§ MSN profiles First Second’s Mark Siegel:

He started out in the art department of a children’s book publisher while writing picture books on the side. Along the way an idea began to percolate, fueled by the thriving European and Asian markets for graphic novels. Siegel suspected that the United States was ready for a high-end comic book imprint specifically tailored to the American market. “MacMillan came to me,” says Siegel of the publishing company that houses First Second. “I thought they wanted me to illustrate a book for them. Instead they offered me my own imprint.”


§ Electric Ant interviews manga-popularizing pioneer Frederik Schodt at length and with very small type. We plan to settle down with a hot beverage to read the whole thing when we have a moment, and so should you.

§ Pictures from the KRAMERS ERGOT signing at Desert Island in BKNY. Looks like it was a lively day. We hear Desert Island sold more than 50 copies of the book, which is a nice number, esp. dollar-wise.

§ A biting riposte to the whole “indie comics fans are snobs” debate raging for the 9,476th time ever,

§ Tucker Stone’s The Best Comics of 2008, Part 1 of 2 demonstrates the wide range of notable material that was available this year via catholic tastes and a nice critical eye.

§ Yet ANOTHER “Best of” list from Indy Comic News readers, and the picks aren’t particularly focused or anything, but, once again, it’s a very wide-ranging list.

§ We should note that Dick Hyacinth is rounding up all the “Best of” lists, or at least the ones that matter.

1 COMMENT

  1. Re: the author of the anti-Blogarama rant:

    Obviously he’s the Alberto Gonzalez of comics bloggers.

    “Did any of the critics on my ‘critics canon’ list, like Gary Groth and R. Fiore, ever say nasty things about superhero fans? Well, maybe, but I don’t remember. I may’ve been out of the office that day, and in any case their old remarks don’t matter beside the NEW ones that have me incensed–“

  2. “And I also forgot to remember the sterling fellow who invented the term ‘babymen’ in the last year or two, but even so, no, no provocation from the artcomix crowd that I remember–“

  3. I don’t care for the labelling of male comic fans as babymen, or verbally slapping their bottoms with any other labels of immaturity. To me, this is a bad idea.
    Fans of superhero comics purchase comics about heroes in costumes. Okay, some think that material is shallow.
    I don’t think it is anymore fair to snicker at male comic fans for their childlike tendencies than it is to pick on sports fans, pet lovers, or shoppers in general for supporting their passions.

  4. One reason why the “Art vs. Entertainment” argument happens repeatedly is that the participants talk past each other. The aesthete is reading a story to admire techniques, craftsmanship, and creativity, and to react to any intellectual arguments the writer might be making; the fan is reading the story to see his favorite character(s) in action. The aesthete dismisses the plot content and characterization of the superhero story as unimaginative, formulaic junk; the fan considers such criticism irrelevant or unimportant, because the story provides a framework, however rickety, for the hero to do his thing.

    I’m supposing that whenever a fan evaluates a story by saying only “I liked/disliked it,” or “It’s good/bad,” or reacts to criticism by defending the (potential of the) character, he’s reacting primarily to the character and how that depiction matches his view of the hero. So what if the story’s climax relies on a deus ex machina, if the hero looks good in the process? So what if the hero’s resurrection is impossible to believe? A dead hero isn’t exciting.

    I favor the viewpoint of the aesthete. A story that is pure formula or has obvious mechanical flaws is junk, no matter how attractive the art might be. A story’s plot might be complicated, but if the writer provides fine details in the handling of the plot, character development, and themes, he can make arguments about the characters and provide subtext that will be as forceful as any op-ed piece, and more entertaining.

    If writers generally wrote superhero stories as a type of SF and used genre conventions (e.g., the non-aging of characters) only when necessary, there might be fewer “Art vs. Entertainment” arguments. That approach, however, would probably require bringing in different writers. Appealing to a fan’s love for a character is easier, no matter how childish that approach is for the creators and the reader.

    SRS

  5. Steven,

    Based on my own early fandom and what I’ve heard from others, I don’t think the sole concern of the superhero fan is that the hero “look good,” though they do want to be engaged by the characters and what happens to them. When a second-tier hero takes on new life thanks to a more creative treatment, as with Miller’s DAREDEVIL and David’s HULK, that’s the thing that most galvanizes the real readers of the book (saying nothing about the faddists who jump on to find collectible merchandise).

    None of which has anything to do with who “started the fire–“

  6. Gene Phillips, I don’t understand this “who started the fire” business — I read superhero comics myself, you know? So Groth and Fiore have said a ton of disparaging things about me, too. But at least they’ve never called me a snob, for heaven’s sake! Suddenly on [email protected] there are actual superhero comics readers who’ve suddenly become a “Them”, where just recently they were an “Us”…and what have they done to deserve such scorn? They haven’t said what Groth and Fiore have said…

    And Charles Knight: strangely, I agree.

  7. Hey Heidi!

    Thanks for the link… hope you enjoyed the nuggets of goodness in the Schodt interview. That man is as generous as he is interesting.

    Starting work now on Electric Ant issue 2 :)
    ryan!

  8. Plok,

    Well, if you told Groth or Fiore Back in the Day that you were a regular reader of superhero comics, they wouldn’t have had a reason to call you a “snob.”

    But if the term had existed back then, they might’ve called you a “babyman.”

    I haven’t had time to go through the Troutguy’s link to see the context of whatever remark provoked him. My overall point, though, is that I seriously doubt the offender just decided to toss out the “snob” insult out of a clear blue sky. Given the prevailing polarization in the fan community, it’s likely he was passing on some shit someone else wrote about “fanboys.”

    So I’m just pointing out another variation on the HTD theme: “Actions have consequences.”

    (That’s “Howard the Duck” for newbies.)

  9. I see that character designer Michael Manley (via blogger Michael May; do a Google search on “adventureblog” and “babymen”) uses “babyman” to mean “man with a fetish specifically for comic book characters.” A fetish is more extreme than a hobby or passion.

    SRS

  10. I’ve seen a lot of readers online, who will enthuse about a character, his love interest, the artwork, the great potential for the series, but when faced with criticism about poor storytelling or blatant mistakes, they’ll try to deflect it. “You just don’t like it!”; “What do you expect? It’s comics, for Chrissake!”; “Well, things are different [in unspecified ways] on Marvel-Earth,”; or, when continuity errors are pointed out, “There are all these different versions of the character, see,” or “Comics are special.” I’ve rarely seen fans of the criticized story admit that, yes, the stories aren’t that different from prose stories, a plotting mistake is a mistake, or that mischaracterization is bad. They seem to be embarrassed at having been caught slumming. I can’t believe that such readers are actually reading comics for story content, or to appreciate craftsmanship. They’re simply reacting to what they see in the panels, as if they were children watching cartoons.

    It doesn’t help matters that popular characters are extremely shallow. The Hulk was nothing more than a fantastic case of depersonalization; treat Banner’s disease, and the Hulk would be eliminated. The Thing might have always had an interesting look, but after (n?) attempts to undo Grimm’s transformation, the writers finally resorted, IIRC, to claiming that Grimm actually wanted to be the Thing, which, of course, makes him irrational. A number of Marvel heroes are still concepts originally designed for children.

    Providing a real framework for the characters’ stories to occur in wouldn’t be difficult. In the case of Marvel, one could say that the deity Ikonn has taken over to the extent that reality is indistinguishable from illusion, and then proceed with the storytelling, with a change in the controlling deity affecting the environment. The environment could be normalized in a number of ways.

    One of the most aggravating things about having watched the steady descent in (Marvel’s) storytelling values from the ‘70s to now is that the characters, the concepts, have changed very little. The development of ideas, and the ideas themselves, are just worse. How much of Michael Manley;s derision toward babymen (see the previous comment) is deserved? How much does Marvel depend on babymen as customers?

    SRS

  11. Steven said:

    “A number of Marvel heroes are still concepts originally designed for children.”

    Even if I granted that, is there no validity to designing a children’s character well?

    There’s a difference between outright mistakes and conventions of the genre that you seem to be confusing. Treat Banner’s illness and you’ve got no story. THAT would be the mistake!

  12. If the basis for a continuing character is a readily solvable or treatable problem, the character concept is seriously flawed. It’s that simple. Complicating Banner’s mental illness simply to justify new versions of the Hulk was a transparent gimmick, whether employed by Peter David or by anyone else. When the point came at which the stupid green “Hulk smash!” Hulk was no longer a usable character, they should have retired him, regardless of his popularity. Endless serialization isn’t a genre convention that justifies multiple versions of a character, or anything else; it’s an attempt to conceal a lack of creativity.

    SRS

  13. “If the basis for a continuing character is a readily solvable or treatable problem, the character concept is seriously flawed. It’s that simple. Complicating Banner’s mental illness simply to justify new versions of the Hulk was a transparent gimmick, whether employed by Peter David or by anyone else. When the point came at which the stupid green “Hulk smash!” Hulk was no longer a usable character, they should have retired him, regardless of his popularity. Endless serialization isn’t a genre convention that justifies multiple versions of a character, or anything else; it’s an attempt to conceal a lack of creativity.

    SRS”

    Howvery true: Banner’s mental problems were easily treatable, no doubt about it.

    BTW, can you get the same psychologist who cures all of Banner’s problems to pay a call on a guy named Franz Kafka? I hear that he too suffers from severe “depersonalization” and that it’s made him awfully uncreative.

  14. Steven wrote:

    “I see that character designer Michael Manley (via blogger Michael May; do a Google search on “adventureblog” and “babymen”) uses “babyman” to mean “man with a fetish specifically for comic book characters.” A fetish is more extreme than a hobby or passion.

    SRS”

    I saw a post from Manley– I believe on the Hyacinth blog– where he was taking pride in coming up with a name that mainstream-fans would not want to embrace the way some of them have taken over “fanboy” to mean what they want it to mean.

    That’s a bit more widely denigratory.

    In answer, I offer my own term for the overblown patron of art comics:

    “Arrtwad.”

    Like it? I put the extra ‘r’ in there to convey pretentiousness, but if people write in and vote I’d consider “ahrtwadd” instead. Since “babymen” seems to be accepted by various posters on this blog and elsewhere I plan to talk up “arrtwad” whenever and wherever I can.

    I won’t actually call anyone that name until they use some corresponding term for me, of course.

  15. “I’ve rarely seen fans of the criticized story admit that, yes, the stories aren’t that different from prose stories, a plotting mistake is a mistake, or that mischaracterization is bad. They seem to be embarrassed at having been caught slumming. I can’t believe that such readers are actually reading comics for story content, or to appreciate craftsmanship. They’re simply reacting to what they see in the panels, as if they were children watching cartoons.”

    Both in letters-columns and online, I’ve seen fans go into huge discussions about mistakes in character continuity, about bad Rob Liefeld art, about tedious plotting, these days usually about the questionable virtues of “decompressed” storytelling.

    Go hang out at the YABS board on CBR and I think you’ll see that your generalization is nothing more than that.

    I reiterate that the Hulk’s problem is not a mistake, unless one chooses (as I guess you do) to regard all basically-unchanging series-concepts as mistakes. However, if that’s your stance your net has to be cast over a lot more terrain than just comics, who borrowed the notion of the unchanging character from just about every medium that went before.

    For that matter, be sure you include in your net all the underground or artcomics works where there is no perceptible change in the serial characters– Furry Freak Brothers, Mr. Natural, Lloyd Llewellyn, etc.