Friday, April 30, 2010

SPACE 2010

A friendlier entity I've never encountered.

Have you ever set out on a journey with one goal in mind only to reach the intended destination and discover something entirely different, but even more satisfying than anything you could have ever imagined possible? Such was the case when I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. Now, the tale of how I came to be at this event is worth recounting so bear with me for a moment or two. Like any good story, this one begins with a woman...

My wife is worth any sacrifice. Even when that sacrifice is missing C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois. Yes, I wanted to go so bad I could taste it, but my wife had the opportunity to attend an event in Indianapolis that was equally important to her and since she is always the most important part of my life I made the decision to stay home. Now, she tried to compromise and find a way for both of us to make our trips, but no matter how many obstacles we overcame another would come along to take it's place. The universe just refused to give me a break...

Knowing how disappointed I was at missing C2E2, Jason Young, a friend from Mavericks Comics and Cards in Dayton, Ohio informed me that Guy Davis (B.P.R.D. artist extraordinaire) was going to be at an event I'd never heard of before in Columbus, Ohio called SPACE. Just as my spirits lifted at the prospect of meeting one of my favorite comic book artists, they were brought crashing back to Earth when he told me the dates of the show, April 24th & 25th. My son's birthday is April 24th and I just can't put anything before his happiness any more than I can his mother's happiness. Again, it just seemed as if the universe was actively conspiring to make this one of the worst comic book convention seasons of my entire life.

That night, after all the remnants of my son's birthday celebration had been picked up and taken out to the trash, the dishes done, dried and put away I sat down to rest for a minute. It came to me that I'd fulfilled my obligations to my wife and son and I had earned at least a taste of the convention season in full swing around me. If nothing else, I would have my signed book from Guy Davis and a photo of our moment together. I simply would not be denied. At that moment it became a quest. Together my wife and I began Googling and Map Questing. I threw together a bag, filled my wallet with my available cash reserves and made sure there were fresh batteries in the digital camera and made ready for my journey the following morning.

So I've already blogged about my moments with Guy Davis here and I've also blogged about one of my favorite encounters at SPACE here. (As I continue reading through the pile of comic books I brought home from SPACE there will be be more reviews.) Now I'd like to say a few words about SPACE 2010. First, it doesn't matter how many plasma screen televisions or eight thousand dollar booths or celebrities or movie and television premiers you have, if you don't have a passionate love for comic books you don't have what SPACE has to offer to those who make the annual pilgrimage to Columbus, Ohio.

SPACE is love made visible. It is a fellowship between those who create comic books because they love them, not for the riches they can reap from them. Those who have been in the business take those who are new to the business under veteran wings to offer guidance and encouragement. It is a communion of souls who just want to share their craft. SPACE is a charging of batteries and the opportunity to reinvigorate the creative drive. The energy of the event engulfs you the moment you step into the room and you can't help but be swept up and carried away.

This is one of those events that those in charge of D.C., Marvel and other such giants of the industry need to attend and rediscover what comic books are really all about. For those who have lost their way (and perhaps their creative integrity) among the marinas of San Diego and the bright lights of Hollywood SPACE could serve as a wake up call to what really matters to the viability of the industry, the every day working people who love comic books. Too many creators these days are far more interested in making comic books geared towards the pockets of the shareholder than they are the reader. Too many of these same creators are also more interested in celebrity adulation than customer appreciation. Whereas most comic book conventions have become little more than Hollywood parties and self aggrandizement, SPACE is all about the joy of making and reading comic books.

This was my first year attending SPACE, but it certainly won't be my last. Next year I hope to spend some time with Bob Corby and learn more about the guy who has been putting this show together for eleven years now. I don't know the man yet, but judging from the gathering I witnessed last weekend he's got to be a pretty special kind of person. This event is a labor of love on the part of every single individual who participates in it from the top down. Bob, you're an inspiration. I look forward to meeting you and attending Space again next year.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Robots - Wishtales Publishing Studio

A very warm and decidedly "human" story...

Among my favorite moments during SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 were those spent in conversation with Tom Dell'Aringa and Steve Ogden of Wishtales Publishing Studios. Along with an obvious bond of friendship and a mutual respect for the talents of the other these gentleman share a profound love for comic books. Their creative philosophy is refreshingly "retro" in that they believe in quality books that can be enjoyed by adults without being age inappropriate for younger readers at the same time. To put it simply, they believe it is possible to engage younger readers without enraging their parents. They believe in books father and son or mother and daughter can sit down and read together, enjoy together with each one taking something of value from the experience.

Since our time together at SPACE 2010 I've now had the pleasure of reading several of the titles available from, Wishtales Publishing Studios. In A Tale Of Two Robots, (Wonderful reading for young children.) Tom Dell'Aringa presents two tales about love and searching for that special someone to share our lives with. The stories are short, to the point and reminded me of one of my favorite books from my own childhood, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's, The Little Prince. This is a book I'll be reading with my son again and again.

Steve Ogden's, Moon Town is a campy science fiction story about a group of miners working on the moon. I don't want to give away any spoilers in issue one, but someone or something is stealing ore and they're not above hurting those who get in their way. This book is perfect for either teens or adults. The story is fun, mature and adult without relying upon profanity or sexual content. I found Moon Town entertaining and will definitely be going online at to read more as it becomes available.

Another offering from Steve Ogden is, Croakers Gorge. Imagine Calvin and Hobbs meets Bloom County amidst the cerebral and scenic beauty of a polluted swamp and you've just introduced yourself to the world of Croaker's Gorge. Yeah it's just that funny...

Now, even though I didn't get to meet the new kid, Eddie Pittman, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his hilarious web comic, Red's Planet. Again, I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the very first thing I learned from my first visit to Red's Planet is how to get abducted by aliens. Tom Dell'Aringa has promised to send me a copy of Red's Planet and I can hardly wait for it to show up in my mailbox.

Oh, just for poops and giggles, go here. Then come back and tell me what you think. Funny stuff, huh.

Thanks to SPACE 2010 I got to meet a couple of fine gentlemen who introduced me to a great new publishing company. Tom and Steve, Wishtales is now book marked on my computer and I'll be spending a lot more time there in the upcoming days. Thank you for the books, they've become instant treasures in my humble collection.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Guy Davis - Artist and enlightened being...

Dirk and Guy Davis at SPACE (Small Press And Comic Expo) 2010

Only one time in my life have I ever sat in a room filled with the spirit of genuine enlightenment. It was when I attended an evening with Ram Dass at the Victoria Theater in Dayton, Ohio. He filled a room with his presence and every person in attendance knew that every word he spoke was given straight to them as a gift from the source of all wisdom. I've never felt such presence emanate from another individual in all my life. Until this afternoon when I sat and watched one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever witnessed handing out agape love like he had access to an endless supply of it.

Guy Davis has paid his dues. I can't even begin to imagine the hours he's invested in developing his craft, let alone the number of miles he's traveled to sit behind eight foot tables to ply his wares. The man has earned the right to pass over all but the largest of conventions in the most culturally enlightened of metropolitan cities. Yet there he was on a Sunday afternoon in the overcrowded basement of a Columbus, Ohio Ramada Inn with the lights flickering and threatening to go completely dark at any moment, not as a big fish in a little pond, but as one of a group of regular people gathered together to share a common love of comic books.

Pilgrim after pilgrim handed him small drawings, hoping for nothing more than a positive word of encouragement and he treated each offering as if it was a treasure he'd been blessed to receive and he would not allow a single soul to leave his table until he'd traded them for a shirt, a book or a drawing of his own. He made friends, not fans and it was something magical and wonderful to watch. He made each one of us who visited his table feel as if we were the most important person he'd spent time with during the entire afternoon. It was an experience I'll never forget.

I went to SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio to meet the Legendary, Guy Davis. I could have paid my monies to enter the event, walked to his table, got my photo and autograph and left the convention a completely happy and satisfied man, but Guy gave me something far more valuable than a celebrity photo and a signed book. Guy Davis reminded me how special and unique we all are and that each and every one of has a gift that only we can share with everyone else in the world around us. His gift enabled me to share an afternoon with a wonderful group of people, each one of which enriched the experience of the day and sent me home feeling refreshed, renewed and invigorated.

Space turned out to be far more than I expected it to be. It wasn't just a gathering of small press dealers hawking their wares. It was a fellowship of people who share a genuine passion and love for comic books. We held church and it was indeed a religious experience. SPACE is an event for anyone who reads comic books whether they ever become a collectible item or not. Every collector of comics should make a pilgrimage to this show at least once in their lifetime and experience comic book love in its purest form. This is a convention stripped of plasma screens, Hollywood celebrities and thousand dollar booths. It isn't about major announcements, movie premieres and internet lounges. SPACE is about the books, the people who make them and those of us who read them. It is about shaking hands, exchanging contact information and making new friends. This was my first trip to SPACE, but it certainly won't be my last. My thanks go out to Guy Davis and all of the great people who made this such a wonderful day. See you all next year?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Open letter to Mike Richardson - Dark Horse Comics

Consumers want answers!

Dear Mr. Richardson:

First off let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Dirk Bauman and I live in Dayton, Ohio. I am a card carrying Liberal and in no way affiliated with any religious organization either conservative or otherwise. I am a loving husband and parent. I am considered an instigator and a rabble rouser by by friends. I don't just question authority, I browbeat it. I believe in asking the tough questions, even of the things I'm most passionate about. I believe in answers, not excuses, justifications or rationalizations.

Let me now say that I consider Dark Horse Comics to be the best publishing house in the business today. I think the titles you produce are consistently among the most original and entertaining books in the marketplace. Dark Horse books are different. What I would like to know from you is, why?

When so many of your competitors books are filled with scantily clad super vixens why are your books so often showcasing regular looking people? Your books are filled with people who look like me. Is this a conscious decision? They dress like me too. Why is that? Why aren't your characters festooned in spandex, spaghetti straps and thigh high boots? Sex sells, why aren't you selling it? Is there something you think is more important in marketing than sexual tension and titillation?

Why are your books so free of profanity? Isn't profanity a natural part of human communication? Don't we all use profanity in the course of our daily conversations? Isn't it important for our children to be exposed to profanity in comic books so they'll be more efficient in it's use as they enter their teenage years? If not comic books, where will our children learn to handle profanity in a mature and adult manner? I'm very concerned that the rational discourse between characters in your books will confuse my child into thinking such communication techniques are an effective method of problem solving in real life.

Why do so many of the stories in your books revolve around what the characters are doing instead of who they are doing? Isn't sexual intrigue and conquest a natural part of the human experience? Again, I'm a parent who cares about my child's intellectual and emotional development- How can I teach him about the importance and value of sexual intercourse without comic books to use as visual aids? Aren't you concerned with educating children? Isn't what they learn important to you?

There are so many questions that need answering. Why aren't you doing major crossover events, don't you believe in making money? Why, when all of your competitors are selling books for $3.99, do you not have a single book in that price range? I'm just confused...

How can you hope to succeed in this industry, at this particular time, during this particular economic climate by ignoring the sensationalist business tactics of your competitors? Surely you don't think the satisfaction of the consumer is as important as the happiness of shareholders? What kind of business model is that? As a concerned consumer, I think we deserve answers.

Dirk Bauman
Dayton, Ohio

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jim Shooter - Man Of The Atom

They just keep getting better...

As far as I'm concerned, so far this has been the year of Dark Horse Comics. Week after week as 2010 unfolds, the titles that consistently deliver the most original stories without leaving me feeling angry or disappointed are Dark Horse comics. In an age where shock and awe seem to have replaced genuine character development and legitimate plot lines, Dark Horse refuses to jump on board the bandwagon of sensationalism and is producing quality books where story rules the day and strong characters prevail over strong language and even stronger sexual overtones.

As other companies continue to stock their stables with ever raunchier purveyors of sleaze and soft core porn merchants, Dark Horse continues to provide a home for writers and artists who see the world as something more than a crap-hole that only looks good when filled with half naked women. Don't get me wrong, Dark Horse understands the nature of our imperfect world. Their books don't shy away from the realities of snakes feeding upon kittens or or the fallibility of the human species. Unlike other companies producing comic books these days Dark Horse also understands that in spite of the worst in the world there are moments of nobility and sacrifice that are just as valid as the muck and mire in which we spend much of our collective time.

Dark Horse recognizes the need for balance. Simply because nothing exists in a pure state doesn't negate the truth, reality or value of good. Even if the world is little more than a crap-hole, the real story is in the rising above and not in the wallowing within. I for one am tired of the wallowing stories where only the torment of the players and the final bloody body count are what matter to the tale. These stories may be sensational, but they are not the true story of the human condition. Yes, we may be less than the best we can be, but we are certainly more than the worst we can be. I want stories about more than the dark side of humanity. I want Doctor Solar.

Like Doctor Solar, each one of us contain the spark of divinity. Each of us possesses the ability to perform the miraculous and the power to change daily moments in ways that can change the world. Each of us also contains a dark spark of the ravenous beast that seeks only to feed upon the world and perpetuate no other survival but that of our own. And then there is our humanity; ignorant and unsure, trying to find our truth and purpose with little more to guide us than an insatiable curiosity about all things and a thirst for knowledge. For all his outward appearance of God like power Doctor Solar is still a man. He is an imperfect being with great power trying to make sense of the world and find his place in the universe.

Like all of us, Doctor Solar wields the power of the divine with the less than fully enlightened intellect of the common man. Sometimes he performs miracles and other times, in spite of his best intentions, he produces terrible tragedy. And just like every single one of us, Doctor Solar lives with memory of his actions and tries to make peace with himself and the world around him as best he can. This is the real story of the human condition and not the sleaze filled crap-hole where the only truth is: Abandon all hope, all ye who enter within. I don't care how many hip, young writers at D.C. and Marvel try to convince me that the only real story is that of us wallowing in the crap-hole. I don't care how often they promote the only truth as, nobody gets out of the world unscathed or alive. I've seen better and I know better.

Jim Shooter is the perfect writer for Doctor Solar. In many ways Jim Shooter is Doctor Solar. Jim's a great talent who has produced some amazing comic book work and yet there have been moments where he's stumbled over his own imperfect humanity and produced some incredible tragedy and disaster in both his personal and professional life. Jim has walked through the heavens and he's wallowed in the muck with the best of us. If anyone truly understands Doctor Solar, Jim Shooter is that man.

It is often said that a writer should write what he knows best. If that's really true, Jim Shooter should tell his own story through Doctor Solar- The story of great talent and fallible humanity learning from experience while surviving both great success and soul crushing tragedy and how he's come to make peace with both himself and the world around him. I'd pay money to read that story. And in the end, neither the character's past nor his potential future would matter as much to me as where he stands now. I would not ask of him the ultimate truth, I would only ask of him the truth he knows right now.

Whatever Jim has in store for Doctor Solar I'm just glad the two of them are back. I'm a big fan of both characters and the comic book world is a better place whenever they're a part of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unwritten - Vertigo Comics


This book has been one of my favorite reads since I first picked up issue number one for ninety-nine cents. It has proven consistently well written and woven a sophisticated and engrossing story. I couldn't have been more surprised and disappointed in the crass and vulgar tale that to all appearances seems to have been some sort of ill conceived attempt to set a record for the most times the F-bomb has ever been dropped in a mainstream comic book.

I'll let the book speak for itself.

1. Twenty-two pages of story, only seven of which do not contain the F-Bomb at least once. (One of the seven pages contains the word, shit.)

2. A full list of curse words includes: ass, bastard, bitch, bullshit, cunt, f**k, f**king and shit.

3. Some of the most sophisticated and well written lines of dialog include: "Seriously, Bitch, do not get in my way." "--if you know what's--CUNT!" "You hairless f**king retard." "You flea bitten f**k." "Hey you. Cunt whisker." "Jesus f**king wept." "F**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k." (Yes, it was seven straight times.) and more...

Seriously, this broadens the comic book base and encourages new readers to pick up and start reading comic books in what way? How many potential readers do you cost the industry for every potential reader you think you're attracting with this kind of content? Artistic integrity? Freedom of speech? At what cost to the vitality of the industry upon which your livelihood depends?

Mike Mignola is creating some of the most engrossing and sophisticated comic books in the marketplace today and you won't find him using such a list of profanity in his dialog. Mignola's stories do not suffer in the least because he makes a conscious choice to reach as many readers as possible without also offending as many of them at the same time.

Scott Allie when asked why he used symbols instead of expletives stated that he doesn't feel the need and that by not using them he isn't sending angry mothers racing down to their local comic book stores to rail at hapless clerks and store owners.

There is a time and a place for everything. Are mainstream comic books really the venue for the type of content some of these young writers are shoving down the throats of the American public? Since when did our only interest in comic books become to be shocked or outraged by every other page of content? Look, I'm a Liberal and an atheist, I believe in the importance and the need for a free press. I read periodicals including The Hightower Lowdown and Mother Jones. Why is it that the only place I'm being assailed by an avalanche of profanity is in the comic books I read? I read copious amounts of printed material including online articles and of all the reading I do on a daily basis only the comic book seems determined to shock and anger me. Why? To what possible benefit to me the consumer?

Telling me that if I don't like it, I'm free to walk away is not an answer that sells more comic books. Disregarding the opinions of others and aggressively alienating people have never been recommended sales tactics in any school of business theory I've ever studied. The industry is suffering because of the attitude of a group of writers who are far more concerned with their rights as individual creators than they are in fostering growth in the industry of which they are but a small part. These writers care about the opinions and interests of fewer and fewer people with every passing book and for all their best efforts they're killing the industry and blaming everything and everyone other than themselves and their childish infatuation with erotic and profanity riddled nonsense.

Its time to grow up and realize that being adult is more than liberal doses of breasts and curse words. Comic books don't need profanity to be sophisticated, hip or entertaining. This was an unnecessary exercise in profanity that wound up crapping all over what could have been a pretty good story. It was immature and childish and I expected better from what has up to this point been a mature and adult read.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Victorian Undead- Wildstorm Comics

"Alimentary Watson, alimentary."

There's been a lot going on lately so I've been a little too busy to blog. Things are finally calming down a little so it's time to catch up on some of my favorite comic books. Outside of the very cool things going on over at Dark Horse with the Agents of the B.P.R.D. program and the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. titles, Groo and Hellcyon this is being a rather lackluster year for comic books. One of the few exceptions I've found is a book called, Victorian Undead.

Okay, I picked this book up on a whim one day and I've been reading it ever since. Even though I'm normally not much of a zombie fan I am a lifetime fan of Sherlock Holmes and I guess that's what first attracted me to this title. What keeps me reading it is the wonderful little story written by Ian Edginton and tastefully illustrated by Davide Fabbri. This is just plain and simple, a fun and entertaining read. Seriously, this is exactly the kind of tale I think is so lacking in the industry today. Without impossibly endowed bimbos squeezed into ridiculously revealing costumes and the f-bomb dropping like raindrops upon the printed page Victorian Undead manages to provide an engaging and entertaining read.

This is a comic book anyone of any age can read and enjoy. My son and I can share this book without me having to worry about "adult" content that's just inappropriate for a youngster his age. And best of all it isn't ridiculously oversimplified infantile crap that he finds insultingly banal and boring. How interesting are kids comics that offer little more in a storyline than, "See Spider Man. Run, Spider Man, run." Duh...

Victorian Undead is good clean family fun and I recommend it highly. Again, zombies, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty as the zombie lord combine for a great tale. Well worth reading!

Now, for those of you going to the big Chicago Con this weekend I'd strongly suggest you take the time to sign up for Dark Horse's Agents of the B.P.R.D. program. They've got some wonderful activities planned for you and you don't want to miss out on the fun.