Archive | December, 2011

2011 Year in Review: Top 10 Comics

30 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

I’m not interested in what the “top ten,” comics of the year 2011 were. You shouldn’t be interested in my opinion in this matter anyway. I have not even read all of the culturally-significant books in the first place, so the idea of my being qualified to assign rank and importance is easily dismissed. As with each year that passes, a number of comics were released, I purchased some of them, ignored others, liked some of what I read and disliked some of what I read. Most of what I read either originated in a different calendar year or was quickly absorbed and forgotten due to the sheer number of things that I have read. This is hopeless.

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BCGF Haul Reviews Part 3

28 Dec
by Kevin Czap

Christmas is OVER, here’s the stuff you could have gotten.

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Injecting drama

23 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

The superhero comic book writer faces an impossible task. This person is asked on a continual basis to be at once engaging and to cause no significant change in his or her domain. It’s what people often refer to as “zen-like.” Paradoxical. The job is less “writer” and more “steward.” As condescending and dismissive as that sounds, I mean it with a great deal of kindness to the precarious nature of the occupation.

When one reads heroic fiction, we are accustomed to a certain range of story possibilities and a certain range of behaviors of the primary heroes. Often it is said of Superman and Wonder Woman that these characters are boring or that they have no personalities. The characters are presented with a sort of even-temperament that is perhaps ever-so-slightly conservative by the day’s standards and coupled with an abnormally high depiction of tenacity and personal bravery. Which is a pretty big cop-out as far as I’m concerned because it’s the easiest thing in the world to have a fictional character present “integrity” and “bravery,” since there is literally no consequence to a make-believe person’s bravery. I digress.

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BCGF Haul Reviews Part 2

21 Dec
by Kevin Czap

Haul Review Part 2

Ok, round two, let’s do this! hoowah

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Influences and Process — The Books, Automatism, and the Infinite Everything

19 Dec
by L. Nichols

Disclaimer: I have a cold. I am feeling a little loopy and am only functioning at about 80%. Bear with me as I try to talk about things that even at 100% I am not good at talking about.

Behold the finite set of thirteen convex figures. The irrational sine versus tangent 45. – The Books, Beautiful People

With lyrics like that, I guess it might not be such a surprise that The Books are one of my favorite bands.

The Books are one of the few bands I can get completely lost in listening to. I love to put on my headphones, pick one of their albums and just go for a walk. Or I will put on their music when I am working, particularly when I am painting. For years now, this has been the case. The Books are music I live with when I am alone, when I am with my thoughts and with my work.

Every time I listen to them, I find new things. I find new sounds. I find new thoughts. With their constant presence in my life The Books have shaped my thoughts over the years.

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BCGF Haul Reviews Part 1

14 Dec
by Kevin Czap

Comics – I got quite a few of em with opinions to match. Here’s the first round of reviews based on things I picked up at this year’s Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival.

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BCGF 2011

12 Dec
by L. Nichols

There isn’t a show I look forward to more as an attendee than the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest (BCGF). I think this is because it’s the show I feel least out of place. Or maybe it’s the show/scene that I feel like my work makes the most sense in context of. Something like that. Something in between those feelings. This year’s show was so full of amazing things that I was completely overwhelmed. It’s amazing to see such a density of things I am excited about in such a small place!

The time I did get a chance to walk around as a break from the nine hour tabling marathon, I only had the time to make it around the top floor. I could’ve spent hours just looking at one section! The density of this show was tremendous, especially with the addition of a second floor. Some part of me wishes the convention was two days just so I could have more time to explore. But there’s also a certain magical quality to the show only being a day. BCGF came together and dispersed in a (somewhat tiring as an exhibitor) blink leaving with new memories and a desire for it to happen again. Maybe two days would be too much of a good thing. As it was, I left completely exhausted and somewhat delirious from that exhaustion, but simultaneously so excited about where things were going that I couldn’t wait to keep working.

I debuted two new comics there. Both of them were somewhat experimental full-color books. Me exploring the area between art books and comics, I guess. I can’t imagine a better show to have debuted these at, and they seemed well received by the people who picked them up.

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Comics Festival, version 2.0

12 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

I don’t feel comfortable with the culture of comics festivals and I am advocating for a culture of true arts festivals. I would like to visit a comics festival that is not only free to attend but also largely void of direct sales on the show floor. The average comic show is something along the lines of a craft sale. There is no tradition in our culture for a festival of comics in which exhibitors are not trying to pitch their wares at passers-by.

I want to go to a comics festival in which the show floor is comprised of various booths which can act as miniature galleries, small viewing areas, small reading areas, entertainment spaces and so on. I would like to visit a comics festival in which there are activities such as panel discussions, artist Q&As, documentary screenings, reading spaces and presentations…all without any cartoonists actually sitting behind a table, smiling nervously and hoping that enough people buy their book that they might afford their plane ticket home.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a comics festival didn’t have that awkward pressure of introverts trying to sell their heart’s work to strangers? Wouldn’t it be pleasant if we could all speak with one another without the sad ritual of buying each other’s work, sending that poor, single twenty-dollar-bill traveling around the room and back?

If you’ve chatted with me about comics between MoCCA 2011 and BCGF 2011, you may have already heard my rough drafts for this before. We will surely speak of it again if you let me.

A cartoonist in every newspaper

12 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

Comic books and graphic novels are wonderful but I’m at a point where I realize what the comics field has left behind when it largely abandoned newspapers. Let us reach across the aisles and get reacquainted with our syndicated brethren.

Here’s the short of it: comics in North America began in the newspapers, and they have never been more popular and successful than when they were the highlights of newspapers. Now I can hear that guy in the third row from the back: shut up guy. Newspapers are NOT dead, nor are the comics within them. The newspaper is alive and kicking–although competing with television and the internet for media control.

Right now, there are wonderful comics coming out of the comic strip syndicates. I personally love:

Tina’s Groove by Rina Piccolo

Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson

Zippy by Bill Griffith

I hasten to warn you that none of these comic strips are published in New York City newspapers. I know, I’ve checked.

I also like:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

These CAN be found in New York City newspapers.

But to me, this isn’t enough. This simply isn’t enough. I realized that from the comic strips I personally like, only Doonesbury attempts sustained longform storytelling. Meanwhile, in the past, the popular comic strip Dick Tracy by Chester Gould was brilliant at keeping newspaper readers at the edges of their seats day after day. I can only imagine that these 1930s comic fans had their old-timey hats leaping off of their heads every day. Dick Tracy predates comic books’ Batman. There were other longform comic works that kept the daily commuter pumping sweat and gritting their teeth in anticipation. Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Mickey Mouse, to name some of the popular ones.

Today, we look at this type of storytelling and say that it doesn’t work in newspaper strips, it’s better to put it in a graphic novel. Now–no disrespect–nobody is going to see that graphic novel. Whereas everybody and their mother saw Popeye in the ’30s. There’s no question about it–if you want your longform magnum opus to be seen by anybody outside of the same 200 people, you need to get those comics into the hands of the common man and the common woman and the common child. Common people! It’s common sense.

So I’ve sworn off graphic novels for the time being. Not because they’re bad, but because I believe that if we want comics to be successful, we have to think big…by thinking small. Small enough to fit in the comic page of the local newspaper.

There are too many cartoonists in the United States syndicated comics industry. Or alternately, there are not enough. Syndicated cartoonists make money by having their strips licensed for modest fees to many newspapers. What if those newspapers only hired cartoonists on an exclusive basis and paid them higher individual rates? What if a cartoonist worked for Journal News and produced a daily strip to entertain the community of Lower Hudson, New York? What if the editors of newspapers pulled their heads out of their hindquarters and remembered why so many Americans fell in love with the newspapers in the first place?

For cartoonists, the benefits would be clear: if newspapers were competing on a local market and comic strips were being distributed in small geographic arenas, there would be more jobs for “cartoonist,” just as a matter of course. This is where North America’s vast landmass becomes an economic asset for small businesses. Over the last forty years, with the ever-rising ubiquity of large, global businesses, North Americans have been struggling with the opposite: losing local jobs to monopolizing businesses. Comics largely wiped themselves out of competitiveness decades ago because of this. Before the weight of monoculture crushed the rest of North American small business culture.

I think that the North American Comic Strip is a perfect tool for varied storytelling, both longform and short form, both comedy and tragedy, from vignette to continuity. I think it’s about time we started thinking honestly about what we as a comics culture have lost when the comic book world largely divorced itself from the comic strip world and vice versa.

And I think that the role of the syndicate in newspaper comics is in flux but that this institution still has a great deal of ability to help broker cartoonists and advocate for their clients. The syndicate, to my mind, could still function in its current role of agent, facilitator and liaison for comics-bearing-newspapers and their client cartoonists.  What I’m interested in is a shift in focus.

There’s potential markets out there, but we have to restructure the way we think about things.

The Underground is Emptying My Wallet – BCGF 2011

7 Dec
by Kevin Czap

Wrapping up this wonderful year we have the granddaddy of a show that is the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest. Hopefully we can get L to talk about what it was like on the other side of the table soon, but I was just some guy who flew to New York to buy comic books. Given the pedigree of BCGF’s roster, there was a lot of spectacular work to pick up, to the point where I had a hard time singling out any for on-the-floor recommendations. I’d been looking forward to checking this show out for a while and I feel like it was a fitting end to 2011.

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