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.

Minimalism is a Privilege

I’m usually a big cheerleader of minimalism. But what if it’s the only realistic option?

Brandon and I have been paring down, spending less, and trying to minimize every part of our lives over the last few years. Although I still believe I can always get rid of more Stuff, I’ve hit the point where I have to stop. For now, anyway. Even though I have completed my student loan payments(more on that later in this post!), because I’m making very little income, it’s hard to truly appreciate the moment. I’ve started to wonder if I need to start selling things to continue experiencing my current lifestyle. Let me tell you, that lifestyle consists of having an apartment and occasionally buying bus tickets for temp work – I’m not extravagant, even when I can afford it. I’m understandably a bit concerned about my future, but mostly worried about when the hell I can get my hair cut again. Serves me right for getting an asymmetrical cut that I need to get trimmed once a month(I love it, but probably should have waited until my income was more stable).

Think about all the minimalism tips out there. Think about all the ways to “save” money. Go thrifting instead of buying new – yes, but you’re still shopping and spending money. I generally hit up the Goodwill once every season, but only if I need something specific. The Latte Factor only works if you are already spending $5 a day. That would be a luxury for me right now, and I find it wasteful even when I do have that extra cash(it’s…been a while since I’ve had extra cash). Clothing swaps are the best and, in my opinion, the most fun way to find clothes – but it’s a gamble if your friends aren’t all the same size(which isn’t realistic to most friend groups anyway).

While my current minimalism may be somewhat “enforced”, it’s not the end of the world. Even if I feel like I’m struggling, I know I’m not alone. Brandon and I are going through some tough times right now, but we’re going to make it to the other side together. Things will even out, mainly because I believe they have to, after all the drama we’ve been put through. (Seriously 2016, why are you so awful for everyone?)

My financial goals are small. I’d like to be making enough income to start saving again. Literally any amount would be acceptable – even $5 a month. I’d like to have a bit of money socked away by October, so Brandon and I can take 2 or 3 days off for our anniversary. A vacation isn’t realistic until next year(fingers crossed we have the time and money for a whole week off), so I’m keeping my expectations low. I’ll say I’m going to pay off my credit card by the end of the year, but I’ve been putting more money on it lately, so I will simply see how close to $0 I can get. Next year, I’d like to be able to pay it off every month. But we’ll get see what the next 6 months bring us, yeah?

***

Now for some good news! I PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOAN!!!


I want to thank everyone who left comments here, on Twitter, and Facebook. Writing about this kept me motivated, and I kept it a priority because of you. While I am not left with a lot of money now, it’s been a huge relief to get that debt off my proverbial plate.
Here’s hoping July and the last half of 2016 is better for all of us – financially and emotionally.