Latest Posts

My blog here focuses on comics. It is called Kleefeld on Comics, after all! And while I link to all my pieces from social media platforms I'm on, I try to have a little broader range than just comics there. In theory, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, you're interested in me as an individual more than just what I have to think about comics. I have noticed, though, that my posts tend to focus on only two other subjects: fitness (mostly by way of check-ins at gyms and automatic posts from my run tracker) and politics, particularly those focused around equality.

Lately, as politics have gone increasingly off the rails -- going from White House appointments seemingly set to dismantle the organizations they're charged with leading to a Congress almost militantly intent on ripping health care away from millions of Americans to a President who's actively defending Nazis and white supremacists -- I've personally found it increasingly difficult to continue writing about such comparatively silly things like comics. Even when I bring them up in context of social issues like I try to under this "On -isms" banner. It's not a self-care issue so much as: shouldn't I focus my time fighting the evils of society? I mean, clearly the reality of people literally dying at the hands of those in power is more important than whether or not a comic creator includes enough people of color in their story, right?

I'm reminded of this short comic Jon "Bean" Hastings wrote in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. And while the "Planes crashing! Buildings collapsing..." screed is a little different now (maybe "Cringe in horror at this new world where the US government destroys the country itself"?) the impact is similar. So maybe it's worth pulling this comic up again to see why I need to keep writing about comics...

Carol Tilley asked recently what, these days, gives you hope or makes you smile. I could rattle off several things that make me smile (a loving wife, a reasonably secure job, comics...) but I had trouble coming up with anything that gives me hope. Hastings reminds me that it's the stories themselves that provide hope, and that by examining the stories, I can express precisely when/where/how that hope might be placed relative to whatever bullshit is coming out of Washington. It's incentive enough to keep doing what I've been doing: trying to be the best me I can be, whether that's calling out people on their racism or just writing about some French cartoonist that I couldn't think of the name of for decades.
Given the events of this past weekend, a lot of people have brought up this idea that Nazis have always been bad, and we literally fought a war to stop them, and so on. The general message being that America has always hated Nazis and Nazism, and that we would never tolerate their shit. Which is a great sentiment but it's not really accurate.

Let me state in no uncertain terms: Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are fucking assholes. Their hatred is a pestilence on humanity. Every single one of them can fuck right off.

The part that's inaccurate is America's tolerance for Nazis.

Comic fans like to point to Captain America punching Hitler on the jaw on the cover of Captain America Comics #1. Or Daredevil and his companions battling Hitler on the cover of Daredevil Comics #1. Both of which pre-date the attack on Pearl Harbor by several months.

But that's the thing: Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, but it's a war that had been going on for YEARS before the US became officially involved. World War II officially started in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland! Germany annexed Austria in 1938! The Nuremberg Laws that officially sanctioned the murdering of Jews in Germany was passed in 1935! Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and became it's Führer in 1934! He wrote Mein Kampf in 1925! The Nazi party was actually formed in 1920!

Granted, news moved a bit slower back then, and you could debate at precisely what point it would've made the most sense to act, but my point is that America tolerated YEARS of Nazism before taking a formal stand.

What made these comics visually advocating the punching of Hitler significant is precisely because it was not yet US policy. Yes, Jack Kirby absolutely wanted to go over and kill Hitler. As did Charles Biro. And there were indeed like-minded people who saw those comics and agreed with the sentiment. But it wasn't a universal one.

There's a famous anecdote about the Simon & Kirby offices receiving death threats after Captain America Comics #1 hit the stands, and that New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia personally promised police protection to the studio. But that was only after Simon & Kirby received a bunch of hate mail, and Kirby himself stormed down from the studio to take on group of Nazi sympathizers who were threatening him from the lobby. (They had run away before Kirby made it down to the first floor.)

In 1941, nine years before his first book was published, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist for PM, a New York newspaper. Many of his cartoons poked fun at the "America First" crowd generally and those who advocated for an isolationist approach to Hitler. But these weren't just vague ideas that he thought someone might hold, these were ideas championed by specific individuals with media platforms, and Seuss called them out by name: pilot Charles Lindbergh and popular radio host Father Charles Coughlin to name two.

The United States didn't enter World War II because of Hitler. We entered World War II because we were bombed by Japan. We wanted revenge on Japan first and foremost. That Germany and Japan were allies meant that Germany was the US enemy by proxy. We sent soldiers to Germany but we dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Unnecessary atomic bombs. We rounded up and put Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps, but left white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers roam free. We were in World War II for revenge against the Japanese.

Let me reiterate. Nazis are bad. If you're advocating the death of an entire group of people because of their skin color or religion, you absolutely deserve to be punched in the face. But saying that America has always hated Nazis and what we're seeing recently is somehow new simply is not true. While a lot of people have hated Nazis for a long time, a lot of other people thought it was better to deal with Nazis by looking the other way.

Which is why we still have to hit them in the face.
Yesterday, I attended a new convention called RETCon. (Fantastic name, but I can't seem to find if the "RET" portion stands for anything. It's frequently capitalized like it should, but I can't find anything spelling that out. Perhaps it's only meant to suggest it's designed as an older style convention.) Their stated intent was to have a smaller convention that focused on diverse comics specifically, and not tons of ancillary stuff. It felt a little sparsely attended when I was there, but most of the tabling creators I spoke with seemed to be doing reasonable well despite that.

But, as always, I try to keep my eye on the way things are run to check the show out from more of a business perspective and I found some interesting things here.

As I said, it was sparsely attended from what I saw. It was a lovely day, so I doubt anyone was dissuaded from coming by the weather. I did see signs in/around the building itself, so it seems unlikely that people couldn't find it. So I'm wondering if their pre-show promotion game was a little lacking? It did come across my Facebook feed, but I don't recall seeing anything else. (To be fair, I haven't been to any of the retail shops that were set up at the show, and I expect they had some promotion in their respective stores.) I'm also not hyper-local to the show (it was an hour-plus for me to get there) so there may have been more neighborhood ads that I missed.

When I got there and parked, I asked the security attendant about parking fees and the show and he directed to an open, nondescript door. That led to a few steps that popped me right at the back of the show floor. It was clearly NOT the main entrance, but it also seemed pretty well unsupervised, meaning anyone could casually stroll in and out without having to pay an admission fee. As I did. I strolled up towards the front of the hall in an earnest attempt to pay but the one place at the front of the hall that looked like it might serve as an admissions table was empty. I saw a photo after I got home that looked like the setup was actually by another one of the building entrances, but I didn't see anything like that while I was there. I don't know if the show lost any potential revenue (besides my $15) from people "sneaking" in the back entrance, but it seems like a review of the show's layout (if it remains at that location) might be warranted.

The show was in an auditorium, with the creators and retailers on the main floor, a raised stage at one end that was used for panels, and a kids' activities section on a balcony overlooking everything. Panels were conducted on the stage in full view of the rest of the convention. They were a little hard to see if you weren't seated on the stage, but you could still hear everything pretty easily. I liked that everyone could essentially "sit" in on the panels while they were still perusing the main floor, but at the same time, having conversations with creators was a little more challenging at times. I'm not sure where most people would fall on that topic.

One of the most interesting tidbits I overheard was that the convention was providing volunteers for creators to monitor their tables if they had to run to the restroom or grab something to eat or whatever. I don't know what stipulations or limitations might be placed on that perk, but it's a really clever idea, I think.

Interestingly, while there were a reasonably diverse selection of creators there, it wasn't focused exclusively on comics. Some -- not many, but some -- of the creators didn't have any actual comics to their name and were just selling a selection of prints. And on both days, one of the stage shows was presented by Acrobatica Infiniti, where they basically performed a variety of acrobatic routines while dressed in cosplay. They were mostly dressed as comic based characters at least, but there was one I didn't recognize at all. They were good, but seemed to me a bit far removed from "bring[ing] the comic book back to the forefront."

It might seem like most of this has been complaining about the show, but I honestly enjoyed it a great deal and was disappointed I only got to spend a few hours there. I think most of what I've talked about are issues stemming from this being their first year, and finding their convention legs. I met several new creators I'd never seen at CAKE, C2E2, or other local cons so the show's intention to highlight "diverse, up-and-coming writers and artists who are not currently featured in the mainstream comic industry" was certainly achieved as far as I'm concerned. But I think the issues I cited show that running even a small a convention isn't easy, and there are tons of things to consider that might not be immediately obvious. In any event, I hope the show did well enough to warrant a sequel next year.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: The Changing Nature of Tabling

FreakSugar: Fanthropology: Internal Strife

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: Sparky Moore

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld on Webcomics #20: Comics by Committee

Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Long or Short?

Kleefeld on Comics: On -isms: LCS Accessibility

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld on Webcomics #21: The Speed of Thought

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: Kid President + Snoopy

I missed this last year, but apparently Kid President spent some time at the Charles Schulz Museum and did a Peanuts-themed video. It was tied to and something a promotion for the Peanuts movie that came out around that time, but it was still more focused on the strip. Given the uplifting tone and demeanor of the video, I thought it might help folks smile a bit after another long, excruciatingly painful, and generally terrifying week of news.
I'll point to the accompanying Bonus Video, too, because it gets even more directly into the comics themselves, with Kid President talking with Schulz's widow and their son, Craig. It's not as uplifting as the previous video, but it does, as I said, dive deeper into the comics themselves.
I've noticed over the past few years an increase in the number of wheelchair-bound fans attending comic conventions. At almost any good-sized convention any more, you can generally expect one to see at least one young fan who had a devoted and clever parent come up with a unique way to incorporate their wheelchair into a costume design. I suspect some of this is due to better technology giving them more mobility than before, but conventions too have recognized these fans' interest and have started making better accommodations.

I was thinking, though, I don't know that I've ever seen someone in a wheelchair even attempt to maneuver through a comic shop. I'm sure it's been done, but in the past 30-some years of going to comic shops, I don't recall ever having seen a single wheelchair in any of them.

In fact, there are more than a few comic shops I've been into where a wheelchair simply wouldn't make it past the entrance. The one closest to my home has so much crap near the front door, I don't think a wheelchair could make it all the way through door itself. (Seriously, I can't see how that place isn't a fire hazard.) Many of the other shops I'm familiar with are difficult to navigate as an able-bodied individual; I can't imagine how challenging they would be for anyone less mobile.

I'm sure most shops are complying with the letter of the law, and have exactly as much space available as is required by federal and local requirements demand. I mean, there are inspectors who come by to check precisely these types of things. (Not as frequently as they should, but you can only do so much when you're criminally under-funded.) And I know, too, that space is at a premium, particularly for low-profit enterprises like comic shops that rely heavily on having a lot of physical stock on-hand. So it's not surprising that most shop owners try to cram as much as they possibly can into their stores. I'm sure they'd fill their shops even more if they weren't required to have minimum aisle widths and the like.

Have you ever stayed in a hotel room that was specifically designed to be accessible? Personally, I find that they're simply better rooms because the things they change to make it accessible are just a better fit for humans of all types. Everything that's easier to get to from a wheelchair is easier to get to without one too. There's actual thought put into the design decisions made for an accessible room that, I think, are simply "that's just how we things are done" decisions for other rooms. My stays in accessible rooms have always been more enjoyable than in their non-accessible equivalents.

So I'm wondering if comic shops might take the same idea. By making the store itself more accessible, would it not become a better environment for able-bodied customers as well? As I think back over the years, most of the better shops I've been in were indeed more spacious and didn't feel the need to cram every inch of space with stuff. I wonder if such a change would alter the clientele, or would it simply bring in more people? (All other things being equal.)

Something to think about if you work at a comic shop...