Briefs & Boxers! 06/10/10

o “We’ve Already Received Word from Retailers That They Feel This Is the Best Way to Set This Test Up”

iima 197x300 Briefs & Boxers! 06/10/10The key dilemma North American mainstream comics publishers are facing right now: They can’t afford to alienate comics retailers, and they can’t afford to not alienate them for much longer, either.

There’s something at stake there, certainly. It’s not the existence of printed comic-book serials, though, but the business model that’s based on the notion of comics readers going to comics stores every Wednesday to get their latest haul of saddle-stitched comic books. Will serial 30-page comic books exist ten years from now? Absolutely. Will they be the major factor in North American comics sales they have been? Probably not.

In his conversation with Kiel Phegley, Marvel editor and executive Joe Quesada gives reason to presume that Marvel is aware of all of that, at least.

That the company is walking on eggshells right now and dutifully saddling itself with nonsense like the higher price for the digital same-day release of the forthcoming Invincible Iron Man Annual is hardly surprising. It’s still a necessity to play nice with retailers and pay lip service to the necessity of “driving new customers into their stores.” But ultimately, it’s clear that Marvel’s determined to move in a new direction. That direction doesn’t lead away from print, but it does lead away from a business model that’s based on 100,000 people walking into comics stores every week.

This means that comic-book stores still relying on this business model—and that’s probably many of them—need to start looking for other, new ways to justify their existence and reinvent their businesses, if they haven’t already.

o “The Middle of the Road Is Where the Boring People Dance”

This and many other quotable things were said by Howard Chaykin at his creator-talk panel at Comic-Salon Erlangen panel on Sunday—and in a one-on-one conversation with yours truly, which will go up at Comicgate as soon as I find the time to transcribe and translate it. In the meantime, here’s a flurry of blurry impressions from Germany’s major comics convention.

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Sir David Lloyd, signing and sketching at Panini Comics.

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Herr Christian Nauck, signing and sketching at Comicgate.

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This is how we discuss literary comics in Europe. The big cock is comics author, screenwriter, television host and show-stealer Rochus Hahn, flanked by artist Barbara Yelin (left) and writer Peer Meter.

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Cosplayer, meet Blaskapelle.

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Justice League Middle Franconia.

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Loved your SEAGUY, but ARKHAM ASYLUM was a little pretentious.

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Mr. Howard Chaykin (middle), talking to comics critics Klaus Schikowski (left) and Lutz Göllner, and checking how much cursing you can cram into an hour.

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Na'vi walks into a bathroom, paparazzo on his tail.

o “Except for Those with a Sense of Moral Clarity, It’s Harder to Generate Nostalgia and Sympathy for a Guy Involved with a Bunch of Comics from First and Eclipse You’ve Never Heard of Than Someone Tied Into the Wider Pop-Culture Crackle of a Favorite Superhero”

Tom Spurgeon names “Two More Conversations We Could Be Having”: the prospect of an increasing number of destitute freelancers over the next 20 years, and what digital distribution will mean for comics creators financially.

o “Green, Pink, and Blue”

Evidently, DC Comics editor Ian Sattler managed to pacify the critics objecting to some of the DC storylines of late that have affected the fictional lives of a range of minority characters by ending them. At HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C., Sattler outlined some thoughtful editorial policies that convinced people to put their concerns to rest, or at least give DC the benefit of the doubt.

Oh, who am I kidding. David Brothers and Sean T. Collins shoot him in his barrel.

o “English Is Always the Shortest”

As a translator, I enjoyed this roundtable on comics translations at The Comics Journal, which deals with all kinds of issues that you don’t need to think about unless you find yourself seated in front of a comic that needs to be translated from language into another.

And, yes, English probably is the shortest of the languages. So, as someone who translates it into German, which, at the very least, tends to be one of the longer ones in most cases, I’m always grateful when I’m working with comics that leave some blank space in their balloons and boxes, because that leaves me with more options. (I’m looking at you, British and American comics creators.)

In terms of a general philosophy, I love the Art Spiegelman quote brought up by Kim Thompson: “What I try to do, is I try not so much to translate as to write it the way I think he would have written it in English to begin with if he had been writing it in English.” That about sums it up; if a translation reads like something that was translated from another language, it’s probably a bad one.

Related: “Translations are like wives: the faithful ones are not beautiful, and the beautiful ones are not faithful.”

o “There Was One Idea I Had About Tony Eating a Used Booger-Filled Kleenex”

chew 195x300 Briefs & Boxers! 06/10/10Out this week: the paperback collection Chew, Vol. 2: International Flavor and the comic book Chew #11, which starts a new storyline. So I figure this is as good a time as any to recommend this mind-blowing, idiosyncratic, by turns hilarious and tragic little horror/comedy/mystery series by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, about a glum, short-tempered cop who gets psychic impressions from things that he eats, and his off-kilter supporting cast.

Since the very beginning, Layman and Guillory have shown to be impressively—and unusually, by mainstream-comics standards—in control of their craft and their narrative. I wouldn’t have expected one of my favorite comics moments of 2009 to be a double-page splash showing a guy eating a spoonful of soup, for instance, but there you go—it’s right there in Chew #1, and in the context of that story, it’s one of the most exciting and innovative things comics have done for me lately.

The link above has a nine-page preview of the new issue.

 Briefs & Boxers! 06/10/10
Marc-Oliver Frisch writes about comics at his weblog and at Comicgate. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Christian says:

    I like Chew but I don’t know if I’d call it “mind blowing”

    Also, a little bit of humility and honesty would have gone a long way for Sattler at Heroes-Con. He should have simply fessed up and said, “Listen, Ryan Choi was killed off because he was a Z-List Legacy Character. It had nothing to do with race” Simple as that.

    Because nobody gives a shit about “pink” blue or whatever other colors. Basically at the root of this argument is that there aren’t enough black guys and Asian guys running around in spandex to please a bunch of fat white kids from the suburbs. These kids are completely and utterly convinced that DC is run by some clandestine group of Klansmen, or worse yet, “subconsciously racist” (whatever that means). They rank slightly below birthers and truthers in the sense of bizarre vitriolic faux-outrage and would be higher on this list except that the former two are slightly entertaining.

  2. John Layman says:

    I disagree, Christian. Chew IS completely mind-blowing. Admit it!

  3. Christian says:

    Hahaha. Okay, Okay! Chew is absolutely mind-blowing. Better than most street drugs (and cheaper too).

  4. Kevin Hynes says:

    I think there should be a serious discussion about the lack of men in chicken costumes at American conventions.

  5. The 1$ issue thing was a good move. You can say it has gained you at least one reader over there, in France.
    We are gourmets, this title is made for us! Bon appétit!

  6. “Hahn” in German is “rooster”. He’s also a comics publisher from Weimar.

  7. “Oh, who am I kidding. David Brothers and Sean T. Collins shoot him in his barrel.”

    By posting that hoary old “black guy scolds Green Racist” panel from 40 years ago? Eh…it didn’t come across as quite the righteous PWN! you might have thought it was.

    If anything, the GL sequence kind of boomerangs back on all of the P.C. hand-wringing regarding the Ryan Choi death. Denny O’Neil’s “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” saga hasn’t aged well over the decades, and now comes across as little more than a stacked-deck of ham-fisted agitprop. The old-timer’s accusation that Hal Jordan was indifferent to the “black skins” was patently absurd, considering the character had saved Earth several dozen times over by that point in time…a planet that includes the “black skins” and every other skin color for that matter.

    So, how this clumsy indictment of Hal Jordan (a proxy pinata for “The Man”) is a stinging rebuke of DC’s handling of the Ryan Choi death is beyond me. Yeah….it was a clumsy way to transition back to the Ray Palmer Atom, but I’d pin that on DC’s usual behind-the-scenes buffoonery than anything more nefarious.

    Like the old timer unfairly playing the race card on Hal Jordan, there’s really no convincing case to be made for any kind of ingrained, reflexive racism on the part of DC Comics and the stewardship of its characters.

  8. “By posting that hoary old “black guy scolds Green Racist” panel from 40 years ago? Eh…it didn’t come across as quite the righteous PWN! you might have thought it was.”

    Actually, using a DC comic against him hits DEAD CENTER in the middle of Sattler’s weak retort…but of course, some folks are so knee deep into trying to defend corporate racism that one has to find any kind of strawman to discredit a valid criticism of lousy editors.

    “Like the old timer unfairly playing the race card on Hal Jordan, there’s really no convincing case to be made for any kind of ingrained, reflexive racism on the part of DC Comics and the stewardship of its characters.”

    You WISH; stop acting like a company plant. It’s beneath contempt.

  9. Christian says:

    KET must be trollin hard.

    “corporate racism”… wow. 0_o

    I think your tin-foil hat might be on a little too tight there buddy.

  10. Christian says:

    @ Mark.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Hal Jordan only saves black people out of necessity. If he could save the planet by only rescuing the whites he would.

    CORPORATE RACISM!!1111

  11. Sorry, Ket….not a plant. Just someone who has a different point of view. Shocking, I know.

    How does that sequence hit Sattler’s retort “dead center”? The old man made the unfounded charge that Hal Jordan doesn’t help black people (and by implication, care much about them)…and this obliterates Sattler’s reply…how? Where is the proof of DC’s “corporate racism”? That’s a pretty serious charge, and it get tired of people throwing it around so casually.

  12. Nate Horn says:

    ” The old-timer’s accusation that Hal Jordan was indifferent to the “black skins” was patently absurd, considering the character had saved Earth several dozen times over by that point in time…a planet that includes the “black skins” and every other skin color for that matter.”

    That argument is pretty flimsy. Except for Hitler, has anyone tried saving their homeland while killing off the racial groups they don’t like? And really, if your bar is, “Well, at least Hal Jordan and DC aren’t as bad as Hitler,” I think you’ve set that thing so low, ants can’t limbo under it.

    Yeah, I pulled the Hitler card, but that’s the only example I can think of….

  13. Tommy Raiko says:

    At the very least, using that Denny O’Neil Green Lantern sequence is too easy and obvious a retort.

    Rather, I woulda pulled out 1967’s Justice League of America #57, the United Nations “Man, Thy Name is Brother” story, where the JLA helps out a African American boy, a Native American boy, and social worker in India. I may be fuzzy on the details, but I recall that the story ends with one of the JLAers talking about what a model of diversity their superhero team is, since they even have members from other planets! Never mind that the roster at the time consisted of a bunch of white guys (Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Flash, Batman), two aliens who looked like white guys (Hawkman and Superman), and a white woman (Wonder Woman.)

  14. Yeah, I agree, Tommy. That JLA story would have been a much better way to tweak Sattler. I still don’t buy that the DC staff is consciously or sub-consciously racist…but the point would have been made much better using the JLA bit vs. the Denny O’Neil agitprop.

  15. I just play Lois Lane #106.

    Angry black man pacified by Lois Lane’s blood transfusion…

  16. Yeah I would call fail on both David and Sean’s pieces too, anyone trotting out the horribly written O’Neil bit with Hal from HTH clearly missed the mark.

    The double standard and sheer hypocrisy that comes from some fans also amazes me. I guess it’s ok to kill off great characters if their white but god forbid you kill off an unneccesary minority legacy hero then you’re a racist gtfoh.

  17. Joe Lawler says:

    The reason Sean and David’s retort is so perfect is because it was so incredibly set up by Sattler with the “green, blue and pink” line. It’s like he was asking for someone to post that panel.

  18. Joe S. Walker says:

    Funny how O’Neil’s GL/GA was considered a masterwork at the time and now, well it isn’t.

  19. The Beat says:

    This thread has become kind of repugnant. Beat posters, you need to look in the mirror. And crack the history books — or at least the ones that aren’t published in Texas.

  20. Uh….what the hell does that mean?

  21. Nate Horn says:

    @EJ

    ” I guess it’s ok to kill off great characters if their white but god forbid you kill off an unneccesary minority legacy hero then you’re a racist gtfoh.”

    Child, please. No one is saying that. Killing off any character to replace them with an editorially mandated change is stupid. But cleaning the decks of all the minority characters to bring back all the white guys just smacks of racial insensitivity.

  22. “But cleaning the decks of all the minority characters to bring back all the white guys just smacks of racial insensitivity.

    “All the minority characters” = The Atom and Firestorm.

    Two characters (who sold jack sh*t when they had their own titles). Hardly a tidal wave of racial insensitivity.

  23. Synsidar says:

    The odd thing about criticizing DC for offing minority characters is that I haven’t seen any comments about whether the stories in which they died actually worked as stories. The skill of the writer in a given story should take precedence over complaints about his or her death. If the characters in stories are being handled badly, then their races don’t matter much. A badly-written black hero is no more interesting to read about than a badly-written white one.

    Over at Robot 6, a commenter defended O’Neil’s story by pointing out that GL protected a white slumlord from angry black tenants, and thus displayed ingrained racism — but O’Neil was the one who made GL racist. Racial polemics don’t convince the people who need to be convinced that racism is wrong.

    The success of a story as a whole should always take precedence over the story’s message. Nobody likes being lectured to, especially on issues where the right and wrong stances are obvious. The absence of heroes whose missions consist of crusading for civil rights suggests that readers don’t want polemics.

    SRS

  24. Instead of defending comics editors who use the terms “green,” “pink” and “blue” without irony discussing issues of race, why is nobody commenting on the way I managed to bring Grant Morrison into the column this week? I feel underappreciated.

  25. Bob from Texas says:

    Frankly, I would rather live in Texas than that stinkhole you call New York.

  26. SvenJ says:

    “Frankly, I would rather live in Texas than that stinkhole you call New York.”

    of course you would. you were educated with Texas school books.

  27. I believe Heidi is referring to “Texas History Movies”. It was originally a comic strip published in the Dallas News/Journal from 1926 to 1928 which depicted the history of Texas.

    It was so popular that it was soon collected into a hardcover book (the first graphic novel?) and used in classrooms throughout the state of Texas well into the 1960s (copies donated by what is now Mobil Oil).

    However, the original text is now considered racist, and the Texas State Historical Association commissioned a new edition from Jack Jackson (!) in 2007. EAN: 9780876112236

    I believe the Comics Journal once ran a history and analysis of the book. Google Image has many good examples.

    (People may laud R. Crumb’s Genesis, but Jackson was doing that sort of thing thirty years ago. He published what might be the first underground comic, “God Nose” in 1964, and was a founder of Rip Off Press. HIGHLY (as in: Spiegelman, Pekar, Crumb) RECOMMENDED.)

  28. Kevin Hynes says:

    Well, this became nasty…about the GL/GA comment, I think the quote was directed at Hal saying he was more concerned with bigger issues such as policing outer space, as a Green Lantern, rather than caring for the little guy or street level crime. Which I saw as the point of the issue of Ollie taking Hal around the neighborhood and showing him social injustice that Hal hadn’t seen because “his head was literally in the clouds.”

    There was a great moment in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon with Batman saying to Ollie that these huge threats to earth tend to “step on the little guy.” Which was a nice nod to the Denny O’Neil run.

  29. Mark Engblom says:

    No, the old guy was specifically saying that Hal didn’t care about the “black skins”, not the larger and more inclusive “little guy” contingent….a charge Hal accepted like a whipped puppy (as all representatives of “The Man” are right and good to do in ham-fisted agitprop).

  30. Mark Engblom says:

    “There was a great moment in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon with Batman saying to Ollie that these huge threats to earth tend to “step on the little guy.””

    …which was exactly what Hal Jordan should have replied to the old guy. A Green Lantern, by his very mission, isn’t supposed to do social work. They’re too busy catching stray meteors or fending off alien armadas…which ultimately helps the downtrodden, the middle class, and the wealthy. In other words….everyone.

    Can’t get more inclusive than that.

  31. Kevin Hynes says:

    Loved the Morrison/Doc Manhattan joke btw. And I think it’s great that a comic from the 70’s is still sparking some sort of debate, even if it is pretty dated and seen as somewhat hammy by today’s standards.

  32. “…which was exactly what Hal Jordan should have replied to the old guy. A Green Lantern, by his very mission, isn’t supposed to do social work. They’re too busy catching stray meteors or fending off alien armadas…which ultimately helps the downtrodden, the middle class, and the wealthy. In other words….everyone.

    Can’t get more inclusive than that.”

    Nothing like another nod to failed trickle-down economics to justify a general dismissal; I think the Golden Age Superman would likely argue with the idea that a superhero’s work isn’t social work by nature.

  33. The difference between the GA Superman and Hal Jordan was that Hal’s turf covered Space Sector 2814, while the early “activist” Superman confined his mission to the Metropolis area. Kind of a geographic disparity there…and certainly something to keep in mind when upbraiding a Green Lantern for not spending time at the local community center or soup kitchen.

  34. Kevin Hynes says:

    So Mark, I guess you’d be on the side of the guardians then whom Hal went against to go on his road trip with Ollie.

  35. Kevin Hynes says:

    I apologize, my comments are getting a bit ridiculous. :(

  36. John K(UK) says:

    Looking forward to the Chaykin interview. Man’s a heckuva talent and a helluva raconteur. Lucky old you!

  37. “We get the same thing about how we treat our female characters.”

    At some point I hope he reviews his comments and kicks his own behind.

  38. Hey, look! Corporate racism strikes again!

  39. Interesting angle on the GL/GA story…
    Superheroes in the DCU tend to deal with the Big Picture while allowing humanity to deal with the everyday emergencies.

    I think “All-Star Justice…” I mean “Justice” dealt with the question, “Why aren’t the superheroes more proactive?”

    Or, if you want something a bit more disturbing, review the “cat in a tree” scene from the “Superman Doomsday” DVD.

    Otherwise, the other side of the coin is something like “Watchmen” or “Squadron Supreme”.

    The panel for GL/GA could be viewed as entitlement… “Why aren’t you solving my problems for me?” It’s also a bit patronizing… a black man depending on a white man to solve his problems.

    Now a better story would be John Stewart dealing with the real world. Maybe have him interact with a DC’d Luke Cage.

    Something in the middle: the two “Metropolis Mailbag” stories from Superman #64 and #76.

  40. eh, I think O’Neil’s story has a point.

    Assume Hal Jordon saves a planet from an alien invasion or whatever. Great, everybody on the planet lives. But say on that planet one race are brutal slave owners of another race. Imagine the worst of the worst. Those on the receiving end of all that might not think too highly of “Mr. Hero” saving the planet and flying away, turning a blind eye to a horrible ongoing injustice. Heck the alien invasion may not be a totally bad thing for them, if the invaders just attack the people in power and take over – then run things with a lot less brutality, it might be a big improvement for them. Depending on the aliens, it could even be the reason for doing the invasion in the first place.

    Transpose that situation to Earth, okay things aren’t THAT bad, but there still a lot of shitty things going on. If their situation isn’t improving any (or only improved due to hard fought battles they’ve won, with no help from any green ring wearing heroes) they might not be so hot on Green Lantern, especially when they see him helping out a guy causing them problems.

    Why aren’t you helping us? becomes a legitimate question.

  41. Synsidar says:

    Why aren’t you helping us? becomes a legitimate question.

    It’s a legitimate question when the heroes are congruent with their environment, and that’s never been the case with the mainstream DC and Marvel heroes. Social issues only work in stories when they’re combined with menaces. Supposing that the hero should combat social problems conflicts with the reason he exists, and he, and ten or twenty of his friends couldn’t address problems such as poverty anyway. What are they going to do? Restructure all of American society? Unless they set themselves up as the world’s dictators, problems in real-world Africa would be as much beyond their reach as they’re impossible for the U.S. to solve alone.

    Having superheroes battle something other than fantastic problems and menaces results in story logic problems.

    SRS

  42. otistfirefly says:

    >>>“But cleaning the decks of all the minority characters to bring back all the white guys just smacks of racial insensitivity.

    “All the minority characters” = The Atom and Firestorm.

    Two characters (who sold jack sh*t when they had their own titles). Hardly a tidal wave of racial insensitivity.>>’

    Now now Mark. Don’t try to bring any practicality and sense to the debate by pointing out that those characters didn’t sell. Racist!! Soon you’ll have “KET” all over you like white on rice.

    … sorry. I didn’t mean to use that evil word. I meant, like, er… soy sauce on rice.

    … damn!!! Racially insensitive!! Flog me! Just kill Hal and Bruce and Clark and Ollie (again, of course) and be done with the evil old white boring men.

    Right, “KET”?

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