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.

Top Shelf Comix

I don’t remember seeing their booth but surely Top Shelf Comix was displaying at Dragon*Con. One of the principals lives in Marietta, so it seems ridiculous not to. It’s that time of the year when Top Shelf has their big blowout sale, and are selling a number of their graphic novels at discounts and 97 of them for $3! Wowza. They ask for a $30 minimum order, which only seems fair when you are buying stuff this cheap. I’ve got a shopping cart full of Eddie Campbell stuff myself and will fire that up later today when I’ve had a chance to ruminate on what else I want to add. Check them out, it’s all good stuff.

Creating a Comic Strip

Via The Comics Reporter I ran across this video showing how Dave Kellett creates the comic strip Sheldon. I’m not a comics creator, can’t really draw but I’m always fascinated with the creation process and particularly the mechanics of it. I found this completely fascinating. I remember the first time I saw original comic book art with all these mystical glyphs on the margins I was intrigued and shocked. “Oh my god, there’s white out all over it!” I thought to myself. It wasn’t this work of perfection that fell from the sky, but something that multiple hands toiled and crafted and maybe even had to back up and do again. If you have any interest in cartooning or the creative process, check out the video.

For a while there I used to listen to Dave and company’s Blank Label Comics Podcast, which seems to be about two years defunct. However, looking up links for this post I ran across Webcomics Weekly, to which I have subscribed. I’ll check out some episodes and see how I like it.

Alison Bechdel

I’ve been a fan of Alison Bechdel’s cartooning for a long time. I have several of the collections of Dykes to Watch Out For comic strips, and when I read her graphic novel Fun Home I was absolutely blown away. I’ve been following her weblog for a while, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to find out that just like me, she’s kind of a disorganized pack rat. However, tonight she’s reversed it and gotten organized. Uh oh, the balls in my court, I guess. Looks like I’ve got some work to do this weekend.

Gene Colan in Hard Times

One of my favorite comic artists of all time is Gene Colan. He drew Iron Man, a classic run on Tomb of Dracula including creating the Blade character, a stretch on Doctor Strange that I loved, and even worked on Howard the Duck with the late Steve Gerber. In the 80’s Eclipse comics published some wonderful comics that were shot directly from his expressive pencils without an inker.

Sadly, Mr. Colan is now having severe heath problems, including liver failure. You can help out with the expensive pharmaceutical bills by buying art on eBay. Also posted is an appeal to mail a card and an appreciation for what his work has meant to you. I have in the past failed to act on these appeals in time and the next thing I knew, the person was lost. It’s time to act on this one. A card to Mr. Colan is on the way tomorrow.

Free Comic Book Day

We’re out of town visiting my father-in-law in Goldsboro NC so I requested a side trip to the local comic store here for Free Comic Book Day. We got there about an hour before the store closed, so I don’t know if the comics selection was depleted or if they didn’t get the full array of stuff. I’d have liked to have gotten the Hellboy/B.P.R.D comic. Still, it’s hard to complain about free stuff.

Myrtle Beach’s Comic Shop is Back!

There used to be one comic shop in my area, which was in Surfside Beach at Highway 544 and Kings Highway. We’d drive by it if we were going to Myrtle Beach State Park or the dog park. That shop closed a while ago, which left me with no local comic options. I have periodically been buying comics at the store in Goldsboro NC when we visit my father-in-law. I was pleasantly surprised today to find out that the store is back in business!

Even better, the new location is not far from my day job office so I can easily make a run there at lunch time. Because it is only a few doors down from Sun City Cafe I might make this a periodic package deal – funny books and fish tacos. Back when I was working in downtown Portland OR I had a lunch routine I did every so often. I would take the bus down Burnside to the east side and to go Future Dreams to shop for comics and science fiction books and then get a gyro platter at Foti’s next door. That definitely is a fun way to wile away the lunch hour and melt away the stress of the work day. I might just give this a shake tomorrow.

Bring Me the Head of Del Close

The site ComicMix is an interesting one. It’s an online comic book site that is commissioning new work from creators I’m familiar with. They are off to a running start with a new Munden’s Bar story. It’s not just any old story but it is a story drawn by Skip Williamson and starring the skull of Del Close. Holy Bob, that is just too cool.

For the longest time, before I knew anything about Northwestern University I knew Evanston IL as the place that First Comics was headquartered. I bought all their books mail-order from Westfield Comics, buying Warp and American Flagg! and Grimjack and Mars from their first issues on. When we moved to the Chicago area, we lived in Evanston. We couldn’t have been that far from where the First offices were because Evanston ain’t that big. When I was telecommuting from the startup, I’d periodically go stay in the Lincoln Park office (which was an apartment). I believe I was then about a block from where Del Close lived, which I recall as being across the street from Second City. I remember reading Del’s stories in the back of Grimjack, and in the DC series Wasteland. I thought Del rocked as a writer. I remember his story about being in a bar, watching Betty Thomas accept her Emmy for Hill Street Blues when she thanked him for being her acting coach. He told the bartender “Hey, she just mentioned me” and the bartender cut him off.

This story was great and I’m looking forward to more. Here’s hoping ComicMix is a big success.

I Choose Panter

You know this is a sad election cycle when artist Gary Panter (the guy who does comics, did the Pee Wee’s Playhouse Set, Zappa album covers, etc) has a presidential platform that excites me far more than any of the candidates for either party’s actual platforms. I wish I could vote for Gary. We are doomed.

Anthony Bourdain/Harvey Pekar Crossover

Boy, I wish I had found out about Harvey Pekar appearing on Anthony Bourdain’s TV show before it aired, rather than after. It showed last night, and while the Travel Channel replays the living hell out of most programs, they don’t seem to be repeating the episode in the next week. I’ll have to keep my eye out for it, but until then I can satisfy my curiosity by reading the Gary Dumm drawn comics about the show.

I’m with Bourdain. I passed up a chance to talk to Harvey at Dragon*Con a few years ago, even though he had no one waiting to talk to him and I’ve been a fan of his for over 20 years. I was just too nervous from the comic book image to actually go speak to him. I’m not generally nervous about such things, but I was with Pekar. Here’s hoping I get another crack at that.