Doctor Whooch // Episode 093 // He Can Come Get It

In which we return to Series 8 with our eyes narrows and our hearts cold and dead.

On this week’s show, Danica and Brandon take a trip back to the early days of the 12th Doctor by visiting “Robot of Sherwood” and get distracted with a very loose ranking of various Robin Hoods. It’s a whole episode filled with two white dudes being snippy at each other and man, you wonder if there will be any drunk opinions about THAT.

Outro music is “Men Explain Things To Me” by Tacocat

Doctor Whooch // Episode 092 // That Would Be Hell

In which the angels do a thing, again. Ugh.

On this week’s show, Danica and Brandon continue to stumble through the River Song timeline with “The Angels Take Manhattan” from Series 7, an episode that seems to crumble the more we watch it. Marvel at the straight up weirdness of the whole thing! Listen carefully as words become less coherent along with the episode!

Outro music is “Good Girls” by Elle King

Podcast picture is by GIRL NAMED SHIRL PHOTOGRAPHY.

On Frank Cho

When you’re running a comic shop that is trying to be mindful about the product being brought in and the creators being promoted, there will be times when your ideals will be tested. This week is one of those times.

A few days ago, Frank Cho announced that he would be prematurely terminating his gig as an artist on the Wonder Woman variant covers currently being offered by DC Comics. Originally scheduled to produce 24 covers (covering the first full year of the title’s run on a twice-monthly schedule), Cho’s covers will end at issue 6. The creator has cited interference from editorial and series writer Greg Rucka as being a large reason why, claiming undue censorship.

On the surface of it, this is a very simple situation: DC hired someone on a work-for-hire basis and provided that artist with guidelines that the artist found to be unpalatable. That artist quit. End of story, right? Well, it gets sticky when said artist comes out swinging and claiming censorship. Is it censorship for DC to require guidelines for how their characters are depicted to artists on their payroll? No, that’s brand management. More to the point: is it censorship if you quit, rather than being fired? Again, I would say “no”, that’s more of a principled stand than anything else.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a principled stand. There is something wrong with mischaracterizing the situation. Cho was not hired under the provision that he could draw whatever he wanted, however he wanted. Even if he were given quite a bit of artistic freedom, DC definitely has the right to demand changes to a product before said product reaches the stands. That’s a large part of why the editorial and business structure of their company exists.

Now, Frank Cho has come out and said he was promised complete artistic freedom with his covers – only to discover that Rucka had been granted a large amount of sway over the editorial direction of the series. If this is the case (and who knows, it could very well be, but I doubt DC or Rucka will be willing to come forward with details regarding contract negotiations) then you can definitely see where Cho is coming from. Had the roles been reversed, knowing Rucka, a similar stance would have been taken, and Rucka would have walked off the book. The issue here isn’t with a principled stand – it’s with the accusations attached to this particular stand. Rucka has walked out of both Marvel and DC for his own principled reasons in the past, and if you listen to any interview he’s given about these decisions, he always concedes the fact that he signed a work-for-hire contract, and that at the end of the day, his goals didn’t match the company’s, and so he left. No finger pointing, just stark realities: sometimes the stars just don’t line up.

So. How does this all apply to Variant Edition? Well, we’re known for making principled stands of our own. We are attempting to cultivate a positive culture in our store and as part of that we attempt to be very mindful about the products we’re bringing in, and the creators we promote. When we’ve come across stories about creators who have ideas counter to building an inclusive culture (I’m looking at you, Dave Sim), we often don’t shelve their works – or, at the very least, we don’t hand sell their products to customers. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t sell their books – we are not the gatekeepers of your preferred aesthetic, and we will always provide people with the means of access to products that they want, as required and requested. It just means that we will generally be putting our efforts into promoting the works of those who tend to be additive to an inclusive environment, rather than reductive. In this case it means… well, it doesn’t mean much. Our subscription orders and shelf copy sales of this new Wonder Woman title are remarkably healthy, and quite honestly, were built from Rucka’s reputation as a writer (as well as the reputations of Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, the two main artists on the series). Frank Cho’s existence as the variant artist has been additive to the book’s sales, but at the end of the day, he’s not why most of our customers were getting the book. Will we lose some sales as a result of this? Almost definitely – but I can’t help but side with Rucka in this situation – if he is indeed a part of the situation at all.

Editorially, having Frank Cho provide these covers was an artistic and aesthetic choice that does not really match the drive and the contents of the series itself. In the situation as presented, if DC had to make the decision of keeping Cho, or Rucka, their choice had to benefit the company’s long term goals for the book and the character. In siding with Rucka, that choice is clear. In the short term, it might hurt sales (although it looks like the extremely talented Jenny Frison has been brought on for future variants, so maybe not?) but in the long term, it promotes the overall health and cohesiveness of the storyline as the character is being reestablished. The decision by DC to stick to their guns, resulting in Cho walking off, is a sound one, given that both creators were supposedly promised a certain level of control.

I respect DC’s decision to back Rucka, if that is indeed what happened here. I also respect Cho’s principled stand of walking away from a situation that didn’t suit his goals. That’s all this situation should be, and that’s essentially our stance on it going forward.

As always, we encourage everyone who comes into the store and makes regular purchases with us to share their opinions on the matter and vote with their words, and their money. If our opinions of the situation (or any situation) differ, that’s more than okay, so long as the conversation is frank, honest, and not insulting. It’s another cornerstone of the store: we treat others with the respect they offer towards us, and others. If confronted with a message of intolerance, we generally push back against it, meeting exclusionary remarks with our right to exclude those ideas from our store. We’ve found that it’s made for a great environment, one that we hope to foster and grow for a long time to come.

Thank you for your time.

Doctor Whooch // Episode 091 // A Priest, A Rabbi, And A Cleric Walk Into A Bar

In which we return to deal with a floppy man complaining about his first world time and space problems.

On this week’s edition of the show, Danica and Brandon continue to trip down the River Song timeline with FLESH AND STONE, a not-at-all terrifying episode involving weird stone space monsters. (I WONDER WHICH CREATURES THOSE ARE??!?) Along the way, people die. And some don’t! And Matt Smith remains floppity. Also, we discuss Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, because everybody should at some point in their lifetime.

Outro music is “Let’s Misbehave” from Miss Fisher’s.

Recommendation: Blackbird

Blackbird GN

BLACKBIRD GN (Conundrum Press)
By Pierre Maurel

Synopsis: When self-publishing becomes outlawed, a comics zine group attempts to be heard when the entire world is closing in on them.

01. Semantics to kick things off: what follows is a recommendation and not a review. There’s no critique involved here, only emotion. Honestly, I think there would be a lot less drama within the comics industry right now if folks didn’t blanket term opinion pieces with the word “review”. This has nothing to do with the book I’ll be talking with you about shortly.

Or well… almost nothing.

02. Right now I live many of my days with a weight in my gut. A bit of it is a longing for when things were a bit simpler. Most of it is the knowledge that things were never “better” so much as I was sheltered from a lot of the bad, or just didn’t care.

While I was reading Blackbird, I felt as though I was reading a manifestation of what lives in my gut. The story itself if pretty straight forward. A small group of creators puts together a comic zine called “Blackbird” and distributes it around town. Over the course of the story, a law is passed banning self-publication in all forms but advertisement, so that certain assurances can be made about content. Understandably, this doesn’t go well.

03. Over the course of the story, the zine creators are alternatively courageous and fearful. They have something they want to say, in a format that speaks to them, and they are being told that they can no longer do so without bigger consequences. The act of creation has become a risk, and speaking up, even worse. But they don’t stop. They never stop.

When I feel around for the weight that lives in my stomach, I linger on the things that placed it there – my own courage and fear. My own push for creativity and voice and the forces against it. I feel… I feel my privilege, and the fact that – much like one of the characters in the story – I am readily afforded a voice and a platform. I feel the weight of all who don’t, and I see that in a lot of ways, this story is about them. All the means to produce, with a world telling you that your voice isn’t worth as much as the person next to you who just happens to be a cis-het white male.

04. I don’t want to deal with the weight that I feel. But then again, nobody really does. Am I the person to really sit here and say that the world isn’t fair, and that things need to change? Am I the person to read Blackbird and say to you “this world of artistic and aesthetic oppression speaks to me”? Probably not. But regardless, this is a book that I found something recognizable in – something that I want to push desperately against. I can only imagine how it would read for others.

05. As it turns out, the contents of this graphic novel were originally serialized by Pierre Maurel in the zine format. There’s definitely quite a few layers of meta-commentary that could be pealed back within the contents and the difference between the original means of production and this finished product. We should all be so lucky to build with our hands, and have our voiced be heard.

A Long Time Gone

And then it all catches up to you.

Today is the first day that I’ve written something – anything – for a very long time. At first, this was part of a planned break that Danica had suggested. After watching me unspool as the spinning plates started to wobble with a worrying frequency, she grabbed a few of the plates and told me not to worry about them for a little while. If you’ve been keeping track of our lives through this blog, you’ll know that we’re both stretched pretty thin, and the fact that Danica has been using some of her emotional bandwidth to help take care of me means quite a bit. We’ve been leaning on each other quite a bit as one of us wobbles, and for the most part, we’re still standing, albeit with a few stumbles.

This past weekend, after a few discussions about how to take a more proactive footing in our lives, we helped initiate some changes that will hopefully make the future… not necessarily better in the short term, but healthier, with an eye towards some long term professional and personal goals.

A lot of our lives lately has been about sacrificing some short term happiness for long term ideas and clearly, this has taken its toll. With any luck, some of those long term plans will be coming home to roost, and we’ll start feeling a turn around in our personal lives. And if they don’t? Well, we’re prepared for that too. We’re prepared for almost anything because at the very least, we know what we want at the end of everything: we want to be together, and happy – or at least a close approximation of that. Everything else is just window dressing.

++ SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Despite what’s been happening inside our heads over the past few months, the shop has been doing extremely well – a result of some long term plans that were put in place quite early on in the business’ life. Do you sense a bit of a theme to this post?

Danica and I have fought tooth and nail to keep Variant Edition as a place where anyone can walk in and feel welcome – with one caveat: if someone comes in with regressive or intolerant ideas, we will challenge their assertions. Because of the culture that we’ve baked into the store’s DNA, we don’t have to deal with these people often, and when we do, it’s usually through social media, rather than in person – but it still happens. I can still remember very clearly an incident where someone attempted to voice their aversion to “the feminization of comics”. Danica asked this customer to explain what they meant, and proceeded to ask clarifying questions while I would often interject to refute outright factual errors in their arguments. Later that day, the customer complained that Danica had “attacked” him. This despite the fact that I was the combative one – and that his friend standing next to him was laughing and making fun of him during this entire exchange. Yet the woman who was asking him variations of “that’s an interesting stance, could you please expand on what you mean?” was attacking. That’s messed up.

Long story short, we dismissed that claim, explaining specifically why in no uncertain terms. That customer has not returned for various reasons. We do not miss him. Everyone definitely has a right to an opinion, but they don’t have the right to claim “attack” based off of clarifying statements – and honestly, the fact that he felt more attacked from Danica than anyone else who partook in the conversation definitely says more about him than anything else.

Now of course, that’s just my opinion, but I would be very interested in hearing any kind of clarification that could classify that interaction as anything other than misogynistic. Basically: I’m asking for clarification. If anyone is willing to provide such clarification, my e-mail is bschatz@submetropolitan.com. If anyone would like to accuse me of this request being an attack, whelp, the e-mail hasn’t changed since you read it a few seconds ago. I promise to publish the correspondence to this blog so that others can know where you’re coming from. I doubt I’ll get anything, but that’s the way, isn’t it? I can say whatever the hell I want with little to no consequence for some weird reason. Others can’t.

Wonder why that is.

++ WHAT ELSE

There’s a whole lot that I need to update you all on, but I figure setting that small fire should be enough for the day. Should be interesting to see where that goes. Again, I assume nowhere. I doubt anyone will have a stark epiphany from my words, nor will I be able to talk anyone else onto our side of the argument. But like hell if I’m just gonna be quiet about this stuff.

Keep an eye on this space over the coming days and weeks and months for more words and ideas and interesting news. While I’m not quite sure what the future holds, I do know that it’s going to be really interesting.

Let’s get to it.

Going Through The Motions

So….

I’m averaging a post once every two weeks or so, and that’s pretty much all I can give you right now. My depression and anxiety have kicked into high gear, and I’m going through way too much to properly deal with. This will not be a post about getting better, faking it til I make it, or any other mental health bullshit that I simply cannot handle at this time. All positivity has left the building.

Not sure what’s worse. All the triggers I’ve discovered lately, or the fact that a lot of days, I don’t want to get out of bed. I have created Store Danica for this purpose. She is functional, cheerful, and everything is Great! She is how I get by. If you’ve been in the store, that’s who you get. Not sure if I should keep her a secret, but since my face doesn’t hide emotions well, I’m pretty sure a lot of you know something’s been going on. Currently, I have no ways of coping with any of my mental issues, so a lot of Netflix is being watched. Reading is tough for me. I can’t concentrate, and I end of skimming most things – which means less enjoyment. I used to be able to immerse myself in stories. I could imagine a tiny movie in my head while I read. Now, the images are scattered and few. I’ve lost so much.

In addition to all this, my imposter syndrome strikes daily, and of course my problems aren’t important. Of course others have it worse, and what even are you complaining about, you stupid girl? You’re a bit sad. You’re not dying. You’re not being shot. Everyone else deserves self-care, a healthy body image, and fun. You, who are unworthy of relaxation and joy, must suffer through your days. I am trying SO hard to find that tiny light of goodness – you know, the one at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train?

Pretty sure it’s worse now I have a support network of kind and caring women – that I am totally ignoring because they can’t know the real me. If I haven’t called or tweeted you in a while, it’s because I’m horrid and push away everyone good in my life when the depression hits. Even my goddamn cats. I say terrible things to them, and have a short fuse even when I’m home. I love my cats more than anything in this ugly, violent world, but that’s apparently not enough to be kind to them.

I have no more kindness to give, friends. I cannot bothered with your life problems because I am too busy not dealing with my own. I’d say I’m sorry, but I really don’t have the energy. My brain is full of depression, anxiety, thinking about how to make the store better, trying to get to sleep before midnight, loneliness, sadness, and trying to occasionally be a useful human adult person. It’s not going well.

My Shopping Ban: Is Done!!!

Welp, May was something else.

Reasons June will probably be better:

– I might get a day off work (more time for reading and Netflix!)

– my student loans are completely paid off (more on that in a moment)

– Time with friends (schedules TBD)

– more money coming in if I get a contract (savings? Currently unfamiliar with that term)

– maybe maybe maybe spending a little bit o’ money on my self (thinking pedicure)

Let’s start with the big news. My student loan. It’s done. Paid. Gonzo. The last automatic payment was transferred early this week, and I couldn’t wait to get rid of the rest. Made a payment for the last $88 yesterday, and look forward to receiving one of those nice letters congratulating me on paying off the loan. My next step? Paying off my credit card by the end of the year and saving money on top of all that.

May wasn’t a very spendy month. The Beyoncè concert (which was bloody cold, but amazing) resulted in a $55 tank top, which was lower than what I originally budgeted for merch. After buying a denim jacket for $8 (it fits my She-Hulk shoulders!!), I visited Winner’s (after Goodwill did not have all the items I was looking for – always try secondhand before buying new, friends) a knee-length dark denim pencil skirt and a navy blue knee-length knitted vest(with pockets!). Haven’t bought new clothes in a long time, but I’m happy to report I’ve been wearing both a couple times a week since the purchase. With that purchase of $52.48, my clothing expenses came in under my desired budget of $150.

I’m not going all out like I thought I could previously. Instead of spending $200 on myself in June, since I spent over $100 on myself in May, I’ll fold that into my “reward budget”. Which is why I’m going to attempt book a pedicure this month. That’s about all the self-care I can handle right now.

As of this posting, I’m hopefully relaxing and reading on my day off from work – but more likely cleaning the house because why would I ever stop doing things? Ugh, I need someone to fix my brain BUT AT LEAST MY STUDEN LOANS ARE PAID OFF.

Later, nerds. 🍷

Quick updates on life

Haven’t written in a while. Currently working two jobs, the second one ending at 10pm – not much time for writing. Or rest. But some money is coming in, so the next couple weeks should feel a bit better, financially.

My student loan is around $300. I put $15 in this morning, and have been pretty good about keeping that habit up. Another $200 will go out about 10 days from now, and then I’ll pay off what’s left with part of my latest paycheque. After that, I’m setting aside a bit of fun money (may be more like $100, rather then $200) and spend a bit on myself in June. Then back to crushing my credit card debt. I’m hoping to start saving a bit every month as well, because that would be smart and I should have been doing it all along, but whatever! Life sucks, but I will start saving money for when it gets better at some point. 

So, two jobs. My agency called me last week because a call centre had been set up to answer Fort McMurray fire related questions, so I’m there until the end of the month. Again, tired, but it’s not a bad job. People are nice, and I can read when the phones are slow. 

Speaking of reading! In the last week or so, I’ve finished “Black Widow: Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl, “Dead Girls Don’t” by Mags Storey – both amazing YA mysteries. Would highly recommend you seek them out.