Saturday, January 31, 2009


I've never been a big fan of variant covers, or anything that promotes the idea of comics as collectibles, as opposed to stories. These damn things are supposed to be READ, damn it, not sealed in plastic carbonite in the hopes that someday they'll be enough to pay for the kids' college fund (note to everyone who bought a copy of the Obama Spider-Man: I hope you think you bought a souvenir rather than made an investment. If you didn't, you're going to be disappointed, and if I catch wind of your disappointment I will laugh and laugh.)

So I was delighted to read Tucker Stone's post The Little Things, and How to Punch Them, which described his feelings on variant covers in terms that really spoke to me. An example: "I hate them, and my hate is pure, and it's thick, and it's so incredibly delectable that I can barely wrap my fist around my quill to scrawl out this column, so tempted am I to take this hate and put it in a bowl so that I can eat it with a knife like a Viking." I looked forward to linking to it and quoting it and generally ranting on about how variant covers are Evils That Must Be Destroyed.

(Did I ever discuss my one attempt to get variant covers for one of my books? I was hoping to get 17 different variants for Done to Death #4, which would be billed as an average issue after which the entire Done to Death universe would remain entirely unchanged. I planned on doing one of the covers myself: I forget what the image was, but the words "I hate Variant Covers" were going to feature prominently. This plan was shot down as being financially untenable--by the time we reached #4, 17 covers would've amounted to roughly one for each reader {I kid, I kid}. But someday...someday I will get my utterly unnecessary, stupidly high number of variant covers for something...)

Where was I? Oh, right. So, there I was, getting ready for an F-5 level diatribe on variant covers and how much they suck...

...When I read the latest Marvel Previews catalogue from Diamond. The first thing that caught my attention was that The Future of Comics (I) Fiona Staples illustrated a Spider-Woman story for ASTONISHING TALES #3 (order code: FEB092524), As much as I looked forward to mentioning Stone's diatribe on variant covers, I looked forward to noting a former collaborator and friend's star continuing its well-deserved rise. I wrote her to congratulate her, and was surprised when she informed me that she actually had TWO credits in the current Marvel Previews--one for Astonishing Tales, and another, for-- can see where this is going, can't you?--

--a 1-in-10 "Wolverine Appreciation" variant cover for WAR MACHINE #5.

Emotions in a cuisinart time. On the one hand, variant covers are a pox on comics. On the other, if War Machine #5 sells a stupid number of copies and it's determined (as it would be, in a just world) that that's because of Fiona's cover, then the odds of Fiona getting to do more covers and getting rich and famous increase. And that is something I would very much like to see.

So now I don't know what to say. As far as I can tell, the order code for Fiona's War Machine cover is FEB092514. I leave it to you to follow your own conscience and do what you think is right.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Subtle but Important Distinction

During a conversation between me, Tiina, and my friend Rhonda:

Tiina: Andrew's slowing us down on the bathroom renovations.

Andrew (in a surly mumble): I'm not slowing us down; we can't afford paint.

Rhonda: What was that?

Tiina: It was just Andrew being frugal.

Andrew: It's not Andrew being frugal, it's Andrew being POOR.

(Also, in spite of his protests, Andrew doesn't really want to paint the bathroom, or any other room ever again in his life. Unfortunately, he doesn't really want anyone else who's available to paint the bathroom, because he's the former professional commercial painter and it's his bathroom too and not doing it would...just be...bad.)


In other news, I'm really dreading running out of the sleeping pill prescription I got last week. Also, I rearranged the bedroom, which turned out to have more things living in it than you might expect, or, in my case, hope. The bed was a pandora's box; what was within (or underneath, as the case may be) should never have been allowed to see the light of day. I seem to recall someone using the term "squicky" recently; I believe I now know what it means.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Comic Zirconia

My first reaction to the news that Diamond Distribution was increasing the minimum order requirement to carry comics in its Previews catalogue was my typical response to an awful lot of comic industry news this last few years: frustration.

Diamond's in a no-win situation. There's no doubt they were losing money carrying many titles that are deficient in some ways--either underpromoted by the publisher/creators, or just not of sufficient quality to be commercially feasible. As terrifying as the new guidelines seemed to someone who's always been in the small press, I can't blame them for not wanting to expend resources on such material.

Some maintain that Diamond has a moral responsibility to carry as wide a breadth of comic material as possible.* As the effective monopoly for direct market comics distribution (the primary feeder system for material to comic-centric retailers), soliciting through Previews has long been considered a must for small press publishers. At least, it has been for those publishers I've heard talk about it. One of my big arguments in favour of the comics medium has long been the relatively (in the case of some stuff that got into Previews, the obscenely) low barrier of entry for newcomers. Unlike the prose novel industry, direct market comics have a history of successful self-publishers, from the Pinis and Dave Sim up through Jeff Smith.

I can't recall a new successful self-publisher springing into existence in the direct market in the last few years, but I suspect the idea that it was at least possible gave a lot of creators and would-be creators some much-needed (if undeserved) hope. As a hopelessly unorganized introvert, self-publishing through Diamond was always an option of last resort, but until now, it always felt like it was an option.** That, it seemed, was now gone.

DONE TO DEATH, the last comic I had published in the direct market, with art by Rising Superstar Artist of SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY: JACK HAWKSMOOR Fiona Staples, hadn't come anywhere near the minimum Diamond was setting for its books. Come to think of it, it hadn't come anywhere near the previous limit, partly for reasons I'm prevented from going into and partly because Diamond hadn't done a great job distributing it. Stories of unfilled orders, claims comics the publisher still had hundreds of copies of were sold out, and other such problems happened with stomach-churning regularity.

Even so, the new requirements seemed designed to kill the small press comic, at least in the traditional, 32 page monthly/bimonthly/whatever floppy. People smarter than I am seemed to be saying as much (The Beguiling's Chris Butcher and columnist Steven Grant among them). The optimistic view seemed to be that the small pressers would now be forced to focus on the trade paperback format to meet the requirements. The pessimistic saw Marvel and DC crushing all other direct market companies. Crushing them more than they already do, that is. Somewhere in the middle was a world where webcomics took over as the primary mode of serial delivery and creators sold directly to their audience, which for good or ill would take Diamond and retailers out of the equation almost entirely.

Happy Harbor owner Jay Bardyla offered an alternate viewpoint I hadn't seriously considered. In his opinion, Diamond's new moves were the best thing that could happen for people who disliked the company's perceived monopoly on the direct market (by which he meant me, as I've never heard anyone else go on about it in the store for any length of time.) As he saw it (or as I understand him to be seeing it), by threatening to cut a substantial number of small pressers, the company was effectively forcing publishers to either step up and properly promote their product, or find another distributor, the obvious candidate being Haven Distributors, formerly known as Cold Cut Distribution.

I was, to put it mildly, skeptical of whether Haven getting a bunch of new publishers who couldn't sell a couple thousand copies of their comic through Diamond would have much of an effect on either the distributor or the publishers. Jay argued that one of Haven's major problems to date is that they haven't had sufficient product available to make it worthwhile for a retailer to order through their service, if only on a shipping cost level. A thicker catalogue would force retailers like him to take another look at Haven and reevaluate whether it's worth dealing with them.

I'm still not sure that's going to fly. When we'd discussed/argued the merits of Diamond's position in the past, I always got the impression he was hesitant to deal with more than one distributor unless it was absolutely necessary--finding enough time in a day to keep track of everything going on at Diamond was hard enough.

That said, if put in a position where he felt he had to do it for the sake of the business, he'd do it even if he didn't want to. Jay's one of the hardest-nosed business people I know; he's also always looking to one-up himself when it comes to Happy Harbor's Next Thing, whatever it may be (this year's tenth anniversary celebration + Free Comic Book Day is going to be something.) Maintaining the Harbor's edge isn't all that matters to him, but it's a Big, Big Thing. I have a hard time believing there are many retailers out there who'll be willing to do what Happy Harbor will. If there were, there'd be a hell of a lot more comic shops currently in existence.

Jay's position did shine a light on the major flaw in the current Comics' End is Nighers point of view, which is: Diamond cutting out a lot of small press publishers is only a disaster for the direct market if one accepts that Diamond and Diamond alone is the direct market. For many in the industry, up till now, that belief has simply been a given. There's no upside to believing it, and honestly, I'm thinking there hasn't been for some time--it's just one of those things publishers and creators clung to because they couldn't envision anything else. Now, they/we have no choice. If we continue to see Diamond as the Only Option, we are indeed doomed.

The one thing Jay didn't understand when we last talked was why Haven wasn't stepping up and making some noise about their suddenly much more attractive services. Since then, Haven owner Lance Stahlberg's done at least one interview at Newsarama. I mailed Jay the link this morning, and got this in reply:

"See, it’s not the end of the world. If anything, my job just got that much more difficult."


*I'm not one of them. I always thought it'd be nice if Diamond were a bit more supportive of the small press, but never for a second believed it should be required of them.

**In fairness to Diamond, from what I've been reading in the last week or so, it still might very well be. But this post deals with my initial thoughts almost immediately after coming upon the subject.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Diamond Spider in The Lair of The Heathens, Part One

In the same way I'll listen to a telemarketer spiel provided the telemarketer isn't on commission (in which case I'll advise them to try the next person, because it doesn't matter what they're selling, I ain't buying), when religious folks come to my door and try to convince me their god's better than my god, I'll usually invite them in and engage them in polite but pointed discussion until they decide they just don't want to risk being infected by this heathen's questioning attitude anymore.

It's tempting to say "I don't know why I do these things," but I do know why I do them, or at least some of the reasons I do them. In the case of the telemarketers, it's pure empathy; nobody ever set out to be a telemarketer, a job which I'm reasonably sure consists largely of earning minimum wage in exchange for passive ill-wishes if not outright insults and threats from as many people as one can phone in an eight hour period. I have nothing but sympathy for the telemarketer; there but for the grace of...well, let's not get started on that. But a couple different turns in life and it could be me on the other end of the line. Hell, I'm not more than a turn or two away from ending up there even at this stage, which is a terrifying thought.

When it comes to the religious, my reasons are less noble. I like a good argument, but as I've said before a good argument can't really be had if one side can't be won over by the other. At this stage, I find it highly unlikely I'm going to accept a worldview that involves actively proselytism by its followers; by the same token, it seems unlikely anyone who's signed off on a belief system enough to go cold-call on its behalf is going to be swayed by my unassailable logic. However, it's really easy to dismiss the opinion of people who are overt jerks (hello FoxNews), so I try not to act like one and give those who disagree with me an easy out.

Ultimately, though, this all comes down to the fact that I'm a writer. Either I'm always looking to hear new voices, particularly voices with perspectives I don't share, or I'm a flake who's always looking for a feasible excuse not to do anything BUT write. Maybe a little of column A and a little from column B.

In any event, last Friday, Tiina had a conversation of sorts with a nice couple of older jehovah's witnesses ladies about how grand god was. They didn't stay long, but they did leave some literature and a promise to return yesterday morning, which they made good on. This time, however, I was awake. Furthermore, I'd read the literature and spent almost as much time during my insomniac periods this week mentally compiling the fallacies the booklet was based on as I did putting together exactly what happened to Batman in FINAL CRISIS #6 and how it tied into and justified Batman RIP.

The first thing I noticed about the two women who appeared on the doorstep was that they were both very well-dressed (albeit in a fashion considerably less comfortable than my own nightshirt and pyjama bottoms), and one of them had an odd broach that appeared to be a diamond-encrusted spider pinned to her lapel. It struck me as an odd piece of jewelry for a JW to be wearing, and I spent much of the conversation staring at it trying to figure out a way to work it into the conversation. Alas, it was not to be (this time.) Instead, I found myself in a conversation that ran along these lines:

Jehovah-Girl #1: Isn't it amazing how complex the trees in your yard are?

Me: It really is. And that's nothing compared to the amazing complexity of say, a human being.

JG1: Yes, exactly. I mean, a car is nothing compared to a tree, is it?

Me: It really isn't, no.

JG1: But I couldn't build a car.

Me: No, me neither.

JG1: A car needs a builder. It doesn't just spring into existence, does it?

Me: While I've never personally witnessed a car's construction, this does seem to be a logical assumption.

JG1: And if a car needs a builder, then it stands to reason something even more complex than a car would need a creator, too, right?

Me: Something like a tree or a human?

JG1: Exactly! And that creator is God! You see how it all makes sense?

Me: Let me see if I follow you: complex things need to be built...

JG1: Right.

Me: The more complex something is, the more unlikely it is to exist without a builder...

JG1: Yes, yes!

Me: You know, it seems to me that the One who theoretically created all this stuff must be infinitely complex...

JG1: Oh, he is, he truly is.

Me: Who do you think built him?

JG1: Nobody built him. God's always existed. And that's difficult for some to grasp...

Me: I imagine it's very difficult for people who accept the premise that complex mechanisms require a conscious act of creation to exist.

JG1: But we know it to be True.

Me: How? I mean, you just undermined your entire premise, didn't you?

JG1: Because the bible says so.

Me: Ah. I'm glad you brought that up...


I'm not so sure they were glad they brought it up because they got really anxious to head back out into the -25 degree weather soon after. However, they did promise that the Lady with The Diamond Spider would call us back to set up an appointment to explain to me Why She Believes The Bible Is Not A Work Of Fiction, with a sub-topic I suggested of Even If I Were To Believe The Bible Is Not A Work Of Fiction, Why Should I Believe Her Denomination's Interpretation Of It?

As I told them as they were leaving, "I got into a discussion with a couple of Mormons about that last one and they made some really interesting points I'd like to get your opinion on."

All of which is, oddly enough, true.

Though on the whole, I'd rather wing it all and be able to sleep.



...there's the Church of Scientology, which left a handbill in our mailbox telling us to come to a lecture that would bring peace and prosperity to our lives, but which left the time and location of the lecture conspicuously blank.

Thanks for nothing, Scientology.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

Tiina, describing an incident that happened down the street:
"It wasn't a stabbing so much as it was one guy hitting another guy in the head with an axe."

I love our neighbourhood.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Quantum Sleep

If there's one sure way I know it's been too long since I posted last, it's when my mother calls up to make sure everything's still all right. So here's the update:

I lost most of last week to insomnia. I've never had it go several consecutive days like that before, and flying spaghetti monster willing, I hope never to have to go through it again. My brain melted into a toxic sludge, I had to concentrate to not see double, and, while I have slept a lot better the last few nights, I'm still recovering, physically, mentally, and work-wise.



On the work front:

-the paperwork for the agreement with Hollywood Producer 1, Scott O. Brown, and me is almost finalized. We're literally three words away from having it nailed down, after which there will be nine months of seeing what happens next, if anything.

-the spec screenplay for Hollywood Producer 2 was what really took the hit last week. I'm at least a couple polishes away from being comfortable calling what I've got a first draft; it's still forty pages too long; and in a fit of optimism, I told Hollywood Managers I'd have them a first draft by Sunday, which I'm fudging to mean first thing Monday morning.

-I just realized I was going to follow up with Comic Editor today and didn't yet. Bugger.

-there's now a Hollywood Producer 3 in the picture, who's interested enough in a spec pilot script I wrote that we're going to be talking about it on Wednesday. This will be preceded tomorrow by what's looking to turn into a traditional pep talk phone call from Hollywood Managers tomorrow, to tell me what to expect when I talk to HP3. So far, the only thing I know is that he thinks the spec needs to be darker in order for him to sell it. This is probably the first time in the history of the universe anyone's ever looked at something I wrote and though it needed to be darker. Naturally, my first instinct is to not want to go that direction, but I will, because he's a Hollywood Producer and Money is Nice.

-The Future of Comics (II) John Keane has finished his wholesale revision of the initial Spooky Kids storyline up to page 7.

-The newest Future of Comics (III) Nick Johnson has penciled the first two pages of the second Holiday Men storyline. This one's forcing him to stretch a bit as an artist, which is probably good for him as an artist but lousy for the schedule.

-I want to go to the New York Con.

-I'm not going to go to the New York Con.

-I want to go to the San Diego Con.

-No, seriously. I do.

-Might...MIGHT be able to pull that one off. Mmmmmmaybe...

-Really feeling the desire to produce some comics work. Screenplays are fun and likely more lucrative, but I miss doing comics.

-By "doing" I mean writing them. Looks like there'll be more editing work coming my way from Zeros2Heroes soonish. Which I'm really happy about, because getting paid rocks. But I could be happier, if I was getting paid to write, and happier still if I was getting paid to write comics.



TVtropolis is rerunning ONCE A THIEF Monday mornings at 10:00! This is truly awesome.

Showcase has started running the sequel to the British LIFE ON MARS television series, ASHES TO ASHES, Sundays at...1:00, I think. I discovered that in time to catch the first episode entirely by happy accident.

SCRUBS is back on Tuesday nights. And it's been gone just long enough for me to miss it enough to start enjoying the stuff that used to grate a little again.


LEVERAGE is a lot of fun.

What does this all mean? Mostly that I'll be able to keep track of what day it is again...

There. Happy now, Mom?


Monday, January 5, 2009

Anybody out there got a barn I can borrow?

I need something to go get shot out behind of.

I don't know what happened last night, but I know what didn't: me sleeping. Around 8 AM I drifted off for a fitful couple hours. And that's today's hope for accomplishing anything useful shot all to hell.

One good thing to come from the entire episode: I got to listen to Tones on Tails' POP album in the ideal state of mind in which to listen to Tones on Tails' POP album. If ever there was music designed to be experienced when your connection to physical reality is tenuous at best, when shadows are starting to grow mouths and there's a small army of dwarven creatures swarming in your peripheral vision, it's POP.


There's a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to blog about once I returned to blogging, but I can't remember most of it. The only thing that's sticking is that today's the official debut of a couple of welcome additions to the comics webosphere.

First, there's the long-awaited* debut of Robert Burke Richardson and Stehen Yarbrough's THE MATRIARCH, in webcomic form. Haven't had a chance to read it yet--for some reason I'm having a little trouble, uhhhhh...
Focusing. Right now, but I'm looking forward to it. There's a few pages up to start with; I believe there'll be one page updates more than once a week, but I could be really, really wrong about that. Frankly, it's borderline miraculous I remembered to mention it at all, in my current fragmented state. Check it out if you've got a few minutes. Robert's one of the many people whose coattails I plan to ride to comics glory.

That last sentence made sense in my head, but looking at it onscreen I'm now wondering if I should have kept it trapped within the confines of my skull...

(*Long-awaited by me, if no one else: RBR mentioned the project to me when we first met more than three years ago. This is, regrettably, not an unusually long period of time for a comics project to lag in the comics version of Development Hell--which is like Hollywood's Development Hell, without the paycheque.)

Secondly, I have it in my head that today's the Official Premiere of Robot 6, the new blog by the former Blog@Newsarama crew, at This in spite of the fact that there's been a fair amount of posting there over the last few days, which makes me wonder if I've misremembered...

Nope, there's a big notice on the CBR homepage introducing R6, so I guess they were just building a little content prior to walking the virtual red carpet. To my mind, the previous incarnation of Blog@ was the best part of the corporate-controlled Newsarama, so Robot 6 is a welcome...comic weblog thingie. God, I'm tired.

Not terribly keen on the name, though, even though it does make for kind of a neat logo image.


Kernels Popcorn has altered the packaging for their popcorn spices, which is fine. Unfortunately for me, they also seem to have altered the formulation of their Dill Pickle flavour, dulling down the harsh, inner-mouth blistering quality of the good stuff in favour of a weaker, saltier flavour that resembles nothing so much as the popcorn flavourings I try to avoid whenever possible.

This is probably a good thing for my overall health, but from a personal Foodie POV, I fear it's the end of an era. My palate will never be the same. For one thing, it'll no longer be an unhealthy chalk white, peeling fragments of skin into the rest of my mouth.

Deep sigh.


Thursday, January 1, 2009