Tagged: John Gaunt

John Ostrander: And Be A Villain

suicide-squad-and-be-a-villainMy friend Brian Skelley recently e-mailed me a question that gave me some pause: what is the difference between an anti-hero and a villain? Having trafficked in anti-heroes for some time, you’d think I know but I had to parse it out.

As I postulated it to Brian the basic answer was that the anti-hero is the protagonist of a given story; the villain is often the antagonist which makes him a support character. The main purpose of any supporting character is to bring out some side or aspect of the main character, the protagonist. A villain can be the protagonist; I’ve written stories where the Joker is the main character, for example, or with Captain Boomerang, neither of whom could be called a hero in the conventional sense.

cumberbatch-hamletThe anti-hero doesn’t display the usual heroic attributes such as courage, empathy, decency, integrity and so on. They don’t care about the common good; they care about #1. Some, like John Gaunt (GrimJack) may have their own code but one of the questions I put to myself when I began writing GrimJack was “how do you make a moral choice in an amoral world?” I once had Gaunt shoot a guy in the back and that alienated some readers. My response, then and now, was that Gaunt was never intended to be a role-model.

Whatever the anti-hero’s deficiencies, he or she are usually better than those surrounding him/her. Why are we rooting for the anti-hero to succeed? If we feel nothing for them, what is the point? At the very least, we need to be rooting for them to get away with whatever it is they are doing. We want Danny Ocean’s plan to rip off the casino to work, in part because (in the later movies) he’s played by George Clooney at his most charming.

wastelandFor myself, I like working with anti-heroes more than the conventional heroes. I don’t know what it says about me to say that they seem to resonate more within me. I can more easily find something to identify with in the anti-hero than with the conventional hero. Writing Martian Manhunter was far more difficult for me than writing The Spectre. J’Onn J’Onzz was a far more decent being than Jim Corrigan. No doubt it points to some deficiency in me.

I guess I like my heroes more morally ambiguous. Certainly none of them have been more morally ambiguous than Amanda Waller not to mention the Squad as a concept. However, I’ve never considered Amanda to be an outright villain. Some folks who have written her took that tack, but I think she’s more interesting as an anti-hero. She has a conscience; she knows the difference between right and wrong. It doesn’t stop her from doing the bad things but she knows what she’s doing and does what she does deliberately. She hocks her soul for an ostensible greater good. What she does marks her as a villain; the reason she does it makes her a hero.

And then, of course, there’s Wasteland. Chock full of anti-heroes. We have a father who dissects his son’s biology teacher for traumatizing the boy. (Actually, by the end it’s a heart-warming tale… in a way.) I asked the reader to step inside the mind of a serial killer and, however briefly, identify with him. There have been occasions when I almost told a person, “You don’t want to mess with me. I wrote Wasteland.” That should scare most people.

Some times it scares me.

John Ostrander’s Picking Favorites

amanda-waller-grimjack-kros

Last weekend I was at the Geek’d Con in Rockford, Illinois. It was a small first time con and it had some things to work out, but over all it went okay.

I really enjoyed the fans but, for me, the big moment was when my niece, Julie Adams, showed up with her husband Rob and their three kids, Rachel, Hailey, and Ryan. They even sat in on the Q&A panel I did on Saturday and, bless ‘em, asked some questions themselves. And, as is typical with kids and especially kids who are relatives, a question or two were tough to answer.

The big one I was asked (by Hailey, as I recall) was, “Which of your characters is your favorite?” Deceptively simple, that question. “That’s like asking a parent which is their favorite child,” I replied, glancing at Julie and Rob. Both grimaced.

I’m not sure that answer completely satisfied Hailey (or her brother and sister) so I did explain a little more. “This may sound like a cop-out but it’s whatever character that I’m working on right now. It has to be that way. I need to be that excited about the character I’m working on if the story is going to be any good.”

Okay, I admit it was a bit of an evasion but it’s true; I really can’t pick just one of my characters as my favorite. That said, I can name several of the characters that I’ve worked on as among my favorites. One, obviously, is Amanda Waller of the Suicide Squad. There was no-one like her when she first showed up some thirty years ago and there’s really been no-one like her since. She doesn’t mess around; she has a vision and she goes after it. She uses people (villains mostly but not exclusively) and if someone has to die to get the job done, she’ll sacrifice them without a second thought. As Deadshot in the movie says of her, “That is one mean lady.”

Thing is, I’ve never thought of her as an outright villain. An anti-hero, certainly, but she does have something of a conscience. She’s kept people around to call her on her bullshit. What they say may not change what she does but, as she has said at least once, “Just because I don’t do what you say doesn’t mean I’m not listening.” She’s more of an interesting character if she has a sliver of a conscience; otherwise, she’s a sociopath.

Two others on the Squad also qualify among my favorites – Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. With Boomerang, it’s that he’s actually well-adjusted (more or less); he knows he’s scum and he’s happy being that. He has no desire to be better than who he is. Every time you think he’s sunk as far as he can go, he finds another level to which he can fall. Deadshot just doesn’t care – period. I don’t see him as having a death wish. I think he just doesn’t care if he lives or dies and that, IMO, gives him a lot of power.

I also really enjoyed working with Father Richard Craemer, both in the Squad and in The Spectre. He’s a good man, a good counselor, with a good sense of humor (useful when dealing with nigh omnipotent Spectre). My late wife, Kim Yale, and I created him and based him on religious people we knew in our respective families who also were good people.

I even enjoyed the cannon fodder in the Squad – characters brought in to be killed off. I had to invest something in them in order to make those deaths mean something and have an impact on the reader. One of my faves among these was Shrike (Vanessa Kingsbury); an innocent mass killer, she felt she was Born Again even though she couldn’t help killing more people as she went on. She weirded the heck out of Father Craemer.

Minor characters like Punch and Jewelee also among our faves. More than a little nuts, they were like criminal yuppies from hell.

I could go on at great length about some of the other characters in the other series that I’ve done over the years but this column is long enough (and late enough) as it is. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one very big name – John Gaunt. GrimJack.

You could say in a way that he was my first born. I had written four 8 page back-ups in Warp and one full length story in Starslayer when GrimJack debuted in the back of the latter title. He was my first original creation in comics, influenced in equal parts by Robert E. Howard and Raymond Chandler. A hard-boiled barbarian working out of the multi-dimensional city of Cynosure, I could place him in almost any setting and make it work. We even did a time traveling Western.

He was also a scar-faced Cupid. Kim and I knew each other before GrimJack but we were just friends. She was also a big fan of the book and it was one particular issue, “My Sins Remembered,” that really got to her. She wrote to me (although at the time she lived less than a mile away) and we went out for coffee and we talked about the issue and what had affected her so much. She opened up to me and I found myself connecting to her in ways I hadn’t before. About seven months later, when I proposed, Gaunt was a part of that presentation (including a GrimJack teddy bear). So, I guess, gun to my head (which Gaunt is certainly capable of doing) maybe he is my favorite. Along with his supporting cast. And his next incarnation.

See how difficult this is?

Right now, my favorite characters are Kros (from Kros: Hallowed Ground which I’m doing with Tom Mandrake) and Hexer Dusk (which I’m doing with Jan Duursema) because those are the ones I’m working on at the moment. You can find samples of both on Indiegogo and even pre-order the books if so inclined.

I’m also starting a new love affair for a project I’m working on with Mike Gold. It’s not announced yet so I can’t really tell you much about it but my enthusiasm is mounting.

I just can’t help myself!

John Ostrander: Origins

Nero Wolfe

As I mentioned in a previous column, I’ve been on a Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe reading/re-reading jag as of late and have been enjoying it greatly. As other commentators have noted, the pleasure in the Nero Wolfe novels is not so much the plots, which have been noted as serviceable, but in the characters, especially the rotund and eccentric genius, Nero Wolfe, and his wise cracking legman and assistant, Archie Goodwin.

(Sidenote: when I first met the late and great comic book writer/editor, Also Archie Goodwin, I meant to ask him about Wolfe but decidedly, I think prudently, that he had probably gotten enough of that in his life. End digression.)

Stout had written 33 novels and 39 short stories on the pair between 1934 and his death in 1975. After his death, his estate authorized further Wolfe and Goodwin adventures by Robert Goldsborough who has written ten books, one of which was Archie Meets Nero Wolfe, a prequel to the Nero Wolfe stories telling the tale of how the two first met.

That’s a story Rex Stout had never told and I’m enough of a fan to have wondered in the past about it so, of course, I ordered the book.

Pastiches can be hit and miss; the author is trying not only for the style of the original author but for the voice of the characters. There’s been a lot of different pastiches over the years for different literary creations; Sherlock Holmes has them, there are Conan the Barbarian pastiches, and more recently Robert B. Parker’s characters have come back to life with various writers of different abilities.

I read Archie Meets Nero Wolfe and it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t Stout but it wasn’t bad. It hit all the clues about the characters’ backgrounds that Stout had sprinkled through the Wolfe canon. Goldsborough has caught Wolfe’s “voice” pretty well although I felt his Archie was a bit spotty. However, my biggest reaction after reading the book was “Why?”

Rex Stout never gave a full “origin” of the Wolfe/Goodwin partnership. Do we really need one? Yes, I bought the book because I was curious but I didn’t learn anything new about the characters. It got me to thinking: do we always need an origin?

When I started writing my GrimJack series, we joined John (GrimJack) Gaunt in the middle of his doing something. Sometime later, we did an “origin” which the late columnist and critic Don Thompson said was his second favorite origin story of all time, next to Superman’s. In it, Gordon, the bartender of Munden’s Bar which Gaunt owns and is his hang-out, offers to share Gaunt’s “secret origin” with a patron. It goes like this: Papa Gaunt. Mama Gaunt. A bottle of hootch. Wucka wucka wucka. Nine months later – Baby Gaunt.

The point of it was that Gaunt was born and everything that had happened to him since then is what makes him into GrimJack. I differentiate between “origins” and “backstory”.

An origin is the starting point from which everything else flows. Backstory fills in and explains different aspects of a given character. Sometimes there may not be any single starting point.

I wrote some stories with Del Close, the legend who directed and taught at Chicago’s Second City for many many years and then went to form the ImprovOlympics (now simply called “I/O”). I took some of his improv classes at Second City myself; they were extremely valuable to me as a writer and very liberating. One of Del’s rule was to start in the middle of the story and go on past the end. He used to say, “I get bored with all that exposition shit. Get on with it.” If it was a fairy tale, he wanted to know what happened beyond the “happily ever after”. For him, that was what was really interesting in the story.

One of the big questions Del made me ask myself was “Just how necessary – really necessary – was all that exposition?” What was the minimum that reader had to know in order to follow the story? The answer usually is: a lot less than you think. A writer may want to be clear about everything so s/he may overexplain.

I remember one of the first Spider-Man stories I ever read began with Spidey in the middle of a pitched battle on a New York street with the Rhino. I didn’t know anything about either character but the writer, Stan Lee, assured us in a narrative caption: “Don’t worry, effendi. We’ll catch you up as we go.” And damned if he didn’t. That also taught me a lot.

One of the rules that has been devised for comics is that Every Comic Is Someone’s First Issue. Therefore, it was obligatory to be absolutely clear about it all. Someone’s rule was that within the first five pages, the main character’s name had to be said, the powers demonstrated, and what’s at stake made clear. That’s important for the writer to know, certainly, but how much does the reader need to know? Usually, less than you think.

With GrimJack, Timothy Truman (the book’s first artist and designated co-creator) and I knew a lot about John Gaunt’s backstory but we decided to only tell it when it was pertinent to a given story. The reader sensed that there was more story than we were telling and that created some mystery about him but, at the same time, there was trust that we knew what we were doing.

The writer also has to trust the reader and to assume they are intelligent enough to fill in some blanks. It doesn’t all need to be spelled out. You can imply a lot and trust the reader to get it. That trust creates a bond between creator and reader and that’s when magic happens.

For me, that was the main problem with Archie Meets Nero Wolfe. It gave me the incidents of how the two met, the what, but not the why. How did that relationship start? Was there a chemistry from the start? The book was very prosaic but it needed a touch of poetry; there needed to be something between the lines. There needed to be a touch of mystery because in all the Rex Stout stories about the pair, that was there. The biggest mystery in every Nero Wolfe story, the one that is never solved but always there, is the relationship between Wolfe and Archie. That’s what keeps me coming back. Over and over.

John Ostrander: The Essence

Ostrander Art 130804A week or so ago I was talking about how in the Man of Steel movie they had Superman kill someone. No spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s your own damn fault. It did violate one of the traditional tenets that marked Superman as Superman – he doesn’t kill. Lots of innocent bystanders must have also died during his battle with Kryptonians in Smallville and Metropolis but hey – collateral damage.

I did note, however, that characters that have been around a lot need an updating to keep them relevant to the times in which they are being read/watched. The question to me is – how much change is acceptable before you’ve altered the character so much that they are no longer really that character. What defines each character? What are the essentials?

I read in a recent Entertainment Weekly that Andrew Garfield, the current movie Peter Parker/Spider-Man, suggested that the next Mary Jane actually be a guy. Have Peter explore his sexuality with a guy. Even the director, Marc Webb, when asked if he had heard Garfield’s idea, seemed to do an eye roll.

That idea certainly isn’t traditional Peter Parker and got some discussion, but is it that far off? I’m not saying I endorse the idea but wouldn’t it make Peter more contemporary, something to which younger readers/viewers might relate? Would a bi-sexual Peter Parker be any less Spider-Man? Would a Peter Parker in a lip lock with a guy be more shocking than a Superman who kills?

The comics’ Spider-Man has taken it further. In the book, Spider-Man’s old foe Doctor Octopus has taken over Peter’s body and life and identity of Spider-Man with Peter looking real dead and gone. Otto Octavius is now Spider-Man. WTF?

The powers are the same, but the character sure isn’t. Is it the powers that define who Spider-Man is or is it the man behind the mask? If the latter, is this really Spider-Man?

This isn’t the only character to which this has happened. Iron Man has had people other than Tony Stark in the armor. Batman has had a couple of people under the cowl. And let’s not start on Robin. Or Batgirl.

The stories of Sherlock Holmes have also lent themselves to numerous interpretations. There are currently two TV series that put Holmes into modern day. I only really know the BBC series, Sherlock, but despite changing the era it feels so Holmesian to me. It feels like they got the essentials right.

I did it myself with my own character GrimJack. First I killed off the main character, John Gaunt, then I brought his soul back into a clone of himself and then, eventually, I had him reborn into another person, James Edgar Twilley, although again, it was the same soul. Munden’s Bar remained but the supporting cast was different and I had bounced the whole thing down the time line a hundred years or so and the setting of Cynosure was also changed.

I knew why I did it at the time. I felt my writing was getting stale and the character was as well. We hadn’t been around all that long but I felt we were getting tripped up on our own continuity. Sales were eroding. My editor asked me to come up with some way of making the book dangerous again.  That’s how I chose to do it.

Was it still GrimJack? Yes, I felt it was – in its essentials. An alienated and violent loner in a strange city living by his own code. Same soul, two lives. It still felt like GrimJack.

I’m willing to bet that most re-examinations of a given character or concept stems from that – to look at it all with fresh eyes, to make the reader/viewer do the same. To me, that’s trying to get to the essentials.

Maybe we aren’t all agreed as to what the essentials are in any given character or concept. That may vary from person o person, fan to fan. I think that’s why there are quibbles right now about Man of Steel; if Superman not killing is essential to the character, there’s a problem with the newest version. On the other hand, if “do not kill” rule is just like wearing red trunks, then it’s not essential. Is the Man of Steel Superman?

That comes down to you.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

 

John Ostrander: My CBG

Ostrander Art 130113 “There are places I remember

All my life, though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain.”

– The Beatles, In My Life

As I grow older, I find some underlying conservative strains in me coming out –much as that will surprise many who know me as a flaming leftie. While not totally adverse, I find I’m resistant to change the older I get. I like things as they were. When I periodically go back to my hometown of Chicago, I find some things have changed and some things are just gone. My first reaction generally is “Who told them they could do that?” Even if I haven’t been back to a place in some time, I mildly resent it not being there. I see what is now there overlaid with my memory of what was there. A cognitive double vision, if you will.

I think part of the reason that young people may not have that same reaction is they don’t have the same amount of experience with that spot. They’re living in it now and maybe know it only from now. Current chronology doesn’t get mixed with past chronology as it does for those of us who are older.

All of which brings us to the news this week of the Comics Buyer’s Guide ending its long run in about two months. For those of you who don’t know, CBG was long one of the top comics related newspapers/magazines with news and reviews and opinion columns relating to the comics medium.

There are other places that have covered the history of the Comic Buyers Guide, including an excellent summation by Bob Greenberger here on ComicMix. What I want to talk about instead is my own personal connections and history with it.

Before I was a writer of comics, I was a fan and with the dawning of the direct sale shops came the discovery of periodicals such as The Comics Reader and CBG. For the first time, I got a peek into the backstage of the comics industry. I got an idea of what was coming out and when, who were the artists or writers on what books, I read reviews, letters from fans and pros, opinions and columns (notably Peter David) and, as a fan and someone who had aspirations for the field, I wanted not only to read CBG, I wanted to be in it, to be one of those who were talked about.

Eventually, I was. I had arrived. I was part of it. I got reviewed by Don Thompson (he and his wife, the ever charming Maggie, ran the paper). While he didn’t like everything I did, I felt he was fair and reasonable and he gave one of my favorite reviews of my character GrimJack. In one issue, Gordon the bartender tells a customer the “secret origin of John Gaunt.” It came down to “Mama Gaunt, Papa Gaunt, a bottle of hootch, wucka wucka, wucka – nine months later, Baby Gaunt.” Don said it was his second favorite origin in all of comics, eclipsed only by Superman. I loved that and still do. Thanks, Don.

The most important memory of CBG for me is that, for a time, they gave my late wife Kimberly Yale a literary home. Kim wrote a column for them and, as she learned she had cancer, she recounted her battle with it until close to her death. Kim was a finer writer than me; I’m a storyteller, not a Fine Writer. Oh, I know my way around structure and theme and character and syntax and so on but my primary focus was and is storytelling. For Kim, it was the shape of the sentence, the right word chosen, the proper use of grammar and syntax. I’ll split infinitives without a care but Kim didn’t like that. She was the better essayist than myself. CBG gave her the chance to make her mark that way.

I’ll freely admit I haven’t read CBG for a while. I’m more online these days. I liked, however, knowing it was there and now it won’t be. Life changes, I know, and some things die but life itself always goes on even if I don’t always approve.

Drat.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

John Ostrander: Redshirts

I love to read. I have ever since I was very small. I startled my parents when I started reading the milk cartons and cereal boxes aloud when I was in pre-school. I love it when a book sweeps me up and takes me wherever it is set. The genre doesn’t matter – fiction/nonfiction, history/memoir, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/western – just tell me a good story and I’m yours. If I don’t have a good book to read somewhere around the house, I get a little hinky.

If the author wastes my time by not telling me a good story, I get a little irate.

Fortunately, John Scalzi tells a very good story with his new novel, Redshirts (Tor books, hardcover). Tells a very funny, engrossing and ultimately thoughtful story in a novel that includes three codas at the end. Tells a story that will strike very close to home for Star Trek fans, especially those of the original series.

SPOILER NOTE: I’ll give some things away about the plot as this review goes forward. Can’t discuss the story without talking about the story but I’ll try to give away as little as I can. This is as much warning as you’ll get.

The story is set in the Universal Union, mostly aboard its flagship, the Intrepid, and Ensign Andrew Dahl is happy to be posted to it – until he notes something odd. There are all these away missions and the command crew, the captain, the chief science officer, and the astrogator are assigned along with some low level member of the crew. Like ensigns. There’s just about always a fatality but not among the command crew although the astrogator can get hurt really bad but recovers within a week. Odd, to say the least.

These moments come and go but, when they come, it’s as if the crewmembers aren’t really in control of their actions. As it turns out, they’re not.

Turns out that, in an alternate universe/timeline, they’re all characters in a cheesy Star Trek knockoff TV show and their lives are being controlled by a bunch of hack writers. Dahl and an intrepid group of fellow Intrepid redshirts have to travel backwards/sideways/whatever in time/space/dimensions/whatever via a means familiar to Star Trek fans to somehow stop these writers (mainly the head writer) from probably killing them for cheesy dramatic reasons, usually just before the commercial break.

The story owes something of its concept to the wonderful movie Stranger Than Fiction (my favorite Will Ferrell movie and maybe my only fave Will Ferrell movie) and acknowledges that but also, to my mind, owes its tone to an equally wonderful movie, Galaxy Quest, which it doesn’t acknowledge. There are flaws: many of the characters are identified only by their last names and are more a collection of characters traits then characters. On the other hand, that may be deliberate since the book satirizes that way of creating support characters on TV and indeed elsewhere. Take a character trait from column A, column B, and column C and provide a name and – bingo! – instant character. To my mind, they also sounded quite a bit alike but what they said was often funny and entertaining. I just had trouble telling them apart sometimes.

The book is clever and light which makes it great for summer reading. It doesn’t get particularly deep until the three codas that follow the end of the story proper. They’re like three short stories using minor characters in the main book. Here Scalzi plays more with the concepts brought up in the main story. I can see why they are separate – the tones wouldn’t work in the primary narrative but they’re very worth reading and add a great deal to the overall book.

Recommended. It also makes me very sure that I never want John Gaunt to find a way to meet me. I’ve done too many nasty things to GrimJack all in the name of compelling narrative and I think he would hurt me bad. So – shhhh! Don’t tell him where I live.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

JOHN OSTRANDER: Christmas Treasures, Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or so the song goes. Except when it’s not.

I have my Christmas favorites on DVD or TV that I watch every year. They include A Christmas Carol (the Reginald Owen version and the much better Alastair Sim version as well as, oddly, Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol which adds songs and does a pretty fair job of summing up the story in less than a half hour), It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and the cartoons – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Karloff beats Carey hands down) and, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And, a day or so after Christmas, I add in Bad Santa just to wash all the treacle away. Your choices may differ and that’s fine – these are mine.

My best Christmas was probably the one when I proposed to my late wife, Kim Yale, on Christmas Eve. I had bought the ring and I was pretty sure she would say yes but I was still nervous. Kim and I opened presents on Christmas Eve so I mapped out my strategy. My gifts included a Tim Truman sketch of GrimJack (one of Kim’s faves and part of our becoming a couple), signed by Timbo and carrying the Gaunt message: “You’ve done right by my pal so far, sweetheart. How about makin’ it permanent?”

Then she got a specially made teddy bear (Kim was huge on teddy bears) that was a  GrimJack teddy bear and he was holding a poem from me, a sonnet that would up with my proposal (I made her read it aloud) and as she finished reading it, I brought out the ring. Kim took a dramatic pause (she was great at dramatic pauses) that were the longest seconds of my life but then she said “Yes!” and we off to the races.

That was our first Christmas together. The hardest one was our last.

Kim had breast cancer and she was dying of it. I knew that but she didn’t; her cancer doctor had called me with the news but insisted I not tell her. It might make her give up, he insisted. So, for a while, I went along with that.

Kim was in the hospital a lot at that point; her immune system was in bad shape from the chemo and the radiation. She didn’t like being there alone so I spent a lot of nights there with her. It wouldn’t have been possible without our friend, Mary Mitchell, who spelled me many nights. We were joined later on by my friend Joe Edkin, who would spell us both.

It was trying some times. People would come to visit and Kim would rally her energy, putting on what we referred to as “the Kimberly Show.” This is no criticism of our visitors, who gave lovingly of themselves and were very welcome, but afterwards Kim would have no energy left for me, Mary, and Joe, and sometimes that was hard.

It came to a boil at Christmas. Holidays bring out the best and worst of us. Kim’s final Christmas brought a bit of both in me.

More next time.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Top 10 Comics of 5769

For those not in the know, Heeb Magazine is the cleverly titled magazine for mostly young people (and me) of Jewish, and generally Ashkenazi, descent. It’s clever, relevant, and not terribly religious. They regularly cover the comics scene; I know of at least one comics shop that carries the magazine: Comix Revolution in Evanston Illinois.

For the past several years, our friends at Heeb have been ranking their favorite
graphic novels on an annual basis – defining “annual” by the Hebrew calendar.
Ergo, here’s their Top 10 list for the year 5769. More info here at the Heeb site.

1. The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf
Comix)

2. Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman
(Fantagraphics)

3. Asterios Polyp by Dave Mazzucchelli (Pantheon)

4. The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames & Dean Haspiel
(Vertigo/DC)

5. Little Nothings Volume 2 by Lewis Trondheim (NBM
Publishing)

6. A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn &
Quarterly)

7. Brat Pack by Rick Veitch (King Hell Press)

8. The Beats by Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle & Ed Piskor
(Hill & Wang)

9. Fut Miso by Michel Fiffe (ACT-I-VATE.com)

10. Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak (Drawn &
Quarterly)

Hmmm… Do you think we should tell them that John Gaunt is
Jewish?