Monday, May 24, 2010

Comics for Cures 2010 - The afterglow...

Lobster Johnson
by Carla Rodriquez

I felt pretty good going into this event. I'd scouted things out in advance, I'd set up my watch list and with an ingenious setup of browser tabs in place I was feeling quite confident as crunch time grew closer and closer. Both the upstairs P.C. and the laptop I keep on the end table beside me in the television room were warmed up and ready to go. A fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen and a cooler full of Red Bulls assured me of a state of alertness until the wee hours of the night in case I needed to be ready for a last minute bid. I was confident, organized and ready to work a master plan I believed would guarantee me a maximum acquisition of treasures.

Days earlier I'd gone through page after page of sketch cards making a detailed list of the ones I liked and would be interested in acquiring. I carefully listed the cards by the hour and minute the bidding on them would close. Once the information had been properly organized in a data base and printed out on paper I began making the hard decisions which of the three hundred chosen cards I could live without if I didn't win the individual battles of the bid. This was a process I repeated until I was down to a twenty card pool of my absolute favorites. By Saturday evening my clipboard contained a fifteen card list of the sketch cards for which I would put up a good fight. The battle was about to be joined.

Early on in the evening (Saturday) I scored an easy acquisition when I picked up three Tiki themed cards by an artist named, David Fletcher. At ninety-nine cents each I was just ecstatic. I think so many people passed on them because they weren't superhero cards, but the detailing was exquisite and they were beautifully drawn. They were on my list as cards I'd go for if the price was right and at ninety-nine cents apiece, the price was right.

For the next several hours I watched as cards I was interested in acquiring, but wouldn't bid my hardest for came and went, and I may not have won any of those cards, but I know I drove the price up higher than the buyer had originally hoped to pay for them. (Whoever wound up buying the, Adam West card knows what I'm talking about.) My plan was to force the early evening bidders into spending as much money as possible so that by the time my late night cards hit the block they'd be out of money. Hey, it was for charity...

As the evening progressed I picked up another great ninety-nine cent card by an artist named, Earl Geier. Again, this was a beautiful drawing of an Amazon, but in a more realistic rendition than so many of the other modern "stylized illustrations" favored by so many people right now. It really reminded me of the illustrations that used to accompany the, Ripley's, Believe It Or Not, pieces in the Sunday funny pages. Again, a wonderful piece so many people passed by in favor of Superhero drawings. At this point I'd picked up four very solid pieces and I still had the funds at my disposal to go for the last two cards I really wanted to acquire.

The two cards I wanted to come away from the auction with were, Carla Rodriguez's, Lobster Johnson and Guy Davis', Sandman Mystery Theater. I'd fallen in love with Carla's interpretation of, Lobster Johnson, since the moment I'd seen it. Not only was the illustration amazing, the coloring was simply brilliant. It was simply the best interpretation I've ever seen of the character. I had to have it. I put the ninety-nine cent bid on it to see if I could draw any one else interested in it out into the open. Sure enough, someone answered the bid. At two dollars and ten cents I let it ride until the last possible minute and then put in a max bid of six dollars and seventy-five cents. My theory was that the other bidder was going for the five dollar bargain and bidding what I did would beat their six dollar and fifty cent bid when it came and sure enough, I got one of my top two cards for six dollars and seventy-five cents.

Guy Davis is a favorite of mine. I love his art and I wanted the, Sandman Mystery Theater, card more than any other single card in the auction. Once I'd managed to grab the, Lobster Johnson, card at the bargain price at the bargain price I knew I could go all in for the card and most likely come away with it. With under a minute to go in the bidding for it I placed a max bid of fifty dollars. I took it home for twenty-eight dollars and sixty-five cents. My evening was complete.

I went into the auction looking for what I felt were some of the better art pieces as opposed to who were my favorite comic book characters. In the end I got a little bit of a number of things from the auction, I got a piece by a favorite artist, a favorite character piece and some cards I just plain liked as pieces of art. For the first time I'd ever participated in the event I couldn't help, but feel I'd come away from it in pretty good shape. I came away with the top two cards I really wanted and six of the fifteen I'd gone into the event willing to bid on. It was well worth staying up until three in the morning for.

If you've never participated in this wonderful event I'd recommend you watch for it next year. Comics For Cures, sponsored by, Comic2Games, is a worthwhile event where everyone comes out a winner. The, American Cancer Society, is the big winner of course, but the little pieces of art are real treasures that make anyone who takes one or two of them home a winner too. I won't be missing this annual event from now on and I hope you'll be adding it to your calender too. Thanks, Comics2Games, you guys rock!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Comics for Cures 2010

How many of our lives have been touched by cancer? Whether it was a friend, a family member or a loved one the feelings of helplessness are always the same. How many times have you wished you could do something to help someone with cancer? Maybe you'd just like to find a way to repay a debt of gratitude for support that came your way when you or someone you cared for experienced cancer in their life. Tonight and tomorrow you have that opportunity, thanks to the good folks at, Comics2Games, in Florence, Kentucky.

This weekend will wrap up the third annual, Comics for Cures Sketch Card Benefit Auction & Gallery Show (In association with Relay For Life, The American Cancer Society.) with the conclusion of their online sketch card auction and a Gallery show at their store, Comics2Games located at 8470 US 42 in Florence, Kentucky. You'll find all 1100 cards in the online auction on display and there will be snacks and beverages served throughout the evening. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they'll have laptop computers set up at the store so you can bid on any card or set of cards that catch your eye. It sounds like a really good time and I'm sure they'll have a surprise or two in store for those who show up to join them for the evening's activities.

If you're not familiar with sketch card art work you can see what all the excitement is about at the online auction site and maybe purchase one of these small treasures for your very own. With 1100 cards available, if we each spend an average of at least three dollars, we can all help to make a significant contribution to, The American Cancer Societies, Relay for Life. Please visit and bid generously. Make a difference, you'll be a better person for it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suggested for mature adults...

Fun for the whole family?

Labeling the content of a comic book, mature and adult, doesn't necessarily make it one or the other. More often than not the comics I read with the, "suggested for mature and adult readers" label on the front cover are anything but mature and adult. Most of the material in these books is aimed at teenage boys and is designed to titillate the senses rather than stimulate the intellect. The books are often little more than panel after panel of pinup art with the written part of the story doing little more than teasing future story lines and dropping the F-Bomb at every opportunity.

A good story appeals to an audience wider than a single demographic. Male, female, young or old, if a story is truly good it will cross gender and age barriers and offer a little something to a wide variety of readers. Can comic books make that claim right now? Are women reading comic books? The numbers would say they're not. How about young kids? Again, the numbers would say not. Judging from the message and comment boards at the websites I visit, teenage boys are the overwhelming demographic reading comic books these days and their interests are in anything other than intellectual content.

I talk to women in comic book shops and again and again they say the same thing, "Why would I be interested in books filled with half naked women and enormous breasts?" I talk to countless women who find little to read in a market dominated by books bearing the label, suggested for mature and adult readers. Women know what that warning means just as well as I do. It means that in a market increasingly dominated by such labeled books there's less and less for us (the reader looking for more than eye candy) to read.

And it just gets worse every day. Using the justification that comic books are now written primarily for adults both the writing and illustration aspects of today's comics are becoming more and more objectionable to larger and larger numbers of mature adults. The undeniable reality is that the audience for the type of book being produced right now is shrinking. The industry can offer up any number of excuses it cares to, but the reality is that if the product was worth buying, we'd be buying it.

Claiming to be the champions of "free speech" the modern crop of comic book creators are leaving a stain of profanity and sexual objectification upon the landscape of comic books that will deter a wide variety of people from picking up a comic book for a very long time. There is a line that can be crossed. When a so called defense of free speech becomes nothing more than how many times you can fit the F-bomb into a book before it becomes the only word in a book, the line is crossed. When the number of panels in a book devoted to nearly nude women posed in a manner designed to highlight no other female attributes than breast, nipple or camel toe, the line has been crossed. There is a point where stretching the boundaries breaks down into nothing more than sexual titillation and profanity.

The rebuttals to those who question the increasingly objectionable materials taking over the marketplace today run from complete dismissal, either in the form of, "If you don't like it, don't read it." to ridicule for believing in moderation. If you don't one hundred percent, without questioning one single aspect of the content in a comic book, applaud the artistic vision of both writer and illustrator you are denigrated as either, "too stupid to get it" or "too prudish to appreciate it".

The I-Pad isn't going to save the comic industry if all it continues to force feed the market is anatomical exercises in female body parts and profanity. The comic book industry is turning its back on the reader. It is so currently enamored with Hollywood and television deals and is suffering under the delusion that these new "viewers" are the industry's real future. As we've seen with the number of comic book and superhero projects getting canceled lately, the home viewer is no more interested in sexual tension that never resolves, plot lines that endlessly meander with never an end or explanation in sight than is the average comic book reader. This kind of product is no more satisfying on a screen (of any size) than it is upon a printed page.

The industry leaders need to take control of the talent and reign them back in. The blush has worn off the rose and no matter how good the sex was at the beginning of the relationship, it's time to move on to more substantial things. Too much of anything eventually becomes a bad thing and what's being done to comic books right now is turning far more readers away than its attracting. The current group of creators may indeed have won the war against censorship, but in the process they've lost the hearts of a great many people. Where is this in the best interests of anyone? Readership is down. Profits are down. Nobody seems happy with the state of the industry right now. How can this possibly be good for business? Yes, its time for a change, but the behavior and the attitude of the reader isn't where it needs to begin.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Veggie Dog Saturn - Buyer Beware Comics

Jason Young, marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Its taken me a couple of issues to warm up to Jason Young's homespun existential ruminations, but with issue four of, Veggie Dog Saturn, I've finally started to cozy up to his style of story telling and I'm starting to become a fan. I don't normally read existential comics. Especially those by younger writers who tend to feel that every lesson has to be a hard one exposing yet one more of life's darker lies. Oftentimes it seems as if every existential writer today is a disciple of the Goth school of disillusionment where each and every day is viewed as little more than one more agonizing step along the slow and tortuous path towards the inevitable darkness of death. Frankly it gets a little tedious.

Jason Young is a refreshing young existential writer simply because he sees the inconsistencies of life as a series of practical jokes in a divine comedy. The most important lesson Jason appears to be learning from life is to see the wonderful humor of it all, even when that humor is dark. There is a genuine warmth to his work and the life lessons he offers avoid falling prey to the trap of appearing pedantic or preachy. Jason shares with us instead of presuming to teach us. (His is an old soul's voice in a young man's story.)

I think Jason Young really hits his stride in issue four of, Veggie Dog Saturn. For the first time he presents us with a series of vignettes around a central theme instead of attempting to fill a book with a single story. There are a total of six vignettes in this little gem of a book, each of which is like a facet of a jewel reflecting a color of light different than the one before it. Like a jeweler cutting a larger stone into smaller carats Jason strikes with swift sharp blows bringing the deeper beauty of a moment into the full light of realization. You will laugh, cry, nod your head in agreement and in the end you'll have learned a little something about the humanity inside us all. That's a lot more than you'll get from a lot books on the shelves these days.

Issue number four of, Veggie Dog Saturn, is a damn fine book and a heck of a bargain at only two dollars. You can find Jason Young and his book at Mavericks Card and Comic Shop or you can purchase it online at Buyer Beware Comics. I highly reccomend Jason's book and I hope you'll give it a try. The kid's got some talent and a whole bunch of heart, always a winning combination in my book.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wannabes - Gonzo Goose Productions

The Wannabez just shouldn't be...

Did you ever have one of those ideas when you and your buddies were sitting around smoking a big fatty of, the-chronic-that-killed-Elvis-and-his-evil-alien-clone-baby-weed that just seemed so, totally awesome? You probably talked about it for hours upon hours and then once the buzz wore off you forgot all about it and thankfully the world was spared the delirious remnants of your THC induced reefer madness. (Luckily I've never actually been there myself, but I do have friends who've shared the "awesomeness" of such transcendental experiences with me.)

Unfortunately, there are also those Cannabis induced lapses in judgment where those very same stone-headed ideas actually manage to get beyond the stage of conception and are in fact acted upon and brought to fruition in the real world. Those of us in the business refer to these lapses in judgment as, YouTube videos. Indy films, cable television pilots, sex videos and sometimes even literary efforts can sometimes come back to haunt a celebrity for many years. They are humiliations to be avoided at any and all costs.

If the creators of the comic book, Wannabez, are reading this I have some very important words of advice for you; collect all copies of this book and destroy them immediately before you are forced to live with the humiliation of this book for the rest of your professional careers. Stop whatever work you're doing with this concept and go back to the drawing board before its too late. Break out the bong, boys, and try again...

Normally I'd go into specific details about what it is about the book I didn't like, but in this case I'm just going to show some restraint and do my best to spare you the public humiliation such critical analysis would expose you to. Let me just say that this book goes beyond bad and would best be released in a "trashcan" format. I really tried to enjoy this book. I dropped six hits of LSD, downed a fifth of Tequila, drank a twelve pack of Bud and smoked enough Primo to reanimate both, Elvis and his evil-alien-clone-baby, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get past the wrongness of this book. Sorry, but there are indeed some ideas that just should never see the light of day and, guys, this was at least five of them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hellboy In Mexico - Dark Horse Comics

Boom, boom, out go the lights!

Time to put the big boy panties on and put the whining to bed. For anyone who hasn't figured it out yet, Mike Mignola and Richard Corben are one of the best teams working in the comic book industry today. Now, I'm a longtime fan of Mike Mignola and of course nothing makes me happier than Mike illustrating one of his own stories, but its time to stop thinking that no one but Mike Mignola can illustrate a Hellboy story. Richard Corben is smokin' hot and every issue of Hellboy he illustrates just gets better and better. Its time for the naysayers to just shut up, get on the bandwagon and start handing out some well deserved kudos to the guy.

Seriously, what more does Richard Corben need to do to earn some respect? Have you read, The Crooked Man? How about, The Bride of Hell? And now, Hellboy in Mexico or, (A drunken Blur). Clearly Mike Mignola has complete confidence in the man's skills or he wouldn't be a part of what is clearly one of the finest collections of talent working on the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. line of books. I understand we're all resistant to change and new things scare us. Its especially scary when it comes to messing with a winning formula like Mike Mignola and Hellboy, but its time to put aside the hostility, take an objective look at what Richard Corben is producing and go with the flow of something really good.

There's just not a lot more for me to say, the man's work speaks for itself. From the very first panel in, Hellboy in Mexico or, (A Drunken Blur) you are drawn into the desert and by the end of page two of this book you're reaching for a water bottle. Richard Corben's illustrations live and breath. And he takes my breath away with every single panel he draws. Get off the man's case and show some respect. And while you're at it, show a little a trust in the judgment of mike Mignola. Judging from what I've seen so far, he knows exactly what he's doing.

Richard, you rock! I hope to see a lot more of your artistic styling gracing the pages of Hellboy for quite some time to come.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Confectionaries - Ringtail Cafe

Sweet and satisfying.

Among the treasures I brought home from my visit to SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) 2010 is a comic book called, Confectionaries, from the good folks at, Ringtail Cafe. I found the idea for this book intriguing the moment it was first explained to me by Darren and Krista Mueller, as cover artist Jackie Hernandez sketched a drawing of a "Strawberry gum drop" cat in the back of the comic I'd just purchased at their table on my Sunday afternoon visit to SPACE 2010.

Once upon a time there was a wizard. This wizard was unique in that he also possessed no small amount of talent as a confectioner. This "kitchen magician" would create the most wonderful of candies and share them with all of the people in the village. He was a kind and gentle soul and everyone agreed that there was something special and magical about the treats he created. Now the wizard had a wife. She too was a kind and gentle spirit and the two of them shared a deep and abiding love. They had many blessings, but one thing eluded them. They simply had no children. And they wanted a family so very much. Since nature didn't seem to be taking it's course, the wizard decided to take things into his own hands. He and his wife would use their unique confectionery skills and make themselves a family. And that's how the story begins...

Although there will be stand alone issues, (including the introductory zero issue and an upcoming holiday special), Confectionaries is set to release as a series of three graphic novels. Not only that, but due to the anticipated length of time between the graphic novel releases, Ringtail Cafe, will be using their mailing list to send "bite sized fun" one page, Confectionaries, comic strips to tide us over until the books arrive. Is that sweet or what!?

The book is very kid friendly which is important to me as a parent of a three year old boy. As I stated earlier, I liked the concept for the book as soon as it was explained to me at, SPACE 2010. The critical test for me as a parent was whether the book would engage my three year old or not. We sat down together and I took the opportunity to substitute, Confectionaries, for his normal bedtime favorite, Mr. Brown, and he loved it! Nothing is more rewarding to me as a father than capturing the imagination of my son and answering those innocent questions all children ask when they're excited about something; "Who is that, daddy? Do they live in the castle too? Are they sad? Is it something spooky?". (I'm hoping more, Confectionaries, arrives before the single issue I've got wears out from repetitive reads .) Yes, this is a story I can't wait to begin sharing with my son and I'm willing to bet you and your children will enjoy it too.

If you're not on the mailing list yet I'd suggest going over to Ringtail Cafe and sign up as soon as possible. Go ahead, I'll wait here until you get back.

Now wasn't that easy? Better yet, why not visit the friendly folks at, Comics 2 Games, located at 8470 US 42 in Florence, Kentucky and pick one up today. Tell em', "Dirk sent me." and enjoy the puzzled look on their faces as they try and figure out just who in the heck you're talking about.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Owly and Friends - FCBD

All that is bad in books for kids.

Without a doubt in my mind, this was the single worst book in this year's offerings for FCBD (Free Comic Book Day). It was so bad in fact that it provided me with the perfect example of what's wrong with the majority of comics being produced for kids these days. Lets begin with this book specifically. First off, who was the genius that had the brilliant idea of grabbing kids attention with a bright and colorful book of black and white illustrations? Seriously? Is there no one working at, Top Shelf, who has children of their own? Not one single person realized that black and white illustrations hold a child's attention span for about three nano-seconds?

And thanks for the stories with no words to accompany the illustrations. Again, nothing teaches a child to "read" like picture books. Duh...

My experience with this book went something like this.

Micah: "Who is that, Daddy?"

Me: "That's Owly, son."

Micah: "What's that, Daddy"

Me: "I'm not really sure. I think it might be a worm."

Micah: "A worm? What's he doing? Why? What's his name?

Me: "I don't know what his name is. I'm not sure what he's doing."

Micah: "Can we read, Toy Story, now?"

And enough of making books for kids made out of newspaper stock. I could care less about the collectible potential of the book, but how about the durability of it? Try throwing one of those books into a room with a couple of four year old boys and timing how long it lasts before shredding into a pile of confetti. Fragile paper stock does not hold up well in young hands still in the process of developing fine motor control.

It just shows the approach the industry is taking to comic books for kids. The efforts are perfunctory at best. The books are considered a throwaway product and they're manufactured as one. Kids comics are being produced to silence critics, not to engage and entertain young readers. The critics are right, comic books aren't being written with young people in mind. Kids comics don't produce movie deals. Why would anyone want to waste time, effort and resources in developing and producing them? In my opinion this is a complete lack of long term vision. If you don't get kids reading comics when they're young, what are the chances they'll pick them up when they're older whether the comics are available on an I-Pad or not.

Since the industry doesn't seem interested in researching and developing a well thought out product I'd like to take this opportunity to offer them a few tips. Maybe this will help create a more marketable product if nothing else.

1. Stop treating children as if they're mentally deficient and incapable of doing more with a comic book than sit in a corner and drool over it. (And no, this isn't permission to drop the f-bomb in every other sentence and take it upon yourselves to educate my child about the diversity of human sexuality.)

2. Stop making kids comic books out of newsprint paper stock. No parent is going to pay for a comic book that shreds to pieces in minutes. I pick up freebies at the front counter made from better paper stock. These are the books I give to my son and they take a beating and still hold together. That's right, your freebies are a better value than the crap you try to get me to buy for my youngster. Duh...

3. Treat kids like their comic book purchases matter just as much as their parents. If you try to palm off an inferior product on them they know it. You may fool them once, but the next time they spend their allowance money it won't be on one of your completely lame and boring books.

Owly and Friends was shiny on the outside and filled with nothing but second rate content on the inside. The book wasn't even worthy of the bird cage. The only purpose the book served was to insure I don't ever bother wasting any of my hard earned money on, Top Shelf, products.

(Thank goodness for FCBD so I didn't have to throw away good money to learn this lesson.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

FCBD 2010- Mavericks Comic Shop

What!? I thought kids didn't read comic books any more!

Judging from the turnout at Mavericks Card and Comic Shop in Dayton, Ohio Saturday afternoon for FCBD (Free Comic Book Day) the rumors regarding a lack of interest in comic books by today's children have been greatly exaggerated. Kids love comic books and the excitement in their eyes as they look for that one special book is still the same as I experienced as a youngster looking through the spinning wire rack at the drug store when I was a boy. The problem isn't a lack of interest on the child's part, it's a lack of follow up on the industry's part. it just sees as if once they've given one token day to providing children with an age appropriate comic book there's no follow up. One day for the kids and then its back to the ultra violence and the harsh language of a dark and angry world.

Kids love comic books and parents like the cost of providing them to their kids when compared to items like video games and electronic gaming machines. In an economy like the one our country is currently experiencing comic books are a wonderful entertainment alternative for children, if only there were more of them available in the marketplace. And I'm not talking about the ones costing twice the price of a regular book, but printed upon the worst quality of paper and containing material that treats children as though they are mentally deficient instead of just young developing minds.

One day a year parents can enjoy a day at the local comic store with their children. One day of light and then the darkness descends upon the landscape once again and everything good and wonderful about comic books is buried beneath a ton of ultra violence and sexual titillation. Three-hundred and sixty-four days of emptiness and silent shops and yet the industry continues to miss the message of FCBD. There's nothing like kids in a comic book store. They are the future of the comic book industry and it's lifeblood.

As I visited website after website and blog after blog the images I saw sent a message that was loud and clear, but no matter how loud and clear any message is, if it falls upon deaf ears and blind eyes it goes unheard, unseen and unheeded. From the ivory towers in New York to their counterparts on the west coast the future of the comic book industry isn't just ignored, it's viewed as an inconvenience. Comic books for young readers are viewed as a waste of time. Movie deals don't come out of comics geared towards young readers. There are too many restrictions to deal with when writing books for young readers. These excuses only hold water to those whose minds are closed and to those who have no interest in young readers. Those living in the ivory towers of the comic book industry have become blinded by the gold in the hills of Hollywood. Potential movie producers are now the main audience being catered to instead of comic book readers and the children we wish to pass our passion on to.

FCBD is a wake up call if the industry chooses to heed it. The comic creators need to come to their senses and shake off the madness of gold fever before the foundations of their industry crumble beneath their feet and their house of cards collapses upon their heads. The truth, the elephant in the room that no one in the industry wants to acknowledge is that we, the comic book reader, haven't abandoned you, it is you who have abandoned us. It isn't the fanboy suffering from the disease of gold fever, it is the comic book creators. The gold you chase in the Hollywood hills is a fool's gold. Just as freely as it flows one day, it dries up on the next and there quickly comes a day when the name on the party guest list belongs to someone else and you are no longer a welcome guest.

FCBD at Mavericks in Dayton, Ohio was a warm and wonderful afternoon. It was good to see so many kids in the shop. Their excitement was infectious and a reminder of the joy we experienced as children when comic books were written with us in mind and weren't yet considered the sole property of mature adults. It was good to see those bygone days again, even if only for an afternoon. Maybe we'll see them again one day, when the gold rush ends.