I believe in comics.
(Trust me) when forces conspire, take Lady Macbeth’s advice: ”… screw your courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail.”
Wait! Wait! It’s my only Shakespeare reference, scout’s honor. There was a ‘screw’ in there that must have gotten your attention. I promise; I’m going to talk about Justin Jordan and Jim Zub in a minute.
First, I want to mention the legions of imaginary (?) sex partners Matt Baum claims to have had. A couple of episodes ago, Baum began saying how he is not racist, that he has had sex with multiple partners of whatever race or ethnicity he and Patrick were trying not to offend. My memory may be spotty, but I think he was talking about the Bhutanese when he said something about how important it is to champion the ‘stuff you like’ — be it movies, music, comics, sexual partners — and to write about it, talk about it, have sex with it, whatever. The point is: ”Just Do It.”
I wanted to write something ‘seasonal’ this month for THN — you know, end-of-the-year-summation-sort-of-stuff — instead of another one of my screeds about the creator-owned comics no one is buying. I’ve been writing about comics for all of ten months. It started with a blog moved on to Comics Bulletin and I’ve done a bit here and there for thirteen minutes before I started slaving away for THN. So, yeah, I love to write and I love to write about comics. Trust, I’m not looking for an ‘attaboy.’ I am thankful for the people I’ve gotten to know in the last ten months and hat-tips to those collaborators who took a chance on me. This is navel-gazing on my part, but I have a point and an ‘action step.’ First, roll call!
I’m thankful for the succinctness of Aaron Meyers and Tony Doug Wright. Everything John Littrel of Burnt Weiners writes is like a haiku … with genitalia. The TV stuff with Dave Demarco is appointment reading as is Kevin Coffey and Christopher McLucas. I’m still waiting for Joe Patrick to declare of his love for George Lucas and I think we can all agree there is not enough of ‘Small Man Big Mouth.’ Last and never least, with her wit and verve (and double XX chromosomes) Kacie Baum classes up the joint.
I work in television production. So, when I listen to THN each week (ditto Panel Culture and Burnt Weiners) I think about the show’s production. I think about Matt writing jokes and raps for Joe or the crazy intros on each episode of Burnt Weiners and how Panel Culture always sounds so effortless like a Toronto sunset. All the stuff nobody sees. All of it takes time, time for which no one is paid. So, why do it? Obsession? Re-directed latent homosexuality? Ennui?
The conspiring forces I named 470 or so words ago? Well, it came from writers, writers writing about self-love, kidding, writing, writing, it was about writing. On his blog, Attack of the Library Gorilla, Justin Jordan posted ‘Heinlein’s Rules for Writing.’ A day or so later my Comics Bulletin brother-from-another-mother, Daniel Elkin, posted an article about the daily routines of famous writers. The fate trifecta occurred when I found ‘Keroauc’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose‘ which my old friend Seth Martin had sent me years ago. Are you sensing a theme here?
Finally (oh, thank God, right?) I read Jim Zub’s blog post about the reality of mainstream creator-owned comics. Zub makes clear (with a very nice color-coordinated pie chart) there ain’t a lot of cash in the creator-owned comic’s racket. He calls Skullkickers, ”the most expensive hobby I’ve ever had” and concludes with six bullet points, one of which is: ”Tell your friends about books and help build support.” This is where we come in.
I know every publisher has a marketing department. The thing is, there are less of them and more of us. They need us. Comics need us. Nothing sells like word of mouth. Where this idealistic fantasy falls apart is that we may be talking to the wrong people.
What we write or talk about equates to spitting into the wind. Present Patricks excluded, if LCS tastemakers order fewer and fewer copies of The Massive or Multiple Warheads or (baby Jesus forbid!) Saga, the (sad) reality is those titles will go away. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and Brian Wood, Brandon Graham and even Brian K. Vaughan wear milk bone underwear.
Marvel and DC are going to be O.K. Sure, mainstream titles get cancelled too, but they have a deep bench (and deeper pockets) and there’s always another middling superhero or eighth iteration of Cap, Wolverine or Bats to pick up the slack. Follow creators, you say, fine, Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Mark Waid all write their own creator-owned titles. ‘Nuff said, almost.
Sometimes, I feel like that accused murderer and great man of letters, Andy Dufresne. There’s that scene when Andy asks the warden about funds for the library, Dufresne says, ”Still, I’d like to try. I’ll send a letter a week. They can’t ignore me forever.” Norton, the warden, says, ”They sure can, but you write your letters if it makes you happy. I’ll even mail ‘em for you, how’s that?”
I’m writing my posts. Joe and Matt are podcasting, week in and week out. I’m convinced this is the balm (Baum?): it’s us. If we continue to write and talk, read and respond to what comics are friends are writing, talking and (most important) pre-ordering, maybe those LCS gatekeepers will order more of our creator-owned favorites and our friend’s favorites. That’s the dream. Thanks to everyone and keep up your good and important work.
Here’s the take-home message: write, podcast, tweet, talk and dance. I came in with Shakespeare, I go out with Mamet: ”Go and do likewise. Go and do likewise.”
Keith Silva writes for Comics Bulletin. There is this @keithpmsilva and this Interested in Sophisticated Fun? Having read ”The Starman Pitch,” he NOW! has an omnibus or two to buy.