And Soon the Office…

Between the wind and lightning and rain storms yesterday, and the two coats of paint I splashed onto the walls & ceiling (and floor and me) of the new office/studio/library room, and the pleasure of hanging with my son Dan for the afternoon and early evening, I didn’t even approach the computers yesterday except to unplug them completely when a bolt of lightning hit nearby. Sparks flew and there was a loud ‘pop’, sharp enough to prompt the mass unplugging of tech equipment in every corner of the house. That was the first bolt to hit — before that all we’d had was rain and wind — but it was enough. Luckily, everything seems to be working fine this morning.

Before the storm hit, though, Dan and I enjoyed the new Blue Underground DVD release of an old drive-in fave of mine, Tombs of the Blind Dead, which was big fun. More on that later, too. After Marj got home, we enjoyed our first sit-down dinner together at home since Dan moved out earlier this fall, and it was big fun, too. Drove Dan back to town in the hammering rain with a bag of video bootie (giving him some of my old big-box horror vids), then home again home again to jiggedy-jig the second coat of paint in the new room before collapsing around midnight.

So, catchup post later this morning. Until then, the eagerly-anticipated, sorely-needed room awaits the next stage, underway as I type this, of the massive shelving construction (being done by the good folks at Rise Up Builders, Olivier and Elliott, who have done top-notch work for us before). Soon, soon, I’ll be in my new work space!


And Soon the Office…

Between the wind and lightning and rain storms yesterday, and the two coats of paint I splashed onto the walls & ceiling (and floor and me) of the new office/studio/library room, and the pleasure of hanging with my son Dan for the afternoon and early evening, I didn’t even approach the computers yesterday except to unplug them completely when a bolt of lightning hit nearby. Sparks flew and there was a loud ‘pop’, sharp enough to prompt the mass unplugging of tech equipment in every corner of the house. That was the first bolt to hit — before that all we’d had was rain and wind — but it was enough. Luckily, everything seems to be working fine this morning.

Before the storm hit, though, Dan and I enjoyed the new Blue Underground DVD release of an old drive-in fave of mine, Tombs of the Blind Dead, which was big fun. More on that later, too. After Marj got home, we enjoyed our first sit-down dinner together at home since Dan moved out earlier this fall, and it was big fun, too. Drove Dan back to town in the hammering rain with a bag of video bootie (giving him some of my old big-box horror vids), then home again home again to jiggedy-jig the second coat of paint in the new room before collapsing around midnight.

So, catchup post later this morning. Until then, the eagerly-anticipated, sorely-needed room awaits the next stage, underway as I type this, of the massive shelving construction (being done by the good folks at Rise Up Builders, Olivier and Elliott, who have done top-notch work for us before). Soon, soon, I’ll be in my new work space!


Time to Play the ILSA Game! C’mon, America, Join in the Fun!!

Sometimes the online headlines — the title at the top of the window frame — speak volumes.

Yesterday’s first online news item on President Bush unapologetically supporting the current US torture state was a case in point: “Bush Declares ‘We Do Not Torture’ — Yahoo News”.

Ya, Yahoo News — what a ya-hoo.

It’s all

  • <a href=”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051107/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_torture”>here.
  • This is a step forward from Bush’s previous claims that “America does not believe in torture,” which was at least not as blatant a lie. We may torture, but we don’t “believe” in it, or that we are doing it.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? I assume enough of you are acquainted with Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia — if only by reputation — to understand the game following.

    Hey, big-budget remakes of 1970s and ’80s gorefests are all the rage right now, right? I mean, if they can remake Assault on Precinct 13, Dawn of the Dead and even Squirm (under the modified moniker Slither, which technically was a 1970s flick starring James Caan), why not bring back Ilsa?

    Think about it. Uma Thurman would be a natural, unless Meryl Streep has dibs. Hell, we can even preserve the Middle East setting of Harem Keeper, and bring back Ilsa’s statuesque ass-kicking, eye-gouging Amazonian bodyguards Velvet and Satin in the bargain. Whadya think, Lucy Lui and Keira Knightley in those roles?

    Consider this the opening pre-title faux newsreel sequence of the upcoming Ilsa: Dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, though that title isn’t final (producers are also considering Ilsa: Blood-Bitch of Guantanamo Bay). They weren’t originally going to cast Ilsa as el Presidente, but recent developments have prompted the bolder narrative strokes (and I do mean strokes):
    _____

    “PANAMA CITY, Panama – President Ilsa on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful.

    “We do not torture,” Ilsa declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.

    Ilsa supported an effort spearheaded by cyborg Vice President Dick Kaiser to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.

    “We’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job,” Ilsa said. “There’s an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law.”

    Licking her lips seductively, President Ilsa added, “My law.”

    Kaiser is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban if one is passed by both chambers.

    Accompanied by her aides Satin and Velvet, Ilsa spoke at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the administration’s military tribunals for foreign terror suspects.

    In a case entailing a major test of the government’s wartime powers, justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden’s former driver can be tried for war crimes before military officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, U.S. military forces have held hundreds of suspects at known installations outside the United States, including at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

    Ilsa was asked about reports that the CIA was separately maintaining secret prisons in eastern Europe and Asia to interrogate al-Qaida suspects — and demands by the International Red Cross for access to them.

    Without confirming or denying the existence of such prisons, Ilsa said, “Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people.”

    She pointedly noted that Congress shares that responsibility with the administration.

    “We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the
    law. We do not torture,” Ilsa said.

    The European Union is investigating reports of the CIA prisons. The story was first reported by The Washington Post….

    Sen. Max Thayer, D-Mass., said Ilsa’s comments in Panama,
    combined with Kaiser’s efforts to exempt the CIA from the torture ban, “only demonstrate that the White House learned nothing from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”

    “This administration has consistently sought legal justifications for harsh techniques,” Kennedy said.

    The United States drew worldwide condemnation after photographs circulated showing guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad mistreating and humiliating prisoners.”
    _______

    Go ahead, play the Ilsa game in the coming days.

    Really, it’ll do you good.

    It may not make this latest stance of our own country less vile, but it’ll at least keep you focused on how badly our leaders are trying to place a gentle spin on their ReBiblican torture state. I don’t recall Jesus condoning this kind of behavior, but what do I know, leftist heathen stooge that I am?

    Having endured their own open torture states (many subsidized by the good ol’ U. S. of A. and our C. I. and A.) in Panama City, Panama, where Fearful Leader was speaking, South and Central Americans were hardly sympathetic.

    Maybe we should wake the fuck up north of the border, eh?


    Time to Play the ILSA Game! C’mon, America, Join in the Fun!!

    Sometimes the online headlines — the title at the top of the window frame — speak volumes.

    Yesterday’s first online news item on President Bush unapologetically supporting the current US torture state was a case in point: “Bush Declares ‘We Do Not Torture’ — Yahoo News”.

    Ya, Yahoo News — what a ya-hoo.

    It’s all

  • <a href=”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051107/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_torture”>here.
  • This is a step forward from Bush’s previous claims that “America does not believe in torture,” which was at least not as blatant a lie. We may torture, but we don’t “believe” in it, or that we are doing it.

    Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? I assume enough of you are acquainted with Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia — if only by reputation — to understand the game following.

    Hey, big-budget remakes of 1970s and ’80s gorefests are all the rage right now, right? I mean, if they can remake Assault on Precinct 13, Dawn of the Dead and even Squirm (under the modified moniker Slither, which technically was a 1970s flick starring James Caan), why not bring back Ilsa?

    Think about it. Uma Thurman would be a natural, unless Meryl Streep has dibs. Hell, we can even preserve the Middle East setting of Harem Keeper, and bring back Ilsa’s statuesque ass-kicking, eye-gouging Amazonian bodyguards Velvet and Satin in the bargain. Whadya think, Lucy Lui and Keira Knightley in those roles?

    Consider this the opening pre-title faux newsreel sequence of the upcoming Ilsa: Dominatrix of Abu Ghraib, though that title isn’t final (producers are also considering Ilsa: Blood-Bitch of Guantanamo Bay). They weren’t originally going to cast Ilsa as el Presidente, but recent developments have prompted the bolder narrative strokes (and I do mean strokes):
    _____

    “PANAMA CITY, Panama – President Ilsa on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful.

    “We do not torture,” Ilsa declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.

    Ilsa supported an effort spearheaded by cyborg Vice President Dick Kaiser to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.

    “We’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job,” Ilsa said. “There’s an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law.”

    Licking her lips seductively, President Ilsa added, “My law.”

    Kaiser is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban if one is passed by both chambers.

    Accompanied by her aides Satin and Velvet, Ilsa spoke at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the administration’s military tribunals for foreign terror suspects.

    In a case entailing a major test of the government’s wartime powers, justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden’s former driver can be tried for war crimes before military officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, U.S. military forces have held hundreds of suspects at known installations outside the United States, including at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

    Ilsa was asked about reports that the CIA was separately maintaining secret prisons in eastern Europe and Asia to interrogate al-Qaida suspects — and demands by the International Red Cross for access to them.

    Without confirming or denying the existence of such prisons, Ilsa said, “Our country is at war, and our government has the obligation to protect the American people.”

    She pointedly noted that Congress shares that responsibility with the administration.

    “We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the
    law. We do not torture,” Ilsa said.

    The European Union is investigating reports of the CIA prisons. The story was first reported by The Washington Post….

    Sen. Max Thayer, D-Mass., said Ilsa’s comments in Panama,
    combined with Kaiser’s efforts to exempt the CIA from the torture ban, “only demonstrate that the White House learned nothing from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”

    “This administration has consistently sought legal justifications for harsh techniques,” Kennedy said.

    The United States drew worldwide condemnation after photographs circulated showing guards at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad mistreating and humiliating prisoners.”
    _______

    Go ahead, play the Ilsa game in the coming days.

    Really, it’ll do you good.

    It may not make this latest stance of our own country less vile, but it’ll at least keep you focused on how badly our leaders are trying to place a gentle spin on their ReBiblican torture state. I don’t recall Jesus condoning this kind of behavior, but what do I know, leftist heathen stooge that I am?

    Having endured their own open torture states (many subsidized by the good ol’ U. S. of A. and our C. I. and A.) in Panama City, Panama, where Fearful Leader was speaking, South and Central Americans were hardly sympathetic.

    Maybe we should wake the fuck up north of the border, eh?


    Weighing Options

    My ongoing capsule reviews of recent theatrical film releases will continue, but here’s a little detour I’ll pursue only because it’s clearly near and dear to at least some of you out there.

    The TCJ thread I’ve been on (of late with Eddie Campbell and Mark Martin, both contemporary geniuses of comics I am fortunate to know) has taken an interesting turn.

    Consider the following blog post from yours truly, then click on over to

  • Back to TYRANT?
  • Pick it up from the lower section of that page of the thread, and read on.

    I’ve taken the opportunity there to address the following:

    “Please don’t misunderstand my post concerning TYRANT. I’m not seeking sympathy, as I’m happier now than I’ve been in years (though you wouldn’t know it when the topic at hand comes up); indeed, life away from comics has been far kinder to me than life in comics ever was. So, my thanks, but don’t fret for me.

    If I may, I’d like to build on Eddie’s post to move this thread in a far more constructive direction, and one I’d love to know more about myself in the new comics business environment.

    That is — relevent to FROM HELL, relevent to TYRANT, and relevent to all graphic novel projects — how do creators subsidize their creative life?

    It’s tough enough in the freelance realm, whatever one’s situation and venues. That’s a life I know intimately, but the commitment to major graphic novel projects is an extraordinary one, and one I stepped into experentially from two sides of the fence: as a publisher (first, via TABOO and the three serialized graphic novels I provided a venue for: FROM HELL, LOST GIRLS, and — the only one completed under TABOO’s tenure — THROUGH THE HABITRAILS), and abortively as a creator (TYRANT).

    We are now arguably in the second generation of cartoonists/creators to wrestle with the form. What I’d like to discuss — again, building directly on Eddie’s candid post, above — is what economic models truthfully exist.

    For the purposes of discussion, seems to me there are five existing models.

    The first three are dependent on serialization, as that model remains the most economically viable in terms of both time and income; the fourth and fifth are the exceptions, and I gather possible for those able or lucky enough to land a major publisher/patron:

    1. Self publishing/self-supporting: whether funded by outside work (a dayjob) or incrementally via self-publishing, the graphic novel is completed via periodical publication in installments or serialized form. Whether that serialization venue is self-standing (CEREBUS, ELFQUEST, etc.) or via a more free-form title or anthology (the original incarnation of YUMMY FUR) is of no consequence here, though.

    2. Financially self-supporting creator, working with a publisher-supported venue for serialization: this is relevent to published venues that do not pay advances, only royalties. In time, that income may help support the work, but the creative commitment is prepared to subsidize their own work as necessary. It is a step away from self-publishing, and necessarily dependent on legal contracts bonding the creator/property and publisher, which may have consequences. The graphic novel is completed via periodical publication in installments or serialized form. Again, whether that serialization venue is self-standing or via a more free-form title or anthology is of no concern.

    3. Publisher-supported serialization: the creator of the serialized work is paid either a page rate or advance, plus royalties. The page rage/advance income subsidizes the work, necessitating legal contracts bonding the creator/property and publisher, preferably in a healthy long-term relationship (e.g., LOVE AND ROCKETS, SANDMAN, etc.). The graphic novel is completed via periodical publication in installments or serialized form. Again, whether that serialization venue is self-standing (SANDMAN, BLACK HOLE) or via a more free-form title or anthology (LOVE AND ROCKETS) is of no concern.

    4. Publisher-supported graphic novel venue as a complete, self-contained graphic novel: the creator of the work is paid either a page rate as work is completed, or an advance/scheduled advances — though book-industry standards of advances seems to be the norm, by all accounts — plus royalties. The page rage/advance(s) subsidizes the work, necessitating legal contracts bonding the creator/property and publisher, preferably in a healthy long-term relationship (e.g., STUCK RUBBER BABY, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCES, etc.). The graphic novel is not published until it is completed as a whole.

    5. Creator self-supported graphic novel venue as a complete, self-contained graphic novel: the creator of the work completes work under their “own steam,” sans publisher involvement. Using whatever means available, the creator self-subsidizes the work, retaining all rights. The graphic novel is not published until it is completed as a whole.

    Note that the economic models #1-3 can also be boosted/amplified by the publication of collections: that is, compilations of the completed chapters, as either larger serializations (e.g., the reprint FROM HELL volumes, SWORDS OF CEREBUS) or compartmentalized, cohesive self-standing volumes (e.g., SANDMAN’s individual volumes, the definitive CEREBUS collections).

    I should also throw in variation #6 — meaning, some combination of the above, determined by a project’s lifespan and multiple publishing arrangements that usually outlive venues and/or publishers involved (e.g., MAUS, FROM HELL) — and variation #7 — graphic novels completed thanks to non-publisher outside support (e.g., the Xerix Foundation, MAUS’s Guggenheim grant, the out-of-the-blue grant that allowed Howard Cruse to complete STUCK RUBBER BABY).

    Seems to me Eddie’s candor opens a great opportunity to discuss such matters, which (if anyone’s interested) WOULD go a long way toward helping me sort out the viability or options for TYRANT.

    Like other key graphic novel works (MAUS, STUCK RUBBER BABY, etc.), FROM HELL was completed only after an extensive commitment of time — years! — from its creators, Alan and Eddie. The publisher particulars, though relevent, aren’t nearly as critical as the creator’s situations. How did Eddie get through over a decade of ongoing labor, and deal with the vagaries of the market (including publisher musical-chairs) and legal nightmares associated with seeing it through?

    He’s already shared some critical issues and insights. Let’s continue, please.

    Though many forget the chronologies, FROM HELL is hardly alone in its case history. Dave McKean had to deal with the fallout from the whole Tundra/Kitchen Sink dissolutions for CAGES; more to the point, Spiegelman launched MAUS as a one-shot story in the underground one-shot FUNNY AMINALS; expanded and re-launched the graphic novel proper in serialized form as the insert mini-comics in the first oversized incarnation of RAW; made the leap to Penguin for MAUS Vol. 1; scored the Guggenheim Grant, which subsidized continuing labor on MAUS until the completion of Vol. 2 and thus the whole.
    That’s a long haul.

    For my own circumstances, the attempt to launch a self-supporting TYRANT self-published serialization succumbed to the combo of slow (almost annual) release of installments (which isn’t untenable: Charles Burns’ managed the feat with BLACK HOLE), personal financial setbacks (including divorce), and the collapse of the direct sales market (which in less than a year neatly cut my initial sales reach to a dozen distributors down to one).

    However, it would be concievable to resurrect the project in any one of the 7 variations I’ve outlined above. Each has their virtues and detriments — and only two (#1 and #2) are viable, given my current situation, though neither is likely in the near future.

    Well, if anyone’s interested, let’s dance this around.”

    If we can apply the yardstick to comics history of generations of creators solving problems, it seems to me the current generation of creators are engaged with solving the problem of graphic novels as a form demanding extraordinary commitment over time and extraordinary means to complete.

    We can now chart many viable models, working to the present from the landmark of the late Will Eisner‘s coining the term graphic novel in 1977 with the publication of A Contract with God, while noting the precursors to that landmark (and the immediate contemporaries of Eisner‘s who also engaged the form, from those the market defeated — Gil Kane‘s His Name is Savage and Blackmark, Wally Wood‘s attempts to mount his Wizard King — and those who found or created market niches — Jack Katz‘s The First Kingdom, Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy‘s Sabre, released simultaneously with Eisner‘s Contract).

    The key for any involved in this creative process is how to make ends meet while sustaining/nurturing/completing massive self-contained works — graphic novels — over the years (sometimes a decade or more: Maus, From Hell, etc.) necessary to their completion.

    My first attempt to mount and launch Tyrant as a self-published vehicle succumbed to personal and market forces. I am weighing my options anew, in hopes of finding a means to re-engage with the project.

    As a generation, we’re far enough along in the process to have multiple economic models to define, dissect, analyse and assess (and access!).

    I hope some of you will sample the thread, and join the conversation.

    See you there.