Weird scenes inside the goldmines at both Marvel and DC Comics, it appears. Rich Johnston's report at Bleeding Cool of institutional capriciousness and insensitivity at DC was depressing enough in itself. How is the reader ever going to believe that the constantly-promised new comics millennium will soon arrive from 1700 Broadway, when the most fundamental of human decencies appear to be being occasionally dealt with so carelessly? For as far as I'm aware, there's no contemporary business model which suggests any such managerial practises tend to enable excellence where the employees in a modern creative industry are concerned.
Yet all of that appears almost benign and efficient when compared to the descriptions at The Beat of what seems to be almost Dickensian conditions in the workplace at Marvel. One toilet per one hundred staff, cameras pointing at folks in order to make sure that they're not frittering away the hours? As laughable an idea as it might be to the more unengaged of the Rump, I'm really not sure how comfortable I am with my eaten-away-by-inflation teacher's pension being invested in what sounds like little-league predatory capitalism. Certainly, reading Tom Spurgeon's typically humane and insightful piece on the recent firings at Marvel leaves this reader with nothing but a quite useless sympathy for those folks who've been moved on in the name of 'cost-cutting'. No, none of this makes me feel like picking up a few more issues of any post-Fear Itself or Schism tie-ins.
If these reports are to be at all believed, then it's hard to see how the mainstream of comics is likely to be able to suddenly ratchet up the quality of its product. And it really does seem that there's a considerable degree of - shall we say - unfortunate executive involvement at both companies concerning which titles get published and what content appears in them. Perhaps we'll discover at some time in the future that all these endless tie-ins and all of that enervatingly thin storytelling had little to do with the creative and editorial staff at the Big Two at all. There may even be a moment at which a great many of those folks who are currently being pilloried for their unambitious and insular standards turn out to have been working their damnedest to keep some measure of excellence alive while the market declines and the higher-ups indulge in their own perverse version of enlightened stewardship. (*1) It's something which Damien Lucchese's admirable post on Facebook following his lay-off from Marvel certainly appears to confirm.
I spent almost two decades working in English schools, where the Government hype about how fine a job their system was doing was as overwhelmingly pernicious as was their constant and ever-changing meddling with even the most basic aspects of teaching.(Deborah Orr discusses Britain's literacy crisis, and the efforts to obscure it, in today's Guardian, should you be interested.) With much of the educational establishment absolutely bent on following whatever this week's soundbite political reform might be, I shared my life with a cadre of teachers who did their best to continue to deliver the fundamentals of numeracy, literacy and self-discipline despite promotion all too often coming from the delivery of the exact opposite qualities. It was regularly a thankless business, and brought with it endless trouble from the apparatchiks and sleepwalkers who'd bought into the myth that all those ever-improving exam results meant that the students themselves really had been well taught.
By which I mean, and for what little it's worth, it'll be my pleasure to make the most sincere of apologies if and when it turns out that the professional members of the Common Comics Culture have actually been working almost as double-agents, struggling without any broader recognition for the survival of the fantastical comic book in the face of the edicts from their various lords and masters. Mea culpe .
*1:- Michael May raises the issue at Robot 6 of whether reviewers can ever be sure who's responsible for a comic's contents these days in "Everyone's A Critic, So Let's Be Good Ones"
|Appropriated from http://www.comicafestival.com/index.php/site/news/dark_we_were_and_golden_eyed/|
I was just 12 years old when I first visited Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, London's first specialist comic book shop. That did for me. I have a horrible feeling that if I were given the opportunity to revisit any event in my life which wasn't either associated with family or not-for-public viewing, then that shop in that year would be where I'd go. It's not a nostalgia which I've any interest in defending; you'll either understand the weakness and the longing or you'll raise the garlic and the cross and move onwards.
|Appropriated from http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/showthread.php?8318-ComICA-Dark-We-Were-And-Golden-Eyed-Panel-Report|
As the industry spirals into a disturbingly familiar mix of manic expansion and slash'n'burn cost-cutting, it helps to think of some considerably less compromised aspects of our mutual hobby. Over at Sequential Crush, the newly Europe-based Jacque Nodell describes her first visit to a Danish comicbook shop. I never imagined that I'd regret not having access to a comic shop in Aarhus, but Komics really does seems well worth a visit. At Bob Temuka's The Tearoom Of Despair, there's a quietly charming account of one man's plans to visit some far distinct comic shops, and of his wife's understanding where such a fan-minded wanderlust is concerned. And over at Comic Book Resources, George Khoury describes a day spent helping out at NYC's Time Machine, which certainly sounds like another destination well worth the travelling to.
There's still a magic to be found in the idea of a well-stocked, friendly-staffed comic shop, and yet they're sadly far rarer on the ground than I ever imagined that they would be in the 21st century. Ah, the future ...
|Appropriated from http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=15758|
Lastly, if anyone here is interested in an entirely trustworthy and efficient mail-order service in the U.K., I'd whole-heartedly recommend Croydon's A Place In Space. They don't know me from Adam, so there's nothing behind this beyond the fact that they're entirely reliable with highly competitive prices and free posting to boot. I've had some unfortunate experiences with the business of buying comics through the mail over the past few years, and I wish somebody had told about A Place In Space earlier. So I've told you.
Here's a disagreement which I take a certain illicit pleasure in promoting. On the one hand, Jim Shooter passes a less-than-flattering judgment on the new Ultimate Spider-Man's issues 1 and 2. (The review of the first issue in particular does not go easy on Mr Bendis's new baby.) On the other, Sequart's Julian Darius argues that the very same comics contain a great deal to be admired. Of course, neither gentlemen references the others, but let's not permit that to stand in the way of a grand compare'n'contrast exercise. Who will emerge triumphant? Shooter's got the extra inches, but Julian's the younger man ...
For those looking for a chucklesome way to continue the day, I'd definetly recommend Kerry Callen's "May Contain Content". If you're a stranger there, I'd start at "Super Antics # 2", which on its own is well worth the visit. And then why not a trip over to Ty Templeton's place, where there's a rather sweet family adventure here - of sorts - and a Bun Toons concerned with the "Wall Street" occupations here. (It does have a superhero in it too.)
Finally, a few discussions of the exceptionally wretched closing issue of Fear Itself, which was so inexplicably poor that I daren't even start writing about it. Thankfully, Paul O'Brien at House To Astonish has done what he always does, namely nailing the essence of the comic he's discussing, and in little over 500 words too. And then, everyone over to Graeme McMillan at Newsarama, where he skewers one impossibly stupid subway tunnel of a plothole in the same shameful comicbook, in That Fear Itself Epilogue You'll Never See.
I laughed until I ripped the comic into tiny little pieces ...
In closing, I'd like to sincerely thank the following for the links which they've posted to TooBusyThinking over the past 10 days. Some were criticising what they'd found here and some weren't, but they all brought traffic this way and I appreciate their including me in their discussions. And so, in a deliberately random order - as chosen by the Splendid Wife with her trusty teacher's pencil - my hat is tipped to; Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter: Valiant Comics on Twitter : Sally P at Green Lantern Butts Forever, who has her own take on the enigma of John Stewart's behaviour in GLC # 1: Dispatches From The Fridge; Chris Eckert at Funny Book Babylon, who discusses his disappointments with my analysis of Ultimates # 1: Andrew Whickey at Sci-ence - Justice Leak; Figserello at Captain Comics: J. Caleb Mozzocco at Every Day Is Like Wednesday; Comic Book Kid on Twitter: Greg Burgas at Comic Book Resources: Jay Potts at World Of Hurt on Twitter: to Gricomet at Reddit: Ragnell at 77% Recycled From Other Tumblers; Dan Liebke on Twitter; Yanbasque on Twitter, who thought my GLC post had a few good points despite its "clunky prose", which, reading back, turns out to be entirely fair comment where the prose is concerned; and, lastly but never leastly, to wyokid at the CBR forums;
I appreciate the kindness of being taken into the broader debate, and I wish all of above the very kindest of days. Should someone's link not have registered with Statcounter, and some pretty substantial traffic has failed to do so in recent weeks, then I'm both grateful for your help and sorry that I didn't acknowledge you.
And a fearsomely happy Halloween to all!