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It shouldn't come as any great surprise that many people are quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the past week or so. His name has become synonymous with fighting for racial equality, and a lot of people have been doing a lot of that very publicly over the past week.

One issue with citing Dr. King is, though, people are cherry picking quotes of his to suggest he wouldn't approve of the protests going on today. As if all he did was make some pretty speeches about his dream. He earned his reputation practicing civil disobedience. He was literally breaking the law on a frequent basis because he saw that the laws were unjust. He was beaten. He was jailed. J. Edgar Hoover worked for years to use every FBI resource available to discredit him at every opportunity. He was eventually assassinated. He was one of the most hated men in America in the year or two before he was murdered. A 1963 Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans had a negative view of him; a number that increased each year as he became more prominent in his objecting to the status quo. The year before King died, Gallup polls showed 63% of Americans had a negative view of him!

America has never liked activists. Particularly those promoting racial equity. An easy way to see that is by looking at period editorial cartoons. A professional cartoonist, if they're to be successful, needs to have their finger on the pulse of the nation, so any cartoons they create speak to the current thinking about the day's events. I did a little searching and came up with the following cartoons, mostly from 1966-1968, that feature Dr. King. Most of those I found weren't particularly kind, but the three that appeared shortly after his death were respectful at least. (The one with the hand-writing was sent to King himself, and remains in his archives.)
Remember this if you think about quoting Dr. King. He challenged the status quo on a daily basis. He caused lots of problems for lots of people in high places. The riots that broke out in the week after his assassination helped convince President Johnson to sign The Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Two more things to keep in mind...
  1. Those riots broke out while King was hugely unpopular, as I noted above. Massive riots just among the few who liked him.
  2. You think things are bad now? Wait until George Floyd's murderer is acquitted because of the pass that's almost always given to police officers. Picture the LA riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial... but over the entire United States.
Stay safe, everybody!
I'm still not really in a good headspace to be writing about comics, but there was a snippet of news I caught over the weekend that Nate Powell was kind enough to remind me that he had created a fairly detailed analysis about it a year earlier.

Cincinnati police raising racist flag
The incident was that, over the weekend, Cincinnati police raised a thin blue line flag at the justice center downtown. It's significant for a couple reasons. First, the flag design was originally created in direct opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement; it's a racist symbol every bit as much ass the Confederate flag is. They're openly calling themselves a racist organization by flying it. Second, Powell pointed out... "A key signpost toward fascist control: replacing national symbols w/ parallel alternatives, as official military & law enforcement are supplanted by paramilitary alternatives. These are fascists."

About Face comic
He then linked to a webcomic he did last year called "About Face" which he describes: "This is about surface and style normalizing the language of force." It's a powerful and enlightening piece on some of the aesthetics that surround right-wing paramilitary group, including the Confederate and thin blue line flags, as well as the (almost always illegally appropriated) Punisher skull logo. Even if you've read the comic before, it's worth checking it out again.
I can't seem to really focus much on writing about comics just at the moment, so here's a collection of recent editorial cartoons relating to the murder of George Floyd.

Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: Banned Book Club Review

Kleefeld on Comics: Newspaper vs Webcomics Update

Patreon: Webcomics Textbook: Critical Uses: Paratexts, Part 2  

Kleefeld on Comics: Custom Marvel/DC Trades

Kleefeld on Comics: Brilliant Idea Redux

Patreon: Less Than a Month Away!

Kleefeld on Comics: Interview Me about Webcomics!



Webcomics cover
If you've not been paying attention (which is totally understandable given all the bullshit we collectively have to hear on the news every day now) my book on Webcomics is less than one month away from publication! The official release date is June 25! (For both the US and UK!) I just got confirmation from my publisher last night that we're still on schedule and there shouldn't be any pandemic related delays!

It's the first textbook on webcomics. There's some history (only one other book has ever really discussed webcomics history at all, and it's been out of print for over a decade), lots of discussion of the social and cultural impact -- their relative ubiquity, impacts of/by technology, how they can be used for education and social causes, the rise of a functional business model and the subsequent ancillary industries... -- questions that need to be asked in addressing webcomics as a whole, in-depth examinations of several specific titles... I even spend a good chunk of time just defining what webcomics are relative to digital comics or other comics that might appear online! This book goes into more depth and breadth about webcomics than any other book before! I don't say that to just be hyperbolic either -- there are VERY few books on the subject (literally six) and only one of them isn't some version of "how-to make webcomics." (The one that isn't is just a straight history.) I'm not saying that I'm covering areas no one has ever covered before, but this book is the first one to look at all these areas together as they pertain to webcomics.

Not surprisingly, with a new book coming out in the near future, I would like to drum up some interest for it and try to get some PR buzz going. So I'm going to be plugging the book here on my blog a bit more than usual, and hopefully in some other venues as well. I just recorded a videocast that will go live in the near future, and I'm working on some guest posts for some other outlets now.

But my dance card isn't filled yet!

If you're interested in talking about webcomics with me, I'd be happy to chat! I'm open to interviews, podcasts, AMAs... whatever outlet where you've got a webcomics-interested audience! (Which, frankly, should be ANY audience! If you're online, you're probably reading webcomics whether you know it or not!) Shoot me an email at sean@seankleefeld.com and we'll get the details sorted! I've spent a LOT of time thinking and writing about webcomics, and I'd love to share what I've discovered with everybody!
I originally posted this idea a decade ago and came across it again recently. I don't know that I've seen anyone actually do this, but I still think it's a really neat idea. Plus everybody has loads of free time on their hands now for crafty projects like this, right? So kill some time and make some cool wall art as a bonus!

Step 1. Take a really hi-res scan of some cool Jack Kirby art. Preferably from the 1970s.

(Cool though the above art is, it obviously doesn't qualify as a good hi-res scan.)

Step 2.
Print the art out from a good color printer, tiled over several 11" x 17" pages.


Step 3.
Mount the printouts on wood or heavy board.


Step 4.
Hang the boards on your wall, leaving some space between the individual pieces.


Step 5.
Bask in the awesomeness.


I'd love to see folks post photos of your results in the comments!
Right off the bat, I cannot take credit for the following idea. This came from Ladies Making Comics. She and I talked a bit about it on Twitter last year, but I don't think I ever elaborated on the idea here on my blog. So consider that rectified after today!

Let's start off with a hypothetical. Let's say that you would want to read a collection of stories from Marvel's 1989/90 "Acts of Vengeance" crossover. You could, of course, track down all the individual issues but that was 70+ individual comics; that would take a while and probably wouldn't be cheap. Marvel did put out an $100 omnibus edition, but I don't think that actually collects everything. Plus, what if you didn't actually want all of the individual issues? Maybe you're perfectly fine skipping over all of the X-Men related stories. You'd be paying a big chunk for a book in which you only want to read about half the stories.

She-Hulk #8
Here's another hypothetical. What if you're amused by Marvel's Captain Ultra character and you want to read all of his appearances? Again you could track down all the individual issues -- and in this case there's less than two dozen -- but they're a bit all over the map, so there's a bit of a hunt involved. And that's really your only option because his stories have never been collected in a single volume. Several have never been reprinted at all, I believe.

But what if you could go through a list of comics, select the ones you liked, and have them printed up in a single bound volume? Any random collection of titles or stories, in any order you wanted, all in one set of covers.

The technology exists to do precisely that today. Print on demand services basically do this all the time. Not just writers who use POD to print off and sell their books without a formal publisher, but think of those photo album books where you upload a bunch of pictures, write some captions, and get a bound book in the mail a few weeks later? The printer has a template set up, drops in the images you select, and run it as a single print job. Custom comic TPBs would be even easier since you'd be selecting exclusively from pre-existing artwork (the already completed individual comic issues) and the POD folks would just crank out your specific set.

All a printer would need for this would be access to the digital comics files. And Marvel and DC have both got digital versions of just about everything in their catalogs at this point. I mean, how many of them are on comiXology already? You could go through a comiXology-like interface and the issues would get dropped into your cart, more or less as it happens now. But then, instead of checkout leading to gaining access to digital versions of those comics, you get a bound book in the mail a few weeks later.

The database setup is all there; you would just need a print-on-demand printer to get access to those files. Print-on-demand is definitely not something all printers can do, so Marvel and DC likely couldn't use the printers they have for their regular books. Would they be pricier on a per page basis than regular TPBs? Almost certainly. But how many people these days go about taking the original issues and having them professionally bound into collections? That's the same idea, but more expensive and, in the cases of Bronze Age books and older, you're stuck with whatever crappy newsprint they were originally printed on.

Admittedly, there's a fair amount of logistics that would need to happen in order to set this up, but once it was set up, it would largely run itself. You'd obviously need press managers to make sure nothing funked up on the actual printing line, and some support staff and such, but you could have an automated system feed the POD database new issues as the files were completed from the publisher, and kick print jobs out more or less automatically as they came in. People expect POD books to be a little pricier already, I think, so you could still print the books one at a time and make money off each one. I think this would be a totally do-able idea, and I'm kind of surprised no one has worked to implement it yet. (At least, not that I've heard/seen in any capacity.)

I think it's a frickin' genius idea, and I'd love to be able to put together odd collections of books that don't make any sense to anyone else but me! C'mon, somebody get on this!