The predominant focus here was the changing creative teams on DC and Marvel comics, as well as cancellations and price changes. While other stuff noses in, some of it very important, there's a consistent reversion to the production of that sort of information. The only really tangible sentence that jumps out enough to be "interesting" is the off-hand mention that DC had decided not to publish a series called “Blitzkrieg”, which would have been “a war comic that was going to present the Nazi side of World War II”. Pieces of the comic were assembled into an issue of Sgt. Rock Spectacular. I can't imagine what that would have read like.
After getting that out of the way, there's a long article about an increase in price and page count for DC Comics. The most interesting thing about the article is Mike Gold's (DC's PR guy) argument that the industry should have raised prices back in the 1950's, as that would have made retailers more willing to support a product that was “under fire at the time”. He's got a point: why defend something from bitchy parents that doesn't make you that much money? Still, with all the cancellations and deck rearrangements to come in what was then DC's near future, it's sort of pointless to spend a lot of time reading about a plan that so obviously didn't work. Still, it's a nice break from the rest of Newswatch, which constantly ends paragraphs about who will be inking an issue of Steel with a constant stream of wistful-seeming ellipsis...
The Alternative Comics section is always worth reading, even if it's just to be reminded that Heavy Metal used to be a really fucking great magazine. The stuff that was previewed in their late 70's issues was awesome: Steranko, Chaykin, whatever. John Workman was the art director? Unreal. There's also a mention of the launch of Gasm which is where you went to find nudie pictures, violence, and Ben Katchor. Go figure.
Blood & Thunder
As is expected, someone has written in to complain about the treatment they received in a previous issue: and they're right to do so. Without going too deep into it, there was a pretty terrible article about a Chicago convention in issue 37, and the guy in charge of that convention wrote in to point that out. The editors respond to that by admitting that they cut the guys report to “less than half its original length”, which pretty much answers the guy's main problems with the article, which was that it didn't really make a whole lot of sense. Which it didn't, so who cares. The author of the article goes on to explain his views, but there doesn't really seem to be any point. Boring! After that, there's one of those letters that would eventually form a whole cottage industry of blog posts, where some grown man tries to hide the fact that he's bitching about not enjoying super-hero comics and toys anymore by writing all whimsically about the whole experience. It's the 1977 written equivalent of wearing a fucking propeller hat and a stained t-shirt that says “i'm a big kid at heart”, and how you respond to that sort of thing probably dictates quite a bit about what your father feels whenever he looks deep into your eyes.
-Gene Phillips, who still spits hot fire, goes into great detail on the first issues of Steel and Firestorm, both of which are written by Gerry Conway. He likes one, the other he considers a turkey. After that, it's time for Marilyn Jo Bethke, who is far and away the best non Groth/Thompson writer these early Journals had. She reviews a Power Girl comic positively (which seems to be a rare occurrence) while admitting that its goodness is primarily because it's not as horrible as all the other female super-hero comics that were being released at the time. "she's still called Power Girl, isn't she?" I love this one. She's a fucking hammer.
-After the super-hero comics reviews, there's a two page review of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written by Denny O'Neil. He tears into it pretty hard, which is fine, who fucking cares. One wonders whether it was necessary to include a mention of how long he's personally believed in aliens (30 years). He seems to think that's a slam on the movie, but it just comes across as an odd bit of oversharing.
-The longest non-interview piece here is Dwight Decker's article on Asterix. It's a good piece, and it would be interesting to know how much of the Journal's audience at the time consisted of people who could give a fuck about Asterix. Decker's a little corny at times, but that's not too unusual for someone coming directly at a subject from a fan-centric perspective.
Interview with Gil Kane
-Groth conducted this one: it's a good one. Kane goes after the contemporary hero comics of the time, explaining that the only thing they were doing right was the art. (During this time period, the Journal's favorite writers are clearly Steve Gerber and Don Macgregor, but Kane is either uninterested in their work or dismissive of it.) There's almost no fat here—even when the conversation veers towards Kane's ideas about film and what it could teach comics, very little of what he says seems ill-considered.
This isn't one of the Kane interviews that is made out to be a big deal, all of those are discussed in detail over at the Hooded Utilitarian by the estimable Ng Suat Tong. However, this interview is better than those interviews, because this interview mostly focuses on Kane talking some serious shit about Marvel and DC comics. Check this out though:
"I think one of our problmes now is that we have guys who love comics. But they read nothing but comics. They're people with limited education and limited views, so they keep feeding back into comics what they're reading in comics. What comics need is an educated mind, a cultivated mind -- it needs somebody with other ideas to come in, and it needs to step away a little, I think, from the trite, the cliche material that we've been dealing with all these years."
"It seems to me that the thing that's wrong with DC, again, is that they don't have a creative catalyst, they don't have a stable standard that they can measure themselves and their editiorial requirements by, and as far as I'm concerned, I don't see anything they do in terms of packaging is going to essentially change the law that isf you don't have content in a magazine, appealing content, singular content, then that magazine cannot continue selling. With all their resources, they're in a position where they're still playing second and third fiddle in this business. No one has the kind of resources that DC has, not in distribution, not in money, not in the ability to promote, nothing! And yet here they are, they're second rate. They're second rate with first rate production. They're publishing comics by committee."
"Comics are so restricted. The reason they never evolved new magazines in comics is that the people in comics aren't developers of anything. They are riders of something. If something accidently takes on a shape of its own and starts plunging ahead to success, they know enough to hold onto it and to ride it as long as they possibly can. But they can never supplement it, they can never add to it, they can never expand it, they can never come in with anything that would suggest creative thinking on their part. That's because creative thinking is not their department. Their department is profit showing, and the easiest wa to show a profit is to take something that is successful and to duplicate it endlessly."
-This is the section where critics criticize other critics, which is something most people seem to enjoy far more than I do. That being said, if there was a kind of that writing that I liked, it would be this: a random guy named Paul Dushkind going in six-inches deep on Crimmer's: The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction. For whatever reason, seeing an outsider take on institutions is a good time in a way that watching blogger A go apeshit on blogger B never fucking is. However, not having the copies of Crimmer's that Dushkind is smacktalking makes it hard to take his side. And when he says "the single most pompous adult comics fanzine I've ever seen"....well, you know. That's good. That's foreshadowing.
Science Fiction Anthology
-The title doesn't make a huge amount of sense, as what follows is a sci-fi writer's life story in short paragraph form. It's coherently written, but it's just kind of there. (It's also called "Growing Up Weird", if that helps you.) One of the nice things about the internet is that everybody can do this kind of writing for public consumption now, and therefore no one has to read it ever again.
-Bill Sherman—hey!--on “The First Kingdom”, which has a pretty fascinating creation story, even if the comic itself (fantasy stuff that leads to sci-fi stuff, includes knights, spaceship type locations) doesn't seem that special. Sherman writes one of those “i didn't like this at first...but now I really do” kind of articles, which is great, because I like those kinds of articles quite a bit. Derik Badman wrote about First Kingdom over at Madinkbeard: it's a good one.
-Kim Thompson gets to review the Spider-Man television special and one of the Hulk television movies. He likes the Hulk one more than the Spider-man one, but then, he doesn't like the Spider-man one at all. (It sounds really fucking weird.) He's also really ticked off about Stan Lee re-writing the comic strip Spider-man's origin to better match the television show. Fists are shaken! After that Gary Groth reviews Allegro Non Troppo (positively) and Steve Clement reviews the Hobbit (also positively), which is nice for them and boring for me. Even worse, the the magazine closes out with a review of an illustrated Outer Limits fanzine by a particularly dedicated fan. Not cool!
(To be accurate, there's a couple pages of Howard the Duck strips, but—yeah, that's it. They get rid of those pretty soon too, if I remember these issues correctly.)
-Tucker Stone, 2011