Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 2/12/15: What is an “indie comic” anyway?

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§ By chance, two websites have been devoting some time to overviews of…non Big Two Comics I guess you could call ‘em. Multiversity is running Small Press Month and offers A Brief History of Alternative Comics by Drew Bradley which offers a pretty good run down of the journey from Zap to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with stops for Arcade and The Comics Journal:

Naturally, this wasn’t a clean transition, and the term was applied retroactively to books after the shift had occurred. Like the undergrounds, alternative (or simply ‘alt’) comics were set apart from mainstream content by their target audience (20+ adults), their higher production quality, and their black and white art. Similarities aside, alt comics differed from undergrounds in two major ways. First, while underground comics had focused on shocks and rule breaking, alt comics made a concerted effort to have meaning and value. Second, and deriving directly from the first, was a greater acceptance of alt comics in the fast growing number of comic specialty shops, a place where underground never made much headway. When Phil Seuling and his Sea Gate Distribution turned those shops into the direct market as it’s known today, the alternatives had large industry access without large industry costs.

In another piece called Different Viewpoints, a discussion of just what is “alternative” is discussed with tiers and so on.

Meanwhile, at The Mary Sue, Jordan West digs in to Small, Mighty, and Super Weird; or, A Brief Guide to Indie Comics :

So is that what an “indie publisher” is? A small company that puts out weird stories?

Eh. Sort of. Terms like “indie” and “small press” have come to mean anything that’s not Marvel or DC, which doesn’t really mean anything. We already talked about the Creator Owned model and how that distinguishes independent publishers from the Big Two. That, plus the absence of any shared universe or continuity, gives creators greater leverage and more room to move. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but writers in general and comics writers in particular tend to be pretty weird people, so yeah, given enough leeway, they’ll put out some weird freaking stories.

A little broader picture there and much of the article is concerned with Image Comics, which is stretching indie a little. In fact they also mention Archie which is…just…no.

I have to admit, I have an “Indie Comics” category where I kind of lump a lot of things that should be together. A Zenescope is not the same thing as a Drawn & Quarterly. I also have one category called “art comics” and another called “literary comics” and that doesn’t make any sense either.

Today’s comics purchasers, and by extension retailers, are a lot less snobby about publishing labels, I think. Image is definitely the hottest publisher, but creators have bigger followings than labels do.

The day is long past when a Dark Horse or Dynamite is an “indie.” There are The Front of the Books Dark Horse, Dc, IDW, IMage and Marvel” and the “Next Five” as I like to call them, Boom, Dynamite, Oni, Valiant and Avatar. (These are not the next five on Diamond’s chart, because don’t forget Eaglemoss.) And oh yeah, Archie. And Viz. And Zenescope and Titan. These publishers all put out periodical comics and in general have editors who select the personnel for these books. (Oni is kind of not doing that any more, but then, they’ve sort of been in a mutable place for a while.)

Fantagraphics and D&Q and Koyama, AdHouse, Uncivilized, Secret Acres and so on all have a different publishing focus, based on graphic novels, and maybe occasionally the slim pamphlet from a cartoonist who works very slowly. (Optic Nerve and Palookaville, for instance.)

Anyway, someday I need to fix my categories. What is an “art comic” and what is a “literary comic”? Any clues, readers? Paging Frank Santoro.

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§ Speaking of Viz, I missed this exciting news that many more of their books are now available on Comixology, with 650 volumes added including
MAGI Vols. 1-10 
CASE CLOSED Vols. 1-53
BLACK BIRD Vols. 1-18
THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM Vols. 1-10
HAPPY MARRIAGE?! Vols. 1-10

ITSUWARIBITO Vols. 1-13

MIDNIGHT SECRETARY Vols. 1-7
Everyone will have their own pick from these but mine is, of course, Drifting Classroom by Kauo Umezu. Other Beat picks: Sexy Voice and Robo, Solanin, Sunny by Matsumoto, Children of the Seas…oh it’s all good. (I don’t know if these were available before but I’m just poking around.)

BUT STILL NO URASAWA because he hate digital, I guess. You suck, Urasawa. Not really.

§ Nathan Reese at Complex presents Race and Gender in Comic Books which is a sound overview of all the stuff happening of late, from Ms. Marvel to Milo Manara.

“There’s nothing inherently masculine about telling stories with pictures; there’s nothing inherently masculine about superheroes,” says DeConnick. “In the ’40s and ’50s, there was a book called Calling All Girls that had a circulation of half a million monthly readers. But in the ’50s our industry became hugely dominated by the superhero genres, and comics began to be identified not as a medium, but as a genre, which was one of the first steps to the paring down of the diversity of our readership.”

 

§ When Emerald City Comic Con teamed up with Reed Pop, Rose City Comic Con, formerly allied with ECCC, was left alone. But it seems its heart will go on, as showrunner Ron Brister says the last event drew 26,000 people:

Rose City is already reaping the benefits of its short-lived partnership. Comic book artists and vendors are now contacting them, booking spots as far out as 2016. As far as financials go, you don’t have to work hard to figure out that 26,000 by $20 a ticket equals a pretty decent profit.
Despite their newfound reputation and skyrocketing popularity, Rose City organizers are looking to keep a reserved approach to growth, Brister said.

§ Former Diamond vp of purchasing Bill Shanes has joined games company Cryptozoic as a VP, as has another Diamond alum, John Parker. That’s a strong line-up for any company.

§ I missed this interview with Jeanine Schaefer, departed Marvel editor, at DC Women Kicking Ass Schaefer left Marvel to move west with her husband, DC editor Mark Doyle, but she left her mark.

I think we’ve discussed the impact that digital can have on changing the demographics of comics – what’s the most interesting thing you saw as digital became a force in the comic business?

Ms. Marvel! Ms. Marvel is a JUGGERNAUT on the app. But I think that reflects the bigger story, which is that there’s an untapped market that’s dying to buy comics. Young women and girls especially are a large percentage of the digital comics market. But the internet has always been a haven for women to create and connect, and as social media and digital distribution becomes bigger, so do women’s voices.

 

§ Meanwhile, sad news in that the incomparable Zainab Akhtar is cutting back her posting to once a week. NOOOO! But she is writing some reviews fo the AV Club, such as this one on First Year Healthy:

First Year Healthy reads smoothly, its striking art cause for pause and contemplation, offering possibilities and interpretations to be gleaned. It may mean this, it could mean that; it probably means both, and something else besides. And that’s the beauty of DeForge.

 

§ Do you remember two years ago when a Chicago school decided to pull Persepolis from its curriculum because of a scene of torture? Well, a FOIA request has revealed the rest of the story.

The first e-mail was sent at 12:54 AM on Saturday, March 9, 2013, from Chandra James to Annette Gurley. James was the network chief for a group of elementary schools on the west side. And Gurley is the chief officer of Teaching and Learning, which oversees curricula. “I’ve attached a copy of 2 pages from the book ‘Persepolis’ that was sent to schools,” James wrote. “In my opinion it is not appropriate at all. Please let me know if I can pull the book from my schools.” Her e-mail included attachments to an image from Persepolis that showed a prison guard urinating on a prisoner, and parts in the book where the words “bastard” and “fucked” are used. At 10:13 AM on Saturday, Gurley responded: “By all means, pull them.”

Much more in the link.

§ The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is in trouble again, after being arrested for a tweet which was critical of a court ruling that convicted the mainopposition political leader of sodomy.

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque – better known as Zunar – was arrested on Tuesday night, hours after Mr Anwar was jailed for five years in a politically charged sodomy case. “Of course this is a form of intimidation, with the purpose that society does not question the authorities,” Fazlina Rosley, his wife, told AFP. “Zunar will not bow down to this intimidation. He will continue to criticise even if he remains in jail.”

Zunar has been fighting the good fight for free speech for a long time, but it seems Malaysia has a lot of problems with that old freedom thing, like how you convict sometime to 20 years in jail for “sodomy.”

In recent years, as young voters have defected to the opposition and the government’s power has slipped, prosecutors have filed a raft of cases against critics, including opposition figures, a professor and a cartoonist. In the coming months, the government plans to strengthen and update an archaic sedition law, one of the main tools used to stifle dissenting voices.

This was the second prosecution of Mr. Anwar on a charge of sodomy. He spent six years in prison after a conviction in a separate sodomy trial by a different accuser but was acquitted on appeal in 2004. He has always insisted that the charges were baseless and politically motivated. Human rights groups question whether a law against sodomy should exist at all.

 

It’s true: women know how to read comics

About six months ago, I took a victory lap. And I’m gonna take another one. Because I was right, all along. Last’s week’s twin announcements of the revamped DC line-up and Marvel’s all-woman A-Force showed that even the big two have embraced the idea of a diverse readership as a sound business model. It was only four years ago, when the New 52 launched, that there was an outcry about only 1% of the creators being female, and DC co-publisher Dan DiDio got put on the spot and reacted with a less than conciliatory tone.

And now, even gender-cruncher Tim Hanley notes that things improved dramatically with The New 24:

DC Comics made a big announcement today, revealing the post-“Convergence” line up for their main superhero titles. Along with 29 continuing titles, DC unveiled 24 new series and minis, many of which featured new creators and a variety of new and underutilized characters. It was a good day for women at DC across the board as well.

In recent interviews, DiDio revealed that this was just good sense:

DiDio: And there are a lot of first-time attendees there, who are new to the business, new to comics, and it’s for us to be able to grab these people and attract them.

And you know, I get a lot of anecdotal information from our writers and artists, especially when you talk to somebody like Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner], who are commanding these monstrously long lines because of Harley Quinn right now, and it’s almost all women. They’re even taken aback by that, by this really intense loyalty and love for this character by an audience that includes a lot of women. And we realize that, and we have to really start to gear our product to attract them to more of our books.

So we try to find the trends that are drawing these changing audiences to shows and create product to really build on that interest.

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Harley Quinn has consistently been one of DC’s top three sellers for a while, and that is hard to ignore. DiDio is surely referring to observations like this one, from Palmiotti last year:

What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done–in-one stories  not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the  books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example, Hawkeye is another . The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.

It is pretty cool!

The trail of evidence isn’t quite as clear for A-Force, because Marvel has been making sounds about appealing to female readers for quite some time, and Squirrel Girl, but the A-Force news as reported by Mashable supplied a bit more more support:

Though A-Force is its first all-female Avengers team, it’s not the first team title to feature only women. it’s not the first team title to feature only women. In fact, it’s the fifteenth; the most recent was last year’s X-Men run, which was comprised of all women. Marvel says its female fanbase has been exploding recently, and with the emergence of Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow and more — and it’s easy to see why.

While DC’s move to the world of modern comics readership is more recent, the rise of the female comics buyer is old news if you’ve been reading this site for any length of time. But what has me sitting back in my recliner here at Stately Beat Manor and enjoying a victory 20-year port is that I’ve been saying that women liked comics for…all my life, really. And I was told I was wrong so many times. So many times.

I know I’ve talked about this many times, but I was given SO MANY REASONS why women couldn’t read comics—women aren’t visual, women don’t like action, women DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ COMICS. The most amazing thing about these statements is that they didn’t come from comment thread trolls but from the men who ran the industry for the last 30 years. That’s right, POWERFUL DECISION MAKERS IN THE COMICS INDUSTRY TOLD ME WOMEN DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ COMICS.

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20 years ago, as an editor at a magazine where plenty of girls reads the comics and I had the fan letters to prove it, I was so incensed by this constant nonsense that I joined with a band of like-minded women (among them Deni Loubert, Anina Bennett, Martha Thomases, Cheryl Harris, Jackie Estrada, Liz SChiller and of course Trina Robbins) and we started an organization to show how getting more women readers could benefit the entire comics industry, because who doesn’t like new customers. I have to admit, the idea of greater revenue was more of an enticement for industry leaders to ponder this idea than just “Of course women like comics, they just don’t all like YOUR superhero comics.”

Friends of Lulu did some things right and some things wrong, but like I always say, at least we we started a dialog. And the internet finished it.

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A few days ago, an 11-year-old girl wrote to DC Comics asking why there weren’t more comics for girls.

My name is Rowan and I am 11 years old. I love superheroes and have been reading comics and watching superhero cartoons and movies since I was very young. I’m a girl, and I’m upset because there aren’t very many girl superheroes or movies and comics from DC.

And the official DC Comics twitter actually answered her:

What’s that you say, girls don’t read comics because they don’t process visual information? Well I say SUCK IT.

Okay I know there is a long way to do and we need more women in positions of influence WITHIN the industry, and less objectification and for gods sake, can’t we make toys of superheroines, and there are one million other things every day that are dedicated to making sure that women are treated as less than equal, but for today on this one matter—that women don’t read comics—I think the case is closed and we can move on to the next challenge.

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Before I got to talking about the next challenge, one more thing. The future of comics is probably going to be even more female. On his tour for The Sculptor, Scott McCloud has been quoted as saying that he expected the comics industry to be female-dominated in every way by 2024. I don’t know that setting a nine-year time frame is exactly right, but as I’ve also mentioned here many times, most cartooning schools are female dominated now, and on the indie scene, female cartoonists seem to be getting the most attention. The Comics Reporter ran one of its Five for Friday reader survey asking for respondents to “Name Five Comics-Makers You Like Age 30 Or Younger and I’ve stolen the entire list because it’s at least 50% female (also a great list, check out the links)
Afonso Ferreira

Aidan Koch

Ales Kot

Alex Heberling

Amanda Baeza

Angie Wang

Anna Deflorian

Bastien Vives

Becca Tobin

Blue Delliquanti

Brecht Evens

Daniel Warren Johnson

Gillian Renk

Gina Wynbrandt

Heather Benjamin

James Harren

James Stokoe

Jenn Liv

Katie Skelly

Katja Klengel

Kevin Budnik

KJ Martinet

Lala Albert

Lale Westvind

Laura Knetzger

Leah Wishnia

Lucy Knisley

Lyra Hill

M. Trower

Mia Schwartz

Michael DeForge

Minna Sundberg

Noah Van Sciver

Olivia Vieweg

Philippa Rice

Rebecca Sugar

Rudolfo (Diogo Jesus)

Ryan Cecil Smith

Sam Alden

Sofia Neto

Sophie Bédard

Sophie Yanow

Tiago Baptista

Tom Toye

I could do a whole post on how Allie Brosh, Roz Chast and Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki ruled the world of graphic novels last year, but it’s clear that women can not only read comics, they can make them too. And that phenomenon doesn”t show any signs of slowing down.

Now, this could all be a fad, or a marketing trend or someone could put a halt to it tomorrow, because that’s traditionally what happens when women try to take on positions of authority and respect. In the 90s we had Ripley and Xena and Buffy and Scully and we’re still arguing about whether woman can star in action shows and films. In the 80s we had Louise Simonson and Elaine Lee and Christy Marx and people still thought that women couldn’t write mainstream comics. Hell, in the 50s we had Lucille Ball and people still say women aren’t funny. My laurel resting lasts for the duration of this post and no longer. But just this one time: “I WAS RIGHT! I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!”

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BUT…the battle is still on. Last week, one of my Friends of Lulu fellow soldiers, Martha Thomases wrote a column called The Great Comic Book Lock-Out which talks about girls reading comics, but also the wider narrow-mindedness:

There seems to be a school of thought in which the only fiction available to readers is about the readers themselves. Boys can only read about boys. Girls can only read about girls. African-Americans can only read about African-Americans or, possibly, racial minorities can only read about other racial minorities. Certainly, the thinking goes, white kids are only interested in reading about other white kids.

Let me be clear. I don’t think there is some kind of committee that issues these edicts. I think it is a more subtle form of bigotry.

Comics may have “solved” the woman question for the moment, but they have a lot more problems to solve where diversity is concerned. David Walker writing Cyborg is nice, but we need a lot more non-white voices in comics. People of every race and ethnicity around the world also read comics, and the American comics industry needs to recognize that. Hell, American culture in general needs to recognize that. As a country, we’ve taken many steps backwards in that regard, and it’s this kind of regression that makes me wary of any supposed progress on any front. I do think refuting foolish statements like “Women aren’t visual so they don’t like comics or superheroes” is a step-forward, but it’s far from the only foolish idea running our entertainment industry.

But today, at least for one day, the smart people won.

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So anyway…Take the Beat Polls!

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I’ve been slaving away on an outside project ever since the holidays wrapped, and I’ve had very limited time to write anything too substantial here. Luckily the new kids have been keeping things going reading comics, posting news and generally running wild in the place. So thank Brandon, Alex,
Kyle, Hannah and Dave! The project is wrapping up and I’ll be back in the saddle I hope. The new features like reviews and entertainment news won’t be going away but I hope to get back to the regular Beat recipe which has been altered a bit of late.

In the meantime, it’s time for a poll! Yes! every few years I ask YOU dear readers what you want to see more of! Or the same of. I’ll run a separate what you hate poll later but for now…let’s concentrate on the positive!

AND NOW POLL #2! Exciting! Who are YOU????? And what are you doing here?

Webcomic Alert: End 2014 with a little “Optimisim” by Anders Nilsen


Anders Nilsen sees the year out at Medium with a beautiful full color comic called On Optimisim: Why 2015 Won’t Suck. It’s a very direct and straightforward work from the often oblique (and marvelously so) Nilsen, but it has a few good words that we should all tam into account for 2015. Even though 2014 was a pretty great year for comics, for a lot of folks (The Beat included) it was kind of sucky on a personal level, and a lot of the creative personnel of the industry seem to be sinking into a “happy peasant” mind set, as living in a hovel on the outskirts of the giant corporate castle seems like a lifestyle choice worth making.


All that said, optimism is the fundamental human state and despite the setbacks 2014 had a lot of great, amazing stuff. And 2015 will be even better. As I mentioned many times this year, I’m finally living in the world that I envisioned wham I was 13 years old, a world of limitless storytelling and a return to the diversity that comics always had. A world where people don’t think comics are dumb or stupid,

So thank you for your support throughout the year, both in the form of encouragement, written and verbal, and monetary (Advertising, Paypal and Patreon) and to all my wonderful contributors—Kyle, Hannah, Zach, Todd, Torsten, Jeff, David, Kate, Kate, Jason, David, Alex, Matt and Lindsey and anyone I’m forgetting. Thanks to Steve, Zainab and Joshua who quickly moved on to bigger and better things. And thanks to everyone at Stately Beat Manor who fed the cats and made us laugh.

And here’s to a 2015 filled with ninjas, dinosaurs, kittens, iPads, shooting stars, pirates, emeralds and chocolate hazelnut Vietnamese instant coffee.

We’ll leave you with this reminder: Always don business wear before sitting down to the drawing board or keyboard. IF JAck Kirby did it, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

One person can make a difference

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Continuing this morning’s elegiac tone, here’s a lovely remembrance of retailer Nick Post by the CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein. Postiglione, to give his full name, passed away last week, and my social media has similarly been filled with mourning someone who was by all accounts a genuinely good man:

But Nick was a lot more than a canny businessman.  He was deeply invested in a commitment to community – both in his local area and beyond.

With FallCon and SpringCon, Nick helped facilitate a home for local and national creators to join together in an atmosphere that shunned big box convention values in favor of a neighborly presentation. On the Remembering Nick Facebook page, many creators comment on how Nick was the first to show belief in their ability by inviting them to exhibit at the shows.  Each year the MCBA would make a significant contribution to the CBLDF as a result of their activities – always humbly arriving with a note from Nick.

There’s much more — please spare a click and read this memory of a person who made a difference in the world. In Post’s early passing I was reminded of two other retailers who died early, the Golden Apple’s Bill Liebowitz, who passed away in 2004, and helped create the entire idea of the comics shops as pop culture store; and Rory Root, who passed away in 2008 after making Comic Relief one of the most pioneering stores in the US and acting as a mentor to countless creators.

Root, Liebowitz and Post were all one of a kind and irreplaceable. (Indeed, Comic Relief sadly closed after Root’s death after a series of mismanagements.) I know comics retailers come in for some ribbing here and elsewhere, but they are the backbone of the comics industry, and these three men are the kind of people who brought a passion to their work. As Charles wrote, they didn’t just run a store, they ran a community and contributed to comics in endless ways. It wasn’t easy for any of them, but they didn’t know any other way to do it.

It is sad when we lose a “key person.” But just to get things going on an upbeat note (I promise) they should also be taken as role models, and proof that a single person can make a difference. I’ve never seen an industry as intimate and connected as comics—people are always pitching in and helping out. Even people who don’t like each other band together when its called for. So many of you reading this have made a difference yourself. And will keep on trying!

So my message for today? Keep up the good work!!!

Robin Williams, depression and life

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The reaction to Robin Williams’ death has been unlike any celebrity death I can remember. We all knew Whitney was going to go, and Michael Jackson’s end was as expected as it was bizarre. With Williams there seem to be few mysteries. It was a battle, and he lost. Yet the shock of his tragic decision seems to have transcended our celebrity autopsy culture with its essential question: how can someone who gave so much, who had so much to give, have turned away from the light with such finality?

It’s a question we’ve all tried to answer at one point.

It’s also opened up a floodgate of frank talk about depression. As many have pointed out, there’s a difference between the blues—temporary depression we’ve all suffered from at one time or another—and the deep, clinical depression that killed Williams and Kurt and Plath and so many others.

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Depression, and its ugly twin, substance abuse, are both hazards of the creative life. My Facebook feed has been flooded with creative people discussing their own depression, sometimes with courage, sometimes with dread. Neither is the “right” response. This is a daily battle we all face, the important part is to get through, to know you are not alone, to find the light in what seems like an endless darkness. We get by in measures that are appropriate.

Joshua Hale Fialkov has a much linked to post that expresses all this much better than I can. Fialkov’s own battle is with migraines, not depression but the battle is similar.

There is never enough.  Never enough time, never enough money, never enough success, never enough praise, never enough sales.  Never enough.  That’s part of the life I’ve chosen.  We struggle to find that thing that makes us feel satisfied, that gives us joy, but, the truth is that the joy is fleeting.  The feeling of being ‘full’ only lasts for a few moments before the hunger returns.

This is the life of an artist. This is the life of anyone who aspires to be greater than they are.

This is unattainable. This is the bottom line to life, from top to bottom from the most successful man on earth to the weakest child on the playground.  Nothing you ever do will be enough.

The talking is good. I had a long talk with one of my oldest friends I don’t speak with as much as I should who had dated Williams back in the day. Some of her stories were hilarious but they are hers to tell. So many people have shared stories of Williams shopping in their comics stores or book stores (the guy liked to read!), or meeting him at charity events. All the stories are of a kind man, a giving man. I dread the day when the celebrity autopsy horror stories come out…for now keeping these kind, human moments alive helps with getting through.

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I’ve had a case of the blahs myself of late. Not being productive enough, things I let slide, the dog days of August, post Comic-Con let-down. Nothing I haven’t felt before—I’ve learned to be pretty resilient in my life. Like I said, we all have good days and bad days. Last night I got together with two industry colleagues and in a few hours of smart, funny talk about life and comics—moments where I never looked at my cell phone—everything was OK again. On to the next battle.

The communal mourning and questioning is part of the healing. I almost feel like the good from all the sharing has overwhelmed the sadness. Life is both beautiful and terrifying, but its beauties and terrors are best experienced knowing you are not alone in this glorious muddle. You are not alone. We are not alone.

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PS: Yes I forgot Popeye in my first post about Robin Williams. Which sucks because despite it being a horrible flop, it’s a sweet, wonderful movie— written by Jules Feiffer! Wacky as hell, a glorious muddle. And a role, like so many others, that Williams was born to play.

Housekeeping notes for August

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• I have the con crud still. Has anyone ever studied this illness? It’s basically just coughing up crud for a week while not even feeling sick. Is that how ebola starts?

• The Beat’s Patreon campaign is a success! Thank you all so much for your generosity and belief in independent journalism! OF course now I have to do all the stuff I promised I would. While I was away I forgot I had to come home and fix my computer…things will go a bit faster when I have that done which should take a week or so. But you’ll see some results over the next couple of days as well.

•Actually here’s the very start, a new review category page. But I’m going to build it out into a sub site over the next few weeks.

• The computer I am using has an autocorrect feature. So my spelling is better, while my typing is the same. However sometimes it throws in words that have nothing to do with what I typed, and they don’t even show up as typos. So if you see anything particularly nonsensical here that could be the reason why.

• I’m still working on my thoughts on this year’s San Diego, but I have to thank my crew of Kyle Pinion, Hannah Lodge, Zach Clemente, Henry Barajas, Matthew Jente, Jeff Trexler, Alexander Jones, Nick Eskey, David Nieves, Chandler Moses, Chandler Banks, Victor Van Scoit, Pam Auditore and Andrew Leos. And of course ground crew Todd Allen and Steve Morris. These guys really knocked it out of the park with the amount and quality of coverage and the interviews are still rolling out. And we still have a few very special features to come, even if you think you are sick of con you are not, you are not I say! I learned so much from these folks, and we had a ball and we’re cooking up even more ideas for the future.

• I forgot what else I was going to say. Con crud.

Announcing The Beat’s new Crowdfunding campaign on Patreon!

The Beat has joined the crowdfunding revolution! Now you can support the stuff we do here directly with your dollars via the Patreon platform. Lot’s of folks have suggested that we do some kind of crowdfunding campaign over the last year or so, but I’ve chosen Patreon because it’s method—recurring monthly payments—seem like a more usable model for an ongoing website than the one and done big bang of a Kickstarter.

The Patreon model charges a set amount every month. You can always change it or cancel it. It gives your complete flexibility over how you spend your funds.

For you traditionalists out there, I’ll put it this way: once you would pay $5 a month for a magazine you really liked. Now you can pay $5 a month for a website you really like. Same deal.

For you up to date folks: I’m doing this because I don’t want to go corporate. Being independent is the most important thing for me in doing this site—and believe me I’ve turned down big offers over the years because it would have meant changing how I run this site. In the end being authentic to what my contributors and I believe in is the surest road to success.

In addition, I’ve also lost my Google Adsense money over  the Beat being reporter as an “Adult content site” because of posts such as this. Go ahead….be prepared to be shocked and sickened by the filth I’m posting here.

The truth is, Google’s AdSense guidelines prohibit “Strategically covered nudity” which could be just about anything in a superhero comic or movie—not to mention most of the great art ever produced.

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I’m appealing this, but in the meantime, even if I post amazing exclusive content of Steven Spielberg kissing Benedict Cumberbatch that goes viral….I get nothing.  Remember what I was saying about big corporations earlier today? Too few baskets for too many eggs means lots of breakage. And that’s what crowdfunding is meant to ameliorate.

What will your money get you? Continued Beat reportage, and eventually expanded searchable reviews, more inside charts, a podcast, web chats and the rest. Go to the page to find out. . It’s ambitious but someone has to do it. I’ve been here for ten years and I won’t be going anywhere soon.

Here’s the shorter version: by supporting this website you ensure more and more gifs of happy kittens every day.

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Here’s my pitch from my Patreon page. And above is my little video. Thanks for your time and thank you for your continued support.

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This is a crucial time for the comics medium in America and around the world. With the advent of digital comics, tablet readers, graphic novels, and blockbuster movies, comics culture is increasingly influential in broader pop culture. And it isn’t just in the US, Japan or Europe: emerging comics scenes are blossoming in India, Eastern Europe and everywhere.

For ten years the Beat has been covering these developments, with perspective, impartiality and maybe some humor here and there. But in those ten years everything about the way that the web works has changed. And the world of comics, as mentioned, has expanded exponentially.

That’s why I’m going direct to you to help support independent, open minded and forward looking comics journalism. In the time I’ve been doing the Beat I’ve been advertising supported, but that model no longer works because as sites full of ways to lose belly fat, top ten Kim Kardashian butt shots and trumped up gossip get more and more traffic, the only way to compete is to go the same way.

And I’m not going to do that. The Beat is going stay focused, fresh and smart.

In addition, I’m in constant danger of losing my AdSense revenue due to Goggle’s mercurial and inflexible content rules. I’ve been suspended from AdSense for posting images that Google itself puts in Safe Search—one image that was flagged was the poster for a major motion picture released by a major studio. AdSense has long been the “micropayment” system that keeps original content on the web afloat but it is no longer safe or profitable. Without AdSense even if a post goes “viral” I won’t benefit or profit from it. There has to be a better way.

And I hope this is it. Your Patreon pledge will enable The Beat to stay independent and to expand its coverage into other areas and hire writers at fair rates. One of the thing I’m most proud of in my career is my eye for talent, and former Beat writers are now running their own sites, getting nominated for awards and creating acclaimed comics. I want to continue this idea of an incubator and expand it with more features and more rewards for them. And I can only do it with you, people who care about comics of the past present and future.

By supporting the Beat you support a forward looking, diverse take on comics, comics convention, animation, collectibles, filmed entertainment, digital, and the amazing hybrid mediums that are just now being invented that will change the way we look at entertainment in the future.

I invite you to come along. The future looks great and The Beat is going to give you a balcony seat for the revolution.

SDCC 2014: Welcome to Hell Week! And what could make it more hellish?

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It’s what I like to call Hell Week, boys and girls, the week before San Diego Comic-Con when every single thing has to get done, including all those things you thought of in January but put off saying, “I’ll get it done before July!” and now it’s July and you didn’t get it done. But now you have to get it done. Except that there are only 168 hours in a week and you WILL need to sleep for four or five of those hours before you get on a plane, and you know, it’s f*cked anyway so…hell, maybe it isn’t going to get done. Maybe next year, but…Wow…man this is really happening. WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?

I’d guess that 90% of the comics industry and 42% of the entertainment industry are thinking things like the above right now.

Well, anyway do you know what made The Beat’s Hell Week even MORE hellish? A hard drive crash! Right in the middle of it all! Because I like to write about these things to perhaps aid others, here’ is the deal:

My 2010 15″ Mac Book Pro is sadly part of a “lemon” line that has video card crashes, and an overheating problem. I mean honestly, it’s still a pretty great machine, and it IS four years old, so what did I expect. Plus I’m what they call a “heavy user.” Last week I started getting the spinning beach ball for 10 minutes at a time. I was frustrated but thought it was some kind of software malfunction so I tried fixing preferences but that took effing forever, so then I booted from a disk and tried disk repair and got…”This disk can’t be repaired.” And now it wouldn’t startup.

I’d used Carbon Copy Cloner to make a back up a couple of months before and while that wasn’t optimal, it wasn’t horrific either. (Yes yes I know, the cloud.) Off to the Genius Bar! The Apple tech quickly said it was a disk crash but he was 99% sure he could get my files off. BUT….guess what! Probably because of the messed up preferences, all of my important folder were locked and couldn’t change the user. “This is the 1%,” he said sadly.

Well, I was undeterred. Also I need all my photos and images and crap because I’m a digital hoarder. Luckily I have a newish 2tb backup drive, so I took my laptop to the office and plugged it into my work iMac via Firewire and whaddya know…I was able to copy all the locked files and open them just fine on the backup! So the 1% was 99% after all! While I got the photos, documents and music off, my library was part of the bad disk sector and that would copy about 3gbs and then quit. Fortunately those 3 gigs included the one part of the back-up that I really needed, my locally stored Beat posts. So down to 99.75%. Honestly, that’s a good number. I could buy or borrow Disk Warrior and try to recover the rest of the files…or just write ‘em off. We’ll see.

Because it’s Hell Week, I just can’t deal with this now. So what to do about the computer? I’m using a late 2010 MacAir to work on and it’s pretty decent, to be honest. Should I sink MORE money into my old laptop to get a new hard drive? Or just save up for a NEW new computer? Or get a Mac mini as a stop gap and go back to a desk top? (I have all the peripherals.) Or give up the whole thing and get a job involving manual labor?

At some point pouring more money into an old computer is like trying to keep a junker running. BUT, I think I’ve come up with a good stopgap: 480 gig SSD drives are pretty cheap right now, and would definitely spruce up the old girl. I pretty much love the way the MacAir runs and SSDs are the way of the future anyway. So that’s what I’m going to do. Get a new SSD drive and install it (Or have Tekserve do it.)

Of course, I don’t have time (or money really) to deal with this before Comic-Con. So in the MEANTIME, I’m making a CCC back-up of my travel computer and hoping it holds up for the next two weeks.

I do wonder about some newer Mac models though. My adorable all silver 12″ Powerbook from 2007 is still running fine (aside from a dead battery), you just can’t run any programs on a G4 any more. When I got the 15″ MBP I spent as much money as I could afford, souped up the RAM and built a system that would last a long time. And it has, except I’ve had to replace pretty much every part of the laptop. (Apparently, from my readings of literally thousands of message board threads about this machine, they didn’t have enough thermal paste and the fan runs incessantly. I’m told I could “reball it” but isn’t that illegal in some states?) And of course, ALL HARD DRIVES CRASH EVENTUALLY. ALL. I’m just lucky in that I never has a catastrophe until now.

The moral of the story? ALL HARD DRIVES CRASH. Back your shit up REGULARLY to the cloud or to TWO backups. Digital doesn’t last forever.

And neither does Hell Week. Thank god.

TCAF Bound

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We’re off on the road to TCAF! The only thing harshing my mellow is the Newark Airport monorail being down, but otherwise the charming Porter Air experience is already in full effect with cappucino and cookies. I’m on the same flight as Tom Spurgeon, so if aliens abduct the plane, Steve and Zainab should be on alert.

As usual I’ll be sporadically posting to bring you the full comics love in. Stay tuned for more reports from the airport lounge!

Writers wanted: C2E2 and beyond

bagge sweatshopAre you going to C2E2? The Beat is not for the FIRST TIME. Torsten will be there for all the inside story as only Torsten can cover it, but if you have a hankering to listen to people make awkward banter about upcoming comics and then race to feverishly type it up, you may be just the person we’re looking for! If you’d be interested in covering it for The Beat, email me at comicsbeat at gmail dot com.

I’m also looking for writers for San Diego. I cannot get you a hotel room or pay your airfare but you will get a four day press badge if you are accepted, and access to media events. I’ve begun putting together our team, and it’s going to be stellar!

We’re also looking for more regular writers, seeing as the last batch we had have all graduated to running major news sites, becoming online editors for newspapers and getting award nominations. So time for the next generation to step in. I view writing for the Beat as a partnership—I’m looking for fresh viewpoints and insights, and a passionate love for comics. In particular, I’d like to run more reviews—we get a ton of material here that just isn’t being covered, and although I know a lot of people think that reviews are a mugs game, I think well-written reviews have a place.

Sadly this is not a lucrative business, however I’m going to work up some kind of rev share model for payment. Be forewarned, the rev you share will not buy more than a peanut butter sandwich…which is what I had for dinner! See, partnership!

These are exciting times for comics and I’m excited to see the voices emerging to talk about this time. As always, I am especially open to diverse viewpoints. Comicsbeat at gmail dot com

Sick sick sick

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I gots the con cruds which has killed The Beat dead in its tracks. Sorry about this lost week. Hopefully back in the flow for MoCCA!

BTW when I’m sick, I drink BAI coffee-tea-fruit juice. That Cosy Shack Ride Pudding and a mix of diet pepsi and orange juice (gross but effective) bring me back from the dead.

A very special day at The Beat

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Some house keeping:

• I’ll be busy with the judging in the Society of Illustrators inaugural Comics and Cartoon Art Annual much of today (poster above by my hero, Rutu Modan); I’m part of an embarrassingly star-studded judging group so I need to bring my A-game, as they say. Immediately after the judging I’m hopping on a place to go to the first ever MGA Con in Macon, GA. All of which is to say I won’t be around much today for the Beat. So to keep everyone busy for the weekend, I’m going to catch up with some art and previews I missed earlier this week.

• I’m sad to be missing the Diamond numbers today — I’m pretty curious to see those after the low-ebb of January.

• Many people have been complaining about an getting a pop-up Android virus here on the Beat. I’ve disabled any ads this may have been connected to, and my webmaster is on vacation until Monday but as soon as he comes back we’re making this the top priority. If you have any problems with pop-ups or loud ads, please send me a screen cap if you can. My ad network can selectively disable these. My reader experience is way more important than the pennies I make from these ads.

• I added a spot on the sidebar to sign up for an email mailing list. I don’t actually have anything to mail out at the moment, but I probably will at some point soon. I have no idea what it will be but all the web kids tell me you have to have a mailing list. Needless to say, this list will go no further than my a hard drive since I wouldn’t even know how to sell it anyway.

Okay that’s it! Have a great weekend!

The Beat is on the move again: Middle Georgia Comic Convention and Emerald City

Hey kids, two shows coming up this month, First:
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Middle Georgia Comic Convention 2014
This is a BRAND NEW SHOW, held March 15-16 at the Macon Centerplex in Macon, GA. I have NEVER been to Georgia before so this will be a first. Other guests include Mark Bagley, Colleen Doran, Francesco Francavilla, Brian Stelfreeze, Justin Jordan, Tommy Lee Edwards and MORE. There will be some Walking Dead background players there, but since they are local, it seems appropriate. As I said, this is a first time show but they are trying to ahve the kind of intimate, local show that has been booming of late. Should be a good time.

And then

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Emerald City Comic Con
Once again, Ben McCool and I will both be on hand, at table F-10. This will be our first time there in years and from everything I’ve heard it has become a huge super con, so this will be quite an experience.

I cracked the Google Authorship Code!

WARNING: nerd computer internet content to follow. If you don’t like this, walk away.

For months, I have been trying to get my Google Authorship established.

If you don’t run a website you probably just went “huhhhhhhnnn???” but as part of its ever evolving quest to supply only the highest quality results, Google last year started emphasizing “authorship” for its search results, authorship being that little picture you get next to your results and your name next to you result. Like this was a matter of LIFE OR DEATH, many web experts proclaimed. I have pretty good ranking, and I had all my settings correct or so I thought but I could never get that picture to pop up. WHY? I tried resetting all my meta settings, linked up my Google+ page—their most important criteria—and still nothing, even though I was in nearly 2000 circles, an unshabby amount. I went on Google’s webmasters forum and someone with inner knowledge of Google—you can never actually talk to someone who works at Google—walked me through everything I needed to do. STILL NOTHING.

But one thing she had suggested. My G+ profile photo was in black and white. Maybe that was the problem.

Well, I liked my black and white photo, but finally the other day I gave in and put up a color picture.

And a few hours later….

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Voila. Of course, I hate this photo, but I dare not change it now.

Does this actually mean anything? Supposedly people like clicking on things with pictures, and now that my Authorship is claimed, Google is just going to love me to bits.

I posted this in hopes that, with my new found amazing ranking power, people having the same problems might find this solution. Because I live to help others. But seriously, the other thing I learned in all this: Google wants you to use Google+ and favors people who do. So join those circles and share those articles! If you’d like to Help The Beat (and who doesn’t) click on that Google+ button at the top if you would like to share a story with a nerdy audience of techies and Torsten, since that seems to be who uses G+.
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BTW, Torsten has been rocking his Authorship badge for a while now. You go, Torsten! G+ I’m telling ya.

News alert: Abe Vigoda is still alive

It’s been a week to remember out mortality. Close to home, two excellent comics journalists, Bhob Stewart and Bill Baker passed away, leaving many friends behind, and the death of comedian/director/Ghostbuster Harold Ramis was a shock to all of us.

So on a more cheerful note, I’d like to remind everyone that Abe Vigoda, Godfather and Barney Miller presence, is still alive and turned 93 this week.
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I was once able to share the same general oxygen as Mr. Vigoda, and it is a moment I will never forget. I’m glad I had the chance.
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I guess what I’m trying to say is…treasure those moments. Pick up the phone. Reach out. You won’t always have the chance.