So Ugly it is Pretty -- Hibbs on 8/6/14

Hey, me again -- yeah, bi-weekly it is, I think, for now!  Of course, my jibber jabber seems even more jibber jabbery when surrounded by Abhay.... After the cut.....


AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1 (OF 5): I thought this had some pretty fabulous art – Iain Laurie is in that “so ugly it is pretty” school like maybe a Mike McMahon or a Ulises Farinas or something – though I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The story was alright: I felt like I could predict each beat before it came, but that’s not necessarily bad with a horror comic, where atmosphere often counts more than plot.. What kills me, of course, is that, being from a smaller publisher (comixtribe), Diamond had literally no copies for distribution available on Tuesday when I pulled it out of the box, went “Oooh, pretty”, and tried to reorder some more. Backorder-only, which guarantees a minimum of three weeks to get a reorder (and is often 6+, because comixtribe is a UK publisher, and Diamond is wretched with UK publishers), which makes it extremely risky to order up on #2, since I can’t say when/if I will get any more #1s, which just creates this whole vicious circle, and then it’s a mini-series, so by the time we figure out the “right” order, it will be over. Ah, comics! I’m going to go with a strong GOOD.


GOD IS DEAD BOOK OF ACTS ALPHA: Three stories in an anthology. The first story, by Mike Costa, was about the same as the main series – ie, I was flipping pages to get to the end as fast as I could because I wanted to be done already; the second story was Alan Moore, and it was wonderfully meta – starring Moore himself and his “snake god”, and if this was ten years ago I’d be betting that this would make the Eisner nominees for “best short story”. I also liked that the inside covers table of contents claimed that Si Spurrier’s story was in the number two spot so I’m reading this, astonished that Spurrier would do such a ruthless Moore piss take, and then I realized it was Moore, and that made it even better. Spurrier’s story, at the back, has a very cute premise about Cherubs and their antecedents, but it practice it probably went on about three times longer that was needed. So, that’s an AWFUL, an EXCELLENT, and an OK in a single issue, which is exactly a perfect case study of why many people generally don’t like anthologies. I liked that Moore story alone just well enough to give the overall comic a GOOD, but I would understand if you ranked it lower.


MILES MORALES ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #4: Here is what I don’t get, what I truly fundamentally, in-my-core don’t get: why would you relaunch your mult-culti Spider-Man comic, put “Miles Morales”’ name in the title, present this excellent marketing moment and time for the book to explode (seriously, on paper this should be at least as big of a hit as Ms. Marvel), and then have your entire first arc be ENTIRELY about the dead white guy? Miles does nothing but react react react to Peter and Peter’s legacy and Peter’s damn baggage. This was probably 2014’s largest mainstream misfire in its wrong-headedness. Staggeringly EH.


MIRACLEMAN #9: I am just the slightest bit surprised to see the Disney corporation publish full-on vaginal birth. I was thinking they were going to cave at the last minute. Good for them. I love Miracleman generally, but as I feared, the wider audience reaction is largely “been there, done that” -- #7 was down below 20k nationally which makes me think that it could be well into cancellation territory before it gets back to brand new stories by Neil Gaiman. Meh, they’ll relaunch that with a #1 anyway. Anyway, I find this specific issue a bit over-written and half-baked, but it sets up a whole lot of wonderful stuff that’s going to pay off wonders, so as long as it is in a rated review column, I’ll say a low GOOD


NEW AVENGERS #22: Mostly because I didn’t write last week, and #21 was the single book then that I really wanted to say something about, I really admire the strong morality as the center of the decision that was made in #21, and I thought that who did make that decision was really the perfect one. There’s some real “No Tap-backs” stuff going on here, and it’s pretty much the sole piece of Hickman’s run here that has got me genuinely interested. The rest of the arc feels too expansive, too sprawling and unfocused, too…. White-boardy. Which is why would really want to point out the moments that work, like last issue and this one, with some of the fall-out. VERY GOOD. I do, wish, however, that Marvel would put more than 7 days between issues, sheesh.


SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #32 EOSV: I might be hard pressed to come up with a worse title for a Spider-Man “event” than “Edge of the Spider-Verse”, which not only isn’t compelling (“edge” kinda means it could topple either way, right?), but it’s not descriptive either. Why not something more punchy like, dunno, “The Infinite Deaths of Spider-Man” (well, that’s awful too). Anyway, it is crazy-making to start off this crossover as #32 of a cancelled series, and that has a premise that’s pretty entirely different than the first 31 issues, and also, since they structure it as a time travel thing, essentially has to end with Ock Spidey surviving and losing him memory of the events, which also makes the starting point at least somewhat “out of continuity / doesn’t count”. But, despite that, mostly because I’ve always been a sucker for multiple-earth nuttiness, I thought this was an entertaining… well, I was going to say “romp”, but the body count was a bit high for that. A trifling GOOD.


TERMINAL HERO #1: Where’s the “Hero” part of it? EH.



What else? Oh yeah, I also liked GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the film, pretty much. I wish they wouldn’t stray what seems like arbitrarily from the source material --the Novas, kind of pointlessly killing Ronan (he accused no one of anything!), and mostly the wussification of Gamora. THAT was “the most dangerous woman in the universe”? She’s beaten up by freakin’ Starlord at one point, eesh. I probably also would have dropped Nebula from the story, as that didn’t really add a thing, but, yeah, other than that? Decent enough film, and I thought the 3-D was very watchable this time. Either way, the 10 year old loved it, so that probably makes it, what, VERY GOOD?


That's me, what did YOU think?



Going Home Again

So... Sandman: Overture?

I was pretty excited when I heard that Neil Gaiman would be returning to Sandman -- Comix Experience has a history with the book, after all -- but I'm also not at all afraid to say I was a smidge nervous.  The last few comics Neil has written have been.... well, they were certainly technically fine (he's a pretty good writer, after all), but they also felt a bit bloodless, and appeared like they had more originated from someone asking Neil to write something than a story that Neil had passionately originated from his own mind and heart.

(There's nothing wrong with that -- that's how most comics are created; but seldom, I think, is that how the best comics are created)

Then there's also the whole "aging act" thing -- you know, how you just love a band or a story or a character or some other thing, but how going back to it isn't nearly as good as you remembered that band was (or, even worse, sometimes, that it is really terrific, but it is just different enough that the mainstream pretty much ignores it.  For example, I really liked Rush's last two albums, but I don't think that any of the "classic rock" stations in the Bay Area really ever played a single track from them, despite playing "Tom Sawyer" 6 times a day.... or Jeff Beck's last record, or... well, you get the point, I guess), and then you start to wonder how much you liked the original in the first place? (you fickle fickle fan)

So, I'm pretty happy to say that I thought Neil's return to Sandman with "Sandman: Overture" was simply terrific -- it had just enough classic strains of what we liked about it before, melded with a writer pretty much at his peak, and with what appears to be a pretty intriguing new twist to go with it.

Yes, there are bits that are going to seem very familiar: "There is a book. A book filled with everything that has every happened, everything that ever will happen. It is heavy, and leather, and chained to his wrist." and so on. You can't stray so far from what worked, after all, and the characters are who they are -- and because this is a prequel you at least think you know where all of the pieces have to come out. But Sandman has always been about stories, and I'd argue that seldom were there a lot of surprises once things were set in place in Sandman because stories have rules -- could "the Kindly Ones" have really gone any other way, from a plot perspective?

But that's from us who loved this with a spoon 25 years (!!) ago -- I think if this is your first time reading this world and these characters, I think you're really going to see why we fell in love all the way back then, because there is an incredible cosmology being formed here (And, actually, "Overture" might solve the problem I always had with starting new readers at v1 -- I always thought "A Doll's House" was the much much better entry point, because there weren't any more bits about how much the Martian Manhunter loved Oreos or whatever, that so dates the first story arc)

But, yeah, for those of us who already were fans, if you're a lapsed comics reader, I entirely think it is worth your while to come back to Sandman -- especially as a periodical reading experience.

In fact, there's a specific physical thing that happens here in the serialized comic book (I've been led to believe that the reason it wasn't described in the solicitations was that Neil wanted it to be a surprise for the reader, so I won't say more than that -- because it was a lovely surprise!) that I strongly believe will be mediocre at best in a collected edition -- and downright dire in a digital version. This first issue at least is very much meant to be a comic book, if you ask me.

If you are a lapsed reader somehow reading this review, I'd like to urge you to try and start up a conversation with the person behind the counter of your local comics store, and ask them about what is happening in comics right now that that's on the same level as Sandman.  Because there really is a lot of wonderful contemporary comics out there that you will delight to discover -- the first one I'll give you for free is "Saga" by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples -- my deepest hope would be this brings back many readers from "back in the day" and reintroduces you to the general resplendent wonder that is comic books.

I didn't say anything yet about the art, and that there is because I really don't have the words.  This is the work of J.H. Williams III's career -- and given all of the awesome astonishing comics he has drawn before, that's saying a lot. Stunningly, epically beautiful where the page is at least as important as the panel. Brother can draw.

There are a few weaknesses, sure -- the house ads are a bit jarring when they come; and if you didn't like Sandman back then (and there were many people who didn't), this probably won't change your mind -- about half the issue had a certain level of "read this before" to it (though the verses change), but all of that was extremely minor to me. I thought this was truly EXCELLENT work, and I'm kind of proud to have it on my shelf.

What did you think?



Wait, What? Ep. 129: Idol Speculation

Wait What Punk photo waitwhatpunk_zps1cb5bdd6.pngA nifty piece of fan art from the crazily talented Adam P. Knave. Thank you, Adam!

We are back!  To do that thing to your ears that you insist you like!  (Really, you like it? Really?)

After the jump -- show notes!  That thing I do to your eyes that...maybe is helpful?  Even the way I do it, maybe?  Join us!

(Ugh, I'm so old: looking at photoshopped me with those shoes, I'm all, "Man, I look like Bob Fosse!"  Sad, sad, sad.)

0:00-18:54: Greetings! Apologies! Alternate theme songs! Prepping from SDCC!  Graeme tells us what kind of stuff he's looking forward to -- and, equally as important, dreading -- at this year's Con.  Also covered: the upcoming geek lifestyle program brought to you from a somewhat unlikely source; Blair Butler and more. 18:54-29:34: Is Marvelman coming back at this Con?  Will anyone care? Will Jeff be able to get halfway decent prices for his copies, or has he entered the greedy speculator phase of his comic reading career far, far too late?  Also, Jeff unburdens himself about his shady contribution to Internet discourse.  And that leads, in its odd way, to discussion of the latest Marvel event and the new Inhumans series. 29:34-41:34:  And that leads to us talking about Gaiman's changing credits on Guardians of the Galaxy, DC being less bitchy in public than Marvel, but still doing stuff like cutting Ales Kot loose from Suicide Squad. Is DC trying to bring back its Silver Age in the worst way possible?  Or do they just not know how to grow creators? 41:34-50:14:  Compare and contrast:  Graeme has read the two collections of Nick Spencer's Ultimate X-Men and has some things to report back on that experience.  He also read the Superior Foes of Spider-Man, also written by Nick Spencer.  Since Jeff hasn't read Morning Glories and Graeme has, Jeff grills Graeme about the A-B-Cs of N-I-C(k). 50:14-57:49:  Whoever had 49:10 in the holiday pool for when Jeff would want to start talking about 2000AD, pick up your winnings at Window No. 2!  We talk about Laura Sneddon's excellent article about Zenith, Hillary Robinson and Chronos Carnival, and giving Jeff a chance to vent about his obsession with the Leonard Zelig of the comics industry, Michael Fleisher.  And just as we talk about one of the best pieces to happen to comics in the last two weeks, things go a bit pear-shaped, leading us into… 57:49-58:10:   Intermission One! 58:10-1:04:54: Where we were?  Oh, right.  One of the best things to happen to comics in the last two weeks?  That would be Jim Steranko joining Twitter.  Are you following @IamSteranko?  You really, really should. 1:04:54-1:11:01:  Neither Graeme nor Jeff attended the Image Expo. Did that keep Jeff and Graeme from talking about it? Oh my, no. 1:11:01-1:17:53: What do Game of Thrones, Dead Snow, and The Fantastic Four have in common?  And what does all of that have to do with The Boys?  Jeff has a hurried, stammery story that will connect the dots for you! 1:17:53-1:30:14:  And to continue from that last talking point, Jeff (a.k.a., Mr. Up-To-Date) finally finished reading all of The Boys by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, John McCrea, and Russ Braun (who Jeff, because he is daft, refers to as Dan Braun at least once, much to his shame now). Spoilers ahoy! 1:30:14-1:52:01Batman, Inc. #12!  What'd we think? JLA: Tower of Babel! Which one of us has only now just read it? The second Prophet collection!  Which other one finally read that and what'd they think?  Bandette and Batman '66! Did one of us read them and love them, or did both of us read them and love them? The Private Eye!  Who's going to sound like a douchebag talking about the new they discovered to read the latest issue by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin?  Pick up your pencils and begin.  You will have slightly less than twenty-two minutes to complete this part of the exam. 1:52:01-end:  Closing comments! Promises to return that hopefully will not sound hollow to thy ears! And, of course, Exclamation points! Exclamation points for everyone!!

Um, what else?  I just saw Pacific Rim today.   I wasn't the only one  weirded out by how much that Australian dude looked like Geoff Johns when he put his baseball cap on, was I? No?  Just me?

Anyway, it was far from a great movie (like I don't even think there's bus service between where Pacific Rim ended up and a great movie) but it worked for me.  I had an okay time with a few minutes of genuine nerd joy.  Weirdly, it reminded me of Battleship, another so-very-far-from-great movie, that also spent most of its running time trying to justify its own premise and really was entertaining when it wasn't being terrible...the difference being that Peter Berg is just a tourist in nerd town and Guillermo Del Toro owns, like, a third of the shops there.

I mean there weren't enough fights in the city for my tastes, and I don't know how you can put Charlie Day in a movie and make him yell all the time and have it still be dull (because I think Charlie Day yelling is like one of the funniest things in the world). But, you know. As a bargain matinee on the big screen? Enjoyable.

Oh, right!  The podcast!!  I knew I almost forgot something!  It'll be on iTunes soon, it's in our RSS feed, and it's right below.  We hope you listen and enjoy!

Wait, What? Ep. 129: Idol Speculation

Wait, What? Ep. 119: Watching You

 photo 17e4d393-c4cd-4496-a866-8ba8fe4bd9fb_zpsb20a0bdd.jpg Yup, we talk about Action Comics #18!  And I think...we even have stuff to say? Maybe, kinda?

Behind the jump: show notes annotating the podcast commenting on the industry having one of its craziest weeks ever!  Action verbs! Jazz hands! Psychedelic Superman!

Show notes are truncated again, in part because I am again behind the eight ball, schedule-wise, and in part because I could've puffed out the notes and given away some of the rather amusing twists and turns the convo took...but thought it better to just play as it lays.  On the plus side, at no point do I refer to Stevie Wonder as "Steve Wonder." So, there's that. 0:00-54:08: Right into it as we deal with one of the news-heaviest weeks for comics in a while.  (Indeed, one is surprised we weren't actually taking a week off for a change.)  Andy Diggle officially off Action, Joshua Hale Fialkov exiting two Green Lantern titles, and the rumored death of John Stewart make for one eye-blackening week for DC.  In addition, we wonder about how superhero comics affect work relationships; Dr. Doom and the Internet; and if what we think of as DC is just one era and facet of a much bigger company; Jeff's theory of the curse of comic books; the coming out of Orson Scott Card; and who we would pick to replace Bob Harras. 54:08-1:03:55: Action Comics #18!  The big finale of Grant Morrison and Rags Morales' run on the title. Actions will undoubtedly vary but if nothing else, it gave Graeme and Jeff a lot to talk about. 1:03:55-1:04:15: INTERMISSION ONE! 1:04:15-1:08:30:  But first a salute to all the amazing and strong comics we were able to get our hands on last week!  Jennifer Blood! 2000 A.D.! Daredevil! Justice League! 1:08:30-1:15:08: On the other hand, there was also Constantine #1. Graeme gives Jeff the low-down and insprires some dynamite comic book pitches as a result. 1:15:08-1:38:59:  Neil Gaiman! Angela! Marvel!  (Or maybe more like: Neil Gaiman? Angela? Marvel?)  Plus, as a bonus, Graeme, being Graeme, expresses sympathy for a figure in the situation and Jeff, being Jeff, tries to talk him out of it.  And then there's some talk about Neil Gaiman and Age of Ultron and yakkitah-yakkitah-yakkitah, and then hijinks ensue. I feel compelled to point out that Graeme is especially hilarious in this section. 1:38:59-1:52:35:  But the good news of the week?  The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin available for download here as a pay-what-you-want comic. We talk about it here, although perhaps more from an industry analysis angle and not nearly as much from a "what a damn fine comic" angle. And as if to punish us for our oversight... 1:52:35-end: Onslaught:  The Return of Techpocalypse! And also closing comments.  We don't quite come out and say it in the closing moments so I should point out here:  next week is a skip week due to some bone-crushing deadlines on both our parts.

I got an email from Apple the other week letting me know how their podcast standards were changing and hoo-hoo, boy have I been too scared to even begin looking into that shit!  But hopefully this episode will be up there very soon (if not already).  And!  You can, as always, download from us right here in this very section of cyberspace:

Wait, What? Ep. 119: Watching You

As always, thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy.   We will see you in a fortnight!

Wait, What? Ep. 94: The Basement Japes

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Above: The Farm Fusion Waffle, which is a liege waffle topped with mushroom, spinach, roasted pepper, tomato and marinated chevre, from the Waffle Window, Portland, OR.

Yes, that is one mighty tasty waffle, let me tell you -- although let me be honest, I do not tell you in episode 95, I merely mention it to you now. But!  Trust me, it's darn good.

As for what we do discuss in this episode, join me behind the jump for... show notes!

1:20-3:24: The Basement Japes: an introduction
3:24-13:21: The front page of and how to get there; Jeff makes Graeme break down the process behind his recent Dark Knight Rises
13:21-22:03: Graeme has recently seen Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Netflix Watch Instantly  and would like to talk about it and a certain amount of contemplation transpires about the quote-unquote charms of Michael Bay.
22:03-32:02: By very sad contrast, Jeff has something to say about Melissa & Joey, which he mistakenly calls "Melissa Loves Joey" THE ENTIRE TIME.  Is Jeff really so damn old he would get the title confused with Joanie Loves Chachi?  The answer, sadly, is yes.  Fortunately, Graeme steers Jeff toward Sex House, instead.  Although that seems like a weird lead-in to mentioning Jarett Kobek's new book, If You Won't Read, Then Why Should I Write? (and yes, I also get that title wrong, too), it actually works quite well, honest.
32:02-32:22: This is the point where we acknowledge that we have not really talked about comics at all, yet.
32:22-34:18: So instead of talking about Transformer movies, we mention Transformers comics and GI Joe comics.  Woo!
34:18-40:51: Well, and so you can't really talk about GI Joe Comics without discussing Top Shelf's Double Barrel, can you? No, of course not.  Trust me when I say we speak glowingly of Double Barrel #2.
40:51-56:04: Jeff's other major comic read of the week was catching up on three weeks of Shonen Jump Alpha. Can Jeff handle jumping into Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal on its ninth chapter?  (Spoiler: no.) The pros and cons of reading a mass of serialized information all at a go also gets a bit of the ol' poke & prod.
55:04-1:00:24: This gets us talking about how jumping on points and story density can work both for and against a story's accessibility with mentions of Morrison's JLA in trade, Mark Waid's interview at the AV Club, and whether Marvel's recap pages work.
1:00:24-1:02:59: Kieron Gillen has his own podcast, DECOMPRESSED.  We haven't listened to it, but we are very excited about it!  Check it out here!
1:02:59-1:14:09: Graeme tallks about Dark Avengers #177 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker, and Wild Children, the recent Image book by Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo
1:14:09-1:16:28: Graeme picked up the new Eddie Campbell graphic novel, The Lovely Horrible Stuff, digitally (for only five dollars, and you can too, here at the SavCrit Digital Store) and tells us about it.  It sounds quite good.  (I admit it, I've picked it up since and can sign off on Graeme's recommendation.  It really is quite good.)
1:16:28-1:29:00: Other books Graeme discusses:  Action Comics #11,which he likes more than Jeff did, Infernal Man-Thing; and Punk-Rock Jesus.
1:29:00-1:45:38: Were you still wondering why Graeme liked the first volume of the Greg Rucka Punisher trade even though he didn't like the individual issues he tried?  He tells us here, and we get in to a bit of a tussle over the nature of The Punisher, and the differences between Rucka's approach and Ennis's approach.
1:45:36-1:58:34: Does that mean we end up talking about Rucka's run on Elektra and his career at NuMarvel as well as his current webcomic, Lady Sabre?  Why yes, it does!
1:58:34-2:03:32: The end (of the episode) is nigh! Although promising earlier to spoil the hell out of Walking Dead #100, Jeff instead tells the comic book collection bet story from Bleeding Cool.
2:03:32-2:10:24: When we recorded this, Neil Gaiman doing Before Sandman was just a rumor.  Want to know what we thought of the announcement before it was announced?  We talk about it here!
...Oh, and also closing comments, which we are still not very good at doing.
If you've got iTunes, it may have already set the nose of your faithful RSS bloodhound stirring.  Alternately, you are welcome to have a listen to it here, and sniff at it dismissively at your leisure:
Oh, and a word to the wise, we aren't recording this week, which means we won't have an episode for you next week -- I've got a trip lined up for this week, and I realized it would actually benefit my life greatly if we baked this kind of thing into my schedule, so expect us to have one skip week a month from here on out.  (Think of it as an opportunity to catch up.)
As always, we thank you for listening and hope you enjoy!

Wait, What? Ep. 45: It Will Be Brought.

Photobucket And so without further delay, Graeme and I are back with another podcast episode designed to amuse and bemuse.  ("Design" might be a little too strong a word, though.)  In this ep., we discuss our preparations (both mental and physical) for seeing Green Lantern: The Movie, as well as the Marvel event from 1989 Atlantis Attacks; Mark Gruenwald's legacy on Captain America; Jack Kirby, Neil Gaiman, the Berganza/Didio interview tour, Avenging Spider-Man, the perfect setting for Tron 3, SDCC, and more.   You can find it on iTunes or listen to it here:

Wait, What? Ep. 45: It Will Be Brought.

Finally, we hope you enjoy Graeme's dramatic interpretation of a beloved comic book character, which I've excerpted below in the hopes it will make its way into a fan edit of a certain franchise or two:

I\'d advise you to listen to the podcast first before listening to this, but we\'re all adults here, right?

As always, thanks for listening!

A few thoughts on BEST AMERICAN + Cover Flow

I quite like the BEST AMERICAN COMICS series. I think that it provides a generally decent overview of what's happening in non-cape comics in any given year, and I like it as an "entry drug" for civilians, as a retailer. This year's installment, guest-edited by Neil Gaiman, is another fine fat package of comic goodness, but I think a few of the flaws of the approach were pretty magnified this year.

Primarily, I was fairly dismayed at the length of some of the excerpts this year. While it was nice to see something capey make the book this year (well, last year they tried to get Batman Year 100 in there, but DC refused), and something from Marvel at that, printing an entire issue's worth of OMEGA THE UNKNOWN seemed a bit much.  Even more so, including almost the  entire second issue of CITIZEN REX seemed over the top. I strongly believe that the length of excerpts should almost certainly be limited to no more than 5% of the final work. With CZ being 120 pages from tip to floor, I'd submit that no more than 6 pages would be a much more appropriate length than 14 pages of it.

Second, as is typical, the "usual suspects" (Los Bros, Ware, Bagge, etc.) get a lot of space. There's no doubt these are creators doing great work, but they just feel a little too ubiquitous to this reader.

What excites me the most about a project like BAC is finding people/works that I "missed" -- this year the clear winner for me as an individual reader was a toss up between Dave Lapp and Michael Cho (who did the cover), both of whom I certainly want to see more from.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid package - well worth the $23 asking price, and it was a VERY GOOD package, missing the excellent only because of the length of some of the pieces included.


Now here is where it gets weird... I hit the web as I was reading through, looking up Lapp to see if I could find other work.  For some reason, and I can't re-google my results that made me think this, I somehow led myself to a book called POWER OUT, which I then picked off my store's shelf and started reading. POWER OUT is actually by Nathan Schreiber, who isn't in BAC at all, and, so, I haven't got the foggiest notion how I got my signal's crossed so entirely. So, before I picked BAC back up to write this, I thought these two pieces were linked, and it turned out they aren't, even a teeny bit.

Having said that, Nathan Schreiber is also another nice "new talent" -- in his case he was a Xeric winner (and we always rack every Xeric book as a matter of course), and he's a gifted cartoonist, apparently working at Act-i-vate. I dunno, I'm not a webcomics guy myself.

Anyway, what wanted me to write more about POWER OUT isn't actually the work inside (a solid GOOD, though it is), but, rather, about cover design and why we haven't sold one copy of this book, as good as it is.

So, that's a pretty awful cover -- not from rendering or anything, but from how it sits upon the rack.  What are it's mistakes?

1) The image doesn't convey anything whatsoever -- while the premise of the story is two kids adventures when the power goes out over a weekend (when their parents are away), that's not communicated in the image at all. those power lines could mean ANYthing.

2) The cover and credits, and, especially "Xeric award winner" are in wholly the wrong place. The human eye (or, at least, the Western bits of that eye) scans a page left-to-right, top-to-bottom. That means that to the extent possible, you want everything that is important to either be on the left side, or along the top. The top left corner is the single most important bit of your real estate (look at a regular Marvel or DC comic if you don't believe me -- they got that way over years of development) -- putting your title on the bottom of the book is basically "burying the lede"

3) the two-tone color. While the book itself, on the inside, is toned that way, it doesn't "pop" off the shelf whatsoever as a cover.

Interestingly, BAC itself almost has the same problems:

The advantage that BAC has is the red -- that makes things "pop" just fine; without the red, it would die on the shelf.  But look where (what I as a bookseller consider) the most important part is: "Neil Gaiman, editor", ugh, it's down in the bottom right.

Seriously, when designing your covers, put the most important stuff to the left and on the top!


Neil Gaiman is 32 flavors of awesome

It was a very very nice event.

Neil read from WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER (which I overnight Saturday deliveried a case of copies in -- I should have had THREE cases, damn it; I'll be restocking those, for sure!) for about a half hour, then we did the signing itself.

Despite the fact that he had lunch plans with Daniel Handler, he still took the time to talk to each and every person in line for five minutes or so, and did little head sketches for most of them. He was utterly gracious with his time and attention, and sat through scores of photos, and everything else.

We were scheduled to end at 12:30, and, instead, wrapped at something closer to an hour late because Neil wanted to talk to each and every person there -- now that's pure class!

Thank you to all of the attendees, all of whom seemed to leave the store with huge glowing smiles on their faces (and, in one case, what ended up 20 minutes later as a permanent tattoo) (Seriously, she came back with permanent ink, and got a big smooch from Neil as a secondary reward)

Thanks to my god-damn good staff: Carissa, Matt and Susan. They totally rocked it.

Thanks to the generous volunteers who helped with line control and keeping people happy and moving: Seth & Skye, Tim & Lisa, Matt N., James, Shannon and Antoine. We literally could not have done it without all of you, and you've got a lot more than just my thanks coming.

And thanks most of all to Neil Gaiman for being such a generous guy with his time and being a master of charm and enthusiasm. Let's do this again for the store's FORTIETH anniversary, aye?


Newest Tilting is up!

Look: it is the new Tilting At Windmills, and here I talk about Neil Gaiman and Tyrese Gibson and Social Networking and Marketing, and how perfect storms are pretty imperfect after all.

Some months are a long hard search for a subject, but this month was, in a way, a gift as it was 100% obvious what I HAD to write about.

If you don't/won't/can't comment at CBR, well you can say something here (but Jonah'd be more happy if you said something over there, yeah)


Neil Gaiman At Comix Experience, 7/19: the Facts

(There’s a long, rambly story that goes with this, which you can find here, but just so as to not bury the lede…)

Comix Experience is very proud to announce, as part of its ongoing 20th anniversary celebration, a rare San Francisco reading/Q&A/Signing with acclaimed author Neil Gaiman on Sunday, July 19th from 11 AM to 12:30 PM.

Later Edit: The event is now completely sold out, and we thank everyone for their interest and patience!


Neil Gaiman at Comix Experience, 7/19: The Story

OK, so you all remember that 2009 is Comix Experience’s 20th anniversary, right? (April first, to be exact!)

Those of you who are actually customers may also note that we didn’t exactly do anything special for it (like a party or something). This is because my plan was to do several events throughout the year to celebrate, probably culminating in that party on the Twenty-First birthday because, y’know, then she’s legal to drink and all.

I’d actually been thinking about this for a very long time. How long? Well, it was way back on February 15th, 2006 (!) that I first emailed Neil Gaiman a message with the title “How Is Your 2009 looking?”

Neil’s one of those Major League guests nowadays – his schedule is overbooked, all of the time, and everyone wants him somewhere always. This is why I started three years early!

Why Neil? I mean, besides the “Uh, duh he’s a major league super-star” bit? Well, in a lot of ways because I think Neil and I came up together in comics.

See, I had creators that I was passionate about whom the store supported (and they supported back) dating from before I started CE – the Matt Wagner’s, the Dave Sim’s, and so on. (I actually have a story involving both of them and my reasons for starting CE that’s nearly old enough that I might be able to tell it out loud in public one of these days…) – Comix Experience was effectively created because of the passion I had for those guy’s works at the time.

And as the store went on, that passion for creators and their work expanded way out to even more people who then did events and things for us, and became friends of the store and friends of me personally – Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, dozens and dozens of other people; all of that happened after the store opened, and the medium to began to expand in tone and depth.

But Neil? Neil was my first. Neil was the very first contemporaneous creator who I felt that same passion as I did for my heroes.

Comix Experience opened, as I said, in April of 1989. Sandman #1 has a cover date of January 1989. I was utterly enamored by Sandman, and we worked like hell to sell it to every person we could, and it very quickly became one of our store’s best sellers.

I’d read Violent Cases, of course, as well -- maybe one of 1200 people in America who had at that point? So, yeah, I was a fan of this guy, and I really really wanted to do anything I could to help him and his career in whatever small ass way I might.

We met in San Diego that year, and I guess my enthusiasm worked OK on him – this was, of course before he was “NEIL GAIMAN”, he was hustling for work like anyone else, and was still a little awestruck with being an author with a monthly book from DC (Vertigo didn’t exist yet) at the San Diego ComicCon, I asked him if we could do a store signing (I think that maybe this would be his second or third signing ever?), and he agreed.

Here’s a photo from that day. Man, we’re both absurdly young! If I recall correctly, this is the window display for that signing.

Now, twenty years gone I don’t remember the exact details and timing, and the scrapbook is sitting at the store right now, so I can’t look it up, but I believe it was the week that Sandman #10 was released? That puts it sometime in November of ’89 then, per I’m not sure why Neil was in from England then, but he made the trip to SF. Heh, let me tell you just how low rent we were back then – Neil actually slept on our sofa in our living room! Man, today I couldn’t even imagine asking a creator to crash on my sofa!

One neat thing happened at that signing. A few months before, DC did a free overship (100%? I don’t recall now) of Sandman #8. Since we were doing the signing, DC decided to send us some of what they had around the office. They sent a case of Sandman #8.

But, oddly enough, and seemingly unknown to anyone at the time, Sandman #8 had actually been misprinted. It had a recap / intro at the front (the same one, I think, that was in early printings of “A Doll’s House”). But it was also supposed to have had an introduction by Editor Karen Berger on the inside front cover. The majority of the print run, for whatever reason, didn’t -- it ran the usual Jenette Kahn DC house ad.

Now DC told me that there were only 600 copies of this, and they sent one to me and one to some other retailer I don’t recall now, and basically I had a third of the print run. Somehow I actually disbelieve that story now because I know enough to know that just flicking the big machine on and off produces more than 600 copies – realistically there’d have to be more than 1000 of these out there, minimum, but 600 was the official story.

I know, once I opened the box, what I had. Potentially, this was a gold mine. I mean, if I had those copies now, and had CCGed them, I’d have gotten a purely gross and evil return. Thankfully, I had a soul, and I put them to their intended use – I gave that shit out for free. You can see them in the picture above, actually, with my crappy hand-written sign. And the ones that we didn’t give out when Neil was in the store? (Because, I don’t think there were even 50 people who showed up that day? It was one of those nice, “have a nice 5 minute chat with each attendee” kind of signings.) Well those copies, I stuck a flyer for the store in, with some sort of bounceback coupon, and just started Johnny Appleseed-ing them across The City. Left them on buses, at barber shops and Laundromats, and in paper boxes at school campuses. I recall we got some sort of nutty return on those – like 10% or something, maybe?

The main lesson though, was that doing the “right thing” – actually giving out the comics like we were supposed to, instead of, dunno, selling them off for $5 a throw or something (hey, in 1990 dollars!), earned me new customers who then became devoted Sandman readers month-in and month out, and some of them started branching out into other books, and a few of them even still occasionally shop with me today. Long-term seeding really does work better than short-term gain!

This also gave me a good rep with DC, which still pays dividends for me today. A year or so later, Sandman had got the attention of Rolling Stone Magazine, and there was some sort of article about Sandman as one of, I think, 10 “hot” things that year. DC rushed out a paperback collection of “A Doll’s House”, and, suddenly a whole new way of thinking about things was born.

Prior to that, there were collected editions of comics, of course – I think DC’s backlist at that point was maybe 20 items deep, if that? I do know that I kept my very first order form from month #1 of the store, with all of its precious little “1”, “2”and the very occasional “5” written in it, and that month was the premiere of the first Alan Moore Swamp Thing collection. I think it was a decade later before every Moore issue was finally collected…

Anyway, I was all about the paperback. Dude, awesome – a format where we can sell the best stories forever and ever and ever and ever? I’m all over that. Hell, I opined in probably ’91, ’92 that there wasn’t even any point in publishing stuff that you weren’t going to collect and make the long green from – this is the business we’re supposed to be in. There was a meeting in Los Angeles sometime in there with me, and the late and well loved Bill Liebowitz (Golden Apple) and Rory Root (Comic Relief) (And boy, do I miss both of those guys right about now!), and DC staff of Paul Levitz, Bob Wayne and the gone-but-not-forgotten Bruce Bristow. Me and Rory insisting to these guys that paperbacks were the model, and Bristow just being absolutely incredulous. Luckily Bob and Paul understood what we were saying…

Comix Experience was always the prototypical “Vertigo Store” – not that we sold the most number of copies of comics-meant-more-for-adults (I almost typed “sophisticated”!), but as a proportion to our superhero sales we were way up in the upper parts of the curve. And I want to believe that it was stores like mine that made the imprint possible at all. And that made the sense, company wide, that backlist was a viable model. And that, at the end of the day, is ultimately why DC took their chance to do exclusivity with Diamond and to be able to dictate the building of the infrastructure that allowed the modern era of comics to come to pass. “Real” book publishers wouldn’t be doing graphic novel lines if the Direct Market, and stores like mine hadn’t proved the model out.

I’m chatting with Neil a lot at this point – like at least once a week, sometimes 2-3 times a week, often for an hour or more – comics, comics comics, what can we do, how do we fix it, ah, I was such a Phone Queen back then. All I can say is we only sorta kinda had an internet back then, y’know?

Anyway, fast forward a little, and Season of Mists is about to come out. As a hardcover! Whoa, this is not at all common for a reprint. Thing looks like an old bible, too, with a leather cover, no dustjacket. Woulda won an Eisner if “Publication Design” had existed as a category then. The thing was lush.

And we did a signing for that.

Not just with Neil, but also with, let’s see, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Kelley Jones, Matt Wagner (my original hero!), and Steve Oliff. I don’t think I’m forgetting someone? Now this was no repeat of the first one. This was a Rock Star kind of day. Crazy lines down to the end of the block, carnival atmosphere, I think we were selling copies of the hardcover at like one a minute. Absolutely insane.

Here’s a picture from that one: note Neil’s Rock Star sunglasses (but at least he’s not wearing the leather jacket!) -- and here’s the window display we did for it. Yeah, we did a black and white window display; I liked it!

(We also had a Matt Wagner signing for Sandman #25, window here)

Finally, we had Neil in (alone this time) for the “A Game of You” tour, which we immediately called “A Gaiman/You” and here’s the window display:

Well, I said “finally”, but then Comix Experience also sponsored a west coast leg of Neil’s Guardian Angels Tour, where Neil read and raised $15,000 for the CBLDF.

So, yeah, this will be the fifth appearance of Neil Gaiman in San Francisco in conjunction with Comix Experience.

And it feels pretty awesome, really.

See, there’s absolutely no reason for Neil to actually do a signing here any more – I’m just one pokey little comics store, and I’m not going to enhance his profile any longer, really. And we barely ever speak – maybe once every year or two there will be occasion for a call. Neil “rarely” does comics any longer, and comics is what I’m all about, but we came up together and that counts for something.

So the punchline to this long rambly thing is that, like I said, I approached Neil about doing something in 2006 – three years in advance. Every six months or so I’d send a little tickle email, but, y’know, I was sorting thinking it wasn’t going to happen, because the man be busy, right?

Neil contacts me out of the blue on Monday, “Hey I’m going to be in San Francisco in two weeks, can we work something out?”

Look, honestly, twelve days isn’t half the amount of time that one really needs to plan a signing and make all of the pieces come together. But it is Neil, right? And who is going to say no to him? Certainly not me! Mama Hibbs didn’t raise no idiots!

And it is going to be butter – smoother than silk, and Neil’s going to help me celebrate 20 years of selling and loving comics because the man is, frankly, a mensch.

Thanks again, buddy!