-Over at comiXology, you'll find a conversation with Mark Waid that focuses in on his current run on Daredevil. Both he and I are extremely enthusiastic fans of Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera and shit-talking certain kinds of comics in general, but I was still surprised at how much I enjoyed talking to him. Most of the time, talking to super-hero creators (especially writers) is one of the more soul-draining things one can do with one's time. The few exceptions I've personally experienced--Azzarello, Chiang, Cooke--seem to have turned out the way they did mostly because of the atmosphere surrounding them, which was consistently a general "who gives a fuck". But the rest of the time, it's a pain in the ass.
First up, there's a whole network of people surrounding comic book creators with no real purpose beyond the need to justify their own employment, and their presence builds an irritating sense of faux celebrity around the whole enterprise. It's like everybody in the room has decided to mimic the junket scenes from Notting Hill, except that the part of Julia Roberts is getting played by a laundry list of interchangeable tired freelance dudes, half of whom hate what they're doing but need the work enough that they'll pretend otherwise, and the rest of them probably think they are Julia Roberts. And fuck it, why shouldn't they think that? What are they there for anyway? These comics conversations exist to promote low selling comics enough so that a tiny network of direct market stores will up their pre-order numbers beyond whatever amount it is that makes the next guy in the corporate food chain get an erection. There's exceptions, sure--sometimes the product being promoted is the creator himself, the way Marvel (successfully) positioned Matt Fraction as the popular equal of Bendis and Brubaker even though his initial work at Marvel didn't indicate a basis for that belief. That's a trick that worked so well that DC is currently using it to make people think that Scott Snyder is as important to them as Geoff Johns is, when in reality Snyder is a young guy nobody had heard of as recently as two conventions ago. Other than that? Interviews exist as advertisements for websites when they aren't just advertisements for comic books, and there's no reason on Earth to pretend otherwise.
(Cynically, I'd imagine that creating an environment where comic book creators get treated in the same precious fashion as actors on big budget movie promotional tours is because it's a cheap way to make the creators feel like they matter to the company more than their salary would indicate. If so, it certainly works! Look at the way contemporary comic book writers react when they get publically fired--their first response is to blame the vagaries of the industry; like the stupid, stupid retailer and the digital piracy scum, even better, themselves--any and everybody but the company that saddled them with those fill-in pencils, six inkers and that bargain basement colorist, all while expecting their next six-issue pitch to be totally awesome AND finished the weekend after it was requested. Hell, one time I sat around listening to a bunch of genuinely intelligent comic book creators ranting about how "bad marketing" was completely to blame for the collapsing sales of a book the publisher had failed to print enough physical copies of. Being a Company Man isn't a choice, it's a necessary value if one wants to work longer than a month without having an aneurysm.)
-Meanwhile, Ivan Brandon seems to have decided to throw in his two cents on the old chestnut of Why You Should Shaddup 'Bout Sales Figures. Brandon's general thesis isn't a repetition of Bryan Wood's old "they aren't accurate", although he does throw that in. Instead, Ivan puts the onus on the reader: why do they need this information in the first place? And as an intellectual exercise, he's not wrong. There isn't a real answer that can't ultimately be boiled down to one of desire, and desire probably isn't a good enough reason if, as Brandon believes, the publication and "analysis" of bad sales data results in the loss of buyers and eventual cancellation of on-the-bubble titles. (Of course, that's not true, never has been, anywhere, no sale: there has never been a person in history who walked into a comic store and said "I'll no longer be purchasing this comic, as I've recently discovered that there has been a downward trend in the amount of pre-orders an aggregate of comic stores placed for this title ninety days ago", and no comic store has ever ignored their own sales figures and slashed the numbers three months down the line because of blog posts on the Beat, iFanboy, and whatever that other website is that talks about this boring fucking shit. But sure, if you want to buy Ivan's argument--I mean, Ivan doesn't buy his argument, Ivan's a smart guy who knows better than he's letting on in the post, but we all have to fake it sometimes, especially when we're essentially corporate property--then go ahead and say "yes" to the idea that the internet analysis of a suspect set of three month old pre-order numbers determines the public's relationship with what they will or will not purchase.
And since the door has been opened to talk about genitals and the like by Brandon and Spurgeon, let it be noted that the spectacle of a DC Comics freelancer scolding the iFanboy website and any of its writers is essentially like you telling the prostitute you keep in your kitchen that you don't appreciate the amount of water it's been using for its daily shower, and as such will now have to wash itself from the honey bucket it uses for waste material. Like, really Ivan? The guys who, for ten years, have done a better job at promoting the weekly grind of Big Two comics than absolutely every single employee Marvel and DC can point at? Those are the guys who need to be bullied around with lessons on how best to keep the industry afloat? I'd hate to have you as a Secret Santa recipient.
-In the finally-got-around to it department, I sat down and listened to the Punisher War Zone episode of How Did This Get Made. Beyond the non-stop trivia delivery (as a big fan of Summer Catch, I would've loved to see Freddie Prinze get his due), the episode is a classic glass of cold reality water thrown into the face of awstruck Hollywood dreamers. The hiring process for Marvel movies is completely insane.
-These are some of the stand-up comics I've been lucky enough to see in the last few weeks, in descending order of awesomeness. Louis CK, Amy Shumer, Aziz Ansari, Todd Barry, Joe DeRosa, some deadpan anti-joke guy whose name I didn't understand, Owen Smith, and Ian Edwards. All of them were great--there's no real ranking--but Ian Edwards is the guy who surprised me the most, as I'd never seen anybody do what he did live before. Essentially, Edwards told a rape joke, and when he saw the audience getting offended, he decided to stretch the thing out even further, to the point where what started out as standard hard-edged black comedy become an exercise in long-form megalomania. It just kept going, getting worse and worse and worse until he literally broke through their defenses and got the place laughing again. Changing gears, apologizing--I doubt it ever crossed his mind. He just stood ramrod straight and spit fire. It felt like religion made real.
-This is a great article about the bizarre town I used to live in, which is no joke absolutely nothing like whatever place you're thinking of right now to out-bizarre-town me. Helen, GA. It's not a game-changer, it's a game-ender.
-If you have the stomach to do an asshole a favor, it would be really fantastic to get some more signatures on this petition. (In this train of thought, I'm the asshole, not the petitioner in question. That was probably obvious after you clicked the link.)
-Over at the Comics Journal, Matthias Wivel wrote an insanely good two part series of articles on L'Association, the insanely important French publisher that has seen a non-stop string of controversies over the last few years. It's pretty insulting to try and compress Wivel's work into a tiny sentence or blurb, although you wouldn't know that from the way so much of the piece was responded to. And yet, it's wishful thinking to believe that the subject Wivel is writing about interests the sort of people who travel most of the English language comics internet. L'Association isn't a presence here, no matter how good a job Pantheon does of getting some of their key books out to people. (Pantheon, by the way--is there any publisher as wonderful as they are at making important comics available to the modern audience? Fantagraphics is the only one I can think of who even comes close, and even they struggle to keep things available on a long term basis.)
Wivel's piece is a great example of what everybody hoped the comics internet was going to have, but still doesn't. Almost every website imaginable is dependent primarily on hacky promotional horseshit for crap comics, masturbation festivals for no talent self-esteem deficient creators, and, at the absolute bottom, the bullshit philosophizing of milquetoast douchebags who seem to be under the impression that doing free advertisements for corporate pamphlets is somehow a moral victory over the forces of "negativity", a term which has expanded so extensively as to include the first bully that pushed them into toilets, the second girl that made fun of their Star Trek club, and every single race or sex-driven assault the human race has become known for. You read websites like MTV Geek, Multiversity or Newsarama, and you'll find yourself getting an inside tour of some of the dumbest fucking morons on the planet, people who seem to think that God is marking up every positive remark they make about the latest Jim McCann comic or those sub-mental Image mini-series about Vampire Geeks Who Might Date on some big tallysheet in the sky, and the jackass who promotes the most horseshit gets their balls licked by....I don't know, some fucking Doctor Who character. It's a wonder what all these halfwits were doing before the Internet came along. Did they go and hang out in the children's section of the library and offer their "constructive criticism" for the 1994 crop of Clifford releases to all who passed by? Godddamnit, how did all of the world's harried mothers know which god awful All Ages super-hero comic they should purchase for their obese caterpillar children without those 1000 word missives from the childless and spunk-covered?
That little rant needs some work, but you get the point. Wivel's article hearkens back to a time when people who were smarter than all of us got paid a little bit of money to write well about a subject that deserved reporting. I'd like to pretend there was more of it out there, but there isn't, and all evidence indicates that there is no good reason to hope that any is coming. However, if you'd like to know whether or not some blogger's friend is doing a back-up story with shitty art by somebody else's friend in an anthology comic, and whether or not that thing has been optioned to appear on television, thus necessitating a half-ass Hollywood party featuring catering by the local fat fuck foodie truck, there is a ton of that available, and every single syllable of it is sure to be referenced to with whatever throwback synonym for "awesome" is currently in fashion.
-Tucker Stone, 2011