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Grumpy Old Fan | Better living through crowdfunding

Crowdsourcing, Silver Age-style

I can’t deny the appeal of crowdfunding. I’ve contributed to a handful of projects, including the Stripped documentary, the new Steve Rude sketchbook and a guide to Star Wars’ domestic filming locations. I’m also planning to pledge to Leaving Megalopolis, the new graphic novel by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore.

Like many of you, I’m predisposed to like Simone and Calafiore’s work based on their issues of Secret Six. I also enjoyed the way Simone and her collaborators brought a little town of superheroes to life in Welcome to Tranquility. Heck, I just like Simone’s writing generally, and as it’s within my budget, I don’t mind spending the money.

However, while responding to Tom Spurgeon’s call for crowdfunding thoughts, I had a crazy idea: What if a license fee were part of the crowdfunding proposal? In other words, what if one item in a project’s budget were earmarked for licensing particular characters from DC or Marvel?

While there is a fine line between stupid and clever, I’m not sure upon which side this post lies. That’s probably not so good — but it hasn’t stopped me yet. …

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Kurt Busiek wants to know: Is it creators or characters that win your money?

Steve Lieber drawing an equally awesome underwater world instead of a lost jungle world

Is a familiar creator enough to bring you to a new book, or do you only pick up a new title with familiar characters? The ongoing creator-owned debate is interesting in theory, but eventually it has to come down to practical application. And Kurt Busiek seriously wants to know.

Busiek posted an informal poll on his Facebook page on Tuesday after someone on Twitter said he wanted to read The Savage Land by Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber. As that Marvel series doesn’t exist, Busiek wondered whether “a comic about a lost land full of dinosaurs and primitive tribes” would necessarily have to set within the Marvel Universe for readers to buy it, or would another dinosaur-filled lost land work just as well.

“If Steve and I wanted to do a comic about a lost land full of dinosaurs and primitive tribes, would it need to be the Savage Land?” Busiek wrote. “Would Ka-Zar, Garokk, Sauron and the ability to have Spider-Man and Nick Fury show up need to be part of the deal?”

He also pointed out the availability of such lands and his experience with creating one recently: “After all, Pellucidar and The Lost World are both in the public domain at present, and it’s easy to make up a new setting like that. In fact, the last time I wrote a place like that, it was The Phantom Continent, in Kirby: Genesis.”

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Talking Comics with Tim | Monkeybrain Comics’ Allison Baker & Chris Roberson

Monkeybrain Comics

Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).

Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?

Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.

Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.

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Food or Comics? | Gyoza or Godzilla

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Conan the Barbarian #7

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, it’d be an eclectic bunch featuring Jesus clones, retired spec-ops workers, environmentalists and Batman. First up would be Punk Rock Jesus #2 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), following Sean Murphy’s big-time foray into writing and drawing. Murphy’s delivering the art of his career, and while the story might not be as great as the art, it still has a synchronicity to the art that few other mainstream books have these days. After that I’d get Dancer #4 (Image, $3.50); Nathan Edmondson seemingly made his name on writing the spy thriller Who Is Jake Ellis?, and this one takes a very different view of the spy game – like a Luc Besson movie, perhaps – and Nic Klein is fast climbing up my list of favorite artists. After that I’d get Massive #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50), with what is disheartedly looking to be the final issue of artist Kristian Donaldson. No word on the reason for the departure, but with a great a story he and Brian Wood have developed I hope future artists can live up to the all-too-brief legacy he developed. Delving into superhero waters, the next book I’d get is Batman #12 (DC, $3.99), which has become DC’s consistently best book out of New 52 era. Finally, I’d get Anti #1 (12 Guage, $1). Cool cover, interesting concept, and only a buck. Can’t beat that.

If I had $30, I’d jump and get Creator-Owned Heroes #3 (Image, $3.99); man, when Phil Noto is “on” he’s “ON!” After that I’d get Conan te Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse, $3.50). I’ve been buying and reading this in singles, but last weekend I had the chance to re-read them all in one sitting and I’m legitimately blown away. The creators have developed something that is arguably better than what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord started in 2003 and shoulder-to-shoulder with the great stories out of the ’70s. This new issue looks to be right up my alley, as Conan takes his pirate queen Belit back to his frigid homeland in search of a man masquerading as Conan. Hmm, $7 left. Any other Food or Comic-ers want to grab some grub?

If I could splurge, I’d excuse myself from the table dining with my fellow FoCers and get Eyes of the Cat HC (Humanoids, $34.95). I feel remiss in never owning this, so finally getting my hands on the first collaboration between Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky seems like a long time coming. I’m told its more an illustrated storybook than comic book, but I’m content with full page Moebius work wherever I can get it.

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Food or Comics? | Tales Designed to Sizzlean

Parker: The Score

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Graeme McMillan

While the offerings on show at my local comic store this week won’t compare with those available at Comic-Con International, if I had $15 this week, I’d pick up Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus #1 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), the new Bloodshot #1 (Valiant, $3.99) and the final issue of the enjoyable Kirby: Genesis #8 (Dynamite, $3.99); the first for the art alone (I know very little about the story, but Murphy’s art is always worth checking out), the second for the high concept, and the third for the payoff that I know is coming from Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Jack Herbert’s resuscitation of the King’s concepts after following the series thus far.

That said, if I only had $30, I’d put both Punk Rock Jesus and Bloodshot back on the racks for another week, and add Darwyn Cooke’s new Parker adaptation, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score (IDW, $24.99) to my pile, instead. Cooke’s Parker books are consistently must-buys, and I can’t see why this one would be any different.

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What other creator-centric collections should DC consider?

Recently, an off-hand tweet by Kurt Busiek brought something interesting to mind. First, the tweet: “There are SUPERMAN BY GARCIA-LOPEZ and BATMAN BY ARCHIE GOODWIN hardcovers coming. Life is good.”

The two books he’s talking about are Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin, both hardcovers and both scheduled for release in April. It’s interesting because, by and large, DC Comics hasn’t released a lot of books focusing on a creator. Sure, the publisher has made exceptions for Alan Moore (DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore), Jack Kirby (Jack Kirby Omnibus) and Geoff Johns (The Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus), but seeing it done for creators like Goodwin and Garcia-Lopez feels different somehow. While Goodwin was a positively epic force during his time in comics, he’s not exactly a household name in the modern parlance of comics fans (unfortunately), and Garcia-Lopez was an artist, not a writer like all of those listed above. DC, and comics in general, has shown itself to be very writer-centric in terms of the attribution of works, so for me this is a breakthrough — or at least a crack in the wall.

Spurred on by these ideas, I’m  beginning to think of what else, and who else, DC could capitalize on with its massive library of work created in the past 78 years. Here are some ideas:

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Kurt Busiek will eat a bug if you back Lea Hernandez’s Kickstarter

Lea Hernandez, creator of Cathedral Child and Rumble Girls, has a Kickstarter that looks pretty nice: It’s The Garlicks, a charming, kid-friendly tale of a vampire family — Pandora, a tween-age girl who doesn’t seem to have any vampire powers; her kid sister Pamila, who has super-cute vampire powers; her mother, a butcher (kid-friendly vampires eat pork, not blood); and her father, a flower-eating barista.

Aside from the cuteness, The Garlicks is allowing Hernandez to stretch artistically in a couple of different directions; in an interview at Yet Another Comics Blog, she talks about her new use of color, saying “My good friend Adam Warren (Empowered) kept telling me my color work was stronger than my b&w/limited palette/pencils, going back to my story for Comic Book Tattoo, until I took the plunge. He was right, and I’ve had so much pleasure in working in color.”

Hernandez has obviously put a lot of thought into this comic, and the art is fantastic. However, she also set a very ambitious Kickstarter goal of $40,000, and she has to raise more than half of that by Thursday afternoon. So Kurt Busiek jumped in to help: He promised on Twitter that he would eat a bug if people support the Kickstarter. Actually, he promised to claim to eat a bug, and at the moment, he’s just eating the bug in a nice little print that Hernandez is including as a extra. At some pledge levels she will draw a custom sketch of Kurt enjoying his little snack. But there is a possibility that Busiek will eat a real bug; at the Kickstarter page, Hernandez writes, “There’s even a possibility of Kurt eating a REAL bug, if the price is Right. (The right price is probably $3,000., the right place at Emerald City Comic-Con.)”

Quote of the day | ‘Don’t mess with my cake’

“The real answer to questions like, ‘Why doesn’t the Flash clean up Gotham City, too?’ is ‘It would make Batman’s cake lousy. People read Batman because they like crimefighter stuff where Batman’s cool, and don’t really want to see Superman or the Flash or Green Lantern mess with that particular cake.’ On the other hand, people who like stories where Batman and Superman and Green Lantern work together have the JLA cake, and some people like both kinds of cake.

But if you start to tie it together with logic foremost in your plans rather than entertainment, then you need to explain why Superman doesn’t help all the other heroes almost all the time, and why aren’t the crimefighters turned into SF-type heroes to make them more effective, and you end up with everything being JLA cake, and no solo Batman cake left. Or you come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work, so Batman shouldn’t be in the JLA, which maybe preserves the Batman cake, but it messes up the JLA cake.

So in the end, the answer to all of these questions is: Don’t mess with my cake.”

Kurt Busiek, using a cake/frosting metaphor to point out how logic should never trump fun in shared-universe superhero comics. He’s right of course, and that he even has to point this out goes to show how grown-ups ruin everything.

(via The Comics Reporter)

Grumpy Old Fan | Tradition, expectation, and message

Metamorpho, not a joiner

The great strength of DC’s superhero line is its heterogeneity — that is, its history of bringing together different genre-based roots and different storytelling approaches. However, as the shared-universe model came to dominate superhero serials, DC’s various high sheriffs have tried to impose various kinds of order on these disparate perspectives. Starting in the Silver Age, the infinite Multiverse organized characters broadly, for example by generation (Earth-Two), publisher (Earth-X, Earth-S, Earth-Four), or special category (the Crime Syndicate’s Earth-Three, the Zoo Crew’s Earth-C). Crisis On Infinite Earths consolidated a lot of that, The Kingdom’s Hypertime sought unsuccessfully to reincorporate it, and 52 compromised with a scaled-back set of parallel Earths. Today, the New-52 setup still has a Multiverse, but the main DC-Earth has scaled back its superheroic history dramatically.

Details aside, though, each of these cosmological structures is an attempt to bring some deeper meaning to DC’s superhero line. Put simply, for a long time DC’s superhero books weren’t about something, whereas Marvel presented a “world outside your window” in which superpowers came with their own sets of problems. Thus, from the post-Crisis 1980s until the end of Flashpoint last summer, DC was arguably “about” superheroic legacies, and had no small success putting new faces with old names.

And again, those details are not especially germane to today’s post. Instead, I want to talk about the nature of DC’s various traditions, the extent to which those traditions should guide the publisher, and whether DC’s superhero books can, collectively, ever really be “about” anything.

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Food or Comics? | Flex Mentaleggio

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Hulk #50

Graeme McMillan

It’s a week of familiar faces for me this time around. If I had $15, it’d go on Action Comics #8 (DC, $3.99), which completes Grant Morrison’s first story arc on the title — even though we’ve already had the second one; thanks, fill-ins! — as well as Supreme #63 (Image, $2.99), with Erik Larsen illustrating the final Alan Moore script for Rob Liefeld’s Superman knock-off (I’d love to see a well-done collection of all of these issues one day, now that the Moore run is completed). Also on tap, the final issue of OMAC (#8, DC, $2.99) and the long-awaited return of Busiek, Ross and Herbert’s Kirby: Genesis (#6, Dynamite, $3.99), because a man needs as much well-done Jack Kirby-inspired comics as possible, goshdarnit.

If I had $30, I’d add Hulk #50 (Marvel, $3.99) to once again celebrate what Jeff Parker had managed to do with a book and concept that, by all rights, should’ve disappeared a long time ago. (In all honesty, I much prefer the Red Hulk to the classic version these days, and it’s all Parker’s doing, along with his various artistic compatriots on the title.) Everyone who isn’t reading it: This is a jumping-on point issue! Try it and see if you don’t love it, too. And, despite the unevenness of earlier issues, Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avarita #3 (Marvel, $4.99) is also a must-read; I really didn’t like the first issue, but loved the second. We’ll see where the book goes next.

Should I be splurging, then this week the splurge is on Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe HC (DC/Vertigo, $22.99). One of my favorite comics of all time, I’m likely going to end up getting this over-sized, recolored reprint just because I genuinely can’t resist the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book and its love of superheroes.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Thomas Scioli

American Barbarian

Back in 2010, when Thomas Scioli started bolstering his online presence and entered the realm of webcomics with American Barbarian, I was curious to see how things would play out (as may or may not have been obvious in my June 2010 interview of him). I’ll be honest and admit that now, more than a year later (and with far more of the project online to read), American Barbarian far exceeds what I expected. As much as I have always enjoyed and respected his Kirby-influenced approach to visual storytelling, after reading this double post Apocalyptic tale, I am far more impressed with Scioli’s funky ear for dialogue. It’s like reading a 1970s comic written by a minimalist version of David Mamet. Doubting my quirky endorsement of the work? Then realize AdHouse is collecting the webcomic for a 256-page/6 ” x 9 ” /hardcover release early this year. If you don’t trust my tastes, then you should definitely trust AdHouse publisher Chris Pitzer. To mark the upcoming release, Scioli and I did another of our quick email interviews. Before diving into the interview, let me take a second to agree with JK Parkin’s sentiment in this post, back in June, that DC Comics should have considered Scioli for one of the New 52 titles that it launched back in September. So I was surprised to learn (as you can read in this interview) that DC did not contact Scioli when assembling the creative team for the new OMAC title. As I edited this interview I realized it was hard to find my favorite part of our discussion, but it may be the revelation that the look for Two-Tank Omen came to Scioli in a dream. A close second was learning a bit about his next webcomic, Final Frontier. Feel free to chime in with your favorite part of this interview and/or Scioli’s work in the comments section, please.

Tim O’Shea: As an independent creator, the job of marketing your work falls to you. Do you think over the years, you have gotten more comfortable marketing yourself? On a related note, how did you decide upon doing this one minute trailer for American Barbarian?

Thomas Scioli: Even the largest comics publishers don’t seem to have a budget for promotion, so I’d say any creator, independent or mainstream, can benefit from doing their own promotion. It’s something that I’ve never been comfortable with, but do out of necessity. I think I have gotten better about it, because in the beginning, it would give me crippling anxiety, now it’s just mild trepidation. The idea for doing a trailer came from having seen other people do it. AdHouse’s own Afrodisiac trailer and [Top Shelf's] Infinite Kung-Fu [trailer] are two that made an impression on me when they made the rounds. It got me excited about those two works, so I wanted to do the same. I’d been dabbling with animation, back when I started AmBarb so it was a natural outgrowth of that, too. Once you start doing a webcomic it isn’t long before you realize, hey, why not just do a cartoon?

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Comics A.M. | Riverdale’s gay wedding; Tintin wannabes

Life with Archie #16

Comics | CNN covers the upcoming wedding of Archie Comics’ Kevin Keller, who will get married to another man in Life with Archie #16. Keller was injured while serving in the military in Iraq and Clay Walker, his groom-to-be, was his physical therapist. “Riverdale is this picturesque vision of American life, and when you see yourself reflected in that, you have a role in even the most idealized version of the reality you live in,” said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “That’s the difference between feeling like a rejected outsider and feeling like you’re a part of something.” [CNN]

Comics | Jim Caple worries that viewers of the Tintin movie won’t appreciate it the way he does, comparing old-school Tintin fans to old-school Boston Red Sox or Seattle Mariners fans: “That’s what I worry about. I worry there will be all these Tintin wannabes who only know the character from the movie, who don’t appreciate Herge’s genius, who don’t know what it was like to wait a month for the next 10-page installment or when you had to special order the few books made available in America. Fans who didn’t earn this movie.” [ESPN]

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Comics A.M. | Ex-Marvel staffer says layoff protest misguided

Marvel

Publishing | Damien Lucchese, a production artist laid off last week by Marvel, explains why fans should not boycott the publisher over the layoffs: “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want everyone to just see the MARVEL logo and think of a huge, top-heavy company, full of money hungry suits that make poor decisions (in some peoples’ opinions). That’s not what MARVEL is and there are still people working very hard (even harder now), day after day to put out comics for people to enjoy.” [Blog@Newsarama]

Digital piracy | Jim Mroczkowski posts his third interview with a digital pirate; as in the first two episodes, what comes through is that social pressures and one-upmanship have a lot to do with it. Also, piracy is expensive for the pirates, who usually buy the comics they scan—and often don’t even read them. [iFanboy]

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Food or Comics? | Heaping helpings of Kirby, Manara, X-Men and more

Wolverine and the X-Men #1

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d be a judicious comics buyer and pick the top four out of over 20 titles I’d want this week. DC/Vertigo makes it slightly easier by making the new Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso joint Spaceman #1 only $1. This dollar price point for first issues combined with the $9.99 price point they sometimes do for the first volume of comic trade paperbacks surely gets a lot of traction. Next up I’d get Jason Aaron’s new era of the X-Men in Wolverine & X-Men #1 (Marvel, $3.99) with Chris Bachalo. I’d also get my regular pulls of DMZ #70 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and The Walking Dead #90 (Image, $2.99) and last–but first in my stack to read-–would be Secret Avengers #18 (Marvel, $3.99). I hear some Ellis guy is writing it, but the big draw for me is artist David Aja. His Iron Fist run is one of my top favs in comics in the past ten years, and he’s a titan in my book.

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BOOM! brings Dracula: The Company of Monsters back as a webcomic

Dracula: The Company of Monsters

This past summer BOOM! Studios promoted two of its new ongoing series, Elric and Planet of the Apes, with dedicated websites that included, among other things, brand new content in the form of webcomics. The Elric site had a new 10-page story, while Planet of the Apes had a “prequel” story for the big blockbuster movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

And now BOOM! is launching another microsite that, appropriately enough, brings Dracula: The Company of Monsters back from the dead. BOOM! put a stake in the series with issue #12, but just like the title character it seems you can’t keep it down. In a press release BOOM! said they plan to serialize the print comic first and eventually will post new material. They also plan to include commentary from the series’ creators, which include writers Kurt Busiek and Daryl Gregory, and artists Scott Godlewski and Damian Couceiro. And they have a web store set up so you can go from reading to buying with a click.

It’s an interesting approach for the company, taking a print comic that didn’t work out for them and posting it for free on the web. It’s a model that worked well for Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius, which started out in print, then moved to the web and does well in trade collections. And it’s a good test case scenario for the company, as they’ve already got two Dracula trades in print that they can drive people to buy right away after sampling the free webcomic. Added to that, it’s a great series by some talented folks, so I’ll be interested to see how it does.


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