C!TB’s Best of the Week | October 31st, 2011

Ta-daaaahhh

Howdy, y’all!  Now, before you say anything, both of us are really sorry for not getting a You’re Welcome, Internet article up this weekend.  We fully intended to, but burnout and other things got in the way.  As poor of an excuse as that is, it’s all we’ve got.

Well, okay… we also got you a sex picture, in honour of the Walking Dead/autumn dinner party James threw last night:

Ma'am.

You’re welcome, Internet.

But that’s not all!  There were also comics last week, and the sheer volume of amazing ones made it hard to pick the best ones of the week.  But because we love you, we toughed it out.  Oh no, comics are so good we have it so tough whatever will we do oh no oh no.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

TANDY AND TY, DETECTIVES AT METAPHOR

Part of me cannot believe that one of my favourite comics of the year has been a Cloak & Dagger comic, considering my general ambivalence towards the character.  Then I remember that this was a comic written by Nick Spencer with art by Emma Ríos and it all makes sense.  Spencer has an incredible ability to capture a character’s interior life on the page, and Ríos is one of the best artists out there today.  Period.  She is a goddamn wizard.  Just look at this!

That was some sex party.
Preview courtesy of Marvel Comics and Comic Book Resources, who are wonderful

She does things that nobody else does, in terms of style and layout and just everything.  Nobody else’s art looks like Ríos‘, and that’s why I need to lap up every bit of it I can.  She can make something light and friendly or completely and genuinely terrifying, as both this limited series and Osborn demonstrate.  But it’s always unmistakably her own, and this is one of very few comics that I have to read more than once, not to pick up the hidden secrets in the writing (though I do that too in a third reading), but because I just need to look at the art all on its own, with nothing else interfering.

Spencer is equally up to the task of matching the art.  Cloak and Dagger are pretty minor-level heroes in the Marvel Universe, but here they feel as big as anyone else.  This is a Spider Island story in little other than name and location, but sneakily makes it something bigger and much more important.  This isn’t just a story of Tandy and Ty during the Spider Island outbreak, though it succeeds on that level, too.  This is the Cloak and Dagger story to date, the big one that explores and redefines the characters in terms of how they relate to the world around them, each other and themselves.  If putting “Spider Island” on the cover and including a few scenes with arachnids put this comic in extra hands, that is wonderful, because I want as many people as possible to read this and I hope the title helped.

Before the issue was released, Spencer mentioned that this was a comic that changed everything for the characters and that it was a significant – and sticking – change.  And he’s absolutely right; my jaw very literally dropped when I saw the final twist to the issue, and then metaphorically when I realized it made complete sense and had been telegraphed in plain sight right from the beginning of the series, as in from the very first pages.  It just didn’t make sense until the very end, and that is Spencer working at his best, with a complete and full understanding of his characters and what makes them work.  If anything, asking that question is what ties it in most to Spider Island and its core question to Peter Parker.

So for both sneaking in a story like this under the Spider Island banner and for that incredible twist at the end,  I happily give Spider Island: Cloak & Dagger #3 the Ol’ Switcheroo Award. (J)

YOU CAN’T STAB FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

But oh, if only we could.

This week, the X-Men line began a new season of comics with the release of Wolverine and the X-Men #1, and I have to say, it was a damn fine read, and a perfect way to start a new set of stories. In a short span of time, Jason Aaron gives you the lowdown on the series, and why it exists. Wolverine and Cyclops came to a parting of ways, and took chunks of the team along with them. Cyclops is off on Utopia still, fighting for the species’ survival in his own way, while Wolverine has decided to re-open the school (or a version of it) to help train kids for the future, rather than using them as soldiers.

Applied here are all the lessons Aaron has learned about writing Wolverine so far. Mainly, that pretty much every kind of Wolverine story has been told before, so you have to find stories in which the character is out of his comfort zone, and just drop him right in the middle of them. In times past, Aaron has written Wolverine into a kung fu tale, a B-movie horror flick, has sent him to hell, and so forth and so on. All tales that don’t quite fit the regular Wolverine mould, really. And here, we see Wolverine as an idealist and an administrator, struggling to deal with troubles he can’t stab in the face. It’s nice to see, and is played pretty straight, resulting in some big laughs.

From top to bottom, this book was fun. The pace was brisk, the ideas were abundant and the story, once established, began pushing towards some big crazy fights. The art by Chris Bachalo was energetic, and perfectly fitting. And damn, this was just exactly what I want from an X-book. Thus, we award this book the Red Dawn Award. For being rad as hell.(B)

Better than alllll the rest

Bam.

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD

Goddamn, right?  Spider Island had a massive build up, and might have been overtaken by Fear Itself, Marvel‘s bigger and longer crossover event, had it not been so absolutely wonderful.  The premise of the action, what happens when millions of New Yorkers all develop spider powers?, ensured a lot of crazy, complicated action spreads, which Humberto Ramos delivered with glee and aplomb.  How many other people could draw the chaos of dozens of people on a page all swinging and wall-crawling and have it be perfectly readable, let alone as thrilling as it was?  It’s not a big list, and that’s a reason why Ramos is perfectly suited for Dan Slott‘s writing.

Spider-Man comics are seldom just about the action, though.  Peter Parker’s life is a glorious four-colour soap opera, and Peter’s self-doubt and conflicts are what make him truly interesting.  Plus, you know, he has SPIDER POWERS.  But when everybody has spider powers, of what use is Spider-Man?  That’s the emotional core of Spider Island, and despite some already great moments – like the various Avengers telling Peter to go home because they don’t want to accidentally mistake him for one of the criminals dressed like Spidey and collapse his skull – this week’s finale issue, Amazing Spider-Man #672, got in one of the best ones yet.

A big part of Amazing Spider-Man since “Big Time” has been his promise to save everyone, that nobody will die on his watch.  It’s a promise, like the best of them, rooted in tragedy, and so far it’s been idealistic but somewhat hopeless.  But in #672?  Peter does it.  He saves everyone, and his smile when he realizes that he’s done it is one of the best moments of not just Spider Island, but also of Slott‘s run as a whole.  Spidey doesn’t get the big wins very often, and seeing him actually get to accomplish his life’s goal, even if it’s just for that one day, got the pollen in here so crazy it’s unbelievable.

Spider Island was a crossover comic that happened in the middle of a bigger crossover comic, that featured lesser-known villains, referenced one of the most polarizing Spider-Man stories of all time – the Clone Wars Saga – and had Peter spend most of his time not being Spider-Man.  He’s not even wearing his mask when he saves the day.  It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, but Slott and Ramos forced it to through sheer talent, willpower and their secret weapon: that they understand Peter Parker and what makes him important.  Any jackass can write a Spider-Man story, as my magnum opus Spider-Man: Springtime for Shitler  can attest.  It takes real talent to make a story about millions of people getting his powers and still showing, completely and convincingly, why he’s the only Spider-Man.  He’s the only one who could save New York, no matter how many clones and people with his powers there are.  This is a love letter to the character and what makes him who he is, and I loved every single page of it. (J)

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

The Culture Hole, Issue 13: The Baffling Pessimism of Media Criticism and Other Rhymes

The Culture Hole! For all your cultural orifice needs (logo adapted with love from http://emnla.deviantart.com/)

Issue 13: The Baffling Pessimism of Media Criticism and Other Rhymes

[Update: Holy cats, you guys!  It turns out some of the AV Club writers saw this and we had a really good discussion in the comments.  Like, weirdly-polite-since-this is-the-internet good.  Thanks to Rowan, Todd and everyone else who shared their opinion, here and on Twitter.  The AV Club guys are great and I’m thankful they joined in.  It was a lot of fun and a fantastic learning experience for me. – James]

I do not think at this point anyone who knows me is surprised at my ongoing frustration/interest in The AV Club, and yet I find myself still checking in periodically. I could very easily stop reading it forever, but the problem I find myself in is that a lot of their writers are actually quite good!  Well, that is a problem, a wrinkle that’s compounded by the real problem, which is that I fundamentally find critics’ writing more interesting when they are talking about something they like, not actively trying to tear it apart.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree that we should take a critical eye to the things we consume, from every standpoint, be it sociopolitical, character, or pure mechanics of a television episode’s construction.  However, I also think there needs to be a fundamental joy taken in the medium and in the specific show a critic is watching, and I think on both of these counts, the AV Club frequently fails to succeed, consistently and repeatedly.  In fact, I think they’re so biased towards certain genres, formats & shows that they’re basically a Krusty Doll that’s been set to “Evil.”

There is zero reason for them to review a procedural show.  Any procedural show, with the exception of Castle, which they are more than willing to forgive for the trappings of its format, and which tends to draw into start contrast their reactions to shows like House.  They just don’t like procedurals, so why even watch them in the first place?  Snark?  I don’t think that’s a very good resaon.  At this point, Zack Handlen’s reviews of House are running on several years of him saying almost nothing other than complaints about the patient-of-the-week, the characters and how he stopped liking the show years ago.  In his review of the season premiere, he literally says that he is only continuing to review the show out of spite, to show the world it hasn’t “broken” him.

And to me, that seems like a completely fucked up attitude to have.  How likely do you think it is that he is going to give a show he fundamentally dislikes a good or even fair review?

The Thursday night comedy TV lineup as reviewed on the AV Club fascinates me, because it is more or less comprised of a show they like (Community, a few that they used to (The Office, The Big Bang Theory) and one that they soon won’t (Parks and Recreation).  I say that about the last one because it’s not only similar in format to a show they’ve inched closer and closer towards carrying a seething hatred for in recent years (more on that later), but because we’re starting to see the hints of it already.  In the review of last week’s episode, we get to see it start to play out in an adorable miniature narrative.  Steve Heisler starts by complimenting how deft the show is at making the character of Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) a nuanced one, a guy who is fundamentally well-suited for his career but who has some serious character flaws that continually get in the way, personally and professionally, but who is ultimately saved by his strengths.  Then he proceeds to say this totally baffling bit of criticism following that:

And maybe I’m alone here, but I’m starting to feel like Chris [Rob Lowe] is dangerously close to the edge. Any weirder and he’d probably become unlikable, and any tamer and I suppose the writers would stop having fun with him… It’s cool that the writers have figured out what makes the most unflappable guy in the office [Jerry] totally lose his cool, but I think next they need to find a way to reign in the Chris-crazy while keeping his utter goofiness intact.

That’s right: the fault with that episode of Parks and Recreation, according to the AV Club, is that it is doing something well that’s quite hard to do – they point out the show is succeeding right now with the Character of Chris – but they assume someday the show won’t do it well.  It is literally not even a flaw that currently exists, by their own admission, but it betrays an alarming fact: The AV Club has a fundamentally negative view of the media they review.  A show they like is, frequently, one they already assume they won’t someday.

It’s been the trajectory for shows like The Office and The Big Bang Theory on the site.  I’m not saying that I enjoy The Office as much as I did when I first fell in love with the show, and even as recently as the summer I was saying that the departure of Steve Carell would have been a great place to end the series on a high note, but I’ve been pleased with how the show has introduced new characters (like James Spader’s Robert California and Ellie Kemper’s Erin Hannon) in recent years and I’m pleased to report that my negative prognosis is one that I have abandoned.  I’m actually enjoying this season very much, and it’s the first season where I’ve watched every week in a couple of years.  I think episodes like last week’s prove that the show still has creative legs because the characters are fundamentally interesting.

Myles McNutt (and let me take a second to say that, with absolutely no sarcasm or snark, that I think that name is fucking amazing), however, thinks that the show doing a Halloween episode two years in a row means that it’s lazy and creatively bankrupt, which is completely baffling to me because as someone who works in a large bureaucracy, Halloween costumes and parties are just a fact of life.  He’ll make bold statements like saying that the whole thing was objectively dull (not just to him), or how nothing was connected to an overarching narrative through other episodes, ignoring the fact that the episode’s primary story, which is about the relationship between Andy (Ed Helms) and Erin, is quite literally part of a storyline about their relationship that the show has been working on for two and a half years.  Or that the Pam/Angela feud isn’t connected to anything even though it has been a part of the show for six and a half years, with this pregnancy arc having been a significant part of this whole season.  McNutt dislikes the show so much that he faults it for things that are factually untrue about it.

I understand, I really do.  Myles McNutt no longer enjoys watching The Office.  There’s nothing wrong with that; I don’t enjoy watching a lot of shows!  Generally, I don’t watch them.  It’s different for a professional critic, of course, and not just a fan with opinions.  They get screeners and assignments and that is it!  They have to see the ups and downs in a season; if a show tanks, they can get stuck watching that process.  However, statements by the site’s writers lead me to understand that there is some fluidity with the assignments in between seasons.  Zack Handlen has said he willingly re-upped with House and it seems likely that McNutt did it with The Office.  If he was forced to, I genuinely feel bad for him.  If not, I can’t help but wonder why he willingly made it is his job to be miserable every week.

However, I see little antipathy as actively hostile as the site’s response to The Big Bang Theory, which it has actively disliked since the third season.  When he reviewed it, Todd VanDerWerff would frequently criticize it for its format and complain it was too “sitcommy”, which is unsurprising because it is a multicamera sitcom.  He’s since passed on the show to another writer as of this season, and new reviewer Oliver Sava has pretty much exactly the same reaction: he prefers single camera comedies.  After only a few episodes, Sava is already bored to the point where he is actively miswatching and misreporting the show, like saying that Melissa Rauch appears only to do an impression of her character fiance’s mother, even though that is one line in a scene in which she plays a large, active role and helps push forward the B-story.  Sava’s statement is completely factually incorrect, something that is apparent to a person who has actually watched the entire scene and paid a modicum of attention.  It honestly seems like he just saw something in the scene he didn’t like and either stopped watching or stopped paying attention.

Like I said before, it’s okay to not like something.  And it’s okay for a critic not to like something, too.  However, when you’re paid to watch a show, I like to think you’re obliged to watch and actually pay attention instead of reporting things that are factually untrue.  Not doing it is an active dereliction of your job.

The real cherry on top of the problems I have with the site is the “compliment” Sava gives the show in the second paragraph, when he gives “Kudos” to the episode’s director “for breaking the three-camera format and joining the ranks of contemporary sitcoms, even if only for 30 seconds.”  So let me say something a little more direct and negative than usual, just for a moment:

Fuck you.

Not every show is Louie or Breaking Bad (which I also love).  There are different approaches to making TV, both comedy and drama.  Hell, even Louis C.K. made a multi-camera sitcom and it is generally considered to be awesome.  Not only is the live-taped multi-camera sitcom part of a proud comedy tradition going straight back to theatre and Vaudeville and including I Love Lucy, one of the most adored and influential sitcoms – not to mention the very first one – of all time.  Some of the most influential comedies ever, like Seinfeld, were multi-camera.  It takes skill to do well and it’s not an antiquated art form.

There are still a lot of multi-camera sitcoms on television, too.  The two most-watched comedies – including The Big Bang Theory – are multi-camera sitcoms.  It’s not some outdated, antiquated format that “modern” people have given up on, it is a current, contemporary and completely artistically valid stylistic choice and fuck you for saying anything otherwise.  Don’t be a snob.  Did you know that the single camera sitcom isn’t anything purely contemporary either, but a style that goes back to shows like The Andy Griffith Show, which premiered only three years after the first multi-camera sitcom went off the air, or M*A*S*H, whose finale is the most watched television episode in history?  106 million people watched a single-camera television episode in Nineteen Eighty-Three, so if you want to pretend that multi-camera sitcoms are old and single-camera ones are contemporary, you are so completely, objectively incorrect that saying anything else is nothing more than snobbery.

AV Club, I really want to like you.  You have some incredibly talented writers, who can give some of the most beautiful, nuanced prose analyzing television that currently exists.  When one of your writers likes something, the article that results can be transcendent.  It shouldn’t be conditional on liking a show, though, and I worry that your outlook is so fundamentally pessimistic that the deck is stacked against liking something.  Personally, I find it easier to write about things I like, and I’m happiest with my writing when it’s something positive.  I started this site with Brandon to bring more positivity to discourse, and while your approach is completely valid, I can’t help but notice that too many of your writers are vocally unhappy about shows and episodes they say they like.  It’s okay not to like things.  Criticism is important and it is needed.  But it’s okay to like things, too, and giving shows a fair shake by not misrepresenting them is where things have to start.

This is Why: Yotsuba&!

It’s rare that we talk about manga on the site. To be fair, it’s rare that we actually go out and make manga purchases. As my weekly pull list can attest, there’s only so much a person can purchase each week – and despite the quality of a lot of manga out there, for the most part, it falls by the wayside. But there’s one or two books that I absolutely can not be without – and one of those, is Yotsuba&!

The series concerns the adventures of a five year old girl and her family, friends and neighbours. That’s it. There’s no anthropomorphic anythings, no special powers or sexy misunderstandings – just simple, low key tales about people.

Now granted, Yotsuba is not a normal girl. She’s a precocious little thing that has a stunning lack of common sense. Everything and anything is at turns alien and fascinating to her. She’ll wander away chasing butterflies, stare at doorbells with unbridled curiosity, and yelp in utter terror as an air conditioner roars to life. For the most part, the people in her life just let her run loose, content with the knowledge that she’ll always find her way home. Even in the instances where she does run off and get lost, things work out for the best. She’ll cry, swear to never do something like that again, but then something wonderfully mundane grabs a hold of her attention, and she becomes hopelessly lost in the quest to mine pure joy out of what appears to be nothing.

From Yotsuba&! Vol. 1

More than any other comic, Yotsuba&! represents my exact feelings towards the process of reading and enjoying comics. Hell, it represents my exact feelings towards life in general. Through the lens of this young girl, you can see how joyous everything can be. You can remember what being a kid was like, when the world at least appeared to be safe. True, we all just didn’t know any better then, but sometimes we could all do with a bit of innocence. We could all just be a little less grown up, and try to enjoy things. Remember what that was like? When you could read a book and appreciate it because it was about a giant war between wizards without having to pick apart the story structure until the thing is just a bloody, bleeding mass?

Manga doesn’t sell like it used to. When I first started working at the comic shop about five years ago, we would grab 12 tables at the local anime convention, have one person manning every two tables, and within the first half an hour of the day, my hands would be full of twenties. Tons of them. In the first half hour. Anymore, we’re lucky to move a few books a week (if there’s no new releases). However, with the crash of this market, I can now stock books like Yotsuba&!, and despite their lower sell through than, say, a Naruto or Bleach or Full Metal Alchemist, I can justify it’s place, because they’re selling a whole lot better than some of the rest.

Now if only Yen Press would get on the whole “putting the first two volumes back into print” thing. That would be grand.

Comics! The Blog vs. The People vs. George Lucas

We'll always have the pod race.If we’re going to be totally honest, a lot of fans bug me.  Not for the reason you might think, though.  I know people for whom the sheer enthusiasm of others can be cloying and overbearing, which ends up actually spoiling the thing in question they’re trying to get you to love.  But I still understand that.  I understand loving something so much you absolutely cannot shut up about it.  I’m sympathetic to that.  However, what I absolutely do not understand is the kind of fandom that constantly finds things to hate about the things they love, and the epitome of that has to me for a long time been Star Wars fans.

Now, before you send angry emails, I’m not talking about all Star Wars fans.  There are a lot who like the movies they like, maybe have a bit of licensed material and don’t mind that some of the movies… they just didn’t care for.  I’m not talking about you guys, you’re rad!  Seriously, let’s all high five each other.

The reason I bring up Star Wars and its fans – because there are definitely “fans who hate” all over the media spectrum – is because they’re not only some of the most vocal ones, but the first ones that I know of to have made a movie dedicated to their irrational hatred:

That’s right. The People Vs. George Lucas is a Real Movie That Was Made about how people are angry at George Lucas for having the audacity to make movies that some people like and that some people didn’t.  Even the filmmaker’s description tosses around terms like “betrayal” and ” Is The Phantom Menace so bad it should carry a health warning?”  Thousands of dollars and hours dedicated to what is, in essence, one long, angry internet comment.  It even utilizes fan-made Star Wars and Indiana Jones arts & crafts, and seeing that much love turned to something so antithetical to that pains me.  Just imagine if the folks who made The People Vs. George Lucas had put all that time and money into something worthwhile.  Making a movie attacking a guy who made a bunch of movies you loved and a few you didn’t might actually be the dictionary definition of masturbatory.

It got changed back 5 seconds later.
Totally worth the IP ban.

I’m not saying that Star Wars fans should like every single thing George Lucas has made.  It’s okay not to like things.  I simply cannot understand why people would choose to dwell on things they don’t like instead of those they do.  There’s no reason to still be complaining about Ewoks this many years later, let alone that now they blink.

When I was a kid, I fell in love with Star Wars via some VHS copies my parents had taped from TV.  I’d sit there in front of those wonderful cathode rays, squarely in the you’re-going-to-damage-your-eyes range and fall in love with this strange world of hokey religions and the galactic empires dedicated to destroying them.  As I grew older, I discovered that all of my friends had this same incredible love, and we’d spend hours watching the movies, reading the novelizations, assembling the models and playing with lightsabers, officially licensed and otherwise.  In 1997, the first of the original trilogy was remastered and released in theatres, and my dad took me to see it.  I still remember that day clearly because for a 12 year-old kid who dressed as a jedi for Halloween, the movie was finally almost as big in my eyes as it was in my mind.

Years later, of course, I discovered that apparently George Lucas was evil because he had changed the original films for the reissue.  He added CGI and – oh heavens! – had Han Solo shoot second.  And sure, I noticed most of these things when I saw the reissues.  As someone who had the trilogy memorized, of course I noticed.  The difference was that to me, it was still Star Wars and Star Wars was cool!  I honestly didn’t and still don’t give a shit whether Greedo or Han Solo shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina because the end result was still the same.  It wasn’t quite the same version that I’d fallen in love with as a kid, but eventually I was able to buy those, too.  And guess what?  You still can.  It’s why I got so frustrated when the Blu-Ray versions were released this year and most of the nerds were complaining about how they’re not the “original” versions: the old ones are still available, even for those too young to have ever seen them except on DVD yet who still complain about it anyway.

When I pointed this out, the common reaction I got was that “Yeah, but those aren’t on Blu-Ray.”  Now, the fact that the originals will almost assuredly be released on Blu-Ray eventually because George Lucas enjoys making money and because fans have generally shown they’ll buy the versions they claim they don’t want anyway aside, here’s the bigger picture:

George Lucas is not your bitch.

He owes you nothing.  At all.  Period.  The fact that decades ago he made some movies people liked does not mean those people somehow deserve their preferred versions in any format they want, forever.  It means that when you paid to see the movie for the first time, you did not pay for anything other than that.  You didn’t pay for a lifetime pass.  You don’t deserve Blu Ray editions of the original theatrical versions because you’re a fan or because you’ve been a fan for a long time or because you bought the DVDs.  On the plus side, though, you don’t have to spend that money each time!  It’s an easy thing, to not spend money.  Look at me, not spending money right now.  I spent money on the version I wanted and that is tiding me over just fine.

Home media release demands aren’t the most bizarre extension of Star Wars fandom’s crazy level of entitlement, though.  For many Star Wars fans, being a fan doesn’t just mean hating the later versions of the original trilogy, but expanding that hate to an entire other trilogy of movies.  1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace had an incredible amount of expectations to live up to, and of course, it didn’t.  I didn’t particularly care for it, just like I wasn’t a fan of the rest of the prequel trilogy (though I liked the other two movies to a greater degree).  Of course, I also haven’t seen these movies since the first time, which probably speaks louder about their true impact.  To say it clearly: without older fans complaining about the prequel trilogy, it would literally have zero impact on my life other than that occasionally when I buy Star Wars Lego I have to look at some Clone Wars/Prequel Trilogy Lego set boxes.  The only reason Jar Jar Binks is still part of my ongoing awareness is because twelve years later, adult fans are still complaining about him.  One of the most freeing things in my fandom was seeing George Lucas tell Jon Stewart that Star Wars is wonderful, but it’s just a story he told.  It’s nothing more, no matter how much we love it.  Our love can make it feel like more, and that is truly wonderful, but at the end of the day, those parts we don’t like?  They’re just stories.

The interesting thing is that the stories in the prequel trilogy have ignited the same imagination and love of the franchise in kids these days, who have the same reaction to the newer movies (and cartoon) that I did to the first ones 20 years ago.  Some of them even prefer the new movies to the old ones; after all, it’s how they were introduced to that world.  I remember Jon Stewart relating this to George Lucas and coming to terms with the fact that his son just liked something else.  At the end of the day, though, these kids love Star Wars.  Isn’t that enough?  Isn’t it just cool that kids are excited about something, that it’s the legacy of something we love even if it’s not the actual thing itself?  I think it is.  No matter how many parents complain that their kids don’t like the right Star Wars – and I’ve seen and met parents who do this; they often brag about “correcting” them – I honestly think the fact that they love something is enough.

The problem isn’t kids liking the wrong Star Wars movies, it’s adults telling kids that what they like is wrong.  I don’t care how pissed off you are that there are CGI dewbacks in A New Hope.  Nothing excuses shitting on someone else’s genuine love, especially a kid’s.  That’s why The People vs. George Lucas gets me so riled up, ultimately.  It’s not just taking “love” to such an extreme degree that it becomes hate, it’s also an effort to define someone else’s love as bad.  It encourages the worst elements of fandom by poisoning the best parts, and that just makes me sad.  Luckily, nothing can spoil my memories of watching my VHS copy of Return of the Jedi on Christmas Eve, just like nothing can spoil it for you and how, despite the best efforts of many, kids will feel the exact same way about The Clone Wars years from now.  Isn’t that cool?

iDrink iCarly

Spencer don't need no flasks, bitch.

iDrink iCarly

Or: How to get alcohol poisoning the Nickelodeon way

Greetings, alcoholics!  Now, you know we love iCarly [Ed. Note: Yes, this means James is finally watching it, too].  You also know that we enjoy alcohol, especially doing things like reading comics, watching movies or guessing wrong at Emmy winners.  However, being drunk requires getting drunk, and that’s a tricky case entirely.  Not drunk enough and there aren’t any hilarious typos.  Too drunk too quickly and your family stages another intervention.  And sure, you can just drink a bottle of wine (or in Brandon’s case, a beer and a half) and go with where that leads you, but we realized there should be something better.  We saw a hole where there was no iCarly drinking game and decided no, that will not do.

Warning: this might actually kill you, we haven’t really tried it out yet.  Special thanks to Brandon’s lady friend!

  1. Drink every time someone eats a giant bowl of unnaturally brightly-coloured food.
  2. Drink every time the gang eats spaghetti tacos.
  3. Whenever Spencer puts something in his mouth that isn’t food, you drink.
  4. Drink a shot any time Spencer shows of some weird shit Socko hooked him up with.
  5. Drink every time Sam says something nice to Freddy by force.
  6. Drink twice if she does it on her own terms.
  7. Drink a shot for every time Spencer sets something on fire.
  8. Drink every time Freddy threatens the lives of actual or imaginary suitors for Carly. 
  9. Drink every time Sam or Carly is weirdly okay with Sam’s broken home.
  10. Drink any time the gang declares it to be “the end of iCarly.”
  11. Drink a shot any time someone is left for dead.

Now you’re ready to drunk recap some comics!

T-Bo soon got some calls from the police.

 

You Read These With You Eyes! – October 26th, 2011

Hellooooo, nurse!

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

WAR OF THE INDEPENDENTS #1 (Red Anvil Comics)

Have you heard of this book? Like, actually heard of this book? Apparently, it’s this huge crossover featuring characters such as Gumby, the Bone cousins, Captain Canuck, Milk and Cheese, Cerebus and a whole hell of a lot more. Plying the “uber crisis” technique used by the big two companies, this little series is designed to bring a bunch of neat independent characters together in order to fight a great evil – with the complete blessing of the creators of said characters. It seems like a daunting task, and one wonders how something like this could possibly exist, let alone get collected – so if such insanity sounds good to you, I’d suggest you head out on Wednesday and nab yourself a copy. I know I’m pretty gosh darn curious to see how this all shakes out.

SPACEMAN #1 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Hey kids, remember 100 Bullets? Or how about that snazzy Batman tie in with Flashpoint? Weren’t those rad as hell? Whelp, the creative team behind those books (Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso) are combining forces once more and tackling the sci-fi genre, and the first issue? Is just a dollar. Come on, I know you’ve been complaining about the price of comics lately. Why not spend a buck and get a solid comic? You’ll be glad you did.

INCREDIBLE HULK #1 and WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #1 (Marvel Comics)

These two releases, together with another new issue of Scalped means that this week is officially Jason Aaron week. The man does some amazing work, and while all three of the books I just mentioned are absolutely wonderful, they could also not be any more different. Scalped is a taut, lean-and-mean, down-and-dirty crime book. Incredible Hulk is a crazy psychological, underground punch-em-up comic. And Wolverine and the X-Men? Well holy shit, that’s just a book that’s filled with crazy, over-the-top fun with a school and some mutants and death claws. Three distinct flavours, three amazing reads. At the very least, grab the Hulk book and the Wolverine title, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, I could not recommend Scalped more. Buy the first trade or nab a random issue and see how it fits you. DO THIS.

GREEN WAKE #6 (Image Comics)

Yes. YES. After a stellar opening arc, one that was so strong it pushed this little mini series into a full blown ongoing, Green Wake returns to explore more of the strange, wet, purgatory-type world that was introduced to us mere months ago. From the look of things, this arc is different from the first – and you can absolutely jump in now and find your footing quite easily. Or you can buy the first trade and let that magnificent piece of work hit you like it hit me. Writer Kurtis Wiebe did a phenomenal job on the strange story, mixing elements of a love story with a bit of murder and a boat of mystery – and Riley Rossmo? Good lord, the man just killed it on the art. The best in his career, and the guy isn’t exactly a slouch.

Jump on this book today.

These are just five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

C!TB’s Best of the Week | October 24th, 2011

Ta-daaaahhh

Howdy there, sports fans and not sports fans!  How was your weekend?  Inclusive of people of all interests and hobbies?  I thought so!  You guys are just swell.  But I know why you’re here: sweet, juicy tripewiches!  Mmm-MMM, entrails!

Anyway, while you’re slurping that, why not read about some comics we liked last week?

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

WORST KINGPIN OF THE CHINATOWN UNDERWORLD

Did you know that kung-fu related deaths have been up 200% since the X-Men moved to San Francisco? There’s definitely a reason for that. Suffice to say, when Wolverine arrived in San Francisco, he did not wear flowers in his hair, and everything went to shit. Or, if I’m going to be factually reliable, he came to the city, claimed his place as the town’s Black Dragon (kingpin of San Fran’s Chinatown Underworld) and then promptly forgot to do his job. To be fair, during this time, he had to deal with being shot at with bullets laced with 38 different kinds of cancer. Oh, and he was also sent to hell by all of his bastard children, who then committed all kinds of murder/suicides to get back at their illegitimate old man. Suffice to say, the man was busy, and so when it comes time to leave San Francisco, he finds his “empire” in shambles – and must set about making things right before he fucks off to the east coast once again. It’s a story that involves a talking gorilla, dragons, and some good old fashioned kung fu, and it’s rad as hell.

The “Wolverine becomes The Black Dragon” arc has to be one of my favourite Wolvie stories of all time (though that list is really, really small, because I don’t care so much for the guy) and Jason Aaron’s brief return to the concept is a high-octane return to form – and thus we award this book the exceedingly rare Snikt! is Another Word For I Love You Award for being both taller, and baller. (B)

WHEN ADORABLENESS ATTACKS

It should come as no surprise that here at C!TB we are fans of fun in comics, especially of fun that can be had by people of all ages.  If it is a surprise, then it must be your first time here!  Welcome!

But yes, Brandon and I like fun, and month by month, there’s perhaps no series as fun as Art Baltazar and Franco‘s Tiny Titans, which manages to be witty, fun and tremendously funny in a comic that’s ostensibly for kids but is really for anyone who’s ready to giggle for about ten straight minutes like I did.  One of the ways the series sucks in adults as well as younger audiences is that Art and Franco are massive comics fans and insert any number of characters, jokes and wordplay that will undoubtedly go over the heads of many kids who are reading, but make their parents smile.  All that came to a zenith this week when their comic featured adorable versions of the Secret Six, aka the least children-friendly series in superhero comics.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

EEEEEEEEEEEEE.

That is them playing soccer against the Birds of Prey (led by Coach Huntress) and oh my god I think I can die happy now.  It is such pure fun and it’s pulled off so well.  It’s a laugh for the adults, who know that a kid-friendly Rag Doll is hilariously absurd, and at the same time a kid-friendly Rag Doll absolutely works in a comic where the “villains” are actually really nice schoolteachers and where after playing soccer, the Secret Six and Birds of Prey go out for ice cream.

And that’s not even all!  This is an issue that also features:

  • All the Robins (including Carrie Kelly) and all the Batgirls, including Stephanie Brown, who’s BOTH.
  • Pantha as every soccer team’s secret weapon
  • Jive-talkin’ bats
  • The Robins playing soccer against Bat-Cow, Aqua-Cow and Flaming Head Cow and losing, itself a callback to the time Robin fought a cow for the right to be Batman and lost
  • Damien Wayne riding Bat-Cow

Basically, this comic is maybe in my Top 5 Things Ever and it should be in yours, too.  To show my gratitude, I’m giving it the Battle for the Cow Award. (J)

Better than alllll the rest

This week I was reminded that the internet is a terrible, horrifying place. As much as I adore the canvas and the freedom of it, the interwebs often hews towards the negative and the subtractive, which is just draining when you attempt to drink it all in. It’s the reason why we decided to form Comics! The Blog roughly a year ago, and why we stick to our two editorial mandates of “be positive” and “be better”. Which is the long drawn out way of saying this week’s Best has weathered its fair share of negative press – and quite wrongfully so.

 

What Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen have achieved with Fear Itself is nothing short of amazing. It’s a new paradigm for big events, tackling the idea of an event from a different angle than most. While pretty much all other event comics start with a big jolting start before ebbing and building once more, the creators on Fear Itself opted for a pure, internal build. The beginning started quite leisurely, giving the series a base from which to escalate. In doing this, not only did Fraction and Immonen provide reference for what was at stake, but they also erased any danger of their ending being hobbled by a big-guns beginning. Think back to a lot of the recent events out there. The opening salvo is usually something shocking, generally involving a loss before the heroes get their junk together. It makes for some doldrum-inducing middle issues, while the conflict once again ramps from a regroup. In Fear Itself, there is no drop, only a build as the tensions and troubles stack upon themselves, threatening to crush all those below – and in the end, it does. While the heroes win, it comes at quite a price, one that you feel because the pages up until then earned your emotional attachment.

As the hammer falls at the end, not only do you get cool moments – not only does the Marvel universe shift and move in mysterious ways – it hits you really hard, right in the heart. And dammit, tell me the last time an event did that to you, truly. Something like that has to overcome a certain suspension of disbelief, as we’ve all been conditioned to believe that death within the pages of this universe is mailable at best – but that emotion, and those final words… it rings so true, and when you read that one exchange, you witness time stand still.

God damn.

And so, we bestow Fear Itself #7 the honour of our Best of the Week. Other upcoming comic book events, take note: not only will this book be a fantastic low continuity read for the future, it will still feel weighty, no matter how much time has passed. And if I’m not mistaken, that’s the goal, right?

(B)

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

You're Welcome, Internet | October 17-21, 2011

Greetings humans and spambots, and welcome again to the jpeg and gif Thunderdome! The week’s been a good one (albeit one that involved us slapping foreheads and shaking heads) but comics are still rad, and we’re still excited. You can tell, can’t you. We really need to buy a good pair of internet pants.

You’re Welcome, Internet

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by Girl on the Moon (click for source)

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Devo Puppy demands your skin.

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Good riddance!

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Shut your mouth!

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Parachute pants, you're our only hope.

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SCHATZ: Oh hey there guys. How are tricks? You have a good week? I had a pretty awesome week. I’ve been catching up on Doctor Who in about the best way possible and I’ve been on a pretty good writing tear. Also: I haven’t completely hated anything I wrote this week, which is rare. Anyway, I have to apologize for something: in last week’s instalment of YW,I, I started talking about comics I thought would be out this week… and most of them weren’t. For whatever reason, Marvel has been treating retailers to previews of upcoming books a little sooner than they usually do – and I’m not complaining about that, as it gives me more time to sell a book, but I was definitely caught off guard. Regardless, comics were amazing this week, and it looks like they will be next week as well. And I can’t wait. What say YOU, James?

LEASK: I say I probably spent too much time tonight playing Batman: Arkham City, hence this going up at 2am on Saturday instead of the usual 4-5pm on Friday.  Seriously, I am now remembering what a problem the first game could be sometimes, what with the not getting anything done at all.  I should probably eat dinner.  Or go for a walk.  Or something other than play this video game.

This weekend, I’m hoping to be able to catch up on some of my reading, spend some time eating sushi with friends, and, OH YEAH… seeing William Shatner live on Sunday!

This weekend is going to be tops.

You have been reading Comics! The Blog. This concludes our broadcast week.

Arkham City's Word Problem

The good angle.

Yesterday, while the completely inexplicable announcement that Alejandro Arbona and Jody LeHup (among many) had been laid off from Marvel in a decision that I absolutely cannot understand no matter how hard I try because those men are pure gold was making its way around the internet, another thing was getting people upset: Batman: Arkham City.

This wasn’t just the standard internet “this-is-awful-even-though-I-haven’t-played-it” complaining, though.  Well, okay, there are some of those that I know about because I suspended my usual “no comments sections” rule earlier in the week while checking out reviews, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about reasonable, rational people having a pretty understandable uncomfortable response to the fact that in Arkham City, thugs and villains call Catwoman “bitch” with considerable frequency.

Laura Hudson, the inestimable editor-in-chief of ComicsAlliance, wrote a very good and very interesting article about that part of the game and her reaction to it.  I agree with her in many ways, but disagree with her in a few others.  Now, a very key distinction to be made when considering my own reaction to Laura’s is that I am not a woman and I have not been randomly called a bitch while walking down the street like she has, so I am automatically coming at it from a different direction and background, one that is a tad more fortunate in that people very rarely shout slurs at me just because of my gender.  Nobody should go have to go through that and they certainly shouldn’t have to be reminded of it when they play a video game.  I absolutely will not say that someone who is made uncomfortable or is offended by thugs calling Catwoman a bitch doesn’t have a right to be.  I just won’t.  That said, I think there is an important middle ground, where I can disagree with some of what Laura says, in between finding her wrong as a person (seriously, what is wrong with you, Internet jackasses?) and writing a long, all-caps Film Critic Hulk rant where I call the game and the people who made it sexist.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t think the word usage makes Arkham City a sexist game and while there’s a statistical possibility that some of the staff are sexist, I don’t think it’s because of what some thugs say.  Part of that, of course, is because being disrespectful of women is exactly the kind of thing a thug would do.  These aren’t your coworkers, these are murderers who spend their free time talking about betraying their bosses and, you know, actually murdering people.  They are villains.  Even the Arkham City guard that says “Bitch,” as articles have mentioned as an example of a “good guy” saying something reprehensible, is a member of a shadowy private security firm employed by the game’s primary antagonist, members of which are first seen beating a handcuffed Bruce Wayne and threatening to murder him.  When one of the few good security guards, Aaron Cash, is in trouble, they gleefully leave him to die because they hate him.  Which is to say: they are not good guys.

Do you know how I know the game doesn’t approve of this kind of person?  Because the majority of the game is spent busting their skulls and breaking their arms.  When I am playing as Catwoman and someone calls me a bitch, literally the next thing I do is beat them within an inch of their life.  When I am playing as Batman and someone calls Selina a bitch, I also beat them within an inch of their lives except I might use a batarang instead of a whip and bolas.  The game is quite literally built around disapproving of these men’s speech and behaviour.

This doesn’t take away from the discomfort of the word and its connotations, it just contextualizes them.  When talking about context, Hudson asks, “If it’s ok to call Catwoman a b*tch, why aren’t we at least hearing Batman get called an a**hole?”  Part of that might simply be the bizarre rules of standards and practices.  In US TV, “bitch” can get thrown around like candy, and so can the word “ass”, but “asshole”, being a reference to anatomy, isn’t allowed despite meaning the exact same thing as “ass”.  I don’t know if it’s similar for video games, but Arkham City leads me to believe it is, since it pretty closely follows what primetime television allows  [Ed. Note: How messed up is that?].  So instead, Batman gets called a coward and a douchebag.

This does not carry the same uncomfortable weight that “bitch” does, but that’s not the game’s fault.  It is society’s.  It is fucked up that we live in a world where the gendered terms surrounding women carry a disproportionate seriousness, whereas words like “dick” and “prick” have no weight whatsoever.  It is a sign that there are serious things wrong with our world and that we have a lot of work to do to improve things for women everywhere.  An indictment of society, however, is different from indicting the game and its makers.  The sad reality is that to make an equivalent for “bitch”, writer Paul Dini would have had to make words up, which wouldn’t have rang true anyway.

Honestly, faced with this, I would have preferred that the makers of Arkham City would have left out the word entirely.  And probably “douchebag”, too.  I would also have preferred that Catwoman was fully zipped up because not only is that kind of loose cleavage incompatible with acrobatics, but also because the game takes place during winter and it just looks cold.  Also, it’s cheap and unworthy of what is in many other ways a very good game.  I tend to try and avoid having to notice the front of her outfit and the ensuing discomfort by keeping the camera centred behind Selina at all times.

The inexplicable angle.
There is zero reason for this to exist, in a video game or elsewhere.

I know the game is rated T for Teen, and that the makers wanted to have it look “real” and “gritty”, but I think the game would have been fine without the inclusion of a word that upsets people who legitimately want to enjoy a game featuring characters they love.  It doesn’t have to be appropriate for kids (though there should be more games and comics that are), but Rocksteady, the game’s developer, should have realized the negative reaction that part of the game has had.  It can look “real” without being “reality”, you know?

I think it was a mistake to include the word “bitch” in Batman: Arkham City because it is such a gendered term with very unpleasant connotations.  I also think it was a mistake that was made worse by the repetitive nature of nameless villains’ sound bytes in video games, which not only presents the unpopular term but also adds grating repetition to it.  People are very understandably uncomfortable with it; hell, I am uncomfortable and I am not even someone who has to deal with that word being used against me on an ongoing basis.  However, I think it was just a mistake, one that was easy to make because it in some ways is so contextually appropriate for the game as it was designed.  I don’t think the game is sexist and I don’t think its developers are sexist.  Moreover, I think it’s important not to call them sexist so readily because it automatically kills any rational discussion just like calling someone a Nazi does [Ed. Note: Is this a Meta-Godwin’s Law?].  Name-calling is  the nuclear option of debate; it fucks things up beyond salvation.  There’s no rational debate with someone like Film Critic Hulk, and rational debate is what is needed.  Calling a developer sexist shuts down most hope of change.  Even if a developer is sexist, they probably don’t see themselves as it.  They probably think they are alright people who try to do a good job and calling them a bad person will hurt them, make them angry or both.  I think a discussion needs to happen, both in popular media and in culture in general, about the very real problems we face.  It needs to be a discussion, though, because if we are busy drawing lines across the apartment we’re just writing bad I Love Lucy fanfic instead of solving anything.

I am loving most of Batman: Arkham City.  It has a fantastically well-designed and well-realized environment, top-notch voice acting and exciting gameplay that makes you feel like you are Batman and Catwoman, and that is just awesome.  I like that it doesn’t make Selina helpless; in fact, the worrying part of the trailer that showed her tied up and at the mercy of Two Face is, thankfully, followed in the game by her freeing herself without any help other than the distraction of Batman getting shot in the head.  It is not a perfect game, and it raises gender politics in a way that I think could have and should have been left out.  Luckily, whenever someone calls me a bitch in it I can absolutely wreck them, and that feels pretty good.

Plus, it’s nowhere near as problematic as the Catwoman short animated film that comes with Batman: Year One.

Me vs. The Angry Mob: Death to Retailers

Do you think that I'm funny?

So some people got laid off today. Specifically, some fantastic editors from Marvel. And god dammit, I am livid. I mean, I understand that the industry is down. I understand that. Despite the sterling quality of comics out there on the stands today, a large majority of the general public treats the medium with a heady mix of ambivalence and disdain. This is bullshit. It is BULLSHIT. There is no reason – no reason at all – that comics should be selling as poorly as they are right now.

And yet.

Within the industry, blame gets tossed around quite a lot. Fans like to blame the comic book companies for “ruining characters”. Retailers like to blame digital comics or what they deem to be “inferior product”. The companies themselves seem to think that the current economy is causing quite a bit of pain. Are these things true? FUCK no. The reason comics aren’t selling as well as they should is simple: comic book retailers are terrible at their jobs.

And yes, I am a comic book retailer. And yes, I know I’m painting myself with this brush. But it’s true. It’s absolutely true. The industry, the way it’s built, and the way it functions, is rotten and decaying. It’s been doing this for quite some time, and the only reason everything hasn’t collapsed in upon itself yet is down to the balls out determination and blind never-say-die attitude of the publishers, retailers and current fans. But know this: if we continue down this same path, we are well and truly fucked. All of us. And I don’t want that. You don’t want that. So let’s fix this fucking thing, yeah? Let’s do that.

ME VS. THE ANGRY MOB

DEATH TO RETAILERS

Before we start with the business of saving the comic book industry, I want to be clear about what all of our jobs are. I’ve gone over this in great detail before, but every now and again, it pays to have a bit of a refresher, because as fans of the medium, we sometimes lose sight of who should be doing what. So to review:

The Reader: It is your job to read the books you enjoy, and to not read the books you do not. The fact that you read superhero comics and only superhero comics does not make you a shitty person, nor does it mean you are doing active harm to the industry. You like the things that you like, and you are buying them. Good for you. Keep doing that.

The Creator: You are making books you would want to read yourself. And you’re not doing it for the money. No, if you were doing it for the money, you’d cash in that motherfucking Hollywood cheque. The one that says, “with this money, you have no creative freedom. You are doing this my way monkey, and fuck your ideas.” You do comics because you love making comics. You love telling stories that are yours. It is your job to tell the best stories you can. You are awesome.

The Critic: You read the comics, and you have opinions about them. But remember: it is not your job to be a dick about things. It’s your job to read a book, and tell people what audience exists for it. Because the audience does exist. For all the rage and anger over Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, there’s a demographic that loves those books. It’s your job to read the comic, ruminate on the talents of those involved, and to keep your damn personal issues out of it. Not to your taste? Great. But don’t go telling everyone its a shitty book. Tell everyone that it’s a book that is not for you, but could be for some people. The kind of people who would enjoy that kind of stuff. Don’t be an asshole.

(A side note: if you have spent your own money on the book you are “reviewing”, you are not a critic. You are a fan with opinions, and while they are valid for you personally, they are wholly invalid when applied to every god damn person who reads comic books. This shit isn’t about you. Books aren’t specifically made with you in mind. If they were, they would be selling just one copy to you, and the industry would be dead. Again. Don’t be an asshole.)

The Publishers: It is your job to put out product that you believe in, and product that the market wants. It is not your job to put out books that don’t sell, because who does that? Who survives in life by giving people what they don’t want? As much as people pin the blame on you  for not making the industry more diverse, you’re not at fault. As long as your putting out the best books you can, and as long as you make the effort to attempt new things within reason, you’re doing your job. Right now, despite what many people say, you are doing this. Keep up the good work.

The Distributor: It’s your job to get comics to the retailers. Admittedly, you are doing a pretty shitty job of this. Can’t you get one god damn order right? You are something that is wrong with this industry, and I hope one day that my heel will be pushing on your throat. I want to see the light go out of your eyes, because you deserve no less than a shitty existence in some sort of bullshit purgatory where you pay for the hell you’ve put this industry through. If you were doing your job, it would make things better. But only a little bit, because there’s still a group out there more fucked up than you…

The Retailer: You. You smug looking motherfucker. You think you’re so rad, with your polybagged books and your over inflated prices. “But they’re selling for that much on E-Bay right now.” Fuck you. You are the worst. And the reason why your business is failing? The reason why you’re only skirting by, paying your lease and your Diamond bills by the skin of your teeth? It’s you. You’re the one who is supposed to sell the comics, and you’re not doing it. You’re the fuck up. You’re the industry killer. You are the worst, and we will all be better off when you are dead and gone, and I’m going to make sure that happens.

IT COMES DOWN TO THIS.

In terms of quality, the comic book industry has never been stronger. The creators have never been stronger. Fraction, Kelly Sue, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Jason Aaron, Paul Cornell, Scott Snyder, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Dan Parent, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Dustin Harbin, Cris Peter, Chris Samnee, Bettie Breitweiser, Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma…. dammit, I could actually go on like this all day. I won’t but I could.

Comics are amazing right now, and there is something available for everyone. The problem? Retailers aren’t selling books to everyone. They are even trying to. They’re sitting on their laurels, somehow content with the fractional audience that they have, and they refuse to push outwards. Through laziness, through apathy, through a fucking ever present disdain for certain product (yeah, I see you complaining about books that you sell on your twitter account, you useless sacks of shit), you are actively harming the industry.

It is not the customer base. It is not the economy, it is not the new digital market, and it sure as shit isn’t because the publishers are putting out an inferior product. They are doing their job by making books that people will buy. You’re just not selling them.

Shortly after DC announced their New 52 initiative, I began to hear horror stories – horror stories – from people who wanted to buy comics, but were being “turned away“. Every other day, someone would venture into the store, asking about the new books, just looking for someone to talk to. Looking for some support. They had been to other shops, and been greeted with ambivalence, or apathy, or were even outright ignored. Some were given a packet of information at least, but 52 new books? Is daunting as fuck. A person just getting into comics needs a guide. And so when they were turned away by other shops, still just as confused by the news as before, and there I was. I would ask them about their tastes, get a bead on what kind of things they enjoyed, and then I would run through the catalogue with them, helping them pick out books that they would enjoy. It’s a simple, simple thing to do: sell books people will like to the people who will like them. And dammit, I was so angry, so frustrated that it wasn’t being done. I mean hey, as a retailer, I will take  that business, and I will take it gladly. But as a member of Team Comics? How many people gave up after being treated like nothing, like nobody at a shop. How many ready and willing readers did we lose because retailers were too fucking lazy? How many are out there right now, but are being missed because retailers aren’t doing their only job.

WHAT’S TO BE DONE.

We need to leave the current system to die. None of this “coddle the retailers” bullshit. Seriously, leave us out in the cold. Because what have we done for you lately? What productive things have we had to offer this industry? We have one simple job to do. One. It’s to sell comics. To sell them passionately, and to a wide range of people. Not just the captive audience. We haven’t been doing that, and most of us never will.

Leave the retailers out in the cold. Price digital comics down to 99 cents. Push out into other markets, markets that want a broader audience, that actively scrape and pull for every sale they can get because they are fucking legitimate businesses. Push the big red button, blow it all to hell. Because the strong will survive. The ones that are actually doing the work, who are searching, who are selling, who are doing everything they can in their power to spread comics to every person, they. Will. Survive. They will. They are strong, and they are savvy, and mark my words, even though sales seem to be in the toilet for the industry at large, they are making more money than in years past. It seems improbable, but I know this to be true. Even before DC’s big “let’s all fuck on blood-stained piles of money” gambit, my shop was raking in the cash. We were pushing and prodding and finding. Growing the customer base. Numbers were up a staggering amount from the year before.

And yes, fuck, look at that asshole, going for the brag. But hey, do you feel like giving me a run down of your numbers? Your exact numbers there, buddy retailer? No, didn’t think so. But I know you’re out there. I know there are good retailers, and I know they are doing just fine. They have an eye for business, they sell and order within their means, and they are pushing and expending, looking at where sales are slumping and beefing up the areas of promise. If we burn the current industry down, they will be fine. We will be fine. We’ll be part of the new thing, the new industry – the one that sees digital sales as a help, rather than a hindrance. Because do you think, do you really think, inside a medium with so much passion and so much love that people aren’t going to want print products? They they aren’t going to want their favourite things taking up space in their lives? They will. There will always be room for print, just not in the current form of monthly serialization. Collections, graphic novels, objects to display rather than to hide in boxes, bagged and boarded, unread and unloved. Fuck that noise. Get with the future, motherfuckers. We have jet packs and fuck on the moon!

IN CONCLUSION

Stop with the god damn doom and gloom. Do you love this medium? Love the books that you read? Then do your thing. Enjoy books and let others enjoy books. Don’t be a fucking clubhouse, and get inclusive. Comics are for everyone and it’s about time they all knew.

Let’s sell some motherfucking comics.

Let’s do it.

For the laffs.

This is now how I will end every conversation.