The Trouble With Blogging

After a few weeks of blogging, and many many more weeks of avoiding blogging, I have realized a few things:

1) Blogging is hard. I knew that, of course, but one doesn't realize how hard it is until they're trying to do it, and especially to do it daily.

2) The more I interact with internet fandom, the less I like comics.

I was going to write a lot more on that subject, but I think that's what it boils down to. In short, I am currently rethinking my strategy. I'd like to get this blog going again. But the daily schedule I set for myself was much too much for me, and there are certain aspects of the blogging community that simply will not work for me because of that. I also have no desire left to keep up with the controversies, squabbles, demands, and trends in the internet fandom, which I find to be viscious, nearsighted and petty. (I refer mostly to the messageboard communities and not to the excellent blogs I continue to link to.) Most of all I don't want to be half-assed in my writing on this site. After some years of writing (in various locations) for mainstream-oriented sites as a sort of liason to the margins, you end up developing a certain "take-your-medicine" attitude that noone finds appealing, least of all me. It's probably time to admit that I'm tired of banging my head against the wall and that I'm writing for myself or for noone, or for however many like-minded souls are interested in discussing indie comics, not as a subset of or alternative to the mainstream, but in isolation. I'm thinking of a total redesign of the site and a more essay-oriented periodic format. I might also consider introducing other topics- while I don't want to make this into a "what did I eat for breakfast today?" blog, I did always have in mind introducing some flexibility of subject matter.

More soon.


The Eisners Are Here..

Only a quick look at the winners list..

Best Short Story:
"Unfamiliar," by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, in The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft (Dark Horse Books)

Just the idea of these two working together should get an Eisner. Nice to see Dark Horse taking so many categories this year. If only the other non-Big-2 comics publishers were so lucky. Not to mention the other women.

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot):
Eightball #23: "The Death Ray," by Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics)

Indisputable. Certainly the best superhero comic I read last year. Time will tell, but I think it's one of the best single issues I've ever read.

Best Serialized Story:
Fables #19-27: "March of the Wooden Soldiers," by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha (Vertigo/DC)

On my To-Read list for quite a while now but I've never quite picked it up.

Best Continuing Series:
The Goon, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)

Even though it's not my pick, I'm happy with this. Very entertaining comic.

Best Limited Series:

DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)

Meh. I know people who flipped for this, and all, but how could it NOT be WE3?

Best New Series:
Ex Machina, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Fesiter (WildStorm/DC)

Again not what I would have picked, but. Okay.
Every time I conclude that Vaughan's used every trick in his bag, he comes out with another good idea. Excellent mix of politics, police beats, and fantasy.

Best Publication for a Younger Audience:
Plastic Man, by Kyle Baker and Scott Morse (DC)

I'd like to see more competition in this category. But this would still win.

Best Humor Publication:
The Goon, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)

Good choice.

Best Anthology:
Michael Chabon Presents The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, edited by Diana Schutz and David Land (Dark Horse)

Really? Chris Ware's cover comic alone on McSweeny's #13 should have won it for them.

Best Digital Comic:
Mom's Cancer, by Brian Fies

Not familiar with this.

Best Graphic Album-New:
The Originals, by Dave Gibbons (Vertigo/DC)

I enjoyed this more for the pleasure of seeing Gibbons' artwork again than for much else. It would make my top ten, maybe. I thought Suspended in Language was a deserving choice, but most of my favorites were not nominated.

Best Graphic Album-Reprint:
Bone One Volume Edition, by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)

We all expected Bone to get this, and it's right in the spirit of the Eisners. But for my money the book of the year was LOCAS.

Best Archival Collection/Project:
The Complete Peanuts, edited by Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)

This should be true for a long time to come.

Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material:
Buddha, vols. 3-4 by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

Absolutely, and I hope this inspires more people to check this out.
I call Epileptic for this slot next year.

Best Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan, Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC); Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC); Runaways (Marvel)

Vaughn has grown on me. I'm not really a fan of Y:The Last Man, to the constant consternation of the dozen or so people that have tried to pass it on to me. But Ex-Machina and Runaways are good, classic serials, and Vaughn has a good grasp of how to do a monthly. Not much heft to it, but fun reads.

Best Writer/Artist:
Paul Chadwick, Concrete: The Human Dilemma (Dark Horse)

YESSSSSSS!!!! Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. This is a guy who knows how to make a great comic. Wonderfully skilled artist with great layouts, and a very thoughtful and heartfelt writer. I'm impressed that he has continued to stick with the Concrete project for so long and how it has continued to pay off in spades, story-wise. With a truly drastic plot development that will change the direction of the series for good, I am very excited for more CONCRETE.

Best Writer/Artist-Humor:
Kyle Baker, Plastic Man (DC); Kyle Baker, Cartoonist (Kyle Baker Publishing)

Yes and yes. Baker continues to put out beautiful work seemingly effortlessly (which any conessiour of comedy will tell you is the secret to Making It Funny - lots of hard work made invisible). Interesting that they left off BIRTH OF A NATION and THE BAKERS from this list, both of which I like even better than the above comics. Very interesting indeed.

Expect to see Kyle Baker back at the Eisners next year for NAT TURNER, although not in this category.

Best Penciller/Inker (tie):
John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); Planetary (WildStorm/DC); I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun (Humanoids/DC); Frank Quitely, WE3 (Vertigo/DC)

Hooray for both. I think they're both amazing, although I would give the edge to Quitely for WE3. He did some seriously innovative stuff for a book as mainstream as it was.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art):
Teddy Kristiansen, It's a Bird... (Vertigo/DC)

Meh. It was attractive enough, but when I think Multimedia I still think David Mack.

Best Coloring:
Dave Stewart, Daredevil, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Six, Captain America (Marvel); Conan, BPRD (Dark Horse); DC: The New Frontier (DC)

Laura Martin (formerly DePuy) should always take this category. She's been head-and-shoulders above the rest for the last several years.

Best Lettering:
Todd Klein, Promethea; Tom Strong; Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (ABC); Wonder Woman (DC); Books of Magick: Life During Wartime; Fables; WE3 (Vertigo/DC); Creatures of the Night (Dark Horse)

Todd Klein is very deserving. One of the best and most distinctive in the business. Too bad this is all the ABC comics could take this year.

Best Cover Artist:
James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); Green Arrow, Batgirl (DC)

Hell yeah. Beautiful covers. Well deserved.

Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition:
Sean McKeever (A Waiting Place; Mary Jane; Inhumans; Sentinels)

I don't understand giving this particular award to a guy writing a half dozen Marvel titles. I thought the point was to draw attention to an unknown, not to someone whose books automatically get the Marvel Shelfing Treatment. There are so many truly little-known writers and artists who could have benefited far more from this award. I'm not knocking Sean McKeever's work, I just think he's in the wrong category this year. A few years ago, when he was just doing The Waiting Place, maybe, but not now.

Last year Derek Kirk Kim took this award for his Same Difference collection. Other past winners include Dylan Horrocks, Jason Shiga, and Alex Robinson.
One of these things is not like the others...

Not much to say about the rest, except that Seth certainly deserves the design award for the Peanuts reissues . Congratulations to all the winners. They're all very talented. I can't very excited about such a mainstream list... But I'm sure the vast majority of people who read about the San Diego con for the lastest Infinite Crisis news are complaining about how UNmainstream it is, and so it has been and so it shall be. And I curl up in my bunker with all the comics for which there is no room in the Direct Market stores and think less and less about the so-called Comics Conversation.


Top Shelf's Massive $3 Sale!

Good deal! I know I will be doing some ordering today....

(found via BAD SIGNAL)
Hey Comics Fans,For the next ten days -- from Sunday March 6th thru Tues March 15th -- Top Shelf is having its biggest web sale ever.

When you visit the site, you'll find over 90 graphic novels and comics on sale, with fifty titles marked down to just $3 (!), twenty titles marked down to just $1 (!), and a slew of other key titles just slashed!

All we ask is that you hit a $30 minimum on sale and/or non-sale items (before shipping). It's a great opportunity to load up on all those graphic novels you've wanted to try, but just never got around to picking up. Get 'em while supplies last!

Please note that this sale is GOOD for "direct market" retailers as well, and comic book shops will get their wholesale discount on these sale prices. Certain minimums apply, so retailers please email us for details.


Here are some of the marked-down titles that I'm interested in picking up, or particularly recommend:
Big Clay Pot -- $12.95 --> $3.00 (US) - Diamond: STAR12266 -
Jennifer Daydreamer #1 -- $4.95 --->$3.00 (US) - 60 pages, Comic Book, Diamond: NOV022770 - ADD TO CARTJennifer Daydreamer #2 -- $4.95 --> $3.00 (US) - 84 pages, Diamond: DEC032722
K Chronicles: What a Strange Strip -- $12.95 --> $3.00 (US) - Diamond: STAR16399

Not $3, but marked down nonetheless:
2 Sisters -- $19.95 --> $14.95 (US) - 336 pages, Diamond: APR042947
American Elf (softcover) -- $29.95 ---> $19.95 (US) - 520 pages, Diamond: MAY042960 - American Elf (hardcover) -- $49.95 --->$39.95 (US)
Bighead -- $12.95 ---> $9.95 (US) - Diamond: AUG043100
Blankets (softcover) -- $29.95 ---> $24.95 (US) - Diamond: STAR19060
Bop! -- $9.95 --->$7.95 (US) - 88 pages, Diamond: STAR20107
Creature Tech -- $17.95 ---> $14.95 (US) - 208 pages, Diamond: STAR17873
Less Than Heroes -- $14.95 ---> $9.95 (US) - 152 pages, Diamond: APR042942
Lowlife -- $12.95 ---> $9.95 (US) - 112 pages, Diamond: STAR13579
The Mirror of Love -- $24.95 --->$19.95 (US) - Diamond: OCT032748
The Mirror of Love (signed) -- $49.95 --->$29.95 (US)
Owly (Vol 1): The Way Home -- $10.00---> $7.95 (US) - Diamond: JUL043246
Voice of the Fire -- $26.95 ---> $19.95 (US) - 336 pages, Hardcover, Diamond: JUN032566 Voice of the Fire (signed) -- $49.95 --->$39.95 (US)


Coming next week to a shop near you...

My comics picks for March 9:
VIMANARAMA #2 (OF 3) (MR) $2.99
Concrete Human Dilemma #3 (Of 6), $3.50

Could be worth a look : NO MAN'S LAND Gn vol 1

Three hotly anticipated miniseries installments - good week for me.

I've got to warn people reading CONCRETE not to look at the current Previews if you want to be surprised. I came across a plot development there that, although it's not entirely unexpected due to heavy foreshadowing, I would really rather not have known about ahead of time. Usually the descriptions in Previews are so vague that it can't really spoil anything, but the cover in this case is clear enough. I should know better, spoiler-phobe that I am.


Comic Book Stores vs. Superhero Shops

Alan David Doane is talking about the difficulties of finding comic book shops with full offerings of books from across the spectrum, what he refers to as a "full-service" stores. This as opposed to "Superhero Shops" or "Marvel/DC Stores" which neglect the full range of genres as well as publishers available.

I am fortunate at the moment to live in Boston, where there are two fantastic comic book shops and several more merely good ones. But for most of my comic-collecting life I was not so lucky. I have to say that the majority of places I have lived in had very few stores that carried few if any small press books and no independents at all. The majority of shops that I've seen will have a single rack of solid Marvel/DC comics, a few Image titles, and if they're especially adventurous, a Dark Horse title. These are the stores primarily staying afloat through the latest craze of MagicPokemonHero cards, where you have to climb over a table of RPG players to get to a sad stack of comics in the back. That's the reality of non-urban comic collecting, and in many cities it doesn't get much better. Maybe those stores manage to turn a profit on comics-related items, but the variety for sale still runs all the way from A to B. DC's Vertigo line, though I appreciate its existence, is not a replacement for the many, many independent comics fighting for shelf space, and losing.

At those times when I was trying to maintain a comics habit with such limited availability I would usually have to throw myself on the mercy of whoever was behind the counter, via the dreaded "Special Order". I'm sure we've all had to resort to this from time to time. I frequented a shop in Illinois that was actually pretty good about ordering comics for me, on a by-request basis of course. Where independent publishers lose out in this situation is that these comics have to be selected sight-unseen by the customer, generally on recommendations from critics or via the internet. So while it was possible for me to keep up with universally praised titles, fairly safe bets, there was no way for me to even lay eyes on the kind of titles that I stumble over every week at Million Year Picnic but wouldn't have chanced ordering sight unseen in podunk USA. And so these titles tend to die on the vine, passed over by customers who will never have a chance to buy them. It's true that the internet has increased the availability of all sorts of products, but never underestimate the power of examining a product in your own hands, particularly a comic book.

So let me lavish some praise on my favorite comic book shops, and maybe if you're ever in Boston you can take a look at what I would consider the ideal for the direct market. First the aforementioned Million Year Picnic, which has the best selection of comics I've seen yet. Foreign editions, vintage collections, small press, minicomix, you name it, they carry it. The other store I frequent in town is Comicopia, which has an great selection of graphic novels featuring titles mainstream, independent, and manga. Another store I have to mention is Star Clipper in St. Louis, Missouri, an oasis of quality in a desert of full-service comic book stores. They've moved their store recently but I trust the selection is excellent as always.

I maintain a link in my sidebar menu to a listing of Indie Friendly Stores for the purpose of finding more full-service shops, but it might be slightly outdated at this point.

What are your favorite full-service comic book stores?


Panel #20 - Hey, Wait.

Hey, Wait by Jason. The first American release by the brilliant cartoonist from Norway just breaks your heart. Nearly wordless, this OGN shows Jason's masterful storytelling abilities at their best. I also think Shhhhhh and The Iron Wagon are pretty great, but this is the one that will stick with you. Posted by Hello

2005 - A pretty good year.

(Yes, I know it's March. It's nice to run down upcoming projects sometime other than December/January for once.)

Best project so far in 2005:
Epileptic, by David B.
I also loved DAISY KUTTER (Viper Comics) and VIMANARAMA (Vertigo)

My Top 10 most anticipated projects of 2005, in no particular order:
1. DESOLATION JONES (Wildstorm/DC) - The Warren Ellis/JH Williams continuing series begins in May. DC Comics gets at least $3.95 monthly from me for the forseeable future.
2. TRICKED (Top Shelf) - Alex Robinson's new graphic novel. Also looking to pick up the reissue of BOX OFFICE POISON with spiffy new cover design. I have all the singles, but I'm finally gonna cave.
3. EMBROIDERIES (Pantheon) - Marjane Satrapi's follow-up to PERSEPOLIS focuses on the love/sex lives of young Iranian women. Should be fascinating.
4. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? (Pantheon) - I love Jason. They just can't translate this stuff fast enough for me, I'm gonna have to learn Norweigan.
5. THE THREE PARADOXES (Fantagraphics) - Big OGN from Paul Hornschemeier, my favorite new writer/artist of the last few years.
6. AEIOU or ANY EASY INTIMACY (Top Shelf) - Jeffrey Brown brings us the last of the "girlfriend trilogy".
7. LOST GIRLS (Top Shelf) - Finally the series by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbe is completed and collected into a big-ass hardcover, coming next fall.
8. THE QUITTER (Vertigo) - OGN from Harvey Pekar, stories from his early life drawn by Dean Haspiel.
9. CONAN AND THE JEWELS OF GWAHLUR (Dark Horse) - P. Craig Russell draws it, I'm buying it.
10. GLIMMER (Oni Press) - Fantasy epic by Ted Naifeh, of COURTNEY CRUMRIN and the much-beloved-by-me HOW LOATHSOME.

Also looking forward to:
SCREAM QUEEN (Ho Che Anderson) (Fantagraphics)
BLUESMAN (Absense of Ink)
GIRLS (Luna brothers) (Image)
THE FOUNTAIN (Darren Aronofsky, Kent Williams)(Vertigo)
ICE HAVEN (Daniel Clowes, collected from Eightball) (Pantheon)
"Rusty Brown" - ACME NOVELTY FACTORY (Chris Ware) (Fantagraphics)
Brownsville (NBM Publishing)
FIRST LADY (Patrick Neighly/Stephen Buell) Mad Yak Press
IRONCLAD PETAL (Lea Hernandez) (Cyberosia Publishing?)
THE TICKING (Renee French) (Top Shelf)

Some great projects that will be continuing or completing this year:
-two marvel comics by creators of tv shows that i loved: ASTONISHING X-MEN and SUPREME POWER
-STRANGEHAVEN (i know this will never finish but it's still gorgeous)

So what did I forget?