Month: August 2011

#LitChat discusses Graphic Novels

The Twitter discussion thread #LitChat is covering graphic novels this week. If you’re on Twitter, jump in today and Friday, and join the conversation. It’s a great way to learn more about comics and graphic novels. The next one is today at 1:00-2:00 PM Pacific / 4:00-5:00 PM Eastern. The final one is this Friday with guest author Sean O’Reilly, publisher of Arcana Studio and co-writer of the graphic novel The Clockwork Girl (co-written by Kevin Hanna of frogchildren studios, and illustrated by Grant Bond).

#LitChat is an hour-long discussion on Twitter focused around the writing and reading of books. There’s a #LitChat every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Pacific / 4-5 PM Eastern, with a guest author on Fridays.

You can find out more about #LitChat at and by following @LitChat on Twitter.

The Seclusion and Community of Comics

You don’t need to be an obsessive collector to enjoy comic books. You don’t need to seal them in plastic bags and put them in specially made cardboard boxes. In fact, please don’t! Comics need casual readers. Comics need a variety of consumption at all levels to return comics to a level of pop culture entertainment. Just like many people buy the occasional movie ticket, DVD, CD or video game, or download them, so too should everyone feel the urge to check out a graphic novel here and there.

But if, after sampling and casually reading, you feel the pull to dive deeper, you’ll find an incredibly engrossing and enriching world. Or worlds, really.

The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon recently went through a harrowing health scare that he almost didn’t survive. In fact, he’s still recovering and will be for the foreseeable future. His reflection on that time, where he thinks back on his life and life in comics, is funny and also incredibly moving. It may be a bit long, but it’s worth it. He talks about working in comics, as well as the industry and community.

I don’t think you need to be neck-deep in comics culture to appreciate what he’s talking about because it’s universal. We all belong or want to belong to a culture or sub-culture that has given us such lasting friendships and memories. Serious health problems have a way of putting things in perspective.

It’s interesting to me that this is Tom’s first real medical experience. I know several lifelong comic readers who first discovered comics as children in a hospital. A hospital bed is a lonely and isolated place, and for them, comics offered an escape and a connection to the outside world in a brand new way. You may read alone, but real human hands drew those pictures and wrote those words. Unfortunately Tom didn’t have any comics, but they were still with him after a lifetime of reading, studying, and critiquing them, and working in the industry, where he’s met and befriended countless creators and industry professionals, those real human hands that created are a part of his life. Those human hands carried Tom through a nearly fatal summer, just as those human hands carried those kids.

That’s the power of comics and the power of art.

Tag Team Comedy to Deliver Clothesline of Comedy this Saturday Night

The Magic Meathands (with me!) is teaming up with Darwin’s A Team, an improv comedy group from Victorville’s High Desert Center for the Arts, for a full night of improvised comedy at our new spacious location, the Mary Pickford Studio in West LA, this Saturday night at 8 PM for only $7.

Come out and have yourself a good laugh. Don’t believe me? Check out what people are saying about us on our Magic Meathands Facebook page:

“I enjoyed last night’s show very much. You exploded onto the stage and the energy never let up. Brilliant performance!” -Nick

“So much fun.” -Kathy

“Great show last night at your new location” -Peter

What more proof do you need?!

How to do PR for Comics Right

Reed Gunther press release

"Comics for Everyone" Reed Gunther press release by Shane and Chris Houghton (click to read)

Los Angeles siblings Shane and Chris Houghton get it. If you want to sell comics, use the powerful and appealing language of comics.

The creators of Reed Gunther issued a press release in the form of a 2-page comic that trumpets their book’s strengths as an entertaining and funny read. It also explains how their comic book series is intended for all-ages, a reading category that tends to get interpreted by retailers and readers as dumbed down kiddie stuff. The series is published by Image Comics. The press release smartly ends with a plug for, so that you can find your nearest shop to ask for Reed Gunther issue #3 (on sale now), issue #4 (on sale Wednesday, September 7) and issue #5 (on sale Wednesday, October 5). The first five issues will be published together in the graphic novel Reed Gunther Vol. 1, on sale November 2.

I really wish people in comics would do this kind of thing more. Use the very language that we work in to communicate about comics. How great would it be to regularly read press releases, articles, interviews, and editorials covering comics in such an engaging format? Sure it’s a bit meta. But it’s also a more effective way to show not tell when discussing the very works and topics that we’re excited about or mad about or however else we feel. It might be more time consuming but I bet the content gets better mileage. Heck, if I could draw, this site would be a blog comic.

Anyway, read Reed Gunther! The creators have been doing signings at local comic shops in and around LA. They were at Galaxy of Comics in Van Nuys yesterday for the release of issue #3. Their next appearance will be at the Wizard World: Los Angeles convention at (appropriately enough) the LA Convention Center in Downtown LA, the weekend of September 24 and 25.

Graphic Novel Reveals Real Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail: The Road to Destiny by Frank Young and David Lasky

If you grew up in the ’80s, you probably died of dysentery at least once.

Most people around my age remember that old computer game The Oregon Trail. Our school library had a few computers set up with the game just ready to go. The game has found new life in the Facebook and iPhone age.

A new graphic novel brings that historic emigrant route to life. Oregon Trial: The Road to Destiny by Frank Young and David Lasky is targeted to preteens but it’s smart enough for older readers. The authors have done extensive research into personal accounts and other historic documents to get as accurate as possible. They tell an engaging story from the perspective of a fictional 11-year-old girl whose family makes the trek from Baltimore, Maryland, to Oregon in 1848.

Young and Lasky have also begun a blog that offers great bonus material, such as photos of filthy 1848 Baltimore and how Hollywood altered history by using horses instead of oxen to pull emigrant carriages in movies about the Oregon Trail. has a healthy preview of the book.

The pair is also back to work on The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, a biography of the legendary country music group. The graphic novel was held up for about a year during complicated negotiations with Peermusic, the current (but apparently disputed) copyright holder of most of A.P. Carter’s song lyrics. The creators finally decided to move on without lyrics, overhauled the script, and are back at their drawing boards. But while things were tied up, they whipped up Oregon Trail. Now that’s multi-tasking.


My List of the 10 Favorite / Best / Most Significant Comics Works

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (the arrival of non-fiction graphic novels)

Yesterday morning, the Hooded Utilitarian posted my list along with 21 others who contributed to a giant survey of comic book creators, retailers, publishers, educators, commentators (like me) and other industry folk from all over the world to determine the 10 Best Comics. In total, 211 people responded.

I sent my list on June 15, in response to the question, “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” I started my email response to the Hooded Utilitarian with the following: “I want you to know, this is IMPOSSIBLE.”

And it is. But despite that…

My list:

Start clicking and see if something interests you.

There are plenty of comics that are just as good as the above that deserve to be listed, and even some that are better. But I had a few guidelines to help focus my list down to a manageable size.

First, I had to have actually read the material. Of the above, only Peanuts has material that I have never read. But I’ve read enough of it that what I haven’t read would have to be an absolute bomb for it to tarnish the goodwill. That means there was some material that I am fully expecting to love and that I love for its mere existence and concept that I had to leave out. I really wanted to include Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know on my list. It sits by my desk in my to-read pile from last year‘s Comic-Con.

Second, I leaned much heavier on the “most significant” portion of the question. As some have pointed out, the question asked by The Hooded Utilitarian is really three different questions which could result in three very different lists. Because what interests me is comics’ efforts to find new audiences, I interpreted “most significant” as the comics that have been most successful in winning over new readers. That was probably my biggest barometer. Each of the above have helped establish a genre or publishing strategy or level of skill that has expanded what comics can be and are today. In retrospect, I might’ve leaned a little too heavy on modern material but I think some of the most innovative and inclusive material is being made now (if you know where to find it).

OK, so let’s hear it. What did I miss?

(More random thoughts after the jump.)


Comedy Improv Show with Jump Start & The Magic Meathands

It’s a double duo improv night of fun and family friendly comedy! The Magic Meathands (with me!) are joined by the South Bay improv group Jump Start! This Saturday night at our NEW LOCATION!

Mary Pickford Studio
8885 Venice Blvd Suite 102
Los Angeles, CA 90034

When: Saturday, August 13, 2011
Time: 8:00- 10:00 p.m. Show
Cost: $ 7.00 at the door

Friday is Brought to You by Paw Dipping Kitteh

Things to do in LA this weekend:

COMICS: Book release party for Jesse Moynihan‘s new graphic novel Forming Vol. 1 at The Secret Headquarters in Silver Lake, Friday at 7 PM.

COMEDY: The Magic Meathands (with me!) perform improv comedy at the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, Friday at 8 PM. Tickets: $10 (tickets good for later shows that night with the Waterbrains and Mission: Improvable)

Marvel Comics and the Elusive Minority Demographic

Miles Morales is Spider-Man

Miles Morales is Spider-Man (art by Sara Pichelli)

While DC Comics is working through a gender controversy, Marvel Comics has taken a step forward in representing racial minorities in their super-hero comic books. On Tuesday it was announced in USA Today that Spider-Man would now be a half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales (right).

The story is not being told in Marvel’s flagship Amazing Spider-Man (where Peter Parker is still swinging through New York City, white as ever), but instead in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which starts with a new issue #1 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli (yes DC, a woman!) in September. The Ultimate Comics imprint is set in a younger alternate universe, apart from the bulk of Marvel’s comics. Since the licensability of Marvel’s big characters, which date back to the 1960s and ’70s (and some to 1939), is dutifully protected in Marvel’s main line of comics, the Ultimate Universe allows creators just a bit more leeway. This is easily the best example of that leeway, and could be a refreshing signal of things to come for that imprint.

The first appearance of Miles Morales as Spider-Man is in the just-released Ultimate Comics Fallout #4, which itself spun out of the recent “Death of Spider-Man” story.

Bendis told USA Today, “Even though there’s some amazing African-American and minority characters bouncing around in all the superhero universes, it’s still crazy lopsided.”

He’s right, but this helps. Of course there have been plenty of foolish reactions, from anonymous internet posters trying not to sound too racist to Glenn Beck‘s weird conspiracy theory. Fortunately, cooler heads prevail, and have been celebrating what was unthinkable even five years ago. Why unthinkable? Because comic books with black leads have historically been a tough sell. The Black Panther, comics’ first headlining black hero, has had intermittent series since his debut in 1966. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn is the only comic book series to star a black or African-American in the starring role to last so long (although Al Simmons was replaced with the white Jim Downing last year). Heidi MacDonald at The Beat explores this issue and more in this well-written piece.