Friday, August 31, 2012

Comic Book WIIFM

What happens when most comic books get cancelled? Generally, there's a vocal minority of fans who are disappointed, perhaps mad, but often most comic book fans shrug and say, "Meh."

There are a number of reasons comics get cancelled, but not infrequently, it's due to low sales. The publisher -- even if that publisher is also the creator -- has decided that producing the comic is simply not profitable enough (or at all). They've expended as much as they feel they can do drum up interest and support, but it's just not selling well enough to justify continuing. Now, maybe that's because the book sucks. There is certainly no shortage of crappy comics out there! But it's possible, too, that it was a good book, but just didn't make it to the attention of the right audience. Bad or insufficient marketing, you might say.

Now, when a book gets cancelled, whatever money was transferred in that process halts. The creators don't get paid, obviously, but now neither to the printers, distributors, anyone the publisher had advertised with, etc. I'm not saying these people necessarily get stiffed money they're owed -- though that does happen -- just that there's no future earnings coming to them because of the comic. In the cases of larger deals, like through, say, Marvel or DC, most of those people will be able to switch gears and find other similar gigs. The creators shift over to other books, the printers pick up additional customers, etc. Smaller folks might have bigger problems. Maybe the creators have to do freelance ad layout work for advertising circulars, maybe the printer goes out of business entirely.

But regardless of what happens to these people, they broader comic fanbase still gives a collective "Meh."

It's not that they don't care per se, but if an individual isn't invested in the book in any way, they don't have a reason to put much emotional stock in the loss. They look at the book in terms of, "What's in it for me?" (In business shorthand, this is often abbreviated as WIIFM -- pronounced "wiffum.") "What do I, as a consumer, get out of whether this book continues or not?"

If a person was reading the book, their loss is direct; they don't get to read the book any more. Whatever they got out of it will no longer be available. And because they had some emotional attachment to it, they have at least some modicum of concern over the people involved. "Good luck finding a new gig, Creator X!" Frequently, these fans follow the creator on to their next project, if possible.

I don't know that anyone gives much thought beyond that. To the printers, USPS/FedEx/UPS workers who deliver the finished books, the comic retailers... I don't know that most people make that connection between any one cancelled title, and everyone throughout the whole process. Not that it's easy to -- we never hear about the guy who delivered the books from the printers to the warehouse, or the admin at the printers who had to juggle a bunch of invoices for any one project, or the teenager who unpacked shipping boxes in the back room of the comic shop... I don't know if their namelessness is an active way to make things emotionally easier on us consumers, or if we're simply unable to make emotional connections along those more distant lines.

But the question still boils down to "What's in it for me?" And while I recognize that at some level we have to do that -- we can't be equally compassionate about all issues everywhere -- it's a shame that more people don't extend their interest in comics beyond the handful of books they actively read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Last Links O' August

  • Charles Hatfield has posted information about his upcoming English 333 class ("Comics and Graphic Novels") for California State University, Northridge. Even if you're not taking the class, there's lots to be learned just from going through the class materials.
  • Over at the Daily Nebraskan, Bea Huff starts her new column relaying a little of how comic book superheroes have inspired her to be better than she is.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times has a review of With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story. From the sounds of things, the review itself mentions Jack Kirby more frequently than the documentary itself does.
  • Next year, FantaCon returns to Albany, NY. Details on the site are slim -- virtually nil, in fact -- but a note on their Facebook page claims to have several guests lined up already.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Marvel Two-In-One Infinity

One more Jack Kirby post for the day. I only had the idea this morning, and it took longer than I anticipated, so I didn't color it. Feel free to take that on yourself, though...

Kirby's Characters

Just to point out how prolific he was, here's a list of some of the characters and creations attributed to Jack Kirby. It's mostly taken from these two lists, plus a handful of additions I noticed weren't in either. I'm confident this is nowhere near complete -- it doesn't even take into account characters he created for animation studios -- that's how awesome Jack Kirby was.

Abner Little
2-D Men (Dimension of Doom)
500' Tall Humanoid (Humanoids)
Abominable Snowman
Abraham Erskine
Absorbatron (Leader's weapon)
Absorbing Man
Abu Dakir (Mogul ally)
Acrobat (Human Torch foe)
Adam Warlock
Adams, Cynthia (encountered Creature from Planet X)
Adora (Comicsville character)
Agatha Harkness
Agent Axis
Agent L (HYDRA defector)
Agnar the Fierce (Asgardian)
Agron (Captain America foe)
Air-Cars (Yashonka tech)
Airjet-Cycle (Fantastic Four vehicle)
Alibar (Mogul, Thor character)
Alicia Masters
alien champion (Marvel monster)
Alien Scout (Marvel monster)
Alpha Primitive
Amanda ?? (encountered Cyclops (monster), pre-FF)
Amphibian Androids (Synthoids)
Amphibion (Hulk foe)
Anderson, Dave (Hulk character)
Android Man (Thing foe)
Anelle (Hulkling's mother, Avengers/Fantastic Four character)
Anne ?? (encountered Roc)
Anti-Cosmic Flying Wing (used to combat cosmic Dr. Doom)
Aquaticans (Dr. Druid/Droom foe)
Archeopian (xt, Thor characters)
Ardina of Earth-7888
Ares (Marvel Comics)
Arishem the Judge
armed carts (Yashonka tech)
Arnim Zola
Arrkam, King (Hulk foe)
Artemis (Marvel Comics)
Arthur (Hulk robot creator)
Astor, Ken (General Argyle Fist agent)
Athena (Marvel Comics)
Atlas (DC Comics)
Atomic Changer (Kiber's Guards weapon)
Atomic Space-Displacer (Fantastic Four device)
Attuma (Namor foe)
Auto-Boxers (Eternals toy)
Autocron (alien race, Machine Man/Quasar/Avengers foes)
Avengers (comics)
Avril, Sally (Spider-Man character)
Awesome Android
Balder (comics)
Baldini (Exiles)
Barnes, Bucky imposter (WW2, Midge)
Baron Strucker
Baron Zemo
Baron Zemo (Heinrich, 12th Baron Zemo)
Baron Zemo imposter (Franz Gruber)
Barracuda (Captain Barracuda)
Barton, Sally (Brute That Walks' lover)
Bat, The (Rawhide Kid foe)
Bates, Barney (cab driver)
Bates, Marina (Captain America character)
Bates, Mr. (Ra the Avenger victim)
Batroc the Leaper
Baxter, Mr. (Gigantus foe)
Baxu (Iron Man foe)
Beast (X-Men)
Beautiful Dreamer
Beaver Division (HYDRA)
Beehive (Enclave)
Beeper Dogs (Yashonka tech)
Benedict, Luther (Marvel horror)
Benson, Anne (Bruttu's lover)
Bentley (Simon Drudd's partner)
Bentley, Charles (X, the Thing That Lived creator)
Bentley, Edward (Scorpion foe)
Bernard the Poet (X-Men character)
Betatron Bomb (HYDRA weapon)
Betty Ross
Big Barda
Big Bear
Big Masai (Silver Star character)
Big Rock (Maggia, Fantastic Four foe)
Biggs (Captain America character)
Bill ?? (S.H.I.E.L.D. agent)
Black Bolt
Black Musketeers (Black Panther characters)
Black Musketeers (comics)
Black Panther (comics)
Black Racer (DC Comics)
Black Talon (WW2, Captain America foe)
Black Talon's gang (Captain America foes)
Black Toad (World War II era, Captain America)
Blake, Joe (Wyatt Earp ally)
Blips (Electrical beings)
Blob (comics)
Bolivar Trask
Bombu (pre-FF monster)
Boomerang (comics)
Boothroyd (S.H.I.E.L.D. weapons supplier)
Bor (Marvel Comics)
Borers (Negative Zone)
Boss Barker (Fantastic Four foe, Skrulls of Kral)
Boswell (Daredevil foe)
Boy Commandos
Brainosaur (Tony Stark invention)
Brenner, Wolfgang (Red Skull's servant)
Bri Berkley
Broadhurst, Dr. Oliver (roboticist)
Brogin, Bull (Terrible Trio)
Brok the Crusher (Warriors of a Thousand Galaxies)
Brona (Enchanters)
Brooklyn Badgers (Black Toad)
Brother Dickens (Night People)
Brother Harmony (Night People)
Brother Inquisitor (Night People)
Brother Joshua (Miracle Man)
Brother Peach Pie (Night People)
Brother Powerful (Night People)
Brother Tode
Brother Wonderful (Night People)
Brotherhood of Hades (Machine Man foes)
Brotherhood of Mutants
Brown-Back of Earth-78411 (Dinosaur World, Devil Dinosaur character)
Brown, Mary (encountered "Thing from the Hidden Swamp")
Bruno Mannheim
Brute That Walks (giant monster)
Bruttu (giant monster)
Bull (Captain America foe)
Bullet-Proof Man (Rawhide Kid foe)
Buri (Tiwaz)
Burner (comics)
Burner (Crucible, Mutant Force/Resistants member)
Butterfly (Captain America foe, WWII era)
C.I.A. Agents of Earth-7888
Cabbie (Fantastic Four character)
Cadavus, Franz (Exiles)
Camel Division (HYDRA)
Captain (Stone Men)
Captain 3-D
Captain America
Captain America imposter (Acrobat)
Captain America imposter (WW2, Duffer)
Captain America imposters (would-be fill-ins)
Captain Barracuda (Human Torch foe)
Captain from Texas (Old West hero, Captain America variant)
Captain Glory
Captain Kane (captured Experiment 247)
Captain Victory
Captive (Epsiloni)
Carter, John (Torr foe)
Carter, Professor (enemy of Krang)
Cartwright, John (Titan foe)
Cartwright, Victor (Dragoom foe)
Cartwright, Victor (Lizard Men foe)
cat-man (slave of Skrulls of Kral)
Cerberus (hellhound)
Challengers of the Unknown
Charles Xavier's Explorer Wheelchair (tank-tread wheelchair)
Charlie ?? (Fantastic Four character)
Charlie ?? (Gigantus foe)
Charlie ?? (Unus foe)
Chester Phillips
Cho ?? (Hu Sak's brother)
Chuda (Replicus creator)
Citadel of Science (Enclave)
Clayton, Adam (Strange Tales)
Coal Tiger
Coaxer (SHIELD technology)
Cohen, Isadore "Izzy" (Howling Commandos member)
Collectors/Council of Antiquarians (Black Panther characters)
Colonel Kuro Chin (SHIELD)
Colossus (super-computer)
Comicsville (2001 location)
Commander Hartnell (encountered Titano)
Commander Troga (Hunters of the Captive)
Comrade X (Ant-Man foe)
Conrad, Lewis (Taboo foe)
Contemplator (Elder of the Universe)
Conversion Chamber (Kiber's converter)
Cooper, Dan (Keeper foe)
Cooper, Fred (Lizard Men foe)
Corporation (Captain America foes)
Cosgrove of Earth-7888
Cosmic Power Siphon Harness (device of Dr. Doom)
Count Bornag Royale (SHIELD foe)
Count Tagar (New Men/New Immortals)
Craddock, H. Warren imposter (Skrull)
Crazy Quilt
Creature from Krangro (alien invader)
Creature from Planet X (Strange Worlds monster)
Creatures From Kosmos (Kosmosians)
Creatures from Krogarr (Tales to Astonish)
Crusaders (Marvel Comics)
Crusher (Hades, Thor#130)
Crypto-Man (Thor foe)
Crystal (comics)
Cummings, Diane (It's Amazing Crew, It the Living Colossus character)
Cummings, John (Dimension of Doom)
Curtiss, Lance (1960s sci-fi character)
Cyclops (X-Men)
Cyclops (Fantastic Four foe)
Cyclops (Tales of Suspense monster)
Dabney Donovan
Dalton, Amanda (18th century witch)
Dame Kackle (Golden Age, Defender foe)
Dan Turpin
Dancer, Ben (Two-Gun Kid's mentor)
Dane, Elias (horror character)
Danger Room
Darius Drumm (Silver Star foe)
Davis, Rocky (Yellow Claw foe)
Dawes, Harry (encountered Stone Men)
Death Master (Comicsville villain)
Deep Six (DC Comics)
Delphan Brothers
Demon (Thor foe)
Demon-Riders (Mogul, Thor characters)
Dempsey (High Evolutionary's first New Man)
Destroyer (Human Torch foe)
Destroyer Duck
Destructon (Captain America foe)
Deviant (comics)
Devil Dinosaur
Diablo (Fantastic Four foe)
Diablo (smoke creature, fifth dimension)
Dimension of Doom
Dimension Z (home of Living Eraser)
Dingbats of Danger Street
Dino Manelli
Dionysus (Marvel Comics)
Disintegrator (Blue City on the Moon)
disintegrator (King Solomon’s tomb)
Doctor Bedlam
Doctor Doom
Doctor Faustus (comics)
Doctor Murrow of Earth-1228 (Fantastic Four foe)
Doctor Parker (pre-FF scientist)
Domo (comics)
Doolittle, Abner (Captain America foe)
Doombots (Servo-Guard)
Dorrek VII (Skrull emperor, Avengers/Fantastic Four foe)
Doughboy (comics)
Dr. Doom's Killer Robots (Fantastic Four foes)
Dr. Grimm (WW2, Captain America foe)
Dr. Shrinker (Iron Man foe)
Dr. Steiner (operated Black Talon, WW2)
Dr. Strange (Iron Man foe)
Dr. Svenson (doctor, Avengers ally)
Dragon Man
Dragoom (pre-FF monster)
Dreaming Celestial
Dredmund Druid (Captain America/Nick Fury foe)
Dredmund the Druid
Drenkov, Igor (Hulk foe)
Drom the Spirit-Weaver (Warriors of a Thousand Galaxies)
Dromedan (Eternals foe)
Drudd, Simon (pre-FF scientist)
Druig (Eternals foe)
Dum Dum Dugan
Duncan ?? (encountered Cyclops (monster), pre-FF)
Earth-1228 (Earth-The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four)
Earth-7888 (Earth-M/Earth-Moebius) , Doc Savage & Snood
Edna McCoy
Eev of Earth-78411 (Devil Dinosaur/Moonboy ally)
Egghead (Ant-Man/Avengers/Defenders foe)
Ego the Living Planet
Electronic Mask (Fixer invention)
Electronic Mass Influencer (Xavier's device)
Elektro (giant robot)
Emotion Charger (used to disrupt Reed and Sue's wedding)
Encephalo-Gun (Fantastic Four item)
Enchanters (Thor foes)
Enclave (Fantastic Four foes)
Energy Globes (Kiber's life energy converters)
Epiderm-Mask (HYDRA technology)
Epsiloni (alien race)
Erskine, Abraham (Captain America character, Operation: Rebirth) - by G Morrow
Eson the Searcher
Eternals (comics)
Etrigan the Demon
Evans, Leslie (Groot foe)
Evelyn ?? (18th century, jealous of a witch)
Evil Eye (energy weapon)
Executioner (Thor foe-- no, not that one)
Exiles (Captain America foes)
Experiment 247 (giant turtle)
Experiment XYZ (giant turtle)
Fafnir of Nastrond (Thor foe)
Falcon Division (HYDRA)
False Face (fictional character) - by David Lawrence
Fantasti-Copter (seldom-used FF vehicle)
Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four of Earth-1228
Fantastic-Kids (young Fantastic Four fans)
Faraday, Mark (encountered Monstro)
Farnsworth, Lucius (horror character)
Farrington, Leslie (executive, Imperial Industries International)
Female Furies
Fenris Wolf (Asgardian monster)
Fenris Wolf (Marvel Comics)
Fields, Jerry (Franklin's son)
Fields, Judge Franklin (Machine Man ally)
Fields, Olivia (Franklin's daughter)
Fifth Dimension (home dimension of Xemu)
Fighting American
Fin Fang Foom
Fireproof Natives (Human Torch foes)
Fiske, Wilbur (1950s mutate)
Fixer (comics)
Flame Chariot (King Solomon’s Tomb)
Flec, Andreas (Chamber of Darkness character)
Florus Homo (World War 2, Vision (Aarkus) foe)
Fly (Archie Comics)
Flying Fortress (Dr. Doom's ship)
Followers (annoying devices of Dr. Doom)
Forager (comics)
Forever People
Forgotten One (Gilgamesh, Avengers member)
Forsung (Enchanters)
Fox (Human Torch foe)
Fox Division (HYDRA)
Fox, John (xd, 2000 AD prisoner)
Franklin Richards
Franklin Storm
Franklin, Buck (Destroyer host, Thor foe)
Fredricks, Lt. General (X-Men/Fantastic Four character)
Frightful Four
Funky Flashman
Fury, Nick LMDs (all of the pesky imitators!)
Gabe Jones
Galactus of Earth-7888 , Doc Savage & Snood
Galactus' Fantastic Four duplicates (cosmic re-creations)
Galp of the Steel Arm (Warriors of a Thousand Galaxies)
Gammenon the Gatherer
Gargantus (Iron Man foe)
Gargoyle (comics)
Garm (Galactic Bounty Hunters)
Garret Berkley
Gates, "Gunner" (Captain America foe)
General Argyle Fist (Defenders/Captain America character)
General Ching (Exiles)
General Chou (Yashonka)
General Fang (Hulk foe)
General Manor (WW2, Red Skull victim)
General Wo (Captain America foe)
Giant (Devil Dinosaur foe)
Giganto (Atlantean monster)
Giganto (Fantastic Four/Avengers foe)
Gigantus (Marvel monster)
Gimlet (Maggia, Fantastic Four foe)
Global Peace Agency
Globe of Ultimate Knowledge (Hulk/Uatu/Spider-Man stories)
Gloria ?? (encountered Trull the Unhuman)
Glorious Godfrey
Golden Angel (wrestler, Thing foe)
Golden Bull (ancient artifact, Thor/Daredevil stories)
Goliath (Gigantus)
Gomdulla (pre-FF monster)
Googam (Goom's son)
Goom (Tales of Suspense)
Gor-Kill (Marvel Monster, Tales of Suspense)
Gorgon (Inhuman)
Gorlion (Dr. Druid foe)
Gorro (Dr. Grimm experiment)
Grabber (Dr. Doom's device)
Graham, Dr. (Thor ally)
Granny Gardenia (Thor character)
Granny Goodness
Green Thing (Marvel monster)
Green Thing's creator
Gregory Gideon
Grey Gargoyle
Grogg (Marvel monster)
Grottu (monster)
Growing Man (Avengers foe)
Gruber (Journey into Mystery)
Grubnik, Hans (Gor-Kill foe)
Grumm, Boris (encountered Sazzik the Sorcerer)
Gruning, Eric (Exiles)
Gruto (pre-FF monster)
Guardian (DC Comics)
Guardian Robots (Servo-Guard)
Guerilla fighters (led by Hu Sak, Thor foes)
Gullin (Boar-god)
Gyro-Cruiser (Wakandan vehicle)
Hag of the Pits of Dinosaur World (Devil Dinosaur/Godzilla ally)
Haines, Dr. William (Machine Man co-creator)
Haines, Lou (Golden Age, Captain America foe)
Hamilton, Jerome (Enclave)
Hammer-Hand Androids (Synthoids)
Hangman (Captain America villain)
Hanson, Bart (encountered Trull the Unhuman)
Hanson, Joe (Creature from Krogarr foe)
Happy Sam Sawyer
Hargen the Measurer
Hargrove, Lewis (Red's brother)
Hargrove, Red (Nick Fury's best friend)
Harper, Dan (Pandora foe)
Harper, Diane (robot, Eric Krugg foe)
Harper, Joe (Xemnu the Titan foe)
Harris, Sam (pre-FF character)
Harrison, Edward (Conspiracy)
Hartnell, David (Stonians foe)
Hatch-22 (Six-Million Year Man)
Hate-Monger (Hitler clone-dealy-o)
Hauptmann, Gustav (Fantastic Four character)
Hawley, Evelyn (Pamela's mother)
Hawley, Pamela (Nick Fury lover)
Hawley, Peter (Pamela's father)
Heat-Image Tracer (Fantastic Four device)
Heimdall (Marvel Comics)
Heinz Kruger
Hela (Marvel Comics)
Helen ?? (Thorg foe)
Hellcat (Defenders member)
Henry Pym
Hephaestus (Marvel Comics)
Hera (Marvel Comics)
Hercules (Marvel Comics)
Herman ?? (one of Nick Scarpa’s men)
Hermes (Marvel Comics)
High Evolutionary
High Priest (encountered Gomdulla)
Hijacker (Ant-Man foe)
Hippolyta (Olympian goddess)
Hiram Girk (creator of Paratron)
Ho Yinsen
Hodges (Imperial Industries International)
Hover-Cycle (Fantastic Four vehicle)
Howling Commandos (World War II ranger squadron)
Hu Sak (Thor foe)
Hulk (comics)
Hulk Hogan (Two-Gun kid foe)
Hulk robot (Eternals, Thing/She-Hulk foe)
Human Torch (Johnny Storm)
Human Torch (Sol Brodsky) of Earth-1228
Human Torch duplicate (Galactus' Fantastic Four duplicates)
Hunter (HYDRA weapon)
Hunter, John (pre-FF character)
Hydra-Piller (HYDRA tanks)
Hydra-Ram (HYDRA/S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicle)
Hypno-Creature (Dimension of Doom)
Hypno-Fish (Atlantean fish)
Hypno-Gun (Maximus weapon)
I.B.P. (S.H.I.E.L.D. jet)
Iceberg Rocket (used against Hulk)
Iceman (comics)
Idunn (Asgardian goddess)
Idunn (comics)
Igan (patient/henchman of Dr. Grimm)
Ignatius, Paul (Avengers character)
Igron (Thor foe)
Image Projector (Avengers device)
Imperial Hydra
Impossible Man
Indestructible (Thor foe)
Infant Terrible (Fantastic Four foe)
Inferno-42 (A.I.M. weapon)
Infra-Red Machine (Strange Tales)
Inter-Continental Phone Hook-Up (Nick Fury device)
Invincible Man (Fantastic Four foe)
Invisible Girl (Florence Steinberg) of Earth-1228
Invisible Woman
Iron Hand Hauptmann (Exiles)
Iron Man
Ishanta (Black Musketeers)
Isle of Silence (Loki's sometime-base) & Proto-Man
It! The Living Colossus
Itobo, Joshua (Black Musketeers)
Ivan (Fantastic Four foe)
Jakarra (Black Panther foe)
Jane Foster
Jean Grey
Jed Walker
Jemiah the Analyzer
Jinku (Lava Men)
Jinni Devil (Mogul, Thor character)
Jiru (Black Panther character)
Joe ?? (Fantastic Four character)
Joe ?? (S.H.I.E.L.D. agent)
John ?? (encountered Roc)
Johnson, Frank (Zzutak creator/foe)
Johnson's monster (Zzutak foe)
Jones, Ricardo (Thing imposter)
Jordan (1960s ghost hunter)
Juggernaut (comics)
Jungle Action
Junior Juniper
Juniper, Jonathan "Junior" (Howling Commandos)
Kaa (Warlord Kaa, monster)
Kai-Mak (Vision (Aarkus) foe)
Kala (comics)
Kallusians (xt, Avengers foes)
Kane, Roderick of "Earth-62192" (would-be conqueror from the 51st century)
Kang the Conqueror
Kanto (comics)
Karnak (comics)
Kartu Kon (Astonishing character, alien)
Keeper (A.I.M., Cosmic Cube)
Keewazi Indians (Native American tribe)
Keibler Circus (circus, one-time home of the Hulk)
Keller, Dr. Martin (Gordon Sanders victim)
Kemperer Family of Earth-7888
Kenojuak, Aningan (Avengers character)
Khanata (Black Musketeers)
Khor (Vision (Aarkus) foe)
Kiber Island
Kiber the Cruel
Kiber's Guards (drones, Black Panther foes)
Kiber's prisoners
Kid Slugg
Kim ?? (Hu Sak's sister)
King Solomon’s Frog (time machine)
King Solomon’s Tomb
King Vladimir (predecessor of Dr. Doom)
Kingo Sunen
Klarion the Witch Boy
Klaw (Master of Sound, Black Panther/Avengers/Fantastic Four etc. foe)
Kligger (Corporation)
Knorda (Thor/Avengers/Fantastic Four character)
Knorda of Earth-1000
Knorda of Earth-8921
Kobra (comics)
Konrad Zaxon (Hulk foe)
Kosmosians (aliens)
Kozlov, Miklos (Grogg foe)
Kraa (Marvel monster)
Kragg, General (Machine Man friend/foe)
Krang (giant ant)
Krask, Kronin (Thor foe)
Kreig, James (Fantastic Four character)
Kringe (Brotherhood of Hades)
Kro (comics)
Kronans (Thor foes)
Krowe, Kharion (Yellow Claw servant)
Kruger, Heinz (Captain America foe)
Krugg, Eric (Journey into Mystery, robot creator)
Krumhauen, Luther (Journey into Mystery)
Krushki (Exiles)
Kuhn (Journey into Mystery)
Kurrgo (Fantastic Four foe)
Kurrgo's Robot
Lamp of Alaeddin (Alibar)
Land Crusher of Reality-78411 ("Sky Demons" weapon)
Langley, Billy (Mark's son)
Langley, Helen (Mark's wife)
Langley, Mark (Tales of Suspense)
Laufey (comics)
Laura ?? (encountered Gruto)
Lederer, Horst (Red Skull's servant)
Lenny ?? (Captain America foe, WWII era)
Leopard Division (HYDRA)
Lifter (Meteorite, Mutant Force/Resistants member)
Lindstrom of Earth-7888
Lindstrom, Professor (Yellow Claw character)
Linus ?? (Thorg foe)
Lippy Louie (Skrulls of Kral)
List of New Gods
Lithodia Rexians (pre-FF aliens)
Live Wire (Marvel Comics)
Living Eraser (Giant-Man foe)
Living Rock (Lava Men weapon)
Living Shadow (Warlord Kaa)
Living Talisman (Enchanters)
Living Totem (Rawhide Kid foe)
Lizard Men (Deviants, Monster Hunter foes)
Lizard Men of Tok (Microverse)
Llhupa (Golden Age, Vision foe)
Lo-Karr (pre-FF monster)
Lomm (Dr. Grimm's assistant)
Long-Legs (Devil Dinosaur foe)
Lord Ha-Ha (Howling Commandos foe)
Lord of Death (Captain America foe)
Lucas, Cyril (Captain America foe)
Lucas, Willie (Captain America character)
Lucifer (X-Men/Captain America/Iron Man foe)
Ludwig ?? (Krang foe)
Lurking Unknown (Fear-Lords)
Ma Slugg
Machine Man
Mad Thinker
Madame X (Comrade X)
Madbomb (Royalist Forces' weapon)
Magneto (pre-Fantastic Four character)
Magnir (Enchanters)
Magno-Man (slave of Skrulls of Kral)
Maha Yogi
Mainframe (Galactic Bounty Hunters)
Major Croy (WW2, Red Skull victim)
Major Douglas (WW2, Red Skull victim)
Major Uberhart (Nazi, Red Skull agent)
Male Model of Earth-7888 (Silver Surfer)
Mallon, "Crow" (Rawhide Kid foe)
Man-Fish (Captain America foe)
Man-Thing (Captain America foe)
Manelli, Dino (Howling Commandos member)
Manor, Mildred (General Manor's wife)
Mantis (DC Comics)
Maria ?? (Hulk character)
Marie (Andreas Flec's manikin)
Mark Moonrider
Marshall, Paul (pre-FF monster)
Marshall, Victor (Marvel monster hero)
Martian Who Stole A City (Tales of Suspense)
Martian Who Walks Among Us (Strange Tales)
Martin, "Machine Gun" (role model of Skrulls of Kral)
Mason, Jake (Bombu foe)
Master of Guile of Earth-7888
Mastermind (Jason Wyngarde)
Masters of Evil (Heinrich Zemo's)
Matter Mobilizer (device of Uatu)
Maulers (rival squad of the Howling Commandos)
Maxie ?? (Unus' trainer)
Maximus (comics)
McGiveney, Sgt. Bull (Maulers leader)
Mean Machine (Ten-For)
Mechanical Gladiator (Hulk foe)
Mechano-Monster (Kronans robot)
Medusa (Inhumans)
Medusa D'Bari (Avengers foe)
Metallo (horror character)
Midnight Monster (Journey into Mystery)
Miller, Dr. Bradford (Silver Star character)
Miller, Nan (encountered Don Russell)
Miller, Steve (Nan's husband)
Mind Master (Brotherhood of Hades)
Miracle Man
Mister Fantastic
Mister Miracle
Mister Miracle (Shilo Norman)
Mister One & Mister Two (Captain America characters)
Mitchell, Dan (encountered Gruto)
Mogul of the Mystic Mountain (Thor foe)
Mole Division (HYDRA)
Mole Man
Molecule Man
Molten Man-Thing (Fantastic Four foe)
Molto (Lava Man)
Mongu (Hulk foe)
Monk (WW2, Black Talon's gang)
Monocle (Fantastic Four/Spider-Man foe)
Monster (At My Window) (pre-FF monster)
Monster (Escapes) (pre-FF alien)
Monster (pre-FF monster)
Monster from the Lost Lagoon (Fantastic Four/Power Pack character)
Monster in the Iron Mask (alien villain)
Monster in the Iron Mask (Pre-FF monster)
monster robot (Yashonka tech)
Monster That Walked Like A Man (Gigantus)
Monsteroso (micro-monster)
Monsteroso (monster)
Monsters of Zero Street (Night People foes)
Monstro (pre-FF monster)
Monstrom (swamp monster)
Moomba (monster)
Moon Tractor (Tony Stark invention)
Morgaine le Fey (DC Comics)
Morgan Edge
Morgan, Philip
Morgan's Monster (Strange Tales)
Morlak, Maris (Enclave)
Morrison, Henry (encountered Kartu Kon)
Mourner, Silas (Council of Antiquarians)
Mr. Fantastic (Stan Lee) of Earth-1228
Mr. Fantastic duplicate (Galactus' Fantastic Four duplicates)
Mr. Hotline (Brotherhood of Hades)
Mr. Scarlet
Munch, Heinrich (Thing Called IT creator/host)
Murder Machine (Fantastic Four foe)
Mutant Force (Brotherhood of Evil Mutants/Resistants members)
Mutate leader
Mutates of "Earth-69362" (Thor foes)
Mutaurus (Mogul, Thor character)
Mystic Mogul (Mogul)
N'Gassi (Black Panther)
Napoleon G. Robberson (Skrulls of Kral)
Nazi Sleepers 1-3 (original Sleepers)
Necrophone (Victor von Doom invention)
Nega-Man (Janus)
Neuron-Magnet (used against Hulk)
Neutralizer (Tony Sark invention)
New Gods
Newsboy Legion
Nezarr the Calculator
Nick Fury
Night Flyer (Captain America foe)
Night People (Captain America foes/allies)
Norma Richmond (Silver Star character)
North, Dr. John (Kronin Krask foe)
Norton McCoy
Nuclear Measuring Device (Mr. Fantastic invention)
Octo-Monster (Lizard Men)
Octo-Sapien (Hulk foe)
Odin (comics)
Ogar (guardian of King Solomon’s Tomb)
Ogur (Mogul, Thor character)
Olympians (Marvel Comics)
OMAC (Buddy Blank)
Omar (Sando's partner, Captain America/Bucky foe)
Omni-Bots (Servo-Guard)
One Above All
Oneg the Prober
Oog (pre-FF monster)
Operation: Artificial Powers (Fantastic Four power sims)
Orikal (Thor character)
Orion (comics)
Orion Missile (invented by Bruce Banner)
Orrgo (Defenders foe, pre-Marvel monster)
Other Earth (Fantastic Four story)
Overkill Horn (SHIELD/Hydra weapon)
Owl Division (HYDRA)
P184 (alternate future spacecraft)
Pacifier (Dr. Doom's robot)
Pacion Rex (Gruto's homeworld)
Painter of a Thousand Perils (Human Torch foe)
Pan (Olympian god)
Pandora (greek myth)
Paratron (Machine Man foe)
Parker, Mr. (Ra the Avenger victim)
Paul ?? (encountered Gomdulla)
Pearla (Fantastic Four character)
Peeper (Occult, Mutant Force/Resistants member)
Phantom Hound of Cardiff Moor (Golden Age, Captain America foe)
Phil ?? (encountered Trull the Unhuman)
Phillips, Harry (Terrible Trio)
Phineas (ruler of the Fifth Dimension)
Phobos (Galactic Bounty Hunters)
Phosgene gas capsules (Yashonka tech)
Pigman, Nigel (Council of Antiquarians)
Pinky Pinkerton
Pluto (Marvel Comics)
Poker Face (1950s alien)
Poole, Wilbur (creator of Elektro)
Portable Distorters (S.H.I.E.L.D. technology)
Power Broker
Power Drill (Red Skull weapon)
Prester John (Fantastic Four character) - by Per Degaton, Snood
Prime Computer of Earth-78411 (Devil Dinosaur/Moonboy foe)
primitoid (slave of Skrulls of Kral)
Princess Adora (Comicsville character)
Princess Zanda (Black Panther character)
Professor (toymaker, Fantastic Four character)
Professor Briggs (old friend of Dr. Parker)
Professor X
Project: Vanish (military weapon, World War 2)
prospecting equipment
Protector (Ant-Man foe)
Punisher (Galactus agent)
Punisher (Galactus)
Puppet Master
Q-Bomb (Wizard's weapon)
Queely, Alfred (Council of Antiquarians)
Quicksilver (comics)
Quon (xt, Monster from the Lost Lagoon)
Ra the Avenger (Captain America foe)
Radar Crab (Fixer invention)
Radioactive Man
Ralston, Robert "Reb" (Howling Commandos member)
Rama-Tut (Nathaniel Richards, Immortus aspect)
Ramsey, Paul (Torr foe)
Randall Darby
Ransak the Reject
Rawhide Kid
Rawlings, Cedric (Captain America foe)
Rawlings, Celia (Cedric's sister)
Rebel Ralston
Red Ghost
Red Skull
Red Skull (George Maxon, Captain America foe)
Red Wolf (Apache brave, Rawhide Kid foe)
Redmond, John (18th century, loved a witch)
Reds who imprisoned Thor (Thor foes)
Reducta-Craft (Fantastic Four vehicle)
Replicus (Thor foe)
Restora-Tank (SHIELD technology)
Rhino Division (HYDRA)
Rhino Tank (HYDRA vehicle)
Rhinogron (slave of Skrulls of Kral)
Rick Jones (comics)
Riggley, Bernard (Black Toad)
Robot X (Amazing Adventures/Doc Samson character)
robots (servants of Robot X)
Roc (pre-FF monster)
Rocco (Fantastic Four foe)
Rodgers, Paul (Scorpion foe)
Rogers, Steve LMD (Captain America foe)
Romita, Johnny of Earth-1228 (Fantastic Four character)
Rommbu (pre-FF monster)
Ronan the Accuser
Rorgg (King of the Spider Men)
Rose Berkley
Rrorgo (alternate future xt race)
Ruby of the Nile (found by Ra the Avenger, Captain America story)
Ruka (Devil Dinosaur foe)
Ruler of Earth (Pre-Marvel sci-fi character)
Russell, Don (xt conqueror)
Rusty (Hulk robot creator)
S.H.I.E.L.D. Barbershop (front for headquarters)
S.H.I.E.L.D. Flying Wedge (S.H.I.E.L.D. technology)
Saguta (Mogul)
Sam ?? (S.H.I.E.L.D. Barbershop)
Sanders, Gordon (Golden Age, Vision foe)
Sandman (DC Comics)
Sandman (Journey into Mystery)
Sando (World War II, Captain America/Bucky foe) - by David Lawrence
Sandu (Thor foe)
Satan's Eggs (Dredmund's combat vehicles)
Sawyer, Samuel (General, commanding officer of the Howling Commandos)
Sazzik the Sorcerer (15th century sorcerer)
Scarlet Beetle (Ant-Man foe)
Scarlet Witch
Scarpa, Nick (Black Panther foe)
Scavenger (Mad Thinker's Monster Android)
Scorpion (Marvel Comics)
Scorpion (pre-FF monster)
Sea Dragon Division (HYDRA)
Section Leader B (HYDRA)
Section Leader B's replacement (HYDRA)
Seeker (comics)
Seeker (Inhumans foe)
Seidring (Thor foe)
Sentry (Kree)
Sentry #459 (Kree robot)
Servo-Guards (Dr. Doom's robot servants)
Servo-Units (Servo-Guards)
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos
Shadow Men/Soldiers/Warriors (Shadow Realm, agents of Warlord Kaa)
Shadow Realm (Shadowverse, alien dimension)
Shagg (Journey into Mystery)
Shalla Bal of Earth-7888
Sharon Carter
Shellshock (Thing foe)
Shezada (Mogul's sister)
Shinski, Wladyslav (Enclave)
Shocker (Mutant Force/Resistants member)
Sif (comics)
Sigmar (Marvel Comics)
Silent Fox (Keewazi chief, Wyatt Wingfoot's grandfather)
Silent Ones (Trolls of the Isle of Silence)
Silver Star
Silver Surfer
Silver Surfer of Earth-7888
Sir Porga (New Men)
Sister Gladiola (Night People)
Sister Sweet (Night People)
Six Million Year Man (Black Panther foe) - by Omar Karindu
Skagg (Storm Giant)
Skateboard Unit (HYDRA Tigers)
Skoll (Wolf god)
Skrull slave-master (Skrulls of Kral)
Skrulls of Earth-1228 (Fantastic Four foes)
Skrulls of Kral (Fantastic Four characters)
Sky Demons of Reality-78411 (Devil Dinosaur/Moonboy foes)
Sky Masters
Slagg (Daredevil/Ka-Zar foe)
slaves of the Skrullls of Kral
Slim (S.H.I.E.L.D. Barbershop)
Slither (comics)
Slither (Mutant Force/Fangs/Serpent Society member)
Slug (Golden Age, Red Skull henchman)
Slugger Sykes (Thor foe)
Smith, Tom (Teen Brigade, Rick Jones foe)
Sniper (Captain America foe)
Solar Guns (Yashonka tech)
Sonic Disruptor (Skrulls of Kral)
Sonny Sumo
Sorcerer (Human Torch foe)
Space Phantom
Spade, Mr. (associate of the "Professor")
Spider (WW2, Black Talon's gang)
Spliny (Fantastic Four character)
Sporr (pre-FF monster)
Spot (Zetora foe)
Sprite (Eternal)
Static Distorter (Fixer invention)
Steel, David (Vision (Aarkus) character)
Steppenwolf (comics)
Stimulator (Fantastic Four device)
Stone Men (pre-FF aliens)
Stone Men From Saturn (Kronans)
Stone-Hand of Earth-78411 (Dinosaur World) (Devil Dinosaur/Moonboy ally)
Stonewell, George (Howling Commandos, replacement member)
Stonians (Gorgolla's race)
Stranger (comics)
Strangler Burns (hand given to Black Talon, WW2)
Street Punks of Earth-7888
Sub-Atronic Time Displacer (device of Uatu)
Sub-Mariner of Earth-1228 (Fantastic Four character)
Sulibeg (servant of Mogul)
Sunday Punch Missile (used against Hulk)
Super-Adaptoid (Captain America/Avengers foe) - by SQUEAK
Super-Synthoids (AIM Synthoids)
Supremacy (king of Dimension Z)
Surtur (Marvel Comics)
Swarmers of Earth-78411 (Dinosaur World, Devil Dinosaur foes)
Swine (Captain America foe)
Synthoids (AIM creations)
Taboo (Marvel monster)
Tagar (Count Tagar)
Tartarus (realm of Pluto)
Taurey, William (Royalist Forces)
Taxtor (slave of Skrulls of Kral)
Taylor, Frank (alien champion foe)
Tefral the Surveyor
Temujai (Yellow Claw weapon)
Ten-For (Machine Man foe)
Terrible Trio (Fantastic Four foes)
Thatcher, "Thug" (Thor foe)
Theos (Fifth Dimension)
thermal bombs (Yashonka tech)
Thermal Man (Thor foe)
Thing (Ben Grimm)
Thing (Jack Kirby) of Earth-1228
Thing Called IT (pre-FF monster)
Thing duplicate (Galactus' Fantastic Four duplicates)
Thing from the Hidden Swamp (Kirby monster)
Thing robot (Operaton: Artificial Powers)
Things in the Box (Pandora's servants)
Thor (Marvel Comics)
Thorg (pre-FF monster)
Thought Projector Helmet (Mr. Fantastic invention)
Thru-the-Ground Tank (Fixer/Mentallo weapon)
Thunderbolt Ross
Tiger Division (HYDRA)
Tigra (DC Comics)
Time Reversal Ray (Mr. Hyde's device) & John Kaminski
Time-Warp Traveller (Comicsville device)
Titan (Avengers foe)
Titano (pre-FF monster)
Toad (comics)
Tomazooma (robot, Fantastic Four foe)
Tomb of the Pharao (Ra the Avenger, Captain America story)
Tommy ?? (Fantastic Four fan)
Top Man (Maggia, Fantastic Four foe)
Torgo (Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Wolverine character)
Torr (Marvel monster)
Tower of Death of Earth-78411 (Dinosaur World, Swarmers)
Transfer Grid
Transistorized Detector (Fantastic Four device)
Tri-di-roentgen hand-gun (SHIELD technology)
Tricephalous (Fantastic Four foe)
Triton (Inhuman)
Trull the Unhuman (pre-FF alien)
Tumbler (John Keane, Captain America foe)
Tutinax (Eternals foe)
Two-Gun Kid
Tyr (Galactic Bounty Hunters)
Tyr of the Burning Blade (Warriors of a Thousand Galaxies)
U-Car (underwater FF vehicle)
Ufo (Yellow Claw character)
Ufo's Flying Saucer
Ultra-Sonic Radio Transmitter (Fantastic Four device)
Ulvar (Gigantus "foe")
Unknown (Lurking Unknown)
Unus the Untouchable
Urrpo-Fish (Poppupian fish)
Valeria (princess of Fifth Dimension)
Valley of Diamonds (Mole Man's kingdom)
Van Doom, Ludwig
Van Doom's Monster (Marvel monster)
Vandergill, Vincent (Imperial Industries International)
Veda (Corporation)
Venusian (Strange Tales)
Vira (Queen of the Deviants)
Virman Vundabar
Vision (Timely Comics)
Volla (comics)
von Doom, Werner (Dr. Doom's father)
Von Vile, Wilhelm (Painter of a Thousand Perils)
Vortex Bomb (Hydra weapon)
Wade, Barnaby (Yellow Claw character)
Wanderer (Prester John)
Warlord Kaa (monster)
Warlord Morrat (Fantastic Four foe)
Warner, Tracy (Machine Man ally)
Warren Worthington III
Warren, John (Zetora foe)
Warrior Guardians (guarded King Solomon’s Tomb)
Warriors of a Thousand Galaxies (Thor foes)
Warriors Three
Wasp (Avengers)
Wazir (Asgard, Thor character)
Weems, Wilbur (encountered a ghost)
Wentworth, Charles J. (Robot X foe, Martian invader)
White Zero (Comicsville hero)
White-Hair of Earth-78411 (Devil Dinosarur ally)
Wild Bill (S.H.I.E.L.D. robot)
Wilkes, Jonathan (Robot X creator)
Williams, Warden (Fantastic Four character)
Willie ?? (Teen Brigade)
Willie Lumpkin
Wilson (Imperial Industries International)
Wizard (Marvel Comics)
Wolfe, Hedy (Hellcat character)
Woman of Earth-7888
Wonder Man
Wrecker (Fantastic Four foe)
Wrecker (Thor foe)
Wrecker's Robot
Wyatt Wingfoot
X, the Thing That Lived (Marvel Monster)
Xantha (xt race, Fantastic Four characters)
Xemnu the Titan (Kirby monster, Hulk/She-Hulk foe)
Xemu (Human Torch foe)
Xom (Atlas era alien)
Yagg the Slayer (Thor foe)
Yancy Street Gang
Yashonka (Captain America foes)
Yellow-Crested Titans (Olympian creatures)
Yeti (Inhumans, First Line)
Yirbek (xt, Skrull allies)
Ymir (Marvel Comics)
Yogi Dakor (Terrible Trio)
Yucoya-Tzin (Zzutak controller)
Z-Ray (Yashonka tech)
Z-Rays (Cedric Rawlings' radiation)
Zamora, Darius (Journey into Mystery)
Zamu (Dr. Druid foe)
Zanadu/Zandu/Xandu (the Mystic Mountain)
Zarkorr (pre-Marvel Tales of Suspense character)
Zelda ?? (Iceman girlfriend)
Zemo, Heinrich (12th Baron Zemo)
Zemo's pilot (Zemo imposter)
Zero Street (home of Night People)
Zetora (pre-FF Martian)
Zeus (Marvel Comics)
Ziran the Tester
zombies (created by Lord of Death)
Zorr (Fantastic Four character)
Zota, Carlo (Enclave)
Zuni (Black Musketeers)

Happy Jack Kirby Day!

Today would have been Jack Kirby's 95th birthday. He's often remembered for essentially creating the Marvel universe, which is indeed impressive and note-worthy, but he did SO much more, it's almost impossible to underestimate his importance.

I never met Jack. He was in his 70s before I went to a comic convention of any sort, and died while I was self-absorbed in college. But of course I knew of Jack through his work, both what he himself worked on and through the characters he created but were worked on by others. One of his legacies is that he was just so damned prolific that you almost couldn't help but run across his influence in some capacity.

But here's something that, to this day, astounds and inspires me. His best known work -- creating the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, etc. -- he didn't start doing any of that until he was in his mid-40s. Jack Kirby was 44 when he created the Fantastic Four. Four years older than I am now. Oh, he had plenty of successes under his belt by then, to be sure, but that was all basically just warm-up. He'd only just started really cutting loose.

And it would be almost ten years later when he threw the Fourth World out to the planet. He was in his mid-50s! When many people are thinking about slowing down or looking forward toward retirement, Jack's still cranking out work like nobody else!

I've heard that many people who were inspired by Jack's work took their drawings to him to see what he thought. And regardless of their skill level, he'd try to find something positive to say and encourage them. But in those encouragements, he also tried to tell them NOT to copy him. Not that he was offended, or felt there was any sort of competition, but he wanted people to create IN THEIR OWN VOICE. He wanted to see people inspired to be who they were, not who they tried to copy. Don't try to be the best Jack Kirby you could be, because you'd only be a clone of somebody; try to be the best YOU you can be, because no one is going to be able to replicate that.

That's advice I've heeded myself over many years. Although I can't say for certain, I think the idea was swirling around in my brain at some level at least since high school. I'm not out here trying to be a second-rate Heidi MacDonald or Tom Spurgeon. I'm not trying to copy Peter Sanderson or Will Murray. They do what they do, better than I ever could.

I'm out here, doing my own thing, living my own life, being the best Sean Kleefeld I can be. I'm not drawing comics, like I thought I would when I was 12. I'm not writing comics, an idea that I liked when I was 27. But I'm doing what I do, whatever it is that this is. And that was inspired, at least in part, by Jack Kirby's example. I'd like to think he'd be pleased.

Besides, I've still got four more years to create something as mind-bogglingly ground-breaking as the Fantastic Four.

Monday, August 27, 2012

LCS Promo Idea

Though I missed it (again), this past weekend up in Chicago was Terry-Con 2012. It's not a large convention, so I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard of it. In fact, it's pretty much limited to one neighborhood in the Chicago area, so there's a good chance you don't know about it unless you visit (or knows someone who visits) Third Coast Comics.

Here's how TCC owner Terry Gant described this year's event...
For those who do not know, TC2012 is simply my birthday party BUT instead of going to a bar and being limited in my entertainment, I throw a party full of all the things I love and invite all of you to, for one day, enjoy those things with me!

This year, we're including some HP Lovecraft, Bruce Willis and Lucha Libre, among other things!

I'm a pretty big music fan as well as a comics fan and running a comic shop doesn't allow me the time I used to have for going to live shows BUT this year at Terry Con, one of my favorite musicians, local guitarist, Joey Derus is performing in store at 4PM!

This is really an elaborate way to get you to meet comics writer & drummer of Daemon Familiar, Wendi Freeman who's here to introduce you to the comic, Bandtholgy! She'll be here for you at 2PM

We'll also have Tom Kelly in the house at 2PM doing sketches of your favorite characters as..."Kitties" you've seen around the shop!

Movies, Games, Grilling, Wrestling, Live Music, Comics, Art, Doctor Who, and More, all in the Shop & Courtyard of Third Coast Comics!
He's essentially turned his birthday into a store event. Which, I might note, is a distinctly separate event from the shop's anniversary earlier in the month!

There's a couple of take-aways I'd like to point out from the idea. First, Third Coast has plenty of events going on at the store all the time -- from large, annual bashes like this to weekly knitting nights. They're creating/have created a destination that people return to as a gathering place specifically to meet with other people. The notion of comics and pop culture is basically just a veneer around which they superficially congregate. The REAL reason people keep returning is to see the other people who are also there.

Second, this particular event is very much tied to the owner. It's his birthday party, after all! He's recognizing that his shop is an extension of himself, and that he is one of those people others keep returning to see. You go in the shop as much to see Terry as you do to buy comics, even when there isn't an event. You see this with a lot of the bigger, long-established shops too -- the owners are significant personalities themselves: James Sime, Joe Field, Brian Hibbs, etc.

Just some things to think about it you think you're just selling comics.

Catching Up

My apologies for suddenly being largely offline this past weekend. I'll try to be doing to some catch-up here shortly. To start, here's the Peanuts strip running today...
Does it strike anyone else as odd that Sally Brown calls her brother by his full name? Did Sparky find he had written himself into an awkward situation when he realized that EVERYBODY called Charlie Brown "Charlie Brown"? To my recollection, the TV specials all had Sally's dialogue so she always called him "Big Brother" likely to avoid this exact situation. Is that why Charles Schulz would introduce Peppermint Patty and Marcie as calling him "Chuck" and "Charles" respectively? Just to make a change from sometimes awkward situations like the above?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lessons Webcomics Can Learn From Comic Strips

Webcomics, in a broad sense, have something for everyone. There's a wide variety of genres, styles, tones, frequency... Personally, I try to read a bit of a range of material, but I obviously have my own preferences and biases. And with new webcomics coming online all the time, I try to check out new ones as I find them.

What I typically do when I discover a webcomic I hadn't been reading is flip through the previous dozen or so installments. Any single day's comic might happen to be from when the creator was having an off day, so I figure the dozen give me a better sense of the overall gist of things. This is easier with non-continuity-laden strips, of course, but serial ones still usually provide enough to get the feel for it even if I don't understand everything.

I noted, a couple years ago, how insular and self-referential Marvel comics had seemed to become. I'm not sure if that notion is really commonly accepted among fans but I know I've seen the complaint from comics folks on the outside trying to look in. That's one of the reasons readership isn't growing -- the stories themselves are often written in such a way that precludes invitation to the readers, EVEN IF all the basic facts are provided in-story. The stories read very much like they're written for people who are already comfortable and familiar with the entire backstory and, if you're not, well, then you're just out of luck; we didn't want your kind around here any way.

I think this is a commonly acknowledged issue for comic fans who aren't completely and solely invested in Marvel and/or DC. So I have to wonder why you write a webcomic that way?

I finally gave up on Wapsi Square, which I've been trying to wade through for the past several months. I liked the style and tone, and the art was well done. It seemed like the type of strip I'd enjoy. And the day-to-day storytelling works well, especially considering how few panels usually get posted at a time. I got a decent sense of the characters, and seemed to be following along well enough, but...

It felt like that same wall I was talking about in that Fantastic Four comic from before. Like a lot of the story was predicated on my having a deep understanding of everything that's happened in the past 10+ years it's been running. Like he's got enough readers and doesn't need any late-comers like me, thankyouverymuch. I doubt that's intentional, and, even if it is, I don't have any reason to think creator Paul Taylor would be anything other than pragmatic about it. He's likely just telling the story he wants to tell.

There's nothing wrong with creating an elaborate backstory that takes place before your readers join the story. Star Wars: A New Hope is a prime example of how it can be done well. It starts off in the middle of a Darth Vader capturing Princess Leia's ship, demanding to know what she's done with the plans for the Death Star. There's obviously a lot that went on to get to that point, and viewers are told bits and pieces of it ("You fought in the Clone Wars?") but nothing tethered to appreciating what's going on right now. (All viewers need to know about the Clone Wars for that movie is that it impressed Luke.)

But, if you refer to the backstory only obliquely, you can't expect new readers to come on board if your current story is entirely dependent upon it. Star Wars: A New Hope would not work if you first started watching an hour into it. Yes, most webcomics have their entire archives freely available, but who's going to read through a decade's worth of strips to figure out today's? Not me, certainly. A year, maybe two, I'll sort through. Ten? No.

I might suggest webcomic creators -- at least the ones creating serialized work -- go back and read some of the great continuity strips from back in the day. Little Nemo in Wonderland, Little Orphan Annie, Wash Tubbs, anything by Milt Caniff... Whether you like the art or the story or the characters or not, they did do a good job of making the stories accessible to new readers. They might start in the middle of a storyline, but they were given everything they needed to know to hop in and follow along.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Comics On Kindle Touch

My folks got me a Kindle Touch for my birthday this year. If you're not up on your e-readers, it's the smaller (i.e. lighter and easier to carry) version of the Kindle with a completely touch-screen interface. It's got a lower resolution than the latest iPad, but it's higher than the iPad 2.

What first struck me is that, overall, graphics look pretty slick on the Touch. When it's idle for an extended period, the 'screen saver' kicks in and displays promos for the latest books, showing often elaborate covers. This, not surprisingly, looks good with other graphics as well. Books that contain diagrams or photos, as well as ones that made entirely of graphics (i.e. comics and children's books).

The interface is smooth, just touch on the right half of the screen to page forward and the left half to page backwards. A broader, universal menu can be accessed by tapped the top 1/2 inch or so of the screen. The only physical buttons are the power switch and a "back to home" button.

The Kindle reads both books specifically designed for e-readers, purchased through Amazon, or any PDF you care to load. All files are downloaded wirelessly, either through wi-fi or a G3 network. Each account has an email address that you can send files to, so you have a good deal of flexibility in terms of getting files to your Kindle, regardless of where you are. Files begin downloading as soon as your device is within range of a viable network.

The screen is crisp and clear. Very easily readable. It's size and weight make it comfortable to hold and carry around. It's actually small enough to slip into my back pocket. Allegedly it's possible to load 3000 books onto the device itself, though I haven't had a chance to test that limit yet. If you've got an e-book, particularly several that you're trying to read, it makes for a very handy and useful unit.

Now, despite the clear screen and good resolution, comics seem to be a bit hit or miss from those I've sampled so far. While the graphics themselves display well, the Kindle seems to want to make a full page graphics shrink to fit the size of the screen. And, while you can scale the fonts for regular e-books, the zooming ability on images is limited, making it a bit difficult to read normally formatted comics on the device.

That said, I discovered tonight, while I was writing this, a book called Formatting Comics for the Kindle and Nook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Images and Ebooks. My cursory scan through suggests that pamphlet comics simply don't translate well into the Kindle (or Nook) without some modifications. I'll try to provide a full review of the book once I actually read through it.

Overall, it doesn't appear to be an ideal device for reading comics; however, I've only been playing with it for less than a week and simply may not have found any comics that have actually been formatted for the device. Indeed, I'm pretty sure I haven't. But prose books work very well, even those with the occasional photo or illustration. I've already got several comics-related books downloaded, including a biography of Jim Mooney, transcripts from some of the trials surrounding Superman as an intellectual property, and a couple of academic collections of essays on the medium. Hopefully, that means I'll be able to read and review more books here, although I suspect time will not be doing me any favors any time soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Links From Around The Web

  • Here's a piece recounting how Jack Kirby did designed for the never-realized Science Fiction Land theme park, which includes newspaper scans from the time. Somewhat curiously, no mention is made of how that later became part of the basis for Argo.
  • Tom Brevoort's alma mater does a nice retrospective on the Marvel editor.
  • 20th Century Danny Boy relays a 1975 roundtable with Jack Kirby, Walter Gibson and Jim Steranko moderated by Phil Seuling.
  • Marc Tyler Nobleman relays some of the specifics of Bill Finger's death by way of his death certificate and the medical examiner's report.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Importance Of Character

When I get home from work, I usually fix dinner and sit down to watch a half hour or so of something online. I generally shoot for something that I'm hoping to get some broader cultural awareness of/for, rather than whatever I happen to find. That's not to say I go all high-brow, just that I make my choices very consciously based on something I'm trying to understand, even if that's just some niche part of pop culture. A couple years ago, I went through Blake's 7, not because I particularly liked it (I didn't) but I've read enough about it in talks about science fiction fans that I felt it necessary to watch through them to gain a better understanding of what they were talking about.

Lately, I've been mostly alternating between Return to the Planet of the Apes and Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes. The FF cartoon was intended to be a modern, updated version of the team, strongly influenced by anime; though it came out not long after the live action movie, there's no real connection to it other than the base premise. Return to POTA was the last attempt to tap into the original POTA popularity in the early- to mid-1970s by way of an as-cheap-as-you-can-make-it Saturday morning cartoon.

I vaguely recall watching the first couple of FF episodes when they came out, and quickly turned it off, thinking they did a terrible job with it. I've returned to it now, because it occurred to me that I was perhaps TOO invested in the characters at the time, and I may have been unduly harsh on the show because of it. But looking at it now, I will say that I don't think my original judgement was misplaced. The new character designs are okay, and the combination of computer and traditional animation looks a bit dated but it's understandable. The animation is decent for the type of show that it was. But the characters -- every one of them -- feels completely hollow. It's taken me a while to figure out why, but it boils down to the writers giving each character a single, defining trait. And that's it. There is no depth to any of the characters at all. I thought perhaps it was the actors reading poorly, and coming across as flat, but as I continued watching, I realized that they had almost nothing to work with. There is no reason for me to care about these characters, because there's no way I can get to know them. There's nothing TO know.

And what really struck me is watching this in direct comparison to Return to POTA. The show was produced by DePatie-Freleng (with designs by Doug Wildey) and they did quite a bit to cut costs on the show. There were a lot of long pans across static landscapes, repeated reuse of animations, and little movement of the animations that were present. Consequently, the show was sometimes a bit slow and ponderous. Despite that, however, it still proved to be more engaging than The Fantastic Four because the characters all had depth to them. Not a lot -- there were only thirteen 25 minute episodes -- but they often faced moral quandaries and internal conflicts that needed to be resolved in some manner. Which meant that, despite the slow pace and more cost-conscious animation, Return to POTA winds up being a more enjoyable show than one with more action, a quicker pace and characters I have a deeper history with.

My point is characterization is really important. You can do stories which may not have the best production values, but if they lack character, if your audience doesn't feel like they're getting "real" people, you're going to wind up with a pile of drek that even die-hard fans won't like. When the FF cartoon first aired, it got yanked after only eight episodes. When it came back the following year, it got yanked again after nine episodes. The remaining nine episodes (which had already been completed) weren't shown. No explanation was ever given, but I think it's safe to assume that everyone recognized that the final product simply wasn't very good. And even if they couldn't pinpoint why, they inherently knew that a lack of depth, a lack of character, made the show more flat than the still lifes in Return to POTA even though World's Greatest Heroes used a 3-D modeled New York as its backdrop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Officially Taking The Night Off

I usually don't bother too much with birthdays and such, but I'm going to take the night off from blogging. You only turn 40 once, after all!

Regular posting to resume tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Curious Find

I was in Target today and ran across this endcap...
This Art 101 series of packages on how to use various media -- oils, pastels, watercolors, etc. Nothing very complex, obviously, judging by the size of the boxes and the fact that they're being sold in a Target endcap. But they are clearly labeled as "Art 101" and thus they're implied to be pretty introductory lessons. But that first one on the shelf, "Manga Cartooning", seems distinctly out of place with the others. Even checking against the cross-sell promotions on the back of the boxes, it was the only one teaching a very specific style within a broader medium, compared to teaching a medium in and of itself.

I'm left wondering what exactly they were thinking. Cashing in popularity seems a little bit of stretch because if you were doing that, why bother with all of those formats? And how would manga be that different from the course on drawing?

Things that make you go hmmm.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sky Masters... In Color!

Sky Masters of the Space Force has got to be the most under-appreciated work in Jack Kirby's career. It's got absolutely brilliant illustration and storytelling, particularly for a newspaper strip; the Wally Wood inks from the earlier part of the run are gorgeous; it's also probably one Kirby's most-ground-in-actual-science works, but still has a grand sense of adventure and exploration. It's a real shame that legal difficulties kept the strip from running longer.

Greg Theakston has probably done the most work keeping any interest in the strip alive and well, having retouched and republished the series multiple times. I think he came out with a two-volume version last year. But he also recently posted some scans on Facebook that I'd like to examine here.

First, here's a black and white copy of the strip that originally ran on May 31, 1959, taken from the British Express Weekly...
It looks fantastic, I think (even though the Theakston-printed versions are MUCH cleaner) but it's not how it originally ran. It was originally a Sunday strip and thus in color. But, color printing being a little pricier and the daily strips being in black and white anyway, this is how it's generally been seen/reprinted.

So here's Kirby's (slightly cropped on the scanner) color guide to the same strip...
Kirby was, of course, dealing with 1950s newspaper printing technology, so he's mostly using a bright color palette. Lots of yellows and reds; the blues are more on the cyan side. The newspaper folks took Kirby's color guide and made their color plates based on that. Here's what the engravers sent back as a color proof...
You can see they've basically stayed true to Kirby's original, but cleaned up some of the bleeding edges and unified the slight variations from Kirby's watercolors into solid blocks. The only really significant change is in the caption box of the first panel in the third tier; I have no idea why they opted for muted purple-ish color instead of the orange that Kirby specified.

Finally, here's a scan of what was ultimately printed...
You can easily see how muted the overall palette looks on the newsprint, instead of the pristine white board. That's one of the reason why such garish colors were chosen -- subtlety simply did not translate onto newsprint. You can particularly see it in that Earth in the second panel; it loses nuance with each step so that it's just a blue squiggle by the time most readers would have seen it.

It's also noteworthy that there are some differences in the panel arrangements. Kirby designed the strip so what was originally the bottom tier could be discarded if an individual paper wanted to use that space for something else. Another strip, perhaps. So the Sunday Sky Masters was essentially two separate strips. In addition, Kirby has an extra beat panel (seen as the first panel of the third tier in the final published version I have here) that could be added or dropped depending on how the newspaper wanted to run the piece. You'll note that the printed version here still retains three tiers, despite dropping the "Scrap Book" section -- they've completely reconfigured the strip layout to fit a slightly narrower format. But doing so opened up a little extra space, hence Kirby added the extra beat panel, which is unnecessary for the overall story, but helps with the new layout.

That's one of the things that really impresses the hell out of me with Sky Masters. Kirby has this strip set up so brilliantly that a newspaper could run it in several different ways to fit its preferred format, without losing anything in the overall story. Not to mention (though you can't really see it here in one strip) that he's able to move the action along from day to day with recaps that sound so little like recaps that you won't get bored reading them all in a collected edition back to back like a graphic novel.

You know, I'm going to give my editor at Jack Kirby Collector a buzz right now, and see if he can't run some of the Sky Masters strips in the new color section that he's doing for the mag. There's some brilliant stuff there that I don't think many people have seen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kickstarter Suggestions

All you guys out there with really cool Kickstarter projects? I really, really want to help, but there's only so much I can afford at one time. Can you all, like, get together and spread out your Kickstarters more so they don't all end at the same time? There 133 active comics projects on right now, so it's probably not realistic to think you could ALL get together and space things out. How about just you guys with neat projects that I would actually contribute to?

I'm mostly joking, of course, but there is an interesting angle in there. From what I can see -- not having run a Kickstarter campaign myself -- there doesn't seem to be much in the way of sorting through projects in a way that lends itself to smarter marketing. For example, I see there's two projects on right now that take new spins on the Alice in Wonderland stories -- one as a comic book and one as a prose novel. Both finish in mid-September. If you're on a budget, you might not be able to contribute enough to get copies of both and the subject matter is such that, despite being two different media, there's likely to be some overlap in audiences. And the only way you could really tell that is by tracking down each existing Kickstarter manually.

I'm wondering if it would make sense for Kickstarter to include tools to make it easier for people to avoid crossing over others' toes. Like, say, adding keywords. And if you type in the same keyword(s) that someone else is currently using, you get an alert/warning saying, "Hey, just so you know, there are 12 other projects going on right now using that same keyword." Or maybe a handy, graphical timeline showing the start/end dates of all existing projects in the same category before your project is actually launched. Or making the Kickstarter site more social, so there's more to it than just hitting a "Like" button.

The thing is that people running Kickstarter projects have the exact same issue that any independent creator does. Namely, that they know their project but not necessarily a way to market it and/or make money off it. Often they haven't studied business in any appreciable capacity, and you see terrible mistakes in the Kickstarter page that might not be really reflective of the quality of the final material. I know I've NOT contributed to some projects because the video production was horrendous, even though the final project had nothing to do with video and might well have been fantastic otherwise. I know that's not really fair of me, but that's how marketing works. If any part of your pitch looks/sounds sketchy, I'm going to see that as a reflection of your overall production quality. So anything that Kickstarter might do to help people launch projects more successfully is bound to help.

It would benefit Kickstarter, too, because it could improve the success rate of projects and, as Kickstarter gets a cut of only successful projects, it would improve their bottom line. Whether or not those types of investments would pay for themselves, I can't say, but it seems like it ought to be worth investigating at least.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Evolution Of Comic Artists In Media

The other night, I happened to catch, for the first time, the movie Artists and Models starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Here's the original trailer...
It's basically a standard Martin and Lewis picture with the nominal hook being that Martin is an artist that breaks into comics using the stories Lewis talks about in his sleep. I've seen a few people online stick up for the film, but I thought it was absolutely dreadful. Although, to the film's credit, it did look like the put a fair amount of effort into creating art pages for the Bat-Lady comics. (Anyone have any idea who actually drew those?)

The movie was made in the mid-1950s and naturally reflected the times, so there's a lot of references that echo the calls of Frederick Wertham. The comic artists themselves are portrayed as honest folks trying to earn a living, and the problem with gore and violence was pretty exclusively the fault of the publishers. But, ultimately, it's another Martin and Lewis film, one that gets increasingly frenetic and less coherent as it goes on.

I've also been reminded recently of a few instances where comic artists showed up in sitcoms in the 1990s. Bob is probably the most famous within comicdom, as it starred Bob Newhart as a comic book artist and featured cameos of guys like Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Sergio Aragones, Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee. Caroline in the City starred Lea Thompson as a comic strip artist. Less remembered for it's comic references are a few episodes of Mad About You wherein Eric Stoltz portrayed an ex-boyfriend who also happened to be launching a new comic.

In all these cases, the comic book artist profession is basically window dressing. The comedy comes from the quirks and neuroses of the various characters, their "wacky" neighbors, and often ludicrous plot contrivances set up for the sake of comedic reactions. (That's the very nature of situation comedies, after all.) And while there's mentions of deadlines and boneheaded publishers and that, they could just as often as not be applied to about any working profession.

All of the bits above, of course, were written by people who aren't in the comic business themselves. They're writers who are trying to emulate a comic environment, with varying degrees of success and/or accuracy.

Perhaps the most accurate interpretation I've seen -- certainly the most sincere -- is Derek Kirk Kim's Mythomania. The same Derek Kirk Kim who's won Xeric, Ignatz, Eisner and Harvey awards. It's available through YouTube and relays the trials and tribulations of Andy Go, aspiring comic book artist. Now there's a lot in the story that isn't directly related to comics, but Kim's been in the business for a while now so he knows what the life of a comic artist is really like. It includes a painful wall of rejection letters and small, uplifting moments when you receive a personally illustrated envelope.

It's interesting to see how the comic artist has been portrayed in other media over the years. I think it absolutely shows a reflection of how our culture at large views comic creators, and that we have increasingly more accurate and respectful works says a lot, I think.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Links For Mid-August

  • Wonder Women: the Untold Story of the American Superheroines is now slated to be shown on PBS as part of its ‘Independent Lens’ series. No firm date yet, but probably March 2013 to coincide with Women's History Month.
  • Neil Cohn is over in Japan doing some research and made a quick note about some work by Chiba University's Jun Nakazawa, who's basically shown that Japanese read comics better than Americans. Presumably, this is a cultural difference and not a genetic one.
  • Lastly, a slightly older bit from February that I missed and I don't recall making the rounds: Marc Tyler Nobleman posted part of an old Bill Finger interview in which Finger posits his thoughts on whether or not Batman and Robin were gay.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Comic Collections I'd Like To See

For purely selfish reasons (namely, that I want to read these without tracking down and buying all the individual back issues), these are some comics I'd like to see collected into a handy TPB or HC format. Somebody get working on these, please:
  • All the Red (Ma Hunkel) Tornado stories from the 1930s and '40s
  • Witzend (1966)
  • Plop! (1973)
  • Prez (1974)
  • Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction (1975)
  • Dingbats of Danger Street (1st Issue Special #6 plus 2 unpublished stories, 1975)
  • Tarzan (1977)
  • The Monkeyman and O'Brien stories from various Dark Horse backups
  • Super Powers (1984)
  • The collected works of Matt Feazell
  • Namor, The Sub-Mariner (1990)
  • Terminal City: Aerial Graffiti (1997)
  • iD_eNTITY (only about 1/3 of the stories have so far been published here in the U.S. thanks to Tokyopop's sudden decision to stop publishing books last year)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Confused By The Monkey King

I recently was given access to some previews of the first two volumes of JR Comics' Monkey King series. I discovered the character of the Monkey King 6-8 years ago -- oddly enough, after blindly stumbling across an eBay auction of a small statuette of him. He's a character of Chinese legend and has shown up in all manner of media over the years; I think most recently a version of the character has even been incorporated into the Marvel continuum. I certainly haven't studied all there is to know about the character, and the various permutations of his stories, but I think it's safe to say I have more than a passing familiarity with the character.

So I was really pleased to see this new series from JR Comics. Their website has almost no information at all, but the introductory text in my preview copy suggests that these were published in China last year, and were conferred with some kind of official government seal of cultural approval. (For all I know it's the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal, but it kind of strikes me more as a government's blessing that the stories provide a positive cultural representation of China.)

Now here's where I start getting confused. The previews I got showed Volume 1 would come out in early September and Volume 2 would be a week later. A cross-sell page in the back shows 20 volumes in all. The website shows the same 20 volumes, but provides no release dates at all. No news of any kind, for that matter. Meanwhile, the Amazon lists say all 20 books have been in stock since January 1 and an interview I read with the publisher says they've been available since last November. So I have no idea if they're actually available or not right now.

Confusion point 2. Here's a two page spread from Volume 2...
What is up with those fonts? Let's assume for a moment that the translation work is not being done in the U.S. JR Comics is actually a Korean company, so I can see that maybe they might not be completely versed in Western fonts and they might not know the full breadth of options available for fonts that look somewhat hand-drawn. I mean, judging from their marketing and whatnot, it frankly looks like a small company looking to make a fairly quick buck on what they see as easy translation work. Fine. But they clearly recognized there was a basic need for something like that as they've chosen Comic Sans for the captions. But then they use a bold san serif for all the dialogue? What's more, there was clearly a deliberate font selection there. I know I'm a bit rusty, but I can still tell it's definitely not Helvetica, Arial, Univers, Gill Sans, Verdana, Futura, or any of the other somewhat standard san serifs available. So they made a deliberate choice on that, but... why? I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of worse fonts they could've gone with, but it does not make for a comfortable read over these 150+ page books.

Confusion point 3. Their website. Seriously, why bother with one at all if you're not going to put a single piece of information (not even a link!) about how/where a reader might buy these books? There's also no mention at all of any of their other titles: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. Add in zero navigation back to the site once you're in any of the previews, and this just makes no sense.

Now, that said, I am still interested in these books. Primarily for the character. The first two volumes do read well (despite the fonts) but they are very admittedly written for a Chinese audience. I think someone unfamiliar with Chinese story style and structure might be put off a bit by this. It's definitely not Japanese or Korean, so it might not click for fans of manga or manhwa either. But if you did see Sun Wukong pop up in Iron Man recently and wonder what the hell he's all about, this story will definitely provide you with that background.

I've only seen the first two volumes, as I said, but it appears the series will recount all of the Monkey King's tales from Journey to the West. The storytelling does strike me as very reminiscent of the legends as I've heard them, and I would like to pick these all up to see the full story illustrated.

Wei Dong Chen and Chao Peng do a great job writing and drawing the story; I just wish the publisher left me scratching my head over its publication.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Combat Jacks Review

Apparently, Combat Jacks was a project that Mark McKenna crowd-funded recently, but it totally flew under my radar. Which is part of why he asked if I would take a look at it: he realized that he didn't do enough marketing of it earlier and is trying to generate some interest now.

McKenna described it originally "as a ONE SHOT sci fi/horror comic in the vein of the old EC Weird Science Fantasy meets Vault of Horror..." The basic premise is that a group of space marines are sent to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a terraforming colony. When they arrive, they run into... well, take a look at the cover there.

It reads as something of a cross between Alien and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes with something of an EC-style twist ending. Which sounds absolutely absurd, but it works surprisingly well. Especially given that McKenna did much of the work himself. I've certainly known him as a good inker for many years, but that doesn't always translate to good writing. I have to say, though, he does a good job with both the story and the dialogue here. Penciller Jason Baroody turns in good work here as well; I wasn't familiar with him previously, but the story flows well and he maintains some consistent faces (several of which were based on real people from the crowd-funding).

If I were to suggest any improvements, I might point to the coloring. It's not bad, by any means, but it doesn't really add anything to the story. I would've liked to have seen those scenes where the marines are stalking through empty corridors with something more dramatic with the lighting. You know how in Alien all the scenes where they're actually hunting the alien are really dark? That adds to the creepiness factor. It was an actor in a rubber suit, but it scared the pants off the audience because they could barely see the damn thing! I think that type of effect could've been applied by the colorist (I don't see a colorist credit anywhere to name names) and would've made for an even more dramatic story. I mean, if you look at what Marie Severin did on those old EC books, there is some stuff there that's really creepy BECAUSE OF her coloring. Not that the other artists were slacking, of course, but the color really made the stories sing.

That said, though, it's a good book and worth a look if you're in the mood for a sci-fi/horror thing. You don't see very many of those on the market these days. The one shot is due out in mid-October (just in time for Halloween) and retails for #3.99. You can ask your local retailer to order a copy (Diamond Code JUL120840) or, I believe, it will be available via the Combat Jacks website around that time as well.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Rights Issue Leading To Collectability?

Of the 100 issues of Marvel's original Two-In-One series, #21 is the only issue that has never been reprinted in any form. If you want to read the story here, your only (legal) option is to track down one in the back issue bins. The reason for this is that Doc Savage appears as a character in the story and he's a character that Marvel does not own the rights to. In order to reprint this story, they have to secure permission from the current rights holder (who I can't seem to find in a 30-second internet search) and probably pay a handsome royalty fee. It's not impossible for that to happen, but with the number of intellectual properties Marvel already owns, sorting all that out just to reprint a single issue seems a bit much.

I know Marvel's 2001: A Space Odyssey has some rights issues that keep it from being reprinted, and I'm pretty sure Rom, the Space Knight does as well. Marvel also can't reprint their adaptation of the Wizard of Oz movie despite having access to the Oz stories because the movie version specifically is owned by MGM. They're effectively in the same boat as MTIO #21: if you want to read these, start digging through the back issue bins. There are other similar cases from different publishers, I'm sure.

Historically, not being reprinted has meant not being re-printed. As in, ink and paper and a physical copy being produced. Now, of course, reprinted can also mean a digital file. Publishers are slowly starting to realize this, I think, and are catching on (slooooowly) to the idea of selling their entire back catalog of material. We're definitely not at the point where you're a few clicks away from reading anything Marvel or DC has ever published, but I don't think it's that far off a prospect either.

Except for these types of stories with rights issues attached. Until/unless those legal issues are addressed, those stories will remain out of circulation. Both in print and digital venues.

Which leads me to speculate on the market for them. Comics shops used to thrive on the back issue market, but they don't use them nearly as much these with the number of reprints and digital copies being made available. Why bother paying an arm and a leg for Amazing Fantasy #15 when you can get a hardcover edition that also includes the first several issues of Amazing Spider-Man for a fraction of the price? Or, for a fraction of that, get a digital copy online? It's easier than ever to get a hold of that story.

But those issues that still have a market value based on their unique quality, do they retain a higher collectible value because of it? Sure, copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 are scarce, but the story inside is not. Rom #1, on the other hand, is scarce issue (though not as scarce as Amazing of course!) AND it's a scarce story. That should, in theory, increase it's collectible value.

So I wonder about the market for those comics. I think it's doubtful a comic shop could make a living just selling those types of issues, but they're not making much selling back issues in general. So if comic shops are shifting focus to collections, where do these obscure stories get sold?

I don't have any real answers tonight, just some idle wonderings.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Hi. My Name Is Jack Kirby."

OK, this is totally not the type of thing Jack would've been likely to say, and it's a dramatic oversimplification, but it seemed like a fun way to highlight that his birthday is coming up on the 28th later this month.

TwoMorrows is having a 40% off sale until then on all of their Jack Kirby books and magazines. There's lots of fantastic material in there, despite my having contributed to some of the mags. Pretend you don't know I write for Jack Kirby Collector and order something anyway.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Webcomics' New Comic Day

Here is a graph of most of the comics I read these days...
The legend there seems pretty self-explanatory, so I won't go into that, but it covers the last 30 days of my Google reader activity (which is how/where I read the majority of my comics without other news feeds skewing the data).

As you can see, the largest number of updates happen on Wednesday, the same day most American comic shops have the latest issues out. The idea of new comic day being Wednesday is a relatively recent phenomenon. I can't seem to find verifiable documentation to back this up, but my recollection is that Wednesdays are a side-effect of the Heroes World collapse from 1997. My understanding is -- and if a retailer who knows this better than I do can correct me, please do so -- that when Heroes World, the comic distributor owned by Marvel, finally went under both Diamond and Capital tried vying for an exclusive deal to distribute Marvel's books. One of the reasons (though I certainly hope not the main one!) that Marvel went with Diamond was because they were willing to shift their deliveries from Tuesday to Wednesday to better accommodate Marvel's printing schedules. As the other publishers had already signed exclusive distribution deals that did not include a specification of what day books would be shipped, they were kind of stuck following whatever Marvel asked Diamond to do.

So that new comic day falls on Wednesdays is an artifact of other business decisions and pretty arbitrary. That a webcomic releases on a Wednesday schedule is at least, if not more arbitrary as they don't have any distributor to cater to. Furthermore, there's not necessarily a big overlap between pamphlet readers and webcomic readers, so why try to fit to their schedule, if that's what they're actually doing.

I mean, I get why you might not want to run a webcomic seven days a week, so you take the weekends off. That's kind of a broad cultural thing. Similarly, I can see why there might be a posting spike on Monday, as a creator might be hoping to catch people as they're starting up their week.

But the Wednesday spike doesn't really make sense to me. Anyone out there have any ideas why that might be happening?