Monthly Archives: October 2010

Review: True Facts

True Facts: comics’ righteous anger, a pocket guide to self-publishing your own comic books

by Larry Young. AiT/Planet Lar, 2002.

“Pocket Guide” is right. This book is a slim 120 pages, with plenty of white space on the already pocket-sized pages. Much like No Guts No Glory which I reviewed a while back, it is a reprint of an internet column. Unlike that book, which was too physically big, this one is almost too small. Most columns are only one or two pages, but each chapter gets a full page announcing its number; and there is an introduction by Matt Fraction; so it could have been even shorter. Some, but not all of the columns come with additional commentary from Young a few years after the columns were originally written.

Not that this is all bad. The first several chapters are excellent and tell you succinctly what you need to do to get your book published and out there. The first four “chapters” cover creation, printing, distribution, and promotion. It’s about as straight-forward as you can get, but that actually makes it encouraging. At this point Young apparently had planned to stop, but then kept on going with the subject of promotion in subsequent chapters: writing press releases, getting noticed, focusing promotion on retailers, etc. One thing I quite liked was that Young spends some time writing about the fact that many of us find self-promotion distasteful and how to deal with that.

But then it starts to lose focus — straying from the path and occasionally back onto it — and I’m not sure what some of the columns have to do with self-publishing at all. There is some discussion about the state of the industry, the state of internet discussion about comics, how back issues are bought by the pound at Comix Experience, etc. Some of these later columns may have been “on topic” but Young’s writing is less sharp here and it takes him much longer to get to the point — not good in a 2-3 page column. There were two columns devoted to telling Marvel they need to focus their brand identity and that they don’t have a clear view of who their customers are which I didn’t agree with. You don’t tell Penguin Books or Random House to only publish vampire books — for the sake of the industry, a juggernaut like Marvel should be diversifying if anything. (In fact, I wonder if the fact that Young published this very book through his own company doesn’t somehow violate his own rules by going “off brand.”) Anyway, look — now I’m off topic too!

Okay, so the book starts good, and ends bad. What’s the problem? Well, it forgets that it is a book and not the internet. Rather than just farting all of his columns out into a book without changing anything, Young should have used all the info he’d written in the columns and re-editted the thing into a book from scratch. Put everything in order — put all the marketing stuff together, rather than scattered everywhere — and cut out anything that is irrelevant to the book’s purpose. If you’re trying to make a point about the sentimental value of comics with that “buy-by-the-pound” anecdote then come out and say it, and use it in the intro or something. And give the chapters goddamn titles so you can actually find stuff when you need it. This would all make the book much shorter — yes — but it would also turn it into a lean, mean publishing resource

KS

My Toronto Something-Con 1998 Sketchbook

This was — I felt — a tiny little “con” (more like a market) occupying only a couple of rooms in a convention center in Toronto which it was sharing with a Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention on that same weekend. I can’t even remember the name of it but I don’t think it was the Fan Expo which is a rather large and significant affair these days, I am told. Or maybe it was and the Expo has actually grown exponentially over the years. Anyway, there were very few mega-guests from the Big Two (except for Joe Quesada or Jimmy Palmiotti — I can’t remember which, and John Romita JR), but there were some excellent Canadian stalwarts as you shall see below. Click to enjoy!

Dave Sim

He had just done his four-part mega-interview with Alan Moore in Cerebus and was happy to chat about him for a bit.

Greg Hyland

Koichi Ohata

This is fairly bad ass.

Stuart Immonen

Joe Matt

Seth

Joe Matt and Seth were looking pretty… uhh… unoccupied at this particular show. They had lots of time to do fully rendered sketches. Matt even did another one for me in a copy of The Poor Bastard that I bought off him. I can’t remember if I bought It’s a Good Life from Seth directly at this show or if I got it some other time.

Stephen Platt

When Stephen Platt first started out, he was eager to work on the Punisher. The Punisher editors at the time didn’t like him, but he ended up landing on Moon Knight where he earned his 15 minutes of mega-fame, while Platt look-a-likes started appearing in the Punisher books where the editors were kicking themselves. Platt went on to mostly mediocrity. I’m not sure what the problem was. Maybe his sequentials just weren’t that great. Maybe he could only draw one facial expression. Anyway, for a moment there, his art style was in the right place at the right time (early 90s / Image steroid armor fest), and it always pissed me off that we never did get to see this “hot” artist on a Punisher book — which is what HE wanted in the first place — instead of the amateurish artists they were using instead. So when I got the opportunity to ask for a Punisher sketch, he was more than happy to oblige. That is a wicked image right there. They outta give the guy some covers at least.

KS

Capsule Reviews: 3-D Madness!!

As a kid I used to love ye olde red-blue 3D stuff. To let you know how much, I even used to collect 3D Dukes of Hazzard comics out of Honey Combs cereal boxes, and as some of you may know, I fucking hate Dukes of Hazzard. That said, the only 3D movie I’ve ever seen was a short at Disney World pre-Captain Eo. I’ve never seen any of the new fangled ones there’s been such a spate of recently.

Anyway, a while back I happened to end up buying one or two 3D comics close together and suddenly decided: “Hey, I’m gonna start collecting these!” Makes no sense, I know, and after buying one or two more, I realized that myself. Not only is it a stupid idea to begin with, I wear reading glasses, so there’s no comfortable way of reading these things, especially considering they tend to come stapled with kid-sized 3D glasses even if they have adult content!

So, please note that all these reviews begin with the assumption that 3D is a crappy gimick distraction.

Zombie 3-D

(by various. The 3-D Zone, 1992)

First off, great cover by the legendary Robert Williams.

This is the only “underground” 3D comic that I know of. Getting Ray Zone to convert your comic into 3D must be a process beyond the financial means of most underground cartoonists, so I’d love to know what the story was behind this.

Like all good undergrounds, this comic features a mix of stories and pin-ups, and one pre-Code Golden Age reprint (“The Obi Makes Jumbee”), all mostly zombie-themed, plus S. Clay Wilson’s “Rotting Zombie Madonna“ on the inside back cover. The pinups and one 2-pager are by “XNO.” Who is this guy, I have no idea, but I think I’ve seen him credited in Weirdo as well. The longest piece is by “The Pizz” who I’ve never seen before, but is a pretty good cartoonist.

I don’t have much to say about any of the stories here, but that’s a good thing. In general, the 3D effect combined with having to wear the glasses is so distracting, it’s hard to stay focused on any story in a 3D comic. But here the underground aesthetic proves a good match for 3D since there is less concern with “narrative” and more on image-making and / or psychedelic visuals.

A very short read, but a neat book.

The Pizz in 3-D!

Mr. Monster’s Triple Threat 3-D

(by various. The 3-D Zone, 1993)

And this book takes it to an even further extreme.

Michael T. Gilbert writes in his introduction: “I decided to design a book consisting of classic splash pages, covers and pin-ups. Why? Because I love looking at 3-D comics without lots of tiny word balloons and captions!”

Indeed, there are pin-ups by lots of great artists in here, but it just doesn’t add up to anything — and I think the 3-D, while neat, actually distracts from the linework of people like Dave Stevens. (You see, story or art — 3D just can’t win!)

There is one sustained, wordless, 4-page story (another reprint) at the end that works quite well, and it made me wish Gilbert had done something else like it exclusively for this collection. Rather than just the 2-page framing sequence he’s added in.

Also note: a sure sign that this book came out in 1993 — a foil-embossed cover.

Alan Moore in 3D!

The 3-D Zone (No. 5) Presents Krazy Kat

(by George Herriman of course. The 3-D Zone, 1987)

This comic opens with a reprinting of e.e. cummings’s 1946 essay on Krazy Kat which is a nice treat.

The comic itself is a compilation of Sunday pages (except for the center spread), and I thought the 3D effect worked well for Krazy Kat. Like the undergrounds, Coconino ever-morphing dreamlike in the background is enhanced by the extra dimension, and Herriman’s dialog is still so demanding that you can’t help but still be sucked into the Krazy-Pup-Ignatz triangle no matter what the wacky 3D effects are doing.

I would say this comic is a decent supplement if you already have some Krazy in 2D, but it’s obviously not a substitute.

Krazy in 3D!

Clive Barker’s Seduth

(Story by Clive Barker & Chris Monfette, art by Gabriel Rodriguez, color by Jay Fotos. IDW, 2009)

Unlike the other comics I’ve reviewed here, this one is in color, and generally the colors look better with the glasses off. (They also have not 3Ded any of the lettering, so you actually can read all the text without the glasses.) That said, the 3D effects (still by Ray Zone, naturally) are better here than in the other books (20+ years of technology later). They seem to have gone for some more subtle effects in the layering and succeeded. This is also the only comic reviewed that actually came with adult-sized glasses.

I am a big Clive Barker fan and this is the first comic he’s written in many years. How much of the work was shared with Monfette, I don’t know, but there is lots of signature Barker here: painful bodily mutilation, sex with the grotesque, grotesque birth, mutilation to achieve transcendence, “hell” dimensions, and metaphysics compounding to the point of unintelligibility. Barker’s notes at the end (handwritten and mostly illegible) describe it as: “A Completely Nihilistic Story” so you should know for yourself whether or not this is something you want to read. Really, it’s probably too much for a 20-page comic.

As with Coconino County, the 3D is most effective when used to depict that psychotropic, hellish alien landscape. But the rest of the time, I found it annoying having to flip the glasses off every page to appreciate the colors

—————————————————————————————————-

And now I’m going to go take two aspirin and have a nap.