More Heroes Con Wrapups

Me and Derek Coward

More Heroes Con wrapups come in. I’m glad I got to meet and hang out with Derek Coward. I was a little surprised that the show was not as explicitly social as many such gatherings. Had I known that you could get in with only a wrist band like a record show, I’d have brought my own name badge. I like to know who I’m talking to at these shows and I like them to know who I am.

It seems like Heroes is really a dealers room with a con outgrowth from there. That room is the beating heart of the show and while other things happen, they are not the main event. There are panels and programming but a fraction of what you’d expect from a SF convention with 10% of the attendees. I went to exactly one panel in my one day. Even with doing stuff all day to the point of exhaustion, I still didn’t get as much dealers room “digging through boxes for back issues” time as I wanted. It was kind of hilarious as I took my want list to a cramped 3/$1 dealer that every single guy (and they were all guys) stepping over each other and digging through had their own printout of issues they were looking for. It just made me realize that I was really and truly with my people. One guy had the best format I’ve ever seen. I might steal it for my list next year.

These observations are not a bad thing per se. This con is just different from others, long may it wave.

Here are some reactions from other people to this year:

  • Liz Baillie posts her wrapup of the convention, which is not so wildly positive as some. I bought some stuff from her so I did what I could to keep her in the black on the trip.
  • Tom Spurgeon interviews Dustin Harbin about organizing Heroes Con and this years outing specifically.
  • Alec Longstreth posts about his experience. I also got some of his stuff at the con and am looking forward to reading it.
  • Apparently they announced the formation of Rantz Hoseley’s Longbox Digital Comics project on Sunday after I left. I’m interested in seeing how this works. I’d be willing to use digital comics as my issue or two I try to see if I want to actually buy the paper version. I’m not sure if I’d ever buy them exclusively but I can see a place in my comics reading experience for digital comics.
  • Derek Coward records his thoughts on Heroes Con at Comic Book Noise.

I’m glad I went and I’m already looking forward to next year. Like I say “Happiness is a stack of comic books too big to carry.”

Cynicalman Movie

This makes me happy, that someone is making a Cynicalman movie. Even better, Matt Feazell himself is in this clip as “Dad”. I used to see him at various comic conventions around the south and I have a number of old Cynicalman issues myself. This movie is goofy as all hell, but that’s what I was in the market for with it. I can’t wait for the full version.

Nate Powell Insight

I’m listening to Nate Powell getting interviewed on Inkstuds. I’m not that familiar with him, but I might be converted to his fan by this interview. He just had an insight so profound that it might have just sold me Swallow Me Whole.

On why he chose to settle in Bloomington, IN instead of other places, he talked about having friends there and it being cheap and then he said:

I decided it was time to stop moving away from things, and that I should only move toward things.

Right on, brother. I dig it.

Comics On The Horizon

This is kind of a pointer to myself but hopefully others find it useful. I’ve heard a few interviews with comic creators that interested me in their work:

  • Today I heard the Inkstuds interview with Derf. I’ve never heard of this guy before but I’m really interested in his graphic novel Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. I’m a fan of the punk rock and am a kid from a small town. When I lived in my small town in the late 70s and early 80s we were still catching up to Black Sabbath and T. Rex and early Rush more so than punk rock. I did my catchup when I got to Atlanta in 1985 and saw the Circle Jerks and Jody Foster Army and Suicidal Tendencies and Gang Green, et al. I’m really interested in this graphic novel. Having recently seen Julien Temple’s The Future Is Unwritten I’ve had Joe Strummer on the brain. I’d love to read this GN with him as a character. I think I’ll be popping for this one.
  • A long time ago I heard Miss Lasko-Gross get interviewed on Indie Spinner Rack. At the time she was talking about her book Escape from “Special” which was the first of a trilogy. The second, A Mess of Everything, is coming out this week. She sounds like she might be a little on the nuts side, but I like that. These books sound really interesting to me and I think I will pick them up.

How to Commemorate the Death of the Newspapers

Scott Kurtz of the PVP webcomic has just posted about a new shirt available in his webstore. I think it is a hilarious slogan. “I’m killing newspapers by reading webcomics.” Ha ha, it’s funny because its true.

I like the little throwaway comment at the bottom of that page: “A follow up to our classic “I’m killing buggy-whips by driving in my auto-mobile” tee shirt from the late 1800s.”

Three Word Review of the Watchmen Movie

I just saw the Watchmen tonight. I’ll be taking it in and writing about it more later. Whatever my expectations were of the best case scenario for pulling off this adaptation, it was waaay better than even that. Suffice it to say, here is my initial review of it:

Oh.

My.

God.

How to REALLY Make Digital Comics

While I’m in the embedding mood, here is some work by a guy pushing the envelope with digital comics. I have to say that I found this the most compelling argument I’ve ever seen for the value of digital comics, and moreover it practices what it preaches. It actually out-McClouds Scott McCloud by presenting the argument about the medium in the form of the medium itself, but going much farther than Scott has on digital comics.

I also really like the point that too much of digital comics is about replicating online the experience of a printed page, and not enough about doing things not possible in print. This idea is absolutely the first time I’ve seen it presented, that print comics are about replicating the experience of time in space, and in the digital comic you don’t have to represent – you can actually use time as time.

Don’t read my analysis, though, go look at the thing. Arrow your way through it and see if it doesn’t completely change your perception of digital comics. I recently heard someone saying that you couldn’t read comics on an iPhone or G1 because there wasn’t enough real estate on the screen. This one flash presentation exposes that attitude as not being forward thinking enough. If the idea is that digital comics have to exactly replicate a 7″ X 11″ representation of a page, then you have already lost the debate. My thinking about what digital comics should be are going to be way different tomorrow than yesterday, and its because of this presentation. Nice work, Balak01, whoever you are.

Link via Scott Kurtz of PVP.

Umbrella Academy

I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for the Umbrella Academy comic book series. I read the first two issues of the Dallas miniseries this weekend and all I can say is “Wow!” I can’t remember the last time I had my socks so thoroughly knocked off out of nowhere. I also add my recommendation to this series and am looking forward to reading the first one, The Umbrella Academy Volume 1.

Update: Would you believe until I went looking for links, I had no idea that the writer was the singer from My Chemical Romance?

Taming the Collection

Comic Floor

I’ve been collecting comic books for approaching 40 years now and have amassed a few. While I’m currently working on organizing them and cataloging them online I have them spread out all over the floor of my home office. It is truly a mess, and it’s not like I enjoy having all this floor space occupied. It’s a situation that would get me an OSHA fine if I were paying someone else to work in it.

Via Derek Coward I got a recommendation for these stackable cardboard comic book drawers. Up until recently I had these boxes stacked up which presented a more compact storage solution but meant I could only access a few boxes at time. I love the idea of having my whole collection stacked off in the corner while still being completely accessible. I’m going to buy a 5 pack of these and give them a shakedown. As much as I like the idea and the concept seems sound, I don’t want to dump too much money in these until I feel confident they will do the trick. My first impulse was to to go nuts, but the more I read on their site the more little caveats there seemed to be, which gives me a little pause. It kind of reads in some parts like they are saying that bagged and boarded Golden Age books won’t fit in. That’s a problem, considering that I’ve been bagging a number of books and anything odd sized (like a lot of self-published 80s indie books) is just going straight into Golden Age bags.

I’ve been thinking about buying these for a week now and I still haven’t committed. I think the Collection Drawer guys need to work to bring the barrier to purchase down on their site. Their documentation is so damed complex that I’m not even sure what I’m reading. I can’t tell if these fasteners they sell connect two boxes side to side or top to bottom. I’m not sure if you have to buy 1 or 2 per boxes you want to connect. I’m not sure if you need the rails, whether you need 1 or 2 per box, whether those include the dividers. As much as I’ve been reading on the site I still have a lot of questions. This is about par for the course in the comic book retailing world. As long as I’ve been in this hobby, I still get surprised at how hard it is to actually complete the purchases when you have the money in hand and do the basic things you’d expect at a minimum in any other form of retailing.

Still, I’m hopeful that this product will help tame the mess I have in my house. I’ll try the first five boxes and see how it goes from there.

Jonathan Hickman on the Marvel Podcast

Even as I get back into buying comics regularly, I’m still learning a lot about the state of the industry as it is today. I used to read the Comics Buyer’s Guide cover to cover ever week for many years. Nowadays I don’t even understand 2/3 of the things Marvel and DC are up to. I’ve been getting Daredevil and Invincible Iron Man because those were two of my favorites as a kid. This weekend I read a year of Daredevil and I have to admit I liked it better than the new Invincible Iron Man series. I really liked issues 1-6, so so on 7, but once this Norman Osborn “Dark Reign” nonsense started, the book immediately began to suck. If it doesn’t pick up soon, I’m dropping it. If Marvel’s big idea is to make their universe such an unpleasant place that I can’t stand to read about it, good luck with that. There are plenty of other comics to read that don’t involve Marvel.

However, I did listen to my first ever episode of the official Marvel podcast with Jonathan Hickman. I’m always interested in Hickman because he’s a homeboy. He lives in Florence SC which is about 50 miles from here. I’ll admit that after listening to him talk about Secret Warriors, I’m going to pick it up. It did sound kind of interesting, even with my general bad taste in the mouth of current Marvel comics.

Comic Book Noise’s Best of the Year

I’m a regular listener to Comic Book Noise. As I get back into collecting comics, it’s one of the tools I use to figure out what books and series sound interesting to me. Derek recently published a show about his top picks for 2008. Here is Part One, As far as I can tell, there is not yet a Part Two. I hope there will be.

The Spirit Movie from an Alternate Reality

I am dreading the film version of The Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to go see it in the theater. Whatever problems it has, they won’t get better on the smaller screen. It’s just that I fear it will be miserable experience. Everything about it that I’ve seen so far makes it look heavy on the Frank Miller and light on the Will Eisner – exactly the opposite of what I’d be looking for in this film.

Here’s an interesting story of an attempt to make an animated Spirit film in the early 80’s. I wish I lived in the alternate reality where this attempt succeeded, a good film was made from his character while Eisner was alive and Brad Bird’s talent became clearly evident a decade earlier. It’s nice to think about, isn’t it?

Bonus link: Here’s my mid 90’s interview with Will Eisner from my Reality Break podcast. Boy, I miss that guy. He was a wonderful writer and artist and a cool dude.

First Pass of Comics Done

I’ve entered everything I could on my printout into ComicBookDB. The next pass involves adding issues and/or titles to the database that don’t already exist in it. I’ve been pulling out copies of those issue and also ones that exist but need a scanned cover. I’ve uploaded around 10 covers so far. There are 90 more that are in my collection but have no cover, so over the next few weeks I should get all of those in there. I’m in this for the long game, so there is no particular hurry.

One of the things I’ve always notices about hobbies – be it comics or gaming or crafting – that you can tell you really love a hobby when you enjoy doing the most menial, routine things about it. I have no problem doing sorting and alphabetizing and filing work with my comic collection that I would hate to do for a living as a Harvey Pekar style file clerk (see what I did there?) It’s kind of mind-numbing work to pull file copies of comics, unbag them, scan them, save them to two files 100 pixels and 500 pixels wide, and then upload them. And yet, I am having fun. If only I could harness this to make every routine task in my life enjoyable, I would make a billion dollars. Which I then could spend on more comics.

Cataloging Comic Books

Every so often for the past few years, I’ve been looking for a good solution for computerizing my comic book collection. As I tentatively get back into collecting them, I’ve got a good solid mess of things that were once cataloged, added since, and just loose in unorganized boxes and piles. I wanted to get organized and find a tool for that.

I considered various client applications, including Books, Comic Collector and Delicious Monster. I didn’t really like any of them too much. I tried Comic Collector under Crossover but it didn’t run correctly and I didn’t want to have to fire up a VMWare instance every time I wanted to deal with my collection.

After some looking around, I ran across a few online services. I tried Stash My Comics but didn’t like it too much. I finally settled on ComicBookDB as my new home. I did a little bit of data entry to test it out, and it is surprisingly easy. I really like that you have 2 concurrent sets in the same database, your collection and your wish list. Since in most ways lately, I’m using my inventory as a way to figure out what I’m lacking so I know what to look for, it is nice to be able to set up that wish list explicitly. Even better, if you add an issue to your collection that had been on your wish list, it is automatically removed. There is an even cooler feature of wish lists that I’ll get to later.

Looking at any individual issue you can easily add it to either your collection or your wish list. You also have the ability to do bulk addition to either. I have a printout with a lot of data in this kind of notation: 1,2,6-10, 14,15 etc. Well guess what, you can type that exact string in and the system will parse it out and enter those issues. I’ve been entering in the issues from my old printout via that method, and have gotten almost 4000 issues entered in a few days of not very focused effort. As I’m entering in what I have, if it is a title I want to complete my collection or fill in gaps, I also enter those issues in the wish list at the same time. Currently I have 3668 issues cataloged, and a wish list of another 517.

My experience has been that the database is pretty well populated, but not universally for my collection. About 98% of the issues in my collection were already submitted. For those not in, there are some where the title exists but not my issue and some where the title or even the publisher is not in the database. Users are allowed to add data. I have opted to skip all of those things and come back to them at the end, after I catalog all the rest of my issues. At this point, there are 55 issues in my collection that have no cover scan submitted so I guess I’ll be a good citizen of ComicBookDB and submit those.

I have opted to make both my collection and wish list public, although you have an option to keep them private. For some reason I don’t understand, you can see collections when not logged in but have to be logged in to see wish lists so if you are dying to see my wish list you’ll have to create an account. To be honest, I’d like to encourage anyone with an interest in comics to sign up and use it. That’s because of the network effects of the super cool feature I alluded to above. You can mark issues in your collection as being available for trade and/or sale, known as “the marketplace.” You can then take your wish list and compare it with the marketplace, so you have an easy view of every issue you want that someone is offering. I find that highly cool. The service is several years old, but even so I don’t have a huge overlap between what I want and what others have. The more people that get on the site, the better that gets so encourage your friends! I have a wish list to fill.

Overall, I’m very happy with ComicBookDB in under a week of using it. For my needs of maintaining my collection and manage what I’m looking for, it works great. You can enter many issues easily. It remains to be seen whether the value of the marketplace is mostly theoretical or if I can actually use it to find things I’m looking for. As I get back into the comics world, I think this tool will make it better. All my duplicates will soon be up on the marketplace, all my wishlists filled out, and I’ll be ready for the future. Somewhere in here, I need to read some of these funnybooks, right?

Update: I forgot to mention a feature, that you can export your collection and wish list as CSV. When I’m done, I’m going to export a copy of my wish list, put it in Google Docs and have a copy of my list out in the cloud. If I ever get an Android phone then I’ll be able to access it nearly anywhere.

Update 2: I was so excited to get back to cataloging that I forgot another thing – this Greasemonkey script actually makes the site significantly more usable. It makes the search box default to “Title” search, which is relatively fast. WIthout it, the default is “Entire Site” which is slow and I’m almost always searching on the title anyway. It also adds a few quick links and fills in a few deficiencies. I’d love to see the main site roll in these enhancements and make the Greasemonkey script unnecessary.

Myrtle Beach Comic Convention

On Halloween weekend, there will be a comic book convention in Myrtle Beach. It will be held at the Springmaid Resort which is at the very south tip of Ocean Boulevard. This location is convenient to Market Commons, Myrtle Beach State Park and all of the Ocean Boulevard attractions. If you have friends, family or loved ones that might not be into the comics, have them come down and go to the beach while you geek out.

This is the inaugural year for this convention. I might buy a VIP pass, not necessarily because I need the extra stuff but because I want to do my part to make sure there is a second and subsequent year of this convention. If you are in driving distance, please come down and tell your friends. This town has many benefits but easy availability of geeky things like comics, comic conventions and the ilk is not generally on the list. I’d love to see that change a little. I’m not sure what promotion they are doing, because if I hadn’t already known about this I’d have had no idea it was happening. Spread the word!

I’m looking forward to meeting Jonathan Hickman and buying some of his books straight from him. I like to do that to provide maximum support to the struggling artists. He lives in the area, so it is great to have a venue for him to be able to meet some local fans.

Creating Fans the Bassackwards Way

I’m not sure this is how it is supposed to go, but I started listening to the Webcomics Weekly podcast first. I did not read any of the webcomics by any of the show’s principals. I had previously listened to the Blank Label comics podcast and was curious about this one. After listening for a while, I have subscribed to all four of the comics in question and now I even watch things like their goofy vlogs from Baltimore Comicon. I might be the first person to come to the comics in this fashion. I get the feeling that pretty much everyone that listens to their show is already a fan.

Persepolis

We watched Marjane Satrapi’s film version of Persepolis last night. Wow, what a fantastic film, one of the best adaptions I’ve ever seen. I’d actually put it above Sin City because it was not only a faithful adaption but the style of adaptation carried a lot of the story. My favorite bit was the flashback into the founding of modern Iran, told as if all the Shah’s father and the other characters were paper dolls. That choice carried so much meaning and said “these guys were all puppets” without actually saying it. I recommend this film as highly as I can, as do I recommend the original graphic novels.

As a reminder, here’s the short video interview Marjane was kind enough to do with me a few years back when she was in town.

Eddie Campbell on Becoming Things

I’m at this moment listening to writer and artist Eddie Campbell get interviewed on Inkstuds. This is good timing as I just picked up 9 of his Alec and Bacchus books from the Top Shelf $3 sale (still 2 days left.) He just made an amazing quote on starting up new pursuits and committing to them.

In my teens I had already decided that I was an artist. Not that I wanted to be one, that I already was one. In my head I was one. I think to succeed you’ve got to be slightly mad. It’s not just a matter of deciding what you want to be, you have to believe you already are that thing, it’s just that nobody else has noticed yet.

I think this is excellent advice that I’ve inadvertently been following my whole life. No one asked me to be a radio talk show host, or a podcaster, or a conference organizer. For that matter, when I went to graduate school in computer science I had never actually taken a computer science course in my life but in my mind I was the thing and I made it happen. Decide what you want to be, decide you are that thing and manipulate reality until it is true.