Category Archives: Comics

Ethically Questionable

In which there will be much bellowing about the things that are happening.

++ EPHEMERA
I’m shamelessly pulling the style sheet of Warren Ellis’ great Orbital Operations newsletter for updates, because as always, Ellis knows how best to send out communications from dark hovels where no one can actually see or touch him.

Ellis’ life is a life goal – the ability to do projects and growl at humanity from hovels while generally being beloved. I am not doing the man justice in this description, but digging into the man would be a considerable post in and of itself.

burning-bridge

++ COMICS
This weekend had me thinking a lot about comics journalism and my place in the grist mill. As it stands, I do work for Comics Beat, and gladly so. It doesn’t pay, but that’s pretty much what I signed up for: a platform and the ability to retain the rights to all work produced, which suits my current purposes. For many people, that would not be ideal of feasible, and so the delicate dance of being a journalist in this industry, and finding sources of revenue begins. The biggest problem? Most of the money you’ll see comes either directly, or indirectly from publishers of comics. You can see where this might get a bit sticky ethically?

I feel a little sick about this phrasing, but ethics in comics journalism came up again this weekend when Hannah Means Shannon was announced as a new editor at Dark Horse Comics. Means Shannon used to be the editor-in-chief at a comics “journalism” site that I’m not naming here, lest the head honcho appear like a shitty vanity searching horror goblin, and through that outlet, may have participated in some slightly shady reporting. The Outhouse (the charmingly named site taking point on a lot of the back and forth) has a solid timeline of events listed at the end of this article, complete with a look at some leaked correspondence  that was released by the same party I refuse to name.

A lot of the side-discussion of this issue has many in the industry rolling their eyes as they talk in circles about the ways that comics journalism bathes in this kind of ethically questionable substance as though its occurrence makes it okay. I’m not exactly sure where I fall on this spectrum, but I do know that I’m bothered by the whole thing. I mean, is it really okay for comic companies to hold access and exclusives over various sites in exchange for puff? The site views and ad revenue will say yes, but my heart will always say no. Where does one draw the lines in this industry between love, integrity and money? At the end of the day, that’s something each of us has to come to terms with on our own. Honestly, I doubt the industry will ever change, but at the very least, the people inside of it can, and hopefully find what works best for them, whatever that means to any given person.

For my part, I’m considering a few different reactions to this. One of them might be a writing project. We’ll see if the time produces itself.

Seen & Heard in Edmonton

++ PODCASTS
This weekend, both Danica and I were featured on Karen Unland’s wonderful Seen and Heard in Edmonton podcast. The audio was recorded at the very first Edmonton Podcast Meet-Up that was held at Variant Edition, and despite having quite a few podcasts under our belts, we were still really nervous. You can almost definitely hear that in the audio. But hey, if you want to hear us talk about content creation and what that might mean for a business or community, definitely check it out.

++ SOMETHING DIFFERENT
The wonderful and effervescent Devin R. Bruce has another instalment of his regular This Column Has Seven Days column up at Variant Edition’s Something Different blog – this time talking about two different forms of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, amoung other things. 7 Days is always one of the pop culture highlights of my week as Devin routinely introduces me to amazing new things. I highly recommend you check it out.

++ STAY TUNED 

  • My plan to create 50,000 words worth of content will continue to run through the first… third? Of November before collapsing completely, so keep an eye out for that.
  • On Wednesday, I hope to be starting something quite exciting that will become even bigger in the new year. Hopefully. I’m going to need a lot of help to pull this off, but that’s kind of baked into the design. So let’s see if I can’t start that up sooner rather than later. More to come.

Week One

As of this writing, Danica and I still don’t have the internet at home, which is… strange. I never realized just how connected I had become to things until I was forced to disconnect and to be honest with you, I kind of like it. For whatever reason, I seem to lack the willpower to stay on task when a roadblock pops up, and my brain says take a break and deal with this problem after checking Twitter. The problem being, Twitter usually sends me off running on a million different other things, and when I get back to what I was supposed to be writing, the old problem remains unchanged. Which is fun. So I dunno. I’ll be happy when the internet happens because it’s a little hard getting things posted when you can’t… you know… get the access to post things, but at the same time, it’s giving me a nice clear space to get things done.

What I need is something that’ll keep me on task, more or less. Something that blocks the internet from my computer for certain amounts of time maybe. There’s probably something out there like that. It’s probably just a google away, but uh… yeah. No internet.

Anyway. Today marks the end of the first week of this season of content. I’m really proud of everything that I’ve worked on so far. What’s more, people seem to really be responding to the stuff that’s getting out there, so we must be doing something right. And hey, with any luck, a lot of this will help the shop bump up to being voted the best in Edmonton by next year.

I suppose a guy can dream.

MEANWHILE…

Yesterday I started one of the more ambitious projects for the Something Different blog: Brandon vs. The Clone Saga. It’s almost exactly what it sounds like – a piece by piece look at the sprawling (and notorious) Spider-Man epic. I’m starting with the original Clone Saga from the 90s, and going straight through to the end of the Ben Reilly era of Spider-Man. If all of that sounds like nonsense to you, don’t worry – I’ll make it all make sense. Or at least as much as I can. 90s superhero comics are one hell of a drug.

STAY TUNED…

And that’s a wrap on the first week of the season – but the next few days should be pretty active. The Edmonton Expo  starts today, and I’ll be moderating three panels on three different days – and potentially doing a small tour of duty around the con floor. (Though probably not on Saturday. I’m… not great with crowds.)

Then on Monday, Variant Edition is presenting an Indigenous Representation in Pop Culture panel, which should be really great. And then there’s next weekend’s Community Geek Swap and 24 Hour Comics Day, and all the regular content you’ve come to know and love. Because hey, why not. We’ll see how the content survives through all of that. At the very least, there should be some decent recaps in store.

That does it for me until Monday. We’ll talk then!

The Wednesday Crowd

When this goes up, it’s Wednesday, and I’ll be in the middle of new comic book day at the store. I always love new comic book day, because it gives me the chance to see some of my favourite people once a week, nearly every week.

In our spare time, Danica and I have been listening to this podcast about a comic store in the states that closed down after decades of serving a community. The stories they tell in this podcast are somewhat harrowing and perfectly describe society’s platonic ideal of an unfriendly, unkempt shop. When we listen, we’re generally flabbergasted at things like how there are sections of the store that are completely inaccessible (the dusty manga section) or the plethora of verbally abusive signs that roam free in the aisles – but despite this, I’ve come to recognize something that’s universal in terms of running a comic store, and that’s the strange sense of family that develops between yourself, and the customers.

If you’re running things well, a lot of your customers pop up frequently, many of them appearing each and every week to pick up a new batch of comics. These people quickly become part of your life. More often than not, I see many of our customers more often than people I would consider to be very close friends. I certainly see them more than I do any member of my family (other than my wife and the cats). These are people who, no matter what age you met them at, grow with you through the years. They find companionship. The break up. They buy houses, change jobs, get kids, or dogs, or cats, or hedgehogs. They tell you stories about their life, or… well, or they don’t, but you still see them each and every week, and you still smile at each other and recognize your mutual appreciation for each other and comics and the culture that you share in together.

It’s a great feeling, having this strange sense of place and family, and Wednesday is always the peak of that. New comic book day. As always, if you’re in the area, I’d love to see you at the store – even just to say hi. Especially, just to say hi. As wonderful as the shop can be, it’s also a black hole of time and energy, and it’s seeing everyone walking through those doors that make it all worth while.

MEANWHILE…

It’s been quite the week already, hasn’t it? I promised content, didn’t I? Again, we’ll see if this carries on through to the end of the intended thirteen weeks, but whatever.

Yesterday was kind of huge. In the Variant Edition Regularity (which you can subscribe to here) we announced the store’s next two Gender Is Not A Genre events. The first, is a generational panel of women from different backgrounds talking about their experiences with pop culture and genre in a male dominated society. We’re holding that one on October 10th at 7pm, and will be announcing the participants over the next few days. The second, is a Skype interview and signing with the one and only Kelly Sue DeConnick that will be taking place on November 15th at 4pm.We’ll be providing details about how you can get books signed by Kelly Sue when we have all the shipping details locked down.

In addition to that, Danica wrote up a fantastic organizational post over at the Something Different blog as we all prepare to declutter in advance of our first big Community Geek Swap on October 3rd.

And finally, this coming Monday is the big Indigenous Representation in Pop Culture Panel with Richard Van Camp, Patti Laboucane-Benson, Kelly Mellings and James Leask, and in preparation for that, we running content all week at the Something Different blog, hopefully offering some insight into some of the issues that will be discussed. First up, is a whole batch of articles by panelist James Leask.

STAY TUNED…

Today, there should be a new episode of Yegs & Bacon going up that we’ll link to in tomorrow’s round-up – possibly alongside a fresh episode of Podcast! The Comics! And tomorrow, a new Doctor Whooch arrives, and we’ll be talking about the first episode of Series 9, and our livers scream in agony.

Also? More big news that I can’t even hint at, but we’ll be screaming it all around the internet in just a few hours. Just you wait.

Brandon @ The Edmonton Expo

A lot of people have been asking about whether or not Variant Edition will be at this year’s Edmonton Expo – and the answer to that is… no. And sort of.

While the store does not have a booth at the show this year, I will be at the show all three days, walking the floor a little, and acting as moderator for a few of the panels. Here’s where you’ll be able to find me (and some amazing guests):

OG-Xmen

Panel: Spotlight on Marcus To
Date & Time: Friday 3:45pm
Room: 109
Description: Now in Toronto but originally from Red Deer, Marcus is known for his work on Batwing, Red Robin, Huntress and Soulfire. Come meet another Albertan success story and share in his experiences!

STK655750

Panel: Spotlight on Ivan Brandon
Date & Time: Saturday 1:00pm
Room: 108
Description: Known for his work on titles such as DC’s Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape and Kobra and Marvel’s Secret Invasion and Men of War. He is also the co-creator of Image’s Viking, Drifter,  and the creator and producer of the Eisner-nominated anthology series 24Seven.

tmnt

Panel: Portfolio Review with Robert Atkins
Date & Time: Sunday 1330
Room: 107
Description: Ever wonder what to include in your portfolio when applying for professional comic work? Join Robert Atkins, a penciler, inker, and colourist within the comic industry, for a Portfolio Review panel that will discuss what to include and why.

All of these are going to be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to talk with these great creators and about their works, and the process of making comics.

The Retailer’s View // DC Youoops

Last week over at Comics Beat, I wrote about DC’s recent DC You initiative, and how their current marketing structure failed the books that were coming out. Then DC went and announced the cancellation of a significant chunk of their line with their December solicitaitions. So that was fun.

Here’s a bit from my retail article:

Now that the company is attempting to push outwards from its formerly narrow viewpoint, it is essential that they learn how to market accordingly. Having lost a good source of implied retail vocabulary in Bob Wayne, they are attempting to do without any style or verve. What retailers need to see – especially in terms of their line outside of their mainstay superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman (and hell, sometimes even Wonder Woman) – is a projection of confidence from the company, whether that’s implied by the incentive structure, or by the language they use to solicit the books, and a perceived interest from their readership, which can be done by mobilizing social media buzz and doing sustained pushes during final order cut-off weeks. Some companies are particularly good at providing previews of their upcoming books during the FOC period, alongside promotion from the creative team and editorial. DC doesn’t quite have a handle on that, as evidenced by the haphazard way they scheduled the 8 page previews of all of their DC You titles in May. Very few of those (if any) lined up with the book’s actual final order cut off date, so retailers weren’t hearing whispers of excitement right before they adjusted their numbers. What’s more to the point, all of these previews were consistently released in a chunk, instead of staggered out over a several hours and days – which would have provided the company with sustained and building noise across a longer period of time, instead of a jumble of noise created all at once.

What’s really interesting about all of this is the fact that it sets up a very interesting January for the company. With a bunch of DC You mini-series wrapping in November, and quite a few books dropping off the schedule in December, the decks are clearing – and not matter what happens in January, it will essentially be a statement on where the company will head next. There’s definitely an article in that line of thought, so more on that in the next few days…

Morning

Spending some time before the drive to work doing something other than endlessly scrolling through social media feeds. I’m afraid I’ve become a bit of an addict, and that’s one of the prime reasons why my productivity is far lower than I would like. I could blame it all on work, but I should be accounting for my downtime as well.

Cloudy out today, which should be good for a bit of reflection. I’m staring at a stack of unread comics, and man, some week sits just the most daunting thing. I love the medium, and I always will, but my capacity for intake seems to be narrowing. I still check out as much as I can each week, but I find hate volume is getting to be a bit much – and with comic companies continuing to ramp up production on volume, that doesn’t look like it will end any time soon. Over the next week, I’ll be adding more subscription titles to the Variant Edition website. Last month there were roughly 80 new selections. This month looks like more of the same.

What I really want to do is take a day or two off just to decompress and read some comics on my own terms. I want to read this week’s issue of Island and write that article about its format that has been stewing in my brain for a full month now. I want to catch up with Copra and see what madness Michel Fiffe is dropping on everyone now. So much to do and… Let’s face it, lots of time to get it all done in. I just need to buckle down and stop mindlessly floating through tweets.

More to come.

Briefly // Secret Wars: Secret Love #1

Submet is now my home for capsulized thoughts on the comics and the comics industry – because you really shouldn’t post things like this on your comic shop’s blog. A warning: these are random and typed in a flurry between working, eating, and passing out. So. Yay.

Secret Wars Secret Love

Marvel has put out a lot of anthology content during it’s big Secret Wars event – and while usually this format leaves me cold, they have been using the format and the event to push through amazing stories from amazing creators that many people wouldn’t have read otherwise.

The issue starts off with a decidedly indie vibe with Copra creator Michel Fiffe providing words and art for a Daredevil story – and while Marvel has been pushing the boundaries in terms of their house art style, this probably wouldn’t have made it into an ongoing without a minor riot from the more traditional core audience. This story is paired up with some other brilliant selections such as a Kamala Khan/Robbie Reyes story that ends in a surprising and awesome way, and a Misty Knight and Iron Fist yarn from Princeless creator Jeremy Whitley (with the very talented Gurihiru on art). The series ends with a very cute Ant-Man story from Katie Cook, but not before Marguerite Bennett and Kris Anka deliver the unbeatable Squirrel Girl Wins A Date With Thor.

It’s a beautiful, strange mix that I think a lot of people out there will enjoy. It’s about a hair away from what I think will be the future of the printed serialized comic… but more on that another day.

Oh Archie

Mostly just so I can get this out of my head.

So Archie Comics is relaunching their main Archie title in July with comic superstar’s Mark Waid and Fiona Staples establishing a new aesthetic. As I understand it, this pair is guaranteed to stick around for three issues. Staples is busy with Saga and is making the time, and Waid… well, who knows. The dude is really busy, so who knows. There’s three issues for sure. That runs July, August, September. Do you think they’re holding the previously announced Lena Dunham arc for the title in October, making a big splash at New York Comic Con? Or, do they save that for the inevitable relaunch of Betty and Veronica? I think it all depends on budgets, and what the company has lined up.

Anyway. For whatever reason, I had to spill that out there. Continue with your day. Thank you.

The Weekly Pull // Frankenstein

Going to the comic store as a civilian has been a strange experience. From this side of the counter, I can understand how people would skip on adding books to their file, in that I’ve yet to make changes to mine in the past few weeks… despite the fact that there’s a chance some of the books I’m interested in won’t be on the shelves by the time I get into the store. So there’s that.

This week, I’m starting a self indulgent look at my pull list. If I’m being honest, I’m doing this because I’m talking about comics about 95% less than I usually do, and it’s really freaking me out. If I’m being more honest, I’ll probably continue this after my shop starts because I’m just conceited enough to believe you might care about what I read. Let’s uh… let’s do this. Continue reading The Weekly Pull // Frankenstein

Party Pooper

I’m dropping this safely in the confines of my personal blog because… well, it’s not so much a valid criticism so much as it’s personal feeling.

I love the idea of the Image Expo. I love a big, industry melting thing that celebrates the achievements of one of the best publishers in the business today. But you guys. These announcements. They need to be reigned in a little. I mean… yes, pretty much everything announced today was exciting and I absolutely can’t wait for the majority of these to get into my hands. But. Image is having the same problem Marvel and DC used to have when they started announcing books coming out six months to a year from their ship dates. They’re getting excited about product in development, and they’re blowing announcements in a big splash in order to make the company look strong for a couple of days at the detriment to the books that just aren’t ready. I mean hey, remember all those Nick Spencer announcements from… what was it, a year ago? Those looked pretty good, right? Where are they? And honestly, can you tell me what they were about without looking them up?

Each Image Expo has announced books that have yet to ship – and they started doing this roughly 3 years ago. And man, I love getting excited about comics, but I’d rather the company hold onto some of those announcements until they know the titles will be shipping out in a healthy time frame after the announcements, you know? And yeah, I know it’s all creator owned content, and Image can’t control what they don’t own, but… I dunno, maybe focus the lens on books on the schedule proper, you know? It’s not like they don’t make great books – so what if the names attached aren’t big. Isn’t this all about content anyway? It should be.