Friday, July 31, 2009

For the Art Process Junkies

In this thread at Canadian Geek, the Future of Comics (I) Fiona Staples describes her process in developing the first cover image for the Brian Wood/Rebekah Isaacs revamp of Wildstorm's DV8 comic. I'm constantly amazed by how she and artists like Frazer Irving manage to create such rich, painterly work entirely digitally. On the one hand, I like the idea that the printed cover is itself the finished piece*; on the other, it just feels wrong on some basic level that there isn't a physical, real-world artifact to show for the effort.

*While I like artists having access to as many revenue streams as possible, I've heard it argued that the rising value of original comic art has had a negative effect on comic storytelling. The argument is that artists supposedly use various means to push for full and double-page spreads that are more valuable for an art collector than the boring old multi-panel storytelling pages, at the expense of the story. I don't really know if that's actually the reason (or one of them) for the overuse of such pages (especially the one-panel double-page spread, which I will go to my grave insisting only works in saddle-stitched format and therefore ought to be banned for any story that's going to see print in a bound paperback or hardcover format), but it's hard to look at what's on the comic shop shelves in any given week and not notice that it's taking six issues to tell stories that took 22 pages or less when I started reading comics.

Which isn't to say comics back then were better-written--they weren't. But I do think a lot of the tools that were developed over the first fifty or so years of North American comics' development, like descriptive captions, thought balloons, and sound effects to name just three, elements that are almost entirely unique to the medium, we tossed aside a little too eagerly in the late '90s/early '00s. Happily, most of them seem to be making something in the way of a comeback in the last few years, but we're still seeing way too many double-page spreads...


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Still don't believe me about bankers?

Nine banks pay $32.6 billion dollars in bonuses while receiving $175 billion in federal bailout money.

But let's not forget what the real enemy is here.

Am I the only one who hears Homer Simpson's voice talking about the Max Power way of doing things when Giuliani insists on doing things the "American way"?


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fool me seventeen times, shame on me.

A few days back, in my ongoing quest not to do what I really ought to be doing with my time, I came upon the blog of reality TV producers Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina (found it via Chad Gervich's Script Notes.) I haven't had a chance to read much of it yet, but the post "How You Get Your First Job in Hollywood" caught my attention, largely because I haven't gotten my first job in Hollywood yet (and I am looking. That's right, Hollywood, I'm aVAILable...)

There's a parallel between the way they describe their first H'wood job and the way many (including myself) approach(ed) the comics industry.

Regarding the odious terms they were forced to accept to get their first producing credit, Messina says they were "Happy to be screwed out of every single penny ... Why? Because for us, it was the opportunity we’d been begging for. The chance to step it up and prove we could do the job."

Pretty much any time anyone in the portion of the industry where creators receive actual money for their work talks about what it takes to reach the ranks of the full-time professional comics writer, the first thing they say is "You need to get something published somewhere else."

Which makes sense. Independently developing and actually producing a complete comic, even a 22 page one, isn't the easiest thing in the world. Getting it published by someone other than yourself is even harder. Ask any writer who's been kicking around comics for any length of time, and they all have horror stories about artists who flaked out on them. Ask any creator-owned comics publisher and they all have horror stories about creators who flaked out on them. Speakeasy Comics' founder placed a good portion of the blame for that company's demise on creator-owned books that failed to be delivered in a timely manner. I don't know if that was really the cause or not, but I do know that it happened: a lot of creator-owned books were solicited based on creators' promises to meet certain deadlines, and those deadlines got missed, a lot.

I still haven't been paid anything for Age of Kings, the first graphic novel I wrote for Platinum Studios. I didn't even get the standard thousand dollars creators of the bulk of the projects they developed or acquired received for their work. I wrote it, as I did everything I wrote for that company, with the expectation that, more than an actual cheque, the payoff would come in the form of a writing credit and a finished, professional-looking book I could show editors who might be willing to offer me something more than a thousand dollars for 88+ pages (after AoK I did start getting some money).

I did this for a very long time, literally years, without complaint. Because I believed I was paying my dues.

Of course, Platinum never published the majority of the stuff I or anyone else wrote for them, which, honestly, may be a blessing. I was learning how to write (and, as if not more importantly, to edit) comics all the way through the process. While I still like the scripts for JEST CAUSE and THREADS, I'm not at all sure I wouldn't be embarrassed if anything else I worked on for the company actually saw the light of day. I'm certainly not thrilled about the way the one Platinum project I was involved in that actually got published turned out, but then I don't think anyone who was part of the thing was.

On the other hand, I don't have a body of published Platinum-published work to show editors, which was what I (and, I suspect, the bulk of Platinum's other creators) was doing the work for.

If dues are paid in the wood with nobody around to notice you paying them, are the dues truly paid?

Not really. While I've recently gotten some mileage out of having my name associated with the comic currently being developed for film by the guys who wrote Star Trek, the vast majority of whatever progress I've made towards the ultimate goal of carving out a writing career for myself* has come from PARTING WAYS, DONE TO DEATH, and THE HOLIDAY MEN in "The Massacre Memorial Day Sale Massacre". None of which have, to date, made me a cent. In fact, one of them personally cost me upwards of $15,000, and another cost me in less tangible but far more personally traumatizing ways. All that aside, I now have three books I'm happy to show people, secure in the knowledge that, good or bad, they're at least an accurate representation of what I'm capable of as a writer.

While there are some parallels between comics and the first Hollywood job scenario described by Messina, there are also some major differences. Whenever someone in television says they didn't make much money off their creative work, my gut instinct is that they still made a lot more than someone not making much off their work in comics. Many comics creators are desperate to have something published, to the point that many of them, myself ten years ago included, are willing to literally give away their intellectual property for the cost of a printing bill and solicitation text in Previews (and even that's getting iffy, these days.) Too often, these creators see themselves as indebted to a publisher. Way too often the publisher also sees creators as indebted to them, a mindset that's come to absolutely sicken me over time.

Comics have a few things over traditional prose publishing; one of them is a model of successful self-publishers. The notion of a vanity press, if it exists in comics at all, at least doesn't preclude the possibility that someone publishing at their own expense might still be producing something of value. The cost of self-publishing ten years ago was an expense some creators were unwilling or unable to afford (I originally had a plan to self-pub PARTING WAYS, but art took a couple years longer than planned and by the time I had it, I'd run out of the capital I'd intended to use for printing and promotion. Fortunately, Speakeasy sprang into existence around the same time, and the rest is history.)

Though I'm a natural-born luddite, even I have to admit that the internet and print on demand technology's made it easier than ever before for creators to get their work out--and get it out without losing their intellectual property, which is the only thing a frighteningly large number of "comics publishers" are interested in. Granted, most of these creators won't make money off webcomics, but then again, the odds are they aren't going to make money off comics published through anyone who doesn't pay a page rate or advance up-front, either.

And, in the event that Hollywood comes knocking, it'll have to talk to someone for whom a property's creators' goals are the highest priority, rather than a company agenda that, as often as not, places the egos of whoever got his Mom to cough up a couple grand for printing over the well-being of the people who actually created the work. I know tons of people who had the intellectual property they created simply given away for little to no money, by publishers desperate to establish themselves--or at least be perceived as having established themselves, or, worst of all, to delude themselves that they'd established themselves--as movers in Hollywood. They're like many unpublished comics creators, now that I think about it--willing to give away everything in order to hopefully get something slightly better than nothing.

If anyone's going to get slightly more than nothing, it ought to be the creator. But until creators stop accepting the notion that any deal is worth it just to get a book in print**, it's not going to happen. Fortunately (if that's the word for it), the generation of readors coming up now and the one after it will likely see reading comics on-screen as a perfectly normal thing. If and when that happens, intellectual property hoarders (which I've no problem with in principle, providing the principle includes creators getting paid decently at some point) will have to offer a lot more to their marks, er, creative partners than many do today.

It's never been easier to pay dues in the comics industry than it is now. A whole, frustrating, frequently dysfunctional buffer between the creator and the audience is eroding. Now someone just has to figure out how to make what's left over pay, and we'll be onto something.

*More than a lot of people, but not nearly enough.

**And hey, I've been in that position. I understand why people do it, because I did it myself. But, to paraphrase Steven Grant, "I never knew anyone who signed away their rights at 20 who didn't regret it by the time they hit 40."


Monday, July 27, 2009

This just in...

Further proof that bankers are @$$holes: accused fraudster Allen Stanford asks to be moved to a prison that's not "oppressive." Scientists now working to create a subatomic scale violin so everyone in America can play Stanford world's saddest song on it.


Bow Down before the Mighty GodKing.

Every once in awhile, I start feeling bad that I'm so jaded and cynical. And then I read something by Christopher Bird' s MUST READ SAN DIEGO COMICON WRAPUP post at, and I don't feel as bad, jaded, or cynical as I once did.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Con Gamed

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had drawing a comic.” Fiona Staples, who apparently wants to hurt my feelings. Between that and her NORTH 40 editor believing her work on the upcoming TRICK 'R TREAT was "the first full-length comic Fiona had ever drawn", I'm starting to feel sorry for myself...

Oh wait, I already felt sorry for myself. Never mind, then.

So the "big news" out of the San Diego Comic Con this year seems to be the acquisition of a number of loose superhero properties by major North American mainstream publishers. Last year, DC announced the return of the Milestone characters and the acquisition of Archie Comics' Red Circle superheroes; this year, they announced that they've finally got The THUNDER Agents, which, along with the Justice Machine, is a group of characters I've long had an attachment to for no rational reason I've ever been able to articulate.

Dark Horse has got Jim Shooter working on some characters he's already given a booster shot to back when he helped build up Valiant Comics, Gold Key properties like Turok and Dr. Solar.

And Marvel managed to get loads of PR by strongly implying that Alan Moore's lost/Neil Gaiman's unfinished superhero masterpiece will finally be found/finished, while pointedly not saying anything of the sort. Over at The Beat, Heidi McDonald quotes one-time Eclipse Comics honcho Dean Mullaney saying point-blank that the Miracleman version of the character isn't what Marvel's managed to get hold of. All this talk of Marvelman being "the JD Salinger" of comics characters loses a lot of (if not all of) its weight if what's actually been acquired is a blatant fairly Captain Marvel rip-off, rather than Alan Moore's other major comics work deconstructing the superhero. If it's the latter, it's an exciting development for people who don't feel like shelling out hundreds of dollars for the now very difficult to get hold of story; if it's the former, it amounts to pointing out a molehill and pretending it's a mountain while leaving enough wiggle room to say, "Hey, I never actually said it was a mountain" when someone examines the thing a little more closely.

I completely fell for the hype myself, and sat there reading Newsarama's live updates of the Quesada panel, waiting for the Big Announcement, which I seriously believed would involve Harry Potter--something that might have carried a little weight in the wider mainstream and offered a potential infusion of new readers to a medium that could frankly use it. It was not to be, but as a comics fan, I was excited to learn that Marvelman would be returning, right up until I noticed what wasn't being said.

But hey--The THUNDER Agents are coming back! And Fiona Staples is having a lot of fun drawing NORTH 40. And I didn't spend a couple grand over the last five days for the privilege of sweating and getting frustrated in a distant city. So that's all good.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hey, Transformers Producer Don Murphy - the FROM HELL film sucked. Now option my book!

Hey, it worked for this guy.


PS: Hey Don, just so you know, I actually enjoyed LXG. No hard feelings, right?

PPS: Right?

PPPS: Don...? Mr. Murphy?

PPPPS: ...

PPPPPS: Aw, crap.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This post isn't going to involve me complaining at length about fruitflies. You're welcome.

Some stuff from the "Well it made me laugh" category today:

"This is the sort of comic that would've been useful if you worked at Abu Gharib and were getting tired of boring old rape and electrocution." - Not even close to the funniest line in Tucker Stone's reviews of a few DC Comics from last week, but the funniest I could find that didn't involve profanity (this is a Family Blog. I think about the children.)

"Family Guy got nominated for an Emmy for Best Comedy today. It's the first time that an animated show has been nominated in that category since 1961 (when The Flintstones lost to The Jack Benny Show). 1961! Alaska had just become a state. Internet porn about pregnant chicks was still a crazy, futuristic dream. And the leading cause of death in our nation among males age 18 to 40 was whistling at white women." - Family Guy writer Patrick Meighan tries to minimize the degree to which 30 Rock is going to crush his show at the Emmys.

"I remember the good old days at the Zoo, when you could drink and smoke and make out with the animals." - TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE mastermind Michael Kupperman has a twitter account. This is darn near the only thing that could get me to actually go out of my way to read a twitter account. I can't start one, partly because I don't have a cellphone and tweeting without a cellphone seems kind of sad and pathetic, like creating your own wikipedia entry (which I honestly didn't do. I did correct it, though. And the bit about me being a masterful lover? That was all me), and partly because you couldn't write sentences like this one in 140 characters or less, and I write a lot of sentences like this one.

How did I find out about Kupperman's twitter account? From an Onion AV Club interview. Which isn't particularly funny. Kupperman strikes me as someone who's serious about comedy, and he's really good at it. But an interview about being funny and how to make things funny isn't necessarily going to be funny itself. Anyway, to cut what could become a lengthy ramble short, you should run to your nearest comic shop and order TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE Volume One. Like, right now. I'm serious. Go.

This just in from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles showrunner Josh Friedman:


"After years of sharing The San Diego Convention Center venue with Comic-Con, organizers of the JoshFriedmanCon Corp. have decided to finally take the ridiculously lucrative Convention devoted to all things Josh Friedman out on its own...

"'There's a number of reasons we've decided to end our partnership with Comic-Con," says JFCC co-founder Josh Friedman. "It's become clear recently that Comic-Con's interests and Friedman-Con's interests were beginning to diverge. Comic-Con has gradually changed from its early roots as a colorful sanctuary for the comic book industry and its fans to something more akin to a corporate trade show focusing on broader marketing objectives in all corners of entertainment culture. JoshFriedmanCon, on the other hand, has been and will always be singularly devoted to Josh Friedman. And that's what our fans want.'"

Again, I can't really quote the choicest bits without a Mature Readers warning (and come on, how many people reading my blog are actually mature? I know the guy writing it isn't.) Read the rest of the press release here.

Finally, a word to anyone reading this who happens to be going to the Big Con this weekend: while you're standing in lines, sweating profusely, going deaf from Stephenie Meyer fans screaming, and paying frankly insane prices for drinks at the Marriott and Hyatt, I'll be sitting here enjoying the cool breeze of a fan and the gentle purr of one or more of Tiina's animals, and a nice, cool Caesar I didn't have to take a mortgage out to obtain. Even so, I'm insanely jealous of you and I hate you all right now.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

On the one hand, this should have been SO MUCH FUNNIER.

On the other, it's still pretty funny, at least for people who've read WATCHMEN and seen an interview or two with Alan Moore.

An ad for the extended DVD version of the film last night said claimed that it would be "the film you never saw in theatres." I turned to Tiina and said, "So does that mean it's the same film that was in theatres after the opening weekend?"



Much Adoodle-doo.

Hey everyone! Let's get angry about stuff that's really kind of silly! Stuff like:

(quick, someone tell Glenn Beck canuck and ozzie actors are stealing all the great superhero roles from hard-working Americans, those lousy immiguhnts)!



Look, bankers are @$$holes.* They just are. That's a comment on a profession, not a religion. It's got everything to do with bankers' actions and absolutely nothing to do with which Old Dude in the sky they happen to worship.

And you know who else was a bit of a @$$hole? The character of god, as presented in the old testament. Frankly, he's no great shakes in the new one, either, but at least there he's not throwing temper tantrums, condemning those he claims to love to suffering and death because because they raided the fridge and ate the special apples he was saving, or killing hundreds of thousands of people because they never come round to visit anymore...

As someone who generally strives towards some level of, if not political correctness, at least politeness, I should probably just shut my mouth when it comes to this stuff. But I believe in anger as a potentially positive force for social change, and it bothers me when people get mad about (what Mr. White Male Privilege here sees as) relatively insignificant, if not entirely imaginary, slights. There's so much stuff in the world that deserves our anger. To me, this sort of thing is akin to expending energy focusing on your stubbed toe when it would be better spent dealing with your slit throat.

Also, OK, history's not really my thing, but am I reading the ADL's statement correctly: Christians forced Jews to commit usury? They put guns (or slings, I guess) to Jews' heads and said, "Lend us money but charge us interest, or we fire?" That seems off to me, but again, I'm no history expert. If anyone reading this could clarify, either in comments or e-mail, I'd appreciate it.

(*In my opinion, based on what I've read and my own personal experience. Much as I want to malign the entire profession, I have to acknowledge that, somewhere out there, there's a chance one or more bankers who aren't @$$holes exist. On a quantum level, anything's possible.)


Monday, July 20, 2009

Fashion, f-fuhfufhfuhFashion

"In a few months, when they realize that girls are not rushing to buy Spider-Man lip gloss and Incredible Hulk tampons, expect Marvel to poutily insist that this is proof that women are not interested in comics." - Dark Horse Editor Rachel Edidin, smacking around the advertising geniuses who brought you the Spider-Girl Sassy Deluxe Adult Costume for their latest attempt to reach out to the ever-elusive (for superhero-centric comic companies) female demographic.

The post is full of quote-worthy lines, definitely worth a read. It starts off as really funny, venomous snark, but by the end it becomes apparent that there's nothing remotely schadenfreudian in it. She really wants to like Marvel's output; but the company (or some elements of the company) treating women like alien creatures makes it difficult.

She even offers some solid suggestions of how to attract female readers without coming across as offensively condescending. Maybe some of them will be taken to heart, but honestly? I'm not holding my breath. The superhero comic companies have their core audience and lack the resources and/or the will to produce anything that doesn't immediately get that core audience's support.

Actually, that last bit isn't fair. The companies do occasionally produce material that might have an appeal beyond their core audience. Where the resources and/or will fall short is in supporting such materials long enough for them to find an audience. I don't think Minx was a bad idea--more that it was an idea that couldn't (or at least wasn't) sustained long enough to build an audience acceptable to whichever set of accountants make the call on what gets supported and what gets the axe. All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder rakes in direct market sales with little to no effort. Why bother trying to create/build/grow an audience when you can just cannibalize the one that's already there and isn't going anywhere until they, well, die?

Did I mention that my 13-year old niece read the copy of collected DRAMACON I gave her for her birthday three times in the first day she had it? Or the trembling, almost crying stream of tween girls lined up to meet Svetlana Chmakova at the Calgary Expo a few months ago? Seriously, for this small collection of readers, talking with Svetlana was akin to a music fan talking to John Lennon. I wouldn't have been surprised if one or more of them actually screamed when Svet said hi to them. This seems pertinent, somehow...


On a barely related note, who thought this was a good idea? I give it two months before we get a headline involving Batman and Road Rage.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Modest Apocalypse


That's the sound about fifty feet of tree makes when it's buffeted by ridiculous winds, snaps, and takes out your chainlink fence. Or it would be if the last "Crrakkk!" was about five times the size.

On the upside, nobody was parked in the spot traditionally used for parking next to the house. Nobody's going to for awhile, either, as there's a bloody great tree parked there at the moment.

According to a neighbour out surveying the carnage, the cloud-covered sky was lit pink an hour or so back. "That's not a good sign," he said, and given that a good portion of the fence is now roughly parallel with the ground, I believe him. It calmed down for awhile, but the lightning and thunder picked up a few minutes ago and are currently blasting the sky to shreds. The real damage in the neighbourhood seems to have come almost entirely from the wind. Sounds like someone had a branch blast through their window down the street, and a van got taken out by another falling tree a few blocks down.

Tiina's going to have a big surprise when she gets back from the Harry Potter movie in half an hour or so...



A couple follow-ups on this last few days' postings.

First, the TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! promotional train keeps on rolling, with Gibson's efforts being both successful (at least in terms of first issue sales, which is the metric all the PR's focusing on--personally, I'll be more interested in seeing how the second to fourth issues sell. The problem with selling 20k copies of a #1 is that unless your fans are really, really fanatical, you're likely facing a pretty steep drop when it comes time to order #2...)

That was a long parenthetical. Let me try that again: The TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! promotional train keeps on rolling, with Gibson's "grassroots" efforts being both successful and not terribly appreciated by retailer Brian Hibbs.

Something about the whole "make #1 sales look huge" scheme seemed off to me, and it took me awhile to put my finger on it. The whole thing was clarified somewhat--hey, I do believe it's hailing now. Real Wrath of God stuff. Man, that is something.

OK, the whole thing was clarified somewhat when it was pointed out to me that Platinum's attempts to manipulate sales numbers for Cowboys & Aliens didn't fool anyone in the comics industry and almost certainly wasn't intended to. Rather, it was likely aimed at getting the attention of Hollywood in general, and quite possibly at two of the three current screenwriters attached to the film (Orci and Kurtzman) in particular. Granted, the attempt to have the #1-selling graphic novel of December 2006 was foiled when Diamond reclassified the book as something other than a graphic novel. Fortunately (from Platinum's point of view), by that point it had already appeared as a #1 seller (for a specific store) in Entertainment Weekly. Sure, in the next EW the editors made a point of mentioning that the book was really more of a promotional item, but as far as I can tell, Platinum doesn't mention that in the PR.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to get at, in my own ramblingly incoherent way, is that Platinum's manipulation didn't fool anyone in the comics industry, and the "sales" numbers of TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! #1 isn't going to fool anyone in the comic industry either. I'm really not sure who those numbers are intended to fool--the "hater" in me is tempted to believe the person they're really fooling is Gibson himself, based on his really hammering what's pretty obviously an inflated number in the interviews I've read. But Gibson is a "2.0 celebrity", and rightly or wrongly, my kneejerk instinct is to associate the attachment of "2.0" to anything that's not a computer program with attempts to artificially create the kind of multimedia sensation that can't really be artificially created. So I wouldn't be surprised if there are plans to try and develop TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! as a film or TV vehicle almost certainly starring Tyrese Gibson. I wonder if the film would still be called TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM!...? And, giving Gibson the benefit of the doubt, maybe his attempts to portray the direct market sales of the first issue as an indicator of actual wide interest are for the benefit of someone who'd actually believe it. The whole thing's just weird to me, is all.

Also: yes, for a good portion of high school I thought condoms were apartments you owned like a house.


Friday, July 17, 2009

More things I just don't understand.

So I'm at Happy Harbor the other day, as I am for roughly 50% of my other days these days, and a conversation between a customer and HH owner Jay "The Shepherd" Bardyla turns to which method of payment costs the store the least. Which I thought was darned odd.

It turns out that there are costs for the store associated with pretty much every method of payment. Credit cards take a percentage of every transaction. Debit card transactions cost a flat fee. Given that both those transactions have some technical requirements, I can almost deal with that, though it still strikes me as a little odd, as I myself make monthly payments to the bank for the privilege of being able to not actually have real money in my wallet.

What surprised me more was the discovery that it costs Happy Harbor money just to deposit cash in the bank, in an account which, if I understand this correctly (and I have trouble believing I do, just because it's, well, it's completely bat$#!& insane) doesn't actually accrue interest for the account holder.


-One way or another, banks are charging their clients for pretty much every transaction they make*,

-If the people who receive money get it in any form other than cash and/or do anything with that cash other than spend it, the banks are charging them, too, and

-Well, there really isn't anything else, but once again I'm really kind of surprised 1 out of 5 Canadian lampposts isn't adorned with the dangling corpse of a bank executive, who've all been party to a system that has, in the twenty years I've had a bank account, managed the neat trick of making things both more expensive and less efficient, while still managing to convince the general public that nationalizing the banks is somehow a bad idea.

It is to weep.

(*They've also put up all sorts of barriers and roadblocks preventing clients from accessing that money, for instance, putting holds on cheques for days, weeks, sometimes months at a time, claiming it takes that long for one computer to ask another computer if the cheque will clear, something that I have a hard time believing.)



"The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

If you're in a particularly good mood and want to cure it, you could do worse than reading The Great American Bubble Machine, Matt Taibbi's excellent Rolling Stone article on the way Goldman-Sachs has consistently managed to profit at the expense of its clients, taxpayers, and pretty much everyone in the whole entire world for the last 90 or so years.

Of special interest to me is the last couple pages, which expose how current, seemingly positive moves on the environment are going to benefit GS and their ilk as much or more than they are the ecosystem. I suppose someone was going to find a way to wring money out of not absolutely ruining the world for future generations of humanity, but I really wish it wasn't going to be these particular scumbags.

If seven pages is a bit more than you want to bite off at the moment but you're still jonesing to get your economic meltdown rage on, check out this post at Taibbi's Taibblog, which outlines the various ways Goldman-Sachs' obscene $3.44 billion second quarter profits come at the expense of the United States taxpayer.

I don't much mind people who make stuff other than profit making a profit. It's people who make nothing to make a profit that really drive me berserk. At least, they're what's driving me berserk this morning.


Thursday, July 16, 2009


A couple pieces of good news, at least for godless pinkos like myself:

-Some church ministers are refusing to sign marriage certificates and/or perform wedding ceremonies until gay marriage is legalized. Says United Church of Christ minister Art Cribbs: "I cannot with good conscience perform weddings for heterosexuals knowing people who are gay and lesbian are being denied that opportunity."

-Also, I can't seem to find a solid link for it, but this showed up on a friend's blog (I'd link to it, but it's friend-locked so not much point...) and, assuming it's true, which for the moment I am assuming, it's another mark in the win column:

This morning [actually yesterday, July 10], the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor HHS) eliminated traditional sources of funding for abstinence-only programs by passing the appropriations bill for FY 2010.

The Labor HHS subcommittee and the Obama Administration has recognized what we already knew: abstinence-only sex education programs do not work. The evidence is irrefutable that spending for abstinence-only education is not only wasteful, but also the programs put young women’s health at risk. A 2004 study by the House Committee on Government Reform, conducted at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) found that over 80% of the curricula used in the largest federally funded abstinence-only programs contained “false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.”

In addition to pulling the plug on funding for failed abstinence-only sex education programs, the bill eliminates a ban on syringe exchange programs, which have been proven to be a highly effective strategy for preventing HIV.

That's obviously specific to the US. I should really check into what the situation is here in Canada. Over the next few years, my nieces and nephews are going to enter the age bracket where they stop being entertainingly androgynous moppets and start dealing with these sorts of issues. It'd be nice to know they weren't being fed ill-conceived (if you'll pardon the pun) propaganda from the religious wrong when it happens.


An anecdote to give this post a personal touch:

Students could talk about almost anything in Mr. Esau's grade 12 Social Studies class, or at least that's how I remember it. One of the reasons I remember it that way is because at some point, condoms were mentioned. I can't remember the context, but it seems to me they were a part of some discussion that lasted a few minutes at least.

At some point, one girl's hand goes up. Everyone looks at her and she hesitantly asks, "What's a condom?"

Titters and guffaws from the students. Mr. Esau coolly shuts them down, "It's not funny, it's a serious question." But he doesn't elaborate on what a condom actually is, probably because if he did he'd end up having some nitwit parent complaining that their precious flower's being exposed to perversion in his classroom. Instead, he offers the girl a dictionary. She gets up, goes to the front of the class, flips through the dictionary to the C Section.

I never saw a group of high school kids as quiet as Mr. Esau's class watching this girl reading the dictionary. Dead silence for a minute or two as she gets the Official Definition of condom.

After an agonizingly long time, she says, "Huh." Slams the dictionary shut, returns to her seat, and spends the rest of the year being an object of ridicule.

When I was in high school, I wasn't a popular kid, for a variety of reasons (in retrospect, at least some of them were entirely my own damn fault). My size saved me from a lot of the hassles
smaller kids had to put up with, but I think I also had at least some minimal instinct for social self-preservation.

Without it, I would've been the one standing in front of Mr. Esau's class reading the dictionary.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's a quote. It's a day. It's not the quote of the day.

"It's standard for comic book shops to pre-order two or three copies of a comic book. Well, we sold over 10,000 comic books from just one store after one month of effort." "2.o celebrity" Tyrese Gibson.

I can't imagine this press release touting presales of 10,000 copies of TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! #1 to LA's Meltdown Comics is going to go long before someone starts seriously examining it (Heidi Macdonald's already promised to give it some ink at The Beat), if not ridiculing it outright.

I've got mixed emotions about it, myself, but the emotions in that mix are all exceedingly mild, like the mixed emotions I have over whether I should wear matching socks. Hey, it's not my book. My big concern is how this could impact the comics industry overall, and I tend to think that'll come down to whether the comic's a fun, original, accessible idea with an established celebrity behind it (like Gerard Way's UMBRELLA ACADEMY), or whether it isn't (like pretty much every other comic "created" by a media celebrity.)

Let's assume for the moment that Gibson's as big a draw for current non-comics readers as he's being made out to be. Let's assume those 10,000 copies are put on the shelves and sold to actual customers--presumably some new ones, coming in to Meltdown in response to Gibson's admirably single-minded promotion of the book--rather than a retailer "partner"*. That's potentially great for the medium, if the book is good and/or appealing. New comics readers are much needed in North America. If they're being brought into a store each month to buy MAYHEM!, that's a chance to sell them not just on Giibson's book, but other titles and, ideally, the medium itself.


If the audience response to the book is "Eh.", then all that's happened is a bunch of people have been brought into a comic shop one time, bought a single comic, many of them for something other than the actual quality of the book itself, found it to be nothing special, and if this is an example of the best the industry has to offer (and obviously it is, why else is it "selling" in record-breaking quantities), well, maybe they'll save the money they would've spent on other comics for the widescreen Blu-Ray edition of Transformers 2.

To my mind, that wouldn't just be a missed opportunity--it's any number of future opportunities strangled in their crib, before they have a chance to grow into something that could benefit everyone along the chain, from creator to retailer to reader. Because the next time they hear something good about that My Chemical Romance Guy's comic, or Avril Lavigne's MAKE 5 WISHES, or whatever celebrity spearheaded comic that's actually got something going for it other than a name they've heard before, they'll have every reason not to believe the hype.

So, for the sake of the industry, I really, really hope TYRESE GIBSON'S MAYHEM! is an awesome book. And if it isn't, I hope it won't be held against THE ANONYMOUS 2.0 CELEBRITY'S ADJECTIVE! comic I'm writing.

Because that book's gonna be awesome.


*I seem to recall Platinum Studios getting absolutely crucified for working in concert with specific retailers to ensure Cowboys & Aliens was the highest-ordered graphic novel for December, 2006.
As I understand it, this is a goal they were a hair's breadth from achieving, only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. At the last minute--beyond the last minute, really, it was after the book was solicited--Diamond, who as I understand it {and I wasn't exactly in the loop for the company's promo efforts outside of the interview or two I did} determined what the price of the book was actually going to be in order to qualify as a "graphic novel", unilaterally elected to reclassify it as...something other than a graphic novel (promotional item...? I don't remember...) so it wouldn't appear in the GN sales charts.
Between you and me, I'm of the mind that if the book had managed to be what everyone involved wanted it to be but for a whole raft of reasons just wasn't,
the backlash wouldn't have been so extreme. While I don't believe the efforts made on the book's behalf actually brought anyone new into a comic shop, I still see that one as a lost opportunity, albeit one that primarily damaged only those directly involved in the book and Entertainment Weekly, if it damaged anyone at all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stuff I Just Don't Understand...

OK, due to the whims of geography and my parents, I ended up being born a Canadian in the latter half of the twentieth century and I plan to continue to be one into the latter half of the twenty-first. If I happen to still be alive in the early part of the 22nd, maybe I'll finally be inspired to want to change that (or just leave the house), but personally? I wouldn't bet on it.

As a Canadian during the aformentioned period, I've enjoyed the benefits of a public health care plan. Well, enjoy them may be overstating it--I'd have been happier if I never got rear-ended by a car, had years of back problems, chronic nausea, and, since I moved to Edmonton, month-long flareups of CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!(tm). But given that all that stuff did happen and continues to happen, I can only thank my lucky stars that I'm in a country that doesn't actively discriminate against the poor when it comes to health issues (or at least, doesn't discriminate to the degree that countries with no public health plan do.)

This isn't to say things are perfect up here. I actually pay money I can't really afford into two expanded health insurance plans, one as a secondary beneficiary to Tiina's coverage (which she got at my urging), and one recently introduced (and half paid for by) Happy Harbor Comics for its employees (I don't know that I ever mentioned how awesome I think it is that Jay and Shawna elected to do that, but it is pretty damn awesome for a company to put such a thing in place when there's absolutely no requirement for them to do so--in seven years as a commercial painter at three different companies and I never came across the concept of a company policy... I actually thought it was strictly an American thing.)

Even with that coverage, I've still ended up forking out a couple hundred dollars for partially-covered dental care. T's lost a hundred or two on eye care in the last two or three months. And then there's issues of preventative health measures, at least some of which aren't covered (a friend has shelled out thousands of dollars over the last year to get corrective foot surgery so she could walk with less pain, which doesn't seem right.)

So the Canadian system isn't perfect, but it's there, for everyone, and if things happen to get ugly, well, Canadians know they're covered. Over the last couple years, I've had an EEG, an MRI, a couple electrocardiograms, and appointments with a variety of specialists. It took awhile to get some of those, but whatever problems I've got don't seem to be killing me directly, and I did eventually get all of them, and they cost me nothing but time, which is pretty much the one thing I can sometimes afford at the moment. This seems natural to me.

I honestly cannot grasp the mentality that holds to the idea that a rich person's health is more valuable than a poor one's. And to my mind, when you boil it down to its essence, this is precisely the utterly unconscionable mindset opponents of public health care actively promote.

I haven't watched a Michael Moore movie in a few years. Wasn't that impressed with Fahrenheit 9/11, never saw Sicko. While I tend to agree with his positions on the issues, his onscreen character has started to rub me the wrong way for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that his very presence in his work oftentimes seems to overwhelm the important issues he's raising.

I don't know when exactly I concluded that Moore had stopped being a documentarian and become a propagandist. Odds are he was always the latter and, seeing as I generally agreed with him and was being entertained, I didn't notice. In this day and age, propaganda's pretty much omnipresent in the lives of anyone with a television, computer, or weekly church visits. Personally, I'm more interested in the propaganda produced by those I disagree with. I take it, examine it, find the flaws, and discredit it. And because it's propaganda, there are always flaws. "Government-run programs are wasteful; as much as possible should be left to the private sector because it's more efficient." One look at Medicare says otherwise, but even beyond that, I'd rather get my health care from someone who's looking to actually help the sick rather than to improve the bottom line. Maybe it's just me...

The problem with Moore's propaganda is that it works both ways. Any time he distorts facts to make a political point, he gives his (and my) opponents a line to attack not just himself, but the wider position. I have some pretty extreme ideological positions, I'll admit, and in the face of, well... reality, some of them won't hold up, much as I'd wish it otherwise. But sometimes, the unvarnished facts--like "There are millions of people in the USofA who need health care and either cannot afford it or are actively denied it by private insurers"--really ought to be all it takes to get anyone with a molecule of human compassion on the right side of an issue.

To make the point that "Everyone deserves a certain degree of healthcare, regardless of their circumstances", you don't need to present the standard wait time in a Canadian hospital waiting room as 20 minutes or less (with the exception of the accident, I've never spent less than a couple hours waiting in the Emergency Section, which, though I and my excruciating back pain would've preferred to get the inevitable demerol shot 3 1/2 hours earlier, is not a criticism--other people were bleeding and dying, and I did get eventually get the shot, which I paid for with time and discomfort, both of which I had to spare, unlike money.) By making it seem like that's the case, as Moore apparently does in the clip I'm going to link to below, he invites opponents of health care to point out that there's a Canadian schmuck writer who had to wait four hours in agony before getting a shot, and in doing so imply that the system doesn't work, when it actually does. It might not work as fast as it does as the current system in the US does for the wealthy, but it works for everyone, and on balance, there's more of everyone than there are wealthy people, so yeah. Paris Hilton might have to suffer briefly for the greater good. Life is rough.

I mention Moore because, while I don't watch him much anymore, I'm still on his mailing list. Occasionally, something of interest that I didn't catch wind of elsewhere in my internet journeys makes its way through. One of those happened to be over this last week, when I received a mail linking to a clip of a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Potter, ex-VP and chief media flack of the private American health insurance company Cigna.

The mail's focus re: the clip was the tactics Potter and others used in trying to minimize the damage Moore's "Sicko" might do to their public image, which I was faintly interested in. What interested me more, however, was what Potter said on either side of the clip, which led me to watch the entire interview, which I highly recommend to anyone harbouring any doubts about the need to change the American health insurance system.

Potter's surprisingly forthright in talking about both his role in helping kill a public healthcare option in the States, and in condemning private health insurers for putting the bottom line ahead of their clients' health. I'm not sure I buy the explanation for his conversion to the side of angels, but I can't see any particular benefit for him coming out and calmly but firmly eviscerating his former employer and their ilk. It may be too little too late, but it's something.

On a related note, pretty much every comic-related blog I read this week has made mention of the plight of GRIMJACK writer and co-creator John Ostrander. The short version is, Ostrander has a private insurance plan, but that plan apparently didn't cover the costs of surgery he required to not go blind. But hey, at least he's insured, right? He's one of the lucky ones.

Just not lucky enough to be Canadian.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

NO MORE PARENTS - Page 01 pencils by TFOC3 Nick Johnson


Man, I've missed seeing things I wrote actually get produced...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

By "P Black" over at Deadline Hollywood Daily, re: that guy who died whose name escapes me:

"how many people in the world have touched so many people in so many different ways?"

I really wanted to write a comment, but honestly, I don't think I could come up with something funnier than the line I'd be responding to (which I really hope was intentionally funny, but based on the rest of Black's comment, I fear was not.)

Also, the whole thing, with the possible exception of the city of Los Angeles footing the bill for the memorial?



Monday, July 6, 2009

The Future of Comics, Live and In Print

Rough day going to the doctor to see if she could do anything about the CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!(tm), which led to an unexpected realization, an unplanned confrontation, and the unhappy sensation that in an effort to make things better I've managed to make them worse. So I'm not going to talk about me and instead focus on the Future of Comics (I and III) Fiona Staples and Nick Johnson.

At long last, the first issue of Fiona's latest WildStorm miniseries, NORTH 40, written by Somebody Other Than Me (the lucky swine) is out on Wednesday. You, like all right-thinking people, should buy eighteen copies, one to read, five to lend, and thirteen to encase in liquid carbonite so future generations can see how awesome comics were back in the old days when you couldn't read an ebook while showering.

On a semi-related note, the cover to North 40 #3 may be my new favourite piece of Fiona artwork. I can't quite put my finger on why, possibly because I've repressed all memory of anything in my life that ever involved pink balloons and/or a corsage.

Meanwhile, Nick's started his new, month-long gig at the Telus World of Science Creative Kids Museum, where he'll be publicly working on transforming NO MORE PARENTS from the ramblings of a demented sufferer of CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!(tm) into a wonderfully entertaining adventure comic for children of all ages except three and a half, because 3 1/2 year olds are vile little creatures who must be systematically and mercilessly punished until they reach the age of four, at which point they transform from despicable little rotters into something that's at least tolerable. It's the circle of life.

So, if you're in Calgary, or you're really bored and have enough disposable cash to go to Calgary, and you're a child of all ages other than 3 1/2, you should go pay Nick a visit and throw grapes at him while demanding that he sing obscure Neil Diamond songs for your entertainment. He'll do it if you've got enough grapes, you know.

As it happens, I've also spent a portion of today working on a small comic strip-style advertisement with the Future of Comics (II) John Keane, and now that it's done, I estimate he'll be willing to talk to me again without wanting to kick my teeth down my throat sometime in the next four to six months. E-mail is perhaps not the best way to communicate nitpicking-level ideas, but I'm not convinced things would've gone smoother on the phone, and in any event CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!(tm) works very much against my (at the best of times dodgy) ability to present half-baked ideas as coherent statements of intent while talking in realtime.

So, yeah. NORTH 4o #1 (and WEDNESDAY COMICS #1, which I'm also looking forward to) on Wednesday. Nick and NO MORE PARENTS at the Telus Science Centre all month. Good stuff being created by good people, reported by a good-for-nothing.



TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE Volume One, by Michael Kupperman. For someone who's been really quite miserable for the last couple weeks, I've been laughing out loud an awful lot every time I take a minute or two to read a page or two of TDTT.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The agony and the...well, slightly less agony.

While various people have different opinions as to what's caused my current bout of CRIPPLING FACEPAIN!, the end result is that I've spent much of the last seventy-two hours feeling like someone sanded my teeth down to exposed nerve endings and then stuffed a dead raccoon into my nasal cavity.

While there's really never a good time to feel like your life would be immeasurably improved if you used a sharpened spoon to dig out the contents of your skull (at least not that I've found, and I've got some experience in this area), feeling that way when you've got an artist waiting for the fun and wacky and generally awesome script you promised him by today is particularly problematic.

I don't know who said no writer likes writing, but every writer likes having written. I mean, I know Neil Gaiman said it and it was in an interview with him that I read it, but I believe he was quoting someone else. Either way, that's a fairly accurate assessment of my view of the whole "sitting down and transforming an abstract idea into a concrete story" thing. It's not hard work--I'd rather be writing than housepainting, though that's not saying much, as I'd rather floss my teeth with a buzzsaw than paint houses for a living--but it's not as easy as lying in bed doing nothing. Frequently it's not even as satisfying as lying in bed doing nothing.

All of which is a long way to say I don't usually get a lot of joy out of writing. I can't recall a single instance when writing has actually improved my mood. That may be because I can't recall a single instance of anything that happened more than fifteen minutes ago, but I tend to believe it's largely because I don't write much when I'm not in a good mood to begin with. If I'm not happy I'll write what I've absolutely got to because someone's waiting for or expecting it, and if I'm feeling particularly sorry for myself, I might dash off a whiny Facebook update or blog post (even though doing so inevitably makes me feel worse about myself for venting in public when I've got what is, by any reasonable standard, a pretty good life.) And that's about it.


But even in my state of extreme discomfort and/or prescription medication-induced zombification, finally hammering the script for NO MORE PARENTS #1 into shape on Monday and Tuesday was a less arduous task than I'd expected. Maybe I'm still basking in the warm glow of finishing something on the promised deadline that I didn't think I'd be able to when that deadline loomed, but there's something about this project...I'm having trouble putting my finger on what it is, but I think it may be that I actually connect with and like the characters introduced in the first issue in a way that I often don't at this stage in the writing process. I feel like I've leapfrogged over the "getting to know you" stage of scripting and settled into a comfort zone where I just let the kids (and robots) tell me what they want to do, rather than me telling the characters what they're going to do and then adjusting them as characters so what they do makes sense inside the context of the story. (Note to those who may be interested: If you're working on a WFH project, life's a lot easier if you approach things the latter way, if only because there's someone higher than you on the totem pole who has the power to make you and the characters do what they tell you and understanding and accepting that will save you and your editor a lot of headaches.)

Mind you, letting the gang do what they want required me to seriously revise the action I'd originally laid out for the second half of the issue; I had to reconsider and rewrite the basic shots from the ground up perilously close to the appointed deadline. And while Nick seemed happy with the first batch of script pages I sent him, I think he'd be a bit more comfortable if the characters didn't like talking quite so much.

But setting all that aside for the moment, I'm left in the bizarre circumstance where writing something was about as enjoyable as it possibly could be, even though it was written while I was absolutely, positively, "on the edge of doing something selfish, stupid, and irrevocable" miserable.

Which I think is pretty cool. Hopefully the good feelings I have for the script will show on the finished pages. Even if they don't...well, I like it. And feeling the way I do at the moment, liking anything at all, much less something I'm personally responsible for, is a blessing.