Mark Waid becomes a comics retailer

Over the holiday, Mark Waid announced that he is crossing the last frontier of comics prodom by becoming a partner in his local comics shop, Alter Ego Comics, which is located in Muncie, IN. The store was previously run by Jason Pierce, who will remain a co-owner with Waid and his partner, Christy Blanch. The store is well thought of by the locals, past and present, and Waid will gain a whole new range of experiences:

So I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Effective immediately, you can trust me when I say I want comics retailers to thrive, because now I am one. I said, I AM ONE. (I had to raise my voice there a little to drown out the screams of rage from anti-Thrillbent retailers like Phil Boyle. Hi, Phil!) Along with my partner in life and now in business, Christy Blanch, I’m logging inventory on Tuesdays and running the register on weekends and navigating the ordering process at our brand new location. This isn’t a vanity purchase, a symbolic gesture, or a silent partnership; Christy, Jason and I are each equal shareholders in Alter Ego Comics. I have skin in the game, and I’m eager to see what there is to learn about the only side of the industry I’ve never involved myself with.


How does this impact you? As with all things digital, what I learn as a retailer, I’ll pass on to you, here. Retailer Brian Hibbs writes a regular column called TILTING AT WINDMILLS; I am likely going to refer to my columns informally as NUKING WINDMILLS because, frankly, you would expect no less of me. I’m genuinely champing at the bit to, with your help, synthesize all this information now pouring through my unnaturally round head into some sort of Unified Theory of Comics. How best can digital comics advance the medium without kneecapping brick-and-mortar? How can physical storefronts best take advantage of the outreach digital provides? How will I ever stay ahead of my Daredevil, Hulk and Green Hornet deadlines? How many times a week will I have to promise Peter Krause that this week’sInsufferable really is “almost written”? This is going to be a hell of an adventure, and you’re along for the ride.

While we await our first pull quote from NUKING WINDMILLS with the eagerness of Miley Cyrus looking for a new twerking opportunity, it’s worth noting that a few other comics pros are at least part-time retailers. Geoff Johns is part owner of Earth 2 on Reseda Blvd. in Northridge, CA, although he doesn’t put in too much time behind the counter.

At any rate, best wishes to Waid, Blanch, and Pierce. This should be fun.

Jeff Smith on tour for RASL all fall

The complete RASL by Jeff Smith is out this week, and he’ll be touring all over the place—from SPC to CAB—throughout the fall. Here’s his schedule:

September 12, 2013
Washington, DC – Politics & Prose Store Signing

September 14-15, 2013
Bethesda, MD – Guest of SPX

September 22, 2013
Brooklyn, NY – Guest of Brooklyn Book Festival

September 27-28, 2013
Columbus, OH – Keynote Speaker Columbus College of Art
and Design Mix 2013

October 4, 2013
Chicago, IL –  Heartland Forum Authors Feast

October 2013 (date tba)
Amherst MA, University of Massachusetts

October 25-27, 2013
Detroit, MI – Guest of Detroit FanFare

November 9, 2013
Brooklyn, NY – comic Arts Festival

November 17, 2013
Columbus,OH – Wexner Center for the Arts – Looney Tunes Film Festival and Store Signing

Stan Lee has an archive, but you will probably never be able to see it because it’s in Wyoming

In an era when more and more collection of personal comics papers are being given to scholarly institutions (Columbia’s Karen Green and OSU’s Jenny Robb being among the leaders of this particular movement) it came as a bit of a surprise to be reminded where Stan Lee’s papers are housed: Laramie, WY. Sequential Tart’s Katie Frank made the arduous journey to the archive at the University of Wyoming, braving raging rivers, scaling giant redwoods and sustained on morning dew from maple leaves, but she made it.

I’m fortunate in that comics are a part of both my hobbies and my day job — in my real life, I’m a PhD candidate specializing in media industries. Part of my dissertation revolves around the comic book industry, a topic that takes me to many fascinating places. One such place I visited recently was the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center in Laramie, WY. The AHC houses the Stan Lee Papers collection, donated by Stan the Man himself for preservation and research; currently, the collection is comprised of 91 archive boxes that have been sorted and labeled for use, with a number of boxes that are still being processed. These 91 boxes contain material dating from the late 1960s through the early 2000s, covering a the majority of Marvel Comics’ existence as well as some of Lee’s other projects.

The staff also recommended restaurants and things to see in Laramie, and were just generally a pleasure to interact with. The building also houses the University of Wyoming’s art museum, which was a nice space to take a break during long research days. While food and drink are not allowed in the archive, there is a strip mall not far from the building that has a number of food options. There wasn’t much to see on campus during the summer, and downtown Laramie was a bit of a trek and also quite small, but if you’re a more outdoorsy type than I there’s a lot of nature activities nearby.

Although I kid about traveling to Wyoming, and wish the fine citizens of that state all the tourist dollars that Stan Lee might bring, how did this seminal collection end up in such an off the beaten path spot? I don’t know the real story, but I can only guess that they asked Back in the Day and Stan, just being glad that SOME educational institution showed an interest in his work. So lucky, University of Wyoming! Update: I am told that the UoW has a very extensive archive of pop culture/entertainment archives, including everyone from animator Michael Maltese to comedian Phyllis Diller, so Stan is in very good company. And now you have another reason to go to Wyoming besides experiencing the timeless, majestic beauty of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.


What Should You Buy in September? Gareth Brookes, Gene Luen Yang, Ed Piskor, Villains Month

September! New month, new comics, new things to look out for. We had a wander round the solicitations and picked out the comics we’re all most looking forward to this month. Also I got them to pick their favourite DC villains, because there’s a DC Villain Month coming out and well, why not.

Continue reading What Should You Buy in September? Gareth Brookes, Gene Luen Yang, Ed Piskor, Villains Month

Tell-all book on the Spidey musical is on its way

About 10 years ago, when I ran a tiny item on a proposed Spider-Man musical with music by U2 on the old Comicon-com site, I had an idea it would be quite a story, but I had no idea it would be just about the craziest story in the history of Broadway. Now Glen Berger—who co-wrote the book with original director Julie Taymor before going behind her back to rewrite it as backers planned to ditch her from the production—has witten a tell-all about the making of the musical, which is still struggling to make money, even though it has had the most profitable houses in Broadway history. The show is just so expensive to mount that it has to take in more than $1 million a week to break even.

ICv2 has some thoughts on the show and the book and Berger, focusing on how Marvel disliked Taymor’s vision from the git-go:

Looming behind the changes to show is the powerful presence of Marvel Entertainment.  According to Berger, Marvel hated the original treatment that he and Taymor had come up with, calling it “entirely wrong,” and “quite dark.”  The Marvel honchos especially hated one of Taymor’s pet creations the spider villainess Arachne.

It’s hard not to see the hand of Marvel behind the changes that Berger and Aguirre-Sacasa made to the play’s book.  The rewrite addressed the concerns that Marvel had right from the beginning.  The role of Arachne was greatly reduced, while those of the key players in the standard Spidey origin saga, Aunt May and Uncle Ben were increased, and the role Spidey’s love interest Mary Jane also got a major boost.  The rewrite may have rid the book of the mythic archetypes and New Age fantasy elements of the original version, but it did so by substituting the standard Spider-Man origin elements that led Bono, who comes off as quite feckless in Berger’s account of the show’s traumatic period, to characterize the rewrite as sounding “like it’s out of The Waltons.”

I actually saw the original version—a few boxes away from Bono who had come to check it out, and sank down in his seat more and more as the evening progressed, as he wondered, ‘What the fuck have I done?”—and Taymor’s reinvention of the Spider-Man myth as being about a creative woman-spider who really likes shoes, was, while daring and audacious, so totally not Spider-Man. In Taymor’s version, Peter Parker wasn’t even responsible for Uncle Ben’s death. I think the whole point of the show was that a musical called Arachne might have had a hard time selling out, so calling it Spider-Man was a sneaky way to make Arachne. Marvel really had to do what they did, as nasty as litigious as it may have proven.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this book some day! It is a hell of a story, no question.

iFanboy joins the 2013 comics media disruption


As you probably heard over the holiday, iFanboy is packing in its “day to day” operations, which seemed like a euphemistic way of saying they won’t be running a costly and unprofitable daily website any more. 2013 has been a reality check for several “blogs” — a few months ago Newsarama quietly ended its blog, and there was that whole big scare about Comics Alliance, although that wasn’t profit based. John Martz ended Drawn. Yeah I know there have been a billion tumblrs started each and every day to make up for it all, but iFanboy was a destination site for opinions and sometimes news and at least semi-informed viewpoints. I checked it out at last twice a week, and really enjoyed their iFanboy Upstarts feature which profiled new and notable artists. Chris Arrant has been doing it lately and it had everyone from Luke Pearson to Rem Broo. It was a nice eclectic site, covering a big, eclectic medium.

Really, this isn’t really a big dramatic disruption, but more like a quiet blind-pulling here and there. The podcast is still around, and the content will stay up, but as Conor Kilpatrick wrote:

The simple fact is that our lives are much different now than they were even five years ago, and with families and day jobs and other opportunities all vying for our time and attention, has been suffering for it and we couldn’t watch it suffer any longer. It hurts us to not be able to put our all into this place that we’ve spent so many years building into a vibrant and wonderful community. After five years spent running as our primary jobs, we had to transition back to running iFanboy part time after Graphicly handed it back to us in February of this year, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to focus on everything we need to focus on in the manner that it deserves to be.

While the farewell post didn’t dwell much on it, Graphicly buying and then cutting loose the site must have been a big financial blow. And 13 years is a long time to stay at something as a time consuming hobby.

So, as we’ve written here many times before, the sad truth comes up again: there isn’t much money to be made writing about comics. As I contemplated the end of iFanboy I kept thinking about that scene from Mickey and the Beanstalk where Mickey slices up a single piece of bread and a single bean as a meal for a drooling, quivering Donald and Goofy.
Okay maybe comics journalism isn’t quite THAT bad.

Anyway best wishes to the Fanboy drew on their continued podcasting, and thanks for all the posts along the way, and the kick-ass parties and the laughs. No one ever leaves comics entirely, so I suspect we’ll see the crew around, just doing different things.


Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 9/3/13: There was cosplay at DragonCon???

§ DragonCon was this weekend and yes, there was amazing and wonderful cosplay. Attendance was given as 57,000.

There was also a dude who went as Hitler, which is gross.

This woman went to DragonCon and it was her first ever con, and thought it was a lot of fun and the costumes were amazing, but there was a bit of an odd smell.

This writer also found evidence of a smell:

2. George “Space Ghost” Lowe, scribbling on a glossy photograph in the well-trafficked Walk of Fame ballroom: “This place smells like Tang, chlorine and (passed gas).”

Skepchick had their table shut down after they were accused of selling merch that didn’t have to do with their own company at their table. it sounds a bit confusing, but I can see why that that rule was in place. However, it sounds like the rule wasn’t implemented very clearly.

§ There was also cosplay at this weekend con in Singapore—and it included Pizza Dog.

§ Ben Hansom got a digital copy of The (In)Complete Zenith and reviewed it.

§ Lady Gaga is going to be in Sin City 2, meaning now she is a real nerdlebrity!

§ A labor day tribute to SF and fantasy characters doing the Rosie the Riveter pose.


§ In Brooklyn, there is now an 80 ft. long wall covered with an Octopus drawn by Yuko Shimizu . I was about to give up on NYC but now I’m not so sure.

§ Graeme McMillan reviews the cinema heroes of summer past.