Random Links For Your Weekend

Public Service Announcement

Top Shelf is having a sale on comics and TPB’s through September 25th.  If you or someone you know is always whining about finding new indie comics, this is The Place To Be.  Top Shelf publishes excellent comics and a huge number of them are $3.00.  My LCS apparently didn’t pick up the new volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I’m happy to be able to snag it on sale.

This Week’s Comics, Last Week’s Reviews

Promising Young Contenders

Diamond Releases for 9/10/09

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #604 – I’m on the bubble here…I’ve still got a couple issues worth of interest in me, but unless something changes I’m putting this on hold until The Gauntlet starts.
  • BLACKEST NIGHT BATMAN #2 (OF 3) – Oh, a bunch of family members come back from the dead.  Imagine. I’ll give it the flip test and see, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the first issue.
  • CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI 13 TP VOL 03 VAMPIRE STATE – I already picked up the single issues so I won’t get it again, but this arc was EXCELLENT.  I didn’t know who most of the characters were, but the idea behind the story was so brilliant I didn’t care.  It’s like the Vampire West Wing and Should Be Read.
  • NOMAD GIRL WITHOUT A WORLD #1 (OF 4) – Here are words that have never and will almost certainly never be spoken again: Without Rob Liefeld’s involvement, I am not interested.
  • STUFF OF LEGEND #1 (OF 2) – The FCBD book was really, really good stuff.  I don’t know how I missed the first print, but I’ve been looking forward to this finally coming out.
  • WEDNESDAY COMICS #10 – I haven’t been getting this, and won’t with only 3 issues left, but I’ll definitely get the inevitable collection.

Reviews from Last Week

  • Batman – I remember that last week’s post said that Winick’s run was okay, if forgettable and…I was wrong. It’s awful and forgettable. It’s just basic, by-the-numbers comic bookery that makes Chuck Dixon look like M. Night Shyamalan*.  There’s no mystery to his Shadowy Figure, especially since this person figured so prominently in his last run and has been forgotten ever since, and the rest of the story is just dull.  Also, what’s the deal with Clayface these days?  Last I heard, Matt Hagan was the only Clayface that looked like this, and he’s been dead for decades.  Is this the Greatest Hits Clayface?

A message to comic book writers: if you don’t have a story to tell with the greatest fictional characters of all time you do everyone a disservice by hacking it out.  Somebody else out there has a killer story to tell and placeholders don’t help anyone.  I truly don’t believe that anyone sets out to do bad work, but I think everyone must know when they have a winner versus just having 22 pages for the next issue.  (In the meantime, I just hacked out 179 words about a generic issue of Batman.  I’m apparently turning into Chris Sims.)

  • Strange Tales – It figures, as soon as I write something about the impossiblity of finding indie books, this beautiful piece of brilliance comes out.  Sure, the price point is ALL wrong ($5?!?! Really, Marvel?) but this is the only place you’ll get to see James Kochalka do The Hulk or Michael Kupperman do Sub-Mariner.  Perry Bible Fellowship’s short pieces were brilliant, also.  It’s possible this is the only place we’ll ever see Peter Bagge’s “Incorrigible Hulk,” too, even though it’s been completed for years.  For me, this isn’t the answer to discovering new indie books, but people like me WILL spend too much to see indie takes on Marvel mainstays, and hopefully more people will check out an indie book based on something they’ve seen here.  Epic WIN here, Marvel, and I’m glad there’s 2 more issues to come.

* I say this with nothing but love for Chuck Dixon, but he’s even posted the formula, so I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here.

Wherefore art thou, indies?

While stopping in at one of Denver’s more indie-centric comic shops the other day, I came to a startling realization: I know almost nothing about indie comics any more. It used to be that even if I wasn’t getting a particular small press book I was at least aware of it, and the reason came from the most unlikely source: Previews.

Dismiss Diamond as being unreasonably hard on small-press titles if you will, but they still carry a huge number of them. Without getting into distribution and business decisions that don’t concern me, Diamond is the sole comic book supplier for most comic shops, so if a comic isn’t in Previews it might as well not exist.

Once upon a time my Local Comic Shop would give Previews away to it’s subscription customers. Unheard of, I know… I pored through the entire catalog and didn’t just stop once I got past the Big Four publishers. I found tons of good stuff: Boneyard, Pop Gun War, My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer…An interesting summary, a tiny cover shot, and a relatively low cover price meant I could branch out and try books that my LCS wasn’t carrying and weren’t superheroes.

Since that free Previews stopped coming, though, my exposure to indies has drastically decreased. Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, almost all of your big comic news web sites traditionally cover Marvel and DC exclusively. Usually the only time an indie creator gets any space is when they’re moving “forward” with work at one of the Big Four. Most of the “major” indie books (Cerebus, Strangers in Paradise, Bone) that did get coverage have now wrapped up, and even though Moore and Smith have launched new series, you almost never hear of them.

Which leads me to my dilemma: how in the world are we supposed to find something outside the realm of traditional Big Four books? Obviously the Internet makes it easier for artists to put up their work and try to get the word out, but the signal-to-noise ratio is terrible and besides, I want paper comics I can hold in my hand. Go back to Previews? Well, I find the idea of paying a monthly fee for a catalog ridiculous. Maybe if there were more incentive, say coupons for books when pre-ordering, but I outright resent the idea that I should pay for the privilege of being advertised to.

Make no mistake: indies are where it’s at. These are the people making comics because they have to create comics, not because they think it’s going to make them rich or famous. Working with their own characters creates a sense of investment and (literally) ownership, so you get an artist’s pure vision. For the reader there’s also the thrill of discovery, returning to Matt’s talk of finding grails.  There’s something innately rewarding about stumbling across something you didn’t even know you were looking for, then trying to spread the word of Good People Doing Good Work.

However good <insert Marvel title here>: Dark Reign or <insert DC character here>: Rebirth or Spawn: Deathblood or Aliens vs Predator XIV is, it’s not the same as that DIY ethos of trying to create something new. And it should be easier to find those people.