Latest Posts

I suspect that, like many folks, I don't know much about Reed Crandall. His most prominent work was through the 1940s and '50s, and he moved over to work on the oft-overlooked Treasure Chest in 1960, where he remained for just over a decade. Although he did work on some notable characters like Blackhawk and Doll Man, not having not actually created them means his contributions often get glossed over as well. Further, when he went over to EC, he was working in the shadow of guys like Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Will Elder, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels and Jack Kamen. That's a tough crowd to stand out in.

Blackhawk #1
Which means that, not only do we not have a book-length biography of him to refer to, it doesn't seem as if there have been any substantial articles about him. The references I'm seeing in Alter Ego (the magazine when it comes to Golden Age creators and characters) seems to only talk about Crandall in relation to broader discussions of Quality Comics, who ran Blackhawk and Doll Man. The longest biography I can seem to find of him is his Wikipedia listing.

I'm vaguely familiar with his work, first seeing it cited in Ron Goulart's The Great Comic Book Artists back in 1986. But the era Crandall was in the industry, combined with his never really worked on anything I was especially interested in, meant that I know little more about him now than I did three decades ago. I've picked up a few reprints of his EC stuff, but that he worked on the pieces was incidental.

But, Ben Towle recently alerted me to some details of Crandall's final years. Here's the Wikipedia version...
Crandall, who had left New York City in the 1960s in order to care for his ailing mother in Wichita, Kansas, had developed alcoholism. Recovering by the time of his mother's death, he nonetheless suffered debilitated health and left art in 1974 to work as a night watchman and janitor for the Pizza Hut general headquarters in Wichita. After suffering a stroke that year, he spent his remaining life in a nursing home and died in 1982 of a heart attack.
Wow. Talk about tragic. Crandall did get some recognition of his contributions during his lifetime when he was a guest at the Multicon-70 convention in 1970, but any other accolades he received were posthumous ones.

There are biographies out there of Curt Swan, Mort Meskin, Matt Baker, Nick Cardy, and Jackie Ormes. All very, very talented individuals, but also ones whose names do not immediately strike one as commercially viable biography subjects. So how about Crandall? Who's up for writing a biography of him? He's definitely a creator we should know more about, if for no other reason than to make sure his final days aren't repeated by any other comic artist! Someone, get on this!
I met Mita Mihato at last year's CAKE. She makes comics using cut paper. Some very clever stuff. I was disappointed when I found out she wasn't going to be at this year's show, doubly so because she didn't have a website set up to sell anything. That changed earlier this month (her online store is here) and I ordered everything of hers that I didn't already have, including her newest book Hitched.

Comics by Mita Mihato
Shortly after ordering, she sent me an email that said she had dropped everything in the mail and I should be getting it soon. Sure enough, it arrived on Saturday. Included in the package was what looked like a small booklet, wrapped in a kind of brownish tissue paper with a red string tied around it. It struck me as a bit odd, because I had already identified the books that I had ordered. When I unwrapped it, though, it turned out to be a note card with a personalized message saying thanks and hoping I enjoy the books.

It's a small thing. It probably took her all of ten seconds to jot something down and maybe another ten or fifteen to wrap the tissue paper and string around it. But that deliberate attention to a personalized note stands out quite a bit. I've gotten packages from creators before than include a hand-written thank you, sometimes even a quick sketch, but the tissue paper and string suggest an additional preciousness to Mihato's note. Even though I expect it took her little time, it reinforces her work as personal and having a more "artifact" quality to it than someone who's printed up a copy of their webcomic. (I say that in a totally non-disparaging way! I've bought way more than a few printed versions of webcomics!)

It doesn't directly add anything to Mihato's bottom line, nor does it seem like just an exercise in creative expression. But what it does is reinforce Mihato's position as an artisan comics maker, and encourages anyone who tries her work to return for more at a later time.
Here's Tina's Groove from Wednesday...
Tina's Groove
Pigeons + large umbrella = dangerous place to store food.

Exactly how funny you find that is a matter of taste, of course, but I think people can understand where Rina Piccolo was coming from even if the gag isn't quite their cup of tea. However, Piccolo noted
What's interesting to note is that she specifically cites concerns from the Comics Kingdom audience. Not her Twitter followers, not the folks hitting her website, just the ones seeing the comic on Comics Kingdom. So I clicked over to see how it was displayed there and what folks were saying. There weren't a ton of comments, but no one who did comment (besides Piccolo herself) seemed to understand it.

But there's a difference in how the comic is displayed. It's notably smaller on Comics Kingdom than elsewhere. You can click to get an enlarged version of the strip, but since you can read the text and identify the figures at the smaller size, I can see why a lot of people wouldn't bother. So my guess is that, in the smaller size version, it's too difficult to "read" the kebab fixings as kebab fixings thus preventing viewers from getting the joke.

That's a challenge of newspaper strip artists. Their art can and is viewed at a wide variety of sizes and formats. The illustration has to be simple enough to read in black and white at the small size many newspapers print them at, but it also has to be adaptable to color, and not so simple that it looks stark and empty on a large desktop monitor. Not to mention all sorts of permeations in between, including smart phones, email inboxes, feed readers, and the syndicate's site itself. Although it would seem to fly in the face of common sense, webcomikers actually have MORE control over how people read their comics and at what size(s). Their work might cross any number of digital platforms and venues, but it's still all digital, whereas newspaper strips also have to contend with print versions that are subject to the layouts and placements of hundreds of individual editors. Many of which, I might add, likely operate with a nagging fear that their employer (and, by extension, their own job) will become obsolete soon.

My point is that newspaper cartoonists have a more difficult time than they used to. There were long-running complaints that the size that comics were printed at was shrinking, frequently leaving room for little more than talking heads. Which is still the case. But now they ALSO have to be rendered at a larger size that can fill up a computer screen and not get lost in a sea of banner ads, social media icons, and the like. Inevitably, you're going to wind up with some jokes that simply do not read well at one end of the spectrum or the other.
So Bleeding Cool pointed to the new Justice League 3001 #1 that was released yesterday, and found some... uncomfortable dialogue. There's a fair amount that I'm not inclined to reproduce here, so go check out the Bleeding Cool piece if you want to read it for yourself.

Let's set aside the trans discussion for a second before we get started. The first thing I see when I flipped through the book is a lack of color. We're a thousand years in the future, and everyone is still the exact same shade of white. The creators have deliberately re-imagined the current heroes from today -- wipe the slate clean; they could be anybody in a century -- and there's actually FEWER people of color than in the current 2015 iteration.

Second, DC's premier superhero, Superman, the pinacle of what all heroes are supposed to be, is depicted as a sexist asshole. I mean, we're still not even at the issue of a trans Green Lantern yet, and Supes is making lude comments about the character's ass TO HIS GIRLFRIEND! This is not a villain we're talking about here, this is Superman. SUPERMAN. Even when Frank Miller made him into a government stooge for The Dark Knight Returns, he was still portrayed pretty honorably. This characterization quickly shows the character to be an asshole that isn't to be liked or respected. And even if that's the whole point (if you really want to give the benefit of the doubt) it's being done in a very crude and ham-fisted fashion. Even if there's a valid story reason to make readers dislike Superman (!) it's poorly written.

Now, with that out of the way, we'll tackle the trans issue. Evidently Guy Gardner's mind has been transferred into a woman's body. (Or something like that. I'm not sure how injecting a strand of DNA into someone would totally alter their person's mind. That's not even decent comic book science!) Superman flatly refuses to consider Green Lantern a man because lady parts. Batman and Flash both seem to acknowledge Guy is a man, just stuck within a woman's body, but both of them let Superman's opinion steam-roller over them. Okay, we're really hammering home the Superman-is-an-asshole thing (again, this is -- at best -- inelegant writing) but then there's no follow-up rebuttal. Superman goes on and on about how Green Lantern is a woman, but the sole arguement Batman provides is ten words long. Readers are effectively being shown that there is no way to counter Superman's lady parts arguement, and a person's gender identity is squarely reliant upon what their genetalia look like.

Even if you're trying to show just how much of an asshole Superman is, by not even showing another perspective, you're not providing any reason for readers to think he's wrong. I mean, seriously, the biggest reason given to show that Green Lantern identifies as male is that his name is "Guy."

You want to show Superman's an asshole? Fine. But how about do it and provide a modicum of respect for the trans community? With essentially no other trans characters shown on a month-to-month basis, this Green Lantern winds up bearing the weight of all transgender people and issues on his shoulders. And if nobody bothers setting Superman straight on the issue, how are any of the readers supposed to know he's wrong? DC is treating the one regular trans character they have as a punchline and, by association, they're suggesting that all trans people are worthy of derision and ridicule.

And the part that really irks me? Even if writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis themselves don't have any respect for trans people, and even if the editors agreed with them, shouldn't someone have said, "Hey, maybe we don't want to blatantly disrespect a large group of people like this; that can't be good PR"? Seriously, DC, this is really not cool.

I think the Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today clock needs to be reset.
Comics by Imran Azhar
Comics by Imran Azhar
I know continuity is pretty much out the window with Marvel effectively rebooting their whole universe with this new Secret Wars stuff, but I pulled out a list of dangling plotlines that I was noted on my old FFPlaza website. There wasn't much chance of most of these being followed up on in the first place, but I suspect that's dropped to something below zero at this point. A couple that I had mentioned in my original article (which it seems was last updated in 2005) were indeed followed up on in some capacity and I've removed those two regarding Lyja and Moloids, but these questions, I believe, still remain unanswered...

What happened to Valeria?
Valeria is a blue-skinned princess of the 5th Dimension. Johnny has occasionally suggested they start a serious relationship, but had a tendency to forget about her quickly. Last seen: Fantastic Four #161. Last referenced: Fantastic Four #163.
What happened to Willie Evans, Jr.?
Willie was a child with the mutant power to manifest his dreams into reality. After the death of his mother, he was captured by Project: Pegasus and subsequently "liberated" by Iron Man and X-Factor. Releasing much of his power, he apparently killed himself but left behind his frog-like manifestation of his repressed anger. Last seen: Iron Man Annual #8.
Fantastic Four #216
What happened to Randolph James?
Randolph, after being seriously injured by several thugs, used an experimental device on himself that evolved him into a more powerful entity, whom Blastaar dubbed the Futurist. He then left to explore the wondrous corners of the universe. He was captured by the Stranger and eventually freed by Quasar, left once again to explore the universe. Last seen: Quasar #15.
What happened to "The Brain Parasites"?
A pod of alien parasites landed on Earth and devolved their unwilling hosts to obtain their main source of sustenance: oil. A pod of six landed, but only five were destroyed. Last seen: Fantastic Four #227.
What happened to Occulus?
Occulus was an extra-dimensional villain that kidnapped Franklin, hoping to use the child's latent mutant powers. The FF managed to drive off the would-be tyrant, but both the locals and the FF expressed concern that Occulus would return to cause even more damage. Last seen: Fantastic Four: Foes #1. Last referrenced: Fantastic Four #366.
What happened to Raphael Suarez?
Raphael accidentally obtained Lyja's "laserfist" power blasts and sought the FF for help. It has never really been explored what he has done with his powers (if anything) after briefly assisting Johnny and Lyja. Last seen: Fantastic Four #392.
What happened to the Aztec temple that could harness comic rays?
Obviously the culture had long since died out by the time archeologist Ken Robeson found their temple. Judging by Ben's reaction to his frequent changes using the temple's equipment, it seems likely that the cosmic rays that granted them Thing forms eventually killed the original tribe. This was not explored, however, since Reed dismantled the equipment to help fight Onslaught. Last seen: Fantastic Four #405. Last referenced: Fantastic Four #416.
What happened to Kristoff Vernard?
After the apparent death of the FF and Dr. Doom during Onslaught, Kristoff and Nathaniel Richards reclaimed Latveria. The mutant Stryfe, however, seemingly displaced them when he crashed his ship into Castle Doom. Last seen: Tales of the Marvel Universe #1. Last referenced: Spider-Man Unlimited #16.
What happened to Nathaniel Richards?
After the apparent death of the FF and Dr. Doom during Onslaught, Kristoff Vernard and Nathaniel reclaimed Latveria. The mutant Stryfe, however, seemingly displaced them when he crashed his ship into Castle Doom. Last seen: X-Force #63. Last referenced: Spider-Man Unlimited #16.
What happened to Sue's third pregnancy?
Near the end of the "Heroes Reborn" saga, Susan announced to Reed that she was pregnant; however, the heroes were soon engulfed in a crisis that required they leave the dimension. Since doing so, Sue's pregnancy has not been addressed in any capacity.
What's up with Iconoclast?
In the original story, it was implied that Iconoclast and his race would be explored further, possibly in connection with Susan's powers. Although Reed did do some exploration of Iconoclast's origins, they've apparently led to a dead end. Last seen: Fantastic Four: Foes #1. Last referenced: Fantastic Four vol. 3 #3.
What happened to the Red Ghost?
At some undetermined point, the Red Ghost lost most of his intellect, seemingly transferred to his apes. There was initially some postulation that the transfer was a side-effect of being imbued with cosmic radiation and that the FF may be affected at some point as well. Last seen: Fantastic Four: Foes #1. Last referenced: Fantastic Four vol. 3 #4.
Who saved Johnny from drowning during his battle with Terminus?
The silhouetted figure has not been identified. Although it has been suggested by some fans to have been Lyja, it seems unlikely that she would be living in the sewers beneath Yorkton, Canada. Last seen: Fantastic Four vol. 3 #4.
The Enclave appeared in Fantastic Four vol. 3 #12, but where was Carlo Zota?
Why Zota has not continued to work with Wladyslav Shinski and Maris Morlak (who both assumed the identity of Crucible) has not been brought up. Last seen: Spider-Man Team-Up #7.
Where and what is "Puppy"?
Spider-Man and the Human Torch found a young, dog-like creature in Fantastic Four vol. 3 #9 and brought it back to Pier 4 as a present for Franklin. The puppy appeared to be the progeny of Lockjaw, but the issue was never specifically addressed. When Franklin was sent off to Haven, the dog went with him, but it has not been seen since. Last seen: Fantastic Four vol. 3 #24.
You ever read up on how Girl Genius became a webcomic? Phil and Kaja Foglio started it as a traditional pamphlet comic in 2001. After several issues, they began putting pages up online as an incentive to get new readers. They ran both in concert for several years and noticed that they were selling just enough pamphlet issues so that they broke even on their publication, but online sales of their other stuff (t-shirts, pins, coffee mugs, etc.) always spiked when a new issue came out. So, they, thought, why not remove the pamphlet comic out of the equation -- since they weren't making money on it anyway -- and just issue the comic online? It worked, and Girl Genius soon became one of the first self-sustaining webcomics.

Girl Genius #1
In a recent piece, Andy Oliver looked at the significance of online sales for self-publishers. It's mostly anecdotal in its approach, but I've heard a similar refrain elsewhere, including the Foglio example above -- online sales have a tendency to spike after there's a new print release of some sort. That has a common sense logic to it. If you put out a new thing, it's going to generate more interest than your old thing, and that will drive more people to your site just to check out the new thing. And in checking out the new thing, they stumble across your old thing. Then you get online sales. Maybe for the new thing, maybe for the old thing, maybe both.

I think the same holds true for web-based pieces as well. Sales are generally higher on days when you release a new installment, whether that's three tiems a week, once a week, or once a month. The premise is the same -- you're doing something that, for a brief period at least, puts your work at the forefront of readers' attentions and that gets them to thinking about seeing (i.e. purchasing) more of your work.

The trick, then, is figuring out a balance between creating free work in what frequency relative to things that need to be for. Do you need to post every day if you can sell the same number of books by only posting once a week? Do you need to come out with a new print comic every month to boost online sales? I'm sure the precise formula for every creator is different, but one worth exploring, at least periodically, so you're not doing a heck of a lot more work than you need to in order to sell a few more books.