Tagged: sex

Mike Gold: The Reason Why We’re Here

Forgive me if I ramble as I babble. I just got back from a 2000+ mile drive, linking up with a whole bunch of good people including ComicMix’s own Marc Allan Fishman – and family, Kitchen Sink’s own Denis Kitchen (the University of Wisconsin honored Denis with a well-deserved exhibition of his work), the real First Comics’ own Rick Obadiah, Prime’s own Len Strazewski, Hardy Boys’ own Rick Oliver, and Max Allan Collins’s own George Hagenauer. And then, the next day…

You get the idea. I love going back to the midwest, even when the streets of Chicago are tied up with the big David Bowie museum exhibit. Comics with less plot but better music. Now it’s just a few hours before your earliest opportunity to read this sucker, but Monday Mindy beat be to the brass “I got nuthin’” ring. (Monday Mindy, Monday Mindy… damn, after running her column a couple years, the alliteration just dawned on me).

Because I drove – no, I’m not afraid of flying, I’m afraid of how I might react after being treated like cattle in its own crap from the moment I leave for the airport to the moment I drive off the rental lot) – I spent a couple nights in remote hotels somewhere off of Interstate 80. ComicMix’s own Adriane Nash won’t let me drive straight-through. I’d comment, but she’s just doing her job and she’s very… effective at it. Elderly widower that I am, I spent those two nights cuddled up with my iPad, reading comic books.

If you’re a comics fan who travels a lot, you’ll quickly develop an attraction to electronic comics. I loaded the tablet with over one hundred of them, along with a ton of music, of course. And I read about a dozen or so.

I want to review the excellent Justice Inc., but I’ll wait until the series is over before I give you reasons to get the trade paperback. I read a few of my top shelf favorites like Sex, Aw Yeah! Comics and Savage Dragon (those are three different titles, folks), as well as the wonderful DC Digital First Sensation Comics. And I spent some more time trying to figure out the Future’s End stuff, unsuccessfully although I really enjoyed the Booster Gold issue.

Best of the lot? The first part of Michael Uslan’s current Betty and Veronica storyline wherein the other two sides of the famed Archie triangle ditch Riverdale for an amazing opportunity in Europe. Why would they leave home for a European adventure? Hell, wouldn’t you?

Over all, it was a great way to spend a few hours in an otherwise empty hotel room. Reading a bunch of comic books, most very good, some great, some not so much.

At the end of the proverbial day, that’s what it’s all about. Not the type of controversies real, exaggerated and make-up, that we see online every second of the day, but sitting down and enjoying the stuff. My affection towards the community of comics creators present and past grows each time I can kick back and remember why ComicMix is here.

Yep. That’s really what it’s all about.

 

Martha Thomases: Sex and Comic Book Marketing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women in possession of disposable income must be dissuaded from buying superhero comic books.

Okay, that’s not how literature works. It’s not even supposed to be how capitalism works. According to the economic theories I understand, under capitalism, the market determines what products are offered for sale. This is not a comment on the quality of the products, but rather what the public wants. So Coca-Cola and McDonalds make a lot of money, because the public wants cheap sugar, salt and fat.

However, the least common denominator is not the only way to be a successful capitalist. There is a lot of money to be made in niche markets. For example, there are enough people who don’t like Coke for a company like Jones Soda to be successful. There is probably a restaurant in your area that isn’t a burger joint like McDonalds, but does well enough in your market.

Niche markets are even more important in the entertainment business. Sometimes the public wants to laugh, and sometimes the public wants to cry and sometimes the public wants to be scared and sometimes the public wants to think big thoughts and sometimes the public just wants adrenaline.

Which brings us back to comic books.

I can’t recall a time when there were so many different kinds of graphic stories to read. There are comics and graphic novels in all sorts of genres: for children, for non-fiction readers, for mysteries and science fiction fans, even literary fiction. There are far more different kinds of people at comic book conventions and even at comic book stores than I can remember seeing at any other time.

It would seem like a great time for a comic book publisher with deep pockets to experiment with different kinds of books. In this specific case, I’m talking about Marvel (with Disney’s bank). They’ve been doing some cool stuff, like Hawkeye, which look different from the rest of the line.

Marvel says they want to publish comics that will attract women readers, comics with strong female characters that will inspire girls to regard themselves as heroines. Characters like Spider-Woman.

And then they do this.

Marvel hired Milo Manara, an artist best known for his erotic work, to do a variant cover for the launch of their new series. To no one’s surprise, he turned in a piece that looks not the least bit heroic. If anything, that pose reminds me of what my cat does when I scratch her hips.

There have been a lot of articles in the blogosphere about what is wrong with this cover, from the anatomy to the politics. And I find the politics appalling.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the marketing.

There is no way a woman or girl who is thinking about starting to read superhero comics is going to pick up a book with this cover. It looks like the title character is groveling. There is no threat or hint of action. Instead, the character is on her knees, wearing an outfit that looks so tight that it would give the wearer the mother of all wedgies. There are certainly women book buyers who enjoy a little bit of pain and submission in their recreational reading, but that’s not who Marvel says they’re trying to appeal to here.

I don’t fault Manara for the cover. He did what he was hired to do. I fault the person who assigned the cover to him, knowing full well what he would deliver.

When the new Spider-Woman book fails to reach women readers, Marvel will, undoubtedly, claim they tried their best, but women just don’t want to read superhero comics. We hear the same thing from the toy industry, claiming that girls only want to play with dolls and pretend to be princesses or mommies (or both).

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. If you offer girls a toy that lets them pretend to be scientists, as Lego did, stores can’t keep the kits in stock.

You might think, because capitalism, that a toy that sells out is most likely successful enough to stay in production. However, that’s not happening. It seems as if even money isn’t enough to smash gender stereotypes in corporate America.

There’s a nice little niche market there, for a strong female venture capitalist.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: “Why Are You Here? No Math!”

That li’l headline quote came courtesy of the fine gentleman who sat across the aisle from me at my orientation survey in art school. The line got him a ton of applause from the student body. It made me sad.

So, why the anecdote today? Well, it’s ‘cause I’ve got math on the brain. Math, not meth. Meth is next week. At the Indy Pop Con last weekend, amidst a crowd that could best be described as ther, and ready to spend absolutely nothing, Unshaven Comics made strides in becoming better friends with another staple to the artist alleyways we’ve been haunting in recent past. Jim McClain and his Solution Squad comic have been making their way from Jim’s middle-school math problem solving class to the hallowed hallways and conventions since April, 2013. As Jim was so nice as to gift us with his extra badge (because the fine folks at Pop Con seemed to misplace the money we so nicely spent on the extra badge for our third member), I returned the favor by staffing his booth during his panel.

It brought me back to the genesis of Unshaven Comics. Our first jaunt into the indie scene was an “Edu-Tainment” piece entitled The March: Crossing Bridges in America. Selling it at our very first Wizard show felt like arm wrestling Superman after having the flu. Trying to sell something rooted in education to an audience hungry for mutants, gore, sex, and zombies makes for a hard sale nearly every time. And as I sat at the Solution Squad booth with passersby glancing long enough to read Math and immediately look elsewhere… it was a veritable time warp to five years ago. That is, until the pitch found my one and only sale for the hour.

A gentleman stopped by the table. With no quizzical look denoting he was lost, I was aghast. “Can I tell you about The Solution Squad?” I beamed. He nodded quickly. I pitched the book – a team action-adventure story that also happens to teach you something by issue’s end – and he plunked down his money without question. “I’m a teacher,” he said with a knowing grin. He went on to tell me that while he himself was a social studies teacher, he recognized that the book would be a great find to bring back to his school. Soon thereafter, Jim returned from his panel reenergized by his attendees, and I took myself back to the land of immortal kung-fu monkeys and zombie cyborg pirates in space.

And here I sit, days later, with math still on my mind. Jim recognizes that he more than almost anyone else in the alley, is at a critical disadvantage in distribution. Indie publishers have a hard enough time selling their wares amidst the competition. Adding in a niche audience of middle-school math students is akin to selling Wolverine to season ticket holders at the opera. But in that fact comes the inspiration and beauty of both Mr. McClain’s mission and the state of our independent scene. The fact that the Solution Squad exists is tribute to the ideology that comics can be a positive tool for education, so much so that Jim himself uses the book – which meets both Indiana state educational standards as well as the nefarious Common Core we all resent on Facebook – to start lessons in his classroom. He recognizes that from his comic he can capture the attention of the ADD-riddled post-millennial generation born into social media and smartphones. Better still, Jim recognizes he (alongside the Reading With Pictures crew) is knocking at the door to a real revolution.

Comics help break down the barriers to entry for students. Perhaps long associated with kitsch more than anything else though, it’s taken decades of amazing works hitting the shelves for the public at large to exit the caves when it comes to adoption and acceptance. But for every “I learned to read with comics!” retort I’d been privy to from the passing trolls at Wal-Mart, so too comes a “Maus and A Contract With God moved me to tears” from synagogue members when I was 13.

Gentlemen like Jim McClain recognize this fact and makes strides from the trenches to locate those educators roaming the convention floor in hopes of snagging his clientele from the bottom up. All while targeting administrative contacts with partnerships for webcomic distribution and shared lesson plans for a top-down approach. In other words, leave it to a teacher to school a guy like me in proper networking and audience building.

Beyond the semantics though, the fact that our indie scene, complete with digital distribution channels and our one-off printing models build to the greater good. Never before in our industry was it so easy for a person with a plan (and a ton of work) to transition to a person with a product. With each passing year, our economy and market will continue to divide and shrink. While great denominators like blockbuster movies and professional sports will still dominate the consumers’ GDP… niche market leaders will find viable business in wholly segmented markets. In layman’s terms: there’s an audience for literally everything being made today – it’s just a matter of finding it. In the mean time, it’s all about rolling up those sleeves, and sinking money, time, and love into being that lone math teacher next to the anime-sexpot-hack-gore print seller.

Sure Unshaven Comics may leave a convention loads lighter than Jim perhaps… but we know that at the end of the day The Samurnauts will linger as a passing love; the Solution Squad may lead the next generation to solve the great equations of life itself.

And that kiddos… is one lesson that adds up to me.

For more information on the Solution Squad, including purchase information for classrooms, simply visit www.solutionsquad.net.

 

Martha Thomases: #YesAllMen

I really really, really wanted to write about something funny this week. I mean, I read comics for fun and I presume that you do, too. A little escapist fantasy, a few minutes of relaxation, it’s all good, right?

And then this happened.

Now, I’m on record as saying that this is not an event with an easy explanation, nor a quick fix. And I’m not going to offer either one here.

However, I would like to talk about the little sliver of this issue that has been my obsession all year. And that is the way our society, and particularly our little corner of it in the nerd-pop culture, treats misogyny like something that boys get to do.

Apparently, the shooter in Santa Barbara was upset because he couldn’t get laid. It’s unclear how much he actually tried (as in, getting to know women, talking to them, etc.), but he was angry. Thanks to the Internet, he found an online community with which to share his frustrationsSpoiler Alert: Don’t read that link if you have a sensitive stomach.

Yes, they share the same sense of entitlement (and the same violent rape fantasies) as the men I’ve written about here, and here, just as the two most recent examples. Violent rape fantasies are ridiculously common.

I’m not the only one to notice. A recent post by Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu got a lot of links over the past week.

At this point, a lot of my male readers might be getting a tad defensive. “We’re not like that,” they say, and I hope it’s true. “It’s not our fault. And anyway, Rodgers killed a bunch of men, too.”

The murder of those men is every bit as tragic and senseless as the murder of the women. However, if you read what Rodgers (and his pals) actually say, it’s clear that women are the objects of their rage.

Not even women, not really. Just vaginas (and mouths) (and assholes) (and whatever other body parts fascinate any random guy). The rest of the woman is just the delivery system. Some dress up their hatred of women with religious or philosophical justifications, but the fact remains that they see women as a different — and lesser — species than men.

“Still,” my straw men mutter. “I’m not like that. It’s not all men.”

Some men beg to differ. You see, it’s not enough simply to avoid doing something horrible. You should also do everything you can to prevent other people from doing something horrible. You shouldn’t sit still while the man next to you makes a rude comment to a woman, nor let threats on the comments thread you’re reading go unanswered.

As Andrew O’Hehir said on Salon, “What troubles me is the extent to which many men seek to ignore or deflect all conversation about the specific nature of Elliot Rodger’s pathology, along with the evident fact that many women see that pathology as a ubiquitous social and cultural problem.”

Look, I’m not a perfect person, far from it, so I’m not holding myself up as an ideal. I want to have sex with people who have no interest in having sex with me, if they even know I exist. That’s really frustrating. Sometimes, I imagine revenge fantasies where these men learn how much they’ve missed. However, my fantasies don’t involve death and destruction. My fantasies are more likely to involve the look on George Clooney’s face when he sees me with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’d like to see the comics community take a stand against bad behavior. I’d like to see an end to situations like this, which remain far too common. I’d like to see comic conventions feature panels for all genders about the cause and effect of these hatreds, and how we can combat them. Or at least some required etiquette classes.

And less whining. Oh, please, less whining.

 

300: Rise of an Empire Combo Pack Coming June 24

300: Rise of an Empire Combo Pack Coming June 24

DisplayMAMExtViewBurbank, CA, May 9, 2014 – Vengeance is sought when 300: Rise of an Empire arrives onto Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD Special Edition and Digital HD on June 24 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Producer Zack Snyder teams up with Director Noam Murro to create the follow up to the 2007 hit “300” in the same visually stunning style as the original.  The stylized epic follows two warring nations that fight for glory amidst a raging sea.

Adapted from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, and based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes,” Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ 300: Rise of an Empire was directed by Noam Murro. Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann produced the film, with Thomas Tull, Frank Miller, Stephen Jones, Craig J. Flores and Jon Jashni serving as executive producers.

The film stars Sullivan Stapleton (“Gangster Squad”) as Themistokles and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”) as Artemisia, alongside Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) as the Spartan Queen, Gorgo; David Wenham (“Better Man”) as Dilios; Andrew Tiernan (“Ripper Street”) as Ephialtes; Andrew Pleavin (“The Borgias”) as Daxos; and Rodrigo Santoro (“The Last Stand”) returns in the role of the Persian God-King, Xerxes. The main cast also includes Hans Matheson (“The Christmas Candle”) as Themistokles’ closest friend and advisor, Aeskylos; Callan Mulvey (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Jack O’Connell (“Skins”) as father and son soldiers, Scyllias and Calisto; and Igal Naor (“Ambassadors”) as the Persian King Darius.

300: Rise of an Empire will be available on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $44.95 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99.  Both include a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet.* Fans can also own 300: Rise of an Empire in Digital HD on June 24 via purchase from digital retailers.

SYNOPSIS

300: Rise of an Empire, told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” is a new chapter of the epic saga, which takes the action to a new battlefield—the sea.

The story pits the Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian armada will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles ultimately leads the charge that will change the course of the war.

BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS

300: Rise of an Empire Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and 2-Disc Standard Definition DVD Special Edition contain the following special features:

  • The 300 Effect

o   3 Days in Hell

o   Brutal Artistry

o   A New Breed of Hero

o   Taking the Battle to the Sea

  • Real Leaders & Legends
  • Women Warriors
  • Savage Warships
  • Becoming a Warrior

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS

300: Rise of an Empire will be available for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on their favorite devices from select digital retailers including Amazon, CinemaNow, Flixster, iTunes, PlayStation, Target Ticket, Vudu, Xbox and others. Starting June 24, 300: Rise of an Empire will also be available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

BASICS

PRODUCT                                                                            SRP

Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack                          $44.95

Blu-ray Combo Pack                                   $35.99

DVD 2-disc Special Edition (WS)         $28.98

Street Date: June 24, 2014

DVD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French

BD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese

DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French

BD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French, Brazilian Portuguese

Running Time: 103 minutes

Rating: R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language

Nintendo apologizes in Tomodachi Life same-sex story

3DS_Tomodachi_Life_BoxArtRedmond, WA – in a statement released today, Nintendo of America addressed the controversy in the upcoming relief of Tomodachi Life, a new game that allows you to simulate social interaction with characters you design and collect.  The game garnered some negative attention from supporters of same-sex marriage who were upset that the game did not include the capacity for same-sex relationships, marriages and family units.

The statement, reproduced below, acknowledges that the company has  upset many of its players, but explains why adding the functionality is not possible before or after the release.

Nintendo is Committed to Fun and Entertainment for Everyone

Redmond, Wash. — We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

— Nintendo of America

The controversy started when American websites began incorrectly  reporting  news that the original Japanese version of the game had a bug that allowed same-sex characters to marry, a bug that had been patched.  This was not the case – two stories were being confused, as Nintendo’s Bill Trinen explained.  The bug was to fix a data leak issue.  Japanese players have been able to simulate same sex relationships by dressing one of a pair of characters in clothing  of the opposite gender so to male or female looking characters could marry and have children.

While Nintendo has stated they “never intended to make any form of social commentary ” with the game, many have made the argument that to choose not to include same-sex relationships could be seen as a commentary in and of itself.  Their promise to address the issue in a future installment of the series is a promising move, but it must be pointed out that the previous version of the game came out five years ago, and was never released in the US.  Also, such a new game would be predicated on sales of this one, and if a boycott goes forward, that would only reduce sales, and make another game that much less unlikely.

Many of Nintendo’s other social sim games better address the LGBT community to a greater degree.  Animal Crossing: New Leaf features clothing in both male and female styles, but can be work by characters by either gender.  Gracie the Giraffe, the game’s arbiter of fashion is a female character in most of the world, but in the original release, with not a single pixel changed, is a male.  Similarly the new release Disney Magical World features a wide assortment of costumes and outfits that can be worn by either gender. In both games, characters compliment your selection in clothes without a negative comment or querulous look if you choose non-traditional garb.  Neither games feature actual relationships between characters, but the open attitude towards dress is certainly progressive.

Tomodachi Life is not as interactive as the aforementioned games, either.  The actions of the characters in this game are largely random and outside the player’s control.  Characters fall in love and marry randomly, so while they do fall in love along more hetero-standard lines, it was not intended as a deliberate block keeping the players from experiencing the game as they wish.

Martha Thomases: Criticizing Criticism

Thomases Art 140418This isn’t what I wanted to write about. I would much prefer to tell you about some hidden gem in the world of comics. Instead, once again, we’re going to slog through the mud.

A while ago, a writer, Janelle Asselin, wrote a critique of a Teen Titans cover for Comic Book Resources. The cover is an incoherent piece of art, and she described her problems with it. Her comments included art criticism (mostly centering on the lack of anatomical reality of the depiction of Wonder Girl, a teenager), sociopolitical criticism and observations on marketing. She suggested that sexualizing characters who are supposed to be minors was more than a little bit creepy. She pointed out is that Teen Titans is a book that has a great deal of potential to reach outside of the typical comics market because it was a popular cartoon series, one with a lot of female fans, and, from a marketing perspective, there was a lot of money to be made by doing a comic that might draw in some of that audience.

So, of course, all hell broke loose.

I didn’t read all 40 windows of comments. Life is too short. After I read a few screens, I got the drift. For one thing, many people don’t understand the difference between marketing and editorial. More to the point, guys don’t like it when you notice they’re being creepy. Especially when they’ve been bragging about the creepiness up until this point.

Example? Here’s a comment from someone code-named Rakzo: “It seems like we can’t enjoy sexy superheroes anymore.” Did you see what he did there? He said that because Asselin criticized the (unnatural and/or surgically enhanced) depiction of a teenage girl, somehow this became an authoritarian edict that was actively prohibiting him from doing something.

Now, there are a lot of things that people do sexually that aren’t my thing. If they announce this in a public forum, I will, if asked, admit to the occasional icks. Obviously, this varies with the fetish. Shoes? Not my thing, but have fun. Scat? Not my thing, please don’t tell me about it and clean up after yourself. Your list may be different from mine. That’s what makes being humans interesting.

Being sexually aroused by under-age girls? Please stop talking before I wonder if you’re a registered sex offender.

A few other commentators called Ravko on this, and replied, “Maybe, but that’s not my point, it seems like the comic community has become a place where being a prude is considered ‘cool’.” Because there is no one more oppressed than the poor pedophile.

While this was happening on CBR, there was a parallel nightmare on Twitter. In her Tumblr. Asselin describes how she was ridiculed and hassled. Her professionalism was called into question. So was her safety. She not only was dismissed as a “disgruntled former employee,” but she was also threatened with rape.

Yeah, that’s right. The proper response, when someone has a different opinion about a work of comic book cover art is to threaten that person with physical violence.

My pal Heidi MacDonald wrote a wonderful piece on her blog, in which she wonders why more men don’t speak out against this kind of hate speech. She’s not asking for censorship, just peer pressure. When a man demeans a woman in our profession simply because she is a woman, other men should call him out. That’s not radical. That’s good manners.

On a related note, I’m going to Awesome Con this weekend, an event I’ve never attended before. (Stop by and say hello!) In keeping with my obsession, I’ve noted that, of the 52 guests announced in the comics and literary field, only eight are women. This is a better percentage than lots of other shows, but still woefully non-representative of the number of women actually working in our industry.

And when I went to see what kind of programming they had, including the number of panels that included women as experts, I was struck by this one: “Part Time Writer, Full Time World. The panelists are all women (Lindsay Smith, Jean Marie Ward, and Janine K. Spendlove). The subject: “How do you balance a full time job, parenting, writing, and *perish the thought* actually having some hobbies or perhaps even a social life? Everyone handles it differently; come to find out tips and advice as to how.”

Gee, I wonder why there are no men on that panel. Obviously, they’ve got the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance worked out. It would be really swell if they’d enlighten us ignorant women about how they do it.

Martha Thomases: Like A Virgin

I don’t like to brag, but over the weekend, I deflowered three virgins.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I love to brag.

Lest you think my sex life is more interesting than it actually is, I mean the above statement metaphorically.  As you know if your’e female, breaking in virgins isn’t really that entertaining.  Instead, what I will now describe is how I took three friends to their first comic book convention.

Lucky for them, it was MoCCA.

Going to your first anything can be intimidating, even something as simple as a county fair or a school dance.  Every event that has occurred more than once has a history.  Often, there are traditions and customs with which you are unfamiliar.   The way the media portrays comic book conventions, whether on Entourage or The Big Bang Theory or next year’s talk show wars, can be unnerving for newbies.  Does one need to dress as a Stormtrooper?  How do you know what you’re looking at?

At MoCCA, my friends didn’t have to figure it out.  The tables were welcoming, with clear signage, lots of books on display, and friendly smiles by the creators (at least on Saturday, when I was there.  The closest thing to cosplay was aggressive hipster-ism, which I noted primarily through the prominent number of heads adorned with hats.

Best of all, my friends didn’t require an undergraduate degree in graphic story-telling to be drawn to the books.  Two of my friends are leftist political history junkies, and I soon lost track of them as they found book after book that intrigued them.  My other friend, who shares my love of the obscure laugh, joined me in celebrating a new book from Shannon Wheeler and various other booths.  There was one by a woman whom I think was named Stevie Wilson, who had a sign claiming her books were all about coffee, feminism and cats.

Everything I want in one place.  I wish I could find her again. Stevie (if that is your name), please tell me how to buy your books.

I hope that, when my friends go home, they continue to be curious about graphic story-telling, and start to explore the kinds of books that appeal to them.  I hope find more joy.

And next year, if they’re in New York at the right time, I hope they go to MoCCA with me again.  Perhaps, for the occasion, we will all dress up like John Lewis.

Photo by KLGreenNYC

John Ostrander: Whore To Culture And Other Working Relationships

I’m over at Facebook a fair amount. I use it not just for friends and family, people I actually know, but also as a way to keep in touch with fans which I think is important. I try to give them a good personal experience with me because I value them; their support enables me to make a living as a writer. Some publishers have an interest in hiring me because they know I have my own fanbase.

So I post things and answer questions or notes – sort of like at a Con – and it’s nice. Most of the fans are very respectful; sometimes, maybe a little too respectful. There have been those who refer to me as “master”. I appreciate it as a token of respect but, to be honest, I’m uncomfortable with it. To my mind, I’m just a working guy and my work happens to be writing. It’s how I make my living – buy food, pay the bills, and so on.

I’m a professional writer and I take great pride in that; people pay money to read what I’ve written and, as I’ve said elsewhere, that’s something I’ve never taken for granted and never will. There’s a big demand on your dollar today (mine too) and if you spend the money on one thing chances are you aren’t spending it on another. Maybe if you buy a comic I’ve written you can’t buy some other comic. So it’s my job to make sure you get your money’s worth.

I’m not a “fine” writer; I’m a storyteller. Both as a reader and a writer, my big interest is “and then what happened?” I’m not a stylist although I can turn a good phrase. I’m not apologizing in any way; I’m proud of what I’ve written but I know what I am and what I am not.

I had an interesting online discussion some years back with a defiantly amateur writer. He claimed he was “purer” as a writer because he didn’t accept money for his work. In fact, he claimed I was a whore and prostituting myself for taking money for something I should have done for the pure love of it.

I will confess to be a bit flummoxed by this. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I could have said that he probably couldn’t prostitute himself because nobody would pay him; it’s hard to make money if you’re an ugly whore. However, that would have been mere pique and invective and dodged the central question – does getting paid for my work inherently make one less of an artist? Shakespeare (a greater artist than I) got paid, as did Dickens, Shaw, and many other talented artists.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hacks out there who will grind out anything to make a buck. There are times I have taken an assignment, not because I loved the character or the concept but because I needed the work and the paycheck. However, I’ve never put in less work as a result. I have to find something in the character that I can relate to, into which I can invest myself. It’s not always easy but it is always necessary. In some cases I am more successful than in others but the effort is always there because I know that, at some point, someone will put down real cold cash to read it.

I write to be read. I know one of the cardinal rules of writing is, first and foremost, to write to please yourself and I do that. However, I don’t only do that. I’m aware as I write that, hopefully, someone is going to read those words as you are reading these words. If one writes only to please oneself, then I think that’s literary masturbation. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with masturbation; I’ve dated Five Finger Lucy myself. There’s the old joke that goes “if it wasn’t for masturbation, I’d have no sex life at all” and, at one point in my past, that was very true. However, I also happen to think that sex with a partner is, well, better.

When you connect with your reader, it’s like flipping the electric switch to “on”. The electricity flows and it can flow both ways. It’s that connection with the reader that I’m looking for. In my stories, I ask my reader, “Have you ever felt this? Thought this? Considered this”? If they have, then we share something. The electricity flows between us. There’s a bond between us. We celebrate a shared humanity.

That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do. What I get paid has never determined the effort I put into the work; it has enabled me to do it without expending time and energy making a living some other way, time and energy that I need to put into the work.

I’m not a master; I could never claim that for myself. I’m a guy from Chicaguh who writes for a living; a working stiff like most of you. Most days, I love what I do and, on the other days, it’s a grind, like any other job. Overall I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I hope to keep doing it until I drop. To quote James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams, “It’s what I do.”

Photo by mpclemens

Box Office Democracy: “Noah”

I suppose you can’t make a movie about a global flood and a man building an ark to store all of the animals of the world without people drawing the comparison to the story of Noah from the bible.  That’s a shame though because there’s an interesting movie in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah that might never get it’s due because it is so divorced from the story we’ve all heard a million times that I fear it’ll never get a chance.  This is a story everyone knows and changing the answer to questions like “Why did God flood the earth?” or “How many people were on the ark?” or even “How many rock monsters are in this story?”

This is a dark unpleasant movie Aronofsky has made.  This sentence could also be run in a review of Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, or really any of his other movies with the possible exception of The Wrestler, which I only found unpleasant.  This is unpleasant on a whole other scale though.  This movie features the death, by drowning, of the overwhelming majority of the population of the planet and it isn’t even the most messed up thing that happens in the film.  Most disturbing scene has to go to the one where Noah is about to stab his newborn twin granddaughters to death because he’s convinced that God wants the human race to die out with his children.  What’s that you say?  In the bible all three of Noah’s kids bring their wives with them and there’s no question the human race will continue?  I don’t know what to tell you.  Your bible probably doesn’t have rock monsters in it either.

Aronofsky is a great director and while this isn’t a great film his talent comes through in the visuals.  The spiritual side of things is heavily stylized and colorful while the earth is all muted grays.  It creates solid contrast and will almost get you to accept that man has ruined the earth provided to him.  There’s also a fantastic sequence where Noah tells his children the biblical story of seven-day creation while we’re shown a much more scientific creation montage including evolution.  It’s visually stunning but probably not worth the shit storm I’m sure is forthcoming from the more devout religious groups.

In the movie they identify the rock monsters as members of a group of angels called The Watchers and while doing a bit of research for this review I came across a fun fact.  There are no examples of fallen Watchers in the actual bible but in the Book of Enoch, a non-canonical Jewish text, does describe a group of Watchers who fell including some that share names with characters in the movie Noah.  This group of Watchers was kicked out of heaven because they couldn’t control their urges and started having sex with human women leading to a race of monster giants.  None of this is in this movie and I probably would have rather seen that.