by Nevs Coleman

Latest

This whole Killing Joke thing, then.

(Before I get started, let me make totally clear that these are my personal opinions, not those of Raygun Comics or any of their employees. I’ve not been asked to write this by anyone, this is me talking as someone employed by the comics industry for 20 years and rising offering up my tuppence.)

Re: This whole ‘Let’s retire “The Killing Joke” concept’.

http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/its-time-to-kill-the-killing-joke

Short Answer A) No. Fuck Off.

Long Answer B) Here’s why.

The idea of a comic being offensive to some members of the comics community is not a new one. We’ve been having this argument over Miracleman, From Hell, Zap, Omaha The Cat Dancer, Love & Rockets, Sandman, Bone (!!!), Verotik, Zap, Weirdo, any number of Crumb books and such for literally decades.

I appreciate that we are in a more conservative time, in terms of reader reaction to concepts. That’s fine, people are totally allowed to be offended by things. That’s not a notion I’m dismissing. What I’m suggesting is that the sensibilties of some people should not be allowed to determine what the rest of us can and can’t have access to.

Much of the argument against KJ, beyond the events in the book have been on the quality of the work, that even Alan Moore now dismisses it as a Batman Annual that got out of hand. This is not the reason for ‘retiring’ things. Trust me, the shelves would be a lot emptier if the quality of the work was cause to retire books left up to me.

That’s the point. It’s not up to me to say ‘This is good, and this is rubbish.’ The Comics Medium is exactly that, a space where all kinds of idea can and ought to be explored. Once the structure for removing a offensive work from an audience is created, then I think we’ll have a problem.

There is an alarming habit of the people who are pro removing work from the library of comics to presume that their tastes reflect everyone else’s (Or possibly that they are somehow more enlightened than the idiots who need educating on why they ought to be offended.) This is obviously quite a dangerous path to go down and does sound like ‘We’re doing this on behalf of the stupid people.’ Attempts to justify this behaviour are usually done with caveats such as ‘Oh, it’s shit anyway, who cares?’ Subjective taste should not be a factor, here.

Well, here’s the thing:
Let’s say, hypothetically, it takes a Change campaign with 5’000 signatures to get Killing Joke ‘retired’ (Again, in this instance, retired meaning the print run is allowed to run dry and we’ll never see new copies again.) 5’000 signatures are gathered. Goodbye Killing Joke.

Well, then what?

You see, EVERY time, without fail, Marvel or DC do something progressive or LGBT friendly, like Batwoman being a lesbian, Thor being a woman, Iceman being gay, Captain America being a Black man, etc etc, etc, the OTHER side of Fandom also gets offended. Seriously, every single time. Check the forums.

The side that think honestly thinks Marvel is attempting to turn children homosexual via its liberal, pinko agenda. And if you’ve created the process to get Killing Joke successfully removed because…The Joker does bad things to a woman, then you’ve set a precedent for ‘This concept offends me, remove it.’

Now all the homophobes and racists now also have the power & right to say ‘I find a sympathetic portrayal of a lesbian to be offensive, and so do four thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine of my friends.’ We have come incredibly far in terms of sympathetic portrayal of LGBT in the last 30 years (Anyone who’s read the infamous Hulk Shower sequence, or the outing of Northstar can testify to that.) and to give people who are opposed to this a weapon to cripple that progress so that some Batman comic that’s been in print for over 25 years you don’t have to read can be pulled from the shelves

That’s not a price I want to pay for your standards, and speaking of paying….

So, we’re all aware that The Killing Joke is being turned into an animated feature. As with all these things, an exposure to a larger audience means increased sales for the source material, so once the cartoon is out, new customers will come in asking for copies of the original Killing Joke.

Except, according to this plan, KJ won’t be on the shelves anymore.

Any comic shop worth their salt can sell at least (and I’m massively lowballing, here.) 20 copies of KJ a year. The current printing of the book has a retail price of around £15. Without the cartoon, that’s £300 every 12 months. Let’s call it £500 after the cartoon hits the shelves. That’s £500 per shop, mind..That’s £5K for London’s comic shops alone.

Is anywhere in the plan to ‘retire’ The Killing Joke a point of compensating retailers for the lost income on projected sales of that book, or are they just meant to take the hit because…and please correct me if I’m understating a case here, a bunch of people have decided a comic is offensive a few decades after it was published and want it ‘retired’. Does that include the digital version? Considering TKJ has gone through at least 20 printings, are retailers not allowed to sell 2nd hand copies, also?

i promise you, the Code you try to create today will be the Wall tomorrow’s kids will kick against. They’ll make you look as silly as Mary Whitehouse does in 2015.

Off to the Mart now. If this stupid plan does work, We’ll be able to sell The Killing Joke for loads of money, because nothing makes something desirable like being told other people have said you shouldn’t read it.

An Open Letter To Mr Jeff Jarrett: Please Save Wrestling Games.

An Open Letter To Mr Jeff Jarrett.

Mr Jarrett, speaking as a member of both of the IWC and the Wrestling Video Games community (I don’t know if there’s an proper acronym for that.) I’d like to suggest an idea that would make you a lot of money and many of us very, very happy.

You’re probably aware that a lot of us feel pretty let down by WWE 2K15. There were a lot of promises made and most of them didn’t materialise.. We expect a bunch of advertorials in the hype for the upcoming WWE 2K16 suggesting ‘We’ve got it right this time.’, but while the game will sell, I imagine there’s quite a few of us who won’t bother, or if we do, it’ll be picking it up 2nd hand, The ‘OH MY GOD CAN’T WAIT!’ element has gone for 2K.

That suggests there’s an opportunity for a rival video game to be made to try and capture that excitement we felt for the latest Smackdown game all those years ago. Someone smart will cash in on the desire for a good next gen console game. We’re here with our Xbox Ones and PS4s, and we want to give someone money for a good wrestling game, so here’s my suggestion. You can have it on me, just send me a copy if you decide to implement it:

Part 1)

Both the Fire Pro series and the much beloved AKI engine (Used on the likes of WWF No Mercy and Virtua Pro Wrestling 2.) have lain dormant for years. There hasn’t been a new version of Fire Pro since the PS2 game which was at least 5 years ago, while I don’t think anyone’s used the AKI engine since the Def Jam games for the Gamecube. Again, a while back.

What both these engines have is a huge fanbase online, thousands of us tinkering with CAWS, movesets, arenas, mods and such. We would rather play a modded version of WWF No Mercy, a game over a decade old, than spend $60 on the latest WWE game.

I’m not entirely sure how difficult it would to do this, but if you were to buy the rights to one or both of these engines, you’d automatically have a built in customer base for, say, GFW Presents Fire Pro 2016. A 3D version of the game exists in the PS1 game ‘Fire Pro Iron Slam’, and it shouldn’t take too much money to update it graphically, adding CAW potential, creating a hub site that would work as a forum for users to exchange information that could also be monetised to sell merchandise, digital PPVs etc. DLC would be simple enough to create by just adding more packs of wrestlers, arenas, etc. If Fire Pro is unworkable, the same process could be used for the AKI engine. If you have any doubts to the profitably of this venture, just try tweeting ‘We’re contemplating buying the rights to Fire Pro/The AKI wrestling games engine.’ and see what kind of feedback you get.

Part 2)

There’s obviously money in a new wrestling game, but the second step would be to cross-brand much as you did with New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom 9, so get JR, Piper, etc in on commentary, but also see which other organisations would be willing to invest in the venture in exchange for appearing in the game. A new wrestling game featuring GFW, ROH, Lucha Underground,,TNA, NJPW, etc has to both benefit the gaming community sorely desiring a break from the WWE 2K ritual of promises, overpriced DLC and disappointment and the Wrestling business would benefit, someone picking up this game might know who The Bullet Club are, but then be exposed to Chikara and go see their show. Ultimately a cross branded game featuring licenses across the board would benefit everyone.

Except Vince.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely.
Nevs

Pogo Larsen Syndrome: On Hawkeye 1 & Howard The Duck 1.

 

HTD 1

 

So, one fallacy at the heart of corporate comics publishing is the belief that above all things, it’s the trademark that makes the sale. If Amazing Spider-Man starts selling well due to a change in the creative team, its nothing to do with that creative team, there must just be a random spark of interest in Spidey, and the best way to capitalise on this is to produce spin-off mini-series and one shots. Also not featuring any work by the creative team who get the book going up in sales in the first place, mind.

As any of you paying attention  over the last couple of decades may have noticed, this never, ever works. Batman will always sell a certain amount, but stick Jim Lee & Jeph Loeb on the book and watch those pre-orders quadruple. Ditto Morrison & Quitely on New X-Men, JMS & John Romita Jr on Amazing Spider-Man. You get the idea.

Then watch as somebody in corporate decides that they know best what sells the book. They start pissing in the water bottle to make it taste better or worse, find someone who isn’t good on the same wavelength to start emulating the superficial aspects of the popular thing. Watchmen, to the low-minded, is a comic with nine panel grid pages featuring graphic, brutal violence and super-heroes having problems in real life, so Green Lantern gets a DUI and starts beating up homophobes with his magic power ring to copy that. League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, using that theory,  is a comic that people enjoy because there’s a lot of what Will Elder called ‘Chicken Fat’ background detail.

Will Elder, breaking your eyes because he could.

Will Elder, breaking your eyes because he could.

Readers feel a bit better about themselves with LoeG because there’s a lot of in-jokes and references to be found if you examine the panels, and we all pat ourselves on the back when we recognise Steptoe & Son or Tharg, so Edge Of Spider-Verse is built around fangasming when we spot Spider-Prime in the background. Only the surface ideas are taken, under the mistaken belief that those elements are what’s appealing to the public. So it doesn’t matter if Grant Morrison leaves New X-Men for whatever reasons, because you can throw around the words ‘Quantum Physics’ a bit, continue the love affair between Scott & Emma, get in someone who draws a bit like Frank Quitely and even bring back Xorn as the readers liked him. J. H. Williams III leaves Batwoman over DC’s decision to remove the lesbian wedding angle at the 11th hour, but hire someone sympathetic to gay matters to write the book and an artist who can ‘do’ a Williams III riff if you squint a bit and the machine continues to produce the sausages.

‘Its the trademark, not the creator.’ 

Which brings us to what I’ve come to call ‘Pogo Larsen Syndrome’. A situation where neither side can look particularly good.

For younger readers, Pogo was a very beloved cartoon by Walt Kelly which started life in 1941 as a strip for Dell’s Animal Comics. It was a beautiful mish-mash of word play and political satire. The middle ground between George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Berke Breathed’s Bloom County, if you like. Probably (sadly) most famous with comic fans today as being parodied in  issue 32 of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, (A story drawn by Shawn McManus simply titled ‘Pog’.) but at the time of publication, Pogo was huge. A quality cartoon strip running in over 500 newspapers across the world that was also part of the political conversation of the day. In a better world, Kelly’s writing would have seen him ranked alongside Mark Twain or Jonathan Swift as a top-notch satirist.

Eat it, Vonnegut

Eat it, Vonnegut!

But then time happened, and on October 18, 1973, Walt Kelly passed away. There’s more to this story, but the long and short of it is that the Kelly Family and associates continued to produce the strip under the title ‘Walt Kelly’s Pogo’.

To be blunt, it was not received with the same love. I have friends in this business who start to get angry at the mere mention of the non Walt Pogo strips. It looked the same, some of Walt’s inflections had been recreated, but without Kelly’s constant innovation and ability to react to the news as it happened, it was little more than a museum piece rather than a vital part of the global conversation and the true heir was and remains, to me at least, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County.  Which proves to me that you can put a hose on a dog’s nose, but it still ain’t an elephant.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a fan reaction that I can only, rather unfairly. call ‘Larsen Syndrome’ . Erik Larsen is the writer and artist of The Savage Dragon, an Image book I love because of the love of comics that exudes from every issue Larsen creates. Larsen is also the only original member of the Image Seven to simply get on with creating his own comic and see it through without jumping onto other projects or starting a toy line. He just wanted to create an ongoing Savage Dragon comic and issue 206 ships in May, making him the only real contender to Dave Sim’s record set for most issues of a comic created by one person published independently on a monthly basis. (Cerebus finished on issue 300. ) Also, he drew an awesome Venom. And that’s important to me.

'Oh, too late, Otto already did that! MOO HAHHAHA!

‘Oh, too late, Otto already did that on both counts! MOO HAHHAHA!

But Man, did Erik get a couple of unfortunate gigs in the 90s.

First, through burn out and having a million guest stars thrown at him on a bi-weekly schedule, Todd McFarlane, maybe one of the five most popular and influential artists to draw Amazing Spider-Man, quit drawing Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel teased Todd was up to something else but as far as Marvel fans were concerned, the sheer outrage of Colleen Doran infusing her fill-in on ASM with Ultra Girliness and THEN Marvel failing to find a way to chain Todd The God to the drawing desk of Spidey forever more. SOME poor sucker was going to be the whipping boy for these awful sins.

 

BUY....JEM..BUY...MY....LITTLE..PONY.....BUY BATGIRL....

Your desire to watch any film starring Jennifer Aniston has increased 68% since seeing this cover

Enter: New Amazing Spider-Man artist Erik Larsen, who was vilified in the Fan Press at the time for simply….not being Todd McFarlane. Nothing wrong with his anatomy, his composition, his perspective, he just wasn’t Todd The God. I think the readership only really forgave him for his NotToddness when Marvel announced they were publishing a new, adjective-less Spider-Man drawn (YAAAY!!!) and written (Um….Okay?) by Todd McFarlane. Which Todd stayed on for 15 issues. And then left. To be replaced by…..Oh, you can work it out….

Now, neither state of mind is very objective. It’s obviously massively cynical (and usually a mistake.) for any publisher to think they can replace the talent who create the content that makes the book connect with the fans with anyone who can ape their style and get the same results. On the other hand, the fandom hatred of anything involving change can be so short-sighted as to be staggering, whether it be the almost feral reaction to the idea that Thor could be a woman, Bill Sienkiewicz’s experimenting with various art styles on the pages of Moon Knight or New Mutants and being drubbed in the pages of Comic Buyers Guide for it,  Grant Morrison being ‘All weird and pretentious on “Doom Patrol” and I don’t get it so its bad.’, the ‘How Dare Peter Parker Not Be Spider-Man!’mob, the downright hilarious reaction to Milligan & Allred’s run on X-Force (common decency prevents me from taking photographs of the letters pages of those books, but they’re up there with the infamous ‘Man Of Action’ letter from Punisher 19 for sheer ‘Written With A Crayon Using Feet’ rage .) or any other number of things that turned out to be a good idea despite the crowing of people who hadn’t actually read all of the comics so didn’t really have an informed opinion to offer yet.

Which brings us, finally to All-New Hawkeye 1 and Howard The Duck 1

There’s no way of saying this that isn’t going to sound bitter, as the previous volume of Hawkeye was one of my favourite Marvel comics of the last decade  but All New Hawkeye 1 is out on the shelves way, way too soon. Aja & Fraction’s run hasn’t actually finished yet at time of my writing this, so there’s no way of not comparing the two series. I totally understand that Hawkeye is now a commodity due to the character’s newfound popularity and Marvel must be wanting to get a regular dose of Clint action out there, but a wiser choice of action might have been to have him pop in a series of cameos across various books for a few months to slowly build up the anticipation for ANH 1, which could probably have waited until after the dust settles with Secret Wars before publication.

In this debut issue, we catch up with Clint and Katie, attacking a Hydra outpost in modern times juxtaposed with memories of Clint’s childhood in a flashback sequence telling us a bit more about what motivated Clint to run off to the circus in the first place

As it stands…All New Hawkeye is…okay. Its alright. There are some nice touches, like the painted artwork used for Clint’s flashback sequences, and the modern stuff looks enough like Aja’s art on a superficial level that it won’t be too jarring for people who wanted more of the same but on a more regular schedule. Some panels seem designed with the hope of being reposted on Tumblr  as an exercise in coolness rather than reading as part of a flowing story. For me, though,  I’m with Gil Kane, the good is the enemy of the better, and the last thing my house and budget need is to start on one more competently produced super-hero comic. I’ll hold out hope that it develops its own unique style, voice and direction as it starts to dig its own path away from satisfying the readers who just wanted something that looked like Fraction & Aja’s book on a more frequent basis.

And then there’s Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones on Howard The Duck.

Okay, I’ll be straight with you. In my head, anyone who isn’t Steve Gerber writing Howard The Duck is tantamount to comics blasphemy to me. Like anyone else doing Calvin & Hobbes, or Gavin Rossdale fronting Nirvana, or The Manic Street Preachers replacing Richey Edwards with Shane Richie. It could be done, sure, but the levels of karmic damage such a thing incur would have set me off like the Westboro Baptist Church at Boy George’s funeral.

 

After I'd calmed down.

After I’d calmed down.

 

But then I saw Chip Zdarsky was writing it, and that stopped me in my tracks. I have a total crush on Chip, or his online persona at least. His ongoing romance with Appleby’s, the contribution to the letters page of my beloved Sex Criminals and his comic ‘Prison Funnies‘ gave me pause to think.

I decided, rather than going full on mental about it, to  that the adventures of Chip’s Howard were actually the further adventures of the clone released into the Marvel Universe from Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck 1.  That way, Gerber’s legacy would remain untarnished and a whole new bunch of fun could be garnered as long as nobody tried to contradict what Gerber had said since he’s not around to argue back anymore.

So, with that in mind, I popped it open and…..

It’s FUNNY!

Its actually properly funny. The story concerns Clo-Ward, as I’m dubbing him, taking on a case in his ‘job’ as a private detective to retrieve some stolen jewellery and running afowl of some of Marvel’s best and brightest (I’m not going to spoil the full cast, but I will say Chip writes the funniest Spider-Man since Rick Remender’s take on the wall crawler over on my favourite crossover event ever, Axis.) There’s an obvious question raised in the first issue that I can’t wait to see the resolution to, a script chock-loaded with brilliant gags, a ton of respectful nods to the history of the title, some beautiful art by Joe Quinones whose perfect grasp of design and body language feed back into the story, a new companion and a full mark out cliff-hanger setting up a concept everybody would have wanted if only they’d thought of it.

What makes a Howard The Duck 1 as revolutionary in 2015 as it was in 1976 is that Chip (I keep using his first name as if I know him, but the truth is my spellcheck is throwing up at his surname. Which is fair enough. It took me 6 years to teach it ‘Skrull’.) isn’t letting the shadow of Gerber’s work influence what he writes here. The character works in context of the story being written, rather than a preconception dragging HTD into being a period piece. This isn’t a karaoke misanthropy act but a Duck angry at the world WE live in, now. That’s worth far more than maybe Marvel realises, and I hope when Chip Z (hmm, got away with that one without the dreaded red underscore of Doom.) has said what he has to say with Howard, the book isn’t assimilated into Interchangeable Marvel Output Quota For March Fulfilled ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ….

Truly, Howard The Duck 1 by Chip & Joe is the Fifty Shades Of Grey to the Twilight that was Steve Gerber’s Howard The Duck 1.

(Thanks to John Lees for being another comics fan who doesn’t go to bed at any reasonable hour and provided feedback and suggestions on this review. The 1st collection of his series ‘And Then Emily Was Gone’, drawn by the astonishing Iain Laurie is out now to buy on amazon.com or if you can’t wait to read what I called one of the best books of 2014, pick it up on comixology now.)

I HAVE A DREAM. And it Involves Elvira. And Skottie Young. And The Hero Initiative . Look, just read it, will you?

Elvira smoke

‘Which means shall we use? We shall use any means necessary’, etc

No, this isn’t the weirdest slash fiction ever.

Here are some concepts people LOVE: Elvira. Variant Covers, Buying Stuff To Do A Good Deed.  And laughing at really, REALLY bad old comics. Like Mystery Science Theatre 3K but with bad colouring instead of terrible cinematography

There are a plethora of bad comics out there, many of them in the public domain. IDW reprinted quite a couple for their ‘What Were They Thinking.’ line.  Lots, LOTS more can be found here, for your perusal, enjoyment and/or general mockery. Just bear the sheer amount of this material available in the back of your head for a couple of minutes.

If Elvira can't mock those, there's no hope for any of us.

If Elvira can’t mock this, there’s no hope for any of us.

So, there have been a few attempts at Elvira comics over the years. They’ve been ….ok, but the covers were usually the best thing about them, after that, they would descend into poorly written slapstick, and it would never read nor be as funny as the real thing. The mistake was that Elvira is her best when she’s either mocking the thing she’s watching OR she’s doing the Fourth Wall breaking thing in her own story. When she was written as part of a comic story, she didn’t have the chance to address the reader as well as she would in her films ‘Mistress Of The Dark’ or ‘Haunted Hills’ as she wasn’t doing her own act, but being written by people who didn’t quite get it. This style CAN be done well in comics, though. As proven by John Byrne’s groundbreaking run on She-Hulk run from the 90’s. Which at one point featured The Jen skipping naked as a result of an argument Byrne was having in the letters page. As Meta-Textual as comics could get back then without involving 3-D technology or Smell-O-Rama.

See, I wouldn't lie to you about the important stuff.

See! I wouldn’t lie to you about the important stuff.

So here’s what I’m thinking:

Elvira Presents:

An Elvira hosted ‘So Bad It’s Good’ Comics Anthology. The comic runs two or three of those clunkers from yesteryear, but each strip has a new two page bookend sequence where Elvira introduces and closes the story, and also pops in to the story via captions or a cut-away panel by the likes of Kaluta, Wrightson, Adam Hughes, Jason Pearson,Adam Warren, Tula Lotay, Adam Hughes, Kyle Baker, Amanda Connor, Hilary Barta, Becky Cloonan, Kevin Maguire, Jaime Hernandez, Tara McPherson, Adam Warren, Ty Templeton, : Gals and Guys who give good boob but also know how to draw their funny.

Stick in a reprint from the DC or Claypool days which can lead to new trade paperbacks of the older material they created. Then the comic finishes with an original short story by contemporary writers and artists, like a behind the scenes skit, interviews with comic characters or just some satirical commentary on the stories of the time. If this whole idea means at some point there would be an Elvira strip written by Alex DeCampi and drawn by Frank Cho, I would die happy. Read the rest of this page »

Nevs’s New Thing 491 #1

I’ve been wondering about posting this for the last few days, but I woke up this morning and realised the only reason I wouldn’t is that someone might not like what I’m saying, and that’s not very important, really, so:

After 30 years, I have finally learned how to get my brain to shut up.I realise that sounds odd, but after a few ‘Long Nights Of The Soul’ over the last year, I’ve realised that in all honesty, that has been my driving force life. Every toy, every comic, every job, every achievement, every column I’ve written, every drug, every game has all been pursued or written with the idea that ‘THIS thing, once I get THERE, I will be at peace, the storm in my head will cease and I will finally be able to relax.’

That was what I was after but for me, that isn’t how it works. None of these things are real. They’re nice. It’s nice to say I’ve written dozens of columns, that I’ve performed everywhere from Ealing Broadway to Egypt and back, but they weren’t the answer to the question I’d been searching for my whole life, which is ‘Why can’t I get some peace?’

Worse, I’d achieved it at some points in my life, which sounds amazing, and it is. When you finally know some serenity, when the noise of life just doesn’t bother you anymore, that is the peak feeling in the world, but then, much like the phrase ‘Chasing The Dragon’ , your mind becomes consumed with ‘Which 19 things did I do to get there? Okay, redid them. Now, why hasn’t that happened? Oh, wait, there’s a new Spider-Man crossover out. Maybe if I collect all of that. No. Maybe if I start drinking? Stop drinking? Anti-Depressants? Hmm, still, no.’

(This is where it possibly gets a bit meta-physical for 7am on a Thursday morning.)

The truth is, none of those things could be the solution, anymore than a bag of chips could work as a pair of shoes, because what I was searching for was something to cure the internal, and there is nothing in the external world that can solve that. You can’t buy Inner Peace. You can’t go out with someone and expect them to fix you. (A mistake I’ve made far too many times, and I apologise sincerely to everyone I’ve ever been out with for that and for using you as some kind of Peace Pit Stop. People aren’t living Prozac, and if that’s why you’re with someone, you’re wasting both your and their time.)

Truth is, laughable and pathetic as it is to say it, every time I’ve kicked off about anything, the root of it has been ‘This concept you’re presenting me with has the potential to fuck with my Serenity, man, and I don’t like it. I don’t know how to explain it to you, so I’m going to try and argue against it until you remove that concept from my reality.’ And I’m really embarassed to say that’s what it was.

So, what changed?

I’ve said before that quitting drinking was incredibly simple for me, much as I know that’s annoyed people who want it to be a big dirty struggle with romantic notions of facing the sunrise and feeling some degree of achievement for conquering The Big Bad, it was really just ‘Don’t ask for alcohol when you’re at the bar.You know things tend to go quite badly when you’ve been drinking, so just…don’t drink booze.Ask for a pint of Orange Juice every time. Then you can stay in the pub as long as you like and still enjoy yourself. You know you’re smart enough to dismiss anyone who tells you that “A Real Man Drinks.” or whatever.

Well, here’s the thing, most of my problems were either regretting what I’d done/being angry over what people had done to me, or fearing what would come if this person left me, I didn’t have a job, or how people would react if they knew what I’d done and because of that, I was never really here. Not here in the moment. My mind was a constant storm of anger, or fear, or elation for the future. But there are two things I’ve learned that have changed that process:

1) You are not your thoughts.
You are no more your thoughts than the M25 is a load of cars. Your brain has thoughts passing through it, but (And this is the key thing.) you don’t have to follow them. Any of them. ‘Oh man that guy and his four kids are taking up the pavement and why do I have to be stuck behind them bad mood.’. STOP.

You don’t have to follow that thought process at all, you don’t need to let those thoughts dictate your mood until something else impresses itself onto your mind. You don’t even have to think at all.

Again, and I know this runs counter-intuitive to everything in modern life, you don’t have to think at all. In the imagination there are an infinite amount of problems you can twist yourself up with, but…

2)..None of them are real, except the ones that directly affect you right now. What colour is reputation? What does resentment smell like? How much does achievement weigh? Chasing the intangible is literally madness. How many things are just ‘If this happens, people will say nice things, and THEN I’ll be justified.’

And once you let go of all that, you stop trying to drive a thought process that isn’t real in the first place towards a state of being that is by it’s nature impermeant…THEN Love happens. You realise you’ve never really slept well, that you should probably eat something, you’ve actually not seen your mates for three months and you can hang out with them, you don’t have to be around anyone who tries to make you feel bad, you can spend a day writing an essay or shagging or translating Virtua Pro Wrestling 2 from Japanese to English (Ahem.) because other people’s definitions of who you are and what you should be doing just aren’t real things.

So, in closing, all my wars are over, everyone is unblocked, I forgive everyone who’s wronged me and it doesn’t really matter if I’m forgiven by them or not. Remember, your thoughts are not you.

Shame is a fiction.

Love is Real.

Go Be.

RIP Brett Ewins 1955 – 2015

Nothing I can add here.

ECBT2000AD

It is with heavy heart I post this on behalf of all at ECBT 2000AD.

Today we discovered Brett Ewins had died, after a short illness. We are so very sad to hear this, and wish to extend our thoughts and condolences to his friends and family.

As readers of 2000AD, and fans of comics in general, we were all touched by Brett in some way. While we may look at his career more closely at a later date, I’d like to touch briefly on why he was so important to so many of us.

He quickly became popular in 2000AD, originally asked to emulate a particular style on Judge Dredd, but before long showing he had his own unique look to bring to the pages of the comic.

brett ewins dredd

For many of us he became a favourite artist when he worked on solo Judge Anderson strips. His tight linework, bizarre…

View original post 308 more words

In Fear Of a $10 Comic.

chipp v

 

So, like everyone else working in comics in the last couple of weeks, my newsfeed has been an absolute torrent of news. Fantastic Four, Secret Wars, A-Force,  Convergence, all kinds of speculation to where all this is actually going and what the endgame is for both Marvel and DC once their big events end.

Looking at Marvel’s actions over the last couple of years and the line-up of the ongoing titles DC are launching during and post-Convergence, I think its fair to say that The Big Two have finally woken up. They’ve realised that there is an audience to try to draw in, rather than placating the Buys New Comics Weds Morning 36+ White Male demographics as they have been since the launch of the Direct Market. This HAS to be a good idea, because as things stand, we’re all on a train that makes a lot of noise but doesn’t run very well.

Let me digress here, because I get some grief for my continued belief that the Weds regulars are the thing that’s holding the medium back.

First off, I need to say ‘Thank You’ to that crowd. A genuine Thank You. Before the films, cartoons, Anime and such made the world of comics cool again, you were there without fail, every Thursday and then Wednesday, you kept the industry going through Wizard, through Image, the summer of 93. through Heroes World,, through Diamond becoming the exclusive distributor of comics, through no end of price rises, event books, The New 52, Marvel NOW! and everything else. Every person working in comics today owes you a debt of gratitude for sticking with the business when so many have left.

I do mean that, but I also mean this:

We are at crisis point with the state of modern comics. We;re edging closer with every month towards the standard issue of Batman or Avengers being $5 an issue. Print runs are at shockingly low numbers (Ignore the glitch that was Star Wars 1. A fair amount of that print run was Gamestop buying copies to generate their own variants and even if it wasn’t, what other comic on the horizon do YOU see breaking 1 Million copies in preorders?*.) and unless radical steps are taken, there can’t be a way to keep comics as we understand them going. The maths just won’t add up. Plus, both Time Warner and Disney own DC and Marvel, so if the sales figures get too bad, I have to imagine someone at Disney will say to whoever Marvel’s CEO would be ‘Look, we’ve let you do it your way, and it isn’t working. Now we’re doing this.’

The first step was finally accepting the internet is part of most people’s lives, and rather than letting the pirates get all the income of digital comics (Meaning neither publisher nor retailer saw any profit.), letting things like Comixology, Sequential, Dark Horse Digital and Marvel Unlimited happen. The next was bending the books away from standard playing to the guy who knows the difference between Azrael and Talon and creating more accessible, all ages,woman friendly content  Things like Hawkeye, Batgirl, Young Avengers, Grayson, Harley Quinn, Captain Marvel, Journey Into Mystery. None of these books have sold particularly well, but they are selling to a different audience than the guys picking up all of the Original Sin crossovers, I’ve noticed.

Ultimately, as I’ve said many, many times before, a 45-year-old can appreciate an issue of Batman, but an issue of Batman should never, ever be written for a 45 year old’s appreciation. Which is where the difficult bit is going to come in.

For American Superhero comics (And by virtue, everything else, because I love Love & Rockets, The Goon, Stray Bullets and Sex Criminals very much, but you can’t run a shop on the profits of work like that alone, unless you’re very rich to start with.) to survive, there needs to be an understanding that the writers on those books need to stop writing to you, the afore-mentioned 45 year olds. You’ve had nearly fifty years of being catered to, but Batman has to be a tween book again. Not just Batman, either. Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Flash, Wolverine, Thor, the lot.

And you need to shut up and let it happen. No Gatekeeping. No more demanding that Cosplayers aren’t allowed to dress up as Female Green Goblin unless they know who Lefty Donovan is. This random influx of younger readers who love the material so much they actually dress up as Kate Bishop or Batgirl are the best hope for the survival of the industry. Please, please don’t drive them away because you resent that Batman isn’t written for you and your extensive knowledge of Joe Chill and The Drake family anymore. The truth is those comics should never have been written for you in the first place.

Kelly Sue DeConnick was quoted in a post over at Badassdigest explaining the hurdles with attempting to launch comics in today’s market. On the whole, I tend to agree with her assertion that the main problem is trying to sell radical ideas to a conservative audience, where things that aren’t WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals (Or New WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals, or Uncanny WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals, etc) just don’t sell. I believe she received a bit of stick for essentially blaming the consumer base, but I can’t see who else there is to blame. Publishers respond to what sells and attempts to duplicate that formula, Diamond can only offer what publishers print to retailers who can only sell what their customers are willing to buy.

DeConnick also raises the rise of sales of Manga to young women in America, pointing out that it is actually easier for them to get into Manga, a translated medium than it is to start reading comics about characters they’ve seen in American made films. She points out how simple it is to walk into Barnes & Noble and get into One Piece, which is true. Even walking into any comic shop and picking up her own Captain Marvel isn’t very simple when you realise that there are seven different volumes with the same title, no two of the trades necessarily relate to each other, not all of them actually feature Carol Danvers and that’s without the whole Shazam! thing tied into the name, and as she rightly says, that’s assuming you’re dealing with a friendly & knowledgable member of Comics Retail who isn’t trying to shun any women from entering the clubhouse.

The problem with seeing Manga’s working model as a situation to aspire to is the main problem that The Direct Market gave us.

Comics are sold firm sale to retailers from Diamond. Waterstone’s or Barnes & Noble could take a chance of getting a full run of Ultimate Muscle in stock. A quick Wiki tells me that’s 29 books, and that’s a fairly short run for most popular Manga. If the books don’t sell. No big, they can just be returned to VizMedia and it becomes their problem.

If a comic shop tries that, it’s a firm investment of maybe $250. Once the shop has them, they can’t be sent back to Diamond. Take that risk and crap out too many times and that’s the end of your shop. Assuming the audience you would have had for those books don’t realise that you can read almost any popular Manga these days for free online and aren’t obligated to keep buying the books from you. (It literally took me two minutes to find a site that ran perfectly translated scans of Bakuman, and I didn’t know what I was doing or what the hot hub sites are for this material.)

So, some major problems there: The content is too expensive, it’s inaccessible to new readers and the comics aren’t written to the target audience, who aren’t willing to buy outside of their comfort zone anyway.

I have a couple of ideas on this:

First Off, Marvel and DC need to brand ALL their comics with volume numbers as fast as is humanly possible.

You don’t know much about comics, but you’ve just watched Daredevil on Netflix, and decide you quite like it, so you’re going to learn more about Matt Murdock. You go to a comic shop and the person there sells you Daredevil (Devil At Bay.) Volume 1 by Mark Waid. You take it home, read it, decide that’s quite good as well and go back to the shop. It’s a different and less helpful member of staff on duty, so you search the shelves to find Daredevil Volume 2 by Mark Waid. When you look, you find Daredevil: Volume 2 by Mark Waid, Daredevil Volume 2: West Case Scenario by Mark Waid and possibly also the hardcover called….Daredevil Volume 2. By Mark Waid.

You see the problem here, and that was a fairly simple example featuring a character who only has one title. Keeping up with the volumes of Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Avengers: A.I. and their multitude of relaunches is an absolute nightmare**. Customers come into the shop having seen the films, innocently asking ‘Got any Avengers books?’ and my heart sinks realising the two minutes of explanation this is going to take, made worse by the fact that there are no Avengers comics that are anything LIKE the film that made the franchise desirable to the outside world in the first place. (‘I realise you liked The Black Widow and Iron Man, but I can do you a comic where the Black Panther kills Namor instead? No?’)

I’m aware that Marvel have been attempting to emulate the season format from Television with their comics in recent years, but the thing is, if you put a DVD on sale that reads ‘Breaking Bad: Season Two.’ on the cover, that doesn’t hinder sales because people don’t buy them for their investment value. The comics and subsequent trades are too difficult for any new reader to get into, to the point of their giving up on the entire medium. Just take the books and add ‘Volume 7: Book 3’ or whatever to the spine and cover. It’s not difficult, and to bring up the Manga comparison again, you start reading Death Note with Volume 1. It’s quite simple to both buy and sell.

Make the first three issues of any new series returnable. And preferably cheaper than average.

There are no fixed commodities in comics. None. For every Amazing Spider-Man, there’s a Web Of Spider-Man, a Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Unlimited, a Spectacular Spider-Man, a Sensational Spider-Man, an Avenging Spider-Man, Superior Spider-Man Team Up, Marvel Team Up, books designed to cash in on the popularity of a title. More often than not, it just doesn’t work, because of the refusal to believe that the creative team are responsible for the resurgence of interest in -Men, or Hulk or whatever, so there’s just the daft idea that the punters have suddenly decided they really like Batman, with Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb creating the content having nothing to do with the increased sales. (And you wonder why Image happened?) Just sticking the brand name ‘Avengers’ on a comic doesn’t guarantee high sales.

I, for one, am ecstatic at the risks being taken at the moment. A female Thor, A black Captain America, Ms Marvel, a rise in female-led books, more than ever before, but if they’re fed through the same filter, they’re going to die on the shelves and two years from now, we’ll just see more Avengers and Justice League spin-offs dominating the shelves.

What we need here is the ability to properly promote these books. More than a couple of unlettered pages in Previews and maybe an artist publishing a cover on their personal Tumblr. Say what you like about Image, but when soliciting new comics in Previews, each book gets a couple of pages of story art, the cover, a synopsis in the solicitation and also more content in their newsletter. That’s the best way of doing it, for my mind.

Compare this to DC, who’ll write flimsy ‘An all new start for The Flash as he buys a puppy. $3:99’ or Marvel either releasing as little information as possible so to avoid spoilers and returnable books or just writing snarky text to presumably amuse themselves. It’s all well good to keep the actual events of a comic from readers, but retailers need more to work with than that.

The thing is, we can only guess how well a new comic will sell until it actually hits the shelves, and for all the PR dick waving of Pre-Order Numbers and buying huge quantities of a print run for investment purposes, (Try selling a copy of Rob Liefeld’s X-Force 1 from 1990 today.) how the books sell from retailer to customer are what determines the book’s fate. Chucking comics at us with no preview material, high cover prices and the frankly arrogant assumption that the customers will buy it because it features someone from the Batman family leads to…well, where we are now. But if the new titles were solicited with decent preview material, a cheaper cover price to entice new readers to taking a chance and that 3 issue returnable window would mean retailers would order more copies and wouldn’t be taking such a gamble from their own income should the book tank (You can only lead a horse to water, and we’re a bit tired of paying out ourselves every time it doesn’t drink.)

So, ideally, if Marvel were to launch, say, a Black Cat comic by Terry Dodson and Kathryn Immonen comic spinning out of Secret Wars, the 1st and 2nd issue would cost $2:50, we’d have spoiler free preview material to show customers and we’d be able to see how well the book actually sold in shops and order subsequent issues based on that information, rather than having to do the ’40 for 1, 25 for 2, 15 for 3….Actually make it 30 for 1. People don’t buy female lead comics ‘ formula that can kill books before they even get started.

With cheaper access comics, featuring material written to the correct audiences and a back catalogue filing system that’s much easier to understand, the industry could start to flourish again, keeping the old material in print and embracing a young audience who are demonstrably keen to get into our business, but literally don’t know where to start.

Because if we don’t start thinking along these lines, nothing will change. The audiences will continue to decline, and the rest of us too stupidly devoted to funnybooks will end up paying for those who’ve left or never started in the first place. I’m 37, and I fully expect to see a regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man costing $10 before I die.

I hope, and pray, I’m wrong.

* Now wait and see Secret Wars get pre-orders of 1.5 Million just to prove me wrong…

**Or as a colleague put it last week: ‘Another Powers Issue 1. Huh, I guess it IS Tuesday.’

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers