Friday, May 29, 2009

DON'T... (A Public Service Announcement)

Don't Smoke

Don't Do Drugs

We Mean It, You Will Go To Hell Before You Die If You Do

Don't Smoke Crack

Don't Drive Drunk

And Remember, VD Is For Everybody

DCU editorial meeting

(Just satire, folks! You know, it's kind of like "The Daily Show" except it's comics and the wider world really doesn't give a shit unless there's a movie)

Dwayne McDuffie Fired Off Of JLA


It's DC's right to fire people who think for themselves. People who think for themselves and have opinions can potentially work counter to the Greater Goal. It's far easier to edit writers who are passive, take a lot of bullshit, and are OK about having their stories and characters fucked with by people who don't know shit about storytelling.

Wow. DC took the writer of the legendary Justice League cartoon – which truly, in my circles, are considered legendary episodes – and couldn't even fucking work with him in a satisfactory manner. Whose fault is that? Is that Dwayne's fault? Obviously, Dwayne knew how to write Justice League stories. That point is not in question.

But Dwayne was and is an independent thinker, someone devoted to the quality of the story rather than just being a cog in a machine. It boils down to that, and that was something that in the end, some people in power absolutely could not process.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finished My Novel, Yippie-Hooray

Well kids, I decided to just get serious and finish my novel "CONSPIRACY!", and I spent the last five hours straight doing so.

Here's the very last passage (spoilers):

I left Willow's apartment and decided to kill myself. And I went to an area off of Saint Mark's Place, a side-street, where people neither saw me nor cared if they did see me, and I took the gun to my chest and planned to shoot it through my heart. Because I had not only failed in a material aspect, I had failed as a human being. I was not a pleasant person. And, even in the face of terrible tragedy and loss, I was still filled with the same petty anger and jealousy I had before. I didn't learn to hate my wife less. I still harbored a disgusting sense of satisfaction seeing Edith die. And I still hadn't a clue what to do with my life. I felt no sense of meaning. Not even a sense of God. At least when I was younger I sort of had that, even if it was somewhat inconsistent.

Now, it was all black: no money, no job, no meaning, in a thuggish universe where people died horrible deaths or had their lives ruined for no reason, at the whim of the cruel, insane, greedy, or merely banal.

And that was when I saw the fetish porn guy.

It was the man from that comic convention, from so many months ago. The man in the trenchcoat with the shopping bags full of porn and the walleyes. He was walking across the street. I don't even think he saw me. But I saw him! What a coincidence, I thought.

And the man, he still had the bags of porn, one in each hand. And I felt so...energized. Like I was having a religious experience.

Suddenly, it all made sense. And I heard a voice inside of me say,

"Draw fetish porn. Do this, and your life will change forever."

And you know? That's exactly what I did. And I never looked back.


Folks, that was the end of my Great American Novel. As an addendum, I would like to add a couple of quotes by Joseph Campbell:

"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."


"What each must seek in his life never was on land or sea. It is something out of his own unique potentiality for experience, something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else."

The remaining chapters will be sent out to the members of the mailing list;
The mailing list for CONSPIRACY! is as of now is closed, no more new names will be added.
The list will still be active and added-to for the next serialized story.
Plans to distribute CONSPIRACY! will be brainstormed and revealed at another time.

Films I really want to see soon:

You know, when I started this post I thought it was going to be a bigger list. Damn.

I have range though, huh?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oh Archie, You Cad!

Sorry, Betty.

I hope they don't get married on Harper's Island.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Comics-Op Is UP!

Hi all,

My very first (aw!) column for Comixology is up!

It's a new feature called COMICS-OP

Yay, please show love, sign up for Comixology's forums and comment, etc.

Help make this teh most awesome comics column since Lying In The Gutters!

(or just patronize me and tell me "nice job," I'm open to either)

Spam Now 90% Of All Email Penis Enlargement Hello Dear Friend sdkyK

According to CNET, spam makes up 90.4 % of all email:
"This means that 1 out of every 1.1 e-mails is junk. The report also notes that spam shot up 5.1 percent just from April to May."
My current fave spam email, received just a half-an-hour after clearing my spam filter:

This is Huge Rugby, one of over 250,000 members on"

That is the best name ever anywhere: Huge Rugby. I'm going to use that in a story.

Death To "New Comics Day?"

Marc Mason at Comics Waiting Room proposes an end to "New Comic Day." He opines that having the focus on one "big" day hurts sales at comic retailers for the rest of the week; the collective fanboy zeitgest blows their wad on Wednesday, as it were.

While I agree that retailers need to see past the current model of the monthly "floppy" and think of other strategies, purposely ending such an entrenched buying ritual at this juncture would be devastating for the industry.

I do think one day we will see the end of "new comic day." But I see it more as a slow fade-out over time; not so much a conscious ending as a lessening and lessening in relevance. As Marc writes in his column:
"...after having been a slave to it as a younger man, and keeping in touch with it at least tangentially through this past winter, it was very shocking to me that it took me that long to realize I had been away that long, and even more shocking to realize that I didn’t care and didn’t miss it."

Buffy Movie Rights Holders Plan Whedonless Remake

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the original rights-holders to the movie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" are planning a "remake/relaunch" featuring the character:

"While Whedon is the person most associated with "Buffy," Kuzui and her Kuzui Enterprises have held onto the rights since the beginning, when she discovered the "Buffy" script from then-unknown Whedon. She developed the script while her husband put together the financing to make the 1992 movie, which was released by Fox."

Which made me think back to the 80s Filmation "Ghostbusters" cartoon -- you know, that cartoon that you watched as a kid and made you say: "hey, that's not the Ghostbusters." The cartoon was based on an old TV show called "The Ghost Busters," and was similar to the just-released popular "Ghostbusters" movie only in name. But Filmation owned that name -- forcing Columbia Pictures to obtain the rights to it for the hit film. That's why the official animated adaptation of the Ivan Reitman movie was named "The Real Ghostbusters."

So in theory, Kuzui Enterprises could pull a "Ghostbusters" and have their own version of Buffy Summers. They could use all the characters from their original film: Buffy, Merrick, Pike. But would 20th Century Fox & Joss Whedon let them without a lawsuit? Alternatively, could Kuzui turn around and force the existing BTVS franchise rename themselves "The Real Buffy?"

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Alan Moore's Misogynistic Legacy"

"...Alan Moore likes scripting violence against women. The fact that it may “work” in context doesn’t change anything. In fact, it allows Moore to get off twice, first by creating it and second by implicitly daring us to call him on it and expose ourselves as exactly the kind of insufferable prigs who are too stupid to be reading his books in the first place."
-- JR Minkel, "Alan Moore's Misogynistic Legacy"

Excuse me while I go grab my popcorn.

"Mickey Smith," Professional Soft Core Fetish Comic Book Pr0n Artist

Another bit I wrote for CONSPIRACY! last night. This isn't from my initial notes I wrote years ago, I just came up with it on the spot. I like it. When CONSPIRACY! is over, I think I'm going to have to write a "Mickey Smith" novella.

Excerpt from:
"2012: The Glory Road"
by Nestor Planchette

If you are still reading this, you must be one of the Chosen.

Just kidding!

But here's another cool story.

Two years ago, I ran into a pornographer at a comic book convention that was held in a church. The man was lit like a torch, barely standing by 6:00 when the exhibitors started packing.

Now, as a matter of full disclosure: I was a customer of said pornographer. I'm being very upfront about this, because I know these are the sorts of details that come out on the Internet and are used to discredit you (even though said details have diddly to do with your point). Further, I purchased a very special type of pornography – made-to-order – from said pornographer. Soft-core fetish porn. Believe me, the stuff I asked for was tame compared to some of his clients.

Anyway, this guy – who I'll henceforth refer to as Mickey Smith, not his real name – was very inebriated, and was actually searching me out to talk to specifically. He said he had something to tell me that might be relevant to my non-porn interests. So I helped him pack up his table and roll the whole kit-and-caboodle to the Dunkin Donuts down the street from the church. I thought the lack of alcohol and a surplus of coffee might be good for him. Seriously, I thought if we ended up at one bar or another and started a tab, the guy would be dead.

And, not to be crassly utilitarian about all this, if Mickey Smith died, he'd leave a lot of disappointed fans in his wake. The guy drew like a Michelangelo of porn. Such an intuitive grasp of the subject matter and what the client wanted. Knew all the standard comic book superheroines. You could ask him, "draw Halo from Batman and the Outsiders handcuffed to a radiator pipe." He instantly knew who you were talking about, even though that was a relatively obscure character. Sometimes, reference wasn't even necessary. (I never asked for Halo and a radiator pipe, by the way, that was just an example that I saw).

But it wasn't just that Mickey knew the logistics. He really made you feel for these figures on the page. I don't know what it was. The eyes, maybe?

Mickey Smith even had a best-selling underground book of his art that he was selling at the con featuring nothing but unauthorized pinups of superhero chicks in bondage. The book brought him some legal trouble here and there, but I think he got this group of lawyers familiar with that stuff to rep him pro bono. It was shame that Mickey wasn't getting work from the pros, but when I told him so he just sneered and said to me, "what do I need that bucketful of misery for?" And he said that he made so much money from his art that he didn't have to worry. International clients, deals with porn websites. There was even going to be a little video-game in Flash coming out. He should have been a happy man.

But, just to cut you Moralists off at the pass – I don't think the subject matter of his illustrations was what was dogging Mickey Smith. A $50 8x11-incher with some naked lady on it ain't the most important thing, it's not the thing it all hinges on. It's not what's going to end Society.

I mean literally end it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Where Will Clark Kent Work At When The Newspapers Die?

"Truth is, even superheroes couldn't get us out of the mess we're in now. Superman can stop bullets, move mountains and crush coal into diamonds, but he can't help us. He works for a newspaper. He needs a job. He wants to leap tall buildings and then crash on your couch. Batman can't help you. He can't get parts for his big, stupid American car. And Wonder Woman can't help you, because we don't allow gays in uniform."
--Bill Maher, "Superheroes Can't Save California"

Comics-Op Column Update

Hey all,

My first Comics-Op column at Comixology will be bumped to early next week, as to not get trampled by the Memorial Day vacation rush. Will keep you updated.

We've got some good stuff lined up, including a great mini-interview with Archie Comics about the Archie wedding issue – I'm really, really pleased with how that turned out (and they have an awesome sense of humor).

That said, I still have time to squeeze in any breaking news, tips, etc. -- please email me (using the envelope icon on the right sidebar) with any good stuff.

I'm sure I will be posting over the weekend -- but wishing you a great Memorial Day weekend!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

"V" Remake Trailer

May contain possible "LOST" spoilers...


The latest installment of the serialized eBook "CONSPIRACY!" has been emailed off to the Florida Swampwater list.

The chapter, "The Jar In The Filing Cabinet," is really a turning point in the novel, as the nature of the mysterious Zaius Project is revealed. This aspect of the book gave me some pause, as it sort of presages some current events a bit (placed in a somewhat ridiculous context). I just finished an interview with "Unthinkable" writer Mark Sable, and we discussed this topic a lot – is it responsible to write out doomsday scenarios and the like, if there is even the slightest potential of somebody copying them in real life? The government has had at least one "think tank" of fiction writers (including Brad Meltzer) come up with such scenarios, in a effort to anticipate them.

But a point I make in CONSPIRACY! is that there is an awful lot that can influence and inspire people to do terrible – or simply dumb and ill-conceived – things. In the next chapter, I go into depth about how a villain in the book was inspired to carry out his nefarious plan based on a certain comic book (I'll leave it to you to guess which one). I want to actually show him weaving this fictional narrative with scattered facts and fallacies from the Internet and coming up with his own textured view of the world. This textured view becomes his reality.

Along these lines, I was going to pimp this book to conspiracy websites and the like, but I wonder if that is wise. I think the narrative is so ultimately silly that nobody could really take it seriously. In fact, maybe some theorists will get offended (though I would advise them to finish the entire novel before jumping to conclusions).

Anyway, with this 13th chapter CONSPIRACY! is now three-fourths finished. I'm having fun typing up my old handwritten manuscript for this baby, tightening it up a bit, and getting it out the door. It gives me a sense of closure and accomplishment, and I think that's all you can really ask for.

Sign up for CONSPIRACY! here.

Is This A Standard Batman App?


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When TV Shows Become The Sponsor's Bitch

"My Name is Earl" Greg Garcia creator had choice words for NBC regarding the recent cancellation of his show:

"It’s hard to be too upset about being thrown off the Titanic."

But NBC has been so good to other shows, showing "Chuck" mercy! All the "Chuck" producers need to do is strengthen the tie-in with sponsor Subway:

“Chuck” appealed to Subway for reasons that included its audience, which is mostly the type of younger consumer that buys a lot of subs at malls. The show takes place in a mall, and Chuck’s girlfriend, Sarah, is a
C.I.A. agent who works under cover at various stands in the food court.It is no great leap to believe she could be selling Subway sandwiches next season.

Synergy, baby!

But I don't think NBC is the "Titanic." Network TV as we know it is the Titanic.

So how does a show like "Dollhouse" get renewed, and "Earl" doesn't? Is it the Hulu connection? Is it the demographics? If "My Name Is Earl" made a deal with Taco Bell and had Earl actually worked at Taco Bell, would that have saved the show, made it more attractive to the advertisers?

Are we going back to a system where one or two main advertisers own the show, body and soul?

Are we going back to this:

and here we are, 2009:

the only difference is that the Subway spot in "Chuck" was an actual part of the story.

I believe for nervous network TV stations, this solution -- making their TV shows the outright "bitch" of certain sponsors -- will become more and more the norm; meanwhile over at Hulu, we have the radical concept of watching free TV with "limited commercial interruptions."

We've come so far!

Want To Be An Intern At Valiant Entertainment?

Valiant Entertainment, a growing comic book/graphic novel publisher and licensor, has an immediate opening for a full-time office intern...This is an exceptional opportunity for the right person with a real desire to work with comic books and graphic novels. Potential duties include helping to develop marketing campaigns and recommendations for new comic products, market/competitive research, in-store product review, working on the development of major digital marketing initiatives and the unique opportunity to take part in the process of developing comics with the industry's top talent and some of the comics most popular characters of all time.

See the full Craigslist ad here

Death of the "Big Blue Boy Scout"?

"“Superman Returns,” the 2006 Bryan Singer dirge, didn't fail because audiences no longer resonate with a super being that can fly, shoot heat from his eyes and is immune to bullets. It failed because Superman is the epitome of good morals and justice, which today's audience find boring and childish...Perhaps if Clark picked up a crack whore and painted her with feces, then he'd be approaching "cool" again. "The Big Blue Boy Scout" as he is called by cynical fanboys and Guy Gardener, only works in a patriotic America. Changing him through some sort of rebranding effort or Warner reboot won't make things different."

--Erik Buckman, "Superman Is Dead And We Killed Him"

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Comixology Column: "Comics-Op"

So I have finally gotten the go-ahead to pimp my grand-spanking new column on Comixology, Comics-Op.

The first col should be up on Friday, and I will link to it here when it's up so you all will know.

The idea behind the column is to report on comics news, but to do it in an interesting, original, and relevant way.

Sometimes I'm asked to promote this or that, and the question I always have – and I have this question for my day-job clients too – is, "what's the angle?" How do we make your story jump out from the crowd? Yes, there are many comics debuting this week – what makes yours special? And how do we present that specialness in the most succinct and attention-grabbing way possible?

And that's really the philosophy behind Comics-Op – to make these stories jump out from the crowd. To crack open a standard press release and shake out the good stuff.

Also, I hope to have a few good bits of gossip and "scoops" here and there, though that's not the focus. I'll leave that to the experts. :-)

Anyway, hope to see you there.

They're Tearing Down Harry Donenfeld's Bar

The last days of the comic book shop I used to work at as a teenager were filled with a to-the-floorboards purging and tearing-down that managed to make the already-barren landscape upon which it was situated for over 15 years even more stark and existentially sad. They couldn't give away the bagfuls of memorabilia, the detritus of the entire boom of the early 1990s. Piles of shit left out on the street, many with their original price tags: unopened boxes of trading cards, polybagged collector's editions, promotional point-of-purchase standees that were in theory supposed to be "worth something one day."

As a person (one of many) who had been royally screwed over by said shop, I received the reports of its continuing dissolution with unrestrained glee. Not very Christian of me, I know. But at the time it was absolutely delicious; to hear that the worker who my ex-boss trusted the most had silently robbed him blind, to hear that the comics he purposely held back from public consumption – so he could artificially raise the price – were being let go for mere dollars. Ha de fucking ha ha ha.

But it wasn't just the end of one particular comic book store – it was the shake-out of an entire boom industry based on inflated prices and uniform/uninspired dreck. Even I, who was so forgiving – and even a fan – of B movies and retro-cool children's entertainment knew that a lot of the stuff being foisted on comic book fans as "must haves" were cookie-cutter garbage. I was happy to see all the waste and banality die.

But it didn't die. It just turned tail and got far more insular and inbred. At least comics like Spider-Man #1 (polybag, of course) brought in a wide range of people, a mass audience. After the shake-out, that audience – and the publishers that brought them their entertainment – largely calcified. After so much cash and optimism had been thrown around in that early-90s halcyon era, the new vibe at the comic companies was continual dread and fear. Constantly the idea that the bottom – what was left of it – could fall at any minute. Play it safe. Keep the fans you have. Keep your job.

Occasionally you would have the Next Great Idea, the prodigies, the comics and talent that seemed to come out of nowhere and dazzle audiences with startling new approaches. Sometimes, these wunderkinds were purposely nurtured, the new classics carefully and lovingly made. But often, it was simply a fluke – the real talent got through despite the System, not because of it. And, utterly shocked at the success of something they hadn't processed out of the Machine, the publishers did the only thing they knew how to do – tirelessly replicate it, beat the deceased horse, run it right into the ground. Oh, and alienate the wunderkind in question.

Then there were all the new imprints and Cool Ideas, those lovely attempts at breaking out of the male 18-34 superhero fan niche market. Failures, most of them, as the Old Guard are only too happy to point out, as the Old Guard point outs out while smothering those nascent Cool Ideas in the cradle.

To me, the ultimate symbolic face of everything wrong with the industry today is the character "Syndrome" from "The Incredibles." The once-idealist awkward mega-fanboy who now has all this power in the hobby he loved as a boy. He rapes the essence of the childhood heroes he so loved at the same time he puts them up on a pedestal (and sells that beautifully-sculpted pedestal to hardcore fans). He had a hard-on for the superheroines of his youth (and the girls who would never give him the time of day), and now whores them up and makes them his de facto prostitutes. And some of these men can become so addle-brained and confused that they sometimes mix up the superheroines they are pimping with their own female employees, pushing SuperTit Lass to the retailers at conventions at the same time they're pushing their dick inside their female subordinates.

Oh, you Rock Stars™.

I welcome the flood that washes you out, that preserves the forward-thinking brethren among you and flushes the rest of you the hell out of Dodge. You almost murdered this industry with your greed, short-sightedness, and parasitic clinging to jobs that are almost like welfare at this point. Take your big boxes of complimentary collectible crap – the reason you often cite for staying in jobs you claim to hate – and get the fuck out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

CONSPIRACY! Excerpt: "Stuart"

This excerpt from my serialized eBook CONSPIRACY! contains a spoiler of sorts, so if you're already following the book you might not want to read it. Even if you aren't following the book, you also might not want to read it.

You can sign up for the Florida Swampwater eBook list and receive CONSPIRACY! and other fine stories here.

picture by smohundro on Flickr

From CONSPIRACY! Chapter Eleven

"Hey, Toddy-bear!"

Stuart quickly led me from the porch through the rooms and up the stairs, never looking back, never engaging in small talk, his only acknowledgment of me his extended arm behind him. I always had to call Stuart right before I arrived, so he could hustle his mom out of the way and answer the door himself. Stuart liked his family life and friend life separate, like the food on his plate and the publishers of his comic books on his shelves. The Thickness would never be near Iron Man, for instance. He just didn't believe in full-on alphabetical.

I assumed that somewhere in the house -- maybe the dining room, maybe the bathroom, maybe the den -- Stuart's mother waited, unseen. She would hear a door shutting, a lock turning, and she'd know it was her time to get out, to help keep her son's world separate, to prevent his brain from short-circuiting. I had no idea what she looked like, or even sounded, but her personal effects were everywhere. There was nothing in the house that indicated a 38-year-old comic book fan, computer programmer, and gun enthusiast lived in that house; nothing on Stuart's door gave any indication that the room was his.

He ushered me in with an elaborate waving of his pudgy, freckled arms, closed the door, and slid a small latch in place. Stuart suddenly became alive, in his element. An open Priority Mail box rested on his floor, packing peanuts trailing out of it. On top of his immaculately made bed rested a dark gray gun; its weight made it sink slightly into the mattress. A wiry orange-and-black cat delicately walked past my feet, stepping over my sneakers; then it doubled back and aggressively rubbed itself on my legs.

"Sheila!" Stuart scolded, scooping the cat up. He regarded the mass of flossy orange fur his pet deposited on the bottom of my pants. "Sorry 'bout that, bro."

"Don't worry about it." I was way past worrying about natural animal deposits. The lighter fluid in my Chicken McNuggets gave me far more pause these days.

Stuart took a stack of comic books out of a folded-over brown bag, I had a seat on his navy blue desk chair, and we discussed the week's offerings. It was so rote, so predictable, our conversation; our stated dissatisfaction with the state of the comic book industry, our belief that the publishers had left us behind, that our tastes and interests and even values were not being taken into consideration anymore. We asked the same question we always asked: "Where were the real heroes?" We were sick of being force-fed stories starring scumbags and assholes, as if their amoral adventures, their fucked-up rationales, their wretched personalities were worth any sort of narrative whatsoever.

Despite all this, Stuart kept dropping about sixty dollars a week at the comic book store; over a hundred if he decided to purchase peripheral items. I could have borrowed his comics if I really wanted to, if I promised to be very careful with them. But years previous I had reached a point where the only stories I wanted to read were the ones I created myself.

Our ritual comic book bitching over, I began to talk to Stuart about Zaius. More than Zaius: I gave my friend a rounded picture of everything I went through over the last month. I told him things in detail that I had only glossed over before. I went into detail about Dr. Mengele and the Pacifax. I gave him a recap on Hyman Lidge, and how my eyes were opened to his folly by sweet Edith Snider. I explained to Stuart about over-population, about how things would never be what we would consider "normal" in twenty years, no matter what we did; that the best we could expect were food shortages, excess solar rays irradiating our skin. That cancer would be more and more certain, if not from the unabating sun then from the poisoned water. That our only hope was Science; not the science of Monsanto and Microsoft, but natural science. That we had to wake Nature fully up, so She could run on her own the way she used to, the way She did before we fucked it all up.

I told Stuart that I had reached the point where I could no longer go on "as usual." That I was throwing my support fully behind the Zaius Project, behind New Amsterdam. That I acknowledged there might be risks, but that I was willing to take them, because I found something bigger than me, something I was willing to sacrifice for. And then I told him that I respected him, and invited him to accompany me. That we could save ourselves.

Stuart was very silent as I told him all this. The only other sound in the room other than my voice was the cat rummaging through a Taco Bell bag on his computer desk. Stuart was sitting on the edge of his bed, one leg propped up on the other, looking serious but not angry. Sometimes he fidgeted with his bedsheet. I had no idea what he thought. I was baring my soul to him.

He was still silent for a good five minutes after I spoke. The air was thick, I could hear a gentle ringing after awhile. No, not a ringing. A buzzing. I wasn't sure if that sound was in the room itself, outside, or just in my cochlea.

Then Stuart said,

"I believe you."

And then he said,

"But I can't go."

*** *** ***

"I mean honestly, some of the stuff you're telling me is pretty far out there," Stuart continued, "but this world is so shitty that I don't doubt what you're saying. It makes sense to me. It explains things. It explains a lot. And anything that can bring a radical change to this world -- I mean a radical, profound change -- is fine with me. And I mean anything. I do not care. 'Cause we're due, and I've felt that way for a long time. But I can't leave. It's impossible. I'm glued here, and I know it. It's a mental sickness, I'll be the first to admit it. When I stop and really think how I'm glued here, how I can't leave, I pretty much want to eat the hot end of a rifle, you know what I'm saying? My dysfunction -- I'm aware of it, it tortures me. But it's too late."

"That's not true, Stuart..."

"No, it sure as fuck is. I'm doing my best to tolerate life. It's really the best I can do. And I'm glued, Toddy-Bear. I'm glued here. I don't like it. But at least I know it."

"But you were talking about moving out like what, six months ago? You sounded so excited. You had a plan. You had the newspaper with the listings."

"Naw, I'm glued. I'm glued."

Silence. Then,

"But I'm sure as shit excited that you're finally getting out. I mean seriously, this really cheers me the fuck up." And: "But I just can't fight the feeling that you are potentially in some deep shit." And: "I feel like, you know, emotional. Like you're going away."

Stuart grabbed the gun.

*** *** ***

"Nobody will ever think to look in here," Stuart said as he folded a fajita wrapper over the gun and placed it in the brown Taco Bell bag. "They'll think it's just garbage." Then he handed the bag to me.

The gesture touched me greatly, but also filled me with sudden dread, a dread that I had not experienced during my entire involvement with Edith and Zaius. Why would I need a gun, my mind rather forcefully inquired. And yet it made perfect sense. I was a revolutionary. The goals of New Amsterdam ran completely counter to what the Illuminati hierarchy had established for us. Were they going to loosen their grip on our lives without a fight? My god. This was happening. This was really happening.

But most dread-inducing of all was Stuart's behavior. He was absolutely mournful. He was sniffling. He puttered around his room like an Alzheimer's patient, starting out with some sort of purpose but then forgetting; walking around in circles. And all the time I sat on his chair, gripping the Taco Bell bag with the gun in it in my right hand, my fingers tight and sweaty around the rough brown paper. It was like Stuart was processing something, and all I could do was wait until he was through. There was nothing I could say, nothing I hadn't said hundreds of times before. No more reassurances, no more supportive words for his impending escape from that house, from Middle Village. It had all been an elaborate script, words spoken out of kindness, because it sounded like the right thing to say. I felt an incredible finality in that moment, and I knew Stuart felt it too.

"I always knew you'd get out, Toddy-Bear," Stuart said, finally stopping his pacing and wiping his red nose with the meaty part of his hand below the thumb. Then he knelt, unzipped my pants, and went down on me.

I didn't know what to do. So I let him finish.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nitpicky Fans: Why?

"Captain Nemo"

The Columbia Journalism Review has a cute post on newspapers who have had to run retractions on their Star Trek movie articles as the result of (their words) "hard core fans" who sent in corrections.

To be fair, the examples cited in CJR and excerpted on the Regret The Error blog aren't that nitpicky. I think things like the basic title of the movie and the alien race of the Big Bad aren't the result of basement-dwelling mouth-breathers having an Aspergers attack. I mean, the Los Angeles Times called Eric Bana's character "Captain Nemo."

But post any inaccuracy on comic book and sci-fi topics, and watch the corrections fly in. Or get stuff wrong when putting out a comic. At DC the level of editorial stressing over getting every minutia of continuity right was intense. And when the inevitable minutia got through the cracks, there was the fan backlash.

Now, I can understand the need to keep continuity and all that; to make the fantasy universe in question as rich, textured, and comprehensive as possible. When that gets into grayer matters like characterization, it can get kind of stupid, because there are often several versions and takes on the same superhero.

But why do comic book & sci-fi fans get so nitpicky? Does this happen with sports fans as well? Or with any sorta fan? Is it just in the fan DNA?

Meanwhile, Roger Ebert baits Trekkies. He's a brave one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blockbuster: "Healthy Box-Office Killing Home Video Rentals"

In what can only be called a stunning reversal, Blockbuster recently declared that a rise in movie attendance is eating away at their video rental business.

In other news, "nothing good has come from the Internet" and Fox to make version of "The Bachelor" with an overweight dude called "The Fatchelor."

I'm not kidding.

Occasional Superheroine Now Available On Kindle

For just $1.99 a month you can subscribe to Occasional Superheroine on your Kindle device! Be the first on your block!


Jimmy Nolsen (Spoilers)

Also known as "Folsen," also known as Redd Harring, also known as "too old for DC's taste."

Fucking "Smallville..."

Thoughts About The Faux-Mainstream & The Future

Disney comic books used to sell in the millions; can they do so again?

Back when the comic book industry targeted their top books towards broad general audiences, they sold individual titles like Superman and Walt Disney Comics And Stories in the millions.

Now mainstream comics has largely evolved into a niche market, with a drastically reduced audience. And that's kinda sad. And ironic – what we think of as the "mainstream" is anything but. It is a niche serving some very specific demographics.

However, the rise of digital, the recession, and online comics piracy are helping push the industry back into their general audiences roots.

As cover prices rise and the recession continues, many "mainstream" comic book readers will either drop more titles and/or download illegal copies from the Internet.

Meanwhile the masses will continue to abandon pay-for-paper en masse for free online content. They largely abandoned the comic book industry a long time ago, choosing instead to occasionally watch movies & TV shows based on their characters.

These masses are hungry for more free online content. The comic book industry could provide that content – but in order to make it worth their while they need really good online ad sales. They get the good online ad sales by either having great demographics or great traffic; by continuing to focus on a niche "faux mainstream" audience, they are potentially jeopardizing the former and definitely killing the latter.

The funny thing is, if the industry made it a point to cater to the mass audience, and not just a niche, many of the niche readers would probably read the comics anyway. But in order for this all to happen, there needs to be management in place who not only have the balls to refocus on the wider audience, but actually knows how to get that wider audience.

Mainstream vs. Niche: General Audience Vs. Limited Audience

I give the target timeframe for the industry sea-change within 12 months. What will shake out are:
  • Even more "niche" and exclusive pay-for-paper monthly content, for the hardcore. Don't look for the great strides in true "mainstreaming" in this department.
  • Higher-priced pay-for-paper monthly content.
  • A far stronger emphasis on trade collections and bookstore sales. Look for the collected editions to be far cheaper than the individual monthly titles. Everything will be done to make monthlies the purview of the committed, hardcore superhero niche collector – and to (de facto) discourage everyone else from buying them.
  • Cheaper digests/collected editions of children's content, though the monthlies will still be pricey.
  • A sudden and sharp turn to showcasing first-run "true mainstream" content online. There will be multimedia components to some of this content, as well as a focus on movie/TV/video-game spin-offs & synergy.
If the comic book industry tries to just pluck the "faux-mainstream" content from the pay-for-paper monthlies and stick them on the Internet, they will find that they will not generate enough traffic from them to make the ad sales healthy enough to the point of supporting a giant company. They need those old-time sales-in-the-millions, and you can only really do that by producing a product for wide audiences. And if you alienate females, you are seriously and needlessly cutting into your potenial base.

The comic book industry originally began to alienate females and discount them as a demographic because some of the guys who were brought up on the first two waves of comics (Golden and Silver) were nerdy and awkward around girls and thus resented them and didn't know what to do with them. Up to the Silver Age, many of the guys who worked in the comic book industry had more or less well-rounded educations and lives. By "well-rounded," I mean their whole lives didn't revolve over an obsessive fascination with childhood entertainment, and sometimes they talked to girls (or guys, if they swung that way).

A particular breed of awkward fanboy who came of age in the Silver Age is responsible for a large portion of the inward-facing exclusivist niche that took a once-healthy industry to a heart-beat away from death. They came of age in the Silver Age, got into power in the Bronze Age, and decided to just reproduce obsessively the entertainment of their childhood (instead of coming up with unique concepts). Then some awkward fanboys who came of age in the Bronze Age -- raised on this regurgitated Silver Age bullshit -- got a boner for that regurgitated Silver Age bullshit and decided to turn it into third- and fourth-generation regurgitated Silver Age bullshit.

This entire mentality will NOT survive the recession, the move from paper to digital, and the easy accessibility of illegal downloads. The people in charge who are still relentlessly pushing regurgitated Silver Age bullshit don't care about tomorrow at this point; they are planning their quick and comfortable retirements. Until then, they will do every stink-nose thing they can do to slow digital down, to keep their pay-for-paper faux-mainstream niche. They claim they are doing this to champion the cause of the comic book retailer. Whereas if they really cared about the retailer, they'd work more aggressively with them to stock trades and graphic novels, stock movie & TV tie-in comics and memorabilia, and to make their stores as accessible and truly mainstream as possible. Instead of selling them pipe dreams, which many of them aren't falling for anymore anyway.

As a person who knows all this is going to happen – and happen damn fast too – I'm sitting here asking myself the question: what will be the most vital comic news and material to focus on? Not just in the short-term, but in terms of the new comics economy.

The mix has to include:
  • a focus on trades & graphic novels
  • webcomics
  • comics for children
  • pop-culture related topics like movies/TV/video games/etc
Again: niche websites and content only yield big returns in only two scenarios:
1. You are a small company and the yield from niche is enough to support you.
2. You control and dominate many niches (like the blog networks that have like 23 niche topics under one advertising umbrella).

*Great analysis on the history of comic book sales here and here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Chloe You Ignorant Slut" or "Smallville Fan Meltdown" (spoilers)

The Chloe/Davis fans react to last night's Smallville finale (spoilers):


"I feel like puking. What a ****ing **** ending to the entire Chlavis arc."

"How could they finish the Chloe and Davis relationship that way?! How totally sucky! I'm really ticked! They had something going! Down with Chimmy!! ARGGHHHH!!! Some people are suspecting that Chole is pregnant, and I hope that if she is, it's Davis's kid!"

"I feel so cheated too. I was even about to say quit to it all and quit w/ the fics but that all I can do now is rely on those fics to show the awesomeness of what should have been Chlavis. Grrr. So please continue w/ your awesome fics. So please make this right at least we can have it in fics. And your a better writer then SV writers anyway."

"my Chlavis heart is sooooooo broken"

...and, the server crashed on the message board and that's as far as I got.

To add a recap & my commentary:

Basically they've been dragging out this romance between Chloe & "Doomsday" Davis all season. Then in this episode they finally separate out "evil" Doomsday from "good" Davis using black kryptonite (because you know in the DC world it all has to be color-coded), and Clark leaves Jimmy alone with Chloe and a (presumably) unconscious Davis. Jimmy broke up with Chloe over Davis, but now Chloe tells Jimmy that she's always loved him and was just using Davis to protect Clark. Davis, deeply hurt by Chloe's betrayal, jumps up and shoves a pipe through Jimmy's torso. Then Jimmy kills Davis.

And this is why, folks, Chloe is an ignorant slut. Jimmy totally pegged it when he broke up with her. She was lying to herself about her attraction to both Clark & Davis. She never took any responsibility for her feelings for Davis. And the moment Davis is no longer Mr. "Dark and Dangerous," she leaves him for Jimmy (you know, Jimmy -- the guy she tasered several episodes ago).

I mean literally, this is pretty much the exchange between Chloe & Jimmy:

"I was only using Davis to protect Clark; I never had any feelings for him."
"It all makes sense now. Kiss me."

Not to mention what a poor schmuck Jimmy is; that he's so pathetic and insecure he actually buys the horseshit Chloe is shoveling.

Jimmy has a big funeral, and Davis is presumably dumped in a hole somewhere. Davis is like Tara from BTVS – the new character that is used a lot for maximum emo effect but never quite fits into the Scooby Gang. Davis is used and thrown away by the Smallville writers pretty much the same way he's used and thrown away by Chloe & Clark.

It's later inferred that Chloe is pregnant, most probably with the baby of Davis. Because you know, she was so *compelled* to sleep with Davis and make the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice being sleeping with a really cute guy you've been making gaga eyes with all season.

The saddest part isn't about the deaths of Jimmy and Davis, but the path Chloe took from lame to cool to completely lame again. I mean, do the writers realize how lame they made Chloe in this scenario? Could they have at least had Clark shake her and yell at her or something?

Of course, this is the same show that has been putting bandages on a bald actor's head and calling him "Lex." Which is to say – in the end, it really doesn't matter, and the "Chlavis" fans will be devoting far too much time and care for a property that doesn't really deserve it.

Demographics For Comic Book & Pop-Culture Sites

One of the things I have to do for my job is come up with comparative charts on demographic data for websites. The research site of choice for me in this work is Quantcast.

As a lark, I decided to do a chart comparing a broad spectrum of comics, movie, and pop-culture related sites. The sites I compared were:
I realize the inclusion of xkcd was a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but I wanted a baseline as to how a popular webcomic compares.

The demographic categories I used were:
  • Monthly Traffic
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Has Kids/Has No Kids
  • Income
  • College Education
A few general observations based on the data:

The most gender balanced sites were The Comics Reporter, xkcd, Marvel, IGN, and Rotten Tomatoes.

The most gender imbalanced sites were Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and io9 (all in favor of males).

IGN had far and away the highest traffic, followed by Rotten Tomatoes, io9, Marvel, and xkcd.

The typical Newsarama/Comic Book Resources user is:
1. Male
2. 18-34
3. Without children
4. Caucasian (but with a % of African-American users that is high above the Internet average, more than any of the other sites)
5. Has an income $30,000 or less

The site with the highest # of users with children (years 0-17) is IGN, followed by Marvel and The Comics Reporter.

Some thoughts based on the data:
  • Newsarama & Comic Book Resources seem to fit very snugly in what is considered the key demographic of the mainstream superhero comics reader. And yet both the Marvel (and to a slightly lesser extent) DC sites have a far more broader demographic -- where do all the female visitors of the Marvel & DC sites get their comic book news? IGN? Very possibly.
  • If the majority of Newsarama & Comic Book Resources visitors make under $30,000 a year, how are they dealing with the rising cost of comics & the recession?
  • If there is such a high % of users who have children, then it makes sense for them to push their all-ages material -- and why comics like their adaptation of Wizard of Oz do so well.
  • xkcd does pretty good numbers, competing neck-in-neck with the Marvel & DC sites. I wonder how the other popular webcomics would measure up (might be the subject of a future chart, though I'm sure it's been done already by sites that cover webcomics exclusively).
  • One thing I sometimes point out to clients is how a smaller site with a relatively simpler design does so much better than sites with all the flash and bells & whistles -- case in point xkcd, but many personal blogs, etc.
Anyway, those were some insights. Visit the Quantcast site to read about their methodologies, and also realize that there are other demographic/audience measurement tools out there with other ways of gathering information.

And if you would like a copy of the full comparative chart, email me.

EDIT: further thoughts that popped into my mind:
  • the fact that a site like IGN covers video games probably swings a lot of traffic and female visitors in their direction -- as well as younger users.
  • It's possible that the DC & Marvel site visitors that don't fit into the Newsarama/Comic Book Resources demo visit smaller sites and blogs that more specifically address their demo, or that have a completely different approach entirely.
  • If you are an advertiser, you care not only about traffic, but about the site's specific demographics. Traffic becomes an overall less important factor than specifics in income, etc.

Wikipedia Illustration for "Schadenfreude"

Minor, I know, but I thought it was amusing.

Quote of the day

"I am a guy who hasn't seen any good come out of the Internet...It seems to have done damage to every (part) of the entertainment business."

--Michael Lynton, chairman & CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vomiting Cat, Vomiting Cat, What Are They Feeding You?

I recently visited Newsarama and found as the lead story a picture of a cat vomiting blood. After looking at the article more carefully, I learned that this was part of a "Green Lantern" storyline, which apparently involved lots of characters vomiting blood on each other.

There's nothing really wrong about having characters, feline or otherwise, vomit blood. It doesn't really do it for me in terms of getting me excited about this Green Lantern series, but I doubt I am the target audience and so it's sort of irrelevant.

But there are several things that have come to mind as the result of stumbling upon that Newsarama article -- not as a direct result, mind you, but as a starting point:

  • I don't think the big debate in comics anymore is what Event is better, or if somebody thinks a certain character is handled in "the right way." The over-arching question that must be answered, as per any comic, is: "is this worth 3-4 dollars?" Everything else is minutia.
  • In the struggle to convince the comic book consumer to pay the 3-4 dollars, publishers may "push" more high-concepts like cats who vomit blood. There is less time to build an audience or experiment with concepts that are either subtle and/or untested.
  • If I write a column about current events in comic books, and I fail to "push" the vomiting cat, am I short-changing my reader by not being "in touch" with the times? And I ask that in all seriousness.
  • In terms of mainstream in-continuity superhero comics being content that children can read, I will have to say that this battle is largely long over and done with. Children, rather than being the core reading group for comic books, are now a "niche" market. And they probably have been for at least a good 10-15 years. We all just had to admit the battle was over (stages of mourning, and all that).
  • Regardless of the pros and cons of the blood-vomiting cat, the extremity of its nature has gotten its image replicated over and over again in a variety of contexts. Which means: it has done its job. We loop over to my first bullet-point: is it worth 3-4 dollars? And the second bullet-point: publishers push the "biggest bang" in the most extreme manner possible in order to convince the reader that this is worth their money. Not so much narrative, as outright stimulation of the senses.
  • It is not enough to say: "comics are for adults, not kids." There are gray areas in a lot of current comic book material in that the comics are for adults, but are not really at an adult level.
As an aside, my cats vomit mostly hair. Sometimes the food, if they don't cotton to it.

"The Way It Is" or "The Prejean Maneuver"

A pudgy, pink-haired man in an overcoat and dark glasses precariously balances his weight on a cinder block at an abandoned construction site. Had there been any observers to his lonely vigil, they might say it looked like he was waiting for someone.

Suddenly, a statuesque beauty, her long blond locks covered by a red-and-white gingham scarf, walks up to the pudgy pink-haired man. She is carrying a picnic basket, also lined in red-and-white gingham. Sunglasses cover her eyes as well.

The man gets up from his cinder block and waves in recognition. The two remove their sunglasses.



"It's so good to see you, girl!"

They embrace, then say in unison:


Perez then says to the woman:

"Sorry it got a little ugly towards the end there."

"No worries, P. I know you had to make it believable."

"It's just that every time I called you a cunt, I got another sponsor."

"And every time I said Christ would forgive you, Fox News came back to me with a better deal."

"I sure hope you get that Fox gig, Carrie. Having a regular soapbox will give us a chance to publicly fight more often."

"Thanks, Perez! By the way, I'm sorry I haven't returned your emails recently -- it's just that I've been so busy counting all my money."

Across town, Rush Limbaugh and Wanda Sykes share a lamb gyro at a meat cart:

"Rush, I'm sorry I said I wished your kidneys would fail. It's just that every time I say something like that, people just shove money down my pockets!"

"Don't sweat it, Wanda! This only gives me more ammunition so I can rally up the Base and kick out that wishy-washy ol' Michael Steele. Oh, and get more money."

Some miles away, a struggling blue-collar father comments on a Free Republic thread about Perez Hilton. He has been recently laid off from his job, and feels full of anger and impotence at the way his life seems out-of-control. The media storm regarding the Miss California controversy has revved him up and stoked his rage. Whereas before his homophobia was relatively minor and unexpressed -- and indeed he has previously never even heard of Perez Hilton -- now he is focused on hating gays with full force. In fact, so focused is he on the Hilton/Prejean feud, he has forgotten all about the real issues that are effecting his family's life -- job security, taxes, health insurance, decent and affordable education for his children. No, coining the phrase "Perez Fagton" has now taken up his valuable attention. And it feels good, to have an outlet for this rage, and to forget The Way It Is.

Not too far from the "Freeper" is a twentysomething out-of-work editor posting on "The Kos" about how Carrie Prejean is a bigoted slut who should be punched in the mouth to shut up. This young man may feel he has very little in common with the "Freeper," but in fact they face similar issues regarding finances and health care. The "Kos-head" and the "Freeper" both have causes that mean something to them -- gay marriage rights and Christianity -- but the fact of the matter is, marriage (gay or straight) is a luxury without the basics like food, health, and shelter. And one key food or water shortage or natural/man-made disaster will eclipse all other issues pretty damn quickly.

No, there is something purposely stirring up passions in the media in order to distract the public and break them up into warring factions filled with hate. If we need a physical representation of this something, especially in regards to the current situation, we could do no better than:

Donald Trump is the poster child for the real winner in all these debates and fusses. He gets to have it both ways, is a pal of both Hilton & Prejean, and enjoys the fruits of the controversy. What side is Trump on, anyway? Is he for or against gay marriage? The fact is, he is far, far outside the sphere where these topics are relevant. He is too busy making money. Him, Rupert Murdoch, all of them. How can Fox be connected to the ultra-liberal "Simpsons" and the ultra-conservative Fox News? Mega Media goes wherever the wind blows. And many -- though certainly not all -- of the most opinionated pundits on both sides of the fence also go where the wind blows.

And when the dust clears, there is you, and you, and you, and you and me. Different opinions perhaps, but facing similar issues of life-and-death, death-and-taxes, and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is The Way It Is.

But you know, in a sense it's best that we have the Hiltons and Prejeans and Limbaughs and Sykeses of the world, because they are pressure-release valves for the masses. But I much rather prefer true entertainment being the pressure-valve of the masses -- TV, movies, video games, comic books. Because when you use real-life sensitive issues with real-life people to inflame public opinion in order to drive up website hits and ratings, people could get hurt. Debates over topics like gay marriage should be conducted in rational, round-table discussion fashion, far more "PBS" than Perez or Limbaugh. But PBS -- who watches that boring stuff? The people want something more along the lines of Professional Wrestling. And by gum, they sure as hell are getting it!

And this is pretty much what John Lennon and Ozymandias were talking about, except the former just threw it out there as a concept and the latter came up with a workable plan. But Ozymandias formulated his particular plan because he felt that humans were ultimately stupid beasts that needed to be dragged by the nose from one spectacle to another, always needing something to focus on and hate. Is that true? Or can we reject the bread-and-circuses on our own and work towards a better world together, rather than wait for the squid-monster to do it for us?



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