Monday, August 31, 2009

Wally Wood, Prophet

This piece of artwork was commissioned from Wally Wood by TV Guide to accompany a 1968 article about how comic book style heroes were starting to crowd out the more "traditional" animated fare of Saturday mornings.
What's fascinating to me is that:
  1. The heroes leading the charge are all Marvel characters despite a Saturday morning cartoon lineup that featured Batman & Robin, Aquaman, Shazzan, the Herculoids, Johnny Quest, Mighty Mightor, Birdman, Super President, as well as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four
  2. The only "defensive posture" character not running away in fear is the only Disney character. Although it's obviously presumed Micky's stance indicates shock, one could also read it as steadfast determination.
In light of today's announcement, it's hard not to read something prophetic into the image. How did Wood know decades ago what caught everyone else completely by surprise just this morning?

Disney + Marvel

OK, Disney announced this morning that they're buying Marvel, so let's get the jokes out of the way right off the bat...

I was able to get in on the investor conference call, the particulars of which I won't report on too much because I'm sure other comics sites will do a better job of covering the specifics. But I do feel obliged to comment on things in general.

First, I expect a lot of comic fans will voice concern (possibly outrage) about how Marvel will become part of the giant corporate machine that is Disney. Setting aside the assurances the execs made during the call, such concerns are entirely unwarranted. Why? Because Marvel itself has been a giant corporate machine since the 1980s. Not to the level of Disney, certainly, but Marvel really became a licensed property company under the helm of Jim Shooter. Secret Wars was, after all, an idea that came from Mattel for a toy line. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends brought many Marvel characters to people's attention in a much more successful way than had ever occurred in prior cartoons. Shooter saw, I think, the direction where things needed to head for the company and steered in that direction. One can argue his and subsequent EIC's relative success, but that's clearly where the company's been headed for some time, and really came to the fore in the 1990s. Despite still having a veneer of "the house that Jack built" the friendly, devil-may-care approach that Stan Lee epitomized hasn't actually been in place for years.

The next issue I might bring up is that Disney has a great set-up currently. Not much to dispute there. But they're reached an effective saturation point. As one of the most globally recognized brands in the world, with one of the most globally recognized characters in the world, it's almost impossible to get further market penetration (i.e. growth). Think of them like Microsoft. Everyone who was ever planning to buy a computer with Windows on it has already done so -- they can't really sell you ANOTHER one. So they buy up companies that own another product you can purchase. Disney is pretty much in the same boat, in that they can't really get you to buy MORE movies or princess outfits or whatever. But they can partake of the profits from another company whose material you're already buying. From Disney's perspective, it's a pretty simple growth strategy and, if you could read between the lines, they essentially said that on the investor call.

There were questions brought up about company synergies and existing movie distribution deals and such, and everyone repeatedly said that the deal really wasn't about any of that. It was simply that Disney had seen Marvel do a great job with their characters from a business perspective (they seemed particularly impressed with how Marvel was able to turn Iron Man into a household name almost overnight) and they wanted in on it. I took note of Marvel becoming a "character-based entertainment company" instead of a comic book publisher almost a decade ago, but most people still seem to be under the impression that comics are still their main business. Disney isn't going to do anything with Marvel other than rake in profits. They might facilitate some new movies or TV shows down the road, and you'll likely see Marvel characters popping up in more retail outlets, but comics are the least profitable part of Marvel's business. Disney doesn't even have an incentive to screw around with that.

So, after you pick your jaw up off the floor from the announcement, just relax; Spider-Man and Wolverine aren't going to be doing anything different than they've been doing for the past decade or three.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Musings On Original Comic Art

Original comic book art didn't become something sought after until the 1970s, and really it wasn't until the 1980s where there was a 'real' market for it. That was some of the reason why Jack Kirby and Neal Adams had that little dust-up with Jim Shooter and Marvel back in the day: since comic creators had effectively given away the rights to the characters they created under a work-for-hire model, they were trying to earn some reasonable compensation for their efforts. Which they could do by selling off the original artwork they made.

Not surprisingly, the law of supply and demand is seen pretty clearly in the original comic book art market. Artwork drawn by popular creators tends to be priced higher than those of less well-known artists. Pages featuring popular characters tend to be priced higher than those showcasing less popular characters. Of course, other factors get wrapped up in the process as well. Is the creator still alive and/or active making more art? Was the story the page came from important in the development of the character(s)? What's the condition of the art itself?

The first piece of original comic art I purchased cost me, if I recall correctly, $300. It was by Salvador Larroca, just as he was starting to really become a "name" creator. It was a full-page splash, featuring all four members of the Fantastic Four in costume. It came from the first page of their main book, and I purchased the page a week before the issue even hit the stands. Plus it was an action shot, and not just people standing around idle. The price was set to what I would consider pretty standard, given those considerations. Even so, it was a bit steep for my budget; but, I had just had some very memorable discussions with him and I wanted something of a memento of them.

The most recent piece I bought was only $80. It was by Keith Pollard, done a few years past the high point of his popularity. It depicts a dream sequence from the middle of a generally forgettable story about Hercules, and there's not a whole lot going on. While it was from the first issue of that particular comic series, the title only lasted about a year and a half, and had been canceled for over a decade when I found it. The page itself is well executed, and I find it a fascinating study of Pollard's processes, but it's not exactly the type of thing most people would have an interest in. (Which is likely why Pollard himself still had it!)

There's certainly no hard and fast rules about pricing comic art. I've seen Steve Ditko and Neal Adams pages each with five figure price tags. I was shocked to see Jack Kirby work sitting right next to those pages going for only four figures. Near the other end of the spectrum, the guys behind High Moon are selling their pages for only $50 a pop.

But here's where my brain starts having trouble following things.

One of the most significant differences, in terms of art production, over the past decade or two has been that comic book lettering has gone digital. That Pollard page I have had has the captions and dialogue drawn right on the art by Richard Starkings. The Larroca page is free from lettering of any kind, despite the final printed version featuring the logo, the story title, dialogue and indicia.

Now, to me, this is a decided negative. Personally, I'm interested in how the artist is telling the story and my interest in the original art stems from that. What sort of decisions did s/he make from a storytelling perspective? Years ago, I made note of how I tracked down a Tom Morgan page, in part, because I could not, for the life of me, understand why he laid out the page the way he did! (I still don't entirely understand the reasoning, but at least I can follow what he was doing now.) But my point is that it's that storytelling aspect that I really appreciate; the knowledge that the artwork is a step in the production process. I like the blue lines and erasures and White-Out and gutter notes and paste-ins and all of that junk that does NOT make it to the final printed page. I want to see the comic I read in a partial stage of production not a pin-up page an artist does as a commission.

Now, with digital lettering, the same process is removed a step. Without the lettering on the actual art artifact, we're seeing a point EARLIER in the production process. It doesn't showcase the story as much as the art. And I guess that's what most people want. Isn't that why splash pages sell better than story pages? Most people prefer treating the original art as a final piece of art in and of itself, as opposed to the means of producing a printed version. And wouldn't that suggest, then, that newer artwork would be more desirable precisely because it's more likely to be created with an eye towards selling the original after the production process of the comic is complete? And wouldn't that suggest that newer art could be sold for higher prices?

Or does the sheer volume of material available now negate that? Not only are more creators out there working, but fans are now more willing/able to commission specific artwork from those creators, meeting whatever unique criteria they can dream up. Readers can get a John Byrne image of Dr. Doom taking out the entire Justice League of America if they want...
I'm wondering aloud here, precisely because of that High Moon art. I know I've seen it plugged a few times in various places, but it doesn't appear to be selling very quickly, despite the (what I would consider) ridiculously cheap pricing. Granted, artist Steve Ellis doesn't quite have the name recognition of a Jack Kirby, but he's no slouch in the art department either! There are some great pages there that I certainly wouldn't mind having in my collection. (If you're looking to buy me a late birthday gift, by the way, I think page 88 is pretty slick.)

How much does the economy as a whole impact sales? Original art pretty clearly falls into the "luxury item" category, and I'm sure many sales have NOT occurred precisely because of economic concerns. But, still, I would expect that would only hamper sales on the higher priced items, not so much at the lower end.

But here's another factor to consider: High Moon is (so far) exclusively an online comic. It does have a substantial following and is generally considered one of the biggest success stories out of Zuda. But does that somehow make it "less real" than a comic actually printed with ink on paper? Is the fact that you can't frame a High Moon production page next to the original make it somehow worth less?

I honestly don't know that I have anything resembling answers on this one. What I value in original art is clearly not the same as what most other people value in original art, so I don't really understand how some works are more desirable than others. I have that cursory knowledge that stems from basic market economics, but any specifics seem lost on me. Anyone out there willing/able to shed any light on the subject?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jack

"There is a tremor at first. Then, what follows is so powerful and massive that the pressure it releases cracks a giant land mass and momentarily jars a continent from its anchor!"

From "Toxl The World Killer", Weird Mystery Tales #2.

An explosion so awesome in its scope that it is entirely without sound. That is the impact Jack Kirby had on comics. I don't think any collection of words can really speak to Jack's work with anything resembling adequacy. Even Mark Evanier's Kirby: King of Comics (while an incredible tome) doesn't do justice to Jack's body of work. I think Tom Spurgeon has the right idea: the only way you can really celebrate Jack is to just showcase his work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More To Come

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that there isn't nearly enough Kleefeld-y goodness to satiate your appetite for intelligent and insightful commentary about the comic book industry.

"Sure, I know you update your blog every day, Sean. And your columns and articles in Jack Kirby Collector can only come out as fast as the magazine itself. But isn't there some way I can get more?"

You're in luck! While I can't disclose the full details yet, I've been asked to contribute to a new extension of a rather note-worthy name in the online comic book/comic book discussion arena. The intent is to be provide the comics community with roughly the equivalent of what Rolling Stone was in its heyday.

Ah, but I've probably said too much already.

But in a month's time (or thereabouts), you'll have that many more Kleefeld-penned essays to look forward to. I'll pass along more info as it's available.

And who knows? If all goes well, I might write Near and Farthing in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Joining The Rest Of The World

Not surprisingly, the whole "getting struck by lightning" thing has had several noticeable impacts on my life. First, of course, is that I had to get a new car. But more to the topic of comics, it's also prompted me to get a cell phone.

"So what?"

The "so what" is that I've never had a cell phone before. I've been wearing a PDA on my hip since 1997, but none of them have ever had the ability to make a phone call. That was quite deliberate on my part, and even when my PDA died in the middle of last year, I replaced it with another one. Which still works perfectly fine, but just doesn't allow me to make an emergency phone call when I'm stuck on the side of the road.

So, there's my new phone at the left. An LG Dare. It's supposed to be a cheaper rival to the iPhone and, while Apple definitely wins in the whiz-bang categories, the Dare looks like it'll hold its own reasonably well. Just so long as you're not expecting all the whiz-bang of an iPhone. Which I'm not. Which means I've been pretty happy with it so far.

"Sean, are you going to get around to talking about comics any time soon?"

Well, this all leads to my question of the day? Namely, are there any comic-related apps for the Dare? I understand there are more than a few available for the iPhone, but currently, I'm not seeing anything comic-related for the Dare aside from a few wallpapers. And the built-in media apps for the phone don't seem well-suited to viewing comics.

So, anything out there for the Dare that anyone knows about?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comics Journalism Is Social Media

There were a couple of Twitter discussions that popped up this weekend that I haven't seen anyone tie together just yet:
  1. If McCluhan is right and the medium is the message, what is the message of Twitter?
  2. Here is my serious question to everyone who reads or makes comics. Do we need tabloid and gossip comics journalism?

The first reference is of course speaking to Marshall McCluhan's 1964 book Understanding Media in which the author contended that the medium in which a message is delivered is as powerful and impactful as the message itself. "The medium is the message."

The first question, then, asks, "What does the existence/use of Twitter say about us, both as creators and recipients of content via that outlet?"

Henry Jenkins ably responds with an extended answer on his blog, but the short answer is: "Here it is. Here I am."

Seemingly unaware of that specific discussion, yesterday morning John Jantsch posted 5 Tips for Getting More From Social Media Marketing over at his Duct Tape Marketing blog. He focuses on somewhat more practical applications, but comes up with essentially the same answers: "Use your social media activity to create awareness for and amplify your content housed in other places," and "Taking content that appears in one form and twisting it in ways that make it more available in a another, or to another audience, is one of the secrets to success in our hyperinfo driven marketing world we find ourselves" to pull out just a couple quotes.

What both men are getting to is that social media like Twitter and blogs are the drivers of capturing people's attention in the 21st century. Traditional advertising essentially doesn't work because there's simply too much competing for our time and attention. It's become white noise. We have, as consumers, learned to filter out much of what does not interest us, so we're not apt to pay attention to, for example, traditional car commercials unless we have an immediate interest in car commercials -- perhaps because our car got hit by lightning and we suddenly find ourselves in the market for a new car and need to get up to speed quickly on what's currently available. This means anyone trying to market a product or service needs to quickly and fairly efficiently target people who are already pre-disposed to hearing what they have to say. I've spoken to this topic before.

The question about "gossip comics journalism" led quickly to the state of comics journalism in general, and I saw a number of responses that were generally disappointed with how the "main" comic news outlets were little more outlets for publishers press releases....
Comics Gossip Sites are as close as the industry gets to journalism.

Since there is no REAL journalism in comics, gossip columns are all we really have.

i'm sure has been noted already but comics (& every medium) needs better journalists.

depends what you term gossip. all other comics news sites are intermediaries for soft interviews & press releases
It's essentially the same debate that's being held about journalism at large. Bill Wyman focused on newspapers in particular a couple weeks ago, but his assertions wouldn't take much tweaking to apply to journalism in general or any other narrowly defined segment of reporting.

But, as if in answer to all this, Jim Shelly stepped forward on Friday with this interview with Brian Altounian that's gotten a fair amount of coverage, since it was revealed that Platinum no longer owns Wowio. What struck me as interesting about this wasn't so much in the revelation itself, but in the fact that this, like almost EVERY news blurb about Wowio from the past year or two has come from social media. I've "broken" a few Wowio stories here, a lot has come through various Tweets, Shelly's interview came out in a blog... There's been almost no "mainstream" comic journalistic coverage about them at all, and the Wowio story is being told through other outlets, which is then propagated through further Tweeting and link-blogging. It really is a fascinating case study, especially since Wowio and Platinum have contributed so little to whatever "official" channels they could use.

Wowio is being defined by what might be termed the "new journalists" -- independent, motivated individuals who are breaking these stories for their own interests. These "new journalists" aren't beholden to anyone (or, if they are, it becomes public knowledge fairly quickly) and focus on whatever investigations interest them. Whether or not they uncover anything depends, of course, on their skill and their connections, but since the number of "new journalists" so drastically outweighs the number of traditional ones, it's almost inevitable that someone will get something more worthwhile than a more traditional outlet would.

What motivation might these "new journalists" have? Well, there are any number of things, I'm sure, depending on the individual, but I think Jenkins' idea about "Here I am" almost definitely comes into play for the vast majority of them. Part of the reason I, and many others, write these kinds of things is simply to keep my name and identity in your conscisousness on an ongoing basis. Years ago, while I was still running my Fantastic Four fan site, I made a point of making regular, weekly updates so that there was always something there for people to check in on. The same holds true for my daily blogging today. Part of it is an exercise in writing regularly as a form of practice, but part of it is to keep my name out there. I make a point of trying to write posts in advance of every day that I know I won't be at a computer and able to blog, precisely so that the stream of information coming from this location is continual. (I'm not always successful, admittedly, but I do try.) I'm deliberately trying to build cultural capital within the comics community by standing up every day to say, "Here I am."

Of course, just saying "Here I am" would get repetitive quickly and people would pay it little heed. It would be more white noise to ignore. But if I said something different each day, something interesting, THAT might provide enough incentive for people to return. Think about it in terms of the funny pages from the newspaper...

People came back to read Calvin & Hobbes each and every day because they enjoyed it. Some jokes were funnier than others, some strips were drawn better than others, but there was a more than good chance that creator Bill Watterson did something entertaining on any given day. Other strips (which I'll leave nameless, but you know which ones I'm talking about) are trite, repetitive, uninspired and generally boring. A strip created yesterday doesn't look all that different from one created 20 years ago and, because of that, a lot of people don't bother keeping up with them. (Unless it happened to be physically wedged between Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side and you couldn't help but follow it.)

The same idea holds for me. If I don't at least try to come up with something clever and original on a regular basis, I'm going to fall off your radar. So guys like myself are out here trying to generate NEW content all the time. That includes interviews, reviews, anecdotes, photos, videos, and a whole host of other options. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Newsarama or CBR or The Beat or Bleeding Cool or anyone else who's provided some information about the comics industry. Not all of it is useful or pertinent to me, just like not all of it is useful or pertinent to you. You, as an individual, are going to pick out the sources of the information you like, the information you want, and you'll follow that. Maybe that information will be nothing more than official press releases, maybe it will be news peppered with a heavy dose of personal bias, maybe it will be little more than snark, but there's an audience out there for all of it.

And the things that matter, the things that people respond to en masse, will arise from whatever corner it happens to stem from and spread out accordingly. Maybe it comes from a publisher's web site, maybe it comes from a creator's Facebook page, maybe it comes from an interested, but decidedly third party's blog. And maybe it comes from a video taken with a cell phone camera by an otherwise anonymous individual who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Regardless of where it comes from, though, it will be passed along through other blogs and emails; it will be reTweeted and Dugg; it will be the inspiration for message board discussions and vlogs.

Comics journalism is not really any different than comics gossip columns, then, as both are essentially just an ad hoc group of individuals all trying to say, "Here I am." And while that could be read to have negative implications, it's actually intended to have positive ones. Information about comics -- whether it's considered "journalistic" or "voyeuristic" is irrelevant as someone will take interest in it -- is being disseminated through a vast network of people, largely unhindered by any interests but their own. This sort of approach brings more information to light more quickly, and allows the individual consumer to determine for themselves what is important and/or relevant in a more honest fashion. And, further, it allows -- even encourages -- greater discussion about the events in question.

Here in the 21st century, we have an overwhelming surplus of things to hold our attention. We're not limited by whatever filters "traditional" channels historically held (and continue to hold) up. We're consumers of information, just as we're consumers of food, clothing, and shelter. We can shop around for the sources and types of information we want to receive, and filter out the everything else. Don't like what I have to say? Go read Tom Spurgeon. Don't like what he has to say? Go read Dirk Deppey. Don't like what he has to say? Go read Johanna Draper Carlson. The list goes on and on. There is an audience for everything, and everyone can find an audience. Comics journalism does NOT rely on the narrowly-defined model of journalism that's been taught in schools for generations; it's every discussion you have and every post you make. Every time you log in and say, "Here I am," you have joined the ranks of comics journalists whether you know it or not, whether you intend to or not. Just because you don't have a business card that says you work for Wizard doesn't mean you're not as much of a news/information/gossip source as they are. You are seeing comics journalism here, on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube, on every other social media outlet available. Comics journalism isn't just a handful of websites; it's everywhere.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Comics Manifesto

You know, for all the writing I've been doing here over the past few years, and all the comics reading I've done over the past few decades, I've never come up with a concise document of what it is that I like and want to see in comics. You can, I think, get a sense of that in a vague/nebulous way if you read through everything I've written, but I'm going to try to clear the table a bit by spelling it out here. (Though, please keep in mind that I banged this out fairly quickly and may have missed something. I might have to write an addendum later.)

Sean Kleefeld's Comic Manifesto
How To Read & Appreciate Comics the Same Way I Do

  1. Comics, as a medium, are inherently interesting and every variation of comics (graphic novels, comic strips, illustrated instruction manuals, cave paintings, etc.) is worth studying.
  2. The culture that surrounds comics and comics creation is inherently interesting and worth studying.
    • A subset of Rules 1-2 is that comics and comic fandom do not need to be defended or justified.
  3. Every comic should be approached as free from preconceptions as possible; any given work should stand or fall on its own merits, or lack thereof.
  4. Comics created by Jack Kirby, Will Eisner or Windsor McCay are sheer genius.
  5. Except when they aren't.
  6. There is no Rule 6.
  7. Don't read comics out of habit; an ongoing comic that fails to live up to its promise (whether to entertain, educate, inform, whatever...) should be ignored.
  8. Every individual reader has their own preferences and, while a critical eye can be used to critique any given work, there are good odds that there will always be somebody who appreciates it.
  9. Critical analysis of a comic should not include personal attacks or judgments against their creator(s).
  10. Be honest and own up to any statement you make as if you made it on a legally-binding, public document.
  11. As a reader, you have no stakeholder claim whatsoever in any comic created by another individual; they are free to do whatever they wish with their creations.
  12. Lend whatever support you can to those creators whose work you do appreciate and enjoy, even if it's only to tell other people about the quality of work they're doing.
  13. Don't argue with idiots.
  14. The future of comics is online.
  15. But there's still absolutely nothing wrong with creating your own comics using a #2 pencil and some spare typing paper.
  16. The "next big thing" in comics will come from someone you've never heard of before.
  17. Xeric-winning comics are worth reading.
  18. A gorilla or a monkey on the cover of any given comic makes it better. (Pirates are pretty cool, too.)
  19. The key to really understanding and appreciating comics is to understand as much of comics as a whole as possible -- that means studying the history of the medium and its creators; influential works and cultural references both within and outside comicdom; the creation, production and distribution processes; contemporaneous as well as current reactions to works; etc.
  20. Comics are the Alpha and the Omega; all things can relate back to a discussion of comics.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hatter M, Vol. 2

Just a quick note to say that Frank Beddor is coming out with a second volume of his Hatter M graphic novel, tying into his Looking Glass Wars novel series. I've really enjoyed both the novels and the comics so far, and am looking forward to these upcoming installments. Diamond has several pages of previews.

The official synopsis of Mad With Wonder reads...
In Volume 2, MAD WITH WONDER, Hatter follows the Glow from London to the battlefields of America’s Civil War in search of the Princess who must some day be Queen. The America Hatter encounters is a sprawling, wounded, boiling landscape of innocence and energy run amok. The war is tearing the country apart and yet Hatter must maintain his sanity in this maelstrom of holy rollers, child healers, prophetic snake handlers, deranged outlaws, passionate southern belles and rational men. As Hatter searches he learns he is not the only Wonderland presence that has found its way to the Promised Land. Queen Redd’s Black Imagination is fueling the Civil War and threatening our world with her evil.
Both Mad With Wonder (the graphic novel) and ArchEnemy (the last installment of the novel trilogy) will be available on October 15.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Loot

Still trying to get Life to calm down a bit for me, but that ain't lookin' like it's gonna happen for at least several more days! So in lieu of real content, here's some of the loot I received for my birthday yesterday, including the aforementioned Batman mural photo...
I'm looking forward to reading all of these. And, hey, if you're feeling guilty for not getting me a present, my wishlist is still online!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Super Powers Mini-Comics

Completely by accident, I stumbled across some mini-comics from the old Super Powers toy line last night. Each figure in the line came with a small (2.75" x 4.25") 16 page booklet with a short comic focusing on the character the toy replicated. I thought I'd scan and share the ones I found...

A few items of note...
  • There are more drawings of Superman in Wonder Woman's comic than there are drawings of Wonder Woman.
  • Robin's cape is colored incorrectly in his logo.
  • Superman appears on the cover of Robin's comic, but not on the story inside.
  • Superman is under mind-control in two of these three comics.
No writing or art credits are given for any of the comics, though I suspect they were done by an ad agency hired out by Kenner. Although some of José Luis García-López's and Dick Giordano's work was used throughout the Super Powers line, these comics don't seem to bear any of their artistic hallmarks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who's Next?

Let's see... I really ought to get cracking on my next "Incidental Iconography" column for The Jack Kirby Collector #54, due out in November. As always, though, I need to figure out WHICH character I should focus on. Well, last issue was themed around the comics Stan Lee and Jack Kirby worked on together, so I wrote my piece on Jack's portrayals of himself. But my editor decided he had too much Lee/Kirby material to keep to one issue, so he's expanded the theme to #54 as well. But since I've already looked at Jack for #53, who could I look at for #54? I might have to ponder this one for a while...
Or not.

(Oh, and if you don't get my visual reference there, you DEFINITELY need to buy TJKC #54 when it comes out!)

The Completely Unnecessary Marvel Comics 70th Anniversary Graphic Novel Cover Meme

Per Stuart Immonen...

Here’s the deal. Remember the Typophile Album Cover Meme? This is much like that, requiring you to re-imagine a Marvel Comics cover from the last 70 years as an actual contemporary novel cover. Follow the steps below, and post the results on your own site or forum:
  1. Click this link for a list of Marvel publications from a random month and year at Random Marvel date*. Choose the 7th cover (if there are fewer than 7, choose the last one).
  2. Search for the first word appearing on the cover that jumps out at you (this may be the title itself) on Flickr. Select the 7th (or last) image (as with the album cover meme, it’s best to select an image with Creative Commons rights released.
  3. Use your favourite image manipulation app to create a new 6×9 image, incorporating the original title (and as much other original text as you like) and the new image.
  4. Share!

Here's mine...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cleveland's Batman

Remember a while back I was asking for any info about an old Batman mural painted on the side of a building in downtown Cleveland in the 1970s? Mom and Dad found it!
This photo (or, rather, the photo shown in this photo) was taken by Jim Marcus, "Cleveland's photo hobo", probably sometime in the 1970s in June 1982.

It's clearly not exactly how I remembered, but the last time I saw it I was maybe ten or eleven. We still don't have any information as to who painted it or why, but it is definitive proof that a giant mural of Batman did indeed exist in Cleveland in the 1970s.

Any insights, acknowledgements or anecdotes about it would be appreciated.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tucson Library Comic Book Sale

This Saturday, the Friends of the Pima County Public Library will be selling about 30,000 comic books, most of which will priced at 50 cents each. Full details can be found here.

There's something interesting there about the source of the donation coming from a comic book shop that had the comics in storage for the past few years. I can't quite succinctly verbalize it at the moment, but consider:
  1. Back issue sales in most retail comic shops has been trending downwards, thanks in part to online sales and auction sites.
  2. The value of back issue comics has been trending downwards, thanks to increased reprint output (in the form of TPB and hardcover collections) from publishers.
  3. The economy, as a whole, is worse off than it was a year ago.
  4. Public library usage has gone up, but library budgets have gone down.
  5. One possible implication of the large-scale donation is that the tax write-off is worth more to the retailer than trying and/or not being able to sell the individual issues.

Feel free to draw your own connections and write your own analysis.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Burger King T-Shirt Instructions

There's some media traction on Burger King's recent sponsorship of Getafe, the football (or "soccer" if you're an egocentric American) team from Spain. Taking advantage of fans' traditional reaction to goals of pulling their shirts over their faces, Burger King has produced shirts in Getafe's team colors, featuring the visage of the King on the inside. Pulling the t-shirt over one's head in the manner typical of goal celebration reveals the King's face to everyone. While many are questioning whether or not this will be a successful marketing move (Getafe, after all, has been floating towards the bottom of the league for the past few years), it's the t-shirt's comic book style instructions that caught my attention...
Roughly translated, it reads...
  1. Remove the official Getafe C.F. t-shirt from your Burger King bag.
  2. Wear your t-shirt when you feel like a star.
  3. Shoot, and make a goal.
  4. Prepare to celebrate.
  5. Show everyone that you have the King inside.
In terms of functionality, the text really doesn't help the artwork much. Even though it's not very well drawn, I think the artwork is sufficiently clear that most anyone could figure out what you're supposed to do. How many of you could figure it out before I provided the translation? Goes to show that good illustration skills aren't necessarily required for good storytelling.

Also, I'm left to wonder if the text really is for the people getting the shirts, or was it written so that the marketing agency who created the instructions could charge Burger King more money because they "had" to get their copyrighters and editors to work on it?

Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment -- A Syllabus

Henry Jenkins, who's recently relocated to the University of Southern California, recently posted the syllabus for his fall course entitled "Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment." While the course seems to focus on the ways licensed/licensable properties can transcend a single media outlet, I find it particularly interesting to note that, of the five texts he cites as being required reading, two of them are comics: Kim Deitch's Alias the Cat, and Kurt Busiek's and Alex Ross' Marvels. It's also worth pointing out that, throughout the syllabus, Jenkins specifically and repeatedly calls out comics as a legitimate and noteworthy extension of any given property.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gruenwald's Civil War

Thirteen years ago today, we lost comic book writer/editor extraordinaire Mark Gruenwald. Ten years before that, he wrote a Civil War story for Marvel. It was much better than the one that came out a couple years ago.
I miss Mark.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fahrenheit 451

Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller really enjoyed Tim Hamilton's graphic novel version of Fahrenheit 451. So much so that she's using it as an ultimate affirmation of the best that sequential art has to offer...
Some of my anti-comics correspondents claim that reading a graphic novel is not really "reading" at all. They're right. It's something else again. In the case of "Fahrenheit 451," it's more like a life-changing immersion in ideas, words, echoes, symbols, characters, lines, colors, nightmares -- and finally, daybreak.