I have, in the last few months, become oddly obsessed with the ways in which DC’s comics are featuring obvious Marvel analogs, particularly when Scott Lobdell is involved in some way. His current Doomed series is particularly Spider-Man-esque (in a good way, I hasten to add), and the main Convergence series, which he co-wrote the opening and closing issues of, featured Telos and Brainiac recast as the Silver Surfer and Galactus. His recent Superman run also featured Oracle, who was not un-Watcher-esque.
It was, to be honest, somewhat distracting — I found myself wondering if it was subconscious, or a deliberate series of tweaks at concepts and character dynamics that Marvel itself seemed disinterested in using right now — and perhaps put me unfairly off Lobdell’s work to an extent. Reading Showcase Presents: Blue Beetle Vol. 1 this weekend, however, I realized that Lobdell was merely just continuing a tradition that has been going strong over there for decades now. Continue reading →
00:00-6:19: Greetings from Jeff “Cute Bree” Lester and Graeme “or could it be Bree Cute?” McMillan, who are here to tell you about the Patreon security breach in the most indirect way possible! Also, if you listen closely (okay, not that closely—you pretty much just have to listen), you can hear Graeme read the names from the Wait, What? Hall of Thank Yous, wherein the names of our contributing patrons have been inscribed. Thank you, patrons!
6:19-7:29: Are we having internet troubles, or is Jeff just an idiot? Hmm, tough call, tough call (no pun intended). So we spend a minute or two trying to figure out if we’ll need to skype one another back or not. (Spoilers: we do, though not quite yet.)
7:29-17:05: “Hey, Jeff!” sez Graeme. “Have you read new comics this week or, like me, have you just been reading old comics?” Jeff has run down the list of books that he’s read, most of which are new or newish, Thanks to the way Jeff presented it (as “that $30 issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up”), Graeme wants a few more details about that book, about which you might already know (and Graeme did too). SPOILERS for the super-special guest stars of this issue. This in turn leads to a quick discussion of the launch of DC Superhero Girls, and the first webisode which doesn’t look especially easy to embed otherwise we’d be doing it here. Also mentioned more or less in passing: APE was happening just a few days after we recorded (and has wrapped by the time I write this) and New York Comic-Con is right around the corner. Jeff has a slightly muddled history of the Alternative Press Expo for you, we discuss why it’s so damn difficult to have a comic book convention in San Francisco, and then…
17:05-17:34: We decide to jump off the line and try again since one of us is cutting out a bit on the other (although we’re happy to say you can’t hear it in the recording at all) so that bring us to…
17:34-24:03: Greetings, part two! We’re back almost as soon as we left to talk discuss, well, how gullible is Jeff really? And this leads into a discussion of made-up technology and apps that clearly don’t exist in the real world but are just spoofs designed to satirize today’s culture, such as Qoopy, or Peeple or Snapchat or Ello.
24:03-48:02: “Graeme!” sez Jeff. “You’d asked me about comics I’d read. Do you want to tell me what comics you’ve read, and should we talk about, like, the comics?” And you think that would lead us into talking about exactly that—in no small part because Jeff wants to—but because Jeff hadn’t heard about the story by Janelle Asselin that broke over at Graphic Policy about Scott Allie’s history of alleged assault at comic conventions, Graeme recaps the story. So we talk about this situation, some of the other stories that have recently come to light in the comics industry, and about the struggle to find nuance without using that as a way to freeze out, ignore, or invalidate those who step forward. Also discussed: owning up to stuff, having to own up to stuff, apologizing to Ridley Scott, and more.
48:02-55:04: “Let’s see,” sez Graeme. “You asked what comics I’d read, didn’t you?” Graeme talks briefly about Sandman Overture #6 by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III; we bemoan the change-up of Skull The Slayer by Steve Englehart and the wrap-up by Bill Mantlo; and we mention more or less in passing the Steve Englehart issues of JLA.
55:04-1:26:05: All of which leads Graeme to read (thanks to his magical library system) Time Runs Out, Jonathan Hickman’s closing arc to Avengers and New Avengers, which Graeme spends a certain amount of time dissecting and trying to wrap his brain around. Discussed: crazy dialogue, Mark Millar worship, Hickman’s concept of characterization, and how it pertains to his versions of Captain America and Iron Man; the appeal of ambition and the long game; a loosey-goosey comparison of Fraction’s Fear Itself and Hickman’s Secret Wars, as well as the Marvel work of Fraction and Hickman; the presence of irony; why it might not be the best idea to tie your event into a story that happened thirty years ago; and more.
1:26:05-1:37:19: “So what’s really interesting is comparing all of that to Remender in Rage of Ultron,” sez Graeme, and then vents a bit more about Avengers: Rage of Ultron by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Pepe Larraz, and Mark Morales. We discuss the characterization of Hank Pym, comics and wrestling with a great point from Graeme about wrestling; Sense and Sensible Rebooting starring The Vision; the new Daredevil series being written by Charles Soule; and more.
1:37:19-2:02:04: All this talk of continuity in comics and how long readers should be expected to remember things or creators should be expected to keep consistent with previous characterizations leads to a more personal revelation from Jeff: after years and years of reading comics series in print, it’s probably become time for him to make the transition to digital, thanks to experiences he’s had reading The Fade Out, Nameless, and The Walking Dead in digital as opposed to print. Why digital over floppies? Why digital over trades? Irresponsible reader? Irresponsible customer? Or just an old fart? YOU DECIDE.
2:02:04-end: Closing comments! Or it would be if we didn’t revisit the Scott Allie situation as his first statement had been released since the time we talked about the situation ninety minutes earlier! Stitcher!Itunes! Twitter together and separately: Graeme and Jeff! Matt! Tumblr! And, of course, on Patreon where, as of this count, 109 patrons make this whole thing possible! We will be back next week!
Next week: A new Baxter Building! Read up on issues #82-87 and Annual #6 of the Fantastic Four and join us for a monthly dose of semi-historical comic analyses!
And, since the player is once again being overembeddy, check out the first comment in the thread if you need a direct link to the episode for your cutting and pasting purposes!
Huh. I was originally going to put this all up-front, no behind the jump shenanigans, but then I realized my choice of Nameless images (from those available on the web) may not be the kind of thing everyone would be into? So join me behind the jump for some gab about two recent comics, Ghost Riders #4 and Nameless #5!
This one is entirely indebted to Graeme. Until he mentioned the ebook KLANG! A Writer’s Commentary on this week’s podcast, I didn’t even know it existed. And it is literally impossible for this to have been more aligned with my interests unless it had been hand-delivered to me by courier along with some good Thai food and a cold beer.
It’s by Christopher Priest, first of all, quite possibly my favorite comics writer of the last 20 years, and definitely my favorite outside of the inarguable Morrison/Moore/etc. pantheon. (He’s credited on the cover as “james Priest” [yes, lower case on the first name], but I liked his work as James Owsley back in the 1980s, and I liked his work as Christopher Priest in the 1990s and early 2000s, so it feels kinda right to check in with him as James Priest here.)
And it’s a behind-the-scenes making-of thing about his recent return to some of his best-loved characters for Valiant’s Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody, and I am a total mark for that kind of Inside Baseball stuff.
It’s even got some really good nitty-gritty on the actual thought and process behind writing comics, including a bunch of unpublished scripts from the original Acclaim Comics run on Quantum & Woody, as well as unedited versions of the scripts for the Q2 series.
And it didn’t disappoint on any front. It’s definitely Priest’s essayist voice, familiar from the stuff on his website, and the stuff from his old website, and the stuff he used to post on Usenet way the hell back in the bronze age of the Internet. It’s terrific at the behind-the-scenes stuff, editorial drama and strife with his artist, etc. And, yep, it’s got some great comics-writing theory and advice, along with relevant anecdotes and samples.
It was a fun, fast, informative read, and it also left me feeling very, very sad. Find out the thrilling reasons why, after the jump! (NOTE: Not actually thrilling.)
If you haven’t already checked out the latest episode of the show, you want to scroll right past this here entry and down one post. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
When announced, Avengers: Rage of Ultron seemed like a casually cynical, unnecessary tie-in to the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie; even the title felt a little desperate in its attempt to echo the movie’s title given that “Age of Ultron” was already in use by another comic altogether. The finished product, it turns out, only adds to the feeling that it’s a comic that no-one really wanted to happen outside of the marketing division. Continue reading →
Whew, what a quickly spinning world we live on. As I write this, it was exactly a week ago that Edi and I touched down in Portland, Oregon for a whirlwind visit that, once again, had me missing Rose City Comic-Con by thisssss much. And now here I am typing up the notes for the second in-the-flesh Wait, What? podcast. 185 episodes, and only two of which were recorded with the participants in the same room? Verily, this is the Mighty Wait, What? Age of Hikikomori, True Believer! (Sorry, I’ve been reading too many Roy Thomas introductions recently.)
Without further ado…let’s do, shall we?
00:00-08:41: Greetings from Graeme “On The Street Where You Live” McMillan and Jeff “The Call Is Coming From Inside the House” Lester who dare you to figure out the strange secret of this episode’s recording! [Hint: we recorded it live in the same space, which is why it sounds so different.] [Spoiler: that was really more of a spoiler than a hint.] [Addendum: And that was really more of a hint than a spoiler.] [Postscript: That was actually an addendum, though.] Once again, we are recording live but this time there is no professional microphone to help us, just two men hunched around a single laptop, so we apologize for the slightly less great sound. But for now, settle in and relax as we try out introductions, Graeme tells a story from the recent Rose City Comic-Con, we try to determine how many people hate Graeme, and more.
08:41-25:43: For example, here’s a story about the two of us shopping at Cloud Nine Comics in Portland, Oregon, where one of us was the very model of restraint, and the other one of us was Jeff. Mentioned: Steve “The Stinker” Englehart; whether or not Englehart is still in Oakland, California; whether to eat the brain or the liver; sitting adjacent to Chris Claremont; Englehart’s Coyote and the last cover thereto; meeting pros at cons (wait…is that deliberate?), Graeme’s amazing and entirely accidental pantomime; the ideal price for back issues; Jeff’s visit to Cosmic Monkey Comics; comic t-shirts we have worn and are wearing including these amazingbeauties; and more.
25:43-48:02: Talking about Cosmic Monkey conjures memories for both Graeme and Jeff of Comic Relief in Berkeley, which leads us down the primrose path of memory about how intimidating it was for us to shop in Comic Relief in Berkeley and Comix Experience in San Francisco; being slagged off by comic store clerks; being slagged off by comic store customers; and then back to talking about all the comic book stores in Portland and San Francisco, and what it’s like to live in a city with only one comic book store; which one of us had a “quitting comics” phase and which one didn’t; how living close to a comic book store can help you transcend superhero comics; and more.
48:02-1:10:51: “Hey, why don’t you talk about your Steven Englehart comics?” Graeme asks, so of course we talk about the announcement of Ta-Nehisi Coates writing Black Panther for Marvel. We also talk about the less-covered news of Frank Tieri writing The Black Knight (and Catwoman!); who’s more important to DC, what’s-her-name or what’s-his-name; the news from DC, including the cancellation of Doomed, the un-cancellation of Omega Men, and whether or not the Internet has as much faith in DC as DC has in the Internet. Also discussed: the first issue of Omega Men and whether or not it needed to be more clear; the first issue of Watchmen; the mastery of Dave Gibbons; and more.
1:10:51-1:22:29: Comics we’ve read recently! Sure, we can talk about those! But first let’s talk about reading said comics on the Kindle, because Jeff bought Graeme a copy of the Skull the Slayer collection for the Kindle and Graeme had….problems. Is the Kindle really a digital comic book platform at all? And what did Graeme think of Skull The Slayer? Also discussed is the Kindle version of Super-Villains Unite, Marvel’s collection of the old issues of Super-Villain Team-Up.
It sounds like a weird braggy innuendo, doesn’t it?
1:22:29-1:41:34: In fact, here’s Jeff discussing those very same issues of Super-Villain Team-Up! Learn what you’re (probably not) missing from Victor Loves Namor, the romance comic about two characters who can’t stand each other, as written and drawn by creators who can’t stand them, either. Also discussed: Jim Shooter as writer and artist; Steve Englehart and the guest-star to end all guest-stars; the secret connection between Dr. Doom and Batman; Reed Richards eating his own hair; the crossover that points to a coup; the coup that leads to a new President of Ecuador; and more.
1:41:34-1:52:45: Graeme has read Klang!: A Writer’s Commentary by Priest about the making of Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody from Valiant. Discussed: Bill Cosby and Mark Waid; transgender in the scripts but cis gendered in the art; dropped plotlines and characters; gossip and process; unreliable narrators; Power Man and Iron Fist, and more.
Last week, I traveled up to Portland so that Graeme and I could discuss what we thought was working with the site and what to do for the coming year to make ourselves as irresistible as possible to our listeners and our supporters at Patreon. Did we do that? We did! Did we also eat at the Waffle Window? Yes! Did Graeme take me to Cloud Nine Comics, where I proceeded to buy my weight in Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel comics by Steve Englehart? That happened too!
But we did not sit around a table, tweeting pictures of lunches from Shake Shack and making inside jokes to let everyone know that, yes, we were at a creative summit and you were not. And for that, I humbly apologize. I promise that when next year’s creative summit comes around, there will be many more pictures of middle-aged, lily white men telling you how excited they are by their latest pitch that is both utterly original and totally what the marketing department mandated. And maybe we’ll also go see a Mamet play or a musical or something?
Anyhoo. It was definitely a week for talking about comics, and buying comics, and talking about buying comics, and also what we will do when Matt Terl overshadows us so much with his great work that he manages to stage a coup and take over the site.
But reading comics? Not as much as I would like. Nonetheless, join me behind the jump for capsule reviews of stuff I’ve been reading the last few weeks when not obsessing over the life and times of that dinosaur-punching guy.
Hey, everyone. Jeff here. Back on our recent Q&A ep., Whatnaut Drew Meger sent us a question about what to purchase for his library. Our answer was so impressive in its unhelpfulness he contacted us to see if we we’d be interested in the basics of library purchasing and the specifics about purchasing comics. Of course, we said, “Hells to the Yezzz!” (That was Graeme, of course: many of you may not know this but whenever we’re not recording, 98% of what Graeme says out loud is either “Hells to the Yezzz!” or “Hells to the Nawwzzz.” Then he spits a bit of Skoal into an empty coffee cup.)
Anyway, we are incredibly pleased and more than a little proud to present this terrific guest post. Take it away, Drew!
My name is Drew and I am a librarian who buys comics for his library.
At first glance, this sounds like a great job – you get to spend other people’s money on comics! Better yet, you can even read comics for work! But once you get down to it, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that power. The stuff you buy needs to be borrowed, you can’t buy whatever you like, and selecting the stuff you want to buy is actually a bit of a pain in the ass.
On a recent Q&A episode, I asked Jeff and Graeme for their opinions on what sort of comics I should focus on for my library — super popular “classics” of the genre or slightly deeper cuts that people might want to read but not shell out thirty bucks for? Their answer could be pretty much summed up as, “Yes to everything.” If only that were the case!
So here’s some background on what it’s like to buy comics for a library. Each library is different, but there are some common issues that stretch across systems that likely impact your local library.
First, and this is hard to admit, comics are not a huge deal for my library, which is a mid-sized library located in Danvers, Massachusetts. You might recognize Danvers for its advances in onion technology, the State Hospital that became the inspiration for Arkham Asylum, and the spot of bother we had a few years back with witches back when we were still called Salem Village. We are a healthy system, well used and supported by our community.
Here in Danvers we have a total of 111,240 things on the shelf. These things are books, CDs, audiobooks, DVDs, magazines, and so on. Out of these 111,240 things only 1,727 could be classified as graphic novels. That’s something like 1.5% of the collection.
Part of our Graphic Novel collection.
Last fiscal year (July ‘14 – June ‘15), we loaned out a total of 149,393 of our things. Notice how our yearly circulation is greater than the amount of stuff we have. That’s a Good Thing—it means that we have things the community wants and don’t have to look over our shoulders come budgeting season. Not everything was loaned out and lots of stuff was loaned out more than once, but an average circulation per item of 1.34.
Our 1,727 graphic novels circulated 3,050 times—that’s just over 2% of our yearly circulation. The average circulation per item for our graphic novels is 1.77. Again, that’s a Good Thing. Having a better average circulation than the library as a whole means the graphic novels are safe when weeding (getting rid of unused stuff) season begins – no danger of the collection being discarded unless things get really dire.
All these statistics just go to show that while graphic novels are a used part of our collection, they are nowhere near a huge part. From looking around at other libraries, I see that to be a pretty common theme. While we have a few librarians on staff here who are invested in comics, that’s not an universal situation. Other libraries might recognize owning graphic novels as a good idea, but they don’t know where to start and really, when it comes down to it, why knock yourself out for 2% of your circulation?
Seriously, if you don’t know anything about comics, buying lots of comics is pretty difficult. While as librarians, our mailboxes groan under the weight of review literature such as Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and so on, there is relatively little information on upcoming comics directed at non-fans. While these review sources might list a few of the more “literary” graphic novels, they tend to give the much more popular trades a pass. Occasionally, a publisher might send out some promotional material to libraries – I have a folder full of Vertigo #1 reprints sent out last year – but for the most part, they’re keen to the idea that every graphic novel we buy is three or four our patrons will not.
The people interested in selling stuff to libraries, book jobbers like Ingram and Baker & Taylor, do put together catalogs of graphic novels a few times a year. Problem is, as they are a source explicitly designed to sell you something, they’re not to be trusted. Also, they seem to be written by aliens with only a cursory understanding of what graphic novels are and why people read them.
I have the Fall 2015 edition of ‘Ingram Advance’ for Graphic Novels and Comics that showed up a few weeks ago. There are plenty of blurbs for collected trades that are the second or third in the series with no mention of what the first is. Heck, most of these don’t have titles, just “Collects Batman #35-40” and “contains back-ups from Batman #35-39” – and that’s on two separate entries on the same page! If I know nothing about comics, how am I supposed to know what a “back-up” is? How do I choose between them? The next page has three “titles” – a Riddler anthology, the Multiversity hardcover, and a collection based on the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game. Again, there is no indication that these titles have nothing to do with each other.
Oh, man, the more I go over this thing, the more confused it gets. There’s a helpful note that a Deadpool movie is coming in February actually on the page with two Deadpool titles (Deadpool #26-34 and Return of the Living Deadpool #1-4) and Howard the Duck and a Dark Tower Miniseries. Lumberjanes is paired up with a Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man crossover because… uh? Saga volume 4 is next to Archie vs Predator. Moving through to what seems to be the nonfiction portion – nothing is really labelled – we get histories of Hurricane Katrina, Operation Ajax, and… the World of Warcraft. Seems legit. No time to think too much about that as the final two pages offer a selection of big breasted pin up art.
I Don’t Even.
So why not get news and reviews from one of the myriad of websites, blogs, and podcasts out there? I do, but I would be reading them anyways. A librarian who is not a fan, though? CBR is the top result for a search for ‘comic book reviews’ and while it really does contain reviews of comics, those reviews are for single issues, making them useless to the trade and graphic novel buying librarian. Comic Book Roundup appears to offer trade reviews – at least until you see that they are really just averages of the single issue reviews found in the trade. Working down the search results, there are plenty more single issue review sites as well as comic media reviews, reviews of comic-based toys, fashion, and other stuff you wouldn’t be able to borrow from the library. It’s a super hassle and even your most dedicated librarian would pause to consider other options.
Remember how circulation is a big driver for libraries? Why take a risk on an unknown quantity like a new graphic novel when you could go for a “sure thing” like a DVD (average circ per item: 7.34) or a James Patterson book (4.43)? Dedicated budgets for graphic novels are rare – they usually come out as percentage of a larger budget – so you always have that alternative “safe bet” option of what to do with your money. With the budget I have at hand, after taking things like vendor discounts and tax free status into account, I can afford to buy some 1,300 things each year. Last year, I bought about 100 graphic novels. I know I could get more bang for my buck by buying more Pattersons, but I know that the evil men do in this life follows us into the next.
Also, don’t forget to check the library network to see if there are multiple copies just sitting, untouched on your neighbors’ shelves. Sometimes you can justify buying things that don’t circulate at other libraries. For example, if an item is lost or damaged or is missing from an otherwise complete run, nobody will bat an eye at you buying it. But if it’s not working at another nearby library, you need to justify why you think it will work at yours.
Even if we decide to throw statistics to the wind, ignore the budget, and care if 15 copies of the same title are available in system, we can’t just buy a graphic novel without some sort of content evaluation. Here in Danvers, graphic novels are separated into three age-based sections – Children, Young Adult, and Adult. Getting the graphic novels into the right place is understandably important – just ask me about the time Megahex, a comix featuring nudity, drug use, and hardcore owl abuse, almost ended up in the Children’s Room due to its art style. I try to be fairly liberal when it comes to buying comics – I trust the reader – but I recognize that there is a wide gulf of appropriateness between the broad fisticuffs of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Joker’s antics vis-a-vis faces in Batman: Death of the Family (although the children’s graphic novelization of The Dark Knight really gets to the heart of Nolan’s vision).
The kid’s version of the Magic Pencil Trick is, uh… interesting.
To sum up, buying comics for the library means you have to put a significant amount of work in for not that much reward. It is easy to see why many libraries end up with collections consisting of tattered copies of Hush, Showcase Presents that have been shedding pages since 1988, and weirdly drawn biographies of vaguely famous people. I persist because I remember the night I read my first comic (it was a Batman and the Dark Knight was facing down the NKVDemon who was mad about Earth Day for Reasons) and the next day when I learned how much comics actually cost (more than I had) and the following week when I discovered my local library’s collection (not plentiful, but enough).
I recognize that my borrowing might have had little impact on my library’s collection development, but its collection certainly had an impact on my development.
So that’s my plight. As you can see, there are no clear answers as to what sort of comics collection we should have here in the library. Should we build a core collection of classics? Chase current fads? Just buy whatever has a movie coming out in the next two years? Show some love for the indies? If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.
Also, if you want to help support comics in your local library, here are three easy things you can do:
Borrow Comics From The Library – Even If You Already Read Them!
Remember how I said circulation stats are a huge driver? By borrowing comics, you provide quantifiable support for the library’s comic collection. These stats can lead to more money for the collection, more encouragement for the librarian to buy for the collection, and to help shield the collection from weeding or budget cuts.
Talk To Library Staff About Comics
Another great way to show there is community interest in comics and graphic novels. “Do you think you will get _(insert title)_ in?” will probably lead to it being purchased.
If your library does not have a title you want, ask about Interlibrary Loan. Many libraries are part of local consortiums that share resources – and if a nearby library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they can even search nationwide and have it delivered.
Librarians love recommendations – if you have a comic you love don’t just talk about it, talk about comics like it as well.
Donate Your Comics
If you are upgrading your collection from trades to Library Editions/slipcased Omnibuses/digital, give your library a call to see if they want them.
Prog 1950 of 2000AD sees the title with its strongest line-up in quite some time: in addition to the start of a new Judge Dredd story by creator John Wagner and Colin McNeil (featuring the return of long-running threat P.J. Maybe, at that), there’re also returns for Brass Sun, Defoe and Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins’ classic Bad Company, with Rufus Dayglo taking over art reins for this go-around. In theory, it’s as good a jumping-on point for the series that there’s been in years, and yet, I’m not sure how inviting it actually is for new readers.
(For those who haven’t heard the latest Baxter Building, scroll down to find it. For everyone else, click through and find me fretting.) Continue reading →