January 28, 2013

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Checking in on Fulton's Mini-Comics of the Month Club

One of the things that happened, starting in 2011 and moving into 2012, was the introduction of the anthology-by-installment-plan.  I don't mean that literally, but it's as good a description as any for the idea of creating small groupings of mini-comics creators, letting them do their own thing, and then offering them up to subscribers as a monthly production.

My first experience with this was the excellent Retrofit Comics, published by Box Brown.  While I am now doing Retrofit's books ala carte (my taste runs a bit less towards the abstract/raw than Box*, and so my enjoyment ratio dictated moving off a subscription), I keep my eyes open for any similar projects, such as Oily comics, which is apparently successful enough to replace Chuck Forsman having a minimum wage job.

Several months ago, I was lucky enough to be on Twitter when Andrew Fulton announced he was doing a mini-comic of the month club, bringing 12 Australian creators together.  I didn't even hesitate thinking about the conversion rate, because this was a chance to sample artists from the other side of the world.  I've talked before about how mini-comics tend to be a regional thing, so I was excited to get a chance to expand my horizons.  Best of all, the price was quite reasonable, working out to a little over $2 a comic, including the shipping.

$2 is easily within my "impulse purchase" range if I am at a convention, so I signed up and waited to see what would arrive.  It took a bit, but soon I was getting small paper packages in cute envelops that promoted the project (very nice marketing move, in case anyone along the line might be comics-oriented) and urged the postal worker to keep the comic themselves if the address was wrong.

I'm several issues in so far, and quite happy with what I've gotten.  I won't talk about every issue here, but what I can tell you is that personal themes are apparently universal among mini-comic creators, regardless of where they live.**

Most recently, I received two mailings that I think were possibly my favorites.  Coma Toes (apologies if it is supposed to be Comatoes) by Jase Harper is a silent comic about the last man on earth and the things that he does.  It's told in a lot of tight panels, packed into only a few pages, oddly making it feel a bit claustrophobic despite the open air of a world alone.  There's quite a bit of comedic scenes, but when we pan out to the empty world, it's a powerful (and well-detailed moment).  In the end, the man finds a friend and they bond over Spam.  With a strong use of black and white in a style that reminded me of Colleen Frakes, this one stands out and might make my 2013 mini-comics list.

The other mailing was a pair of minis that link in an innovative way.  Australian poet R. Ray reprinted a small collection of verse and Marc Pearson drew a mini-comic imagining how these poems may have come to be. They link together, improving each other, and my only complaint is my own fault--I started wanting to read them together and couldn't figure out how to hold two comics and still turn the pages!  The verse is full of vivid images and cleverly, Pearson doesn't try to capture them verbatim, instead opting for how Ray might have stumbled upon them.

I don't keep every mini-I read (despite their small size, they still take up room), but I do appreciate being able to finish reading a comic (any comic) and say, "yes, this was worth reading."  I've done that every time with Fulton's club so far.  If these had been random grabs at a con, I'd have walked away happy.

Hopefully, Fulton will keep coordinating a club like this one.  Keep an eye out for the next one, and check out the store to sample comics from some of the creators involved.  I love that I can now get mini-comics and support creators without having to go to every convention and can now extend my reading options across the globe.  Fans of mini-comics will be glad they can, too.

*This is not to say that Box has bad taste in creators.  Far from it.  While I am not a fan of comics that I can best describe as being raw, taking the ideas of Robert Crumb out to the edge of the comics-making universe, I can appreciate them.  If you like that style, Box's taste is amazing. It's just not for me.  His more traditional taste meshes almost perfectly with mine, as you can tell by the fact that three of my top ten minis in 2012 were all Retrofit, and two of the seven I chose in 2011 were also curated by Brown.)

**That might not be true on, say, Mars.  But so far, no Mini-Comic of the Martian Club exists, so I will just assume that little green men also angst about relationships or like to tell short stories about quirky characters, just like we do.

January 6, 2013

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Kaijuphabet

Written by Joey Weiser
Illustrated by Joey Weiser
Self-Published

It's twenty six letters of destructive power, as Joey Weiser presents an alphabet sketchbook of creatures from Kaiju movies!

This mini-comic is a result of the Alphabeasts project, co-created by another Panel Patter favorite creator, Ben Towle, who Weiser notes inspired this idea.

I've spoken to Joey on Twitter on multiple occasions about our mutual love for Japanese movie monsters, and his knowledge greatly outstrips mine, which is limited mostly to the Godzilla films and a few of its spin-offs.  Thus it's no surprise to me that he is able to find a way to complete every letter of the alphabet without cheating, even including Rodan (under Fire Rodan) so that he can use a more obscure character in the appropriate "R" entry.

Each entry features a different creature, with Godzilla and Gamera sharing a menacing page together, because really, how can you choose between them?  (Okay, I guess you could, but why do it if you don't have to?)

As you can see from the example above, Weiser does a nice job highlighting the things that makes these creatures to tough but also portraying them in his signature style that makes even the most menacing things look like they could be a stuffed animal.  Sure, they'd tear Tokyo down to the ground, but wouldn't you just want to post their picture on Tumblr, with the caption, "awww"?

I don't know how many copies of this book Joey has left (they aren't listed in his online store) but see if you can find one from him at a show.  It's a great themed sketchbook that both horror movie fans and those who like themed books will enjoy!

January 5, 2013

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5 Reading Projects for 2013

In the past, I've set reading goals for myself with various degrees of success.  I'd say I wanted to read "X" number of books or comics, and in the end, it always felt like I was punishing myself for not being as interested in one goal as I was for another.

This year, I'm taking a different tack.  Instead of talking about things I know I will do (read 2013 comics, read mini-comics, etc.) am I going to concentrate on some things I want to work. None of these projects are make or break.  I'm not going to try to hit a goal. Instead, I'm going to see, month to month, how I am doing at tackling each project.

This year's projects center around books I already own in physical copies.  In future years, I may open up some digital projects, but since they don't actually take up space in my life (other than on a hard drive that's 750gig big), I am less concerned about them.  Right now, I am looking squarely at things that take up shelf space or are stored in boxes, with a goal of finding out just what belongs and what I can live without.

Right now, I have roughly 4 bookcases devoted to comics and probably about 5 bookshelves worth of comics to put on them.  I do not want any more bookcases (in fact, ideally, I'd get the total down to three, if at all possible) and of course, over the course of a year, new comic collections come into the house.  Therefore, one of the big things I want to do is get the comic trades I picked up for a dollar or three here and there read, to see if I want to keep them or if they can be passed on down the line.

I also have things that I bought ages ago that I loved at the time.  Key phrase is "at the time."  My tastes have changed, so now certain things (Morrison X-Men, I'm looking at you) may no longer be required on my limited bookshelves.  I've done this in the past (I sold off my Crumb collections for this reason) and this seems like a good year to do it again.

So with that in mind, here are my four reading projects, in no particular order:

Finish it Up:  This is almost entirely a manga category.  I'm going to try to use the library to finish up reading certain series that I like, such as Nana or 20th Century Boys.  There may be a few Western comics here as well, and possibly a digital entry or two.

Keep or Kill:  I have two bookshelves and several boxes of books that I got on the cheap that, even after moving and purging quite a few of them, I'm still interested in reading.  I want to see how many of these I can get through each month.  In the past, the keep to kill ratio has been about one keeper for every four kills.  We'll see how it goes this year.  Remember that "killing" the book doesn't mean I didn't like it, necessarily.  I just means I don't feel the need to have it live with me forever.

New To Me:  This is for things I bought because I really wanted to read them but didn't get the chance.  Love and Rockets, this is your category.  Ditto for graphic novels from 2011 and 2012 that I bought but missed or the first volume of Manga series that I got to see if I wanted to read more.

Re-Read Project:  This is where I see what books I read and bought ages ago are worth hanging onto.  I'm not in quite as much of a hurry to move this set of books along, but it's still worth seeing what might be able to make room.  I think the biggest target here is manga, where I have really refined what I feel is worth keeping. A sidebar on this might be "replace it digitally on sale", especially if it's a superhero collection.  As a technical note, I am also including series such as Mars or the Conan Collections where I have read nearly all, but not quite all, of the books in the series.

Zine Machine:  I am so far behind on reading the zines we have gotten at the past two year's worth of shows.  I'd like to get myself as current as I can, so I'm putting it on my list.

So those are the five areas I'll try to work on in 2013. Now I realize by having FIVE of them, I'm probably already setting myself up to fall on my face, but I'm am omnivorous reader and wouldn't be satisfied by just concentrating on one thing.  Now I have a few things I can alternate between.

My goal is to update roughly monthly on these, if I have enough to say.  If I don't, then I won't.  Maybe these will inspire some folks to create their own reading projects. Feel free to share in the comments!
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Princeless #2 Cover Talks to the Industry About Exploitation

Anyone who's been keeping up with this blog in 2012 and into 2013 knows that I am a big fan of Jeremy Whitley's ongoing story, Princeless, about a young woman who refuses to let her father treat her like a second class citizen and takes matters into her own hands.  With the second issue of the second volume, that activist stance is moving not just from the story itself, but right onto the cover (see below).

Princeless Vol 2 #2's cover takes on the ones it shares shelf space with.

I wouldn't normally post about a cover, but I think it's interesting that Whitley and Emily Martin, the book's artist, have chosen to do this.  It's a bold statement that usually is reserved for blogs and not those within the industry itself, partly because those in the industry don't want to possibly endanger their ability to get paying work.  (I do not blame them for this, since they are freelancers and burning bridges ala Chris Roberson's comments last year is dangerous to someone whose only income may depend someday on the goodwill of a large company.)  While I never judge a comic by its cover, I have noted on Twitter more than once that certain companies do themselves more harm than good by having exploitative covers that, while selling copies to a certain part of the fanbase, definitely alienate potential readers.

Princeless and its publisher Action Lab, are starting to gain a bit of traction and reader attention of late, with the former gaining award nominations and the latter making it onto the major digital distributor Comixology.  I give a lot of credit to both Whitley and Action Lab for spending some of that notice on an issue that definitely turns off a huge batch of potential readers (even if it's a bit ironic that Action Lab is creating a mature reader line at the same time this cover is in Previews).  Pointing out the elephant in the room while using your book that counters that problem is a bold stroke.

At the same time, however, I'm not sure Princeless is the best place for this, at least not as a main cover.  I'm curious how parents who have been used to giving this book to their kids explain what this cover means.  It's not directed at kids, certainly, but their parents, who now might hesitate to buy the book so they don't have to explain why a mostly naked teenager was the "original" cover drawing.  I also wonder how this is going to play to the library crowd, where the slightest thing can remove an otherwise good book from the shelves.

I certainly applaud the idea of bringing up the "why are there so many skeezy comic book covers" discussion, but I have to admit, I don't think Princess is the place to do it.  This is a book I want to give to a 12 year old and say, "Look, here's a heroine just like you" the same way I would with Smile or several of the late Minx books.  This cover has shock value, but I think ultimately, the sensation was misplaced as a cover to what should be an all-ages book, not a book that's talking to the adults reading it to their children.

Princeless' issues are available in Trade and single copies at your comic book store, as well as digitally on Comixology.  The second issue of volume two is in the current issue of Previews.