Month: August 2011

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: Nebraskans are A-holes

In the Nebraska senate race, the politicians have taken to referring to each other and welfare recipients as raccoons in derogatory ways.  There are many things wrong with such a comparison.  For starters, hand-outs and scavenging are very different things.  The first major difference being that with hand-outs, things are given to you and with scavenging you have to actively find things. The next big distinction is that scavenging is usually based on consuming refuse.  Raccoons look for food that people have thrown away.  In the wild, scavengers eat the parts of animals that predators have left behind.  People who receive welfare are getting money.  Money is never refuse unless you’re a wealthy individual for whom the amount of the average welfare or unemployment check is so insignificant that you would throw it in the trash.  If that’s the case then how can you really claim to represent the people in your state?

Some sort of Anti Defamation League for Raccoons should be made.


Kickin’ it at the BMORECC! (Part Three)

Part Three: The Artist as Whore

Finally, I wanted to talk about something that just struck me as odd about developments of consumer culture with comic books (but undoubtedly other media as well.)  On the drive over to the convention I talked with my friend (the “pretentious douchebag” mentioned in the previous post about the BMORECC) about the state of the comic book industry (long story short: it’s not good.)  One thing he touched on was that they (meaning the major publishers) need to sell their brands more.  As it is, people know big names like Batman, Iron Man, Superman, and X-Men but the knowledge of which are DC or Marvel properties–or even that such a distinction exists–probably isn’t present in the average movie-goer, TV watcher, or video game player (in other words, not comic book geeks).  These days posited that people are very into brands and not individual product lines (e.g., people are all about Apple as a whole and not specifically the iPhone, iPad, or Macbook.)

In an unrelated discussion I talked about my philosophy on collecting signatures or meeting comic book writers/artists.  I’m not interested in such an activity.  As far as I’m concerned the extend of my relationship with a creator only goes so far as my willingness to buy the work they produce. I recognize that I’m in the minority with that view.

This all tied up nicely during the first panel discussion we attended, titled “Creating Your Comic/Manga From Concept to Publication” hosted by a husband and wife team of self publishers I had never heard of.  One of the things that struck me was how a major part of selling their comic consisted of selling themselves.  It wasn’t until they laid their lives bare through social media (Facebook, Twitter, and discussion forms) that sales of their comic picked up.  Apparently the modern consumer needs to not only be sold on the quality of people’s work, but on the creators themselves.  In short, the brand (the husband and wife) needed to be marketed instead of their work.

I really don’t have too much to say about the matter other than I think it’s a depressing development in consumer behavior.  The first problem is the implication that the quality of the work is irrelevant in the consumers’ mind.  Arguably, sales have always been a function of marketing–and never the quality of the product.  It just seems silly that now you don’t even have to market the product in question.  It also raises issues about privacy and relevance.  Is there any logical reason that sales a comic book should be affected by how actively the creator Tweets about what they ate?

It also creates a problem of relevance.  Over the past couple of years I’ve seen the science fiction writer Orson Scott Card catch a lot of flack.  You see, he’s very anti-homosexual.  This is, to the best of my knowledge, not apparent in any of his fiction (none of his books that I’ve read, and even the complaints about him don’t mention homophobic elements in his stories) although he’s very public about it in essays.  This has lead people to call for boycotts of video games and comic books he contributed to.  When people are encouraged to buy a product based on who the artist is rather than the quality of their work then it’s valid to reject art for the same reason.  Is there a limit to how that can be applied? Should an artist’s work be rejected based on their favorite movies, food, sexuality, politics, ethnicity, or religion? Once the artist has to sell himself more than his work, I suppose it becomes impossible for the consumer to distinguish between the two.

I can’t blame the artist, though.  They need to earn a living.  This is a problem created by the consumer.

The header image was taken from See Mike Draw. Funny stuff.

Kickin’ it at the BMORECC! (Part Two)

Part Two: What to Do?
What did I do at the comic convention?  Mostly shopped and attended panel discussions.  For now, let’s talk shopping:
  1. I’m apparently more of an art collector than I expected.  I spent the majority of my time browsing through artist alley.  This is the area where largely independent (as opposed to being tied to a major publisher, which usually have their artists and writers at special booths elsewhere on the convention floor) people peddle their wares.
  2. I had no interest in looking through the bins and bins of comic books with sometime inscrutable organization.  Despite the layout, there were just too many people bustling about to comfortably dive through the long boxes in search of sought-after title.  It’s better to go to a comic book store or search for it online (likely through eBay.)  One might argue that the prices are better at a convention, but between transportation, parking, admission, and the crap shot that is the selection to be found it would be difficult to really justify that “bargain” price.
  3. Again, as discussed in my last post on the subject, I mostly buy trades and so looking for singles is really really unappealing at this point. 
  4. Action figures at the convention were obscenely priced.  Also, the selection was fairly uniform throughout.  If you were looking for Marvel Universe or DC Universe Classics you had a lot to choose from.  Anything else was somewhat under-represented.  
Back to point #1, I ended up spending a lot of time (and money!) at the artist alley.  I seemed to have developed somewhat particular tastes, though:
  1. I suppose it’s an unavoidable consequence of wanting to make money, but I was disheartened by the fact that so many artists just had fan art on offer.  You know what, DC makes many many posters of Batman, Superman, et al. I don’t need to buy your work.
  2. It’s especially awkward to see ones selling superheroine cheesecake. You know what? That stuff is incredibly easy to find online
  3. I saw a considerable number of black artists trying to push self-published “urban” superhero work.  I commend them on their initiative.  Unfortunately the art for them was universally bad, with a very 90’s quality to it that made the whole affair amateurish.  Maybe this was a stylistic choice that they all arrived at independently (maybe their target market reacts well to the style.)
  4. When I explained my friend, who hadn’t been to a comic book convention before, what the artist alley was I made the mistake of using the word “indie.”  He then snidely remarked that earlier in the year he’d gone to some festival in NYC for a festival of comic art and creators and that it was “much more independent” than the BMORECC.  What a fucking douche.
So, what did I see in the artist alley that I liked?  The quick rundown:
  • I bought a copy of Jetpack Shark by Max Young. I mean, with a title like that (and, like Snakes on a Plane, the title says it all) how could I say “no”?  I know earlier I mentioned having “particular tastes,” and one aspect of it is the absurd. I appreciate a creator who can go balls out with an idiotic idea instead of getting caught up in pretense.
  • Along those same lines I bought Jesus Hates Zombies published by 215ink.
  • I bought a print by Kurt Einhaus.  On his site it’s labeled as “Samurai 3.”  I really liked his work, it’s similar to Ashley Wood’s stuff (but much more colorful) with that same ethereal quality where nothing seems necessarily solid.
  • I bought a print from Vikki Chu. It’s a piece titled “Lands” on her site.  I liked the relatively simple art style that crams itself into every inch of the piece.  Sort of like if a kid decided to illustrate her whole fantasy kingdom on her desk while the teacher prattled on about whatever.  The small selection of colors used, mostly hues of blue, with the stark orange (for danger) was a nice touch. 
  • Finally, I pre-ordered an art book by Mike Maydak.  I’ve always been drawn to art that used a lot of color so my eyes were naturally drawn to the cartoonishly bright art with thick outlines.  For the most part his pictures of people, with their elongated, stylized bodies, did little for me.  However when that style got applied to inanimate objects; buildings and tanks, it took on a playful quality.  Is it a trick of perspective or is that structure just totally screwed? There’s some similarity to the way backgrounds were drawn in the TV series Invader Zim.
  • Finally, I bought a key chain of a monkey in a spacesuit trying to eat a banana.  Because, y’know, monkeys!  It’s a funny illustration by Ian Glaubinger

It’s Official: People Who Complain About Spoilers Should STFU!

I spend a lot of time in the nerdosphere. One thing you see a lot is people complaining about spoilers. The complaints are so common that the din has become background noise to discussions on forums, blogs, and chats.  People don’t just complain about spoilers of things that shouldn’t be spoiled; like a new movie, book, or video game.  It’s not uncommon so see people complain about being spoiled on old books (I’ve seen people complain about discussions of the Lord of the Rings books that were too liberal in revealing plot details, and those were first published over 60 years ago) and movies, video game instruction manuals, and even the very beginning of storylines (I saw complaints about someone describing how the pilot of The Walking Dead TV series started.)  It’s gotten to the point where people are so terrified of having any information divulged that they’d rather hobble any meaningful discussion than simply exercise a little caution on their own part or simply accept the risk that some things may be spoiled.

Well, it turns out they’re also just over-sensitive and in denial.  It turns out, people actually enjoy a story more after being spoiled on some key details.  Besides, if you know the ending ahead of time, at least you won’t have to worry about dying before getting there.

I don’t want to spoil the study too much, so I advise reading the article linked below.

Additional Reading

Kickin’ It at the BMORECC! (Part One)

Part One: Why Did I Go?

Yesterday I went to the Baltimore Comic Con (henceforth abbreviated at “BMORECC”), which I’ve been told is one of the most importantest comic conventions on the East Coast.  Or so I’m told.  Years ago, at a comic store, I lamented the lack of big shows nearby (this was before the New York Comic Con started.) Some fan/geek within earshot told me about the BMORECC and was amazed I hadn’t heard of it.  I got the impression this was a show with some history to it, but as this year was the 12th one I guess that person was exaggerating its notoriety.

The last comic book show I went to, besides the monthly local ones held in a nearby firestation, was the Philadelphia Comic Convention (since then bought by Wizard Entertainment) back in 1993.  This was significant because 1) at the time I read a lot of comic books and 2) at the time the comic book industry was doing very well, primarily due to an influx of new readers/collectors after the Death of Superman.  I still read comics, but its nowhere near the voracious weekly ritual it was when I was a kid.  Now, I mostly read trade paper backs,so even though I often go to comic book stores I rarely buy monthlies (derisively called “rags.”)

When I think of it, though, to say I don’t read comics is inaccurate. Yes, I don’t read the monthlies but there’s a significant number of series I read through the collections (which usually come out at a rate of twice a year.)
Just off the top of my head:

  1. Anything by the Luna Brothers (artists/writers from the DC Metro area, yet sadly weren’t at the convention).
  2. The Walking Dead and Invincible, both written by Robert Kirkman (and to defend my comic nerd-cred, I’ve been reading Walking Dead since 2004).
  3. Empowered by Adam Warren, which I will continue to defend has more solid characters than most “serious” superhero comics, despite being a (very) softcore BD/comedy series.
  4. The annual Flight anthology.
  5. UDON‘s Street Fighter comics, because I find them to be a lot of fun, and I’ve always been a fan of the games.
  6. Thieves & Kings, although so much time passes between volumes that I’m honestly not sure why I continue. This is a series I pretty much read out of some sense of tradition.  It’s still got, but I’ve completely lost track of the story after all these years.
And those are just the things I regularly read.  I also have a ton of stuff that I buy and read just because I want to try it out or I heard was good.  Looking around my room right now, I can identify:
  1. Ex Machina
  2. Fallout Toy Works
  3. I Kill Giants
  4. The Incredible Hercules
  5. The Li’l Depressed Boy
  6. Skull Kickers
  7. The Umbrella Academy
Which means the claim that I don’t really read comics anymore is plainly false, once examined.  I no longer read comics in the format I did when I was younger, but I haven’t stopped reading them all together.  It’s just that, before, I read comics based on more popular properties such as Spawn, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, & X-Men to somewhat more diverse offerings.  I’ve also ditched the monthly books in place of TPB’s.
So, apparently I’m still a comics fan.  Sadly, nobody whose work I was currently reading would be at the event but at least I belonged there (no less so than anyone else who paid $20 admission belonged there, at least.)  But would this be the wondrous media frenzy that San Diego Comic Con is (which I’ve never had the pleasure of attending) or at least as memorable (to me, at any rate) as my trip to the Philadelphia Comic Con years ago?
No.  Absolutely not.