Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Archie Character Is The Messiah

Proof once again that I read WAAAAY too many comics...

I caught this article from The Guardian that an author by the name of Raj Patel recently appeared on The Colbert Report touting his new book. Apparently, this shed some light on him and his background that happened to coincide with some prophecies of 87-year-old Scottish mystic Benjamin Creme. Creme's followers started hailing Patel as "Maitreya" -- their messiah.

And while reading the whole article, I couldn't help but think: "But... but... Raj Patel is a ficitional character in Archie comics!"

Yup. I read WAAAAAY too many comics.

Conventions I Will Be Attending In 2010











(No, you're not seeing an error; the list is exactly NIL.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Still In The Cellophane?

About a week ago, I was putting some graphic novels away on the bookshelf and I noticed that the spine of my copy of Flash Archives Volume 3 was a bit shinier than the others. A quick inspection showed that it was, in fact, still wrapped in cellophane. Never been opened. I don't think I bought it when it first came out in 2002, but I'm certain it's been sitting on my shelf for at least several years. Maybe five or six.

Shameful, really. I can excuse myself for not having read all of the thousands of comics my Dad gave to me a year or so ago -- it almost literally doubled my collection overnight and there simply hasn't been time to read them all. But the books that I bought before that that remain unread. Well, there's no real excuse for that.

So imagine my annoyed frustration when, earlier this evening, I came across my copy of Golden Age All-Winners Masterworks Volume 1. Still wrapped in cellophane!

Good grief!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tozo, Chapter 3 On Sale Now!

David O'Connell has just gotten chapter 3 of his wonderful webcomic, Tozo, The Public Servant, printed up and he's selling them here. I just ordered 3 copies of the issue (since I'm in it!) and another full set of the first three issues since... well... it's really good.

Comic Book Villains (The Movie)

Apparently this weekend's viewings have largely turned in to studying fan mentality as seen through the eyes of film-makers. I took some time today to see Comic Book Villains, a story about two rival comic shops and their attempt to cash in on a big collection from an old woman who didn't really know what she had.

There are any number of ways I can enjoy or appreciate a story. I might find the story weak, but can be impressed by the special effects. Maybe I think the director isn't any good, but the actors do an outstanding job. Maybe everything about the story is mediocre, but I just happened to be with a bunch of good friends when I read/heard/saw it and we had such a great time that it doesn't really matter what the actual story was about.

I'll give you a few examples... Young Guns. I don't really recall the movie particularly well; I don't recall it being that spectacular certainly. But I saw it with a good group of friends back in high school, and we had a great time. The Philadelphia Story. I came home from work several years ago and my ex-wife was watching it. I had no idea what was going on or what the story was about, but I happened to walk in when there was a scene between Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. The three of them were doing such an amazing job that I literally froze there, awestruck at their performance until the scene ended. Ratatouille. I thought the story was a bit predictable, and didn't find much to emotionally attach myself to any of the characters, but damn, they did an incredible job with the animation. I'm still impressed by how great the wet rat hair looked.

Now I bring this up as a means to emphasize that a movie can be good for any number of reasons. Quentin Tarantino's movies, for example, I don't generally care for. I often think the characters don't make sense, and the plots tend to be a little weak. However, I do appreciate his cinematic eye as a director and find that he uses the medium of film to great effect. He's able to utilize all of the best elements of film to tell whatever story he's trying to tell. I just happen to not like those stories.

Which brings me back to Comic Book Villains. As far as I can tell, Tarantino had no direct impact on this movie. However, it feels like writer/director James Robinson was trying to make a Tarantino-style movie. It has that element of things spiraling out of control as the characters become more and more entrenched in their own single-minded pursuits.

Except for Archie. Portrayed by D.J. Qualls, the character of Archie is provided largely as an anchor for the audience. He's the "normal" guy with whom the viewer is supposed to, I suspect, identify with. And while that's something I often finding lacking in Tarantino's work, it's not effective here. Archie does very little in the actual story, other than acting as the narrator. He's there to bear witness to many of the events, but nothing more.

The inclusion and occasional referencing of the Conan character, played by Danny Masterson, doesn't seem to warrant focus either. He's introduced very early as a seemingly Machiavellian villain, but then disappears throughout most of the story. He pops up briefly in the middle to become a "double-agent" of sorts for the rival comic book shop, but he provides exactly one piece of information before disappearing again until the epilogue.

One of the reasons Tarantino is able to pull off what he does is that he keeps everything relevant to his story. You might not understand a scene's importance right away, but it will inevitably come back around before the movie is over. I didn't get that with Comic Book Villains. There were quite a few scenes that didn't advance either the characters or the story. Several other scenes seemed to have been added retroactively just to give some credence to later scenes. ("Hey, if we have Carter head-butt Raymond in The Big FightTM, shouldn't we put in a fight scene earlier to establish that as a legitimate tactic for him?")

Comic Book Villains wasn't a bad movie, but it's not a particularly good one either. And it certainly wasn't very flattering to comic book fans.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fanboys & Objectiveness

So I sat down to watch Fanboys this afternoon. I hadn't heard too much about it -- and what little I had heard was mostly centered around some of the problems they had before it was released. But it seemed like a pretty innocuous-sounding movie, and I was kind of curious to see how these alleged fanboys were portrayed.

The movie is about a group of friends -- all huge Star Wars fans -- who set out on a road trip to Skywalker Ranch to steal a pre-release copy of The Phantom Menace. The film is set in the months prior to the movie's official release, and one of the friends is dying of cancer and most likely won't be alive to see it in theaters. Not surprisingly, they run into a few problems on their trip -- from car trouble to a run-in with the police to an irate attack against a group of Star Trek fans.

I actually liked the movie quite a bit. It didn't wallow in Lucas-inspired geekery as much as I thought it might, and there were relatively few (given the subject of the movie) pot shots taken against stereotypical fans and fandom. I thought the plot held together reasonably well and all the actors did decent jobs with their roles. Nothing particularly award-winning, mind you, but a good job all around.

So then, after I finished watching, I hopped online to do a little background research before writing something here. I try to come to stories (movies, comics, whatever) cold -- with as little foreknowledge as possible -- so I can better see how well the creators did their jobs. But I also like to be well-informed when I'm writing these entries, hence the post-movie research. I found out the details of the problems they had in the production process, and then was surprised to see that the movie was generally not well liked by critics.

"Did I miss something?" I thought. "It wasn't a great movie, but I certainly enjoyed myself during it."

So I ran through the movie in my head again. Yeah, there were a few scenes that didn't quite work as well as they should. The romance between two of the characters did pop up a bit suddenly about half-way through. The biker bar sequence didn't seem to serve any story purpose. OK, there are some legitimate issues with the film, I suppose.

But as I kept running the movie through my head, I replayed a couple of scenes in which the protagonists are asked to prove that they're true Star Wars fans by answering some obscure trivia questions. And I recalled my reaction to hearing those questions: "Kashyyyk; Chewbacca comes from Kashyyyk. You know it, I know it, everybody watching this film knows it. Don't try drawing this bit out like it's supposed to be some kind of dramatic moment. That's a no-brainer question!"

Ah! See that? That's the key. Of course I liked the movie; it was made precisely for people like me. Fanboys. That's why I laughed out loud at the meta-textual moment when Lucas kisses Carrie Fisher's character square on the lips. That's why the Willow and THX-1138 gags are in there. That's why the whole everybody-holding-various-props-hostage bit didn't require more explanation. The movie-makers knew their intended audience would get all of those references immediately. The movie was filled with fan-service.

And that I missed it as fan-service initially -- that I thought it was a good movie that didn't go overboard in geek references -- shows that I really can't be objective about things the way I'd like. Oh, I figured out long ago that I'll never be able to look at the original Star Wars trilogy without a heavy dose of nostalgia -- those movies were a HUGE part of my life growing up. But I didn't realize that that same nostalgia permeates out to anything related to Star Wars. I thought that recognizing how badly Hayden Christensen acted in Episodes II and III meant that I could get past the emotions I have tied up in the Force. Clearly, that's not the case.

Which leads me to wonder how objectively I can look at comics. After decades of reading them, and their being such an important and integral part of my life, can I ever really NOT like them? I mean, I've read some comics before that I thought were pretty bad, but how many do I see that are still bad but I enjoy anyway? More significantly, is that even important?

Probably not.

Towards the end of movie Lucas notes, in another decidedly meta-textual moment, that it's not about the movie, but it's about the people you're with. And, for all the geek jokes and references throughout the film, that's really what hooked it for me. I was expecting a sophomoric romp with bad jokes, but they wound up with a small-scale, narrative version of my book. And that was extremely gratifying to see played out over the course of 90 minutes. Call it simple validation, but Fanboys isn't really about Star Wars at all; it's about the great people you meet through fandom.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sequential Art Finds At The Cincinnati Art Museum

I spent the afternoon today at the Cincinnati Art Museum. All of the design guys at work got together to do some team-building, and just get our eyes focused on some design materials that aren't housed in beige cubicles. As usual, I spent most of the time trailing behind the others in my group, as I have a tendency to get fixated on particular pieces and study them in depth. In fact, they had a Kara Walker exhibit, which was absolutely stunning, and I stopped long enough to do a quick sketch or two. (That particular exhibit runs through May 2, and I might have to go back before then! Brilliant work on several levels!)

But, on to comics! Or, rather, sequential art.

There were really only two pieces I found today that struck me from a comics point of view. The first was in a special exhibit on color photography. I didn't see any sequential art pieces per se but there was this piece...
It's by Eve Sonneman and entitled Photo Novellas. Although you can't really tell from the photo on the left, the one on the right shows a hand paging through a black and white photo comic. The pictures were shot in Bordeaux, France in 1980.

Many of the other photos from the exhibit were slice-of-life pieces, depicting a wide swath of people and places from the 1970s. (Including a gathering of Star Trek cosplayers from 1976.) While the photos were all excellent, their subject matter also reminded me why I dislike that era. The pop culture elements of the 1970s were good, but there was a heavy dose of escapism involved to get away from the depressed state people had to deal with in the real world.

The other piece of "sequential art" I found was more intriguing, though. It's actually a series of three plates dating from the late 1800s...
The plates depict, from left to right, "molding pottery", "decorating pottery" and "filling the kiln" at Rookwood Pottery here in Cincinnati. These were decorated by Kataro Shirayamadani and are part of the Museum's permanent collection.

What strikes me as interesting is that each plate shows several images or panels depicting a portion of the action. They're not necessarily sequential -- one can't really tell, for example, if the pottery is being put into or taken out of the kiln. Which makes sense, given the circular nature of the format. The end process looks much like the beginning and the two blur together within the framework of these images.

But that these three plates were created AS A SERIES makes this that much more interesting to me. The order in which the plates are supposed to be presented is self-evident -- you wouldn't fire your pottery until it had been decorated, and you couldn't decorate until it's actually made. The artist here clearly doesn't go into enough detail as to be a manual for making pottery, but the same general idea is present. The viewer can tell -- using only the illustrations at hand -- what the basic process used at Rookwood is. There are three main steps, and each step has several parts. Three "issues" with several "panels" in each.

Bear in mind that this is still several years before Richard Outcult's Hogan's Alley and Shirayamadani has created multiple pieces of sequential art with recurring characters. Granted, we're not talking The Rake's Progress here in terms of either depth or technical ability, but where Shirayamadani goes that William Hogarth didn't was putting smaller sequences WITHIN the larger sequence.

I'm not about to claim Shirayamadani was the originator of this idea -- far from it. I think it's more likely that he picked up the idea from someone else, and simply applied it to these plates. That it happens to have been years before the Yellow Kid debuts reminds me that this notion of a recurring character in sequential art -- what we now generally think of as comics -- was around well before Outcult's newspaper success.

Just something to think about the next time you read a history of comics.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Comic Fandom Bibliography

I've heard from a couple sources now that people seem to be having trouble tracking down books/articles/videos about comic book fandom. Which isn't really surprising, given how few have been written on the subject. So I thought I'd present here the references I've found. Many were directly used/referenced for my book. I'm also providing some science fiction related pieces, as well, since there's a fair degree of overlap between the two. This isn't a complete bibliography for my book, mind you. These are only the pieces that relate directly to fandom; not a comprehensive list, but enough to get most people started, I should think.

Alvermann, Donna and Margaret Hargood. “Fandom and critical media literacy,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, International Reading Association, February 2000.

Besenyodi, Adam. Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, Lulu Press, 2009.

Boucher, DOC, ed. “Inter-Fan Beginnings,” 2005.
http://www.inter-fan.org/history/interfanhist.htm

Brooker, Will. Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, Continuum, 2001.

Brown, Jeffrey A. Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans, University Press of Mississippi, 2001.

Brown, Jeffrey A. “Comic Book Fandom and Cultural Capital,” Journal of Popular Culture, Spring 1997.

Cowan, Laurie. Participate: The Revolution of Fan Culture, 2009.
http://www.participatemovie.com

D’Orazio, Valerie. Memoirs of an Occasional Superheroine, 2009.
http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/

Draper Carlson, Johanna. “Online Comic Fandom in 1995,” Comics Worth
Reading, 2005.
http://comicsworthreading.com/2005/12/15/online-comic-fandomin-1995/

Fiske, John. “The Cultural Economy of Fandom,” The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, Routledge, 1992.

Frantz, Ron. Fandom: Confidential, Midguard Publishing, 2000.

Galbraith, Patrick W. The Otaku Encyclopedia, Kodansha International, 2009.

Gray, Jonathan, Cornel Sandvoss and C. Lee Harrington, ed. Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, New York University Press, 2007.

Hadlock, Tony and Jason Heppler. Done The Impossible: The Fans' Tale of Firefly & Serenity, Done The Impossible, 2006.

Harris, Cheryl and Alison Alexander, ed. Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture and Identity, Hampton Press, 1998.

Hills, Matthew. “Media Fandom, Neoreligiosity, and Cult(ural) Studies,” The Velvet Light Trap, Fall 2000.

Hills, Matthew. Fan Cultures (Sussex Studies in Culture and Communication), Routledge, 2002.

Jenkins, Henry. Confessions of an Aca-Fan, 2006-2009.
http://henryjenkins.org

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, 2006.

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture, Routledge, 1992.

Kleefeld, Sean. Comic Book Fanthropology, Eight Twenty Press, 2009.
http://www.comicbookfanthropology.com

Lynch, Richard. “Preliminary Outline for a Proposed Fan History Book of the 1960s (as yet untitled)”, 2002.
http://jophan.org/1960s/

Magnussen, Anne and Hans-Christian Christiansen, ed. Comics Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics, Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000.

McCallum, Pat. “Wizard Exposed,” Wizard #50, 1995.

Nygard, Roger. Trekkies, Paramount, 1997.

Nygard, Roger. Trekkies 2, Paramount, 2004.

Pustz, Matthew. Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers, University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

Rubenstein, Anne. Bad Language, Naked Ladies, & Other Threats to the Nation: A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico, Duke University Press, 1998.

Schelly, Bill. Comic Fandom Reader, Hamster Press, 2002.

Schelly, Bill. The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (Revised Edition), Hamster Press, 1999.

Schelly, Bill. Sense of Wonder: A Life in Comic Fandom, Hamster Press, 2001.

Thomas, Roy, ed. Alter Ego #25, 68, TwoMorrows, 2003, 2007.

Tulloch, John and Henry Jenkins. Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Dr. Who and Star Trek, Routledge, 1995.

Warner, Harry. All Our Yesterdays, Advent: Publishers, 1969.

Warner, Harry. A Wealth of Fable, SCIFI Press, 1992.

Wertham, Fredric. The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication, Southern Illinois University Press, 1973.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Mashup Day. Sorry.

Brain's still not processing for some reason. I know nobody likes them, but you get more mash-ups when my brain is on the fritz. Zits with dialogue from Surviving the World and Sunshine State with dialogue from Not Invented Here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Least I Could Non Sequitur, Garfield

Mash-up day. Least I Can Do gets Non Sequitur's dialogue, Non Sequitur gets Garfield's dialogue, and Garfield gets Least I Can Do's dialogue...



Interestingly, Rayne's new speech does not seem at all out of place.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Comics: Right Now

Right now, someone is picking up a comic for the very first time.
And someone else is putting one down for the last time in their life.
Right now, a child is excitedly using their undeveloped abilities to create her own comic.
While a professional comic creator is procrastinating when he knows he should be getting back to work.
Right now, someone is reading a comic instead of doing his job.
Right now, someone has just come across a brilliant idea in a comic she'd never heard of before.
Right now, someone is upset because he just read a comic that challenged his beliefs.

Right now, a comic creator has just finished what will be seen as her greatest work, but
Windsor McCay
Will Eisner
Walt Kelly
Jack Kirby
Dik Browne
And Charles Schulz
Will never create another comic.
Though someone has just discovered their work.

Right now, only some of you caught my visual pun.

Right now, comics are being created that won't be seen by anyone but their creators for another several months.
Right now, comics are being created that won't be seen by anyone but their creators.
Ever.
Right now, comics are being published using languages you'll never learn.
Right now, comics are being published utilizing nothing but illustrations.
You will never have enough time to read them all.
Right now, more comics exist than ever before.
You will never even be aware of most of them.

Right now, someone just had an inspired idea for a comic she'll never be able to make.
Right now, someone was just inspired by a comic to create something wholly unrelated to comics.
Right now, someone is working to preserve the comics in her collection.
While someone else is trying to color within the lines.

Right now, someone is dreaming about comics.
Right now, you're thinking about them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Philosophy Via Comics

Firefly remains my all-time favorite TV show. It is, without a doubt, the only show I've watched deliberately and repeatedly start to finish. It's one of the few shows where I've watched every episode more than once, and certainly the only one where I've sought to watch every episode more than once.

Let me clarify as well that I'm not especially a Joss Whedon fan. Oh, I like his work well enough and I think he's pretty talented. But most of what he says with his work doesn't particularly speak to me very much. Firefly was different, though, and his vision in that show really resonates with me.

This past week, I just sat through watching all of the episodes again. Two or three every night. And I followed it up with the commentary track version of the last episode, "Objects in Space."

Now I've listened to all the commentary tracks before. Most of the episodes' commentaries provide insights and anecdotes about the behind-the-scenes of the show, as most commentary tracks are designed to do. But in the track for "Objects in Space" if you haven't heard it, Whedon spends most of the time talking about philosophy, how he began thinking about existentialism and how objects can be divorced from their commonly-ascribed utility.

Personally, I haven't read much in the way of formal philosophy. What I have studied is primarily more filtered, like the novels of Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky or the documentaries by Alain de Botton. And comics.

It was curious that I never really caught this in the "Objects in Space" commentary before, but I noticed tonight a couple instances where Whedon does actually speak to the specifics of the scene being displayed and expressly remarks how the actors brought things to the table that he hadn't necessarily intended, but helped the overall story and symbolism, and that he appreciated that collaborative nature of television. What struck me in particular about that is that is precisely why I don't like television in general. I don't want to see a collaborative effort involving writers, directors, actors, special effects crew, set designers, costumers, musicians, editors, and on and on. Every one of those people is bringing something to the table which impacts the show. The way a writer imagines a character's voice inflection might not be how the actor chooses to speak. The way a set designer creates a room might not be conducive to how the director wants to frame a shot. All of those decisions across the board affect the final product.

That's not to meant to be a negative per se. To Whedon's point, multiple people with their specific areas of expertise can bring things to the table that enhance the overall work. And it also brings with it multiple perspectives; it brings other people's ideas into the mix. By design. Everybody collaborating together to ensure that a good product is made, but also that you don't accidentally piss somebody off.

"Wait a minute! That thing you just did with your hands? I think that's a gang sign. Can you just give a thumbs up?"

"You know the line at the top of page seventeen? I think that might be a slur in some segments."

"You know, if we go this route with the character, we could alienate a large group of religious viewers."

But the type of work that's very collaborative like that also means that you're filtering the message of the piece. So the message you hear is the joint effort of many people trying to say (hopefully) something similar to one another. And that, to me, ends up muddying the message. I would much rather hear what a single person thinks. What's important to them AS AN INDIVIDUAL? What motivates them AS AN INDIVIDUAL? What do they have to say AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

What I liked about Firefly is that, despite being worked on by a diverse group, the show came across as Whedon's own vision. It very much felt like his show, and the other folks working on it were just channeling him.

And that's why I like comics. They're individually done by such a small group of people that each piece comes across as the vision/message of a single individual. (Well, usually. There are some works, I suppose, where the writer and artist were working at cross purposes, but those tend to come across as just really poorly executed.) I like that singularity of vision, that sense that I'm getting what the creator wanted (and had the ability) to convey.

There are thousands of TV shows and movies out there. By and large, they're made for mass audiences and, as such, they try to speak to a broad appeal with generic (and banal) messages.

Call me selfish, but I want entertainment and media for me. I want something that speaks to me. Not some trite pap tarted up in the newest window dressing. Now, obviously, not everything is going to be made for my benefit and there's going to be plenty out there that I won't like or consider relevant. But with the ability to micro-segment these days, it's much easier for comics especially to target me.

There are strips out there -- like Tozo, the Public Servant and Dead Man Holiday -- which are more about what the creator wants to say than what their audience might like to hear. And that is the what I find so wonderful about comics. Being able 'speak' to someone else in that manner is special and unique. To hear other people espouse their personal philosophies through images drawn on the page is a brilliant way to find out about how others think, whether I agree with that thinking or not.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Brief Tour Of My Action Figure Metropolis

OK, I think I've got my action figure metropolis sufficiently far along to provide more than just a single snapshot. I'm going to continue tweaking it around, but I think the general gist of it will remain. I've made some notes down below if you're interested.

This takes up a floor space in my basement a tad over 8 feet by 8 feet. There's an additional 2 feet between the back wall and where the city starts so that I can get to the circuit breaker in the corner. The skyline behind the whole thing is just a couple pieces of black matte board cut in a series of vaguely building-y shapes.

With the exception of the figures suspended from the ceiling, they are all simply balanced in place. I seem to have developed a knack for getting figures to stand on their own.

The playsets have been collected over a period of about 15 years. I recall getting the Wayne Manor set when I was interning at Kenner back in college, and the Enterprise bridge about a year later. Anything older than that was purchased via a secondary market long after the toy was discontinued. The single most expensive purchase was the Hall of Justice; it was given to me as a gift from Mom and Dad, but I'm fairly confident they paid over $100 for it.

Yes, you are seeing some licensing clashing there. That's largely the point. There are figures representing Marvel, DC, Hanna-Barbera, Bone, Firefly/Serenity, Scud, Muppets, pirates, Judge Dredd, Dr. Who, Battle of the Planets, Max Headroom, The Goon, Hellboy, Tomb Raider and probably some others I'm forgetting offhand.

Future enhancements:
  • I actually wanted to make the Enterprise into a SHIELD Helicarrier. But as the only SHIELD figure I have is Nick Fury, that didn't seem to make much sense.
  • I have a Ghost Rider figure as well, but I managed to snap his leg off while I was putting this together. It should be fixable; I've had to repair Blade, Baron Zemo and Green Lantern from essentially the same malady.
  • Three of the four firemen's arms are actually broken at the shoulder and are currently just resting in place. I'll need to attempt to fix these, but it'll be a trickier issue than GR's leg.
  • I've got several more pieces, sufficient to make a waterfront, but I've run out of room. Not sure if/when I'll be able to incorporate those at any point.

I could go on about all sorts of things relating back to this, but I'll spare you the intricacies for now. Feel free to ask questions in the comments here, though.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Babies

Note to self: Never read Occasional Superheroine on the same day you read The Jack Kirby Collector. No good can come from it...

I blame you for this, Val.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sad Health Updates On Giordano & Sarno

Jon Cooke (via Maggie Thompson) has news about Dick Giordano...
Just spoke with Pat Bastienne and she tells me that Dick Giordano... is not doing very well and is in the hospital in Florida. The greatest of the DC Comics artist-slash-editors has suffered leukemia in recent years and has now taken a turn for the worse. God bless the gentle man.


More tragically, Doc Boucher notes that Joe Sarno has passed away. As I reported here yesterday, he had been in a coma since a nasty fall on Sunday. Mike Gold has this remembrance.

Warka Vase Status Updated. Sort of.

One of the many (and there are oh-so-many!) under-reported tragedies stemming from G.W.'s invasion of Iraq is the theft and/or destruction of literally thousands of ancient artifacts that were housed in the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Included among the looted artifacts was the Warka Vase well-known as "one of the earliest surviving works of narrative relief sculpture." Narrative relief sculpture, for the uninitiated, is a scholarly phrase meaning comics carved in 3-D. In short, the Warka Vase is one of -- if not THE -- earliest example of comics/sequential art still in existence.

When I first reported on the Warka Vase's theft and resulting damage in 2008, I noted that the latest information I had been able to find dated from 2003. News about the Museum or any of the artifacts housed therein has been virtually nil since then. But I've kept my eyes open for any news about this for the past couple of years, and I finally came across this article from The Guardian.

The short version is that National Museum of Iraq re-opened late last month, although less than half of the pieces that had been looted have ever been recovered. The Warka Vase is mentioned specifically, however, it's not mentioned whether or not it was put on display. Several sections of the Museum remained closed. and none of the photos accompanying the article show the vase.

A little more digging beyond the article show that the Museum's opening was done at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His intent was evidently to show that things are back to normal in Baghdad; however, the opening was only for one day. I can't seem to find mention of when it will be re-opened for good, although the article suggests that a great deal of progress has been made in the past six months, implying that a great deal more progress will be made in the next six months. The Museum's own web site has no information at all (at least in English) about progress or current status or anything, but it does note the Warka Vase as being a part of their collection and shows a thumbnail of the piece intact. Obviously, it could be an old photo or (given the size of the image) a reconstruction.

Ultimately, all this points to a vaguely positive sign for the vase itself, but nothing remotely concrete. I'll continue to try to keep tabs on this and report any further news or developments here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Joe Sarno Hospitalized

Maggie Thompson passed along this note from Jim Engel about Joe Sarno, the founder of Chicago's Comic Kingdom and Comic Universe...
Joe as you may know, has had health/dementia problems over the last couple years. Sunday morning he had a severe fall, and has been in the hospital since then, in a coma. He has a lot of blood pooling around the brain, and the doctors feel he would not survive an operation. In short, his condition is such that he could pass away at any time, and Joan and his kids are preparing for that.

I visited the hospital last night. Joe's on a morphine drip, and appears as if he's simply sleeping. He's not in pain, and in fact looks so 'normal,', it was hard to realize how bad things are. I got to spend time with Joan, who as you would expect has a lot on her shoulders, but seems to be doing as well as anyone could, and has their kids around for support as well. She was very glad to know his friends have been getting the word out, and said that if anyone wishes to visit the hospital (Northwest Community in Arlington Hts) they were welcome."

As are prayers. I've known Joe for years and was glad to see so many people pay tribute to him at last year's Chicago Comic-Con. Joe is a treasure - and so is Joan.

Morning Linkage Post: North Korea & Spidey Music

ITEM: The Diplomat posts the third (AFAIK) article I've seen recently discussing North Korean comics. This one is entitled "North Korea's Comic Propaganda." I'm all for more comic-related news, but I'm scratching my head as to why this particular subject has been cropping up with relative frequency all of a sudden.

ITEM: You know how Spider-Man used have a feature spot on The Electric Company? The very cool Spidey theme song was composed and performed by Gary William Friedman under the pseudonym Will Power. What you also didn't know was that the show's audience only ever heard a small snippet of the full song. It's actually a three-minute, fully orchestrated, awesomely groovy masterpiece...

I have to say that this gives The Ramones' version of 1967 Spidey theme a serious run for its money for the title of "Most Awesome Spider-Man Theme Music Ever."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inflatable Thing

Back when I ran my Fantastic Four website, I was regularly on the look-out for FF licensed goods. Not that I bought many of them, but I had a "Memorabilia" area of the site where I'd post information about that type of thing. One item that I recall finding but never posted on my site was this...

I came across it on eBay, and the description was pretty vague. (Which is why I never posted it on my site; I didn't feel I had enough information about it.) He only said it was 24 inches tall when inflated and had a 2000 copyright date.

I never heard or saw anything about it this ever again. I suspect it may have been used as a carnival prize or something like that. Maybe?

Anyway, I just found it buried on an old CD and thought I'd share because... well, the internet was made for weird crap like this, wasn't it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Are The Big Name Fans?

Hilary Keane started an interesting discussion on her LiveJournal yesterday questioning the notions behind Big Name Fans (BNFs). She says, "I've always been really curious about the whole BNF thing, and how they come into being. Personally speaking I find it more than a little strange that some fans are acredited more worth than others in a fandom."

The conversation is worth a read, though it's a bit all over the map. A couple of different fandoms are specifically mentioned, but the discussion is relevant to comics fandom by and large. It wasn't a topic I explored too heavily in my book primarily because I didn't want to focus on any one sub-set of fandom. But it does tie in with a discussion of cultural capital. That is, s/he who has the most often finds his/herself a BNF. But, as I also point out in my book, quantifying cultural capital isn't really possible. Which is where that discussion heads off into.

Further down into the topic, one poster notes that "one person's BNF is another person's nobody." Which is a completely valid point, which also speaks to the notion of cultural capital. Cultural capital is worth nothing to a member of an outgroup -- put another way, what you know about comics isn't worth jack to someone who doesn't care about comics!

I might suggest anyone interested in the topic could read my chapter about it online. While the examples are obviously comic-centered, they're easily adaptable into other fandoms. In fact, that's one of the reasons I put the book online for free: so that anybody could read up on the subject easily and (hopefully) have at least one other perspective when in the back of their head when they're discussing it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Metropolis Wasn't Built In Two Days Either

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was building a city for my action figures. I only just had a chance to get back to it today, but it's taking longer to populate the city than I figured. Until I get everything done and can get lots of good pictures from multiple angles, I thought I'd provide a quick status update. So here's where the city stands as of this evening...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trekkies & Trekkies 2

Yesterday evening and this morning, I watched Trekkies and Trekkies 2, a pair of documentaries about Star Trek fans hosted and produced by Denise Crosby. I'm not a big Trek fan myself, but I have seen most, if not all, of the shows produced prior to around 1996. (I think I stopped paying attention after the first season of Voyager.) I watched the two documentaries primarily out of an interest in fandom. My preference is obviously for comic fandom, but there's an appreciable overlap with science fiction.

Both were interesting in that, myself not being a Trek fan but still reasonably knowledgeable about the shows, I was able to pick out a lot of the direct and immediate parallels with comic fandom. Watching the clips in Trekkies of Gabriel Köerner, for example, I saw a lot of my 15-year-old self in him. He was making a deliberate attempt to come across as serious and intelligent -- which he certainly was, but it came across as fairly labored in that way that teenagers sometimes try to act more adult than they are. Trekkies 2 was able to follow up with him several years later and, very much to his credit, he totally owns his depiction in the earlier film, going so far as to call himself "socially oblivious" in it.

Which was very much who I was in high school. Comics instead of Star Trek, but pretty much the same. Including the mullet.

What I liked about the overall format of the two movies was that it provides a number of very honest vignettes. Some people were in costume, some weren't. Some people took it more seriously than others. Yeah, there were some stories about folks who didn't seem to have an entirely solid grasp on reality, but by and large, everybody was presented as simply, "This is who this person is." And the added talks with fans' family and co-workers provided some interesting perspectives.

I also liked that most of the fans were very clear on why they liked Star Trek specifically. They were able to articulate what about the premise they found appealing. I don't see as much of that in comicdom. Comic fans can often, I think, describe why they like Superman over Batman, or Marvel over DC, but I don't see/hear much about why they like the medium as a whole.

What I would've liked to have seen more of is more professional analysis. How does dressing up as a Bajoran help someone deal with contemporary society? What does someone get out of learning to speak Klingon? They even had one fan who was a therapist, but he only spoke in very broad terms about what people seek in fandom. Granted, Crosby is an actress, not a psychologist and it stands to reason that her understanding and approach to fandom is going to be a fairly pedestrian one. (Which I don't mean as a slight in any capacity! As I said, she's not a psychologist and I wouldn't expect her to act/think like one.) But I know I made a deliberate attempt to bring some psychological and sociological theories into my book on comic fandom in an effort to dig a little deeper from a lay-person's perspective. It's still intended to be a relatively casual read -- certainly not an academic one -- but I wanted to probe deeper than, "You know, these comic fans are all pretty okay folks." So I would've liked to have seen some more of that in at least one of Crosby's two efforts.

Ultimately, though, both movies were decidedly commercial efforts. I'm sure that's partially what led to so many interviews with the actors and producers of the shows. (Not that they overwhelm the footage of fans, mind you. And almost all of their anecdotes are fan-related. But I don't know that Kate Mulgrew's thoughts on the difference between "Trekkies" and "Trekkers" is really that significant even in this context.) As a more commercial endeavor, it's more likely to speak in broader terms. It's an entertaining piece and mildly informative. Anyone looking to study fandom (comics, sci-fi, or otherwise) might be able to pick up a few anecdotes of use here -- particularly among the fans that are interviewed in both movies -- but it's not a movie if you want a deep understanding of Trek culture. It's a nice summary, but you'll probably learn more reading Science Fiction Audiences.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sesame Street's David Sued Marvel?

How many of you remember David from Sesame Street? By far, the coolest non-Muppet on the show, and the man had a great singing voice. He was portrayed by Northern Calloway from 1971 until 1989, a year before his death.

This evening, I stumbled across information on this Supreme Court case. As near as I can decipher, the Supreme Court case itself involved the specifics of some contract law and how a court's ruling affects those who sign documents on behalf of others. But that case evidently stems from an earlier one in which "Calloway had developed an idea for a motion picture and written a script, and that [Marvel Entertainment] had begun to develop this work without his permission." Marvel acknowledged they were indeed working on said project, authorized under another set of other documents. That original case was dismissed.

From what I've read about Calloway, he was pretty ill by the late 1980s and I get the distinct impression that the whole lawsuit was trumped up by some shady lawyers, hoping to win a big settlement.

But my question is: does anybody know what project of Calloway's this was, and what might have happened to it? I doubt it'd be concerning any known Marvel properties, so I'd be curious to know what else they might have had in development at that time. Any insights or recollections would be appreciated.

Channeling My 8-Year-Old Self

When I was in school, teachers would periodically pass out newsprint fliers from Scholastic, highlighting a number of their books. Many of us would go through and circled all the cool-looking stuff we'd like, then beg Mom for enough money to order the books. We'd dutifully tromp back to school to deliver a pile of change and our poorly written order forms to the teacher. She (all of my teachers back then were female) filed the orders and, what seemed like an eternity later, would eventually pass out whatever books we had ordered.

For whatever reason(s), this practice didn't survive in my district past grade school, but I noticed today that Scholastic still continues with the procedure. I was browsing through their current offerings for 2nd-3rd graders and, after a cursory scan, I had the idea to see if I could channel my 8-year-old self and figure out what he'd like to get.

The first thing that pops out is Star Wars The Clone Wars: Tethan Battle Adventure. Back then, I was all about Star Wars, not surprisingly and picked up everything I could get my hands on. Which, you might recall, was quite a fair bit less than what's available today!

At the time, I wasn't a big fantasy fan (my gaming days were still ahead of me) but I did like a lot of the old monster movies I saw on Saturday afternoon TV. I recall having more than a couple books about monsters -- mostly werewolves, vampires, mummies and Frankenstein-style creations but there was some overlap into ancient Greek legends (minotaurs, hydra, etc.) and cryptozoology (Sasquatch, Loch Ness Monster, etc.). So Beast Quest: Tagus the Night Horse and An Awfully Beastly Business: Werewolf vs. Dragon probably would've stood out a bit. I'm not sure if these would have been at the top of my list, but they certainly would've caught my eye.

But a monster book that probably would've elicited a little more attention is Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath. To which, I suspect, most readers of this blog will respond with a confused, "Wha-huh?"

According to Vernon's own site, Dragonbreath is a "combination of text and graphic novel" that relay "the adventures of Danny Dragon, a young dragon attending a school for reptiles and amphibians. Join Danny and his best friend Wendell the Iguana as they travel under the sea outwitting bullies, fending off giant squid, meet giant heron, run from ninjas,and fight were-hotdogs, all the while trying to avoid getting an F in Science!"

That definitely sounds like the type of thing I'd be interested in seeing NOW, but all an 8-year-old would have to go on is what's in the flier...

... which I think would've captured my younger self's interest.

This harkens back to my post from about a month ago talking about kids' and young adult comics. Vernon's actually just come out with a second Dragonbreath book and I'll have to cite my own failings for missing that entirely before now.

But it's curious to note that, after spending most of my comics background looking at what are stereotypically considering adolescent books, I now find I'm drawn more towards books aimed at a decidedly younger audience.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Brian Boyd On the Origins of Comics

My friend Jeff pointed me to this long-ish article by Jeff Boyd entitled "On the Origins of Comics: New York Double-take" from The Evolutionary Review. I haven't read through it in its entirety yet, but from what I've read/scanned so far, it's a very comprehensive, but still fairly concise, look at the medium as a whole.

OK, Go's Live Action Comic

I've been watching OK, Go's latest video ad nauseum, in part because of the insane amount of cool engineering that went into it, but also because I've been enjoying the song and it's messages.

Obligatory video linkage, in case you haven't seen this yet...


But there's some interesting things going on in the video beyond just the "Oh, wow" factor. What's readily apparent is that there's more and larger destruction going on as the video progresses. The ball bearings give way to Legos. To a shopping cart. To a dining room set. To a raised platform with band members on it. To a car. To room full of trash cans. This, of course, follows the pattern of the music, which gets louder and more raucous in the last half of the song.

BUT!

Every bit of it was engineered. It looks very chaotic, with the falling pails and ping pong balls, the paper airplane barrage, the flying mannequin, the avalanche of umbrellas and balloons... But it was, by necessity, very choreographed. Every element had to be in a specific place at a specific time, or the whole thing doesn't work. Keep in mind that it was NOT just one action leading to another, in a typical Rube Goldberg like fashion, but it was one action leading to another IN TIME WITH THE SONG.

The thinking that went into this is actually quite similar to creating a comic! Even moreso than an actual Rube Goldberg cartoon!


One action/sequence leads to the next, but it's the pacing of all the combined events that really help determine if the overall project is successful. If one sequence goes on too long, or not long enough, everything afterwards is a mis-fire.

Which, as long as you keep working at it, isn't a bad thing.

The guys in the video start it covered in paint. They'd run through their machine -- or at least good chunks of it -- several times before the version that's ultimately being presented. They had at least a few mis-fires, as evidenced by the destroyed piano sitting behind the falling one, the pile of smashed televisions, and the paint-splatter outlines of the band on the walls. It doesn't always work the way it's supposed to. I suspect that each time they ran through things, they learned a little more about the contraption that was just built. And once they got things "right", they passed that sequential art message on to us.

And, like all art, the message is subject to the interpreter. Some people will simply walk away with the song's lyrics ("Let it go, this too shall pass.") while others may come away with a notion of just how frickin' awesome physics can be. What about fans who know something of the legal battle OK, Go undertook to get this video online? There's the ideas of creativity, recycling, perseverance, teamwork... You can take storytelling ideas from the images, as I did.

There's certainly a lot to be said for studying how to create a comic book. You can study the works of Will Eisner and Jack Kirby, you can take courses on writing and drawing, you can be in touch with other creators and get tips from them...

But look at something like this, too. The song itself is pretty simple, not a whole lot in the way of lyrics or story. It's not particularly complex musically either. But there's still plenty to take away from it, if you just pay a little attention.

New Kirby Collector Out Today!

You know, the latest issue of Jack Kirby Collector hits the stands today and, as always, I suggest picking up a copy if you've got any interest in Jack or any of his creations. I know I was insanely impressed with what gets packed in to every issue, and was humbled when they ran my earliest piece on Jack's art -- "The Buttons of Doom" -- in #38 way back in 2003. It was about a year later when I started my regular column in the book. And while I am truly honored to be able to contribute to it, I am always blown away at how insignificant my work is compared to what else goes into the book. Even if you take away the mind-blowing Kirby art, the other columns and articles are always, always top-notch. I perpetually feel out-classed working on my pieces, and it regularly makes me step up my game to try to even come close to the rest of the book's contents.

So, with all sincerity, it's a really great book and worthy of your patronage despite the fact that I take up a page or two every issue!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Logicomix Review

So in my usual "late to the game" fashion, I just finished up reading Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. (Hm. As I wrote that, though, I went back and double-checked the dates. I guess it wasn't published in the U.S. until late September 2009, so I guess I'm not as far behind the curve as it sometimes feels like.)

"Epic" is indeed an appropriate word choice for this volume. For, while it's superficially a biography of Bertrand Russell, it extends much wider and deeper than his life, encompassing the rebirth of mathematics, the origins of logical thought process and, to some degree, the foundations of the computer age. It includes treatises on love, war, education and very nearly all aspects of life. The authors even acknowledge that it reaches beyond their scope as artists and refer back to the Greek tragedies Oresteia to drive their points home at the end.

One of my interests within comics that's developed in the past several years has been paying greater attention to non-fiction works. I think stumbling on and reading Joe Sacco's Safe Area Goražde made me acutely aware of what was possible with comics. I can confidently say that I learned more about the Bosnian War through Sacco than I did from all the combined news outlets that were available to me at the time. I could still enjoy that interplay of text and imagry and learn something to boot! That's incredibly powerful.

And Logicomix is precisely why that type of thing speaks to me. Yeah, I still learned something from reading Spain's biography of Che Guevara, but it just kind of sat there for me. Logicomix provided me with a greater understanding of who Russell was, certainly, but it was so masterfully executed that I would repeatedly become engrossed in the content. I would have read it one sitting except... well, it's over 350 pages long and, frankly, my chair wasn't THAT comfortable!

Interestingly, the story actually follows three tracts simultaneously. Russell's story is actually told by Russell himself, giving a lecture late in his life. Repeated cuts back to his standing at a podium are seamless and flow very smoothly. But there's also a story of the creators actually working on the book itself. They repeatedly cut in and discuss how the story should flow or where to place thematic emphasis. That, too, flows well with the overall narrative and all three aspects of the story are juggled superbly well that it really seems like a single narrative.

I think part of the failure of U.S. public education with regard to social studies is a misplaced focus on historical accuracy. Don't get me wrong, I think that they should be presenting an accurate model of history. However, in the first place, they're wildly inaccurate already. (How many people think Christopher Columbus landed in what would become the mainland United States? How many Americans were/are taught that the U.S. Civil War was about slavery? Who was actually taught about the massive government failures that led to the 1930's Dust Bowl?) In the second place, they generally force the regurgitation of facts and figures instead of any real understanding or comprehension. The exact dates surrounding the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon's registration and America's withdrawl from Vietnam are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of people's education; the larger issue is knowing that basic sequence occurred in the early- to mid-1970s in that order and the how/why of their importance.

Which is where books like Logicomix work. The authors freely acknowledge they took some liberties with the facts. About who actually spoke to whom, and when. Where people were on particular dates, and whether they attended particular conferences. Those were essentially edited to streamline the overall story. To make the important ideas easier to understand and digest. This is what can be done so well with comics. This is where the power of comics as an art form shines. And when it's done as masterfully as it has been in Logicomix, it leaves readers with a deeper understanding and appreciation of what the story was about. Even when they don't recall the specific dates and locations.

Logicomix was everything I look for in a great comic and more! Despite the daunting-looking page count and subject matter, I found it immensely absorbing and really enjoyed reading it. The overall storytelling was exceptional, and there were some really nice sequences that you can only do in comics. I think it achieved exactly what the authors hoped it would, and in the best way possible. Really, a great read!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Them Ol' Comic Book Ads

"Zipster" reminiscences about the junk that used to be sold in the backs of comic books. Apparently, having aged a few years since he used read comics, he seems to enjoy the memories despite getting ripped off repeatedly...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Robbi Rodriguez Is Awesome!

A few weeks ago, Tek Jansen and Maintenance artist Robbi Rodriquez announced he was having a fire sale to get rid of the pile of art under his desk. For twenty bucks, he'll send you two piece of original art, somewhat randomly chosen.

I thought to myself, "Two pieces of original comic art for $20? That's only ten bucks a piece! Awesome!" I scrounged together the twenty bucks and fired it off with a note that said, only half-jokingly, that I wouldn't be too disappointed if one or both of the pieces of art happened to be from Maintenance as I particularly enjoyed that series.

Today, I found a flat package waiting on my doorstep...
A sketch from his Frankie Get Your Gun which, I believe, he's still working on. (Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong and it's actually out there somewhere.)

And then, I carefully opened the package up to find...
Two excellent pieces of original art from Maintenance featuring the two lead characters, as well as a highly detailed layout sketch also from the series.

See, you know what's great here? It's not so much that it was inexpensive -- though that was cool -- it's that he threw in a couple of other unique freebies just to say 'thanks for the support'. I mean, clearly, the quick sketch on the back of a cardboard package isn't going hang in a museum wall and I'd be hard pressed to justify framing it, but it's a very nice, personal touch that adds a lot to the transaction. It's like the occasional waitress or clerk who says 'thank you' with such sincerity that you can't help but feel they genuinely enjoyed dealing with you.

Did Rodriguez HAVE to make sure he sent over Maintenance artwork? No. By the rules he set up, he made it very clear it was going to be a crap shoot. But he pulled out those couple of pages (seemingly) deliberately, and provided an extra sketch which no one but me, him and the postman have seen. That's just cool, in a very classy way.

Man, that is some great stuff! Thank you much, Robbi! I highly suggest folks heading over to pick up on any of the great deals he might have left!

Review: Deus ex Comica

I just read Adam Besenyodi's Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. I actually didn't even hear about it until I was about read to publish my own book on fandom, but it looked to be precisely the type of material I wanted to use more of as background. But, by then, it was too late to get a copy of Besenyodi's book, read it, and try to incorporate whatever might be appropriate. But I'm still interested in fandom, and wanted to see what he had to say.

I have to admit to a little reluctance in ordering it in the first place. I wasn't at all familiar with Besenyodi, and the book is published through Lulu. No disrespect to anyone printing their book through Lulu -- I'm one of those very folks myself, after all! -- but as there is no vetting process for writers, any book through them could very well be unintelligible. My folks, in fact, were reading another book by one of their friends/acquaintances and both said it was the worst piece of drek they'd ever read. Poor grammar, bad sentence structure, bizarre tangents... they even said the main character changed names part-way through the story! But, to Besenyodi's credit, he's got a good-looking cover and a foreword by Tom DeFalco, so he gave the initial impression at least of approaching the book professionally.

But I have to admit to a great deal of relief when I started reading and found that, yes, this guy does indeed have some writing ability.

The book is essentially a memoir, centered around Besenyodi's interest in comic books. He started reading them as a Midwestern child in the late 1970s and became a big fan in the 1980s. But he dropped them in high school to focus on important things (like girls) and didn't look back. Until around 2005 when a chance discussion and a bout of nostalgia got Besenyodi back into them. The book is then filled with Besenyodi's thoughts on various comics (old and new), individual issues vs. collected editions, variant covers, conventions, video games and just about every other aspect that's sort of comic book related.

I'm honestly pretty ambivalent about the book. On the one hand, it covers largely all the territory I would expect it to. Besenyodi's writing is easily accessible and understandable, and I would like to have used portions of it to provide more anecdotes and quotes for Comic Book Fanthropology. Plus, growing up in Northeast Ohio in the 1970s and '80s myself, there was A LOT of the book that I could very directly relate to. However, he spends an awful lot of time on details that strike me as unnecessary to the point where they're almost distracting. And, more frustrating for me, was that the book was written like a series of blog posts.

One of the reasons I didn't write Comic Book Fanthropology sooner was that I had trouble coming up with a cohesive narrative that would run throughout the book. Even though it's non-fiction, I think it's important to have a "plot" to help readers go from one chapter to the next. Ultimately what I did was start with some very broad perspectives on fandom at large initially, and then concentrate my focus more and more as the book went on, each chapter building on the previous one. Besenyodi's book has a tendency to jump around quite a bit; he might be discussing Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's classic stories from the 1980s and suddenly shift to Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker in the 2000s. Then a couple of chapters in the middle are essentially book reviews covering everything from the old "Giant-Size" Marvel comics of the mid-1970s to Marvel 1602 from 2004. He talks nearly exclusively about Marvel books, so suddenly name-dropping The Umbrella Academy and Breakfast of the Gods seem out of place.

The writing isn't bad, by any means, but I found it very jarring at times. I think it really highlights the difference in writing for a blog versus writing a book. Any individual chapter here, taken on its own, is pretty good, but presented here as an allegedly single narrative -- one man's life as a comic book fan -- it doesn't really flow very well.

Don't get me wrong; I'm glad I read it. If/when I do some revisions on Comic Book Fanthropology, I'll likely include at least a couple references to it. There're lots of good anecdotes in the book and, for a self-published venture, it's quite respectable. But I couldn't shake the feeling that all of the material was just re-purposed from a series of blog postings.