Other colors you can get THAT dress in do not include gold

Last night twitter nation became one as never before—from Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Gerard Way to millions of tweeters in the streets around the world, everyone was obsessed with the optical illusion of what color this dress is:

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After millions of tweets and thousands of blog posts just like this, it’s been explained that it is an optical illusion based on, uh, well, how we perceive light and shadow. Er, David Pogue explains it best here WITH A CHART!

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While most people see the dress as white and gold, the funniest part of it all is that THERE IS NO WHITE AND GOLD DRESS. This mother-of-the-bride frock (a.k.a. not exactly a spicy number) comes in several color options, none of them WHTE AND AND GOLD:
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Meanwhile, Roman, the UK maker of the dress, says sales are up more than 300%, with the dress sold out as of this morning. For those who find pink, red and white unsuitable, the still non-existant white and gold version may yet come to pass:

Aside from a surge of demand for the original blue and black dress (yes, that’s the real color combination), Johnson said Roman Originals has been inundated with calls from people who want a white and gold version, as the dress appeared to many online.

“We’re getting calls constantly — about 150 calls in the last 45 minutes,” Johnson said. He said the company was trying to figure out how quickly it could turn out the Internet-inspired version of the dress, estimating that turnaround time could be a matter of weeks if production is given the go-ahead.

Two stories about people and their things

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Last week, a sad story made the rounds about cartoonist Jim Wheelock having all of his comics stolen out of a storage unit in Vermont. It was quite a large and potentially valuable collection that went back to the 60s and in an interview at Seven Days he mourns its loss:

“I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of….I’m deeply angry that a man I never met has done so much damage to my life. But mostly, I want my comic books back. I believe he will attempt to sell them. I hope people will keep an eye out at stores, flea markets and online for a large collection of comics from the ’60s through the ’90s.”


Although a suspect has been found, he hasn’t been definitively tied to the theft and the comics—including runs of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Hulk from their original single digit runs—have not been found.

Wheelock lives in Los Angeles, far from the storage unit, but it’s hard not to sympathize with the idea of having your old comics somewhere safe, though far away. Suddenly finding out they are gone, even if you had no physical contact with them, is a psychological shock. I still have my old comics in my parent’s garage…I think. I’m not sure where they are exactly, but I have the idea that they are somewhere safe…even though I haven’t seen them or touched them in 30 years. Other stuff I had stored was lost in a fire—they didn’t burn up but there was smoke damage—and I still think about things that I had in those long gone boxes…a Spirit printing plate given to me by Denis Kitchen, a page of art from Amethyst, a gift from Ernie Colon, my original Howard the Duck Treasury…how can I still remember these things so clearly and miss them?

Which brings me to my next link, writer Rachel Kramer Bussel’s frank and honest discussion of her hoarding and how it affects her current relationship. We’ve all seen Hoarders, but this is no dead-eyed retiree living in a crumbling brown ranch. Bussel is a vibrant, busy lady (I know her from around town and she’s appeared in some of Seth Kushner’s fumettis) and reading the thoughts of someone this intelligent and present in the world as Bussel is both stunning…and recognizable:

Just to be clear — I didn’t go out of my way to accumulate items. I didn’t have to; they found me. I kept everything — theater playbills, cards from my grandmother, old bras and makeup, lone shoes, a giant martini glass I won playing bingo. I even had a fax machine, though I don’t have a land line. I didn’t mind having to wade through mini mountains to get to the bathroom, because who was I hurting? Even when a momentary desire to “get organized” would strike, I couldn’t fathom where to start, so I just made do. As long as I had my glasses, keys and laptop, I was fine.


As I’ve alluded to here many times, I’m not a hoarder, but I am a packrat. I throw out old underwear…when I get around to it, and everything else seems more important to me. I don’t see clutter, I see cool things. I love my stuff, and I do have anxiety about losing my stuff. (Digital hoarding is now a problem—HOW do you make sure all those digital photos are safe?) Every few years I write about my organization efforts here , but my storage unit is just about full up and now what?

People hold on to things because they have sentimental value—the object is a trigger for pleasant memories of the past—or because they are thought to have some future value. “I’m going to ebay that.” How many times have we said that!

Hoarding is one of the most difficult mental conditions to cure—in fact it can usually only be controlled. The main problem is that it’s simply how you see the world, not a separate condition. I literally don’t understand how people can live in an environment without books or things. But too many things is not a healthy place either. It’s something I struggle with literally every day. But at least I have a degree of mindfulness so far.

Winter is coming!

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Word on the street is that we’re getting some snow here in the Northeast.

 

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NYC may get as much as three feet in a historic snow dump that is expected to last from this morning right on until Wednesday with blizzard-like conditions.

 

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We at Stately Beat Manor do not fear the snow.

 

 

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We’ve socked in supplies—cat food, batteries, water, kale—in case the power goes out.
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James Jean’s cover to Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

 

 

We’ll keep blogging as long as we can.

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But if the lights do go out, we’ll hang in there and our correspondents from warmer climes will send out smoke signals.

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What is your favorite snowy comic? We may need something to read by candlelight…

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Revealed: Vietnamese Instant Coffee turns you into the world’s most powerful person

You know how sometimes being a snoopy Lois Lane leads you to discovered things you wish you hadn’t? Or how innocent symbologist Robert Langdon was just puttering along when suddenly the Pope was trying to strangle him?

That’s what we have on our hands here.

I made my regular pre-Comic-Con trip down to Tin Tan Hung, the strange Vietnamese grocery store on the Lower East Side, the only place I’ve found in the city which sells actual Ca Phe Hoa Tan. Attending San Diego without a whole bag to get me through the show would be UNTHINKABLE. And unpossible. Despite my recent research which indicates that this pep powder doesn’t even contain coffee, whatever is in it, it wakes you up, helps you focus and keeps you regular all at once. Truly a miracle potion.

Going to the coffee aisle past the gruff old dude who was trying to block me (they don’t like non regular shoppers at Tin Tan Hung) I found my regular Ca Phe Hoa Tan produced by Vinacafe. But in my research, I’ve come across mentions of another brand, called G7 which many swear by. And there it was at the same price: 24 packets for $3.95.

But what shocked and stunned me was the packaging for G7. It reveals that the power of Vietnamese instant coffee is so profoundly intense that it has a super power. Finally I knew why after just one cup I felt like I could conquer the world.

It makes you feel like like a powerful white man.
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One sip and you will expect people to move out of your way at a glance, have everything you say be important and give you the right find any representation in popular culture of someone not like you “unrealistic.” When you drink G7 you feel like you can play golf and get the urge to prepare a report.

Being a powerful white man also has perks. You immediately acquire the things that every powerful white man has: a hot Eurasian girlfriend with a designer purse and a blackOps helicopter that comes with wifi, a stereo, reclining chairs and one of these:
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You also get this:

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In fact…you get everything that comes in a Skymall catalog.

Even the name, G7, suggests that you are ready join a club of other powerful white men and get to running the world.

Finally, I understand why after drinking a cup of Ca Phe Hoa Tan I feel such a sense of mastery, confidence and an urge to solve problems.

It is a mighty elixir.

On a more serious note, as I mentioned above, my research indicates that Asian 3-in-1 instant coffee packets don’t actually contain instant coffee. I have no idea what is really in them — definitely some kind of stimulant. Maybe I don’t want to know more. Maybe my friends who snorted it had the right idea.

Thinking about Kim Thompson, life and death

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(Photo from and © American Virus)

When I moved to Los Angeles in the 80s, I lived in West Hollywood at the height of the AIDS crisis. I was a sheltered young woman without much in the way of life experience, but I was to get it in a hurry. My neighbors were dying like flies around me, beautiful young men wasting away everywhere. There was one guy on my floor who would walk his dogs dragging an IV trolly behind. I lost friends, mentors, confidants, co-workers. It was a horrible yet life affirming time. And then thank god, Magic Johnson made people realize anyone could get HIV, the drugs got better, and the plague slowed down—in the US at least.

I’d always had a “live in the moment” philosophy, but this background set it for good. For better or worse, I’m a grasshopper, not an ant. I guess I’ll end up penniless and freezing to death in a cardboard box, but I’ve had a good run. My death haunted youth gave way to the more normal pattern of death in life—some sudden, some expected, some a just reward, some a tragic waste. And now I’m older and so is everyone I know…and the drumbeat is picking up. In recent months the passings of Bob Morales and now Kim Thompson are a reminder that, as the poet said, youth is a series of hellos, and growing older is a series of goodbyes.

Yeah, I know that’s the most cliched observation in the world. But it comes so suddenly. I’ll throw in here that I had somehow missed this horrible news that Kourtney Keiser, the ex-wife of Zenescope writer Raven Gregory was killed in a hit and run, leaving behind four children. All condolences to Raven and his family. (This weekend there will be a charity car wash in Glendale, AZ to help raise money to pay for her funeral. There’s also a silent auction and if you are not local you can bid on some art.) I’m friends with Raven on Facebook and his recent posts have been pretty painful to read, as you might expect. Losing someone you never got to say goodbye to is a terrible, terrible thing.

Welp, anyway, if one person reading all this maudlin outpouring does something they were putting off, or says one thing they always meant to, I’ll have done my good deed for the day. I’m bracing myself for the long winding road of loss to come, but I’m going to try to squeeze in as many good times before then as I can, even if it just means sitting outside on a sunny day eating an ice cream cone…the best times, really.

So Kim Thompson. Kim was really really smart and knew comics like no one else did in those early days of discovery and the invention of indie comics. We all knew that there were these French comics that were good, but Kim had actually read them and spoke French and knew ALL about them.

It’s ironic that they just just announced the reprint of Marada the She Wolf because it was a review of that great piece of literature in The Comics Journal that was my very first published work…also the very first thing I ever wrote and sent to a magazine. It was Dwight Decker, then managing editor of the Journal, who fished it from the slush pile, but then Gary and Kim took me under their wing. Kim hired me to write for Amazing Heroes which lasted as long as the magazine did, but then I think I got too soft and read too many mediocre comics along the way. But before that, I have to say, Kim’s tastes and mine were very similar, though his was way better than mine. He was a Barks guy, and I was a Barks gal and we both loved that kind of rock solid, eight panel funny animal stuff. Kim edited Critters, which gave rise to Usagi Yojimbo, and Albedo and other books that reflected post-Walt Kelly world building.

Kim was behind Fantagraphics’s early Euro-comix explorations, like Hermann Huppen’s The Survivors. French comics have always been a hard sell in the US for the most part, and it took until the most recent graphic novels explosion for Kim to finally get his Tardi on, which was something he had been talking about for a while. Jason, Ulli Lust, Mattotti…it’s a pretty incredible list of creators, and that’s just the last few years.

Of course, Kim and his partner Gary changed comics forever—not just US comics but comics everywhere. Love and Rockets, Hate, Eightball and Acme Novelty Library—thanks to Fantagraphics and Raw, by the 90s the energy of comics had shifted over to the US. (As an aside, I remember working on an Amazing Heroes Preview Special Back In The Day and Kim telling me about a great new book called Lloyd Llewellyn.)

The next few days will be full of testaments to Kim’s fantastic editorial skills and wonderful translations. I’d like to say I’ll also miss him on the message boards. Believe me we had squabbles and knock down drag out fights on the TCJ boards or elsewhere, and I rarely won, if I ever did. Like all of us, he had mellowed a bit, but he could still deliver the killing blow when he had to. (See the Cerebus kerfuffle of last year, which is painful for many reasons, but also Kim in full message board action.)

At recent SPXs I’d usually catch up with him on the patio after the Ignatz Awards and learn more about what was coming up and the history of comics and other good things to talk about at SPX. That was the most contact I had with him in the recent jet setting age of comics, but they were moments I greatly enjoyed. I wish there had been many many more of them.

Anyway a few links, a very few. Craig Thompson posted the above postcard from 1997.. Mark Evanier recalled working with him on the Pogo reprints:

He had a passion for presenting the best material Fantagraphics could get its mitts on and presenting it in the best possible way. I knew this before Carolyn and I started working with him to bring forth the collections of Walt Kelly’s Pogo…but I don’t think I expected to like working with Kim as much as I did. He met every problem with grand spirit and you could hear the gears whirring as he tried to figure out, “Okay, how do we solve this and make the book better?”  That was always his first concern.  I’m not sure he even had a second concern but if he did, it was a distant second.  It’s so sad to lose a guy like that.  So sad.

Michael Cavna has more memories and quotes and the photo which I knicked.

You’ll be hearing more and more about Kim Thompson’s accomplishments in the comics industry in the coming days. We won’t be getting any more of the marvelously translated and edited books that only he would have produced, but thanks to his efforts we have a comics industry that will support and appreciate these books and those—inspired by Kim’s work—that will surely follow.

SDCC '12: The defining moment and the burrito

Even though everyone says Comic-Con isn’t about comics, it’s still the biggest, best comics show in the Western Hemisphere. The guest list and programming alone make it unrivaled as a place to celebrate cartoonists and their creations. From Gilbert Shelton to Lynn Johnston to Katsuhiro Otomo. The Comic Arts Conference. Tr!ckster. So much more. Even with all the fuss and muss, if you love comics, it’s still the best place to be.

Thus I feel a small pang of guilt when I cover all the hoopla and nerdlebrity explosions in the run-up and during the show, because they get the lion’s share of the attention from all the media coverage you’ll be seeing next week. But the experience itself is so one of a kind that it can’t be ignored. We’ll all be complaining about the flyers and the autograph seekers and the Klieg light parties and the giant banners and sky-writing and expensive cocktails…but…well, it’s the whole swirling miasma that creates those fever dreams and sunset memories.

I have made my peace with the whirlwind that is con. Reading some of my past posts on the show, I seemed to have some kind of grandiose idea that complaining could change things. It took a few years, but in the end you had to let go, let Wil Wheaton. And in addition, I had the memory of The Breakfast Burrito to keep me going. Because sometimes you find your perfect moment in all the craziness.

In 2011, you veterans may recall, there was a South Park theme park opposite one end of the Convention Center. And they had a morning media preview. Being a fan of South Park, I trekked over a bit before it opened. And there I found a parking lot filled with food trucks. (And also a giant bus previewing that The Lord of the Rings: War In the North video game which sucked, I guess?) I also love The Lord of the Rings. I also love breakfast. And you know eating at the Con is always a challenge. So I grabbed myself a breakfast burrito from one of the trucks and sat down on a lamp post and ate it while I waited for South Park to open.

And that was the best damned breakfast burrito I ever had. It came with a green sauce that was life-changing. It was like fiesta and Christmas in one bite. As I sat there eating that burrito I marveled at how everything was fitting together. South Park. Angband. Kyle and Stan. Elladan and Elrohir. Coffee. Green sauce. An Adventure Time parade lining up by the trolley tracks. A morning of promise before a day of unknown joys and terrors. A day where anything at all could happen.

I felt that moment of peace, that moment of knowing you where were you belonged for one brief instant.

And for one whole year, I have been dreaming of going back and getting another breakfast burrito, of the creamy eggs and crispy bacon and chewy burrito and tangy green sauce, merging into one perfect bite.

The food truck lot was right next to my hotel, you see. I pictured myself getting up each morning, downing some Vietnamese Instant Coffee, dashing off some posts and then hustling over and grabbing a burrito, and for one more moment centering myself with bacon and eggs and green sauce. A moment before the madness.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought about this.

And then I found out that the city of San Diego has banned food trucks in the Gaslamp district.

The city told the food trucks they had to leave after the Neighborhood Code Compliance received an anonymous complaint, and Murcia said no specifics were given why they had to go.

But the food trucks are working to get back downtown soon, and Murcia has upcoming meetings with city officials to resolve any issues that were presented.


Complaints from local establishments charging $15 for a Batman poached egg, no doubt. No cheap, delicious food for you, con-goer.

But maybe there is still hope? Maybe I can find that food truck? A little googling and I found this:

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It seems there will be a food truck festival during the show.
But it is not near my hotel.


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And there is one other problem.

I don’t remember where I got the burrito. The name of the truck is something that escaped into the miasma of con and all the butterfly nets in the world can’t find it in my brain.

I DO remember where it was however. And there’s this video. It’s all I’ve got to go on.

And this list.

If only I study it…put together the pieces…add it up…maybe I can find it again. A shuttle is running from the con to the food truck festival on the pier. A quest, if you will.

Who knows. I’l probably never get there again. A new defining moment awaits. Satori strikes you when you least expect it, maybe on a beach crowned by stars, maybe in a dusty parking lot. There must be a reason. You just keep searching.

Must cry: The Cartoon Crier

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We mentioned this in our official MoCCA report for Publishers Weekly, but if there is one must-read this week, it’s The Cartoon Crier from The Center for Cartoon Studies. Distributed as a lovely free paper at MoCCA, you can now read it in Issu form at the link.

But we must warn you. DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE NOT SAD. Because it will make you sad.

The Cartoon Crier features the saddest strips from iconic comics like Family Circus, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, B.C., and For Better and For Worse. The Cartoon Crier also includes comics by Ivan Brunetti, Mell Lazarus, Melissa Mendes, Joe Lambert, Tom Gammill, Hilary Price, Laura Park, Richard Thompson, and Mo Willems, as well as new work from the paper’s editors, Cole Closser, R. Sikoryak, and James Sturm.


And it is a heartbreaker, tearjerker, soul-killer. Common themes include sick pets, injury to cute little animals, dark nights of the soul, heartbreaking relationships, sudden revelation of the uselessness of life…and so on. We showed FMB one strip only and then we sat there hugging for the next half hour.

If you’re one of those folks who takes comfort in withstanding the bleak and confronting the void, dive right in—you’ll eventually arise reborn and cleansed and ready to face the great yawning abyss with courage and foresight.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Random thoughts on hoarding

About once a year, we give Stately Beat Manor a really good going-over — tossing out unwanted pamphlets, moving some stuff into storage, organizing permanent additions and so on — and after doing so we write a post with our thoughts about storage and hoarding and so on.

This is that post, c. 2011.

I assume most of you reading this are borderline hoarders, like The Beat. Your shelf porn resembles a splatter film. You have more longboxes than you do pieces of silverware. Your home contains at least one Billy. You have at one time — perhaps even at this very moment — made use of some kind of  software to catalog your collection even if it was just Excel or Google spreadsheets. You know the drill.

Herewith, some observations on comics and collecting comics.

Art supply stores have some awesome storage options.

Screw “The Container Store” and all that expensive bullshit. I made a trip to A.I. Friedman, the venerable art supply store here in NYC, and came away with two items that I’ve long thought would be very useful. #1 was a cheap portfolio for storing artwork, flat posters and the like. All of that stuff had been sitting in an unsightly pile on top of my Expedit, and now it looks all sleek and organized in a black portfolio like all the cool kids carry. Less than $15 and you’re good to go.

The second item was one that I did not know existed. Cool-looking poster tubes in colorful plastic! Alvin Ice Tube 25 Inch Clear

You know all those unsightly rolled up posters from Con and so forth? Now they are super sightly! The tubes have a strap for when you are banging around the Javits or wherever.

I should add that this was a prime spot for purging. I live in a New York Apartment and don’t really have room for an art show. I saved a few key pieces –some nice screen prints various folks gave me over the years, Ben McCool’s first signing poster, a giant poster from RETURN OF THE KING that shows Frodo and Sam in a very gay embrace on the skirts of Mount Doom – you know the kind of stuff that will make a great art show some day.

I was pleased to note that although it had started out as an art and office supply store, A.I. Friedman has been attempting to adapt to modern times with a huge section of laptop and iPad bags and covers. Although it was large, it was dwarfed by the row upon row of racks of Moleskine and Moleskine-like little notebooks for jotting important thoughts. Everyone may own a tablet soon, but to be truly profound, a ponder must be scribbled in a little wee bookie.

A pamphlet is a fleeting thing.
Every time I do a purge, it’s easier to get rid of these suckers. I will, however, never get rid of my original runs of SANDMAN, PREACHER, and INVISIBLES because they had the cool letters pages which were all the contact we had with the industry before the internet.

BUT — which edition to keep?
As we wade further and further into the Golden Age of Reprints, deciding which edition to keep becomes harder and harder. Which is better the original Epic edition of MOONSHADOW…or the new one from Vertigo? (I did not flip them open to compare repro, which would have been the right thing to do.) For my favorite series — like SWAMP THING or PREACHER or PLANETARY — I now have the pamphlets, the original paperbacks, perhaps the hardcover, and now the DC deluxe trade series AND an Absolute edition. Can you keep only one? How about keeping two, one for reading one for display? So many great books now have multiple editions — HICKSVILLE, SAME DIFFERENCE, BLACKSAD — the newer one is usually the best updated and corrected one, but not always. And sometimes things are just cool for their own sake. I love the collected hardcover edition of Brian Ralph’s DAYBREAK, but getting rid of the cute Bodega editions seemed so wrong.

If money is no object, assembling a collection of the greatest comics of all time is now an afternoon’s work.

Comprehensive editions of the major work of nearly every cartoonist who appeared in the Masters of American Comics show are readily available: Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, George Herriman, E.C. Segar, Frank King, Chester Gould, Milton Caniff, Charles Schulz, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Gary Panter, Chris Ware, and Art Spiegelman.

Kurtzman and Crumb — among the more prolific — would be the hardest to assemble, and the Gasoline alley reprint series didn’t get too far. But handsome editions of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Popeye, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Peanuts, THE SPIRIT, and Kirby’s major works for Marvel and DC have all been collected. Spiegelman’s output is slim but most of it is in print. Ware’s and Panter’s work has been in so many formats that a complete set is basically impossible — but the emblematic work is not hard to come by.

Looking beyond this lauded group, the key work of the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, John Stanley, Alan Moore, and Herge is all available. Lynda Barry is getting the complete works treatment. You can buy Little Orphan Annie reprints and Prince Valiant and now Pogo. Anders Nlsen, John Porcellino, and Carol Tyler have been collected.

Our comics heritage is accessible — and that has never existed in this country before. Huge props to Fantagraphics, IDW and Drawn & Quarterly for leading the charge on this.

Many master great cartoonists have now had the resources to publish a body of work that could potentially stand the test of time.
While I was writing about Chester Brown the other day it dawned on me how important it is for an artist of his caliber to have his work in print. This is a guy who started out drawing a story about a man who couldn’t stop shitting, after all, and now he’s a master.

The best part of cleaning up is organizing everything, and putting all the books by one author together. It gave me great pleasure to assemble a single shelf containing the works of Bryan Talbot, Carla Speed McNeill, Richard Sala, and Paul Pope. Not that they have anything in common…and that’s the point. Sala’s work is so consistent and marvelous for over nearly 30 years; FINDER gets deeper and more magical with every page; Pope’s works are sporadic but create a lyrically violent world of sex and drugs; has there ever been a cartoonist who tackled so many subjects as Bryan Talbot? From child abuse to dystopic science fiction, steampunk funny animals, and a a scholarly exegesis on the history of one town?

Putting together the works of Posy Simmonds, Rick Geary, Kyle Baker, Marjane Satrapi, Seth, Tom Hart, Natsume Ono — that there is some good shit, and it’s only scratching the surface.

Man, there have been a ton of books about comics in the last 10 years.
I counted three separate surveys of artists in their studios, and a surprising number of “The [finite amount] of GNs you must read!” surveys. These are not all going to fit into the house, so some culling is going to occur. I can tell you one thing up front — I’m keeping the ones by Paul Gravett. Also, cartoonist bios. Haven’t read them all!

The self-publishing scene has sure improved in the last 15 years.

In a long unopened short box I found an envelope of comics that had been given to me at a long ago SPX back when it was a Sim-model self-publishing fair. They all looked so horrible that I chucked them all — behavior quite unusual for me. By contrast, even the student publications from last year’s SVA show were so professional and cute looking that I couldn’t bear to do anything but shove them into another shoe box.

What do you do with mini-comics?

Not just minis but little publications like SULK and MORNING STAR and so on. You can make colorful piles of them on one cube of an Expedit or put them in a mag file or just shove them in a shoebox…but none of these solutions seem ideal to me.

• While I was cleaning up I found a few promising first efforts by cartoonists little heard from since. Maybe I will do a few spotlights on them over the next few weeks. Also, at least one publisher, when their books were assembled, displayed such an odd esthetic that it deserves a thorough retrospective which maybe I will do before I die. No promises.

• I love my paper world.

Is it possible to stay in touch without a phone or Facebook?

201111220327.jpgThis weekend I suffered the technocrat’s greatest nightmare and dunked my iPhone. It’s currently sitting in a bag of rice and soon I will find out if my life is over or not. In the meantime, for someone who is attached at the metacarpal to her iPhone, this past weekend was very interesting.

For instance, I had to find my way to someplace I’d never been. Instead of relying on GPS when I got out of the subway, before leaving the house I had to look it up on a map and print it out. And then pull out a paper and look at the map when I arrived. It was like a Geico caveman commercial.

The daily routine of life was much different as well. While ordering a Vietnamese coffee I found myself reflexively reaching for my pocket. Even though it takes less than two minutes to get a Vietnamese coffee, I would normally pull out my phone and look at my Twitter or gmail “to kill time”. I’ve pretty sure my time was long ago stuffed and mounted over the mantelpiece. Is twiddling really necessary?

My socializing was rocketed back to 1997. It’s amazing how much we use our gadgets to isolate in a crowd. Unable to whip out my phone and google whatever was passing through my mind, I found I had to actually sit and talk to people. Weird! How on earth did we survive those primitive times?

Thing is, I don’t actually use my phone as a phone very much. The problem of ordering some sushi for dinner was solved with Skype and my iPad. I tried to retrieve my messages from another phone but realized I’d never bothered to learn the architecture for doing so. Oops.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my phone back. But a little lesson in non-digital life was a bit refreshing. In fact I found I had way MORE time. So much so that I decided to take the evening to clean up my RSS feeds. A bloated thing of 600+ feeds, I found countless dead or misdirected feeds, and long ago ghosts of an internet that was. Where have you gone, Chesterfest blog? I was kind of saddened that so many art blogs that I once loved to visit have been moved to Twitter or Tumblr. Even more have moved over to Facebook, much to my sorrow. I consider Facebook the AT&T of the digital era, a giant corporation that has no real interest in helping its customers — it only wants to keep customers.

For instance, once you get sucked in there is no way to get sucked back out. Sure I’d like a nice discrete feed of all my actual friends and family. Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to start this five years ago, so now I have a bloated 2000+ friends, some of whom are not people I actually know. There is also no easy way to create a feed of an individual page — once there was, but Facebook keeps fiddling with the settings.

While cleaning up the feeds, I found this post by media expert Anil Dash called Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it in which he points out several alarming things. As of today you can no longer import your own content to Facebook Page notes. You must do so manually — right, like I’m going to physically make a FB note every time I make a blog post. Because, as FB puts it:

We want you to connect with your fans in the most effective ways possible. That’s why as of September 30th you’ll no longer be able to automatically import posts from your website to your Page notes. The best way to get people to interact with your content is to give them insight into the links you share on your Wall by adding personal comments and responding to feedback from fans.


Oh, so that’s the best way? Thanks, Facebook! You know best!

Dash also pointed out something that I’d found vaguely annoying: Facebook warns you everytime you leave Facebook, just like that kid who insists on leaving the hunting lodge after hearing screams and gurgles outside. Dash writes:

• Facebook is warning its users about the safety of a page which incorporates Facebook’s own commenting features, meaning even web sites that embrace Facebook’s technologies can be marginalized

• Facebook is displaying this warning despite the fact that Facebook’s own systems have indexed the page and found that it incorporates their own Open Graph information.


I know that railing against Facebook makes me the equivalent of your Uncle Ted who can’t even turn on a computer unaided and refuses to let go of his typewriter and buggy whip. Being a Facebook denier has cut me off from the circle of life. Unless I comb through the mind-numbing information feed of “Mary Mucous is listening to the Dave Matthews Band on Spotify!” “Yegreb Pronto likes Anique Kittenplan’s status” and “Barry Stinkus just read some stories about girls with big hooters on Yahoo!” I’ve missed out on pregnancies, engagements, weddings, deaths and other life-changing moments that folks used to get on the phone and gab about.

Of course I don’t have a phone any more, so that’s useless, too.

I guess it’s pointless to warn folks that “Facebook is made of people!” That’s what everyone likes about it.

In the comments on Dash’s piece, some people compare what Facebook is doing to how AOL “dumbed down” the internet when it was the primary portal for many beginning surfers. While I appreciate the news sharing and trafficbuilding aspects of Facebook and the “Like’ button, giant monolithic corporations that want to be all-inclusive never seem to work out, no matter how easy they make tagging your photo albums.

Majestic Snow Batman towers over Vermont

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Speaking of Vermont, Beat Spy Inky Jen passed along this epic photo of a huge Batman carved from the icy terrain spotted by a passing motorist/blogger. (Click link for larger image.)

A little Googling reveals that this is the crowning glory of the Totem Pole Ski Shop in Ludlow, VT. Digging around we found some even more impressive photos of the two-story high sculpture:
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[Photo by SkiDiva]
The masterpiece seems to have been crafted in February but as you can see from the more recent photo, Batman is surviving the rising temperatures. Of course, he won’t last forever…someday only a puddle will mark this great achievement. But the Legend of Snow Batman will live on in the hearts of men, yes, it will.

What I was doing in 1997

Once I was paid to review websites. In a magazine. And look what was cutting edge in 1997 in the pages of CMJ Monthly.

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Click for a larger version.

DAMN! Warren Ellis is “the only writer with a web page”? How things change!

“Why American comics can ape Japanese manga without understanding what makes them work as stories.”

Some things never change!

“The SF series Transmetropolitan looks very cool.”

Had I but known…

As funny as this is, the next review — which I have no memory whatsoever of writing — is even better.

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I wish we could still “Just ask Jerry.” It was all so simple then.

Morning wake up

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Oh yeah, that’s how the Federation rolls.

Things the internet was made for: Kanye New Yorker cartoons

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Take one part Kanye West’s completely solipsistic Twitter feed. Add in one part abstruse New Yorker cartoons. Result: comedy.

INCEPTION’s numerous comics inspirations

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So according to I Watch Stuff, Christopher Nolan got the idea for INCEPTION from a Don Rosa story featuring Donald Duck and the Beagle Boys.

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But according to Chris Sims, it was Calvin and Hobbes that gave Nolan’s dream epic its inspiration. Which to choose? And apparently, Matthew Vaughn didn’t want X-MEN FIRST CLASS to resemble either Donald Duck or Calvin and Hobbes and had to change 12 pages of plot so Cyclops didn’t suddenly put on a domino mask and start robbing banks.

NOTE: Despite numerous attempts we still haven’t seen INCEPTION, and it still hasn’t been entirely spoiled, but writing these things is hard!!

Proof that you really cannot escape Comic-Con

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Actual Time-Warner Cable ad received in email moments ago.

End Times: Gilligan’s Island, The Movie

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If you were going into the end of the world in 2012, with a cold, empty feeling because Gilligan’s Island had not yet been turned into a feature film, rest easy: you will not be cast into the void unfulfilled. Co-producer Charles Roven previously worked on the GET SMART movie, so you know it will be…a movie. The series creator Sherwood Schwartz is attached as executive producer. Variety dryly states “Logline’s being kept under wraps,” but for those who have not been near a TV for the last 40 years, the story involves hapless castaways who are tortured by the ineptitude of a skinny sailor who manages to keep them on a desert island despite weekly appearances of rock bands, mad scientists and doppelgangers.

While it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the title role capturing the essential “little buddyness” of the late Bob Denver, Schwartz envisions Michael Cera as Gilligan. Maybe Megan Fox can play Ginger and Arianna Huffington can play Mrs. Howell.

Casting ideas, anyone?