A Picture's Worth
We’ve all been bombarded with plenty of Mayan calendar/Nostril-damn-us boom ‘n’ doom overkill as well as the upcoming Prez election, so I won’t bother. Besides, depending on your political views, this year may just as well be the end of the world. Or that new beginning you’ve been looking forward to. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
All I really want is to just not lose as many great artists and creators as we did last year. I’d really be curious to see a statistic showing the number of Golden and Silver Age artists who’ve passed away over the last ten or twenty years and see if the number per anum has grown a little each year. Sure seems like it.
Just last week we lost another important member of our community, Richard Alf, a pioneering retailer, comics seller, collector and co-founder of the San Diego Comic-Con with Shel Dorf, who happened to leave us last year. I was fortunate enough to buy some of my earliest collection from his wonderful mail-order catalogs back in the day long before eBay and CGC. His catalogs were individual, full of great stuff and good, fair prices. His service was exemplary and always fair. (He even sometimes would include one of his mini-comics for free. Wish I could have met him and thanked him in person.)
Considering how the last Presidential election turned out four years later, I’m just not that optimistic. The parties fight so much and throw so much poop it’s like watching caged chimps. Each one promises to do things differently than the (lousy) predecessor, then basically changes a few token bad things for the better, screws up a bunch of the good things, and everything ends up net status quo. Big Effin Deal.
However, it’s not a completely foreboding forecast. Here are a half dozen cool, picture-related (keeping on topic) things to look forward to this year:
1) Movies - The Avengers and Batman especially, as comics go. I have higher anticipation for the former, but perhaps the latter will better surprise like last time. I wasn’t expecting too much from The Dark Knight and was really impressed. Same with the Captain America film. But I am giddily geeked for the Avengers, which frankly worries me. On the good side, I was equally excited for the first Spidey film, and that met and exceeded my high hopes; so who knows. In the meantime, I will not be looking at or seeking out any further info on any, as I’d much rather go into the theater with a blank slate (if not a blank stare from staying awake with anticipation.)
2) Cool Books – Yeah, yeah, print is dying and comics are dead, yadda yadda. Whatever. But that doesn’t change the fact that IDW’s excellent Master editions finally gets a new addition with the long-anticipated and much-delayed Wally Wood tome! These are full-size exact reproductions of original comic art so close to the source, you’d swear you’re holding stolen art and the cops are after you. (Even though the art is black-and-white, the scans are in color so you get every nuance, right down to the subtle variations in ink! That is crazy.) Definitely something you cannot appreciate on a Kindle or tablet.
Also due in February is Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett’s FRANK READE book, a sequel of sorts to their uncanny BOILERPLATE tome of several years back. This is one of those “fake history” books that’s as much a visual as literary treat with tremendous crossover appeal: old time illustration, pulp art, history, dime novels, steampunk, sci-fi, classic illustration, technology, you name it. Amazon still has them available at a great discount for pre-order.
Of course, those are just a tip of an iceberg that’s made up of many facets, including all the excellent continuing chronological strip reprints of Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Little Lulu and a pleasing plethora of other panelled pals. (Unlike the giant art books, however, I think many of these would actually work quite well in digital format. Comic strips have been so tiny for so long, that viewing them even on the smallest e-reader would be an improvement. And for the daily strips that are b/w, the screen is perfectly suited for them. Not to mention the greatest convenience, bulk and weight/ You could carry five decades’ worth of digital strips for the weight of a single day’s worth of the printed ones! For that reason alone I would consider buying one, if the prices were right. I still think an e-reader should cost no more than $99 (with $49 being the goal) and a digital equivalent of a year of strips no more than five bucks, ten at most. (Honestly, you could find the Fantagraphics Peanuts hardcovers for $10 at the right sales, if you’re patient enough.)
How do I arrive at that? Compare the newspaper, the original source. A daily paper costs fifty cents to a buck and you get what, a dozen or more strips each day? Plus X pages of news and other stuff? That’s less than a penny per strip on average. So five to ten bucks for 365 seems fair. Of course there’s advertising that pays for most of it. So I wouldn’t mind seeing an imbedded ad or two in e-books—one at the beginning and one at the end. If it brings the price down to where the masses can afford and want to buy huge collections of their favorite strips, I’m there.
3) Better Comics – I haven’t read a regular comic book series in decades, nor even bought one as it was published in over half a dozen. It’s so dang easy to not only wait for the collected trade, but to wait for that to enter the 50-percent off boxes at the conventions and elsewhere. Yes, I know that theoretically the trade won’t be published if no one buys the regular series, but I have so many boxes of unread comic books and trade collections that I honestly would never notice if no new comics were ever published again! (Not that I want that, of course.) I do try to support fellow alternative creators at conventions and such when I can.
For instance, I am a huge fan of Steve Manion’s brilliantly fun, twisted and intricate work, as well as some comics by Jim Main (Main Enterprises, to whom I contribute a few things a year) and Tim Corrigan’s digest comics and Matt Feazell’s work, among others I’ll be “drawing” your attention to during the year. So I still order those by mail when I can. And when reading reviews on Comics Buyer’s Guide or in Steve Shipley’s enjoyable zine, Paper And Ink (to which I contributed a cover for issue #2), I find many things I want to add to my collection as well as support. So here’s to another year of cool comics worthy of our coins!
4) Expanding my original art collection—I never really plan on buying art. Like old books, the moment just usually hits when I see something I like at the right price. However, there’s a huge difference between cruising used book stores or garage and estate sales for cheap books and blowing three or four figures on a piece of original art. So where I used to just buy anything that looked “cool” that was “super cheap” (i.e., under 50 bucks), I decided last year to really focus on obtaining collection-worthy stuff by the artists I like the most. Looking thru my collection (meager as it is), I noticed I had quite a few pieces that were literally 10 to 20 dollars by guys I knew nothing about and nothing by guys whose work inspired and thrilled me as a professional and child. Until I get that six-figure character licensing/film/TV contract I’ve been seeking, it’s better to use what little extra dough there is on artwork I want on my walls. So like last year, I’ll be trading up when and where I can. And thanks to Bill Cox at Comic Art Fans, I can show those acquisitions to a huge number of folks all at once, while seeing what else is out there and available. If you haven’t yet joined Bill’s brilliant and essential CAF site, do so now. I’ll wait.
5) Exhibitions - Literally from coast to coast. The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco will be hosting some very cool exhibits including The Avengers (of course), the artists of MAD magazine , a retrospective on Love and Rockets creators ‘n’ more, Los Bros. Hernandez and more. For info and details, visit their site.
The Museum of Comic Art in New York City currently has a show on BATMAN fan/writer/executive producer Michael Uslan, plus next week an exhibit with Chip Kidd, and another on the artists of Batman. For details and more, visit their site.
Each wonderful non-profit venue has both exhibitions and events, so make sure you check out both lists on each site. (And always feel free to post anecdotes or links regarding any shows you’ve been to that would interest our readers.)
6) Wednesday’s Heroes additions and commissions! – Saved the best for last. Craig regularly publishes new work by his artists here on Wednesday’s (naturally) and I’m always amazed, astonished, and other Marvel adjectives when I see what the other guys do. It’s depressing sometimes that those youngsters are so dang good, but thankfully it’s usually more inspiring and keeps us all competitive in a friendly way. (“Friendly” only because we don’t live near each other. Otherwise I’d fill Richard’s Copic markers with grape juice and Dave’s ink bottle with chicken gravy.) So make sure you check back here on new comic day to see what’s up!
Believe me now? It’s obvious those Mayans were wrong. The world can’t end when there’s so much neat stuff to look forward to. And regardless of which monkey puppet enters the White House, all the above will still be there for you to look forward to and enjoy. And in the end, that’s what every new year is about.
Here’s to making yours everything you dream it can be.
So what are YOU looking forward to this year? Comment below.
P.S.: I’m booked for the next couple weeks but available for your commission requests at the end of the month. Remember, this calendar won’t occur again until (gasp!) 2040, so let’s make it count! Just ask Craig here.
Contents ©2012 Mike Pascale All pictures copyright their respective owners. (If you are an owner of any image and would like it removed, just ask.)