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.


    And in theaters…

    The Bissettian computer work area/studio/library room is now completely sheetrocked and painting begins tomorrow; the outdoors work in and about the house was completed yesterday (including the creation of a rock-tiered area in Marj’s garden and burial of Sugar with the ashes of her feline compadres PT and Shadow); and I’m back to work on two writing gigs I tabled for a time as weekly CCS prep and other commitments asserted themselves.

    Still, I’ve stolen a couple hours here and there to see movies on the big screen, and here’s the rundown, for what it’s worth. As my stepson Mike‘s pal Chad puts it regarding food, “I’m an Opportunivore,” and that goes triple for me and movies. Missed Serenity, though, which I did want to catch, and Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean‘s Mirrormask is nowhere in driving distance:

    THE CORPSE BRIDE: It was intoxicating to see, in the same week, two stop-motion animation feature films on the big screen (the other was Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, natch). I wish I could have contrived to see them back-to-back, as a double-feature. This latest Tim Burton confection was a sweet slice of Gothic cake, effectively and efficiently telling the tale of a timid groom’s (Johnny Depp) ordeal with a family-arranged marriage tipping inadvertantly into an impromptu wedding to a dead woman (Helena Bonham Carter), opening the door for him into the realm of the dearly-departed (a favorite theme of Burton‘s since Beetlejuice and arguably Vincent and Frankenweenie). The ensuing melodramatics are executed with high humor and marvelous visuals, graced with sterling vocal performances and some stunning atmospherics and set pieces, and in its way this was far more accessible on first viewing that Nightmare Before Christmas was. The faux-Peter Lorre voiced maggot provided the most vivid link to the old Rankin-Bass stop-motion chestnuts (recalling most of all Mad Monster Party, with its faux-Lorre character), but those creakers never had the vast resources of budget, time, or talents that Burton‘s stop-motion productions enjoy. This was quickly eclipsed at the box-office by the subsequent release of Aardman’s more populist and popular canine & master duo, which is too bad: Corpse Bride didn’t even limp into the Halloween season hereabouts, when it would have been a pleasure to revisit it.

    DOMINO: Tony Scott‘s latest, based on Richard Kelly‘s adaptation of a ‘true story’ (the genuine Domino Harvey pops up before the final credits; alas, in real life, she was dead by the time the film was released) about a contemporary female bounty hunter (played with mucho attitude by Keira Knightley) and her meteoric rise and fall, brought to the screen with Scott‘s typical lavish overdrive. As many have noted, Scott completely adopts the textures, tone-shifts and kinetics of Oliver Stone‘s Natural Born Killers; what they don’t say is this is also damned close in tenor, tone and nihilistic alchemy to Rob Zombie‘s uneasy summer opus The Devil’s Rejects. However, Domino and her cronies shower a tad more often and have better teeth, but they’re just as lethal, sociopathic, and ultimately remote emotionally, as is the film. Still, fun to see Knightley and Lucy Liu spar a bit, more fun to see Mickey Rourke again (though this isn’t a star turn as in Sin City) and Christopher Walken lending his always bemusing reptilian opacity to a network exec, and one of the reasons I always try to catch Tony Scott‘s work in theaters is win, lose, or draw, damn it, you always come out knowing you saw a fucking movie. It’s always a cinematic experience, however shallow the well. While Domino‘s celebrity mum has a fleeting onscreen life here as a character (played by Jacqueline Bisset), the canny use of images/sequences from her dad Laurence Harvey in the original The Manchurian Candidate is compelling — alas, it would have been far more appropo to the emotional landscape to include clips of Harvey‘s desperate, impoverished final role and directorial debut, Welcome to Arrow Beach aka Tender Flesh, which anticipates the despairing narrative, landscapes, and threnody Domino really is.

    DOOM: I went with zero expectations (which is how I try to approach every film I see), and was rewarded with something more entertaining than I had any reason to hope for. It’s light years away from the nadir of both House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, the turds of the video-game movie sweepstakes, and for 90 minutes, that was a blessing. Still, it’s a video-game movie stripped to the bone: its virtue and vacuum. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is, well, the Rock, embodiment of the steadfast lethal efficiency of this particular vehicle, though the supporting cast (led by Karl Urban and Raz Adoti) is better than he is throughout. Rosamund Pike is distinctively out of place (as female characters almost always are in these machofests) but holds her own despite her thankless role. ‘BFG’ does not mean ‘Big Friendly Giant’ in this universe, which is one we’ve all grown up with. Ever since Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby invented the claustrophobic sf/military horror/sf subgenre with The Thing (from Another World) (1951), it’s been a distinctively American breed. James Cameron amped the archetype into overdrive and its definitive contemporary mode with Aliens, the very permutation the video game Doom adopted into its distinct medium; Doom the movie brings that all full-circle, jettisoning some key aspects of the game’s narrative (such as it is) but lapsing in its final setpiece into an obligatory literalist cinematic adoption of the game’s first-person shooting-gallery POV — yawn. Until then, director Andrzej Bartkowiak pulled it off as well as anyone would or could.

    THE FOG: I’m no fan of director Rupert Wainwright‘s inverted Exorcist opus Stigmata, and once again the studio remake cycle lavishing $ and gloss on revamps of 1970s and ’80s low-budget gems adds up to “more is less,” emphasizing how back in 1980 top-of-his-game John Carpenter was hands-down the better filmmaker (working with a fraction of the means lavished on this remake). This shambling, staccato remake of Carpenter‘s modest gem of a ghost movie doesn’t cut it, hampered by a rather misbegotten Cooper Layne script that tosses the rotting little baby out with the fetid bathwater once too often. Alas, this lurches to-and-from revisionist versions of a few of the original’s key setpieces without ever finding its own sealegs or satisfactorily emulating or resurrecting the first film’s narrative logic, arriving at a clever final twist that falls flat because (a) there isn’t the narrative thrust to lend it gravity and (b) star Maggie Grace (of Lost) is such a cipher in her role. She barely changes expression, whether she’s looking into Tom Welling‘s frat-boy eyes or staring death in the face. But it’s the failures of Layne‘s adaptation that did this in for me. For instance: we once again have the lighthouse radio station and female DJ protagonist deftly established in the opening moments, but the events never arrive at or envelope either. The lighthouse setting is essentially shrugged off, the DJ discarded as a key character with maladroit recklessness, and nothing supplants either, thus derailing the adaptation in ways that undermine the entire venture. The fog itself is never the malignant presence it was in the original, nor are its ectoplasmic occupants, and nothing flows — there’s no cohesive sense of place or geography, and hence no suspense. Like the fog herein (how did they shortchange the fog as an effect, having CGI at their fingertips?), the film moves in fits and spasms, spinning wheels sans momentum. While individual characters and sequences occasionally work, the whole never coheres into its own identity, much less a dim shadow of the original. Too bad. Did I mention Maggie Grace delivers the lamest performance in recent memory in any film? Oh, I did? Sorry. The only welcome ghost here is the screencredit for the late Debra Hill.

    More tomorrow!


    And in theaters…

    The Bissettian computer work area/studio/library room is now completely sheetrocked and painting begins tomorrow; the outdoors work in and about the house was completed yesterday (including the creation of a rock-tiered area in Marj’s garden and burial of Sugar with the ashes of her feline compadres PT and Shadow); and I’m back to work on two writing gigs I tabled for a time as weekly CCS prep and other commitments asserted themselves.

    Still, I’ve stolen a couple hours here and there to see movies on the big screen, and here’s the rundown, for what it’s worth. As my stepson Mike‘s pal Chad puts it regarding food, “I’m an Opportunivore,” and that goes triple for me and movies. Missed Serenity, though, which I did want to catch, and Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean‘s Mirrormask is nowhere in driving distance:

    THE CORPSE BRIDE: It was intoxicating to see, in the same week, two stop-motion animation feature films on the big screen (the other was Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, natch). I wish I could have contrived to see them back-to-back, as a double-feature. This latest Tim Burton confection was a sweet slice of Gothic cake, effectively and efficiently telling the tale of a timid groom’s (Johnny Depp) ordeal with a family-arranged marriage tipping inadvertantly into an impromptu wedding to a dead woman (Helena Bonham Carter), opening the door for him into the realm of the dearly-departed (a favorite theme of Burton‘s since Beetlejuice and arguably Vincent and Frankenweenie). The ensuing melodramatics are executed with high humor and marvelous visuals, graced with sterling vocal performances and some stunning atmospherics and set pieces, and in its way this was far more accessible on first viewing that Nightmare Before Christmas was. The faux-Peter Lorre voiced maggot provided the most vivid link to the old Rankin-Bass stop-motion chestnuts (recalling most of all Mad Monster Party, with its faux-Lorre character), but those creakers never had the vast resources of budget, time, or talents that Burton‘s stop-motion productions enjoy. This was quickly eclipsed at the box-office by the subsequent release of Aardman’s more populist and popular canine & master duo, which is too bad: Corpse Bride didn’t even limp into the Halloween season hereabouts, when it would have been a pleasure to revisit it.

    DOMINO: Tony Scott‘s latest, based on Richard Kelly‘s adaptation of a ‘true story’ (the genuine Domino Harvey pops up before the final credits; alas, in real life, she was dead by the time the film was released) about a contemporary female bounty hunter (played with mucho attitude by Keira Knightley) and her meteoric rise and fall, brought to the screen with Scott‘s typical lavish overdrive. As many have noted, Scott completely adopts the textures, tone-shifts and kinetics of Oliver Stone‘s Natural Born Killers; what they don’t say is this is also damned close in tenor, tone and nihilistic alchemy to Rob Zombie‘s uneasy summer opus The Devil’s Rejects. However, Domino and her cronies shower a tad more often and have better teeth, but they’re just as lethal, sociopathic, and ultimately remote emotionally, as is the film. Still, fun to see Knightley and Lucy Liu spar a bit, more fun to see Mickey Rourke again (though this isn’t a star turn as in Sin City) and Christopher Walken lending his always bemusing reptilian opacity to a network exec, and one of the reasons I always try to catch Tony Scott‘s work in theaters is win, lose, or draw, damn it, you always come out knowing you saw a fucking movie. It’s always a cinematic experience, however shallow the well. While Domino‘s celebrity mum has a fleeting onscreen life here as a character (played by Jacqueline Bisset), the canny use of images/sequences from her dad Laurence Harvey in the original The Manchurian Candidate is compelling — alas, it would have been far more appropo to the emotional landscape to include clips of Harvey‘s desperate, impoverished final role and directorial debut, Welcome to Arrow Beach aka Tender Flesh, which anticipates the despairing narrative, landscapes, and threnody Domino really is.

    DOOM: I went with zero expectations (which is how I try to approach every film I see), and was rewarded with something more entertaining than I had any reason to hope for. It’s light years away from the nadir of both House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, the turds of the video-game movie sweepstakes, and for 90 minutes, that was a blessing. Still, it’s a video-game movie stripped to the bone: its virtue and vacuum. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is, well, the Rock, embodiment of the steadfast lethal efficiency of this particular vehicle, though the supporting cast (led by Karl Urban and Raz Adoti) is better than he is throughout. Rosamund Pike is distinctively out of place (as female characters almost always are in these machofests) but holds her own despite her thankless role. ‘BFG’ does not mean ‘Big Friendly Giant’ in this universe, which is one we’ve all grown up with. Ever since Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby invented the claustrophobic sf/military horror/sf subgenre with The Thing (from Another World) (1951), it’s been a distinctively American breed. James Cameron amped the archetype into overdrive and its definitive contemporary mode with Aliens, the very permutation the video game Doom adopted into its distinct medium; Doom the movie brings that all full-circle, jettisoning some key aspects of the game’s narrative (such as it is) but lapsing in its final setpiece into an obligatory literalist cinematic adoption of the game’s first-person shooting-gallery POV — yawn. Until then, director Andrzej Bartkowiak pulled it off as well as anyone would or could.

    THE FOG: I’m no fan of director Rupert Wainwright‘s inverted Exorcist opus Stigmata, and once again the studio remake cycle lavishing $ and gloss on revamps of 1970s and ’80s low-budget gems adds up to “more is less,” emphasizing how back in 1980 top-of-his-game John Carpenter was hands-down the better filmmaker (working with a fraction of the means lavished on this remake). This shambling, staccato remake of Carpenter‘s modest gem of a ghost movie doesn’t cut it, hampered by a rather misbegotten Cooper Layne script that tosses the rotting little baby out with the fetid bathwater once too often. Alas, this lurches to-and-from revisionist versions of a few of the original’s key setpieces without ever finding its own sealegs or satisfactorily emulating or resurrecting the first film’s narrative logic, arriving at a clever final twist that falls flat because (a) there isn’t the narrative thrust to lend it gravity and (b) star Maggie Grace (of Lost) is such a cipher in her role. She barely changes expression, whether she’s looking into Tom Welling‘s frat-boy eyes or staring death in the face. But it’s the failures of Layne‘s adaptation that did this in for me. For instance: we once again have the lighthouse radio station and female DJ protagonist deftly established in the opening moments, but the events never arrive at or envelope either. The lighthouse setting is essentially shrugged off, the DJ discarded as a key character with maladroit recklessness, and nothing supplants either, thus derailing the adaptation in ways that undermine the entire venture. The fog itself is never the malignant presence it was in the original, nor are its ectoplasmic occupants, and nothing flows — there’s no cohesive sense of place or geography, and hence no suspense. Like the fog herein (how did they shortchange the fog as an effect, having CGI at their fingertips?), the film moves in fits and spasms, spinning wheels sans momentum. While individual characters and sequences occasionally work, the whole never coheres into its own identity, much less a dim shadow of the original. Too bad. Did I mention Maggie Grace delivers the lamest performance in recent memory in any film? Oh, I did? Sorry. The only welcome ghost here is the screencredit for the late Debra Hill.

    More tomorrow!


    International Journal of Comic Art Fall/Winter issue is in hand…

    The latest issue of John Lent‘s most excellent ongoing (seven years!) International Journal of Comic Art just arrived, and has brightened the past day or so. John is among our premiere comics scholars, and his publication remains one of the finest in the field, always chock-full of fascinating reading.

    This latest volume (and they are hefty paperbacks, clocking in over 400 pages per issue) has a number of highlights, including R.C. Harvey‘s autobiographical overview, the latest installment in the publication’s ongoing Pioneers of Comic Art Scholarship series, detailing the lives and labors of the first generation of comics historians, archivists, and academics. This has been an endeavor of international scope, so what editor Lent has incrementally constructed is an autobiography of the entire study of comics as an artform, person by person.

    But the focus, as always, is the medium itself, its creators, case histories and/or studies defined by thematic links, historical periods, or the parameters of individual artists, communities, or even stories (as in this issue’s analysis of the EC Haunt of Fear story “The Prude”). My personal favorites thus far this issue are Louise C. Larsen‘s chronicle of Dutch cartoonist Hans Bendix and his editorial cartoons savaging the growth of Hitler and the Third Reich, concluding with Bendix‘s destruction of his own originals to prepare for the Gestapo’s investigation of his home after the occupation of Denmark (the Nazi Nordische Gesellschaft subsequently requested he work for their propoganda division, “promising him syndication everywhere within the Third Reich”! Bendix asked for some time to think about it, and fled to the US). The other fave is Chris Murray‘s ode to the indy comics efforts of Scotland’s Douglas Noble: the complete repro of Noble‘s chilling little gem “Gash Meat” (pp. 297-310) is worth the price of admission this go around.

    Thomas Alan Holmes further sweetens the pot with a sterling article on Warren Ellis‘s unpublished Hellblazer Columbine-inspired script “Shoot” (which would have appeared in #161 of Hellblazer, had DC not decided to literally “skirt the issue”). Holmes provides a detailed synopsis and analysis before rightfully placing this online artifact in the context of DC’s other recent acts of self-censorship (unless it’s been shut down in the interim, Ellis‘s “Shoot” can be read

  • here).
  • [Note: sadly, the link isn't working -- see comments, below.]

    This practice has been institutionalized at DC since the debacle over Swamp Thing #88, and Holmes concludes that “DC’s editorial policy has led to the pulping of seemingly controversial comics and the inordinate delay of others… These editorial policies have also contributed to underground circulation of the material… Ironically, through these editorial decisions, a small part of the world’s largest media conglomerate in the world has invited more analysis of its workings. This independent study helps us avoid the dampers of passive media consumption.”

    You’d think they’d see a marketing opportunity when it so blatantly presents itself (and expands with such regularity). C’mon, DC, swallow some of that corporate pride — there’s a buck to be made here. A DC/Vertigo unexpurgated collection of the complete censored works would be one hell of a book (and/or series), presentable in whatever state they were censored in (whether completed, a’la Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud’s hilarious Batman, or the Ellis/Phil Jimmenez (art) Hellblazer #161, or in fragmentary form, a’la the Rick Veitch script/Michael Zulli pencils/partial Tom Sutton inks of Swamp Thing #88). It would be a certain best-seller!

    In any case, John Lent‘s fine International Journal of Comic Art is deserving of your attention. I subscribe for $30 US per year (two issues, and well worth it), institutional rate is $40 per year; send check or international money order to John Lent payable to John Lent/IJOCA to:

    John A. Lent
    669 Ferne Blvd.
    Drexel Hill, PA 19026
    USA

    If you’re too lazy to do that, click

  • here.

  • International Journal of Comic Art Fall/Winter issue is in hand…

    The latest issue of John Lent‘s most excellent ongoing (seven years!) International Journal of Comic Art just arrived, and has brightened the past day or so. John is among our premiere comics scholars, and his publication remains one of the finest in the field, always chock-full of fascinating reading.

    This latest volume (and they are hefty paperbacks, clocking in over 400 pages per issue) has a number of highlights, including R.C. Harvey‘s autobiographical overview, the latest installment in the publication’s ongoing Pioneers of Comic Art Scholarship series, detailing the lives and labors of the first generation of comics historians, archivists, and academics. This has been an endeavor of international scope, so what editor Lent has incrementally constructed is an autobiography of the entire study of comics as an artform, person by person.

    But the focus, as always, is the medium itself, its creators, case histories and/or studies defined by thematic links, historical periods, or the parameters of individual artists, communities, or even stories (as in this issue’s analysis of the EC Haunt of Fear story “The Prude”). My personal favorites thus far this issue are Louise C. Larsen‘s chronicle of Dutch cartoonist Hans Bendix and his editorial cartoons savaging the growth of Hitler and the Third Reich, concluding with Bendix‘s destruction of his own originals to prepare for the Gestapo’s investigation of his home after the occupation of Denmark (the Nazi Nordische Gesellschaft subsequently requested he work for their propoganda division, “promising him syndication everywhere within the Third Reich”! Bendix asked for some time to think about it, and fled to the US). The other fave is Chris Murray‘s ode to the indy comics efforts of Scotland’s Douglas Noble: the complete repro of Noble‘s chilling little gem “Gash Meat” (pp. 297-310) is worth the price of admission this go around.

    Thomas Alan Holmes further sweetens the pot with a sterling article on Warren Ellis‘s unpublished Hellblazer Columbine-inspired script “Shoot” (which would have appeared in #161 of Hellblazer, had DC not decided to literally “skirt the issue”). Holmes provides a detailed synopsis and analysis before rightfully placing this online artifact in the context of DC’s other recent acts of self-censorship (unless it’s been shut down in the interim, Ellis‘s “Shoot” can be read

  • here).
  • [Note: sadly, the link isn't working -- see comments, below.]

    This practice has been institutionalized at DC since the debacle over Swamp Thing #88, and Holmes concludes that “DC’s editorial policy has led to the pulping of seemingly controversial comics and the inordinate delay of others… These editorial policies have also contributed to underground circulation of the material… Ironically, through these editorial decisions, a small part of the world’s largest media conglomerate in the world has invited more analysis of its workings. This independent study helps us avoid the dampers of passive media consumption.”

    You’d think they’d see a marketing opportunity when it so blatantly presents itself (and expands with such regularity). C’mon, DC, swallow some of that corporate pride — there’s a buck to be made here. A DC/Vertigo unexpurgated collection of the complete censored works would be one hell of a book (and/or series), presentable in whatever state they were censored in (whether completed, a’la Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud’s hilarious Batman, or the Ellis/Phil Jimmenez (art) Hellblazer #161, or in fragmentary form, a’la the Rick Veitch script/Michael Zulli pencils/partial Tom Sutton inks of Swamp Thing #88). It would be a certain best-seller!

    In any case, John Lent‘s fine International Journal of Comic Art is deserving of your attention. I subscribe for $30 US per year (two issues, and well worth it), institutional rate is $40 per year; send check or international money order to John Lent payable to John Lent/IJOCA to:

    John A. Lent
    669 Ferne Blvd.
    Drexel Hill, PA 19026
    USA

    If you’re too lazy to do that, click

  • here.