I'm buried under a huge project I'm trying to finish before San Diego, so today's something of a cheat, cribbed from a discussion ongoing over on the Permanent Damage message board in response to the piece from a couple weeks ago about reality and Internet rumors, and how fans misinterpret the process of mainstream comics. I'm only repeating what I wrote, and out of context the logical progression is bound to get a little incoherent, but if you want the coherent in context version where even more is said, click here. Otherwise, starting off someone's pronouncement that DC Comics was losing money because they didn't listen to the fans:

DC's comics publishing isn't losing money, it just isn't making as much as it theoretically could. Comics that lose money get canceled.

I know "maximizing profits" is the holy grail for business majors, but on a practical level "maximizing profits" is often along the lines of car ads where they offer a $5000 discount and talk about how much money you're going to save. "Saving" there is a relative term, especially when you have to spend $18,000 to save $5000. Yes, it's $5000 that you don't have to spend, but that's not quite the save thing as "saving," when it comes to money. It's a smoke offer, and the idea isn't to get you "saving" money at all, it's to get you spending money, and the come on is that if you spend now instead of later you don't have to spend as much. So you go buy the car, and the next week you get the paper and they're offering $6000 off on the exact same car, because it's a different promotion. At that point, have you "saved" $5000 or have you "lost" $1000?

Maximizing profits is in the eye of the beholder. Back in the '70s and early '80s the best motel chain was Best Western. They had pretty strict terms for what you had to do to sport the Best Western name, they frequently sent around inspectors unannounced for quality control, and when you checked into a Best Western you had reasonably good odds that, even if unspectacular, the room you got would be clean, with fresh linen, a few extras, and good service should you have any problems.

Comes the mid-80s, and some Reaganite ended up running the Best Western organization. (I forget how, whether he bought it or became chairman of the board or whatever.) He looks at the company and says, "We're not maximizing our profits." He figures the organization makes its money from a cut of what the motels make, as well as the franchise fees and a few other things, and he doesn't like how difficult Best Western makes it for motels to buy into the Best Western name. He doesn't see the point of spending money on quality control investigators. He sees the money in quantity, not quality, so he cans most of the investigators, dumps the regulations, and opens the door to anyone who feels like ponying up. So, yeah, a lot more money flooded into Best Western's coffers... but now if you stay at a Best Western motel you stand a pretty good chance of finding yourself in a real rathole. (Which isn't to say all Best Westerns are crap �" some are still quite nice �" but you have to approach with caution.)

From DC's perspective, and within the structure of the Time-Warner organization, it might be their perception that they are maximizing profits to the best of their ability. Given the strictures of the direct market, they may very well be.

They may be in the black the way they can be. It's fairly easy to say, yeah, THE FLASH should be their #1 title, but I predicted way back around 1989 that the future of mainstream comics would be the special event, not the monthly standard comic, which both Marvel and DC mainly cling to because it has always been a staple. But if DC were really about maximizing profits, they'd do the exact opposite of what hardcore fans suggest. They'd can THE FLASH and BLUE BEETLE and CHECKMATE and whatever else doesn't reach a certain sales threshold, they'd narrow down the editorial staff and focus on Superman and Batman (well, Batman, really) and they'd generate nothing else but special events, because those are what they can sell the best. This isn't entirely DC's manipulation; it's the way the market has gone, and at this point it's easy to chicken-and-egg it, but the fact is that their audience made it very clear that special events were what they were willing to spend money on. Producing comics the vast majority of your audience is willing to buy and not publishing those that majority isn't willing to buy is maximizing profits.

So if you want to bring "maximizing profits" into it, the end result would be the exact opposite of what "hardcore fans" say. I guaran-damn-tee that if a business major with no emotional attachment to comics suddenly took the reigns of DC Comics, there would be a wholesale slaughter of DCU titles. Vertigo, which sells fewer comics than the DCU titles, usually, has a buffer most of the DCU books don't: Vertigo tends to do very well with trade collections, and those have become a tentpole of its "maximizing profits." DCU titles don't do quite as well in that venue, on average. This isn't DC's fault. They've tried. But in publishing past a certain point it's the buying audience that decides what's a financial success, and that's the barrier to "maximizing profits" that DC has always had the most trouble with.

It's a mistake to think only fans care about the stories. Customers do buy the "event crap" for the stories. That's the hook; the companies are telling their audiences over and over and over that the "event crap" are the stories worth following. And I suspect many others (like me) pay attention to things like FINAL CRISIS mainly because of the talent involved. But the fact is that DC, and other companies, aren't going to keep comics going past their ability to make money. Even with media tie-in projects... they may introduce a book and keep it going for a little while and try to cut a media deal of it during that time (various restrictions to that, since Warners usually has first dibs and Warners hates to make up its mind about anything) but if, say, someone decides they want to make a project called BILLY BATSON & THE POWER OF SHAZAM (actual movie in the works) DC isn't likely to start up a new Shazam comic just to keep them interested. They're not likely to start up a new BILLY BATSON comic on the off-chance a movie gets made. When the movie is in production, then they're fairly likely to generate a mini-series to correspond to the movie. Or, these days, more likely to pull together a selection of Billy Batson stories in a BILLY BATSON & THE POWER OF SHAZAM trade. They did keep DREDD (DC's Americanized version of JUDGE DREDD) going, in the '90s, in hopes of a film boost, but I doubt they're likely to do that again, and am not sure why they would. These days if you're aiming for a film tie-in, it makes more sense to publish something that can be arc collected in trades to appear concurrent to the film's release, like Dark Horse did with HELLBOY and SIN CITY.

Even if they create a new comic as a "loss leader" for a media project, they won't keep it going indefinitely while all the barriers to greenlighting get passed. (Did you know the average amount of time it takes to get a movie made in Hollywood is roughly six years?) They're going to do a mini-series or maybe even a one-shot to establish rights, then get out. You don't need more than a one-shot to have a project demo, and doing more than a one-shot, if you can get a whole story into it, is kinda dumb. Even if they do a comic mainly as a come on for a media project, they'll only keep it going as long as it's making money. They may not can it the instant it stops making money, but at that point it's usually living on borrowed time, with the creative team often given an opportunity to wrap it up so that while its fans may be disappointed by the cancellation they'll at least have something like closure, which theoretically minimizes the long term bad will.

I got involved with CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN c. '96 because Jenette Kahn wanted to sell the project to Hollywood - and came very close on several occasions (one that I just found out about last week) - and DC did start up the book based on my pitch to help her do that. But that's very rare for them. Unlike a lot of companies these days, DC rarely starts up whole new projects with the sole interest of selling them as Hollywood projects. They don't have to. They're hairline deep (and I mean Dan Didio's hairline!) in back catalog to work with. While they may see the filmic possibilities in something, it still has to work (at least on their terms) as a comic book first.

How you and I define "works," how a comics company defines it, and how Hollywood defines it don't necessarily coincide. Whatever you did or didn't like about the comics version of MEN IN BLACK, the concept appealed to someone in Hollywood enough to premise a movie on it, even if the film was drastically different from the comic.

In terms of regular publishing, the GREEN LANTERN books aren't an argument for continuing monthly comics so much as a curious example because they're effectively special event as monthly comic(s), with Johns & co. doing one long story since... when? Two years ago? That takes no breaks and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Which can be done, obviously, and has been successful at it, but if every monthly comic started doing that the flies would be falling right and left in no time. The GL books feel "special" and that draws a lot of attention.

Jim Lee drawing ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER is special event publishing, unlike, say, if Jim were doing DETECTIVE COMICS instead.

Yes, publishers get caught up in fads. "Manga-izing" American comics didn't work because they copied the superficial aspects of manga - they fictionalized a "manga art style" (manga art is extremely varied) - and plopped that on all sorts of things because they figured that would draw eyes, and it did, for a little while. But they completely ignored underlying aspects of what made manga popular, so everything read like cheap knockoffs at best. Elseworlds stories outsold standard fare. For awhile. Until DC oversaturated the market with them.

Well... the monthly comic might be the fabric of superhero comics... now... but it certainly doesn't apply across the board. If, say, there were a DEATHSTROKE mini-series (just for the sake of argument let's say you're a Deathstroke fan, whether you are or not) running for 12 issues, would you be disinclined to buy it because you knew there wouldn't be a 13th issue? Or does a 12 issue mini-series count as a "monthly" comic? I suspect most characters could make due with a couple strong mini-series a year rather than weak monthlies. Sure, everyone would prefer the monthlies were always strong (and the minis, frankly) but that's not a luxury that's always available with a monthly deadline and printing schedule.

Sure, we can blame at lot of the current problems and upheavals on mainstream comics' dependence on the direct market, but losing the "general" market, the newsstands and "mom & pop stores" (themselves a steadily dying breed in the American economy) wasn't up to the publishers at all. Mom & pops went out of business and the convenience stores and newsstands figured they could make more money selling PLAYBOY and PENTHOUSE (literally) than cheap comics in that same space. Space is a store is profit-generating real estate, and that's where "maximizing profit" gets you. In the early '70s the usual venues got rid of comics at an alarming rate. They just didn't generate enough profit for the space they took up. The comics business didn't suddenly decide to support the direct market, in fact DC and Marvel pretty much fought it for a long time, but ultimately that was the market they were left with. Getting bounced out of all the Rexalls and Piggly Wigglys wasn't their idea. (And try to even find a Rexall or Piggly Wiggly these days.)

As far as the audience base goes, a lot of fiction sells without necessarily having a monthly presence, so I'm not sure a general audience would object to "special event" publishing at all. By "special event" I don't necessarily mean FINAL CRISIS or SECRET INVASION, I mean rather than have, oh, a monthly BATMAN book - though Batman's probably the wrong character for this example - you publish BATMAN: GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT. Or HUSH. You use as many issues/as much story length as it takes to tell the story you're doing. You really think a wider audience wouldn't find it more appealing to pick up one book or limited series with an ending and its own encapsulated backstory than to be expected to wade through 60 years of backstory or already know its intimate details?

There seems to be the rumor around that [Dan Didio] has apparently decided (moreso than any editor/publisher before) that "fans really only buy the logo, costume, and powers." I don't believe Dan believes that at all. But after a certain amount of time on a book or character, almost all writers and artists get tired, and want to do other things, and there's only time to do so much. As far as I know, Geoff Johns wasn't thrown off THE FLASH. He left the book. There was no indication that Wally West... pardon me... had legs left, and it's not like sales had been going up and up and up under Geoff either. Just not that many people are interested in The Flash. The Atom has never sold especially well.

So, as editorial head of a company, you make your choice: continue to follow a direction that so far has been treading water at best and probably losing ground, or try something different with it and see if you can generate interest.

AQUAMAN, likewise, is a title that has never sold appreciably. The current version of THE ATOM generally did a little better than the original version, but is now canceled, too. Bart-as-Flash? They weren't really losing anything by trying it.

I know people can trot out Hal Jordan-as-Green Lantern as a character who was successfully brought back, but when it was decided to wipe out Jordan and install Kyle Raynor as GL, Hal Jordan as GL was on the sales slide. Yes, once they brought Hal back his book started selling pretty well... but it was Kyle who got a wider audience reinterested in the GREEN LANTERN concept, and I suspect had they left Hal in place, all other things being equal, the book would have continued to slide. When Kyle's run started to slide, they brought back Hal to reinvigorate the concept. That doesn't mean it was stupid of DC to swap Hal out in the first place. It wasn't. It obviously wasn't stupid of them to swap him back in. But you have to do things like that sometimes to make a marginal property less marginal. It worked with GREEN LANTERN, it didn't work with (the Bart Allen version) of THE FLASH or AQUAMAN. C'est la vie.

It's a rock and hard place situation. You can argue what Didio does isn't good for DC's economic future, but that doesn't mean that not doing it, or doing the opposite of it, is automatically better for DC's economic future. Anything you try is just as likely to be no good for DC's economic future. If anyone knew what was good for DC's economic future, they wouldn't have to try anything because they'd know exactly what to do.Pretty much everything except a rarified few falls on its face eventually. And "Wally as Flash" was hardly a, um, runaway smash hit. Fans resisted Mike Baron's, er, run on the book; it wasn't until Mark Waid took over, and even then not immediately, that Wally Flash... there seems to be no way to avoid this... took off. The character you want to mention is Kyle Raynor as GL, which pretty much was a smash hit from the moment it was... okay, this one's intentional... greenlit, and for quite a time afterward. Almost everything that gets a sales bump ends up nosediving eventually.

There's the argument that "updates" don't work anymore because of the longevity of DC's audience but you could just as easily say "the intransigence" of DC's audience. But this would likely also signal an inability to draw newer audiences in, which would be the greater problem.

I suspect DC's inability to pull in "young readers with a taste for "modernized" super-heroes" is less about the audience that doesn't want it - I suspect they'd find there's a bigger audience for that sort of thing than they realize - and more about trying to mollify the one audience while trying to lure in the other. It's like a bait-and-switch routine for both sides. There's not, for instance, an appreciable existing audience for the second Blue Beetle, so why not try a third one? But if you're going to do a third one, don't bring back the second one!

I don't know there's necessarily a flawed logic at work with how Didio has managed the DC universe. Considering the baggage Dan has to deal with - you don't know the half of it - I think he's doing about as well as anyone in that job is likely to. If Dan were thrown out of that job, I suspect within a year the same fans yelling about him would be complaining about his successor and saying getting rid of Dan was the dumbest thing DC ever did. (Kind of like with whatsizname �" I can't remember his name now �" at Marvel. Jemas! Bill Jemas!) Which has more to do with the fans than with Dan; it doesn't really matter who's in that spot in that regard.

DC doesn't disregard its customers, not any more than any other comics company does. Thing is, you can complain about them creating a new Aquaman all you want, and complain that it disregards the customers, but those customers weren't buying the original version in great enough numbers to suggest anyone really gave a rat's ass what happened to him. If Dan does believe that "fans really only buy the logo, costume, and powers," regardless of creative teams (and that can also be expressed in the negative, that fans really only don't buy the logo, costume, and powers) then it's most likely the fans who gave Dan that idea.

Here's the biggest problem, creatively, of monthlies: burnout, even of good writers and artists, is a function of continuing monthly comics.

For editors, not so good writers and artists are always going to be easier to come by than good, and far easier than great. The demands of monthly comics are that the book comes out come hell or high water, whether the material's good enough or not.

I remember when DC would get letters wanting Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to write and draw everything. But the fact is that there are limited numbers of good writers and artists out there, and the ones who are genuinely good (and, remember, from a comics publishers' POV, good writers and artists aren't necessarily those who can write or draw a story well, but those who can get readers to buy books, or at least to get the press - both real and comics - to publicize the projects) are generally either in much demand or at least can pick or choose their assignments. How do you get one of these who doesn't want to work on GREEN LANTERN CORPS to do it? Offer more money? Dangle favorite characters in front of them? If they can get more money from DC, odds are they can get more money from other companies including Marvel. The "favorite character" thing, in the absence of other inducements, really only works on talents who still function emotionally mainly on a fan level, and that sort of thing tends to wear off fairly quickly.

Most editors at least try to get what they feel is at least passable work. But you'd be amazed at what a wide spectrum of opinion exists out there about what constitutes "telling a story," "being true to the characters," "ideas that fit and work well," "exciting writing and artwork," and "engaging storytelling." Ultimately all an editor really has to work with is his instincts (and hopefully some training) and the sales results. An awful lot of books done engagingly by talents who know how to use the medium just flat out tank. "Formulas for success" don't amount to anything, because if they did they'd work all the time and none come anywhere even remotely close to working all the time.

Besides, there is no talent so great that a certain percentage of the audience isn't going to bitch about them. People who bitch about projects or talents are the ones most likely to communicate that to the companies. So whose "word" does an editor or publisher trust when all the communications are negative but sales go up? Or when the guy you bring over who got all the praise and sales at Marvel works on your book and the book tanks? I suspect if you did a study comparing sales to the all the qualities vocal fans promote as important in superhero comics, you'd find they work (in sales) about at the same percentage as pure crap does. Which isn't an argument for pure crap - there is no argument for pure crap - but it's not hard to figure out why editors might find it all hard to figure out.

If I had to pick out a single problem DC has had for the past, oh, couple dozen years plus now, it's been trying to coordinate what they want to present as a coherent universe while simultaneously letting editors and talent do pretty much any damn thing (at least from an observer's perspective; there are likely many damn things never allowed) they wanted with many characters, without any kind of long term schemata in place, and without consideration of how characters would be affected by changes long term. Using Hal Jordan as an example, I know why they "turn him into" a drunk driver, I know exactly what they intended to accomplish vis-a-vis his character in terms of it, and I still think it was about the single dumbest thing they could have done. Short of turning him into an all powerful megalomaniac out to destroy whole universes. They might as well have put a gun to his head, because that's effectively what they did, and it's the sort of thing that once done can't be reversed. How many times can you "adjust" a single character like Ray (Atom) Palmer by making him a tiny barbarian or de-aging him into a teenage superhero, or sending him off to a fake life on a parallel world with an analog of his fiancee who became an insane cosmic supervillain before the character is just laughable, and it isn't even possible to generate an audience that will take him seriously enough to buy his book?

I know Dan has had a long term schemata for the big story arcs, but it's the character development schematic that's really needed, and the really tough one, and I don't know whether that's been done.

But the bottom line is the bottom line is the bottom line. It's one thing to say you prefer Hal Jordan to Kyle Rayner, that's fine, I prefer Hal too, but once the sales rise and the rise is sustained, saying that DC was wrong to make the change becomes a ridiculous, expressly false statement. You may not have liked the change, others you know may not have liked the change, but DC was not wrong. Somebody bought that book, and they made money off it. That's what they're in business to do. Somebody must've liked the Kyle character. His stories for the most part weren't really anything you couldn't have gotten in any number of other comics. Unless the idea of a power ring has a hell of a lot wider appeal than I'm aware of, I'd guess the Kyle character had something to do with the enhanced sales, because if it was the power ring or other trappings, why didn't they work as well for Hal Jordan?

"Customers" are people who buy the books, and not just those who spend money on a specific title. All of them, everyone who enters a comics shop or passes a spinner rack in a bus station. When fans say "we," that's where it divides from a publisher's perception because the way "customers" tell a comics publisher what they're thinking is by buying or not buying the books.

Much of the time sales or the lack of them really don't come down to bad art or writing. Because there are so many other elements affecting interest or disinterest that have nothing to do with those. Look at Alan Moore's ABC comics. Really good writing, often very good to excellent art. Usually challenging and intelligent, lots of great ideas. Sold for absolute squat, for the most part, despite quite a bit of promotion. When an obviously really crappy Marvel comic outsells by a large margin an obviously really good DC comic - and, yes, it has happened quite a bit - this is not an argument that putting better art and writing on comics will help them sell better. Unfortunately, that's a naive standard that bears very little relationship to the reality of comics publishing. Hell, crappy DC comics have outsold really good ones by a substantial margin.

Here's the dichotomy of much standard "fan think": I'd argue that all their arguments in favor of continuing monthly comics reduce to an argument that monthly comics should be abolished, and replaced with mini-series, one shots, and similar projects �" special event publishing - so that characters can be done only in stories that really deserve to be told by excellent talent that can set aside a specific block of time to specially craft those stories. But that also means only as many projects would be published as there are stories of that caliber to be told, and only when the talent is satisfied with the product.

Which means a much higher caliber of product, with much less frequency. That's the real solution to many of comics', specifically superhero comics', current ills, and it's the solution most likely to meet with the most resistance from the hardcore fans who are inadvertently arguing for it.

Notes from under the floorboards:

Word is Platinum is finally publishing my SOCORRO graphic novel �" a crime story set amid the Los Angeles demimonde of illegal aliens �" in October, with art by Tony O'Donnell. I wrote it so long ago, literally years and years, that it's like a legend to me now.

Currently available: from Marvel, the PUNISHER: RETURN TO BIG NOTHING hardcover; TWO GUNS from Boom! Studios; THE SAFEST PLACE from Image/12 Gauge; and X OMNIBUS from Dark Horse Comics. Go buy them so I can get flooded with royalty checks.

Huh. Just got a note that my wacky new webcomic, ODYSSEUS THE REBEL, a new reimagining that increasingly puts the "odd" back in THE ODYSSEY with art by Scott Beiser, will be starting on August 4th at Big Head Press. If you haven't been reading the other great online comics at Big Head, go take a look.

At San Diego, look for me around the Boom! Studios booth, possibly the Image booth, and at Larry Young's "So You Want To Create A Graphic Novel" panel. More to come, probably.

Speaking of San Diego, a funny thing happened yesterday: after months of running up against booked hotels, ran across, on the Con's hotel booking service, a great room very close to the Convention Center, at a rate several hundred dollars less than the more distant room I'd already managed to book. So if you're going to San Diego and have been grumbling about housing, you might want to haunt the booking service this week. Since deposits started being charged to credit cards last week, and this Friday's the last chance to cancel out before the deposits become non-refundable, it's possible that more good, close, cheaper-than-otherwise rooms will open up, as multi-bookers quickly whittle their choices down to one and dump their other reservations.

I know when they stopped making decent men's shoes �" anyone notice most men's shoes now are like Frankenstein boots? Where's Zodiac now that we need them? (At least Converse is still around to provide a classy, good-looking sneaker...) �" but when did they stop making decent office chairs? Mine's been falling apart for a couple months now and has reached the point of downright energy-sapping uncomfortable, but every single office chair I've tried in stores in the last month, including those way outside my price range, feel like crap. I get the feeling the people who design them work exclusively with specs and CAD programs and never sit in the things themselves. The one exception was a mesh-backed chair that had great feel and support �" and the store I found it at only had the floor model left, which they weren't selling, and couldn't get anymore because the manufacturer had cut it out. And who the hell thought putting nubby fabric on the seat of a chair someone was supposed to sit in for several hours a day was a good idea, anyway?

Saw JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH last night. The ads call it "the thrill ride of the summer," and they're not kidding; it's plotted like a thrill ride. No villains, no complications aside from the totally expected, the first film in a long time where you don't foresee the twists because there were no twists. For all that, it's amusing and mostly brisk, with a tiny, winsome cast led by Brendan Frasier, and pretty good 3D �" much better than BEOWULF had last year �" even if they spent most of the first half hour showing it off with "Dr. Tongue's 3D House Of Stewardesses" level gimmickry. (A kid gets a yo-yo and flings it right at the viewer, etc.) At less than 90 minutes long �" any longer and it would've become ponderous, unless more plot were added, but it dodges both those bullets - it stays barely within the range of lightweight goofy popcorn fun, but the 3D's not only the only reason to see it in a theater, it's pretty much the whole reason for the film's existence. Fun enough, but clearly geared for pre-teens and earlier.

Congratulations to Schuyler Abrams, the first to spot last week's Comics Cover Challenge theme was "planets." Schuyler has no site to promote, but did mention that he really liked THE SAFEST PLACE. Thanks, Schyuler!

For those who came in late, almost every week I run a Comics Cover Challenge: the covers of seven seemingly unrelated comics (thanks to The Grand Comic Book Database for the covers) from throughout comics history are spread, usually not in any particular order, down the column. But a secret theme �" it could be a word, a design element, an artist... anything, really - binds them together, and the first one to e-mail me with the correct solution can promote the website of their choice, subject to my approval. IMPORTANT NEW RULE: PLEASE INCLUDE WITH YOUR GUESS THE WEBSITE YOU'D LIKE TO PROMOTE IF YOU WIN. (You never know; I might just go on a mass linking spree one of these days, if I can ever find the Internet's answer to a water tower.) As in most weeks, I've hidden a special secret clue to the answer somewhere in the column, but you can probably soldier on without it. Good luck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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