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Quote of the day | Retailer Peter Birkemoe on selling comics rather than culture

Throwing our lot in with “graphic novels” as the focus of the store years ago as opposed to “pop culture,” “superheroes” and associated merchandise seems to have been a winning strategy for this past decade. I don’t know if it was motivated by market insight so much as the fact I am passionate about comics as a medium but have limited personal interest in contemporary pop culture or toys, etc. With an e-book future ahead, I’m not sure if this will continue to pay off.

Peter Birkemoe, owner of Toronto’s much-beloved comics shop The Beguiling (which is also a thriving original art dealership and co-sponsor of the Toronto Comic Art Festival), on the pros and cons of his store’s approach to the comics medium. I like the way Birkemoe frames his store’s business model as a matter of personal preference rather than a declaration that it’s the One True Path; I like the concise way he describes it, because when the decision was made it wasn’t so much brilliantly simple as riskily simple; and I’m a bit dismayed by his concerns about the digital future, which I’d never really considered as an obstacle for excellent stores like The Beguiling in quite that way before.

The quote comes from Tom Spurgeon’s holiday interview with Birkemoe, which is well worth your time in its entirety, even if only for the image of store manager and longtime blogosphere fixture Christopher Butcher being sent out into the world on various missions like the funnybook James Bond to Birkemoe’s M.

Magic: The Comic to debut this fall from IDW

It’s been a big week for the trading-card game Magic: The Gathering. Let’s recap:

On Monday, Gizmodo intern Alyssa Bereznak briefly took the crown as most despised person on Twitter when she revealed that she was matched up with Jon Finkel on a computer date and rejected him once she learned that he was a former M:TG world champion. This got Bereznak a ton of hate Tweets and Finkel a lot of sympathy on geek and mainstream blogs.

On Wednesday, Dark Horse released The Last Dragon, a truly gorgeous fairy tale-style fantasy illustrated by M:TG artist Rebecca Guay.

And Thursday, IDW Publishing announced it’s teaming up with Hasbro to launch a Magic: The Gathering comic book. It’s not the first M:TG comic (here’s a list), but it is the first in more than 10 years. The series launches with a four-issue miniseries about “a unique, new Planeswalker, a powerful mage with the ability to travel between worlds in the Magic Multiverse,” which of course allows for lots of flexibility when it comes to stories. Game designer Matt Forbeck is writing the comic, and Martín Cóccolo will handle the art. The comic will be available digitally as well as in print, and it will be collected into graphic novels. And naturally —y ou know they had to do this — it comes with “exclusive, playable, alternate-art cards for the MAGIC: THE GATHERING TCG,” in “select issues” of the comic.

Just … if you read it, be sure to mention that in your computer dating profile, or you might be accused of being a stealth geek. On the other hand, that apparently isn’t all bad.

Quote of the day | Grant Morrison vs. nerd culture

The geek shall inherit the earth: Mark Millar and Grant Morrison in happier times

The geek shall inherit the earth: Mark Millar and Grant Morrison in happier times

[Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’s] Wanted articulated a new myth for the hordes of suddenly cool under-achievers who’d been lionized by the rise of “nerd culture.” Big business, media and fashion were, it seemed, so starved of inspiration, they’d reached down to the very bottom of the social barrel in an attempt to commodify even the most stubborn nonparticipants, the suicide Goths and fiercely antiestablishment nerds. The geeks were in the spotlight now, proudly accepting a derogatory label that directly compared them to degraded freak-show acts. Bullied young men with asthma and shy, bitter virgins with adult-onset diabetes could now gang up like the playground toughs they secretly wanted to be and anonymously abuse and threaten professional writers and actors with family commitments and bills to pay.

Soon film studios were afraid to move without the approval of the raging Internet masses. They represented only the most miniscule fraction of a percentage of the popular audience that gave a shit, but they were very remarkably, superhumanly angry, like the great head of Oz, and so very persistent that they could easily appear in the imagination as an all-conquering army of mean-spirited, judgmental fogies.

In the shadow of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s immensely influential book on social networks and marketing, nobody wanted to risk bad word of mouth, little realizing that they were reacting, in many cases, to the opinions of a few troublemakers who knew nothing but contempt for the universe and all its contents and could hardly be relied upon to put a positive spin on anything that wasn’t the misery and misfortune of others. Too many businesspeople who should have known better began to take seriously the ravings of misinformed, often barely literate malcontents who took revenge on the cruel world by dismissing everything that came their way with the same jaded, geriatric “Meh.”

Action Comics and Batman Inc. writer Grant Morrison on the nastiness of “nerd culture” in Supergods, his new prose non-fiction book about superheroes. Morrison uses the protagonist of his former friend and protégé Mark Millar’s Wanted, a downtrodden office drone who launches a rape-murder spree when he discovers he’s part of a secret supervillain society, as a symbol of how nerds, a group of people bullied and marginalized by society, have frequently used the newfound power conferred upon them as pop-culture trailblazers to bully and marginalize others. Or as another writer of science fiction once put it, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (He likes Wanted, fwiw.)

It’s a bit surprising to see Morrison resorting to the fat-virgin stereotype, but in the context of the book it becomes clear that he was burned pretty badly by over-the-top fanboy rampages, up to and including threats against him, following such works as New X-Men and Final Crisis — hence the obvious and perhaps forgivable rancor in response. Food for thought during the San Diego Comic-Con, nerd culture’s annual Woodstock?

(via Matthew Perpetua)

Quote of the day #2 | “Comics are the literature of outcasts”

“Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.”

The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates on the influence of superhero comics on hip-hop culture and marginalized people in general. “I tell you [Jim Shooter’s writing in Secret Wars] was Faulkner to me,” he says. “I’m 35 years old, and I’m still walking around saying to myself, ‘The Beyonder himself is close at hand…'”

Quote of the day | Are Tea Partiers the nerds of politics?

“I was reading this Slate article about why Tea Party people are always capitalizing regular nouns — it’s because it’s more in the style of the constitution, which played fast and loose with capitalization — and I realized that Tea Partiers are huge fucking nerds. Randomly capitalizing words to mimic your favorite sacred text is ridiculously dorky. It’s not that far removed from speaking Klingon.

Also, they cosplay and fervently love the same books and mythic figures; they speak in coded language; they get furious about trivial matters most people don’t care about; and they HATE it when anyone interprets their favorite origin stories (the constitution/American history) differently than they do. Tea Party rallies are basically comic book conventions only with poorer social skills.

You could actually take this comparison much further. Probably someone has.”

A tumblogger named Dudestache on the Tea Party’s secret identity as the LARPers of the political sphere. Everyone’s always talking about the rise of nerd culture; I guess that explains the phrase “Senator-elect Rand Paul” as well as anything could.

(via Mike Barthel)

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