Monthly Archives: June 2010

My 2-year-old son’s first cartoon character…

Apparently his name is “Mister Watch.”

This was done this past weekend, completely without any prompting or help, but very slowly, carefully, and deliberately to make sure all the parts were in the right places and didn’t stray over other lines. Apparently, this kind of “cartooning” is what they actually look for in 3-year olds (my son is 2 and 3 quarters).

KS

Review: How To Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book

How To Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book

By Tony C. Caputo

Watson-Guptill Publications, 1997

The most egregious problem with this book is the title.

If you are keen to write and draw your own comic book and self-publish a modest print-run of, say, 1000 to 5000 copies (just as an example), then this is NOT the book for you.

Despite the title, this is actually a book about starting an entire line (i.e. starting a comic book company) of comic BOOKS, not BOOK — many or most of which would preferably (for marketing motives) be licensed comic book versions of existing franchises — and hiring artists and writers to draw them for you. Does any of this sound like self-publishing “your own” comic book? Most of what Caputo (one-time founder and publisher of Now Comics) describes in the book requires tens-of-thousands of dollars just to start with and requires multiple investors and capitalists, plus in-house staff, so I’m not sure how much of this publishing is actually supposed to be done by one’s “self” either.

I don’t know exactly what the publishing climate was like in 1997 when this book came out, but I have to assume that Caputo saw a potential target audience of people who had no interest in comic books but saw the potential to get rich on this “new” industry that was suddenly making a lot of money. At one point Caputo says: “your ultimate goal being to develop your business into an internationally recognized and accepted entertainment phenomenon with sales in the tens of million of dollars.” There is one chapter on writing and drawing your comics that seems so rudimentary that it feels like it was included for people who did not even know what a comic book was.

I have to admit though, Caputo seems to know his stuff. He backs up all his statements about the growth of the comic book industry with lots of pretty legitimate sounding figures, and given his company’s own meteoric rise to success in the late 80s, it’s easy to understand his enthusiasm and belief in his own statements — he probably DID have sales in the tens of millions of dollars at some point.

Caputo also goes into lots of excellent detail about things like the printing process, and the back features tons of addresses and contact details for comic shops, conventions, etc. He also has lots of details about forming different kinds of companies (even corporations), contracts (not just with talent, but also investors), newsstand distributors, etc. which is mostly useless information to small-fry operators like yours truly and probably the one or two of you out there reading this.

Speaking of distributors, that’s another problem with the book in itself. The book was written with multiple direct market distributors in mind, but the distributor wars of the 90s left Diamond the only game in town in the very same year (I believe) that this book was published.

Which also brings me to the fact that inevitably the section on the then-nascent internet is grossly outdated as well.

Anyway, at this stage of Weird Crime Theater’s publishing gestation, what I cracked open this book hoping to find was some marketing advice. What I got was: using the name recognition of your “hot” talent to stir up a “frenzy of interest,” hiring a PR firm (???!!!), and hiring costumed models and celebrities to appear at your multi-thousand dollar convention booth (Caputo admits for once that this might be a bit expensive). Here’s another personal favorite: “offer retailers a raffle contest in which one retailer will win an all-expense-paid trip to the San Diego Comic Book Convention.” There was nothing in here for someone like me.

Weirdly, despite the obvious intentions of the book, Caputo does not cover investors and capital until the very last chapter, when — as mentioned earlier — the reality is you need to sort all of this out first before you can even start using any of Caputo’s advice for founding your multi-million dollar comics publishing empire. Hyuk. Caputo never says how much money you actually need to pull off what he writes about in the book, but I have to guess it’s a LOT. Maybe the book was intended for people who were already multi-millionaires and needed a hobby. It certainly feels that way at times.

But ultimately, like I said at the beginning, the problem with this book is the title: It should have been called something like “How To Start Your Own Massive Comic Book Publishing Company with $500,000 in Capital to Start” and then I would never have wasted my money on it — but maybe mistitling books is one of those marketing secrets that Caputo doesn’t reveal in the book (maybe ‘cause it’s FREE).

And the supreme irony, of course, is that Caputo’s own multi-million dollar empire, NOW Comics, completely collapsed just a few years BEFORE this book came out with Caputo himself quitting HIS OWN company a few months before it dissolved (all of which is not even remotely alluded to at any stage in the book when you would expect to detect at least some subtext of regret about something in the plethora of business processes described). Now THERE is a potential book about the publishing experience that I would love to read.

KS

P.S. In 2003 Caputo attempted to revive the company but it withered into vapor again with nary a gasp.

Worst. Indicia. Ever.

Below is from the last page of issue 2 of a recent American Splendor series published by DC / Vertigo. I bought this issue for the Corben-illustrated story, which is awesome. In general I prefer the earlier American Splendor stuff, but don’t let me disuade you — Harvey Pekar is still a wise man and worth reading. I especially recommend the collection Bob and Harv’s Comics which features every story Crumb ever illustrated for American Splendor. I love the movie too. The first time I felt like they portrayed Pekar as no more than a curmudgeon, but the more I watch it, the more I feel they really captured his wisdom and humanity. And Pekar should also be an inspiration to self-publishers everywhere.

Anyway, where was I… Oh yeah, Vertigo’s American Splendor #2:

And here’s the indicia at the bottom:

 

“The stories, characters and incidents mentioned in this magazine are entirely fictional.” DC Comics — what the fuck?!

Shouldn’t this count as false advertising or something? I mean, you buy American Splendor to get non-fiction, it’s promoted as non-fiction, and then you get to the last page and DC tells you “No, actually, it’s all made up.” I mean, obviously they are just trying to cover their asses, but it’s just such weirdly obvious bullshit, like saying: “This comic is in full color” or “This issue of Hustler does not feature any nudity” or “You are not reading this sentence.” Imagine seeing something like this at the end of, say Hoop Dreams.

KS

Now that he’s dead…

Today is a national holiday in Australia, so since I’m spending time with my family I don’t have to do a full blown post today.

Instead, I thought I would finally have a rant about the comic I hate most in life — not Youngblood, not Justice League: Cry for Justice, or the Rise of Arsenal, but: Johnny Hart’s B.C., which I am happy to stomp on even though the man is now dead.

Here’s why:

The evangelical strips were bile-inducing enough to begin with. What pissed me off about B.C. was all the strips specifically ABOUT JESUS. I mean the fucking strip is called **B C** as in BEFORE CHRIST for fuck’s sake, meaning how the fuck can people be talking about Jesus by name before he ever (supposedly according to a certain demographic) existed?! And aren’t neanderthals not supposed to exist in the bible anyway, Johnny Hart you bible-thumping hypocrite!! I hope he is rotting in hell — which I don’t believe exists anyway — for all the shitty strips he hoisted on us.

Happy Queen’s Birthday, Australia.

KS

More capsule reviews

More of those reviews I promised last week…

1. DC Comics Presents #93: Superman and the Elastic Four (DC Comics, 1986. Writer: Paul Kupperberg, Art: Alex Saviuk / Kurt Schaffenburger)

I can’t remember what made me buy this comic. Maybe just the weirdness of the team-up.

Back at the age of eleven, one of the very first comics I owned in the stack of ten or eleven I had at the time was called “Superman and the Atom #51.” There was a kid in my class that year in Grade 7 that was super into comic books, so I brought in the little pile I had to show him. He looked at that one and said, “Oh, yeah. DC Comics Presents number 51.” I had no idea the comic was actually *called* DC Comics Presents — I though that was just a bit of advertising on the cover, ya know. And that was my very first bit of comics education. That kid ended up really getting me into comics, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, back to this thing. The Elastic Four are actually Plastic Man, Elastic Lad (Jimmy Olsen) and Elongated Man, and the mystery villain.

That’s a lot of stretchy characters that are all basically the same thing. It was obvious reading this that DC had (and still has) no idea what to do with the Plastic Man property they had acquired. In DC’s hands, he’s just a bog-standard superhero who occassionally turns into unusual objects. That alone should make for some comedy value, but this comic — while not trying to take itself seriously — doesn’t make any effort to make fun of itself either, or at least if it does then it doesn’t do a very good job of it. It was a lot less fun than I was hoping it would be.

Although, with Jack Cole’s Plastic Man the genius was in the cartooning, not particularly in the character (much like Will Eisner’s The Spirit). To make matters worse, Elastic Lad and Elongated Man only stretch — they don’t turn into things. Kyle Baker had the best run on Plastic Man since Jack Cole and the market refused to support him (as I feel it fails to support many humor books). But at least Baker’s run was funny and he knew to turn Plas into funny things to deal with different situations.

The one thing I did kind of like about this comic is that at the end it is revealed that the villain got his stretch powers by replicating the accident that gave Plas his powers. I’m amazed they don’t do this all the time in superhero comics — like, gimme some o’ those cosmic rays, please!

2. Punisher: Get Castle (Marvel Comics, 2010. Writer: Rob Williams, Art: Laurence Campbell, Color: Lee Loughridge)

From about 1988 to 2008, I suffered from acute Punisher-itis, a rare condition in which one is compelled to buy every appearance of the Punisher in a Marvel comic. I am sure there are variants such as Moon-Knight-itis and Spider-Woman-itis, and I plan on writing more about the subject in the future, but for now to make a long story short, when Garth Ennis left the book, so did I. I tthought I might continue buying the title of Tim Bradstreet continued painting the covers, but he left the book at the same time too, so that was that.

He does, however, occassionally come back for one shots so I picked up this miserable little book. PUNISHER: GET CASTLE is a pointless exercise in human scum-dredging with competent, ugly artwork. Ennis’s PUNISHER had to constantly face the never-ending-chain of consequences of his actions, and the effect that relentless killing had on his psyche and that of everyone else who came into his orbit. After Ennis, it was just violence for kicks — and not “fun” violence, but just human ugliness. The post-Ennis MAX Punisher has no personality — neither the muted passion nor the cold awareness of what he is. He is simply an object who moves through 20 odd pages each month so the reader can witness dimly lit torture scenes. There is no enlightenment, elucidation, or entertainment value at the end of it. Boy, I felt grimy after reading this thing. Same goes for PUNISHER: NAKED KILL. If Marvel didn’t put Bradstreet covers on these things, I would simply not buy them, but that’s Punisher-itis, you know?

3. Punisher: Butterfly (Marvel Comics, 2010. Writer: Valerio D’Orazio, Art: Laurence Campbell / Hubert Boulard)

This on the other hand was pretty interesting. The comic was written by Valerie D’Orazio who has been quite shittily treated by the comics industry and famously kept a blog about all the abuses she suffered at its hands. The comic is about a female assassin (who appears to mostly hit mafia targets) who writes a tell-all book and is then marked for death by the mob. There are some obvious parallels there, and there have been some suggestions around the net that this comic is kind of autobiographical in some ways. And it’s not a bad comic.

But, Marvel Comics, if you are going to put out a comic book with PUNISHER in the title, I fucking expect the Punisher to be in it for more than three panels. Had I known, I would not have bought it, you assholes. “Punisher Presents Butterfly” (like “The Punisher Presents Barracuda”) would have been acceptable.

Yes, the Punisher shows up at the end, tells Butterfly: ‘You’ve killed a lot of people” and then kills her. Actually, I’ve never seen a Punisher comic where he kills a mob assassin. My guess is that he would probably let them keep going because they are helping him do his job for him. So, even his three panels in this comic have obviously been shoe-horned in.

4. Fantastic Four #267 (Marvel Comics, 1984. Story & Art: John Byrne)

This is the issue where Sue loses the baby. Sorry if I spoiled that for you twenty years after the fact.

Anyway, Sue storm is pregnant with her second baby, but it has radiation sickess of some sort. The doctors don’t know what to do, so they recommend that Reed goes to the world’s foremost expert on radiation: Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus.

Otto is in a mental institution where he seems to have made a recovery from his evil ways and only wants to help people. He agrees to help Reed. But while they are flying back to the hospital, they pass a Daily Bugle billboard with Spider-Man on it, and Otto flips out, resummoning his mechanical arms from storage, and he fights Reed. Reed manages to beat him, but by the time he manages to get back to the hospital it is revealed that they are too late — the baby has died.

I have a stack of about 12 or 13 John Byrne FF issues that I got from I-don’t-know-where, and I just loved this issue back in the day. I loved the unpredictable insanity of going to a villain for help, the unpredictable goodness and altruism of Doctor Octopus, and the unpredictable shock ending and its dramatic staging. But when I recently went through my comics this issue was missing (what the hell happened to it?!) so I bought a new copy. I found reading it again that it still held up except for Byrne’s art and his goddamn relentless background cheating.

(p.s. Apparently the baby is currently alive in current Marvel continuity. Don’t know how the hell that happened.)

5. Girl Comics #1 (Marvel Comics 2010, Story & Art: various)

The stories in this 3-issue series are all famously (according to press releases) written, pencilled, inked, lettered, colored, and lettered by women. And yet it’s not called Women Comics.

Anyway, very nice art on most of these from an excellent list of creators, but mostly lame stories. It would have been better if the creators had not been restricted to using Marvel superheroes. In fact, the more hero-focused the stories are in here, the worse. Since it is an anthology series though, I will be picking up the next two issues anyway — there could be some good stuff in there.

Gotta love that Amanda Connor cover too.

6. Xenon #1 (Eclipse, 1987. Story & Art: Masaomi Kanzaki)

I’ve been interested in the cover of this since it first came out decades ago, but I never bought it until recently. The interior art is lame compared to the cover, and features the typical muddy reproduction of Japanese comics of the time. The story is about some kind of government program to create a super-cyborg out of a musclebound teenager or something. After a twenty year wait to read this thing, you can tell I’m pretty disappointed, but you can’t judge a book by the cover they always say and I should have listened.

KS