- Celtic Frost, Monotheist
- Les Claypool, Of Whales and Woe
- The Epoxies, Synthesized
- Junior Varsity, Great Compromise
- Morbid Angel, Altars of Madness
What records are you going to pick up this week?
Chris Juricich's letter of comment in CBG #1551 raises an interesting issue that will probably be debated long after I'm gone.
While I've read comics since I've been able to read -- I'm 30 now -- and, while I've also collected comics, edited and published comics (all small-press), and even reviewed comics (mostly minis and self-published items), I've long been loath to "deal" comics. I've not once "speculated" on a given issue. And I leave free comics on the train and in public as part of the Free-Range Comic Book Project.
Selling comics (moreso on the con circuit than in a retail setting, perhaps) -- and publishing comics, arguably -- more often than not leads to the burnout Juricich details. And I find that I maintain my wonder and fascination in the storytelling medium by reading comics. The reviews I do are to alert others to little-known comics I adore as a reader. But the callousness and distance Juricich describes occurs because of ongoing exposure to the frustrating economics of comics, I'd wager.
As soon as you begin valuing a given issue as an asset possessing a return on investment, as soon as you begin determining what to publish -- or create -- based on what the mainstream market will bear, the wonder fades. Your motivation changes. You change.
I get a similar sense in "mainstream" comics journalism. Wizard appeals to younger fans and collectors, almost as Beckett does to card collectors. The Comics Journal aims at older, more thoughtful, perhaps literary comics readers in spite of its largely publisher-centric nature. CBG caters to an even older crowd, one that seems to comprise retailers and dealers, as well as hardcore, long-time collectors. And Comics & Games Retailer, well, the title says it all.
I read them all for different reasons, but I recently resubscribed to CBG for a couple of reasons. Oh, So? is one. As long as CBG supports ongoing reader-driven conversations about comics-related issues offline, I'm a fan. Two: Picks and Previews. Not enough people review comics. We get news, we get hype, but thoughtful commentary written by readers -- much less readers who are named and photographed -- is in short supply in print. And, lastly, Fred Hembeck. May he ever proudly wave! Like Scott Saavedra of the fanzine Comic Book Heaven, Hembeck is a creator who absolutely loves comics. As a reader.
So here's to the comics readers. Here's to the people who read comics, think about comics, talk about comics, and care about comics. Here's to the creators who make comics they need and want to make personally, not comics they have to make to make a living. And here's to the publishers and editors who shepherd challenging comics that pique interest, push buttons, and surprise.
God, I love reading comics. It's sad that some people forget how to.
Don Allen's Quest for Success column in the September 2003 issue of Comics & Games Retailer raises an interesting issue. Is it true that made-for-trade-paperback storylines shoot monthly sales in the foot? Or is it true that the traditional periodical pamphlet format is increasingly ill-suited for the evolutionary emergence of longer-form storytelling?
I'd argue the latter.
Unless you publish comics featuring iconic, perennial characters with deeply involved and convoluted continuity that requires recapping what has come before for newcomers and return readers (a la the panties and capes cabal), monthly pamphlets make less and less sense. In fact, they make little sense at all.
Stories that are written to be longer-form books -- comic books, not graphic novels that collect a pamphlet-driven story arc, per se -- are unwisely released in periodical form. Too often, the monthly sales, if they decrease over time, spell the premature demise of the longer storyline and its resulting book. Think Alan Moore's 1963. When will that "lost issue" be published? Where's the 1963 trade paperback? Or consider Warren Ellis' recent work. Releasing Orbiter as a book makes sense. Serializing Strange Kisses, Stranger Kisses, Strange Killings, Strangle Klezmer, and whatever else makes less sense.
Allen's mainstream super-hero suggestions -- Marvel's Tsunami and the origin of the Fantastic Four -- are bad examples. Both were published by a company built on the monthly pamphlet format -- one, while it was establishing it. But, if you consider the recent illustrated novel Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf), which was not serialized -- or even Highwater Books' recent Marc Bell and Mat Brinkman collections, which draw on multiple small publications released over the course of four years or more -- it's clear that neither book will suffer from the material's prior publication -- or that peope skipped Brinkman's delightfully disturbing self-published short-run minicomics or Bell's appearances in various publications waiting for the collections. Instead, the books will sell better than any individual photocopied mini or edition of Exclaim! magazine -- in large part because of the fan (read: reader) base both creators established over time.
Similarly, Allen citing Dave Sim and Cerebus strikes me as ironic, especially given Sim's letter in the same issue. If Sim wanted to publish only books, he could. But, even though I'm not privy to his sales numbers over time, I'd wager dollars to doughnuts that the serialized issues do well enough on their own -- and that they help promote the phonebooks, which would probably not sell as well, were Sim not so consistent.
What's the solution? Save longer-form stories for book format. Market those to bookstores as well as comics shops. Serialize story arcs better suited to periodical publication. Market those to newsstands and comics shops. Or, as exemplified by Jason Little, creator of Shutterbug Follies (Doubleday), serialize online. His periodic Web publishing only helped the sales of his book, I bet. Especially given the story's acceleration, I doubt some people stopped reading online knowing the book had been accepted by a publisher. Instead, we kept reading and sighed in relief when the book was released and we could read it in one sitting. I expect the same sign in relief when Chester Brown's Louis Riel is collected. (It will be, right?)
Besides, I, for one, won't be surprised when Joey Manley and Modern Tales begin to publish books. That will be a banner day, indeed.
P.S. Sidenote to Sim: If you do decide to publish Cerebus hardcovers, print short runs and charge up the nose. And, yes, a phonebook of lettercols -- or multiple books -- dating back to the beginning would be welcome.
You have to check out my favorite punk band from Japan. They are called the Blue Hearts. That symbolizes my highschool years. I can temporalily put them up on my server for you to download.
A Mexican songwriter you should check out: Julieta Venegas. All her stuff is available on iTunes. Her singles have been catchy. Also, a Spanish band that's hit big in the Spanish-speaking universe that I like is La Oreja de Van Gogh. Their last album is one of my faves, upbeat and super catchy. They have a new album I'm still chewing over, and I think I like it a lot, too.
Want to be on national TV?
The first step is to know who to talk to.
The best directory/database of top shows is Harrison's Guide to the Top National TV Talk & Interviews Shows, which contains key contacts and "how to get booked" info on 259 top shows including Oprah, Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Larry King Live, Bloomberg TV and more.
It's more than just a directory. It also gives you invaluable info on what producers are looking for.
Steve is raising the price after 5 pm Eastern this Thursday, May 25, so order your copy now.
We take well-known poets (Robert Pinsky, Paul Muldoon, Marge Piercy), throw them a provocative quote, and give them 15 minutes to write something. Our special Quickmuse technology -- we call it the Poematic -- captures the poem as it emerges, second by second, onto the Net.
Thanks for putting us on your blog- just got an email from a village voice reporter who saw the post. ( we haven't had a story from them yet)
Therein discussed: Demagogues, assholes, Bollywood comics, Mike Diana, CLAMP, Art School Confidential, and further tales from the entrails of our unloved artform. Respite from the rants and the ramblings courtesy of assorted musical interludes and the occasional snippet of film dialogue. A full 55-minutes of blackmarket entertainment. Enjoy.