Happy New Year.
Or, as Steve Gerber put it, "Best wishes to all for a less shitty New Year."
Last year at this time, I dubbed 2001 The Year Of Blood, and turned out to be far more right than I'd intended, and on a much wider scale. Around this time I always think back to the Second City TV 1983 New Year's Eve show, with the clock hitting midnight and all programming suddenly being replaced by drab, monotonous Orwellian propaganda. Which is about all that's left on American TV anyway. Meanwhile, our proclamation that all terrorists must be wiped out is being used by Israel to justify the wholesale breakdown of relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians that Israel's right wing government wants, also desired by the more radical Palestinians, which is a good example of how political opponents often cheerfully wash each other's hands, most often with the blood of those people on both sides caught between them. Our proclamation is also now being used by India to justify a potentially nuclear conflict with Pakistan. We can expect to see the action-response-response scenario play out on many fronts this year with many cries of "terrorism" and sabers rattling at "nations that harbor terrorists" regardless of conciliatory gestures, with all fingers pointing at the USA's example. Unconditional victory and all that. Now that we're more or less done in Afghanistan they're already fishing around for a next target in the war Bush has announced will take years and possibly lifetimes to win (what, isn't Eurasia defeated yet? Or is it Eastasia? I forget. And, speaking of India, if we invaded Afghanistan as a result of the 9-11 attacks, how is it that as early as June 26 an Indian political website announced a deal between the United States and Russia to take down the Taliban, stating the plan already had Indian and Iranian support?) reports are "coming out" that Bin Laden previously "made overtures" to Iran, without mentioning that this has been public knowledge for years and the Iranians told him to take a hike.
Meanwhile, the president and the attorney general have been, without much inspection, quietly rewriting the laws by dint of presidential order and undercutting the Constitution and we're all expected to look the other way in the name of solidarity because, as the AG put it, stirring up fears of losing freedoms in America is the same thing as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. A long time ago I pitched (and failed to sell) a Captain America WHAT IF...? where Cap is revived a couple hundred years down the road rather than in the '60s (or whenever he was officially revived in the Marvel chronology these days) and finds himself in a 1984ish culture where life is rigidly controlled. It probably didn't sell because when he tries to reinstill the values of liberty etc. to the populace he finds no one even understands the concepts anymore, so he fails. It certainly wouldn't have been a good Cap story because he had to lose in order to make the story's point: that, contrary to all those sanctimonious speeches about how freedom burns in men's souls blah blah that Marvel has had Cap spouting for decades, freedom and true democracy are in fact delicate and fragile things that must be constantly cared for and protected, because destroying them, or letting them be destroyed by looking the other way, is the easiest thing in the world.
In the story, Cap understands that all it would take is a couple generations of people living some other way and democracy and freedom would be wiped off the face of the Earth. And now we're told we're in a war that could take "lifetimes" and it's our duty to put up with diminished (and diminishing) freedoms in the meantime, while current archdemon Osama Bin Laden plays The Scarlet Pimpernel ("They seek him here/ They seek him there/ Those Frenchies seek him everywhere/ Is he is Heaven?/ Is he in Hell?/ That damned elusive Pimpernel!") and we have already been warned that even if Bin Laden is captured or killed, newer and bluer Blue Meanies may exist just outside the theater.
So forgive me if I remain uneasy about the future.
But Happy New Year anyway. The Warren Ellis Forum has, most likely briefly, been renamed "2002: Create The New." Words to live by. At the New Year, I also always recall a stanza from "Proprioception," from my favorite poet, Charles Olson:
persons are hung along a line from life to
death. Some fell off at 5 etc some at
17 others 40, like No matter, they
are bombers (carrying forces) of the time
Which I think is the best definition of Humanity I've ever come across.
On into 2002.
A retrospective of comics for the year 2001? Seeds planted that hopefully will bear fruit this year or next, but in general the comics industry was a mess in 2000, did virtually nothing (aside from essentially cosmetic surgery by Marvel) to right itself in 2001 (though a couple smaller publishers like AIT/PlanetLar blissfully blazed at least the starts of paths by following their own muse, and, in any event, even cosmetic surgery is better than no action at all), leaving us with a mess. I needn't go into how much of a mess because Punch award winner, the much reviled among "true journalists" Rich Johnston, in this week's ALL THE RAGE serves up the whole sorry year in a wicked little parody piece. Good job, Rich; it sums up 2001 quite nicely.
Another top ten comics list, this time from Matthew Price's WORD BALLOONS column in THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN:
1. ALEC: HOW TO BE AN ARTIST (Eddie Campbell Books)
2. COUSCOUS EXPRESS (AIT/PlanetLar Books)
3. EAGLE: THE MAKING OF AN ASIAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT (Viz Communications, Inc.)
4. THE GOLEM'S MIGHTY SWING (Drawn And Quarterly)
5. BLUE MONDAY: ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (Oni Press)
6. The works of Warren Ellis, including PLANETARY (DC/Wildstorm Comics), MINISTRY OF SPACE (Image Comics) and TRANSMETROPOLITAN (DC/Vertigo Comics)
7. The works of Brian Michael Bendis, including POWERS (Image Comics) and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (Marvel Comics)
8. FINDER (Lightspeed Press)
9. 100 BULLETS (DC/Vertigo Comics)
10. Marvel's X-resurgence: X-FORCE and NEW X-MEN (Marvel Comics)
Some may find it a bit more ecumenical than the TIME list. My question is: how many of these can actually be found in comics shops in Oklahoma, and how many can actually be bought there without a district attorney breathing down the shop owner's neck?
Some have asked for my 2001 ten best list. I haven't got one. I didn't get the chance to read enough comics last year to make that judgment. The best I could do is the ten best titles of those I read, and I'm not sure I liked enough of them to reach ten. Sorry.
When Pundits Go Insane: on NBC's MEET THE PRESS, noted anal-retentive linguist William Safire (who, credit where credit is due, has condemned as un-American Bush's military "kangaroo courts" – Safire's term, not mine – for trying suspected terrorists) went on a strange rant about the palindromic nature of the number 2002 and how we won't see another year with a similar number until 2112. And all that portends. Until moderator Tim Russert interrupted by asking "Is there a point to this?" Fascinating to watch.
It's the traditional time for resolutions, those special promises we make to ourselves at the beginning of each year to improve ourselves and our lives. I've always been fond of Emil Roue's dictum of waking each morning, looking oneself in the mirror, and chanting "Every day in every way I am getting better and better." I don't do it, but I've always been fond of it. My own resolution this year is the same one I make every year, to write a minimum of six pages per day, day in and day out. I never achieve it, certainly not over the space of a year, but it remains a personal goal. Curious, I hit up some of my fellow comics professionals for their New Year's resolutions:
Joe Casey, writer UNCANNY X-MEN (Marvel), ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (DC), CODEFLESH: I'm hell-bent on learning how to be a fan again... to find more things in the industry that light me up like a goddamned Christmas tree. When creators I respect take a creative risk, I'll be there. When new voices emerge that have something new to say, I'll be there. I can't wait to get turned on... because that kind of enthusiasm and inspiration only makes my work better. I'll be mangling the icons, pissing people off, being politically incorrect, blah, blah, blah... Personally, 2002 will be known as the year I actually joined the 21st Century, technologically speaking. DSL is a beautiful thing, which means that, despite my bone-crushing workload, I'll be updating my website with alarming frequency. Wake the kids...
Jimmy Palmiotti, writer/inker, SUPERBOY (DC): My New Year's resolution is to focus more on my writing, spend more time traveling, clean my brushes RIGHT after I use them, create more characters and own them... or at least piece of them, spend more time with my website BROOKLYN BIZARRO, only work with positive people, and ignore all the silly gossip and pie throwing that goes around between grown men in our industry. Basically, try to grow up, party and have a good time.
Jay Faerber, writer, NOBLE CAUSES (Image): My New Year's Resolution for 2002 is to finally write a novel, something I was in the process of doing while when I got sidetracked into comics. This doesn't mean I'm getting out of comics, though...
Terrence Griep Jr., writer: This year I'm targeting medium-sized publishers who want to publish a genuinely original super-hero series (of my own wicked devising); then I'll buy 100,000 copies myself and collect editors' telephone calls like butterflies. If it sounds like I'm being glib, I'm not being glib.
Adisakdi Tantimedh, writer, JLA: AGE OF WONDER (DC), ANNA PASSENGER (Opi8): For my next comics projects, to hit the ground running everytime, and cram as much story as logically possible in 22 pages. I've been feeling that too many books have not had enough content lately. I won't write anymore superheroes. Having done the JLA in my Elseworlds (and getting to kill several of them), I feel I've pretty much got that out of my system.
Cully Hamner, artist (DOWN, Top Cow): I resolve to be more professionally dependable in 2002. Don't laugh, I mean it. Oh, yeah, and to lose some weight. (Believe me, that is work-related.)
Robert Weinberg, writer, NIGHTSIDE (Marvel), EXTINCTION EVENT (DC-Wildstorm): I'm resolve to try to be less cynical about publishing, though I suspect that's not going to happen. I've made that resolution thirty-four years in a row and I've yet to hold to it more than a week or two into the New Year. I resolve not to say anything bad about reviewers or critics of my work. I will merely assume that God will punish them. I resolve not to answer any emails or interviews after 1 am at night. My mind shuts off at midnight and anything I write after that I regret the next morning. Lastly, I resolve to post on my website a photograph of a young woman I met at a party last year who looked just like Sydney Taine. Just to prove that there really are women who look and dress like that, but unfortunately, they don't read comic books.
Len Kaminski, writer: To find another line of work and escape this dying hellhole.
Gerry Alanguilan, artist, HIGH ROADS (DC-Wildstorm/Cliffhanger), OCHLOCRAT (Comics Conspiracy): OCHLOCRAT was actually my 2001 resolution: to come up with at least one pencilling gig a year. In 2002, I resolve to do more.
Larry Young, writer-publisher, PLANET OF THE CAPES (AIT/PlanetLar): I'm not one for resolutions, usually. It's not that I make them and don't keep them; it's that I don't have any use for 'em, at all. I'm filled with a terrible resolve all year long, so I don't need the arbitrary changing of the calendar to goose my ass into doing or not doing something. If I set my mind to it, I make it happen; if it doesn't involve me, I'm not interested. That's all pretty cut-and-dried. Unfortunately, it sounds a little too precious, as well, so I decided I'd make a resolution this year. You know, in front of Steven Grant, and the Internet, and God, and everybody. This year, I'm going to write more comics. The last new graphic novel I wrote was published in September of 2000. The last print comic I wrote that was published saw the light of day five months ago. That's just too long in between books, if you ask me. I'm not going to take a break from publishing; far from it. We've got all sorts of great things coming out in 2002, from the formidable talents of Steven Grant, Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, Joe Casey, Charlie Adlard, Kieron Dwyer, Toby Cypress, Scott Cohn, John Heebink, Adam Beechen, and Brandon McKinney. It's just that this year, my resolution is there'll be three or four things from me, too.
Matt Haley, artist, WITCHFIRE (DC), THE ORDER (Marvel): I resolve to draw all six issues of THE ORDER (Marvel Comics, starts in February), to prove that I can draw on a monthly schedule. I resolve to get my creator-owned book published by the end of the year. I also resolve to tell as many people as I can about what I do and where they can buy my (and all my friends') work, to get more kids reading comics again. Heck, I even resolve to be less of an opinionated self-absorbed jerk!
Philip Xavier, artist, MORTAL SOULS (Avatar Press): just keep doing the best work I can and keep getting better at what I do (may take several years ..but I will get there ;)). And hopefully get some higher profile books here in the States, and keep establishing my name in Europe.
Lea Hernandez, writer-artist, KILLER PRINCESSES (Oni Press), 3X3 EYES & WHAT'S MICHAEL (Super Manga Blast): I've had a year full of crises (or a full year OF crises), and aside from work, none of them were of my making, but they affected my work unacceptably. My resolution was brought into sharp focus after a friend,Lisa Jonte, wrote me an essay, "It's a New Year, Baby!" ( ). I had to accept I'd been using crisis management to get my work done: take on too much, external disasters (and reacting to jerk people) slow heavy workload down, then I'm running up against and past deadlines, and I feel shitty, then overwhelmingly relieved when the work is done. I get a weird sort of high, but at the price of a ton of truffles and pate, delivered in a Jaguar driven by Sean Connery. But there's no pleasure in it. So, my resolution is this: Work steady, workload realistic, assholes in the crap box where their demented cries are muffled, no cons I wouldn't take my kids to, and learn to play Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" on the piano.
Lee Nordling, writer-editor (Platinum Studios, Nickelodeon): As an editor: To see some of our forty+ Platinum comics graphic albums published; To see my second syndicated strip in print (currently in development with UPS, so I can't talk about it yet). As a writer: To finish my novel; to write my Platinum graphic novel, JERRY TALES; To finish my screenplay (with a partner); To finish the proposal and sell my comics mini-series (with a partner); To create my comic strip sample.
Last but not least, Gail Simone, writer, THE SIMPSONS (Bongo), DEADPOOL & NIGHT NURSE (Marvel), would most likely have resolved to keep better track of deadlines... if she had managed to get her resolutions in on time.
Saw a couple movies over vacation: OCEAN'S 11 and LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. The former is a not particularly faithful remake of a playful old Rat Pack egothon and the latter a more or less faithful adaptation of JRR Tolkien's overwrought fantasy epic. Both are unexpectedly watchable. I particularly liked Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac in OCEAN'S 11, while Sean Bean is the standout in LOTR:TFOTR, and while OCEAN'S doesn't use its Las Vegas setting to any particular effect (they get the Strip geography wrong, for one thing), LOTR gets every bang from the CGI-enhanced New Zealand scenery dollars can buy. Both films badly expose the weaknesses of their particular genres – OCEAN'S 11 only really makes sense if you're willing to forget what was said, while LOTR suffers from Tolkien's uneven pacing and director Peter Jackson's tendency to film combat as a chaotic gibberish of movement – but both are excellent popcorn fare, movies to enjoy just for the sheer sake of going to the movies. Which puts both heads and tails above the vast majority of 2001's dross.
Just got a curious e-mail from one Adrienne Sioux Coopersmith, who seems to be some sort of cartoonist's publicist. Ms. Coopersmith, the architect of projects called CARTOONISTS AGAINST TERRORISM and CARTOONISTS AGAINST CRIME, is probably a very nice woman and it sounds like she's interested in good causes, but there's something unnerving about her call to use the desire of I'm guessing newspaper editors for anti-terrorism cartoons as a means of promotion. I dunno, it smacks to me of war profiteering, if I understand the e-mail correctly. You may feel otherwise, though, and if you'd like to hear Ms. Coopersmith's pitch, e-mail her (cartoonists only).
Reviews will be back next week. In the meantime, I need a small bit of help from everyone reading this column. I'm working up a project and I need postcards: the standard 6"x4" type (just the rectangles, none with scallops or fancy shapes, thanks) with scenery photographs on them and preferably horizontal orientation with no writing on the front. It doesn't really matter what the picture's of. Send to: Steven Grant, Paper Movies, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074. Thanks.
Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail 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. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.
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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.
If you enjoy PERMANENT DAMAGE, check out our brother column, Larry Young's LOOSE CANNON.
If you want to know something about me, you can probably find the answer at Steven Grant's Alleged Fictions.