Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Comic: Maybe Americans Should Study History Better?

I was reading a bit about the end of the Roman Empire, and it eerily struck me as being similar to contemporary America:  government bloat, higher taxes, military adventurism, inflation, and so on.  One could just change the names to Trump, Biden, and other recent American political leaders as well as a few other details, and the history lesson would be complete as a description of our current situation, which was a bit depressing.  One would hope we would have learned better and avoid the mistakes of the past, but, no, we keep on doing the same dumb stuff.  Different dumb stuff would be refreshing if still dumb.  One doesn't need to even go back that far.  The current waste of money and, more important, lives, that is the Russia-Ukraine war struck me as very similar to the Vietnam experience as far as America's involvement is concerned.  One could make an argument that one only need go back to the Iraq misadventure or the Afghanistan debacle, but the creeping nature of our involvement in Ukraine reminds me more of how we got more deeply involved in Vietnam when we would have been wise to steer clear.  The result is this cartoon.  To read the comic, I suggest clicking on the image and making it full screen.  You could also download it after you click on it for the primo view, I suppose. 

Well, that was depressing, so if you need some fun now, then read my latest novel:  Fast Guy Slows Down!

Monday, September 18, 2023

New Single!: Put Me On Your Shopping List

I once read a linguistics article that noted how love was often conflated with food, exemplified by the nicknames that lovers give to one another such as "honey", "sugar", and whatnot.  In this song, I make that connection explicit with the singer of the song desiring to be put on her or his crush's grocery list.  I guess this singer is disagreeing with The Beatles about not being able to buy love, and, indeed, a strong connection does exist between economics and romance, let's be honest.  Musicwise, we're drawing from The Ramones, The Undertones, Danko Jones, or something else pretty primal here, though the third input reminds me of something The B-52s would have done with Fred.  It's the usual voice, guitar, keyboard as bass, and drums.  The weird instrument is a metal coffee cup with coins in it (I guess the crush paid in cash and got some change back).  If you end up serenading someone with this song, please let me know if it works, but you don't get your money back if it doesn't.  Lyrics are below:

You've got to get some milk.
You've got to get some bread.
You've got to get some medicine
for the pain that's in your head.
But there's just one thing you forgot.
For the pain that's in your heart!

Put me on your shopping list.

You've got to get some juice.
You've got to get some fruit.
But you don't need to buy any makeup
because you're already too darn cute.
In fact, there's just one more thing you need.
To spice up your life!

On sale this week only:
2 for 1 special.
Don't forget your coupons.
It's love!

Now some people say shopping's a drag,
but you might as well put those folks in a bag
because they'll never have any fun,
and you can't spend money when you're done.
If you want to be happy, then there's one more thing you need.
And that's me!

For more Wred Fright music, listen to the Yeast? 7"!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Jeff Potter Interview

Pat King has posted another episode of his Back To The Underground video interview series wherein various underground writers get interviewed about their experiences in The Underground Literary Alliance.  This one features an interview I did with my old publisher, Jeff Potter, who published the ULA Press book line.  It was fun catching up with Jeff!  Pat also recently posted another episode with Jelly Boy The Clown:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAM5HIgPgqQ.  

If you want to read some literature by The Underground Literary Alliance, then please check out The Slush Pile Strikes Back!

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Comic: Why Some People's First Dates Never Go Well

This comic was fun to do, certainly more fun than actually going on a bad date.  My apologies to Berke Breathed, but an anonymous beagle used to show up in Bloom County from time to time, so stuff like this happens.  To read the comic, I suggest clicking on the image and making it full screen.  You could also download it after you click on it for the primo view, I suppose. 

For more fun, read my latest novel:  Fast Guy Slows Down!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

New Single!: My Heart Is An Occupied Territory

The new single compares love with an armed struggle as the singer of the song attempts to free the territory of the singer's heart from the emotions of the old love.  Lyrically, this is an old theme as the idea of love as war is pretty ingrained in language with expressions such as "captured my heart" or people hitting on someone and being rebuffed being described as "shot down in flames", but this song makes the comparison more explicit.  The lines about the children come from a time when I was involved with an organization that helped children injured in a war zone, and I always thought that kids not being able to be kids and play outside without worrying about being shot or something was one of the worst things about war (and there are a lot of bad things about war and little good).  Musically, it's the usual guitar, voice, keyboard as bass, keyboard, and drums.  For fun, I threw some bell sounds in from a cat keyboard (the keys are the cat's teeth) my kid has.  I like the way the instruments come in throughout the song, building to the end.  I tried to sing it somewhat deadpan, as the subject matter was melodramatic enough already.  Lyrics are below:

My heart is an occupied territory,
but I'm going to break it free

You think that love is warfare and one of us has to win,
but with an idea like that we've lost before we begin.
No more dictators!  No more tyrants!  I'll have no more of hearts of tin!
I'd rather have no love than a love that's imposed.

The sun is shining,
and the street is quiet,
and the children look in disbelief
as the soldiers are gone.

From out of the rubble, I'm going to build myself anew,
and I'm going to dig and dig and dig until I've rooted out every last bit of you,
and then finally you and I--there is no we--will be through,
and the children will play in the street again.

My heart was an occupied territory,
but I broke it free.

Thanks to The Tinnitist for adding the previous single, "All The Onions In The World" to a recent playlist!

For more Wred Fright music, listen to the Yeast? 7"!

Monday, August 21, 2023

Stick Your Variant Covers Up Your . . .

I recently picked up preview publications for DC and Marvel at a local comics shop.


It was grim.

I suppose that's to be expected given my age (I used to participate in the Comics Buyers Guide annual reader poll, and every year, the average age of the participants seemed to increase.  That was great because comics grew along with me--this was the age of Watchmen, Maus, and Dark Knight Returns-- but if continued indefinitely, it leads to the death of the industry), but the companies are selling the vast majority of their comics to adults these days, so it's still disappointing to see so much stupidity.  DC was offering Justice League Vs. Godzilla Vs. King Kong, which if the average age of comics readers were still ten would be awesome (it even has a variant cover with a roar sound effect), but there probably aren't many ten-year-olds who can afford to drop $14.99 for a 40 page comic book (10 of which pages will probably be ads for other comics) that roars (the non-roaring version is $4.99 though--I suppose you can roar yourself and you might have more fun and save 10 bucks).  Marvel was offering some sort of cosmic crossover that after reading numerous other cosmic crossovers was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

One of the reasons I started doing my own comics was that I couldn't find enough interesting comics these days.  The industry has never been great, but it was probably never this bad before, despite all the celebrations of graphic novels in public libraries and superhero movies in movie theaters and whatnot.  I don't know if these problems can be fixed, but here's a to-do list to start with if they want to salvage things:

1) Comics are too damn expensive.  That's why the readership is aging (and increasingly dying).  Mainly only older folks such as myself who caught the habit early will still buy these things (and even I probably will tap out once the monthly comic books go above $5).  But graphic novels are even more expensive.  Webcomics may help because they cut out a lot of expenses and the companies may be able to pass on the savings (something they're loathe to do currently for fear of alienating their cash cow print customers).  Right now though it's just a journey of slow but inevitable obsolescence.  In 1938, when Superman first appeared and the modern comics industry was born, the comic book had 64 pages (some with ads) and cost a dime.  Today, with inflation, that same comic should cost $2.08 according to an inflation calculator I used.  Instead, the average comic costs $4.99 and is about 32 pages with ads (there has been some loss of advertising, perhaps because the medium has lost its appeal to advertisers outside of the comics industry or maybe the publishers are too lazy to actually go and solicit advertising).  One reason for this is that the comics companies are overstaffed.  There seem to be about five times as many editors as is needed (Stan Lee somehow managed to edit most of the 1960s Marvels by himself).  Whatever the cause, the companies need to reduce the price to attract a wider and younger readership.

2) The industry needs to respect creator rights more.  Companies such as Image and Dark Horse seem to allow creators to own their copyrights and profit from their creations.  The two largest companies are less likely to do that.  The result in DC and Marvel has been a slow stagnation in creativity.  Instead, they just tell the same stories over and over again with the same characters from the 1930s or 1960s, probably because not many comics creators are going to put a lot of effort into creating a new character that the company will own.  If the companies allowed more creator rights and royalties, the creativity would no doubt flourish across the industry not just in self-published and other independent comics.  But since they don't, we get 15 different Batman-related comics this month.  I like Batman as much the next comics reader, but the great Batman stories have mostly been told.  That's now reflected in the sales.  In 1960, DC could sell half a million Batman comics (and since he had two titles and also appeared with Superman in World's Finest and in The Justice League Of America, he probably helped to sell close to a couple million comics a month).  60 years later, the character is still selling, but it's fewer than a hundred thousand an issue in his main title and probably 800,000 total spread across a dozen titles or so a month.  It's clearly flogging a dead horse at this point.  

3) The damn variant covers.  Obviously, more art is good (they could just do pinups though in the back of the book), but the industry decided at some point that since the readership was dwindling, they needed to milk the remaining readers even harder for cash.  The result was a bunch of different covers for the same issue in hopes that multiple copies of the same comic could be sold to each reader.  If I were a collector and buying back issues, then this would drive me crazy because I usually went by the cover to know if I hadn't read an issue yet.  Today, I'd never be able to do that because I would end up buying the same comic several times.  Imagine if the industry put this same effort into writing better stories . . .

4) Publish less.  As a kid, I couldn't afford to buy all the great comics coming out (today, I catch up by buying the ones I missed out on in dollar bins--sometimes even saving money, whether through inflation for a dollar comic from 1977 or the more expensive comics from 1990 on or so--or reading collections from the library), but today I could probably afford to buy all the comics I'm interested in, but very few interest me.  I found two comics in both the DC and Marvel booklets that I hadn't read before that I would buy.  That's two out of over a hundred publications each for each company.  Maybe there just isn't enough talent going around nowadays (it's possible also that I've just read too many comics and I'm harder to please in the same way that a Britney Spears song might please a kid who hasn't heard much music before but might annoy me), so maybe the companies should concentrate on generating more great comics such as Sandman, and they might make more money in the long term.

Well, at least the comics industry still exists.  But given what seems to be out there currently, that might not be for long.  But if the commercial companies go out of business, then that might provide more proverbial sunlight for the better self-published and other independent comics to reach a wider readership.  And, whatever happens, at least the art form can never die.  Even when I go, I bet one of you will be crafting something fun out of words and pictures.

To read some of my comics, click here and scroll down.  To read what happens to a superhero when the end of the story is allowed to be told, read Fast Guy Slows Down.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Comic: My Neighbors Love To Burn Shit

This comic is about an odd neighborhood quirk that I do not partake in.  To read the comic, I suggest clicking on the image and making it full screen.  You could also download it after you click on it for the primo view, I suppose.  I thought about sending it to Scene for their comics issue, but I called, left a message, and no one ever called me back (I can see how that newspaper gets thinner every issue--for all they knew, I might have been calling to advertise in the comics issue).  Here it is:


For more fun, read my latest novel:  Fast Guy Slows Down!