Sunday, April 04, 2004

Notable Links for 04/05

Sometimes I am really embarrassed by my own shortcomings. Although I try - I really do - to be meticulous with this blog, sometimes these things get out of hand. I think it has something to do with the rather massive size of some of these posts, there's so much information it's almost inevitable that something gets overlooked.

Well, that's no excuse.

Last Friday I posted an extended quote from this post by Adam over at Completely Futile on the subject of superheroes. He basically said something very smart and very germane to this ongoing discussion, only a lot more succinctly than I had so far managed to. However, I somehow forgot to link back to his blog. This is just bad form on my part, and I have no better excuse than to point out it was really late at night. I'll try not to let it happen again - and if it does, please call me on it!

Anyway, while we're on the subject, Adam has seen fit to extrapolate on his original comments here - and I have to say that for someone who doesn't think highly of his knowledge in this field he certainly seems to have a pretty firm grasp on the facts. Agree or disagree, it's necessary reading.

So, before you ask - No, I haven't seen "Hellboy." I want to, but right now it's just not in the cards. One of the absolute worst aspects of having moved to the Northeast is the fact that going to the movies is so damn expensive out here. I mean, seriously, the price of a matinee showing in Worcester is the price of an evening showing in Oklahoma or rural California. I have no choice but to balk at this - it's in my blood to be a cheap bastard. So, as much as I would like to see "Hellboy," I just can't justify paying the scalpers' prices in these parts. But, in any event, I wasn't that excited about it. For some reason "Hellboy" was just never my favorite book. I don't even have but a few random issues. Mignola's work never appealed to me like it obviously did for so many others. I actually like that issue of "X-Force" he did better than just about anything else I've seen of his.

I'm going to get it for that one, aren't I?

But I’m hardly surprised it was able to beat “Walking Tall.” The Rock may be slightly charismatic but – come on – this is “Walking Tall” here. Even if the Rock isn’t actually playing Buford T. Pusser in this film, it’s still basically crap. I could have told you that before you spent $60 million to make it.

* Late breaking news: Crossgen's Bill Rosemann has resigned from his position as Senior V.P. of Operataions for the beleaguered company. The Pulse has the scoop here. Newsarama has the story here.

* "POLICE have frozen a $75,000 superannuation death payout for murder victim Lyndsay van Blanken as part of their investigation. The Daily Telegraph can exclusively reveal that one of the two men in her life was named as the beneficiary of the 'death payment' stipulated in Ms van Blanken's super plan. But after the 18-year-old Walt Disney cartoonist disappeared in November, police seized her superannuation records and froze her bank account.
Her body was found in January stuffed inside a cricket bag under a block of flats in Queens Park." Read more here, courtesy of The Australian.

* "The editor in chief and managing editor of a student newspaper at Carnegie Mellon University are considering resigning after the newspaper ran a comic strip that contained a racial slur. Alex Meseguer, editor in chief of The Tartan, will temporarily suspend the newspaper's operations in light of the publication's April Fool's Day edition, which not only contained the controversial comic strip, but also included depiction of female genitalia and poems about rape and mutilation." Read more here, courtesy of NEPA News. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines the story here.

* Courtesy of Neil Gaiman, we have the disturbing matter of The Academy of Art University in San Francisco taking a rather disturbing stand on the matter of violence in school - ie, expelling a student for writing a violent story and banning a violent David Foster Wallace story from the syllabus. Gaiman originally brought the matter to the attention of the collective blogosphere here, courtesy of a letter from Mr. Lemony Snicket himself, Daniel Handler. The issue has been reported by the San Francisco Chronicle here. In any event, if you live in the Bay Area I'd encourage you to make your support known in this issue - the First Amendment needs all the friends it can get.

But seriously, the only violence David Foster Wallace has ever inspired in me is the desire to fling the book across the room - but that's just me.

* "The nephew of Walt Disney has revealed he is to step up his campaign to oust the beleaguered chief executive of the multi-billion dollar company that gave the world some of its most enduring cartoon characters. Roy Disney, 73, quit the board of Disney last year after a clash with Michael Eisner, the company's chief executive. The two, who have each made $1 billion (£541 million) from the company, have been locked in a power struggle ever since, with Disney successfully forcing Eisner to stand down as the company's chairman at a shareholders' meeting last month. But Eisner, who has been blamed for the collapse in Disney's fortunes, remains as chief executive. Speaking in a BBC3 documentary to be screened tomorrow Roy Disney, who claims in the documentary he was fired, said: 'I told them at the time they might be sorry they did that, and I intend to make them sorry they did that.'" Read more here, courtesy of Mickey News.

The programme also quotes him as saying: "The company is rapacious and soulless and always looking for a quick buck, which is leading to a loss of public trust."

* Potentially the biggest news to come out of the gate in the past few days was the formation of ICAA - the International Comic Art Association. It's a trade organization - yes, folks, an honest-to-Gosh trade organization in an industry that desperately needs an (effective) organization just like this. James Sime has the skinny here, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

* OK, as you know I usually try to avoid linking to subscription-only content, but Publisher's Weekly makes it hard to resist: they've got an article on the recent "Shonene Jump" in school brouhaha here, with quotes from the magazine's publisher (Viz) as well.

* "Editors Gary Spencer Millidge, Smoky Man, and Omar Martini are proud to announce that the charity tribute book, Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, has raised a figure approaching $37,000.00 (US) for Alzheimer's charities. 'Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman' is a massive 352-page trade paperback featuring mostly all-new contributions in celebration of British comics-writing legend, Alan Moore's 50th birthday." The Pulse has the press release here.

* "Representing the '21st century Copyright Consideration Group,' Mangaka Fujiko Fujio and Satonaka Machiko visited Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi on March 30th with a petition to have manga lending rates imposed on manga-renting libraries. The group is seeking a reform to the Japanese copyright act that would set royalty fees for the lending of manga and other printed material in the same was that royalty fees are applied to the lending of Music CDs and other media. The Prime Minister stated that he enjoyed reading Tetsuwan Atom and Shonen Kenya and pointed out that he felt Intellectual copyright to be a very serious matter." Read more here, courtesy of Anime News Network.

* "A library in Toyama Prefecture now holds the entire collection of the Doraemon comic series, most of which was donated by a professor studying the famous robot cat "manga" hero, library officials said Monday. The Takaoka City Library in Takaoka opened the collection, which contains 1,344 versions, to the media on Monday. The library, which has been closed since January, will reopen at a new location on Tuesday." Read more here, courtesy of Japan Today.

* Matt Maxwell over at Broken Frontier has a few bones to pick with the constant, tiresome retreads that pass for "relaunches" in this industry. Of particular interest to longtime readers of this blog:

"Original work takes chances that franchises could never take and they can succeed far beyond franchises (not to mention grab readers who won’t feel it necessary to bone up on thirty years of back history to enjoy the work.) The toybox is a lot of fun to play with, no doubt. But the fact of the matter is that there’s only a couple hundred toys to play with, and some of ‘em are looking pretty shopworn by now. Sure, some new toys would be nice. But a new game altogether? Now that would be welcome."

Now doesn't that make sense? Makes me wish Mark Greuenwald was alive to add his two cents.

* Courtesy of Ninth Art, Alex Dueben takes a look at modern superhero comics and tries to parse just why he's uninterested in the genre here.

* The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at upstart Japanese-import publisher Vertical Inc - publisher of Osamu Tezuka's "Buddha" - here.

* "A watercolour representation of a dghajsa tal-latini by the late Maltese cartoonist Alfred Gerada has been described as 'a creative masterpiece' by Chris Agius Sultana, a fine art sculpture and architectural restorer. Mr Agius Sultana bought the painting recently without knowing who the artist actually was. The dghajsa tal-latini was a traditional boat equipped with lateen sails used regularly for the carrying of foodstuffs and livestock between Malta and Gozo before the advent of mechanical propulsion. The painting is signed 'Gerada' and dated 1936. Mr Agius Sultana was not aware that Mr Gerada had been such a prolific painter, apart from a refined illustrator." Read more here, courtesy of the Times of Malta.

* Joey Manley takes a look at the state of modern webcomics from a business point of view here.

* I didn't know that Top Shelf Comics' website was posting brand-new content by cartoonists such as Josue Menjivar, Nate Beaty, Martin Cendreda, Andrew Brandou. Farel Dalrymple, Rob Goodin, Gregory Benton and Scott Malin, did you? Catch up on the fun here.

* Courtesy of Artbomb, we have news that the disparate worlds of comics and hip-hop are finally coming together. All Hip-Hop has the story behind Mike & Mark Davis' "Blokhedz" here.

* Johanna Draper Carlson has updated her Comics Worth Reading site with a pile of new reviews, including looks at books such as "Angel of the Woods" by Seán Michael Wilson and Jorge Heufemann, Bosch Fawstin's "Table for One" and John Ira Thomas and Jeremy Smith's "Zoo Force," New Tokyopop releases such as "Ai Yori Aoshi" and "I.N.V.U.," and an in-depth review of Oni Press' "Last Exit Before Toll."

* " The Cartoon Museum has a new home. The museum had its grand opening Thursday in Ticonderoga in Essex County, a few miles north of its former home in the town of Hague in neighboring Warren County. Stan Burdick, the museum's owner, said the museum houses hundreds of signed originals and prints of comics, cartoons, and fantasy art. The museum features everything from comic books to editorial cartoons. The museum also has an original work by C.M. Coolidge, the artist from northern New York who created the painting known as 'Dogs Playing Poker.'" Read more here, courtesy of The Champlain Channel.

* "As comics and cartoon imagery enter mainstream culture, they provide a vehicle for critique in a postmodern world. They continue a narrative tradition (for example, Disney characters and fairy tales) at a time when computer-generated systems of non-linear thinking are emerging and epitomize the accessibility and disposability of our times. Cartoons and comics have emerged as a universal language, providing immediately recognizable cultural icons that appeal to the instant gratification lying at the center of consumer culture. They have become a vehicle for cultural transmission and hybridization in an increasingly homogenized world." This is the thesis behind Western Washington University's upcoming Western Gallery exhibit, "Comic Release: Negotiating Identity for a New Generation", which will show from April 5th to May 28th. For more information on the show, please go here (scroll down a bit). Link courtesy of Kevin at Thought Balloons.

* "The Michigan State University Comic Art Collection was beginning to gain prominence in the early 1970s, when it ran into its own version of the 'Green Goblin.' In one fell swoop, the goblin slipped the first issue of 'The Amazing Spider-Man' into a coat, dashed out of the basement of the Main Library and sold it to a local used bookstore. University librarians never again saw that copy, which now is valued at about $25,000 in near-mint condition. Randy Scott, MSU's comic art bibliographer who joined the Main
Library a few years after the incident, said the library now has a facsimile of the comic, but the original has been elusive." Read more about the library here, courtesy of the Lansing State Journal.

* "So. Is God a decadent aesthete with no neck who subsists upon the immoral syllabub of our pain? That's what 'Red Jack' is selling in Doom Patrol #23-24. There's a long-standing tradition in superhero comics of introducing 'omnipotent' figures and then demolishing their divine pretensions with Quaker theological jujitsu--no person or entity can truthfully claim to be God, because 'God is love' (John 4:8), and love doesn't make any claims. 'The House that Jack Built' is the Galactus story all over again, only better, because it is stripped of the misplaced awe that mars Jack Kirby's vision of the planet-eating solipsist. If God actually existed as an individuated personality, he/she/it would be indistinguishable from Marilyn Manson." David Fiore over at Motime Like The Present continues his borderline-obsessive (but never less than compelling) reconstruction of Grant Morrison's deconstructionist run on "Doom Patrol" here.

* Mike Sterling over at Progressive Ruin is just having too much fun for my comfort.

* Graeme McMillan is not afraid of loving Kirby's "Super Powers" books - and he want to tell you why here, courtesy of Broken Frontier.

* Also at Broken Frontier - Shawn Hoke takes a look at Ron Rege's "Skibber Bee Bye" here.

* Hey, what's up with this? Broken Frontier is posting all kinds of cool stuff - including the continuing saga of Steve Higgins' recent lecture feature starring Jeffrey Brown, Paul Hornschemeier, and Matt Kindt. Read about how he advertised the event here.

* "In the spring of 1973, the Topps Chewing Gum Company manufactured a line of trading cards that were advertising parodies known as Wacky Packages. To learn more about "Weakies -- The Breakfast of Chumps" and 'Cap'n Crud Cereal,' log on to This collector's paradise is run by Greg Grant, and he has images from all 16 Wacky Pack series available for viewing on the website." Some of the artists featured in the Wacky Packages history include Art Spiegelman, Jay Lynch, Kim Deitch, and Norman Saunders. Read more here, courtesy of News 24 Houston.

* The Jerusalem Post takes a look at Peter Kuper's adaption of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" as well as Will Eisner's recent "Fagin The Jew" here.

* "When the curtain goes up at city-based cartoonist Shi Da Phadnis' exhibition in the city on April 8, be prepared for a laugh riot. More so because Phadnis is organising an exhibition after 20 long years! The popular 78-year-old is a record-breaker of sorts. Sample this. He has been untiringly sketching the cover of the Diwali special Mohini for 52 straight years now, his first cover having appeared way back in 1952 (see picture)! If that is not enough, his cover for the state government's class one math text book is in its 25th year now. Every year, an estimated 35 lakh copies of the book are printed." Read more here, courtesy of The Times of India.

* Strangely enough, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an article about the new "Doom Patrol" relaunch. Odd... wait, who's the writer? Michael Sangiacomo? Why is that name familiar... Read the article here.

* "The St. John the Baptist Library in LaPlace has a selection of graphic novel available for check out by patrons. Graphic novels look like a comic book, but is a stand-alone story that is published as a book. The story is told through the use of frame-by-frame drawings with inked dialoque. The books are shelved with the Young Adult paperback novels on a special shelf marked 'Graphic Novels.' Titles currently available are: 'Mystic,' by Ron Marz; 'Negation: Bohica,' by Tony Bedard; 'Ruse,' by Mark Waid; 'Meridian,' by Barbara Kesel; and 'The Path,' by Ron Marz." Sterling examples of the medium, those. Read more here, courtesy of the New Orleans Times Picayune.

* OK, this is for the peanut-gallery: a real-life physics professor explains just why Gwen Stacy had to die. read about it here, courtesy of Voice of America.

* Johnny Bacardi sure didn't like "Avengers/JLA" - no Sir he did not.

Travels With Larry Part I

So apparently AiT/Planet Lar publisher Larry Young decided it was time to see if maybe he could drum up some support for his products in the Greater Blogosphere. A number of us seem to have responded to a recent query of his - an open call, really - for any blogger or columnist to try out any Ait/Planet Lar books they might want to see. I saw the call and quite honestly I sat on it for a couple days, unsure whether or not I should respond. I mean, in all honesty, I knew about the company but I didn't really have any experience with their product. I had bought the collection of Warren Ellis' 'Come In Alone" columns but that was about it - and I hardly think that could be considered a representative book in any event. Did I have any interest in reviewing any of these books?

But finally, the clarion call of the new was too much for me to resist. I wrote Mr. Young a polite e-mail telling him that I was for the most part unfamiliar with the books he produced but that I was very interested in sampling some if I possibly could. He wrote back fairly quickly to tell me that there was a package on the way. During our brief conversation, it was revealed that he used to work at the comic store where I do most of my shopping these days - That's Entertainment in Worcestor, MA. It's a small world.

Well, I have to say I was quite surprised when the package arrived. For one, it arrived very quickly - within 48 hours. It's important to note that I'm about as far from San Francisco as one can be while still remaining within the contiguous United States. For another, he sent me a lot of books. I was expecting a couple, perhaps a few. I was also not planning on seeing them anytime soon. The fact that not only did the books arrive promptly but there were many books told me in very frank terms that Mr. Young was very eager to make friends.

Which makes a lot of sense, when you think about it.

It's no secret that Marvel doesn't send out any of their books to critics. With the exception of maybe a few major media outlets, it just doesn't happen, and you've got a better chance of getting a collected "Big Numbers" than getting on Marvel's comp list. While many grouse and complain, it only makes sense. If 2 out of every 3 comics sold in this country are Marvel (or some ridiculous number like that) why should they have to put any more effort than the bare minimum towards selling their wares in a captive market?

Folks like Larry Young face a different equation. Because of the market realities - which could kindly be termed "harsh" - independent comic publishers have to do everything they can to get their products in front of as many people as possible. What did he lose by sending me a bunch of product? Well, chances are that if I had never bought an AiT/Planet Lar book in the past, I might never buy one in the future. So, he's not stealing from himself. For the price of shipping and a handful of comp books he might end up selling who knows how many books in the long run, both to me and anyone who's paying attention to this blog (or anything else I might be writing for).

I think, based upon what I already know and what I've seen of the books I've been sent, that Larry Young is one of the best kind of publishers in the business. He publishes what he wants to read - pure and simple. Despite his somewhat gruff public image, he seems genuine in his desire to publish Good Comics. He doesn't seem like the type - and his company's output bears the weight of this theory - to publish obvious crap for the sake of selling more books, or to publish faddish titles to chase different fleeting audiences. I think it would be fairly easy, looking at a healthy cross-section of AiT/Planet Lar books, to get a handle on Larry Young as a publisher and as a comics fan, by the same token that you could probably get a good feel for Gary Groth and Kim Thompson's tastes by a quick scan of the Fantagraphics roster. There's a uniformity to the line that is appealing, a sense that all the books, even if they come from dozens of different creators, come from the same place and are reflective of the same attitudes.

There is something very egalitarian about the line, almost DIY.

Everyone is saying that more books should be produced as original graphic novels - that the "floppy" is a dying format - that superheroes are a dying genre - and that manga is the future. But no one even slightly close to the mainstream seems to be doing anything about it. You have Marvel saying that it's just not cost effective to produce their titles in graphic novel format. You have DC, which has to front-load their OGN's as expensive hardcovers in order to break even. And then you have tiny little AiT/Planet Lar, which seems to have no problems at all with producing OGNs at a reasonable price. That's impressive. I doubt they're making the kind of money they Marvel and DC are, but just the fact that they're doing it at all is really impressive to me. There's something so very satisfying about getting a nice thick hunk of book in your hand for a nice price, and on this level I think AiT/Planet Lar delivers one of the best bargains in the business.

Now, are the books themselves any good? That's an interesting question. While the line as a whole seems to be built on solid foundations and to reflect a comfortably unified aesthetic, the actual content of the books themselves is still the most important element. In the coming days I'll be exploring the line - travelling with Larry through the best and the worst of what his company has to offer. I think it should be pretty interesting.

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