Monday, June 30, 2008

Chicago: Sunday, June 29, 2008

Photos (not mine) taken in Chicago yesterday...


Nope, it's not Wizard World -- it's the Gay Pride Parade that was going on in another part of town. I also happened to see any number of Superman symbol t-shirts and a couple of Wonder Woman ones. Attendance is estimated to be around 8-10 times that of Wizard World. I'm just sayin'...

WWC: My Saturday

As I noted earlier, I only attended Wizard World Chicago on Saturday, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an actual comic book convention behind all the more general pop culture bonanza garbage up front. Here's how my day went...

The S.O. and arrived around 9:30. Although I was a tad disappointed not to see any blatantly obvious attendees as we drove up, a couple of guys in Naruto costumes parked right next to us. We meandered our way from the garage to the convention lobby itself and picked up our tickets.

My first inclination as we went in was to check A) for the Warren Ellis line and B) to see if I could track down Erik Larsen, figuring they'd be relatively popular draws and I'd want to get to them early before things got too crowded. I quickly found, though, that the Ellis line was already snaking well through the publisher area, and I'm sure there was easily an hour wait, if not an hour a half. So we shot back to find the Image booth, only to discover that it was completely vacant.

We made our way across the back to the Artists' Alley, hoping to get back there, again, before things got too crowded. My first encounter was with Jeremy Bastian, promoting his upcoming Cursed Pirate Girl. His artwork looks absolutely gorgeous, and we spent a fair amount of time just marveling at the portfolio of original pieces he had on display. I was almost floored when he revealed that it was all brushwork, and that he didn't use an inking pen on it. Provided he doesn't go blind working at 100% for his comic pages, he's going to really turn some heads for some time.

The S.O. was then drawn to nearby Lorenzo Lizana, plugging Scarab: Agent of Isis. He explained the plot in some detail, flipping through pages of finished art. She was impressed by his updating of ancient Egyptian mythology, and I'll certainly be curious to see the book in a final, published form. Lizana was visibly excited about the project and, from what I was looking at, that energy seemed to translate to the printed page.

We wandered up a few aisles, and the S.O. began to take note of just how many women and minorities were at the show as creators. She made a point of checking out all their work as the day went on, and she found several that she seemed rather impressed with. Certainly, she brought some good-looking works to my attention that I might have otherwise not noticed.

See, while we were wandering through, I found my eyes flitting between two general locations. One was the floor in front of the tables, where the artists' names had been taped down fairly uniformly. The second direction of my gaze was at the creators' faces, trying to see who I knew/recognized on sight. That second part meant that I would catch glimpses of banners and backdrops immediately behind the creators, but I tended to miss anything above shoulder height or on the front of the tables. Definitely a detriment on my part, so I was glad she was taking a different approach.

I talked briefly with Stu Kerr of RalfinStudio. He's had a long and varied career in the comics industry and, after several years in something of a lull, he and partner Ralph Griffith are poised to make another go at indie publishing. They're currently lining up artists for several new series they're putting together, some based off their old Oz properties, some entirely new. He's just found a fast, and fairly talented 19-year-old woman to work on their new Sinbad-based comic, following the exploits of Sinbad's daughter. The preliminary sketches he had on had looked promising, and I'm curious to see this develop.

Jason Yungbluth was jovial and was impressed that I was already familiar with much of his work. He recently came out with Deep Fried vol. 2 #3 which includes the latest adventures of Weapon Brown.

We stopped and chatted with The Devil's Panties' Jennie Breeden for a bit, and got the low-down scoop on her "Men in Kilts with Leaf Blower" calendar. Point 1: It's only a dress if you wear underwear. Point 2: Guys who actually wears kilts tend to get gun-shy when they realize that the leaf blower is real. Point 3: The girlfriends of guys wearing kilts tend to think it's a great idea and encourage the proceedings. Point 4: Oh, yeah, consent forms are probably a good idea. They also have a tendency to quickly scare off those who think you're kidding. Point 5: It's fun to watch the mental cogs spinning after this exchange: "What are you dressed as?" "A kilt hunter."

I didn't think Templar, AZ's Spike was going to be at the show, despite it being local for her, but was pleasantly surprised to see otherwise. She was exceptionally charming and enthusiastic, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone who's met her before. And those misprints of Book One she's selling? Even if it's the wrong paper, it's still a gorgeous package and easily worth the discounted price.

Mike Watson and Ren McKinzie caught the S.O.'s attention with one of their promotional posters. Her expression -- which I missed -- got Watson jumping for his camera. "Did you see that?!? That look was because of something she saw at OUR booth! Oh, I gotta get a picture of that!" She bought a sketchbook and a print of the poster that caused the commotion; McKinzie and Watson then tag-teamed on an original sketch of the character for her. I'm pretty sure this was the S.O.'s favorite part of the convention.

We hoofed it over to the panel on superhero costumes, hosted by Peter Coogan. We got there a tad late and had to sit way in the back. The lecture was decent, but a bit cursory. (Not surprising, given the length.) I'm definitely more curious now to pick up a copy of Coogan's book. The Q&A period was a bit disappointing, though, as most of the questions were pretty trite and unimaginative.

We made our way towards the back of the convention to grab a bite at the cafeteria. The line was long and the food didn't sound very appetizing, so we decided to try our luck at a nearby hotel.

As we were walking out, though, I caught a glimpse of Warren Ellis sitting at the Avatar booth with LITERALLY no line at all. I don't know if he had just sat down or what, but we quickly detoured towards him. We were given some rules by a couple of con workers as we walked up: only one book per person and don't offer to shake his hand. My "discussion" with Ellis was limited to a few simple praises of his work, and brief thank you, but I did spend more time talking to him than I did waiting in line, so I considered that a big win of the day.

Lunch was at the Hyatt next door. We sat one table over from Paul Storrie, and I noticed Bill Roseman sitting down as we were leaving. The restaurant had a nice Mexican buffet, reasonably priced at $15 a plate. One bathroom break later, I saw a crowd of well-dressed X-Men posing for pictures in the lobby below. (The photo at the left is swiped from Doctor Beef's Flickr page. I'm just off camera to the left on the second floor.)

We dropped some loot off at the car, and hiked back to WWC. We swang past the Image booth again (still no sign of Larsen) and then back over to Artists' Alley. Things start to blur for me a bit at this point, so I'll have to go back through my swag to recall the specifics of everyone else I saw. But a few meetings stand out.

I talked briefly with Michael Avon Oeming. He noted his upcoming project with Taki Soma, and I watched him work on a Thor commission for a bit. Personally I never had the patience to do watercolors myself, so I find it fascinating to see someone who can use the medium effectively.

I also hit up Bryan Glass. He was surrounded by several people he seemed to be having an extended conversation with, so I only stopped for a short time.

Casey Heying and I talked a bit about the production problems he's run into with Alice figure been working on. Dorothy looked good, but Alice has taken considerably longer because of some issues on how they went about making the model. Evidently, the original skirt was crammed over the legs and stretched out considerably, making her hips look disproportionately wide. He seemed generally pleased with the progress on and response to Oz/Wonderland Chronicles and added that they'll finally be able to attend Mid-Ohio-Con this year since it's been moved off Thanksgiving weekend. Points to them for also giving out "Eat Me" cookies similar to the one Alice used in Through the Looking Glass.

Christopher Schons and I talked about his work with Tokyopop and how things have changed due to recent changes in their structuring. He seemed to be a little uncertain with where things were going with them, but comforted by the fact that they're still paying him for his work, even if it only ends up getting published online. He also seemed content with how Earthlight will finish at the end of volume 3, and seemed happy to be able to work on that for the next few months.

Ryan Kelly was looking for to the big ol' honkin' hardcover collection of Local. It's clocking in at around $30, which sounds like a reasonable price for the package, even if there aren't much in the way of extras. (Which I expect there will be anyway.)

On our way out, I did ask to stop by and look at a couple of the art dealers' booths. I found a Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen page with the requisite Curt Swan Superman head dropped in. Oddly, it wasn't a paste-in and I couldn't really even see Kirby's pencil lines underneath the inks. I also found several Neal Adams pages with prices upwards to $35,000. You could have easily bought several Kirby and Ditko pages with that from the same vendor!

And, although I didn't actually rifle through them myself, I saw several retailers with quarter and fifty-cent booths. They were, of course, being well combed through by patrons all day. However, I saw very few people with larger purchases. Only a handful of statues and Golden Age comic purchases that I noticed. Given the volume of people at the show appeared to be about on par with other recent years, that suggests to me that con-goes are cutting back more on the purchases they make at shows rather than the shows themselves. Obviously, though, those are second-hand, anecdotal conclusions at best.

I've left out a lot of the people the S.O. and I talked with. Mainly web comic artists. Not because I'm dismissing their work, but only because I haven't had a chance to really check it out yet. I think some of them had some really good ideas and good looking art, and I'm eager to see more of that. But I hesitate to comment on it before having spent any time or energy with it yet. I'll post notes on those comics as I get a chance to study them more closely.

I never did get a chance to chat with Erik Larsen, though.

A Comic Book Convention In Chicago?

I have to admit to being extremely surprised at Wizard World Chicago this past weekend. Although you probably won't hear similar comments from the standard "comic" news sources, there was actually a comic book convention at WWC... it was just hidden in the back, far behind the Marvel and DC booths and the throngs of people dressed up as Spider-Man and the Joker.

Let me hit a couple of high points off the bat, and I'll try to make a more detailed post later in the day...
  • Jeremy Bastian's Cursed Pirate Girl is coming out as a 6-issue mini series this fall from Image. Absolutely stunning artwork. Even more stunning is that he draws his books at actual size and inks them entirely with a brush! (He's also made himself near-sighted by doing this.)
  • Christopher Schons is still working on Earthlight for Tokyopop. He was already part-way through drawing the third volume when news began to hit about some of the problems they're running into. Tokyopop still wants him to finish the 100 or so pages he has left, but it will be published only on their web site sometime in the fall. He's working on another project for them as well, that will ALSO be published exclusively online. It seems that Tokyopop still has hopes in retaining good talent and viable properties, so they're only cutting back on production costs.
  • Lorenzo Lizana is in discussions with Ape Entertainment to print his Scarab: Agent of Isis and get it out of the self-published realm.
  • Taki Soma and Michael Avon Oeming have a top secret project coming out later this year from a "major publisher" that will be formally announced in San Diego. An NDA prevented them from disclosing any real details at this time.
I also discovered several new creators and comics that look/sound quite interesting. I'll post some notes about them later as I go through some of the promo materials I picked. I've also got a few anecdotes from the show that I'll try to post later today.

But the upshot was that there WAS indeed a bona fide comic book convention going on, despite all the hoopla about Secret Invasions and whatnot. Who knew?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Clubbin Injuns

You might've heard that Davy Crockett wrestled a bear, but did you know he loved clubbin' Injuns with the butt of his rifle?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Judge Judy Fumetti

Over at Jezebel.com, they jumped on the news that Latarian Milton, who stole and wrecked his grandmother's SUV, will appear on Judge Judy this fall. They couldn't wait for the actual show, so they put together this short fumetti trying to anticipate the tone of proceedings. (Special thanks to the S.O. for pointing this out.)

Personally, I find it interesting/curious that they opted to express their ideas in fumetti, as opposed to something more akin to a movie script or a novel: more typical expressions of fan fiction (which is, after all, what this is). Is it perhaps because the source material is viscerally visual and the author(s) didn't have the technical skills to put together a video compilation? Is it because of the limited footage of Milton that's available? (It's certainly not because of a lack of footage of Judy Sheindlin -- her show's been on the air for over a decade!) I do note, though, that the layout fits a standard 8.5" x 11" page, which then begs the question: was this intended to be printed and shared, or did the creator(s) simply not know the dimensions of a "typical" comic book?

As If You Couldn't Tell From The Guest List Alone...

There are two reasons I'm going to Wizard World Chicago this weekend. First, my S.O. has never been to a comic book convention (or any sort of hobbyist/collector convention) and is curious to see what it's like. Second, there are indeed some artists/writers I'd like to chat with. However, those artists are, by and large, folks who are NOT making their money working for Marvel or DC. They're the folks shoved to the Artists' Alley at the far back of the convention.

Now, if that (the Artist's Alley being crammed waaaaay in the back) doesn't tip you off that WWC is more of a superhero convention that what you might call a "true" comic book convention, let's consider a few other nuggets of information. Like the show entrance...
The first booths you see? Marvel and DC. Aspen and Top Cow, who's books really aren't that different substantively, are right behind them. Folks with a more diverse range of titles, like Dark Horse and even Image, are further back out of the immediate line of sight. Now, admittedly, this has more to do with DC and Marvel shelling out a few more bucks to get prime locations, but it shows their cognizance of the nature of the convention.

What about the artists, relegated back in the depths of the show? Local artist Ryan Kelly noted on his blog yesterday, "Last time I was at WW Chicago, I had about 6 pages of Local #1 drawn to show people at my artist table. But most of the responses were like, 'hmm, that's interesting, but can you draw NightCrawler beating up Lee Majors with a lightsaber?'"

Last night, Deep Fried and Weapon Brown creator Jason Yungbluth posted an apology for not updating his online comic strip over on his site in favor of preparing for WWC: "The time I would have spent drawing the comic strip I usually deliver with 90% dependability was instead soaked up drawing salable artwork of the stupid comic strip heroes that the public seems to prefer over my sexual misanthropes and drug abusers."

Now, don't get me wrong: I still very much want to go. There will indeed be some folks there I'd like to meet, and some of them write (or wrote) superhero comics. But it's not a show where I'm likely to discover some great new comic by an unknown artist. There'll be some of those artists in attendance, sure, and I might see some interesting new books as well. But that's a consequence of the show's size, rather than its focus. Any new work I discover will be despite the convention's intentions, not because of them. And, given my financial prospects just at the moment, that is perfectly fine with me.

That said, since it IS a show focusing on more mainstream material, it will prove to be more well-suited to what my S.O. might expect. There's definitely a "fun factor" in trying to identify all the cosplayers, and counting the number of people who remind you too much of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, and over-hearing absurdly detailed discussions why Malcolm Reynolds is cooler than Han Solo.

It's NOT a venue for celebrating comic books as a medium but, rather, a venue for celebrating mainstream pop culture. Oh, they'll be comic books there, but that's not the focus. Wizard World Chicago is a comic book convention in pretty much the same way Marvel is a comic book publisher. The key here for attendees is to be able to enjoy the show for what it is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sidebar Updates

You might notice there are two updates to my sidebar here, one more obvious than the other.

First, you'll probably see some odd graphic of a camel-shaped balloon. It's a promo for the first internet balloon race, in which I'm participating. I'm not sure how it will work, but it was free and kind of sounded like fun. Feel free to cheer me on!

Further down the page, you might notice that I've replaced my "Periodicals I'm Getting..." with "Comics I'm Reading..." The difference might not seem apparent at first, but you might notice that all the comics I've listed there are linked to the actual comic online. And indeed, none of the ones listed are NOT linked. The reason, not surprisingly, is that financial constraints mean that I've dropped ALL of my comic book purchasing for the time being. This marks the first time since I first began buying comics decades ago that I'm not actively getting ANY pamphlet books on a regular basis. (Yes, the economy sucks that much!)

But I am still reading and, fortunately, the internet provides any number of comics with which I can spend my leisure time. Many of them fall under the newspaper-comic-strip-that-also-happens-to-be-published-online category, but I expect that I'll be adding more action and drama comics to this list as I become more aware of them. It ought to be an interesting experiment to see just how much I end up reading, and how rewarding an experience switching entirely to online comics compared to staying with their pulped wood counterparts.

Rest assured, I'll be blogging about what I find online just as I was blogging about what I'd find in my LCS.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Planning The Con

As I've noted before, I'll be attending Wizard World Chicago this Saturday. As it's a decent-sized convention, and I'll only be there for one day, it seems to me that some planning will be required. In doing so, though, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts for how I go about doing that, utilizing the technology available to just about anyone here in the States.

Step 1.
Figure out who I want to see and what panels to attend. Not surprisingly, much of this information is on their web site. (Although I personally would've liked to have seen more of it go live much sooner! But I'll take what I can get.) They've also put out a copy of their Program Book on the site in PDF form. It has much of the same information as the web site, but in a more print-friendly format.

This step is actually a bit more tedious than it might seem. Some of the big name guests that I want to see (Erik Larsen, Warren Ellis, etc.) are easy to pick out of the list. They've been around for years and are currently producing recognizable work. More difficult, however, are the folks tucked back in Artists' Alley, whose work I may have seen but perhaps not in several years and their names don't necessarily jump to the forefront of my mind. So I go ahead and run searches on every creator who'll be attending. Personally, I use ComicBookDB.com for these searches because a) the results are limited to published comic book work, and b) I can cross-reference the creators' works against what's actually in my personal collection.

Step 2.
Once I've compiled of list of who I want to see, I need to determine where they'll be. Since they provide us with a floorplan which includes booth numbers, as well a listing of the booth numbers creators will be using, I cross reference the two and annotate a copy of the floorplan with the names of people's booths I want to hit. The floorplan was provided as a PDF, so I simply used Adobe's built-in "Callout Tool" to identify where everyone will be. I've also studied the map to make mental notes on restroom and food availability.

Step 3.
Going back to ComicBookDB.com, I use their "User List" feature to generate a list of books I want to make sure to take with me to the show for creators to sign. I call out each issue as well as the creator(s) who worked on it and will be attending the show.

Personally, I limit the number of books I ask a creator to sign to three. Since I'm more interested in having a conversation with the creator over the actual signatures, I feel that three books provides a little unspoken feedback on the types of their work that I enjoy and appreciate. One or two books could be just a particularly good issue, whereas three sets more or a pattern. More than three starts to get tedious for them, I'm sure, and doesn't add anything extra for me. The autographs, in my mind, are more significant as a memory of the conversation I had with them than as an increase in the value of the book.

(My copy of Fantastic Four #209 is signed by writer Marv Wolfman. The book itself is in dreadful condition, though -- I had to tape the cover back into place when I was a kid because I had read it so much! When I asked Wolfman to sign it, many years later, he expressed some appreciation in the fact that I asked him to sign MY copy of the book. It was clear, just from the well-loved condition of the book, that I had read and re-read that many times over the years. His writing, in whatever way, touched me and that I had held on to that book for decades and asked him to sign that one -- as opposed to a more pristine copy purchased later for a collection -- was probably more thanks to him than I could have expressed in words. But, ultimately, his autograph on that book that I read so many times was more valuable to me than any financial gain I might've gotten -- or ever get -- with the selling of that book.)

Of particular interest on ComicBookDB's User Lists is that they are editable. I can pick out a dozen books that one creator might've worked on, but then winnow the list down later without having to write out a new list. That way, I can keep returning to the list easily over the course of a week. If I remember some obscure book while I'm at work (or at home or sitting in Panera having lunch or...) I can add it to my list quickly and easily.

Step 4.
Of course, at some point, it would behove me to figure out exactly HOW to get from my home in Southwest Ohio to the convention itself. Enter Google Maps.

Step 5.
I booked my hotel prior to most of the other steps, but my reasons for going to Chicago aren't exclusive to the convention (which is why I'm only attending on Saturday). This time, I tried booking using HotWire.com and got a decent rate at a nearby Sheraton. It turned out to be JUST far enough away from the convention center that I won't really be able to walk to it, especially in the summer heat, but it's considerably cheaper than my last few stays in the Chicago area.

Step 6.
The S.O. did the actual ticket ordering, but it was done online through Wizard's web site. We ordered them late enough that they'll only be available for pickup at the show itself. I suppose it will delay getting into the show a tad, but I don't expect to be there AS the doors are opening.

Step 7.
Coordinate! Since I'm not flying solo at the con and I don't own a cell phone, I'm trying to do as much coordination as possible prior to actually leaving. This is mostly via email since we can exchange maps and whatnot. "I will be at this X at such-and-such time." This will obviously smooth things out across the board as expectations are set early on. "Well, if I'm meeting Joe at 1:00, that'll mean I'll be coming right out of the Superhero Costume panel, so we should probably just meet by the concession area and grab lunch."

In Summary...
Remember that this is just my PRE-convention work and, in doing it all electronically, I can help ensure that my time at the show itself, as well as my time in preparing to leave for the show, are spent as efficiently as possible. I'm not trying to recall half-remembered creators whose names sound vaguely familiar, nor am I going to be rummaging through my long boxes trying to pull out comics I think a creator might've worked on. I've determined that I can probably skip a big chunk in the middle of the convention floor and not miss anything of great importance to me.

I know the electronic tools are available, and I would just like to suggest that people take more advantage of them to make sure their convention-going experience is as pleasant as possible.

Jenkins On The Middleman

The Director of Media Studies at MIT, Henry Jenkins, enjoyed the first episode of The Middleman so much that he went out and bought the comics! I believe the appropriate phrase here is: "I told you so!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rise Up, 30 Minutes Or Less

A newspaper supplement called RiseUp got shipped out this weekend to something like 3.5 million people. It's designed to address racial issues in the United States. A tag line across the bottom of their first cover reads: "Understanding Our Differences. Bridging Our Divisions. Celebrating Our Commonalities."

So I was perusing the debut issue and it seemed to consist of a mix of articles, centered around race. But I have to admit to some surprise when I stumbled across...
"A comic strip addressing racism? Interesting," I thought.

I promptly went to Jeremy Luther's web site to see if there might be any more information about him or it which, as it turns out, there is.

As near as I can tell in my hurried reading of things, the strip "30 Minutes Or Less" is an extension/continuation of Luther's previous "Pizza Jones" strip. I'm inferring that the reason Luther's strip was chosen to be included in RiseUp was because he had a racially diverse cast, and that the characters all had a unifying hatred for their lousy jobs. This iteration of the strip is being commissioned by RiseUp, though, and it seems they've asked for the initial strips to speak to race relations more directly.

It will be interesting to see how he tackles storylines as time goes on. How often does he, for example, make race (as opposed to communication/language) a direct issue of an individual strip? Are the antagonists exclusively the pizza parlor's patrons and, if so, are they all affluent Caucasians? It's a little too early to tell how successful the strip will be, I think, but given that it seems to be an existing idea editorially re-tooled for the sake of a steady paycheck -- coupled with the fact that Luther is giving readers something of a behind-the-scenes look on his blog -- it will be fascinating for me to watch to see how things unfold.

Quote Of The Day

Actor Brian Cox, speaking on Deadwood Season Three DVD, Disc 6...

"Any society has a lust for entertainment. I think that's a very healthy thing. What's at the essence of it is something which is primitive to what men and women require, which is a celebration sometimes of their lives... It's not just enough to fuck. And it's not just enough to pray. And it's not just enough to get drunk. There's something else one requires..."

He was talking about theatre there, but it's exactly why I read comic books.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wizard World Chicago

Again, I'm pressed for time so I'm just going to drop a quick note here to let you all know that I'll be wandering around Wizard World Chicago next week Saturday. So stop me and say "hi" if you happen across me among the throngs of attendees. Here's a few of the panels I'm somewhat likely to attend to help you track me down...

12-1 p.m.
NAKED BUT CLOTHED: THE SUPERHERO COSTUME
The Wizard School Room: 8
Artist and costume designer Adi Granov (“Iron Man”) joins Dr. Peter Coogan (Institute for Comics Studies) and Dr. Stanford Carpenter (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) for a wide ranging look at the superhero costume. A rare copy of “Superhero: The Secret Origin of the Genre” will be given away!

2-3 p.m.
THE UNVEILING OF OGENO.COM
The Jim Mooney Room: 4
Ever wondered what Entertainment Networking would be like? Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have all your bookmarked sites in one place? If you’ve ever thought about this, your dreams are about to come true!

4-5 p.m.
COMIC BOOK RESTORATION AND HOW TO DETECT IT
The Wizard School Room: 8
Most comic collectors are aware of the paper restoration controversy, but very few know exactly what it is or how to spot it. Long time collector Richard Evans and noted paper restorer Matt Nelson present guides to understanding restoration and how to detect restored comics.

6-7 p.m.
MAKE YOUR OWN WIKI
The Wizard School Room: 8
Wikipedia is just the start! Wiki founders from Wikia—home of Wookieepedia, Memory Alpha and Muppet Wiki—demonstrate how to edit pages, build a community of contributors and protect your wiki from vandals.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hey, Kids! Comics!

I'm a little pressed for time today (a lot pressed, actually) so I'm just going to throw up a quick post linking to a bunch of comics I'm making available for sale. So far, the list only includes what I know I have duplicates of. The list will be continually updated, so check back as I continue to add more books. (I was hoping to get everything listed before I started plugging them but, like I said, I'm pressed for time today.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Exercise For Comic Book Guy

I spent most of my evening moving furniture around in the basement to accommodate the collection of comics I'm getting from Dad. I'm not done yet, but I think it's at least to a point where I can see what it'll look like when I am finished.

But all the heavy lifting I was doing tonight reminded me of a quick conversation I had with Dad when he dropped off a few long boxes last weekend. He was pulling the boxes out of his car, trying to manage things so he wouldn't have to completely pull everything out to get at them. He'd eventually get one box, ease himself out of the car with it, and set it on the ground... only to repeat the procedure for each box. After getting the last one out, he asked, "Now how do you suppose guys do this when they take 100 boxes to sell at a convention?"

"Pretty much just like that. Except maybe they have a truck or a van."

"Wow." (dramatic pause) "You'd think they'd all be in better shape then, wouldn't you?"

Which is an excellent point. How come hauling all those boxes around doesn't keep these guys fit? You take 50 or 100 boxes to show, you've got to put them in your vehicle, take them out, haul them across the convention floor, set them up, tear them down, haul them across the convention floor, load them back into your ride, take them out, and then place them back in your store wherever they're supposed to go! Doing all that is going to expend a LOT of energy. You'd think ever retailer who did conventions would look like Lou Ferrigno!

Then again, a diet consisting entirely of Taco Bell probably doesn't help matters!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

America Discusses Art

The show Creature Comforts (a concept imported to the States from Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Parks) took real discussions with real Americans, and animated them with stop-motion plasticine animals. The results (to me, at least) were hilarious, but the show only lasted three episodes before being canceled. Here's a seven minute clip of Americans discussing capital-A Art. Comic fans: pay close attention to the ferret sequences beginning at timestamps 4:52 and 5:11...

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Friend, My Enemy: My Budget

Ah, the mortal enemy of those facing tightening financial constraints: the budget. I took a cold, hard look at my finances this weekend and (with the invaluable assistance of my S.O. -- actually... it was mostly her) developed a budget for the remainder of 2008. Like so many other Americans, I'm feeling the squeeze of a shrinking economy and I just don't have as much spending power as I did a year ago.

Which, not surprisingly, means that I simply can't sample as many new comics as I'd like. I suppose I could, actually, but doing so would prevent me from eating or maintaining a roof over my head.

Comics are THE one escape I have from these types of daily worries, and I don't relish the idea of cutting back, but I don't have much choice in the matter if I'm being honest with my finances. Naturally, I'm examining my options...
  1. Simply don't buy any new books, and read the ones already in my collection. In light of inheriting my father's collection, this will still keep me in "new" reading material for some time.
  2. Switch to downloading illegal comic torrents. "Illegal" is a key phrase here.
  3. Switch to downloading legal comics via Wowio. The down-sides include a limited selection, download limits, substantial delays from initial print distribution, and the simple fact that I've read a good chunk of them already.
  4. Start soliciting review copies of comics. I've actually got good a pretty good body of reviews on this blog, and I like to think they're well-written and useful (for both readers and creators). It would allow me to keep abreast of new material, and I could well strike upon some great comics that I wouldn't otherwise find.
  5. Any and/or all of the above.
The key factor in all of this, though, is that I'm able to recognize the realities of my bank account and act accordingly. It's always struck me that any number of comic fans, when facing financial difficulties, continue buying comics rather than, say, eating or buying necessary pharmaceuticals. Especially here in the 21st century when there are other options available.

So, my question out to you: what solutions are you utilizing (or have utilized in the past) to weather less-than-ideal economic conditions? Or, put another way, what impact does being cash-poor have on your comic book collecting hobby?

Oh, and for any comic creators/publishers out there, I'd be happy to accept copies of your books for review!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How Radical Was TMNT?

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a staple of the comics scene anymore, spawning several dozen different comics, cartoons, and movies. The comics -- the original black and white ones by Eastman and Laird -- were indeed well done and something of a radical departure from mainstream comics at that time. (Although I believe both Eastman and Laird freely admitted to ripping off Frank Miller, Will Eisner, and a number of other great comic creators in their early days.)

The comic, at first, seemed like something of a fad, with the quirky drawings and an even quirkier name. So, not surprisingly, it also spawned a number of rip-offs, which took only the most superficial of elements with them. My father recently dropped off some more of his comics collection for me, and he actually bought many of them. I thought I'd share some of the concepts...
And, yes, these are all REAL comic books.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NPR Reviews Hulk

NPR movie reviewer Kenneth Turan looks at the new Hulk film. He ends his review by saying...
Rather than going to the trouble of crafting a dramatically satisfying conclusion, The Incredible Hulk blows the audience off by ending with what is essentially a shameless trailer for the next Marvel movie. You can almost hear the producers snickering, "See you next time, suckers!"

... just one of the reasons I don't read Marvel comics anymore.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Use Of Line

Let's study the line, shall we?

When you see a pen and ink drawing, you're often looking at a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object. I think most people understand this fairly well. What they often have more trouble grasping, though, is what the lines actually represent. Take this old Peanuts comic...
Many of the lines represent actual objects. More specifically, they represent the change in tone, color, and texture between two objects. Obviously, if you're looking around in real life, you don't see black outlines around everything. What you see are two different objects, adjacent to each other, and drawing a line shows where your brain recognizes that distinction. Such lines are plentiful in this strip...
Also of note here is that shadows, while not objects in and of themselves, still are represented the same way as they show a difference in two areas of color. Often, in comics, they're represented as simple, black shapes.

Lines are often used to convey motion. This is a fairly natural extension of conveying objects, as motion -- especially fast motion -- can occur faster than our brains can process the information. We end up seeing after-images of the object as it moves through space. The comic strip has been using a shortened version, which I believe is generally attributed to E.C. Segar as originating...
Notice that panels 2 and 4, which represent little/minimal motion have none of these speed lines.

One of the earliest uses of line in representing something other than a visual is in conveying sound. This goes back to written language in general, and it seems like a somewhat natural extension to go from lines representing words representing speech to lines representing sound...
Panel 3 is noteworthy because the lines surrounding the word "WHOP!" are used to imply sound, despite not being representative of an actual noise nor being used to direct the location of where the sound originates (as is the case with the actual speech balloons themselves).

We cannot forget, being comics fans, the lines of functionality. Those wonderfully simple lines that delineate one image from the next, framing each moment in the sequence of events as if it were a window we, the audience, are peering through to witness the events on the other side...

Lines of meta-textual content that are sometimes necessary for informational reasons, but can disrupt the narrative flow of the comic...

But then we're still missing this...
It's representative of Charlie Brown's emotional/mental state. Obviously, he's not literally have bubbles floating off the top of his head, but it's interesting to call out it's use here having a physical manifestation.

Putting it all together again...


(Note that I haven't cited every possible use of line in a comic, but I merely came across this Peanuts strip and found it interesting how Charles Schulz happened to use lines to convey several distinctly different ideas and thoughts.)