Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stoker Family Approved Sequel To Dracula Out In October

It’s been widely regarded that 2009 is the year of the Vampire, with new books by such luminaries as Guillermo del Toro and Justin Cronin releasing epic trilogies, as well as shows like True Blood and films like Twilight keeping the Vampire myth alive. And in October, the first ever ‘Stoker Family approved’ sequel novel is released - Dracula: The Un-Dead, by Bram Stoker’s Great-Grand Nephew Dacre Stoker and Dracula historian Ian Holt.

But in the world of comic sequels to the classic tale, the world of the Vampire has been quiet of late. That is, until now. From The Pages Of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’: Harker is a new, original graphic novel from AAM/Markosia that continues Bram Stoker’s classic story in comic format, following the lives of the main characters from the novel, six months on from the Count’s grisly death as they continue to try to piece their lives back together again.

Written by Tony Lee (Doctor Who, Spider Man, Outlaw: The Legend Of Robin Hood) and drawn by the art partnership of Peter-Davis Douglas and Neil Antwerpen (Starship Troopers), this is the first ever original graphic novel sequel to gain any sort of endorsement by a member of the Stoker family, as Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt, the writers of Dracula: The Undead have agreed to write one of the two introductions to the story, the other to be written by noted Dracula and Sherlock Holmes historian Leslie S. Klinger, author of the critically acclaimed The New Annotated Dracula.

From The Pages Of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’: Harker
is a full color 112 page original graphic novel, available from AAM/Markosia and all good booksellers from October 2009.

This Recession...

...feels like one big life-enema.

The only time I've been this bare-bones was when I left home when I was 16 and essentially became an adult. I left with nothing but two duffel bags -- true to form, one duffel bag was filled with old Starlogs and Dick Tracy action figures. I mean truly - I was stepping into the void.

Only, I was so young, I didn't even appreciate the enormity of that decision. I was just glad to get away from my mom's husband and the dumb school they made me go to in Queens. Actually, I was just glad to get away from *school*, as, living without parents, I assumed I would no longer have to go. Enter: the truant officer. I actually had a truant officer visit the house. And he actually looked like Slugworth's goon from Willy Wonka.

I entered the apartment -- which was our old home that my mother never gave up the lease to -- with my two duffel bags and fifty dollars. For weeks I ate ramen and drank Nutrament as I squatted, rent-free, in the apartment. I had zero plan. There wasn't even a TV set. I had a radio. Then I got a job. Then another one. I made like 100 a week. I thought I was rich. Then I got a roommate. Then I got another job. Then I was forced (by my mom, who by this time realized that maybe cutting me loose at 16 to fend for myself wasn't the best plan) to finish school and apply to a city college. Then I got scholarships. Then I was on the track for the Rhodes scholarship & Princeton. And then I gave it all up for a job in comics.

The funny thing is -- holy crap, I feel like I'm still that 16-year-old girl with two duffel bags. Whatever that life-lesson was I was supposed to learn, I had better freaking learn it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OS Memorabilia Sale

Any interest in it?

We can start with the original art for my blog logo (drawn by the talented "Archie" artist Daniel Parent) and work our way down to the report I did on Marvel Comics when I was a wee lass.

Also, I could make a really cool lot with an actual printed out (like, on my printer) copy of "Memoirs of a Superheroine" with an autographed (by me) copy of the collected "Identity Crisis".

The possibilities are endless I tell you -- ENDLESS!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Great Purge

I'm moving into a new apartment soon. People move into new apartments all the time, no biggie. But here's my story.

I lived in that apartment for all of my 35 years except for two stints in 1998-2003 and 2005-2006 (which were spent living in my family's house in Queens). My apartment had serious rent-control. It was drilled in my family's heads from an early age that rent control was too good a deal to pass up. We could save and save and save -- then buy a house in Florida. Easy-peasy!

But reliance on this cheap rent turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Because the bar was never lifted higher in terms of how much rent we had to pay, I never felt especially motivated to surpass it. And when I met, as a teenager, an adult man who really enjoyed paying $200 rent a month, I sort of got locked into things. He moved his 50+ crates of comic books and memorabilia into my house in 1991 and was determined to never leave. Two times, it was me who left.

Yes, I saved over $25,000 by my living arrangements -- money that I spent down to the last $300 after I got sick in 2004 and could no longer work.

Now I'm packing up my stuff, this time for good. As I pack, I feel the intense need to get rid of stuff. Intense need. Like that thing where you keep cleaning and cleaning and never feel quite clean. There is always more stuff to get rid of. Actually, I started this process several years ago, when I was sick. But I had such an unbelievably huge collection that it has literally taken me about five years to whittle it away to nothing. And good! I'm glad to see it go.

This is not a diss on huge collections. But my collections were goddamn huge, and everybody I associated with also had goddamn huge collections. They were hard to move, so many people that I knew never moved. The ones that did, like my sister and her then-husband, had sold off big portions of the collections beforehand (in their case, Star Wars and Barbies). The exception to his rule was my ex-roommate, who decided to keep everything. Comics. VHS tapes. Broken ice-skates. They might come in handy some day. When the moving truck arrived at his new destination, they found out that the narrow apartment couldn't even fit everything. So he had to pay for storage.

It is utterly joyous for me to get rid of everything. Publishing the memoirs was one of those actions; moving it from the "storage" to "active" portions of my computer and out the door into the bloodstream of the Internet. This act has finally put to bed many demons that a few years of blogging never could.

I have simply no feeling anymore about many of the topics covered in that book. Numb. It's not that those topics are not important to me anymore. I just don't "feel" anything anymore about many of them, like the stuff with DC Comics. I used to rail on for years about the injustice regarding DC and their treatment of women, but it's now like a valve is shut off. By putting out this book, it's like some sort of responsibility on my part is fulfilled and there is no more to say on that topic. That book goes off on its own and continues the dialogue. It's like progeny. It's like a deep-space probe on auto-pilot. It just keeps going. But I don't have to, I am able to move in another direction and just let "baby" do its work.

Many of the things I always assumed I had to keep are "going away." I realize that there is no need to bring them into my new apartment -- bring them and the contexts they contain. They can stay behind. They make great gifts and eBay items. They make great recycling. Among them:
  • A set of all the DC Comics and tpbs I ever edited. What's the point? What new things can I glean from my hardcover of "Identity Crisis?" I didn't even get my copy for free -- I had to buy it at a second-hand store. Do I really need to keep all the Aquaman comics I assisted on? Why keep them? To read the credits and remind myself that I used to work there? Couldn't I just Google my name?
  • Botched things that might be fixed one day or that I might have renewed use for. Fried iPod. Scanner with crappy software that nearly killed my last computer. Bamboo knitting needles. My Bible. Stuff like that.
  • Things that are no longer relevant to me but that I spent a lot of money on and that nobody will probably pay for or if they do it won't be for much. Gotta just suck that one up and move forward.
My goal when I move is to pare things down to their barest essentials. Oh, but what will I watch on DVD? Oh, what comic books will I read? Will I have enough to entertain me? Will I have enough spare T-shirts? And what about all the *memories*? Without these boxes and boxes of ephemera, will I be able to *remember*? And what about my self-identity? Once these material items I used to help define me for decades are gone, how will I know who I am?

Thus begins the adventure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

eBay: Moving Sale!

Hi all,

Just a note to say I'm having a sale on eBay --

I'm moving soon and I'm letting a bunch of stuff go.

New stuff continually being added! Feel free to visit my Internet garage sale.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Honor System Of The Digital Marketplace

I've had several people buy a second or even third digital copy of my book to give to friends and family, when they could have just as easily forwarded the copy I sold to them without spending another cent.

I think there is sometimes that fear when you put something out digitally that it will just forwarded, copied, posted, emailed and somehow you'll just lose all these potential sales. But I guess the same thing could happen with a hard copy -- you lend books to people, borrow them from libraries, etc.

It's just interesting that even without all the material trappings (covers, paper, wingdings, etc.), the actual digital media itself is considered a thing, a whole, the goods of the artist in question, separate units of sale. I mean, that's the way it should be anyway, but it is cool to see that people on their own demonstrate that, recognize that with their actions. It makes me wonder if that is a model that will work for all media -- downloadable movies, music, etc.

Because some people argue that if you put out all books in digital format, it will only make it that much easier to torrent, etc.

This whole experiment in completely self-propelled digital publishing -- in its most basic "no frills" form -- is very fascinating to me. I'm continually learning. And it has really encouraged me to continue this route.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

130+ eBooks Sold, Another Review, and more

At $10 a pop, no big PR/marketing push or budget, and almost no middle-man to pay a cut to (I both love and hate you, PayPal), 130+ books is pretty rad. I've never really sold a mini-comic or other self-published venture, but I guess this is sort of what it feels like. I can't tell you how awesome it feels to have somebody buy your work, especially when that work is from the heart.

Following up on my thoughts regarding writing from yesterday, I think the key for me is to write from the heart and make my writing align with...well, with my writing. It all has to come from an organic whole. It needs to be real. It all flows from the realness. I spent a great deal of my life after college running away from the authors and works that inspired me, because I thought theirs wasn't a commercial enough path. I think that was a wrong way of thinking on my part. I think it's pretty clear to me now how I'm supposed to write, what I'm best at. And I'm currently pursuing that direction.

The Life of Darrell gave "Memoirs of An Occasional Superheroine" a nifty mention recently:

"Right from the start, it's raw, it's powerful, and it's heart wrenching."

Darrell also wrote about how the book made him think closer about other people:

"The thing that has me thinking the most is that I'm opening my eyes more fully to the people I've associated with, some as friends and some as no more than acquaintances who shopped at the same comic store. Now I'd like to say that none of them came close to the people Val writes about but the truth is, I don't know."

Another reader told me that the memoir made him cringe at the possibility that there might be predators, like the ones in the book, that his kids might possibly encounter one day.

There are most definitely predators out there of all stripes. Paranoia is not the correct way to deal with it -- rather, you need to just be aware.

The best gift you can give your child is good self-esteem. Good self-esteem will go a long way. Predators can smell low self-esteem and damaged souls on people. Literally. They can suss out who will tell and who will be cowed into secrecy. Finding the perfect, most vulnerable victim is more important to them than looks or any other factor...partially because it turns them on, and partially because it increases the chances they will not be caught.

Instilling a good sense of self-esteem and self-worth in your children now will not 100% deter predators, but will significantly reduce possible incidents. A person needs to feel -- whether in the workplace, school, home, or with peers -- that if a situation gets uncomfortable, they can walk away. And I mean, walk away immediately and without self-doubt or guilt.

Lastly, when I debuted this book at the end of March/beginning of April, I didn't realize April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I feel that if this book does nothing but make people stop and think hard on subjects like child abuse, I've done my job. There was one passage at the beginning of the memoir that was like torture for me to write, but I felt it needed to be written out very clearly so people understood.

Sometimes I get a dismissive reaction from people regarding me being physically abused as a kid -- as if it only "counts" if you've been sexually abused. That somehow physical abuse that isn't sexual isn't really a big crime -- it's more like an everyday thing. This is not true. The HR woman at DC told me that no matter how abusive the boss in question was, it wasn't really complaint-worthy unless sexual harassment was involved. Only the sexual parts were complaint-worthy -- not intimidation, verbal abuse, threats, etc.

To me, the sex and the violence are just different points on the same spectrum of abuse. Physical and verbal abuse are just different points on the same spectrum. It all come from the same painful, fucked-up place. It has no business in families, the workplace, or relationships. Period.

Those are some of the thoughts I had today. I have to go sell more books now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Coolest Photo Ever

The King of Sheep Stories

Next week is the third-year anniversary of the cervical tear that almost made me bleed to death. This accident had an extreme impact on my psyche. I still get spontaneous flashbacks to it. I can say, in all honesty, that the accident shaped the course of my life forever.

I had this accident with a member of the comic book industry. I can't say he stood out as being any better or worse than anybody else. Just a regular "comic book guy."

This person watched passively as my finances began to unravel as the result of being hospitalized when uninsured. He, like many in the industry, had an extensive collection of comic art & collectibles. But he was so out of touch in terms of human empathy that he didn't offer to contribute one cent to my medical bill for the accident that we caused together. He didn't offer to throw one piece of art on eBay to help me out, or any other type of action that would have alleviated my $20,000+ bill.

But what he did ask for was my help in selling off his collection on eBay so he could have more money for himself. And so I prepared auctions for him. Part of me thought that maybe if the sales were lucrative, he might throw a little bit my way. He never did.

The only time he gave me money -- $300 -- was when he was working on a comic book version of my memoirs with me and I threatened to throw him off the book. I didn't threaten to throw him off the book because I wanted the money; I had long since given up on that. I wanted to throw him off because the idea of having the person who tore my cervix actually draw himself tearing my cervix began to creep me out. I wanted out of the whole project.

I wanted to cancel the project, but I felt like I was under such pressure to do it. I felt it was my only big break. So did my erstwhile associate. He had a big dream that we would be the comic book world's "It" couple. He wanted to feed rumors to Rich Johnston in order to stir interest up. He wanted to show up at DC Comics drink-ups with me on his arm and cause a scene. He wanted me to get him invited to parties at Marvel so he could come along as my date.

Yes, this is the same person who almost killed me with his dick and refused to help me pay for the aftermath. He wanted to use me so he could, as he put it, "be taken more seriously."

This person is part of the reason I have a big problem with comics. First, we have the evidence of extreme ruthlessness connected with something that is stupid. I think there is very little in comics that is worth being ultra-Machiavellian about, to the point of using other people.

And yet I have seen this many, many times in this industry. The pissing matches. The need to show one's superiority as you write about a giant irradiated sheep. It might just be a story about sheep -- but goddammit you're going to be the king of sheep stories! What old lady can you kick in the ovaries or mentally-handicapped laddy can you push down the elevator shaft in order to become Sheep King? Working working working for that golden sheep moment.

So basically this guy acted like a complete douche so that he could get his "propers" in the comic book industry, used me like you'd use a spoon to scoop up Cheerios. So that perhaps, in his particular sphere, he could become Sheep King. I'm not sure what Sheep Kings get in way of acknowledgements and accolades. An Eisner? A Randy Bowen statue? I know they must get something.

Anyway, I threatened to throw him off the memoirs graphic novel project, and he gave me a check for $300. "For your accident." Like, more than a year later. But, to be clear, he said the money wasn't just for the accident. It was to help pay for physical therapy so I could have better sex with him. Because he was fucking me since two days after my cervical tear, while the stitches were still in. And you know -- I just wasn't performing up to his standard. So giving me the money was, I guess, a win-win for him. Maybe I would learn how to please him properly.

I still planned to throw him off the project, but I took the money anyway. Because I figured this was all I was ever going to get from him. Not long after, I killed the project.

My mother and I rarely agreed on much, but something she kept telling me throughout my adult life seemed to bear out. She said, "comic books, is not future." Comic books, is not future. I would tell her about this or that job I got in comics, and she would say, "comic books, is not future." She said it when I told her I got that job in a comic store as a teenager. She said it when I got my job at Acclaim. She said it when I ran down the stairs and joyously declared that I got the job at DC. She said it when I told her that I was such a successful blogger that a video company was paying me to go to SDCC. She said it when I told her I bought a domain for another comic book website. She said it many, many times. "Comic books, is not future."

My mom -- joy-killer, squasher of dreams. Where was her sense of whimsy?

And yet, let's look at things pragmatically:
  • 2 traumatic health crises that cleared out my bank account
  • no savings
  • no health insurance
  • no car
  • no children
  • sexually traumatized and damaged
  • targeted by at least 3 sexual predator-types in the industry
Pragmatically, she was sort of on the ball.

At the age of 35, I severely regret chasing the dream to be the Queen of Sheep Stories. I certainly don't regret the good people I met along the way. But as a whole, when I take into account my material security and my mental well-being, I regret it. I feel as if I've just graduated high-school again, or graduated college. In fact, I've felt that way continuously since I graduated high-school.

Was all the bullshit of my life worth it? In a very basic sense, I think the sheer fucked-upness made a good narrative. I think I made good on the writer's advice: "see the world and live a little." I may not have been a world-traveller, but I've seen the depths of people's souls. I've seen a lot of stupid shit go down. I've seen people sell other people out in order to become the King of Sheep; or, if not exactly the King of Sheep, at least Middle-Manager.

I've seen women I respected turn into complete whores. I've seen women I respected turn out to be cunts of the highest order whose claim to fame was keeping other women out of the business. I've seen good women go into literal exile -- abandoned, chased out, don't call us we'll call you. I've seen friendly fatherly-types turn out to be sweaty perverts with one hand down their pants. I've seen friendly grandfatherly-types do the same thing.

I've seen a man have a complete nervous breakdown over the way he was treated in this industry. I watched it in bits and pieces, a painful story pulled out in multiple phone calls like a bloody string through a wound. I've had conversations with bloggers about people possibly being driven to suicide; we had these conversations clinically, picking the topic apart, wondering how to proceed with our individual commentaries. And it's that overly-inflated sense of importance again -- we act as if these are the crucial things that matter in life. When not a goddamn thing matters in this world except three things: 1) how we treat our fellow person, 2) that we express our truth, and 3) that we are able to provide for our loved ones in an adequate fashion.

When I was in college, I idolized this writer:

William Burroughs. Idolized him. Fanatically. I felt he was preaching a truth, a truth in art, a truth in living, an ugly ugly truth in living. People like him and Allen Ginsburg were being *real*. I craved their realness. I cherished their honesty. My only goal in life was to express myself in a similarly real fashion. I didn't care if it offended. I didn't care if it was commercial. The art was an end unto itself. I lived for the art and the art alone. Though I had collected comic books in my adolescence, by college I had largely abandoned them. Most mainstream comics looked to me like ugly, lumpy, uninspired things. Grant Morrison's "Doom Patrol" being the exception.

College was the best time of my life. So why did I throw away graduate school to work at Acclaim Comics? Where did this resurgence of fealty to Sheep Stories come from?

Oh, what was that quote I heard while I was at Acclaim?

"Look, I don't care if Michaelangelo walked through that door with his portfolio. Is he a name? Is he a name that I can sell?"

He didn't say this out of malice. He said this because it was fucking 1997 and that was the truth -- at least, the truth that was commonly known by those who couldn't dream past it.

Seriously, how are we going to get our next "Watchmen" with this attitude? Should we just claim "fail" now?


If you have read my memoirs, you will not be surprised by the following statement:
I suffer from chronic depression.

I do. That's real. That's my life. There are only three things that snap me out of depression:

1) Peak moments with my current boyfriend and friends. Hanging out, tender moments, etc.

2) Marketing theory. Especially online marketing theory. I think it's because I'm a nerd, have a touch of Aspergers, or both. I read Seth Godin and I perk right up.

3) Good art. Real art. I was depressed at dinner today, but my server started talking to me about 1980s graffiti culture. My God. It was like I got a shot of Paxil. I was all over that. Fucking love real graffiti art, circa early 1980s, whole subway trains plastered with the stuff. Awesome.

Outside of that, it's depression. Depression over being abused as a kid, depression over my college mentor wanting to fuck me, depression over being sexually harassed by one of the highest ranking people at DC "home of Truth, Justice, and the American Way" Comics, depressed over having my ability to enjoy sex ( you know sex, right? basic primal need) being destroyed over some idiot who didn't even give a shit, depressed over a lot of things. Every time I get a media inquiry over "women in comics," (which is fucking OFTEN), I get depressed. Not a hyperbole. I don't know what the fuck to say.


Selling over 100 copies of my memoir -- as modest as that sounds -- meant a lot to me. That memoir WAS me. It was me RAW. If you liked that book, that was me 100%. And if you hated it -- that was still me 100%.

When I developed that book with my agency, they told me to take certain things out to make me more "sympathetic." Fuck that. I'm not on trial. Well hell, some people seem to think I'm on trial, but they're just a victim of that "over-importance" thing regarding comics again. Want to be the biggest Sheep blogger on the block. I get it.

Right now, all I want to do is support my family and put out my books on my own. That's it. I don't care what the job is -- dish-washer, administrative assistant, marketer, etc. I really do not give a shit, other than it supports my family. And with the left-over, if there is a left-over, I'm going to sell my books. And that's it. No 14 drafts of my memoir. No might have beens. I'm going to package it, sell it, and then let God do the rest. Buy it or don't.


This is largely a media and world of spin and bullshit. It really is. You, Reader, are a commodity. Your marketing information, via Facebook etc, is a commodity. You are fed what is most advantageous to hear. Trust me, I've been in marketing, advertising, etc for a shit long time. I know.

As of this point, memoir included, I will never lie to you.


* image found here from Samurai Haruko, "The Sheep King"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Memoir Reviews (and NEW COVER!)

It's the book they said shouldn't be written...

Now with a brand new cover!
(Thanks, Sean!)

The reviews are coming in:

"Magnificent, searing, compulsive-repulsive, not so much typed out as screamed into existence. Should be read by everyone who reads this column. No exceptions."
--Rich Johnston, "Lying in the Gutters"

"I found the writing style to be fast moving, insightful, and full of humor."
--Rob, Talkin Bout Comics

"There's sex, and violence, and drugs, and stalkers, and larceny, and illicit affairs, and lesbianism, and witchcraft, and everything else Fredric Wertham was afraid of. But somehow... somehow Valerie overcomes ALL of it; maybe with more than her fair share of battle scars and war wounds, but she overcomes it nonetheless. It's an extraordinary tale of the can't-put-it-down variety. (Seriously. I couldn't get any work done today because I kept going back to it.)"
--Sean Kleefeld, "Kleefeld on Comics"

Remember, you can buy your copy of this eBook by clicking the button below...

Next stops on this journey:
  • Major PR initiative to promote the book (within next two weeks)
  • Hard Copy (considering several options...)
  • Create imprint to self-pub other books
  • Part Two of "Memoirs" (starting to come up with ideas)


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thank you!

This is just a message to all the people who have purchased "Memoirs of an Occasional Superheroine" and who have given me feedback -- I appreciate your choice to buy this book and and your kind words about it more than you can ever realize.

Thank you so much!!!!

Honestly, this is why I keep writing.