Issue #64

So Xmas bears down on us once again. I know this is the traditional time of year for some to grouse about how we've forgotten the "real" meaning of the season and everyone's welcome to believe what they want, but, given how the American economy is, if we can believe the papers, dependent on Xmas shopping, it's time to accept that for most people Xmas is now a secular holiday, and mainly a kids' holiday at that, and what's important is how we demonstrate our love and respect for each other via prezzies. (Slapping some colorful lights on the eaves and standing a wire reindeer in the front yard doesn't hurt either.)

Presents are always a royal pain. Either the person you're buying for has a list a mile long (in which case you probably don't need my help) or you haven't got a clue what they might like. Particularly if you're dealing with a comics fan, or someone you think might be easily turned into a comics fan. So here are our Christmas suggestions for the short 2002 season, which started late and is already slipping away.

Me, I always like music, but music's an eclectic thing. It can be painful to misjudge someone else's tastes. For instance, I see Richard Hell has a reissue out (TIME, on Matador Records) and I never did get around to picking up Dave Alvin's latest (OUT IN CALIFORNIA,on Hightone Records), and there are always Karlheinz Stockhausen's massive reissues on his own label, but if you gave me a Shakira album I'd think you'd had way too much eggnog. Comics readers can have similarly disparate and eclectic tastes, with the additional problem that a true collector will probably have everything you're likely to be able to buy them.

But Xmas is Xmas, so:

Anime and manga continue to make huge inroads into the American comics market, but many American collectors still haven't sampled them. (Anime and manga seem to be aimed mostly at a mass readership rather than a small collectors' market.) The great thing about the Japanese material is the huge range of material. Those X-MEN fans probably never heard of SILENT MOBIUS, but there's enough stylistic and contextual crossover that they'd probably like it. It's hard to find a better horror comic than UZUMAKI. Gobs of other manga and anime are available through Viz and in most bookstores, and don't forget that the current top selling graphic novels in America are all aimed at girls and published through Tokyo Pop, like MARMALADE BOY or WISH.

Of course, there are hundreds of graphic novels to choose from now, and widely available in bookstores like Borders or Barnes & Noble, or online at Amazon. Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's 19th century superteam LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (DC Comics, $14.95). Jason Little's crime novel SHUTTERBUG FOLLIES (Doubleday Graphic Novels, $24.95). Lea Hernandez's gentle, manga-inflected sci-fi piece CATHEDRAL CHILD (Cyberosia Publishing, $10.95). James Robinson and Paul Smith's charming, oversized LEAVE IT TO CHANCE hardcover (Image Comics; a hardcover bargain at $14.95) has all the ingredients to appeal to HARRY POTTER fans of all ages. The first volume of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson's future imperfect extravaganza TRANSMETROPOLITAN (DC Comics, $14.95) has convinced more than a few people (including ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and WIRED magazine) that comics are worth reading after all. There's Larry Young, Matt Smith and Charlie Adlard's ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE: LIVE FROM THE MOON (AiT/PlanetLar Books, $12.95). Greg Rucka and Steve Rolston's spy thriller in QUEEN AND COUNTRY (Oni Press; $12.95). Brian Bendis' documentary Hollywood satire FORTUNE AND GLORY (Oni Press; ). I'm going to cheat and name my own BADLANDS, drawn by Vince Giarrano (Ait/PlanetLar Books, $12.95) and adored by crime and conspiracy fans the world over. Alex Robinson's touching slice-of-life drama BOX OFFICE POISON (Top Shelf; $29.95). And, of course, still the greatest graphic novel ever done: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's gripping horror history FROM HELL (Top Shelf; $35).

Not a graphic novel but fascinating reading, esp. for Grant Morrison fans: ANARCHY FOR THE MASSES: An Underground Guide to THE INVISIBLES by Patrick Neighly and Kereth Cowe-Spigain (Mad Yak Press; $19.95). Also entertaining is Geoff Klock's HOW TO READ SUPERHERO COMICS AND WHY (Continuum Books, $19.95).

For comics history buffs: B. KRIGSTEIN (Fantagraphics Books, hardback, $49.95, and worth twice as much), Greg Sandowski's coffee table book exegesis of the progressive comics artist's life and work. GIL KANE: THE ART OF COMICS by Daniel Herman (Hermes Publishing, $29.99). JACK COLE AND PLASTIC MAN by Art Spiegleman (Chronicle Books, $19.95). THE ART OF NICK CARDY (Vanguard Productions, $19.95).

Gift subscriptions. For manga fans, Viz's SHONEN JUMP ($19.95 for 12 issues). THE COMICS JOURNAL can be acerbic and infuriating, but it's always a great read ($25 for 5 issues). TwoMorrows Books publishes a range of magazines aimed at various comics disciplines, including comics history in the excellent COMIC BOOK ARTIST ($36 for 6 issues), art instruction in DRAW($20 for 4 issues) and comics and animation writing in WRITE NOW! ($20 for 4 issues).

Other comics related suggestions:

Fantasy fans and Neil Gaiman fans will love his new children's novel CORALINE (Harper Collins; $17.89), in which a bored young self-professed explorer has to save herself and her parents from a creepy evil that shares their new home. Strong enough to please children and mild enough to please their parents.

DVDs. The Todd McFarlane documentary THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Terry Zweigof's entertaining adaptation of Daniel Clowes' GHOST WORLD. James Robinson's directorial debut COMIC BOOK VILLAINS.

For superhero fans: the life-size Spider-Man bust from Dynamic Forces, designed by Alex Ross ($200).

Videogaming systems remain popular, and expensive, even without the expensive software the systems hungrily demand, but I still recommend Nintendo's GAMEBOY ADVANCE. While not as graphically advanced as other systems, it's much cheaper, can be carried anywhere, can be linked with other GAs for multiplayer games, and there's a stunning array of games available for it (including numerous comic and anime-related games). Gameboy games are cheaper than software for most other gaming systems. Extra advantage for families: it can also be played without someone hogging a TV.

And if worst comes to worst, go to The Perfect Present Picker, which makes gift suggestions based on specific data you input (anonymously) about the recipient. Voila. Instant appropriate prezzie. Probably.

21 shopping days to go.

At least politicians and the military are in a giving mood this year. They're giving it to us. The "triumph" at the polls was followed by the gutting of clean air regulations (worrying about our health is just too much burden on American businesses, apparently; I guess that's what we have HMOs for) and the liberating of drug companies from any fiscal responsibility for damages to American citizens caused by bad vaccines, whether those vaccines have anything to do with the "war on terror" or not. Meanwhile, the admin got through their desired measure to use public money to indemnify insurance companies against losses due to "terror." In other words, we - you and me – are now insuring them. Here are some more presents on the way:

A new potential Republican agenda was floated last week by The Wall St. Journal. Republicans, as it turns out, now want to raise taxes. But not on just anyone, no. The bizarre new claim is that the poor don't pay their shares of taxes. They want the poor to pay more taxes. Why? So the rich won't have to pay as many. The reasoning also goes that it'll be a boon to the Republican Party, since the poor – traditionally a bastion of the Democratic vote (except, statistically, the poor don't vote) – would be so angered by taxes they'd sweep to the Republicans instead. (But... wait... if the Republicans are the ones raising taxes on the poor, why...? My head hurts...)

This may sound generally insane, but by the weekend it was being touted on the weekend pundit shows, notably by former Reagan crony, moral mouthpiece and all around corrupt bastard Ed Meese. Look for the idea to be pushed big in '03.

Also returning from political limbo is former Nixon secretary of state, renowned liar and dissembler Henry Kissinger, who has been assigned to get us the real skinny on what really went on around 9/11, with an investigation that's already being called Warren Report II. Sure. Why not? We all believe whatever Henry tells us, don't we?

Current attorney general and anti-civil-libertarian (unless you're talking gun rights, which are absolutely inalienable in his worldview) John Ashcroft is gearing up for another set of anti-terrorism laws. (Translation: more freedoms for you to surrender in return for color-coded "security.") Ashcroft is now actively claiming any criticism of him is "capitulating before freedom's enemies – the terrorists." One of Ashcroft's new ploys, since terrorist collaborator Dick Armey won't let him have his TIPS program (which, you'll remember, was meant to train and otherwise encourage Americans to spy on their neighbors), is to get state governors and states attorneys to launch their own localized versions. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has uncovered how the Hand Puppet and Ashcroft are "developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects -- U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike -- may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say." This basically firms up the power of the President (and, by extension, any administration), implicit in the Patriot Act, to investigate any American citizen, search their homes without a warrant or any justification aside from the merest wisp of a suspicion (or, say, a false accusation "tipped" via a governor's localized TIPS line), without notifying the citizen of any such investigation, then secretly whisk them away, without due process and without representation, to undisclosed locations where they may be held indefinitely. Noting the similarity of such practices to Stalinism or Gestapo tactics will, however, only capitulate before freedom's enemies. To save our liberties, the Hand Puppet's administration must destroy them.

Which brings us to the bright shiny package the Pentagon has under the tree. If you haven't heard of their Total Information Awareness initiative, funded via the recently passed Homeland Security Act, it's a database program, currently in prototype, designed to record and track every financial transaction that occurs in America. This would cross-reference with intelligence community, law enforcement and immigration databases to provide total profiles and identify spending patterns, supposedly with an eye toward calculating potential terrorist threat. Aside from bungled profiling (in which you're identified as a terrorist because you paid for a delivery pizza with a credit card instead of cash, or some such "identifier"), or otherwise being targeted by the government for spending money in a way it deems wrong, it's only a matter of time before someone (I'm tempted to say particularly in a Republican administration) decides the government wouldn't need to raise taxes if it sold the data to businesses, who would then product target us. And that's the mildest of the potential misapplications. Of course, if the government does it, it ain't terrorism.

The post-superhero genre is now in full swing, particularly at Wildstorm, which has several recent entries including 21 DOWN (Wildstorm Productions, 888 Prospect St #240, La Jolla CA 92037; $2.95@) written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Jesus Saiz (of MIDNIGHT, MASS fame) and Jimmy Palmiotti. Reading it was a smidge of déjà vu for me: not long ago, with Warren Ellis and Ariel Olivetti, I took over Marvel's X-MAN, starring a psychic character whose gimmick was that his powers would kill him when he hit 21, and pretty much the first thing we (or, I should say, Warren) did was to dump that bit. And here's a psychic character whose gimmick is that his powers will kill him when he hits 21. I have to wonder if that's the influence of editor Bob Harras, who oversaw the original creation of X-Man, as well as our recreation.

That's where the similarity stops. Bob had a "traditionalist" rep in his days as Marvel's editor-in-chief, but it doesn't show up here. Far from being a superhero extravaganza, 21 DOWN is about as close to street level as I expect a major company project to get. Preston Kills, our terminal hero, lives in Brooklyn, works in a tattoo parlor, and reads the histories of dead people by touching them. Which makes it easy to solve murders, hard to stay out of trouble. Especially when a blonde government spook comes looking for him, and other superpowered persons, called "genies." (They talk about superheroes here, but no one's ever identified as one.)

I liked it, with a couple caveats. Characters are interesting and unpredictable, and the dialogue's usually pretty snappy. The action, when it occurs, is nicely handled, with a few surprises. (Preston, confronted by a killer he has identified, deals with it by being beaten half to death.) The caveats: while this book builds more on mood than action, the pace still strikes me as a little slow. It could use some speeding up, which would lend a little more density to the read. And while I like both Saiz's pencils and Palmiotti's inks in general, in the first couple issues the styles clash too much. (By the third issue, Jimmy has better adapted his inking to Jesus' pencils, so that may not be an issue anymore.)

Still, so far it's worth a read. I just hope the plot doesn't overtake the characters, and turn it into a more traditional superhero comic in drag. Right now 21 DOWN doesn't punch you in the stomach and force you to watch, but it does crawl under your skin.

Somewhat less interesting is the independent production KAMEELMAN (A1 Oregon Publishing, Box 1324, Lake Oswego OR 97035; $2.99), about a chameleon-human hybrid who takes on other people's forms, and, by extension, their thoughts, and, along with a team of helpers, rights what the press release calls "social injustice." The first issue sees Kameelman (I'm sorry, but that's just clumsy) help protect a high school outcast from the wrestling team. Their hearts are in the right place, and it's well done enough, though, again, there are art problems (James Taylor's inks oversimplify Ron Randall's pencils way too much), and the story just has too much of an After School Special feel to it, with a way too convenient resolution. This plays more like an animation pitch than a comic book.

Hasn't THE SOPRANOS (HBO, 9PM Sunday) been a mess this season? Like the other breakthrough HBO series OZ, it seems to have found itself trapped by its own status quo. Unlike OZ (returning to HBO for its presumably explosive final season next month), the show also seems trapped in a cycle in which all setups evaporate without conclusion and all actions dissipate without consequence: a sort of "compassionate criminality." Carmela and Furio slowly cozy up to each other, apparently leading to a clash between Furio and Tony – except Furio abruptly vanishes back to Naples, leaving Tony none the wiser about the potential affair. Tony brutally murders Ralphie – an act so shocking and unexpected that they'd only teased it for a year and a half – and two episodes later no one even seems to remember the dead man existed. Christopher's heroin addiction seems tailor made to lead him either into execution by his bosses who've time and time again warned him off the stuff or into the same FBI trap his fiancée anguishes in, but instead he winds up off-camera in rehab. The increasingly erratic Paulie, fresh off a short stretch, spends most of the season quietly plotting to overthrow Tony, only to abruptly shift gears and try to buy back Tony's love instead. The season's only real irritant, Johnny Sac, is so successfully playing both sides against the middle that he has missed the fact that he's the middle and therefore the least likely to survive next week's season finale.

Nothing comes to a head on this show anymore!

There's no doubt they're defying expectations. They've been doing it all season. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. The right way is to replace the obvious course of events with something better that still extends logically out of the situation as presented, something that, once it occurs, seems to have been inevitable. The wrong way is to replace it with nothing at all. Which is what THE SOPRANOS has sadly been this season, despite good acting, good directing, and some very funny and occasionally pithy dialogue (I particularly liked the brief verbal clash between one-time peas in a pod Silvio and Paulie last Sunday): nothing at all.

There was one other scene of note in last Sunday's episode: Meadow's dinner party. Carmela takes great umbrage at the interpretation of the classic Melville novel BILLY BUDD (like THE SOPRANOS basically a compendium of man's inhumanity to man) as a "homosexual novel," and at a literary/educational establishment that would foster such perverse notions. But she hasn't read the book; she's seen the movie. Tony, who you'd expect to get all hinky around the subject, finds it amusing. Meanwhile, mobster Paulie, aging but unmarried, is fixated on his mother to psychopathic extremes – a classic cliché of homosexual behavior, and he's far from the only mobster in the series with a mama fixation. (I seem to recall someone somewhere in the series referring to Tony's crew as a bunch of mamas' boys, and certainly the first season backs that up in Tony's case.) Is the suggestion being made that the violence and camaraderie of the mob underworld is, like the violence and camaraderie of the seagoing life in BILLY BUDD, a sublimation of homosexual urges? Is this why Carmela is trapped as an adjunct to that world but can never be a part of it – Tony's beard, as his other female conquests are? Because she refuses to consider there could be something going on beyond the surface of what she sees (the movie version)? Is there something going on beneath the surface of THE SOPRANOS this season that I'm not seeing?

Got a couple of Dallas-based comments on the Jesus Castillo situation, as mentioned last week. One e-mailer said:

"Just thought I'd drop a line and tell you that collusion was probably at work in the Dallas adult comic case. I've worked at many a newspaper, as an opinion editor a few times, and I can tell you that if a letter was run more than twice, it definitely wasn't an accident. Once I understand. Twice I can buy, but that would raise a flag and the letter would be marked off so it wouldn't be published again.

"It's getting sick, I think, the way that papers looking for a scoop and politicians looking to make names for themselves have started working together on "pulse" issues. A paper I write for on occasion was chastised for printing "pornography." No one bothered (even the other news outlets) to point out that almost all presses are rented out and that the adult singles magazine was immediately shipped to Texas, where it could be legally distributed."

while another gave this overview:

""I wanted to add a bit more to your discussion of Jesus Castillo's court situation. I have to jump in because Jesus is an old friend. (I've been shopping at Keith's Comics from 1993 until I got out of comics last December, and Jesus is one of the few people I know who deserves the title "king among men." He knows comics, he knows his customers, and only the most psychotic Cat Piss Man could ever speak ill of him. The only reason why I haven't tithed half of my income to the CBLDF to help out is because you have to have an income to tithe it.) I also jump in because I lived in Dallas for close to 25 years, and I know how the place works.

"First, a background on the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, one of the sources of the issue. Dallas' reputation as "buckle of the Bible Belt" is already well-known (W.A. Criswell, the recently deceased Pastor Emeritus of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, is generally considered to be the founder of modern Protestant fundamentalism, and Jerry Falwell considered Criswell a role model), and the MORNING NEWS was, until the late Nineties, a willing trumpet for Criswell's forces. These days, the paper has a schizophrenic attitude: since advertising revenues are down, the paper is trying its best to regain a youth market that gave up on newspapers in grade school, but it's also trying to hang onto its core audience, which consists mostly of little old ladies who sent their grandkids off to fight Sherman and Grant. This means that while the "Texas Living" section sucks up to the youth readership, the editorial page still caters to those who accuse Rush Limbaugh of communist sympathies. (More so than most cities, Dallas has a particularly noticeable double standard when it comes to vices. If the vice is something like crank or cheap booze, and it's obvious that only the poor in the area might indulge, the MORNING NEWS reads like classic Old Testament. When someone from the rich side of town is busted, as the son of the former publisher was in '93 when he and most of the top students at Highland Park High were busted for underage drinking and possession of cocaine, the paper cries for mercy and restraint "until all the facts are in.")

"Another factor, directly related to Jesus' case, is that the Dallas vice squad is notorious for these sort of stealth arrests. In Jesus' case, as well as many others, the vice squad sends in an undercover officer to a purveyor of filth (usually one of the many adult video stores in town), picks up an item that would require significant legal funds to argue the artistic merit of said item in front of a typical Dallas jury, and puts out an arrest warrant against the clerk who rings up the purchase. To make things even better, the defendant often isn't informed of this warrant until s/he is picked up on a traffic citation, which could be years later. Jason Cohen of Forbidden Video had the same thing happen to him: vice squad picked up a video in his establishment, submitted an arrest warrant, and did nothing else, and Jason didn't know he was wanted for distribution of obscene materials until he was pulled over in New Mexico when he and his wife were on their way back from their honeymoon. (Nothing quite like a wonderful weekend like spending the rest of the weekend in a small-town pokey because the officer in charge of the case won't be back until Monday.) Customers renting obscene materials weren't prosecuted (and considering that most of Dallas' hoi polloi are such determined porn fiends, any serious attempt to round them up would put most of the Dallas business community in jail) and the store owners weren't fined or jailed. Only the clerks were harassed in this manner.

"What this is, in essence, is legal extortion. The vice squad pulls this garbage on a constant basis, and, until last summer, the local adult video stores simply paid the fine for the employee and continued on. What changed this summer was that a local attorney challenged the idea that any porn video store clerk was automatically going to get two years for renting a video because of the "conservative nature" of the jurors, and managed to get literally hundreds of cases thrown out. In fact, the vice squad essentially quit prosecuting and investigating cases such as these with the exception of obvious issues such as child porn, because defendants were willing to fight instead of being told by local lawyers that fighting the issue was more expensive than paying the fine.

"And it all comes back to Jesus and Keith's Comics. The store is in a new location about three blocks down Mockingbird Lane, well away from that elementary school, but the same City Councilwoman who started the stink in the first place is still bitching about the close proximity of filth and perversion to those impressionable children, and never mind the number of liquor stores between Keith's and the school. The DALLAS MORNING NEWS isn't going to bother to cover the story in anything approximating a decent fashion, and the only local reporter who's covered it in any fashion has so poisoned the well with his reputation that nobody reads him anyway. (Among local musicians, any reporter who demands full access and lots of freebies of a singer or band and still bitch-slaps them in print is referred to as "pulling a Wilonsky.") And the vice squad? Every time someone talks about investigation into Vice's practices, or any public accounting for the department, the cops pump out thousands of "Stop Crime: Back the Blue" bumper stickers, guaranteeing that anyone who dares ask "Who watches the watchmen?" is accused of being "soft on crime".

"I don't expect anything better to come from this, even if it goes to the US Supreme Court (and considering the Supreme Five, I can just imagine Scalia's or Thomas' rulings) because the police and the same busybodies that started it will just retaliate that much harder for daring to fight the system. That system says, as you pointed out, that everything has to be safe for the children. What you forgot is that the people who argue that children or adults are instantly corrupted by the influence of bad comics are somehow immune to their effects. Either that, or they already have a huge box of "Legend of the Overfiend" underneath the bed for "research purposes", and they just don't like anyone else cutting into their supply. Either way, I finally escaped two months ago, and after I get my fiancée and finish my move, I have no plans to come back."

It seems to me it's time to start putting national news pressure on the situation somehow.

Also, the topic of Intelligent Design creationism in CREATURE TECH livened up both my mailbox and the Permanent Damage Message Board this last week. One correspondent, who's interviewing Doug TenNapel and intended to ask for his viewpoint (I haven't heard what it is yet) asked "If the book were about teenage, lesbian witches would we even be discussing the spiritual elements?" (if it's germane, sure; it's hard to discuss PROMETHEA, for example, without discussing pagan and Crowleyite elements and the influence of the Kaballah), while one wrote:

"I'm really not surprised at the clucking about Intelligent Design. You don't have any especial reason to keep up with the latest creationist nonsense, but I do: not only am I a paleontology student, but I used to live about 75 miles from Glen Rose, Texas. Glen Rose is world-famous for the dinosaur trackways in the Paluxy River, but it's also notorious for Dr. Carl Baugh, a local creationist that presents alleged human footprints among the dinosaur tracks in his oxymoronic "Museum of Creation Science." Baugh is also noted for his particularly slippery way of arguing his notions: instead of presenting his theories - which include an incredibly elaborate explanation on how the waters of the firmament that caused the Noachian Flood originated from a mile-thick layer of ice between our atmosphere and outer space, and the compression of the atmosphere and the plant-stimulating light filtration from that ice were what allowed the huge deposits of coal and ice on Earth to form in less than 10,000 years - to scientific journals, he lectures to junior high and grade school kids so they "can make up their own minds."

"What's scary about the whole ID crowd is the number of science fiction fans and pros who buy wholeheartedly into the nonsense, without once bothering to question it. I really shouldn't be surprised: much of science fiction has been little more than a religion from the beginning, and the skills that allow retention of obsessive detail of STAR TREK episodes don't exactly encourage critical thinking. However, because skiffy is still one of the only literary venues that people still read, and those readers tend to read nothing but more skiffy, pseudoscience tends to live a lot longer within that crowd than with the public at large."

I'd argue that, but I'm late for my Scientology meeting...

A couple notes on the way out:

I'd like to thank whoever recently sent me a very nice Xmas card and a selection of British comics digests, including THE DANDY, FOOTBALL and COMMANDO. There was no return address and I couldn't read the signature, but thanks very much. Drop me a line and let me know who you are.

Besides reminding everyone to harass their retailers to order the MORTAL SOULS trade paperback (Avatar Press) being solicited in this month's PREVIEWS - as I've said before, the only way to make sure you get one is to ask for it in advance – I'd also like to remind everyone my Sabertooth story appears in this month's X-MEN UNLIMITED (#39), gorgeously drawn by David Finch. And don't forget the Lockheed The Dragon story I did with Lockheed co-creator Paul Smith is coming up in X-MEN UNLIMITED #40, in February. That's something else you can order this month.

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

Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

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

If you want to know something about me, you can probably find the answer at Steven Grant's Alleged Fictions. Be warned that this site is functionally dead – I've switched to a different server and am prepping a new page – but it's still up and the backstory details are still germane even if the news page is a bit dated.

Iron Man's New 'Ultron-Buster' Armor Quickly Turns Into Body Horror

More in CBR Exclusives