with Greek and Norse gods alive in modern times, and no one has yet done it better than Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS. I would argue that few pantheons are as applicable to modern life as the Greek, but that's as irrelevant as logic to Edmundson's story. (In one sequence that's little more than a long chase scene, a criminalized Hermes dismisses the Gemini twins as mere mortals, then moments later asks one "What do you know of life and mortality?") There's really no story in this first issue, just the standard set of proto-Vertigo fantasy tough guy cliches. What saves the book is okay art amped to the max by really nice coloring derived more from fine art and advertising than comics. Maybe next issue we can get some real plot to go with it, or at least some reason to think of any of these characters as gods.

From McSweeney's Books:

MAPS & LEGENDS: Reading & Writing Along The Borderlines by Michael Chabon ($24; prose hardcover)

Literary criticism isn't most people's idea of a good time, but Chabon, pleasantly seeking to kick down the barricades between pop fiction and literature, has a good time with his observations and arguments about everything from Sherlock Holmes and golems to Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner and Howard Chaykin to Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD to his battles with his own novels, and slowly outlines a theory of how we live in what we read/watch/listen to, and deriding one influence or medium for not being like another, or assuming innate superiority due to medium or marketing strategy, is missing the point. Whether you accept Chabon's arguments (his dissertation on Sherlock Holmes made the character a lot more interesting for me than Conan Doyle's stories ever did, and he also fully delineates why Norse mythology always appealed to me in a way Lee & Kirby's watered-down "reformatted for Americans" version never could), the fact remains that Chabon is one of those prose stylists whose work can be enjoyed not only for its ideas but for its feel; it's a pleasure to roll his words over your mind's tongue and revel in his occasional use of unusual words or structures or his rhythms, metaphors and phrasing. That he throws in lots of interesting ideas is almost gravy.

From Slave Labor Graphics:

CAPTAIN BLOOD #1 by Matthew Shepherd & Michael Shoyket ($3.50; comic book)

More pirate comics, and the first part of an adaptation of the famous (presumably now public domain) novel. As Shepherd notes in his afterword, Blood is an atypical pirate, a well-educated doctor brought low by circumstances and his own compassion who raises himself back up as a champion against the merciless injustice of crowns and their law. Its throwbackiness is kind of nice, and Shepherd does a good job of capturing the novel's feel. The art, reproduced from pencils, is only good-average, but it grows on you after a bit. What really crimps the readability, though, is panel after panel of banter that ends up sounding like bickering kids, as when Blood confronts an overseer on the plantation where he's enslaved. (OS: Do not take that tone with me, Blood - lest I remind you of your station with the lash. Blood: But if you beat me, who will treat the governor's gout? The doddering sycophants who call themselves doctors here? The governor knows I'm the only competent physician on this island. OS: You abuse your talents, slave. One day the governor will see things my way. Blood: Not while gout inflames him, sir. I may be your slave. But we both serve at his pleasure. OS: The governor won't be governor forever, Blood! Blood: But for today, sir, he is.) Gah. By the end of that exchange you just want to strangle them both and Shepherd pulls the same bit over and over. There are some traditions in antediluvian novels that don't bear replicating.

Notes from under the floorboards:

Lemme get this straight: CBR loses Rich Johnston but gains Joe Quesada? Somehow seems like a sea change, don't it? At any rate: Joe, welcome aboard.

It's mid-June, but here in Las Vegas my air conditioner is turned off and the windows are open. Indicating something has gone seriously wrong with the universe, but I like it.

A recent study indicates Internet social networking is a good way to stay in touch with distant friends, and a terrible way to sell things. Can't say this surprises me. Must be bad news for the swamp of business social networks that claim to enhance the "networking" that's apparently now considered a necessary aspect of all great business ventures. The one I joined experimentally, LinkedIn, has been overall pretty useless; it seems less about "networking" than every pitching their services to everyone else, which gets pretty irritating. So I tend to believe the study's accurate... Meanwhile, other studies indicate customers increasing prefer online stores to their bricks'n'mortar counterparts, which also isn't very surprising...

Apparently in Georgia it's now okay for kids to meet their divorced parent's gay & lesbian friends. Which reminds me: did they ever get that onerous sodomy law off the books?

Nobody got last week's Comics Cover Challenge so I'm repeating it. Don't get flustered, stay composed, whistle up some courage if you need it, and take a look at the new clue.

For those who came in late, almost every week I run a Comics Cover Challenge: the covers of seven seemingly unrelated comics (thanks to The Grand Comic Book Database for the covers) from throughout comics history are spread, usually not in any particular order, down the column. But a secret theme - it could be a word, a design element, an artist... anything, really - binds them together, and the first one to e-mail me with the correct solution can promote the website of their choice, subject to my approval. IMPORTANT NEW RULE: PLEASE INCLUDE WITH YOUR GUESS THE WEBSITE YOU'D LIKE TO PROMOTE IF YOU WIN. As in most weeks, a secret clue is cleverly hidden somewhere in the column, so groove to the cosmic harmony and zero in on it. Good luck.

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.

One Piece Luffy
One Piece: Luffy Is Bad at Sword-Fighting, Activates Hawkins' Trap Card

More in CBR Exclusives