Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wilson; new Daniel Clowes!

Daniel Clowes has been one of the most celebrated alternative comic book cartoonists since he first debuted his Eightball comic magazine in the early 1980's, in which he serialized several of his acclaimed graphic novels, such as Ghost World and Caricature. Clowes has never been the most prolific of cartoonists, but until the arrival of Wilson this week, it has been years since we've gotten a substantial narrative from him, so of course when I heard that Drawn & Quarterly would be publishing Wilson, I've been eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Wilson is a fictional slice-of-life narrative about Wilson, a fifty + year old man, who has led an unremarkable life full of regrets, told in one page installments with a kind of gag at the end of every page, which combined tell a bigger story. Wilson, as a character and graphic novel, is full of misanthropic, angry, and very sad insights into the human condition. An over-sized hardcover, full color graphic novel, Wilson, as published by Drawn & Quarterly, is a beautiful housing for this new Daniel Clowes production.
While the reading experience of Wilson can be a very depressing experience, it's also a darkly humorous one, that evokes the work of other alternative cartoonists such as Ivan Brunetti (Schizo) and Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library). It could be said that Daniel Clowes has taken the alternative cartooning baton from Robert Crumb, just as Clowes has passed on his baton to Ware and Brunetti, but although Clowes and Crumb have fewer new comic book creations coming out, Daniel Clowes (and Robert Crumb) is still a premier voice in the type of alternative cartooning that he does.

Wilson is a graphic novel that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it and this is true of Daniel Clowes' other creations as well, so while I'd like to be able to read more Clowes more often, I also sense that if he did so that the ratio of quality and quantity wouldn't lean as much towards the former (quality) that Daniel Clowes puts out when he does have a new release.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Comic Book Day this Saturday!!

Everyone knows that the first Saturday of May every year for these past nine years is Free Comic Book Day, right!? Well this Saturday, May 1st is everyone's favorite Saturday of the year as it's time for the annual introducing of the wonders of comic books to new fans as well as those of you who already know how fantastic comic books are! Free Comic Book Day is a national comic industry event created by Joe Field, of Flying Color Comics in Concord, California, to celebrate the fact that with the diversity of comics being produced, everyone who likes to read will find a comic practically made just for them!

Free Comic Book Day at Alternate Reality Comics, here in Las Vegas, runs from 11am-5pm, this Saturday, May 1st. No purchase is required to get a good sampling of the free comic selections being offered by the various comic publishers that participate, but for those of you who already have the comic book jones, bring a friend / loved one, and share with them (for free!) the going-to-the-comic store experience, that way you can exchange books amongst each other to read the ones you didn't get. Every person coming by Alternate Reality Comics this Saturday will get to chose four free comics from this years new selections and four free comics from backstock / or remaining free comic selections from previous years - for a total of eight free comics!! I'll also have a huge, crazy outdoor back issue sale, and although a person could just come by and get the free comics, this back issue sale may be too tough to overlook (and at prices that are so low that you'll think they were free - grin)!

It's highly possible that you'll discover some new favorite comics and or comic book creators that you were previously unfamiliar with. Free Comic Book Day is always a fun time, so I hope to see EVERYONE at Alternate Reality Comics this Saturday, May 1st from 11am-5pm!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bechdel & Pekar in Vegas!

Saturday night here in fabulous Las Vegas, discriminating comic book readers / connoisseurs of autobiographical graphic novels, were treated to a rare appearance by Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar at the Clark County Library. The turnout seemed totally solid (which is encouraging to me), with the audience being very diverse in every respect. I'd seen Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar at conventions in the past and attended presentations they've given, so I already knew that this was an event not to be missed. For anyone that was there that wasn't already familiar with the comic book works of Bechdel and Pekar, I know that afterwards they'd be looking for books they'd written and drawn.

Amongst several people I know as friends and customers of my store (same difference) that were there, I was especially happy to see in attendance a woman I used to see from time to time at Page After Page (THE premier Las Vegas comic book store during the 1980's and first half of the 1990's), Gerri Blake, who is a HUGE fan of Alison Bechdel. Gerri had told me before how she wrote a fan letter to Alison Bechdel back in 1989 and she showed me a copy of Alison's reply (with an accompanying illustration) that she was going to remind Alison about. I'd like to have seen Alison Bechdel's reaction upon seeing that part of yesteryear, but I was getting a book signed by Harvey Pekar when Gerri was talking to Alison. Gerri, has for years (probably at least 20 years!) been a disc jockey (now she'd probably be referred to as a digital jockey) on KUNV, the UNLV radio station, where from 11am-1pm every Sunday she hosts an excellent program called Woman's Voices.
The illustration here is by Alison Bechdel that she produced for her and Harvey Pekar's tour.

Alison started off the first part of the evening by reading from Fun Home A Family Tragicomic, her best-selling, highly-acclaimed autobio graphic novel from 2006 about her father, who was a closeted homosexual, her own emerging sexuality, and growing up in a family that owned a funeral home. She also had pages from Fun Home projected on a screen while she read from a portion of the book and showed her creative process. Anyone looking at Alison Bechdel's comic book work would think she's a natural cartoonist, but as she demonstrates in her presentation, writing and drawing a graphic novel is a very time consuming process for her. Alison Bechdel told the audience that it took her seven years to do Fun Home, but she didn't mention that she was also doing her comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, which appeared in alternative newspapers, at the same time. She's in the midst of her new graphic novel, about her mother, and hopefully since she's put Dykes To Watch Out For on hiatus, we'll see that book in the next couple of years (no pressure Alison, seriously I know I speak for other fans of your work in saying we'd rather have the high quality of work you produce in lieu of quantity, but we do need our fix - grin!). Speaking of Bechdel's Dykes To Watch Out For, she also talked about that strip (and showed several pages) and how she's somewhat relieved that while she's not doing that strip, she doesn't have to pay as much attention to current politics (which always were a big part of her strip) - and there's a nice big best of collection of Dykes To Watch Out For as well.

Harvey Pekar followed by talking about the genesis of his American Splendor, a comic he'd been doing about his life since the early 1970's, befriending Robert Crumb, and his role in the development of comic books having a realist presence that other art forms have, that wasn't really very well represented in this medium. While Harvey Pekar's American Splendor was always highly acclaimed, it was many years before he got a larger audience and any real monetary returns from his comic. As Harvey Pekar explained, even being a semi regular guest on the David Letterman show didn't translate into sales, and it wasn't until the critical acclaim and response to the American Splendor movie that publishers and readers started buying his American Splendor comic books and graphic novels in numbers beyond the vanity press type sales he was used to seeing. Anyone who's read any of Pekar's American Splendor stories or has seen the American Splendor movie, know what a character and down to earth person he is, but I don't think a lot of people really appreciate how intelligent and socially minded Harvey Pekar is. In addition to Harvey Pekar's stories in American Splendor which are "just" slice-of-life, everyman, day-to-day vignettes, Pekar's also written graphic novel stories about a Vietnam War veteran in Unsung Hero and Macedonia, a graphic novel with Heather Roberson, a peace advocate, about her experiences examining how Macedonia was able to avoid war when neighboring countries did almost everything possible to involve them in their conflicts.

One of Harvey Pekar's next graphic novels will deal with his view that Israel is, as a country, just acting in a manner / mindset that is contrary to most of the people that live in that region. Harvey Pekar realizes that this book isn't going to make him popular in some circles, but I'm looking forward to this book because I know that Pekar's positions will come from an intelligent, highly researched, heavily weighed basis.

Thank you Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar, for creating sequential art narratives that are amongst my very favorites because they show that stories "just" about real people living real lives that all of us can relate to, are often more inspiring and awe-inducing than fantastical escapist stories. Thanks also to the Clark County Library and everyone who made the Bechdel & Pekar Vegas stop possible, and everyone who showed up this past Saturday night!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy 40th Earth Day, consider going vegetarian!

"If there was a twenty-four hour clock covering the span of time from the time of the planet Earth's creation to our present time, humans would only occupy the last two seconds on that clock." I can't remember where I re-read that quote recently or who it's originally attributed to, but that quote / fact perfectly illustrates that we need Earth more than Earth needs us.

Earth Day was created April 22nd, 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson to create awareness of the amount of toxins that factories were releasing into the air, rivers, and streams without any regulations. Shortly thereafter President Nixon and Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency. Having a day every year designated as Earth Day (recognized on April 22nd) has increased awareness about what big corporations do that affects the environment, as well as what every single person does on a daily basis that effects the environment and what can be done to lessen our carbon footprint.

This morning, while driving to work, there was a pretty good rain coming down (and even some hail on April 22nd in Las Vegas!!) and it looks like there's a good chance of rain for the rest of the day. It's been raining quite a bit these first few months of 2010 here in Vegas, with probably almost twice as much rainfall as we normally get in an entire year. Anyone who has been out to Lake Mead in the past two years can see how low the water level is out there, as much of the West has been in a drought for years. What needs to happen for the West to get out of this drought isn't just the good rain we've been having (although as long as this rain isn't causing flood conditions, it isn't hurting), but the mountain regions need to get more snow which becomes water that flows into the surrounding lakes and rivers.

And while Vegas has been getting unusual amounts of rain in these early months of 2010, across the world, there seems to be an increasing amount of earth calamities such as the terrible earthquake in Haiti (and elsewhere) and the volcano in Iceland. This just further illustrates the fact that the planet Earth isn't a static object and its terrain has been changing since its birth.

While we can't do anything to prevent earthquakes or volcanoes from happening, there are things we can do individually on a daily basis to insure that we don't accelerate Earth's ability to sustain life for the human race and the other life forms on this planet. Supporting companies that seek to find alternative, greener energy sources is a great ideal worth striving for, as is recycling and consuming less (both in the food and other products sense) - the adage "less is more" is a good doctrine to embrace in this regard. Carpooling, walking, bicycling, living close to where you work, whenever possible, are also great things a person can do to make our air quality less thick with pollutants.

The single biggest thing a person could do on a daily basis to make Mother Earth a richer, more qualitative place for more people, other life forms, and the terrain itself, is to consider becoming a vegetarian (or better yet a vegan) - even just making more of your meals vegetarian would help. Animal farming has much more adverse effects (greater contributer to global warming, wasteful use of water resources, and increased pollution) on the environment than does plant farming and land devoted to agriculture feeds more people then land devoted to raising livestock. "Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty." - Sir Paul McCartney (frontman of Wings and a little known band called The Beatles).

I'm going to relate a little here, on this fortieth anniversary of Earth Day, how I became a vegan twenty years ago on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, not to toot my own horn, but rather to illustrate how a once anti-vegetarian such a myself (when I was a meat eater, I used to get mad when lettuce and tomatoes were on my burger!) became a vegan. I don't usually get on a soapbox about this topic unless others ask me about vegetarianism / veganism so as not to offend loved ones / friends who don't share my beliefs, but I just thought that what better day than the 40th anniversary of Earth Day to share with others the joys of veganism and maybe even inspire others to do the same.

Before totally committing to becoming a vegan (a vegan is a vegetarian who also doesn't consume any dairy, eggs, or cheese) back in 1990, I'd tried being a vegetarian a couple of years earlier after reading The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's 1906 expose on the meat-packing industry and the conditions of the wage slave immigrants that worked in that industry and going out with a gal who was a vegetarian. Well this vegetarian gal didn't seem too interested in helping me transition to becoming a vegetarian (I think she thought I was just trying to impress her and truthfully probably wasn't as interested in me on almost any level) and I didn't read up on my own how to go about totally changing my eating habits.

As the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day approached in 1990, there were more and more magazines / articles on what a meat based diet does to the environment and I read up on this quite a bit and as I was going through an early mid-life crisis (I was 28 years old and wouldn't own my wonderful comic store for another five years at that point, nor did I have any real idea of where my life was going) I wanted to affect a change in my life in some capacity. So now equipped with information about how being a vegetarian could actually change the world (or a small segment of it - one step at a time) I decided I was going to not be a slave to my meat craving palate and commit to making this lifestyle / eating change. A somewhat humorous aside: when I first became a vegetarian, my long time friend Joel (who was also my roommate at the time) asked me why I didn't just go the vegan route instead of just being a vegan, and as I had already read some of why being a vegan is even more environmentally helpful (the dairy and egg industry with their factory farms and the horrid conditions they subject animals to) I took his "dare" and went from meat eater to vegan almost overnight (I was maybe a vegetarian for a couple of weeks before becoming a vegan). The humorous part of that is that Joel is in the group of people who think vegetarians / vegans are just wack jobs and I'm sure that even today, he thinks I'm just being a vegan as some kind of "stubborn, trying to prove something to someone, holier than thou" thang.

Yes, I was / am trying to prove something by being a vegan and that is, if I can do so for twenty years now after being a meat eater for 28 years, well anyone can do the same and not have a poorer eating quality of life and not have health deficiencies as a result. I know that I have inspired some people / friends to become vegetarians / vegans and I think I've largely done this through example, not beating them over the head with why they should become vegetarian / vegan because no one likes being preached to.

When I first became a vegan and would go out to eat and upon getting a dish, that I requested to have no dairy or cheese, arrive with dairy ingredients, I would go into a crazy scene that I know embarrassed people I was with (just as I did in my former life as a meat eater when I got vegetables when I requested none) as I was a dumb not so young angry white guy. It took me several years to get over my dumb angry side, but I've mostly come to the conclusion that being angry and causing a scene in front of your friends / loved ones is counterproductive to why I became a vegan in the first place and doesn't endear you to others wanting to be around you. Now, when I go out to eat, I still request my food not to have dairy or cheese, but on the rare times it comes back with said items I'll just eat around them or if I find out that a dish has ingredients in it that aren't vegan, I won't have that dish again. I could just say that I'm allergic to dairy, but I think that's cheating and do try to tell the people at the restaurant that it's because I'm a vegan (to hopefully start an awareness where little exists without going on at length about it unless they ask me for more details). Actually, even when I first became a vegan back in 1990, it was a lot easier than I imagine being a vegan before 1970 must have been, and it's a looooot easier today, with more and more people understanding why people choose to be a vegetarian or vegan.

So in the next couple of days or come this weekend, treat yourself by going out to the Las Vegas Wetlands Park (7050 Wetlands Park Lane, off of Boulder Highway and Tropicana), one of Las Vegas' best kept secrets (why?) or the Springs Preserve over in the Northwest side of town, if you can't make it to Mt. Charleston, Red Rock or Valley of Fire, to enjoy some of Earth's marvels in our neck of the desert and bring a yummy vegan lunch with items such as: Boca veggie burgers, smart dogs, tofurkey lunch slices and sausages (seriously most people who try these faux meat substitutes are really surprised how good they are and how much they taste like the "real" thing - and these are eaten by vegans such as myself for their protein and because I did like the texture of meat), and or colorful vegetables (raw or stir fried alone or with tofu) and fruits. Alternately, one could just point their car to any desert area surrounding the Las Vegas Valley, take a hike, and see lots of plants erupting from the ground from all of the marvelous rain we've been getting!

Some local restaurants where one will find great vegetarian / vegan dishes are: Longlife Veggie (over on Flamingo and Sandhill), Komol (vegetarian Thai specialties over in the Commercial Center), Ghandi's (great Indian food off of Paradise and Flamingo), Dong Ting Spring (great Chinese restaurant with many vegan choices in Chinatown off of Spring Mountain), and the Whole Foods Market over in Town Square off of Las Vegas Blvd. has a vegan bar and LOTS of vegetarian / vegan choices (and the price is a lot lower then the food they sell in the market part of their stores. Sunflower and Fresh & Easy are two good grocery stores for vegetarian / vegan foods at not high prices.

This public service blog entry has been brought to you by tree hugger and comic book lover (is that a dichotomy?), Ralph, on behalf of Mother Earth, and wants to thank everyone who read this entry and for even entertaining the thought of making more of your eating choices vegetarian / vegan (your body, our planet, and its future generations will thank you also). Just as Earth has survived for millions of years without us in the past, so too can it survive without us in the future unless everyone remembers that everything is interconnected and our choices effect not only us, but where we live and will live in the future.

And to tie this all into comics, all of the excellent Paul Chadwick Concrete graphic novels (most of which have environmental themes) will be on sale for 50% off at Alternate Reality Comics until Monday, April 26th in celebration of the Earth Day turning 40!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alison Bechdel & Harvey Pekar in Vegas!

This Saturday, April 24th at 7pm, at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo, off of Maryland Pkwy.D) Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar are making a VERY ARE Las Vegas appearance. They'll be in the main theater at the Clark Country Library talking about their autobiographical comic book work, how they create their stories, and what they've got forthcoming. The event is free and I'm sure that both Alison Betchdel and Harvey Pekar will be happy to sign any of their books that you have, but they'll also have books at the event that you can purchase from them and have them sign.

Alison Bechdel is best known for her graphic novel memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (which I couldn't recommend highly enough!!), that was named Time magazine's best book of 2006 (not just best graphic novel, BEST BOOK!), but she's also written and drawn Dykes To Watch Out For for years, which I also highly recommend.
Harvey Pekar first started writing American Splendor in the mid 1970's and wrote it for years while working as a file clerk at a Cleveland hospital. Pekar was one of the early pioneers of autobiographical comics, with my favorite American Splendor book being Ego & Hubris The Michael Malice Story. In 2003, Paul Giamatti played Harvey Pekar in the wonderful movie version of American Splendor (Harvey Pekar also appeared in the movie). I've seen and heard both Alison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar give presentations at conventions so I can say without any qualifications that you'll not find a more entertaining way to spend this upcoming Saturday night (April 24th, 7pm, at the Clark County Library - FREE!).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daytripper 5

It's the second week of the month, so that means it's time for another new issue of Daytripper. Five issues into this ten issue series, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba show that they're not only making a great comic, they're making a great comic that comes out ON TIME EVERY MONTH! Our central character, Bras, is eleven years old in this issue's story, hence the title of Daytripper #5, "11" (every self contained issue is a look at Bras during different times in his life).

Every time a new issue of Daytripper comes out I feel ill equipped to write a review of said book, other than to say that this is an amazing book and everyone should be reading Daytripper (just look at this fantastic art!). I say that with every issue, but I only say it because it's true and I like when people thank me for turning them on to a great comic as if I created it - as regular readers of my little blog here already know, I'm only here to find great homes for great comics and graphic novels and Daytripper definitely fits that bill!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

ComicsPRO 2010 pt. 1

What is ComicsPRO? ComicsPRO is a comic store retailer exclusive organization that strives to create a unified voice amongst the comic retailer community to improve our stores (including mentoring new stores). ComicsPRO also exists to improve the dialogue between comic book publishers and comic book stores. Basically ComicsPRO's members work towards finding solutions that will make things run smoother for everyone who works in this industry, be they retailers, creators, publishers, distributors, or suppliers. The ultimate goal of ComicsPRO is to make the comic buying experience everything that the wonderful patrons of comic book stores deserve that experience to be.

The lovely couple in this first photo above from this year's ComicsPRO meeting (which was held in Memphis again this year) are Jamye Foster and Brian Herring, who will be opening up their brand new comic store, Southern Fried Comics, in Hattiesburg, MS. this August. I got to talk to them during the first breakfast before the meetings commenced and I couldn't think of a better way for ComicsPRO 2010 to have started for me - Jayme and Brian are the new face of comics retailing and if more people like them are going to be opening comic book stores, well the future of this industry looks very bright from my perspective! Jayme and Brian, in anticipation of opening their new store, joined the ComicsPRO mentoring program and that coupled with their enthusiasm and attending this years meeting, in my not so humble opinion, gives them an excellent foundation for the success of Southern Fried Comics upon their grand opening in August and going forward. For any retailers or aspiring comic retailers who would like to know more about ComicsPRO visit this link:
ComicsPro has an online forum where members can discuss concerns with their businesses and share ideas, but actually attending one of the annual meetings is valuable on so many levels. One of the valuable attending the meeting benefits is being able to talk one on one with creators and publishers, as I got to do during one of the breakfast gatherings with Robert Kirkman (writer of the excellent Walking Dead, Invincible, and Astounding Wolfman comics from Image as well as being one of the new Image full partners) and Joe Keatinge, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator of Image Comics (on the left in this photo). Image Comics has been very forward thinking for some years now in the different kinds of creator owned books they do and they have been excellent in communicating with retailers. Robert Kirkman gave the keynote address that launched the meetings proper and let me tell you that not only is Robert Kirkman a great writer, he's also great at delivering an entertaining, inspiring speech in front of an audience. Especially humorous was when he shared how when he was a young lad, his father bought Iron Man comics because he liked The Metal Men (DC characters who have no similarities to Marvel's Iron Man)!
Filip Sablik, Publisher of Top Cow (an imprint of Image Comics), and since he came on board with Top Cow, he's done a lot of interesting promotions for Top Cow titles to get more of their books in the hands of our customers. I know that I'm not alone after talking to Filip and hearing his presentations about upcoming Top Cow titles, to state that I will be recommitting myself to introducing their titles to my customers, especially the new ongoing Magdalena series and the Artifacts series they have upcoming which debuts with the Top Cow Free Comic Book Day offering on Saturday, May 1st.

DC Comics has been the biggest sponsor of previous ComicsPRO meetings and this year was no different. Additionally DC has been the biggest supporter of the comic store direct market since its inception and their support of ComicsPRO and their own semi- annual DC Retail Representative (RRP) meetings are further proof of this fact. At the ComicsPRO meetings DC and the other publishers that attend, discuss aspects of the business that is not intended for general public disclosure, so I'm of course not going to get into specifics about what DC or any other companies dialogue with us about. I will say that every retailer in attendance was appreciative of DC's candor in addressing concerns within the industry as they affect them, comic retailers, and people who buy comic books. DC also brings several people from their team, both on the publishing and editorial sides, such as Jim Lee (in his new role as Co-Publisher of DC), Bob Wayne VP of Direct Sales), and Karen Berger (Executive Editor of Vertigo), who make themselves available during the course of the meeting to talk to retailers one on one.

I, personally, would also like to especially thank Mel Caylo, Marketing Manager of Archaia Press (Days Missing, Mouseguard, The Killer, Secret History of the World, and the forthcoming Fraggle Rock comic, amongst others), for really opening up to retailers about Archaia Press titles, and I'd like to thank Archaia on behalf of everyone who is a member of ComicsPRO for their first time sponsorship of a ComicsPRO meeting. Dark Horse, IDW, Radical, and Boom were returning sponsors of the ComicsPRO meeting and these four companies produce a diverse line of titles that any forward thinking comic store should stock as well as re-evaluate how these companies' titles are displayed around their stores. And a huge tip of the hat for Boom's creative use of a RV they rented at Memphis and parked it in the hotel parking lot for after hours meet and greets (and a little bit of alcohol - grin)!
At the Memphis meeting, ComicsPRO also awarded Paul Levitz to be the recipient of the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award. Paul Levitz, had been the President of DC Comics from 2002-2009, but has also wore a writer hat and an editor hat, in addition to the many other hats he's worn at DC during his 35 years plus and counting. Paul Levitz has also been very instrumental in developing the direct market comic specialty store into what it is today (especially in its formative years) so while the other nominees also contributed greatly to the comic industry, Paul Levitz' achievements are without parallel and thus he was the perfect recipient of the first annual ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award.

Bob Wayne, VP of Direct Market Sales, has also been with DC Comics in many different capacities for over 30 years and is THE go-to person at DC Comics for comic specialty store retailer marketing and it is a certainty to me and many others, that he will be the recipient of this award next year.
In addition to the award Paul Levitz received, he accepted the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award in the posthumous category that was awarded to Carol Kalish, who died in 1991, at the waaaaay too young age of 36. Carol Kalish worked the last ten years of her life as the direct sales manager of Marvel Comics and was the other instrumental voice in the development of comic stores during the formative years of the direct market (the 1980's).

The topic that was discussed most at this year's ComicsPRO meeting was what I call the looming digital cloud, meaning what will be the impact on comic stores and the printed comic book form with more digital (online) outlets for comic books (such as the iPad)? All of the publishers present tried to explain where they saw this industry going, their own digital plans, and the difficulty in predicting how things will ultimately play out in a technological world in which the only constant is change. The publishers and Diamond Comics Distribution are just as concerned as comic store retailers about this and they are also having to adapt to how this will impact them. From these discussions, the biggest thing I took back from this year's ComicsPRO meetings was that, while the access of reading comics digitally WILL change the way that comic stores do business, that future isn't as ominous or as close to radically changing as I thought prior to attending ComicsPRO meeting 2010. Comic book stores are not going to go the way of music or DVD stores any time in the near future and with so many new comic stores (stores that have "only" been around five years or less) and up and coming stores, such as Jayme and Brian's Southern Fried Comics, present at this year's ComicsPro meeting, the future of this industry looks very promising.

Thanks also to the ComicsPRO board members, Amanda Emmert (Muse Comics in Montana), Joe Field (Flying Color Comics in Concord, California), Brian Hibbs (Comix Experience in San Francisco), Gary Dills (Laughing Ogre in Ohio and Northern Virginia), Carr D'Angelo (Earth-2 Comics in LA, California), Rick Lowell (Casablanca Comics in Maine), Eric Kirsammer (Chicago Comics), Calum Johnston (Strange Advenures in Eastern Canada), and Phil Boyle (Coliseum of Comics in Florida, Phil recently left his board position with ComicsPRO, but he's still there in spirit and still a member) for all of the behind the scenes work they do to make the annual meeting run so smoothly. Seriously, if you know any of these fine people to any degree and or have been in their stores, that should tell you right there that ComicsPRO is going to be around for the long haul. I'd also like to give a huge thanks to the staff of the Memphis Hilton for all they did to make our stay with them so enjoyable and relaxing in the midst of our meetings (and the vegan food choices they made this year were EXCELLENT).

In closing, I'd like to make another appeal to any present comic store retailers and or people looking to open a comic book store reading this who aren't already a member of ComicsPRO to seriously consider becoming a member. All of our stores and the industry will only be strengthened with increased membership, as the old adage "there's strength in numbers" couldn't be truer. I'm certain that there are many comics stores who aren't yet a member of ComicsPRO who could introduce some of what they do really well to the larger comic store community and in turn they would also get ideas from present members that they could take back to strengthen their own stores. For those of you reading this who go to a store other than mine, ask your favorite local comic store owner if they've heard of ComicsPRO and give them this website address for more info:, I'm sure they'll thank you.

ComicsPRO 2010 pt. 2

I'd be lying if I said that the only reason I go to the annual ComicsPRO meetings is to compare notes with other retailers and people within the industry, as I also go to recharge and have a fun time on the side. Being that the ComicsPRO 2010 meeting was in Memphis again this year, we had to go to downtown Beale Street at least one night for some great live tunes.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) hosted a party upstairs at the Rum Boogie Cafe and they had as their guests Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise, Echo) and Jeff Smith (Bone, Rasl), pictured here from left to right, with Kate in the middle trying to keep them from fighting about who is a better cartoonist (as if these two fine cartoonists would ever resort to that and really anyone who is familiar with their comic book creations knows that Terry and Jeff are both at the top of this wonderful medium and are always challenging themselves). I managed to stay away from the Red Bull & Vodka drinks this year and just enjoyed a couple of beers and the great company of my fellow retailers (and wifey!) to the soundtrack of some good blues music provided by a local blues band. The CBLDF is a nonprofit organization for comic book stores and comic book creators who require legal representation of the first amendment order. Thank Charles Brownstein and CBLDF for all your organization does and for a great Memphis Rum Boogie Cafe party!
More lifestyles of the rich and famous, with Jim Lee, the new Co-Publisher of DC Comics (as well as probably the most famous comic book artist of this present age and the NICEST guy in comics bar none - and really most everyone in the comic industry are great people, but Jim Lee brings "nice" to a whole new level) slumming with the likes of my goofy self! I promise I wasn't trying to make rabbit ears upon Jim Lee, that's just my beer induced peace sign!
Catching up with some more retailer buds and industry buds (sorry for this not so great photo). I don't think all of those empty cups in front of Derrick (seated, with the white long sleeves) of Comic Oasis (here in Vegas of course) belong to him, but so what if they did because he wasn't driving and I'm sure he could handle them better than I could anyway (grin)!
In between sets that the band at Rum Boogie Cafe did, I took Kate for a little tour of Beale Street and wandered over to Club 152, to show Kate where I had too much fun with alcohol last year, and we stayed for a set by this really good funk rock band who call themselves the Grant Garland Trio (even though there were four members in the band). The Batman logo shirt I'm wearing was given to me as a gift and is uber cool because it lights up and pulsates to music (which everyone was jealous of!). So of course I had to get a photo with the bassist of the Grant Garland Trio who was wearing a Superman logo shirt.

Thanks Memphis!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 - WOW!

Where did S.H.I.E.L.D artist Dustin Weaver come from!? The first issue of Marvel's SHIELD hit comic stores yesterday and I thought it would be a good story as writer Jonathan Hickman has been writing a very entertaining Fantastic Four comic for some time now, but I wasn't prepared for how gorgeous this book would look. SHIELD is supposed to be bi-monthly (meaning it's supposed to come out every other month), but unless Dustin Weaver has had a head start before this title launched, I don't see how he can even meet a bi-monthly schedule with the amount of work he puts into each page (please prove me wrong though!).
S.H.I.E.L.D (I'm going to just call it SHIELD from now one because it takes too long to type the correct title), in the current Marvel universe is a somewhat secret C.I.A. type orginization headed by the eye patch wearing Nick Fury. It's unclear with the first issue of this new SHIELD series where it fits into the Marvel universe "proper" (but I guess one could say that about any number of titles like the X-Men titles that seem to exist independent of other Marvel characters that they hardly ever interact with), but based on this first issue, wherever Hickman and Weaver are going with this series, it looks like it's going to be a fun, great ride.

The title of the story in SHIELD #1 is "The Unholy Resurrection of Leonardo da Vinci" so right there you know you're in for a different kind of superhero comic. The first issue of SHIELD takes place in different time periods and Galileo (as well as other historical figures) also makes an appearance, so SHIELD looks like it's going to be Hickman and Weaver's version of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but I think that's okay because really, how much of anything in any medium is truly original and I think that a good writer can make a seemingly similar concept their own by other ideas they bring to the work.

I'm certain that SHIELD #1 will sell out pretty much everywhere because the art by Dustin Weaver just pops out that much. Even comic store retailers, such as myself, who ordered well above what the suggested initial interest (sadly I should say lack of interest) by pull and hold reserves suggested I should order (but as I mentioned above, Hickman has recharged the Fantastic Four so I thought some of those people might like other things he writes) will be clamoring for a second print to build on the word of mouth SHIELD will be receiving. Marvel has always had waaaaaaay too many titles, and they're even amping up their number of titles, which is just totally overwhelming their customer base so I totally understand people throwing their arms up in the air when they see a new sign up sheet with the myriad title offerings (such as something like seven Avengers titles!!,four Deadpool titles, six Iron Man titles, and ten Spider-Man titles!!) and have to make hard decisions on which ones will get selected to be on their pull list and which ones they'll have to skip. Also understandably, people want to look at a first issue before committing to that title, but with there being so many titles vying for shelf space (but no company produces the title onslaught that Marvel does) retailers are also playing a guessing game in regards to what will click with our customers (if I'd seen this first issue of SHIELD before ordering, I would have probably ordered almost twice as many as I did).

Anyway, if the creative team of SHIELD #1 can maintain this level of quality, more people are going to be dropping one of the Avengers, Spider-Man, or X-Men titles they get to follow SHIELD (and I'm sure there will be a second printing and of course a trade collection once the first story arc ends).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Years Of The Elephant

Years Of The Elephant is a 2007 graphic novel written and drawn by Willy Linthout, from Fanfare / Ponent Mon. This was one of the four graphic novels I picked up this past Saturday night at Brian Hibbs' 21st birthday / anniversary bash for his store, Comix Experience, in San Francisco (and such a great time was had that the celebration will be on the list of upcoming blogs here).

Years Of The Elephant is the true story of how Willy Linout dealt with the 2004 suicide of his son, Sam, who was 21 years old. As one can imagine with a subject matter as dark and sad as a suicide is, Years Of The Elephant is dark and sad, but it is also an in-depth narrative of the multitude of emotions a parent goes through going forward. Obviously anyone who has had a loved one commit suicide or knows someone who has, will be forever changed and it is VERY hard to go forward with your own life. There's much sadness because that person isn't in your life anymore and you wonder why this choice was made and what you could have done to change what happened. Years Of The Elephant doesn't have all of the answers to these questions as the answers will widely range from person to person, but this graphic novel by Willy Linout and how HE dealt with his son's suicide will maybe help you process what you're going through if you know someone who committed suicide.

The art in Years Of The Elephant is done in an unfinished, not inked fashion, because as Willy Linthout says: "Sam's life didn't get the chance to go all the way, it stays unfinished, so the same goes for my pencils."

Monday, April 5, 2010

King Of The Flies

Last week I finally got around to reading King Of The Flies, a hardcover graphic novel by Mezzo and Pirus, that was released by Fantagraphics Books a couple of weeks ago. Not having been previously acquainted with their work in Metal Hurlent (they are from France), I just ordered King Of The Flies because the art sample I saw looked interesting in a Charles Burns (Black Hole) kind of way. Well to say that I was blown away with King Of The Flies may be an understatement because this graphic novel evoked to me some of the best of Charles Burns dark, odd comic creations with the wordsmith, insightful stylings of Alan Moore.

King Of The Flies is very odd, but in a good way, not in an inaccessible, what the hell is going on and why should you care way. It does take a few pages to get into the characters, the writing style, and what's going on, but once you get there, you'll know that Mezzo (the artist) and Pirus (the writer) are two comic creators that should be highly lauded (and I'm sure they are in France, but from my little online research before writing up this entry I couldn't find anything else of theirs that has been translated into English). This graphic novel is "only" 64 pages in length, but there's a lot of text on every page so King Of Flies seems like it's twice the length it is. There's very little dialogue in King Of Flies as the story is told mostly in narration, but none of the narration is of the sort where one wonders if the writer is being paid by the word.

Following are a couple of examples of some of the sharp writing on display in King Of The Flies:

"I get a kick out of breaking news. Especially that little jingle at the start. It tells you right away something serious has happened that's gonna blow your little problems out of the water. I kind of enjoy it."

"Malls are the last places on earth where the word 'architecture' still has any meaning at all, but I think I'm the only one who realizes this. They're like the cathedrals of our age."

"You can't look at a photograph of the early Stones without envying them. I mean, their anti-establishment coolness, that slick fuck-you vibe. That's what I'd achieved under my mother's shadow, and I couldn't stand the thought of a stepfather coming in to shatter my world. I prayed that he sucked in bed and that my mother would dump him."

When is more coming? Must have more of this in a hurry!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

greendale:; an advance look

At the ComicsPRO Memphis meeting last week (the annual retailer trade meeting, of which my looong blog entry is sadly not going to happen until next week), DC / Vertigo presented an advance copy of greendale, a graphic novel inspired by Neil Young's concept album from a couple of years ago to attending retailers. The copy of greendale we received is a softcover version (called a galley) of the hardcover version that will be released in June and only the first twelve pages of greendale's 156 pages are in color (the entire graphic novel will be in color when it goes on sale), but those twelve color pages serve to show people just how excellent the final version will be.

Neil Young's greendale, the graphic novel, is written by Joshua Dysart (who also writes the excellent Unknown Solider for Vertigo) and beautifully drawn by Cliff Chiang (artist on Vertigo's Human Target). Greendale is the name of a town in southern California, where the central character, Sun Green lives. greendale does have a very liberal, tree hugging vibe (qualities that are very attractive to me), like Neil Young's music, so it does help if you share these politics, but ultimately greendale is a book about a young woman's self discovery, life, the beauty of the earth, love, and personal growth. One also doesn't have to enjoy Neil Young's music (or have heard his greendale album, of which there's also a good DVD interpretation in which the characters sing all of the lyrics of the album) to enjoy the greendale graphic novel (although people who don't like Neil Young's music is something I could never wrap my head around) as this was even better than the high expectations I had when I first heard that Dsyart and Chiang were going to do this graphic novel. Triple AAA+!! - this was obviously a labor of love for everyone who worked on it (and getting to read this months before its release was definitely a highlight for me of this year's ComicsPRO meeting). For those of you that live in Vegas and or are already regulars of Alternate Reality Comics (and thanks for that!), please ask me to show you this book.