Auctions | An original watercolor by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, showing his creations lounging under a tree, fetched $107,000 at auction. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | David Barnett writes an appreciation for 2000AD, the U.K. comics anthology that turns 35 years old this year: “For a seven-year-old, 2000AD was anarchic and fascistic and funny and frightening and gory and exciting and thought-provoking, all rolled up together. They called it 2000AD, presumably, because no one expected the comic to live that long. But 35 years after the first issue, which had a 26 February cover date, and in the year that Queen Elizabeth II marks her diamond jubilee, 2000AD is still going, delivering (in the magazine’s own words) ‘thrill power’ every single week since then.” [The Guardian]
Legal | The judge in the trial of former retailer Michael George banned note-taking in the courtroom on Friday out of concern that two women were sharing information with George’s wife Renee. George is on trial for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, and Renee George has been barred from hearing the testimony of other witnesses because she may be called to the stand herself. Also, on Friday a witness testified he had called George’s store at around 5:30 on the day of the murder to ask why an Amazing Spider-Man comic had jumped in value from $5 to $40. Michael Renaud said he spoke to George for about five minutes and that George seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone; the testimony places him at the crime scene rather than at his mother’s house, where he claimed to be at the time of Barbara’s murder. [The Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Nearly 5,000 people turned out over the weekend for the second annual Detroit Fanfare, held at the Cobb Center. That’s slightly more than the number who attended the first event at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency, but half what organizer Dennis Barger Jr. had hoped for this year. [The Detroit News]
Drawn and Quarterly released Chester Brown’s Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir of Being a John in May. It was one of the more eagerly anticipated books of the year, given the skill and reputation of Brown, and it ended up being one of the most reviewed and most discussed graphic novels of the year (so far).
The subject matter certainly didn’t hurt coverage any, in fact it’s colorful and controversial nature drove a lot of coverage: Brown meticulously chronicles every time he patronized a prostitute between 1996 and 2003, in the process formulating and defending a particular point-of-view regarding the evils of romantic love and relationships and the relative virtues of paying for sex.
Between the first time I read it and the second time I read it (it’s that kind of book), I read somewhere around 50 million reviews of it and articles about it and Brown and his position. Two months after release, and all that ink and virtual ink spilled over it, a formal review from me seems kind of superfluous at this point.
Instead, here are a few thoughts about the book…
1.) The book opens with the cartoonist breaking up with his live-in girlfriend…sort of. She announces that she thinks she’s falling in love with someone else, would like to try dating that person. Brown gives his blessing, and they decide to keep living together and see where it goes.
Cut to a scene of Brown walking down the street with the little comics avatars of his fellow Canadian cartoonists Seth (Wimbledon Green, Palookaville) and Joe Matt (Spent, Peepshow).
The pair have fairly big roles in the story—Dwight Garner refereed to them as a “wise-guy geek chorus” in his New York Times book review—and when I saw their first appearance, I felt a sudden surge of a mixture of surprise, glee, excitement, recognition and comfort.
I imagine it must be something like what little boys must have felt like reading Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and seeing Spider-Man sudden swing into a Fantastic Four comic, or Daredevil or Dr. Strange bumping into one another on their shared streets of New York City.
There’s something undeniably cool about seeing comic book characters appear where you don’t expect them, or interacting with one another, although it’s a coolness that has been diluted to the point it probably doesn’t even register in superhero comics anymore, given that Superman started playing sports with Batman and Robin back in 1941, and the modern Big Two super-universes are in constant states of crossover (And hell, Archie can meet the Punisher or president or Kiss, and Mr. Spock run into Wolverine or Cosmic Boy).
As cartoonists who are also characters in other comics, Seth and Joe Matt have a peculiar status and, in this narrative, it was the Canadian art memoir comics equivalent of, I don’t know, seeing Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake in a Spider-Man arc, only you’re seeing it for the first time.
The book even rewards familiarity with these characters and their previous adventures, like in a scene where Brown brings up prostitute review message boards, and the Matt character says it’s too disturbing to which Brown replies “How can this be disturbing for someone who watches porn almost 24 hours a day?”
Which isn’t just a quip, of course—it’s practically the plot of Matt’s memoir Spent.
Aside from the crossover thrill, it’s worth noting that the scenes with the other cartoonists are among the most enjoyable to read in the book, because they tend to be the most funny; Brown shows himself debating with himself and friends and even some of the prostitutes (to some extent) about the ethics and morality of prostitution and love, sex and relationships in general, but he’s apparently most comfortable around his friend cartoonists, so those exchanges tend to be the most honest and amusing. Continue Reading »