Category Archives: Variant Edition

Year Three

This weekend, I was remarking to Danica that Free Comic Book Day felt like a “season finalé” of sorts for Variant EditionAs we talked about it, we discovered that we were both feeling the same way – we built up to a big event, dealt with hardships, and now things feel like we’re at a big of a reset point, where we can push forward with new ideas and energy.

We went through a lot during our second year of business. We’ll probably go through a few things during our third, just… hopefully not as many. We’ve learned a lot of lessons, taken a lot of hits. And now? Now we’re moving forward again, with a bit of a changed paradigm and focus. We know where we function best within the business and with each other. And we’re going to build from there.

Thank you for all of the support you’ve all shown us so far. We’re very excited for you to see what comes next. Partly because we’re pretty excited to see what comes next.

Thank you all.

The Next Chapter

August was a whirlwind of work and stress. Every day was packed full with two days’ worth of tasks and preparation, and sleep totalled less and less each night.

I am not complaining.

This was absolutely a stressful month, but Brandon and I have come out the other side. We still have a ton of work to do, yes, but we got this far. We definitely wouldn’t have made it without the support of our friends, family, and customers – so thank you for that. There is a post going more in depth on the Variant Edition blog about store stuff specifically.

One week ago, my life was completely different. Amazing what can happen over 7 days. Frankly, I’m amazed at what we did over 2 days (Monday and Tuesday) to be ready enough for our soft open on Wednesday. Over the next few weeks/months/years, he and I will go through our project list and work on what we can at a more comfortable pace. I’m thankful for that.

In the midst of everything, the apartment has been ignored. There are piles of paper I will need to go through and file, cat fur that I have not had time to sweep up, and clothes I’d like to bag up for the clothing swap at the store on September 10th and 11th. The cats – not used to us rushing home, feeding them, giving them quick hugs and pettins, then leaving again – will need warm laps and brushing. I will work on getting the apartment back to “guest friendly”, which I know “doesn’t matter”, but trust me, it’s no good right now, friends. I want to have people over. I want to have the time and energy to have people over, damnit! I see friends at the store, but I miss holding the occasional potluck and movie night. I intend to do that more in the future(hold me to this, friends!).

On The Move

Busy times here at Submet Industries. Not only are we approaching Doctor Whooch’s 100th Episode, but we recently made  major business decision that has eaten up a lot of our time… but in a good way.

VARIANT EDITION COMICS + CULTURE IS MOVING

You can get yourself up to speed by checking out the initial announcement, and the follow-up (wherein we reveal the new location) by clicking those handy links, but the two main things you need to know are this:

1. We will still be selling comics at 10441, 123rd Street until August 27th, 2016.

2. We will be open at our new location – 10116 151st Street – on August 31st, 2016.

New Location

This move has been a long time coming for a lot of different reasons. Anyone who has been reading this blog for the past few months will know that Danica and I have been dealing with quite a bit of strain. As a result of this, we took a long hard look at how the coming years would potentially go, and decided that we needed to make some changes for our emotional well being. This lead us down the path towards this big move – one that results in Danica and I being firmly in control of our own destiny.

WHAT’S NEXT

 

Right now, we’re in the heart of the whirlwind. The business is splitting in twain as a result of this, with Danica and I taking the comic business to the new location and the gaming section remaining in the current location. That does not mean we won’t be ordering games or gaming items at the new shop – it just means we’ll be rebuilding that section from the ground up, keeping an eye on the demand that we’ll see at the new location.

It also means we’re be building a lot of different structures back up, while winding down our association with the old ones. At times it feels like we’re running two separate businesses. Probably because we are. The old things can’t just grind to a stop, and the new things can’t wait to start, so they all have to run at the same time while Danica and I continue to run a solid chunk of the day-to-day for both. It means that the immediate future looks insane, but honestly? I don’t think either of us have been this excited to be this busy.

As I’ve said before, we’ve shared a lot of our ups and downs with you this year on Submet and I can genuinely say that for the first time in a long time, the future looks pretty bright. I’m excited, and I’m finally feeling as though I have a bit of emotional and physical energy every now and then… which is more than I could say for most of this year. I don’t want to speak for Danica (and yet…), but I know that she has similar feelings.

The future is bright. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.

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.

++INPUT/OUTPUT

Lately, I’ve been a bit blocked. This happens more frequently than I’d like (just by virtue of happening at all) and lately I’ve been having a harder time getting back into writing. So it goes.

A few days back, my lovely wife Danica sent me a link to a blog post about how output is sometimes (most times) related to input – meaning if a writer is not digesting, they have less reserves of energy to expend on creative endeavours. I’m starting to suspect that is the case with my current state of being. Running the shop has been a dream, but it takes up a lot of time and energy and creates a lot of stress. Some nights, it can be hard to sleep. Most days, it can be hard to take in anything substantial outside of the realm of comics – and as much as I love the medium, the work of it all sometimes gets in the way of enjoyment.

A lot of this problem, I bring on myself. In order to connect people with comics they will enjoy, Danica and I spend a lot of our time reading comics that we’re not terribly interested in. Most of them are very good comics – they just don’t match up with what we like to read aesthetically or stylistically. But as we continue to input items that don’t light our fires, we are finding that time to experience and digest things that we love is becoming scarce. Both of us are working on a plan to balance this out a little more in the new year. For myself, I’ve been trying to limit my “week of” reading to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, saving the other days for either books that I truly love, or endeavours that will bring me more joy. As of yet, I haven’t seen a drop in my ability to match people with books they’ll love, partly because reading every #1 still remains a solid part of the regimen. We’ll see if this gives me more time to tackle more non-work things. I kind of hope so, because we have such glorious plans for 2016.

++WORK RELATED
This past weekend was Local Comic Shop Day, which the store did not partake in. Structured to run like the exceedingly popular Record Store Day, there were quite a few reasons why we didn’t jump at the chance to participate in this event. If you want the long version, you can click here. The TL;DR version of it is this: we built Variant Edition with a core of providing comics to readers at affordable prices – focusing on content to read, rather than items to seal away and put into a box. And while there is nothing wrong with the collector’s mindset, we feel as though the market for readers is underserved and sometimes ignored – especially with events like this that provided very little in the way of new, exciting content (all were reprints with different covers or formatting), while committing the bonus crime of heavily allocating many items. That’s not an event that enriches the reading experience, it is one that enriches the collector’s experience, and that’s not something we wanted to encourage.

Again, the post I linked to digs quite a bit deeper into a lot of the hows and whys, but suffice to say, while we didn’t spend the weekend making some sweet, sweet speculator money, we slept well knowing that the products we sold that day were going to be read and enjoyed by the folks who purchased them. Turns out, being principled doesn’t mean you’ll be rich, but it can make you feel better about things.

++STAY TUNED
There’s a lot that I want to get to this week, and I’m hoping that I have the wherewithal to really dig in. I want to finish out the year having written 12 articles for Comics Beat, equalling out to roughly one a month, but that means I have to get cracking on… three? Yikes. Way to go, Brandon. But hey, I’ve had several articles percolating for weeks in my head. Now is the time to get them down onto a glowing screen.

In the meantime, be nice to yourself. You deserve it. Yes, even you. We’ll talk soon.

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.

Elsewhere: Sense8 and Humanity in Storytelling

Over at the Something Different blogI finally found an excuse to talk about Sense8 – because I’ve been waiting quite a while to try and dig through my feelings on the show. Turns out, I liked it.

The show is about eight people, coming from vastly different circumstances, learning that they might be quite a bit different from other humans in a very significant way. Working with that basic concept, there’s a shadowy organization that seems bent on tracking down and eliminating this “other” for whatever reason. Those are the broad strokes. The fine detail comes when the show dips into the lives of these characters, and pulls out some wonderful stories. I will note: the show doesn’t invent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. All eight stories are filled to the brim with story progressions that you expect to find in each style of story being told. A thief pulls a big score and ends up having to settle a perceived debt. A cop attempts to take the law into his own hands and finds himself pushing up against the organization that has defined his life. A safe romance becomes boring, and a new, exciting prospect seems promising, but a little scary – and so forth. But what the show lacks in raw originality, it makes up for by being one of the most humane look at life that has appeared in almost any form of media in years.

For more, just head over to the full post. And hey, if you’ve watched Sense8 and have some thoughts, I’d love to hear them too. Comment below or hit up my Twitter or something.

Introducing // Variant Edition

So I’ve finally announced Variant EditionIt’s something that’s been a long time coming, having it’s roots in the #YEGgeek hashtag that I started spreading after receiving a bit of local attention quite a few years ago. Originally, the hashtag was going to be a prelude to an organization. This failed to happen for a myriad of different reasons, but the idea still stuck with me. So yeah, now it’s Variant Edition, a one-man operation bent on recommending comics to the masses without judgement or back biting. The site officially launches on August 1st (my birthday) and there’s a lot of prep work to be done between now and then – but man, am I excited for what’s to come.

A few secret tidbits for those who follow this blog: during the opening week, I’m going to be showcasing a great up and coming talent who has a mini-series coming out from a small publisher in the coming weeks, and as a cool bonus, I’ve been given the go ahead to hand out their first published work for free on the site as we promote the new book. Crazy, right? Whelp, that’s the kind of thing we’ll be doing. Crazy shit. Are you ready?