Friday, November 30, 2012

Comics Companies Run By Clowns

I noted in a post a few months ago that the venerable comic book company DC had as its longest running title Hellblazer, a series that only started in 1988 and starred a magician named John Constantine.  This was due to numerous relaunches of series dating back to the 1930s such as Action Comics, home of Superman.  By relaunching a series, the company hopes to goose sales with a new number one issue.  DC's big competitor Marvel has recently been doing the same with their Marvel NOW! initiative (I suppose the ultimate end of this logic is just to have every issue of a series be a number one, but so far no one's done that).  Such sales spikes, however, often are very short term and the new series usually sinks back to levels below what the previous series was selling before the relaunch.  Last year, DC revamped its entire line as the "New 52", referring to 52 new series they were publishing.  Of course, DC did publish a bit more than 52 series, one of which was Hellblazer, but because it was under the Vertigo imprint, it didn't get relaunched, leaving it to be their flagbearer in an odd sort of way.

Now, DC has gotten around to relaunching Hellblazer and canceled it to be relaunched as the DC New 52 title Constantine.  Saleswise short-term, this is a wise move.  DC titles sell better on average than Vertigo titles.  However, when viewed in the long term, the relaunch is a mistake.  With the advent of digital publishing, publishers can keep single issues "in print" basically forever.  Many comics readers are collectors as well and want to have every issue of a series they collect.  So though Constantine will likely sell better than Hellblazer for a couple of years, DC will be missing out on selling twentysome years' worth of back issues of Hellblazer.  Logically, they might think that new Constantine fans will not only buy the new series but pick up the back issues of Hellblazer as well, but not very many collectors think that way.  The majority of them will just collect the new series.  Psychologically for a collector, there's something about breaking the numbering of a collection. 

John Constantine might say it's magic.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zygote In My Fez Toledo August 6th, 2011

I just received a copy of the Zygote In My Fez book!  It looks very nice!  My short story "Thank Heavens For Fuckups" (or, for you delicate types, "Thank Heavens" or "T.H.F.F.") is in it, along with a lot of poetry.  The reason for all the poetry is that the book came out of an hours-long poetry reading in Toledo, Ohio USA in August 2011.  Some fine underground poets and pals are included in the book such as Leopold McGinnis, Michael Grover, Patrick Simonelli, Michele McDannold, Lynn Alexander, and many more.  I read at the event, thus my invitation to appear in the book.  I'd like to thank the poets for having me, especially since I take up ten whole pages of the book, by far the longest single piece.  My story is an old one.  I wrote it about ten years ago for my friend Pat King, who published a zine called Cathedral.  Unfortunately, Cathedral ceased publication before the story's publication, so the story was in limbo for some time.  Knowing that zines sometimes reappear, I waited a reasonable amount of time to find another home for it.  When I was asked to contribute to the Zygote book, it came to mind first since it had been waiting patiently in the wings for about a decade.  In some ways, the story was my first attempt at the story that would later become the novel Blog Love Omega Glee, but it works well on its own.  I suppose it's not inappropriate for a story with "fuckups" in the title to have a long and strange path to publication, so I'm happy it's finally appeared in print.  I haven't read the book myself yet, so I'm looking forward to doing so.  The other underground literary anthology books I've appeared in over the years such as The Bukowski Hangover Project and Punch & Pie: A Short Story Anthology are fun books, which I enjoyed being a part of. This one's very underground. I don't even know how you exactly get a copy. I do know that it's published by Tainted Coffee Press and costs $10. Maybe email Brian Fugett of Zygote In My Coffee and see if he has any copies available.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

YIP!: Charity Watch

Probably like you, I'm hit up with donation requests from charities all the time.  How do I know which charities are worth giving to?  I turn to Charity Watch, an organization that rates charities based on how much of the funds they raise actually goes to their stated missions.  Reading the thrice-yearly publication is eyeopening.  I had no idea that so many charities had executives and officers making well over a hundred grand a year (I know that everyone generally likes to make money, but couldn't people be found who could do the same jobs for less money and still make a decent living?  I suppose this is an issue in our society that stretches far beyond charities).  Some of the charities appear to be out and out scams preying on the ignorant and sympathetic to give them money.  Many have names similar to real charities but operate quite differently.  I stopped donating stuff to a couple of supposed veterans charities because they received grades of F (Charity Watch rates charities from A to F); I'll give my unwanted stuff to Goodwill, who gets an A (though their CEO apparently makes half a million a year . . . hmm, maybe I'll give it to someone else; I better check the latest Charity Rating Guide first though).   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday Hangover

If the orgy of consumerism over the past few days hasn't made you head out to the hills and attempt to live off the grid, then perhaps I can interest you in a fine book, which would make a great gift.  If you have a stocking to stuff, then try The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus.  Its red cover will go well with all the holiday decorations.  If you leave it out with milk and cookies for Santa, then he will not only get a chuckle, but it will match his suit.  However, if you are getting someone one of those fancy Kindle thingies*, then go with Blog Love Omega Glee to load onto it.  For only $5, you get 849 pages of fun plus the apocalypse.  Books make great gifts, especially mine!

*Nook folks and those who use other ereaders need not despair.  I've just been busy blogging everyday so I haven't had time to upload the thing to Smashwords or wherever**.   Just PayPal me $5 at wredfright AT AT AT Yahoo DOTTTTT Com (I'm sure you can figure out the actual address, though I hope spammer bots can't) and I'll send you the .epub via email.

**I've been enjoying blogging every day but I suspect I can't keep up this pace forever.  The more books I sell though, the longer I will endeavor to deliver my daily post.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Old Lowering The Deficit Sleight Of Hand

There's been a lot of talk lately about the U.S. federal government getting its financial affairs in order.  I wouldn't hold much hope out for that.  I suppose it is good that politicians and pundits are discussing the issue, but it's hard to regard them seriously when they basically only talk about lowering the deficit.

There's certainly nothing wrong with lowering the deficit, but the talk distracts people from the real issue, which is lowering the debt.  The deficit just adds to the debt.  Yammering about lowering the deficit is like someone who has maxed out all her or his credit cards getting a new one, but explaining to you that with this card he or she won't max it out, so things will be better.*  Meanwhile, he or she is still falling further into debt.

The fact that people have to argue about whether or not lowering the deficit is a good idea lets you know that we're still in financial fantasy land where money grows on trees (or at least on the magical computers of the Federal Reserve) and its value remains unaffected by other entities in the world (you know, like people, gold, commercial products, etc, stuff like that).  If we were rational, we'd eliminate the deficit and tackle lowering the debt.  Instead, we seem determined to turn into Greece.

Meanwhile, we're on target for another $1 trillion deficit year, making five in a row.  If that occurs, the national debt will once again hit the debt ceiling of a little bit above $16 trillion.  That breaks down to about $50,000 per citizen, and that includes infants and children.

Good luck paying that back.

Presumably, the government has no intention of ever paying off the debt and just intends to default at some point.  But, hey, stock up on savings bonds anyway!  The only other apparent way out is increasing the money supply to such a degree that hyperinflation occurs.

The politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, insist that there is another way out, and they'll find it.

Right after they figure out how to lower the deficit.

*Yes, I know there's a big difference between a government in debt and an individual in debt.  The principal difference is that the individual can't just create her or his own money and get people to accept it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

YIP!: The Bloom County: The Complete Library

Though newspaper comic strips seem to be slowly dying off as an art form, the past decade or so has provided some consolation for fans of the art form with handsome collections of classic strips.  One of my favorites has been the Bloom Countycollection.  I had all the previous books of cartoonist Berke Breathed's masterpiece, but the collections include every strip whereas the previous books only included what Breathed considered to be the best strips or those the publisher's lawyers found least troublesome.  For example, the storyline where Bill The Cat gets converted to Christianity originally had the woman doing the converting being named "Edith Dreck", but in the original publication of those strips (and not many of them at that) in Tales Too Ticklish To Tell, she becomes Edith Drock.  Apparently, this was because a fundamentalist Christian reverend started a boycott of Bloom County because "dreck" is Yiddish for "shit".  Breathed, seemingly unaware of the Yiddish meaning, just thought it was a funny name.  Fortunately, the original name is restored in the collected version (Volume Four to be precise).  And, I only know this because of Breathed's helpful commentary on the strips throughout the collected versions, which also adds to their appeal.  Sadly, since Bloom County opened and closed in the 1980s, the collection is only five volumes, though a sixth collects Breathed's subsequent Outland strip.  It's a tribute to Breathed that his strip is still quite enjoyable thirty years on, though younger readers may need the helpful editorial comments also provided explaining the then contemporary references to current events that Breathed often was satirizing.  We could probably use some more Bloom County these days, but, after three separate strips (Breathed also did a short lived Sunday strip called Opus last decade), Breathed's probably retired now for good.  That's too bad, or, as Bill might say, "Ack!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

YIP!: Akron Comicon

I recently attended the first Akron Comicon and had quite a nice time.  The event was well put together and made for a nice day out.  Apparently, the organizers are already planning next year's event, which is good news.  It's always been a puzzle why the Cleveland area has never had an annual major comics convention like many large cities have, even other nearby ones (for example, Pittsburgh and Columbus), so, since Cleveland can't seem to get it together, maybe Akron can "inflate" (sorry, I couldn't resist a blimp pun) theirs into the big con the area could use.  The event had many dealers, cosplayers wandering around (I got my picture taken with a Bane and a Ghostbuster), nice presentations (Gerry Conway gave an interesting Q&A and noted that though he created The Punisher, so far, he has gotten all of $300 from it, and Tom Batiuk had a nice slideshow documenting the history of Funky Winkerbean), and plenty of guests showcasing their comics and doing sketches.  I also got to hang out with some pals and find some cool stuff (no, don't worry, I'm not relapsing and building another large comics collection--these are just for reading).  Held at the University's Student Union, the facilities were nice (though, as a taxpayer paying partially for it, I don't know that college students need to study in such a Taj Mahal).  All in all, the con appeared to be quite a success.  I hope the bounce from it (sorry, I couldn't resist a rubber pun either) makes the next one even better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

287,304 People Wasted Their Time

Election results are always fun to comb through.  A number of elections in my Ohio county, Cuyahoga, were fairly pointless since only one candidate was running (yes, slowly, my little county seems to be turning into the Soviet Union, which also loved to have one candidate elections).  As soon as I see a candidate is running unopposed on my ballot, I skip ahead to the next election since I figure the candidate will vote for herself or himself and win anyway (unless there's a vigorous write-in campaign or something).  The big winner in the race for pointless voting this time around was Frank D. Celebrezze, Jr., whom 287,304 people voted for, though he would have won the judgeship for the 8th District Court of Appeals just by voting for himself.  Why 287,304 people wanted to waste their time coloring in a little oval pointlessly is beyond me.  On the upside, 329,837 people (myself among them) didn't bother to vote for him, so there's hope for democracy after all!  I mean really would you want 287,304 people who can't do math making decisions for you?*

*Actually, only 287,303 people wasted their time, assuming Celebrezze, Jr. voted for himself.  Getting oneself a job by coloring an oval is an incredibly good use of time!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I grew it.  I baked it.  I ate it.  Don't listen to all the pie pumpkin pushers; a jack-o-lantern tastes just fine if you resist the temptation to carve it at Halloween (I weep at so much lost pie!).  I hope you had a similarly pleasant Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Public Urination And Tomato Gardening

A recent letter to the editor in the local newspaper by a resident of my city has raised a ruckus (160 comments and counting!), which is appropriate since it's about people raising a ruckus.  The writer of the letter complains about drunken college students partying into the wee hours of the night.  She mentions at one point that "Recently, about 2 a.m., a boy was urinating in our driveway. I shouted to him from the porch to stop and move on."

Though I'm a little more tolerant of college students from my many years of living in college towns, I must admit I would also have yelled at the boy.

However, I would have yelled at him to stop peeing in the driveway and start peeing on my garden.

Apparently, urine works well as tomato fertilizer.

I've been eating fresh tomatoes from my garden since July or so and am just now running out.  Next year, maybe with some extra oomph from drunk college students, my fresh tomatoes will last into December. 

Even public urination can have its benefits.

Perhaps the woman who wrote the letter should start gardening more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mike Dee And I Make A Dirty Puppy

I used to play with my pal Mike Dee in a band called The GoGoBots.  The 'Bots broke up in 1999 or so because it seemed fitting to bow out with the rest of the 20th Century (actually, our drummer moved away and we didn't want to carry on without him).  We've certainly kept in touch and done some creative projects together over the years (for example, Mike supplied the cover art for the zine version of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus), but I don't think we've done any sound recording together since then (we have played live a couple of times in various projects).

Until now.

Oh, my!  Control your excitement, but I slapped some vocals (emphasis on the slap, I conjured my inner Bessie Smith and recorded the vocals in like an hour after I first heard the track) on an iPhone sound recording of Mike's new band, Hell-O (though on the MP3 linked below, I credit the band as Mike Dee & The Dogs, for reasons that will shortly be clear).  Mike sent me the file via email and told me it was called "Dirty Puppy".  I think he just wanted me to hear his new band, but I was in a recording frenzy at that time (during this summer) and I decided to contribute to the recording and send it back to him.

Remarkably, he still talks to me.  He's even graciously let me share this track with you.

Please check out "Dirty Puppy" (MP3 2.7MB).

Then give your ears a shower.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zisk Book!

My pal Mike Faloon likes zines so much that he not only publishes Go Metric!, which I occasionally write for, but he also publishes a zine about baseball called Zisk.  Now Zisk is getting collected into a book called Fan Interference:  A Collection Of Baseball Rants And Reflections, and there's a Kickstarter campaign for it.  If you like baseball or zines and have some spare dough, please consider helping them out!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Guide To The Aging Process Of The American Electorate

At age 20, the voter hates the Republicans (or vice versa) with a passion true.
At age 40, the voter hates the Democrats (or vice versa) about as much as well.
At age 60, the voter hopes a strong third party emerges (so as to hate them too?).
At age 80, the voter does not give a shit (will be dead soon; country can go to hell).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

R.I.P. Zingers

Like many Americans, upon hearing the news that Hostess was going out of business, I picked up one of its products since it possibly was the last time I could do so.  In my case, it was Zingers, and particularly the raspberry coconut kind.  When I pulled allnighters in college, there often came the moment when I ran out of energy and sheer willpower would not keep me up any longer.  When that happened, I would tread down to the vending machines in the dorm and refuel with Zingers and Mountain Dew.  In retrospect, I probably should have just bought a package of sugar at the supermarket and cut out the middlemen, but the combination of cream and citrus mixed with the sugar powered me into daylight.  I don't often eat Zingers anymore, maybe just once a year out of nostalgia, but I will be saddened if they disappeared from the marketplace entirely.  It's too bad the company couldn't work something out, but that's life.  I suspect that some of Hostess's well-known brands will be bought by other companies as Hostess goes through bankruptcy proceedings, so perhaps Zingers will be available again.  If not, I will enjoy eating this last pack.

And then probably stay up all night.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paseo Is Passe! Tigers Roar In Celebration!

This summer, I accidentally bought some paper towels that were soaked with the blood of tigers.

OK, not literally soaked.  Just metaphorically.  You can read my previous posts about it here, but basically a company was chopping down the forest that tigers in Indonesia lived in just so people in the United States could mop up spills and wipe their asses (they also made toilet paper; don't worry, I don't use paper towels to clean my bottom after defecation).  Recently, the World Wildlife Fund (or WWF, as they like to be called now, though that name still makes me think of Hulk Hogan putting "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in a headlock) noted that the brand name of the company, Paseo, was discontinued.  Now, the company might just use another name for their products and pop up again on store shelves, but let's enjoy the company doing the right thing for the moment and hope that we and the tigers can coexist happily somehow from now on.

We can always recycle paper, but it's harder to recycle tigers.

For one thing, they keep chewing their way out of the paper bags.

All kidding aside, once the tigers are gone, they're not coming back.  And though we may never want to be neighbors with a tiger, I don't think we want to live in a world without tigers at all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Major Political Parties To Massachusetts: Drop Dead!

Mike Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts, and the Democrats ran him for president in 1988.

He lost.

John Kerry was the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and the Democrats ran him for president in 2004.

He lost.*

Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, and the Republicans ran him for president in 2012.

He lost.

If you're a governor, lieutenant governor, former governor, or former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, then don't plan on running for President of the United States of America for, say, the next fifty years or so, as, based on the track record of governor types from Mass. lately, I don't think any major political party will be interested.** 

*Actually, he probably won (see What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election),but, whatever the case, he didn't take office.

**But, hey, if you really want to run, then you could always start your own political party!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Assembled in the Margins"

I was pleased to discover myself quoted recently in a capsule history of zines called "Assembled In The Margins:  The History And Culture Of Zines" (link goes to a  283 KB pdf).  It is part of a special issue devoted to zines by YA Hotline, a publication by Dalhousie University in Canada which focuses on young adult library matters.  It's always gratifying to see one's research being useful to others.  The writers, Amanda Bird and a few others, cite my dissertation (link goes to a 623 KB pdf), which is good.  Sometimes, people still cite my master's thesis, which was also on zines.  That's fine if one is interested in psychological motivations related to zine culture, but the history and analysis of zine culture is better in the dissertation, which I wrote later when I knew even more about the subject.  Best of all for understanding zine history and characteristics is the article I wrote on zines a few years later for Books And Beyond, but it's often overlooked because B&B is a reference work usually only found in libraries and not online.  I don't know if I'll ever write another article about zines, but it's possible.  If so, it will likely supersede the others as well, just by virtue of my acquisition of more knowledge about zines at that later date.  Fortunately, many other scholars have gotten interested in zines, so, having said my bit, I may not need to contribute further to the scholarly conversation.

Seeing as how the zine issue of YA Hotline came out in 2008 and I just stumbled upon it now, that might be for the best.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Emus In The News 6

In my continuing coverage of emus in the news, I bring you this emu who wandered onto a Florida highway and caused a traffic jam in October.  Maybe he thought he was supposed to fly south for the winter, but since emus can't fly, he was trying to hitch a ride.  His name is Taco.

No, I don't make this stuff up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day Is M.I.A.

Today was the observance of Veterans Day.  You might not have noticed yourself since you likely had to work.  Maybe you noticed when you came home and found that there had been no mail and the garbage hadn't been picked up or something.  I really wish these government holidays would get more respect (and what they celebrate such as veterans would get a bit more respect as well).  More businesses should close on these days, and their employees should have the day off.  Americans (those that have a job anyway) work far too much as it is.  I certainly hope businesses with veterans on the payroll gave the veterans the day off.  People can blab about the economic cost of a holiday and admittedly it's a drag when one has to go to the post office and it's closed on a Monday or whatnot, but the psychic cost of a non-holiday holiday matters more to me (and here I mean the official government sanctioned holidays, not Feed Squirrels Leftover Zingers Day* or whatever).  After all, what good is a national holiday that's basically the same as any other day to most of the country's population?

*Not yet a real holiday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Geek The Library

Earlier this year, I was caught reading books about professional wrestling in a public library.  The evidence is on video below.  By the way, the term "geek" originally meant a carnival performer who did disgusting things such as biting the heads off chickens.  I'm pretty sure the woman in the video who says that she geeks chickens doesn't do that.  I think she means that she likes chickens.  Along those lines, just for clarification, I do not bite the heads off professional wrestlers.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Watching Watchmen

A paper I gave at the Popular Culture Association National Conference earlier this year was just published in The International Journal Of Comic Art.  "Watching Watchmen:  The Reading Of Motion Comics" appears on pages 191-199 of the current issue (14.2, 2012).  It's about my experience watching the Watchmen motion comic.  I interviewed its director, Jake Hughes, who was quite helpful.  Most of the article concentrates on the new medium of the motion comic and how it relates to animation and traditional comics.  I've never had an academic article published so quickly!  Ijoca must have The Flash working for them!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Palookaville 20: The First Graphic Novel!

This issue is the first graphic novel version of Palookaville.  In it, cartoonist Seth starts part 4 of "Clyde Fans", which is set in 1975 and features Abraham closing down the factory that made the fans, but also includes other features such as photographs from art exhibitions he's been involved in, pages from his sketchbook, and an autobiographical story from one of his book tours.  Here are some random thoughts on this comic, er, graphic novel:

*The other features are nifty, but, since I've been reading "Clyde Fans" since 1997, I was hoping that Seth would turn over the entire now longer issue to the story and finish it off.  In the welcome textpiece, Seth says that "Clyde Fans" should wrap up in another two issues.  Hmm . . . we'll see.  The next issue of Palookaville is due out later this month (maybe, the release date keeps getting pushed back).

*The art exhibitions featured a model-size town Seth constructed of Dominion, the town Simon from "Clyde Fans" visited on his ill-fated sales trip in 1957.

*In the autobiographical story, Seth, of course, draws his penis.  If there's one motif that holds the entire series together, then it may be Seth's penis.

*With a $19.95 cover price for this issue, it's no wonder not many kids read comics these days.  I was fortunate enough to get interested in them when they were 25 cents, and then the medium kind of grew up with me to produce more mature work such as Seth's comics.  Unfortunately, the price also grew.

*This is the last "comic" in my collection that I started out rereading a decade ago, as I disposed of them.  It was a fun project, and now I'm 30 or so boxes of comics lighter!  So, this blog will now return to a more varied diet of subject matter, though, since I still read comics, they will occasionally pop up as a topic.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Palookaville 19: The Last Pamphlet

Issue 19 concludes part 3 of "Clyde Fans".  In the comic, Abraham and Simon put their mother in a nursing home.  Here are some random thoughts on the comic:

*This was the last comic book Palookaville.  The next issue saw cartoonist Seth switch to a graphic novel format.  Not many alternative comics were still around in 2008, when this issue was published.  Some of Seth's contemporaries such as Chester Brown and Dan Clowes seemed to abandon serialization altogether and just published their work as complete graphic novels.  Others such as Peter Bagge continued to serialize work in the comic book pamphlet format.  Seth opted to continue serialization but turn Palookaville into a graphic novel, similar to what the Hernandez Brothers did with Love & Rockets.  Presumably, economics was behind all of these moves.  Alternative cartoonists probably sell better in the bookstore market than in the comic shop market.

*Seth continues to cram more panels on a page in this issue.  The page with the least panels on it still has 8 panels on it, and some pages have 24 panels on a page.  So even though the last Palookaville comic book cost $4.95, readers got a lot of comics for the money.

*Seth also does a lovely layout on page 4 wherein Simon crosses a landscape divided into panels, with the panels forming into an overall image of the landscape.  Alan Moore is fond of layouts such as this one as well, and they're always nifty.

*Simon's bird fantasy from last issue appears to just be a flight of fancy since his brother snaps him out of it by yelling at him some more.  Simon apparently lives until 1979.  I'm still not sure what the big secret about the father is.  I guess that's what part 4 is for. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Palookaville 18: More 12-Panel Pages!

Issue 18 shows Simon philosophizing and really freaking out (he imagines himself turning into a bird).  Here are some random thoughts on this comic:

*Ah!  It's a pleasure that cartoonist Seth knows that comics work sequentially.  He crams 12 panels on a  number of pages, and the result is a pleasure to read as the words and images work together to convey to the reader Simon's state of mind in 1966.  This is much better than most comics of the time which were rocking 3 or 4 panels on a page, many of which just read like separate images instead of a set of images that really built on one another to tell a story.

*Though reading the issues in order in a short amount of time allows me to see the connections among the parts of "Clyde Fans" better, which is one of the chief pleasures of reading a narrative originally read with months and years between issues as it was serialized, I don't know what the hell is going on with the bird thing in this issue.  I get that Simon is looking for freedom from his mundane existence and wants to fly away, but is the bird sequence just a, pardon the pun, "flight" of fancy into his imagination to escape the negative emotions caused by his brother yelling at him about how Simon has been failing at taking care of their mother, a psychotic breakdown, or an artful metaphor for suicide?

*There's something about an empty light fixture as well.  Simon keeps staring up at it.  The mother had claimed in a previous issue that things came out of it at night.  Did the father of the family commit suicide in the attic above the light fixture or something?  Perhaps more is revealed in the next couple of issues.

*It looks as if Seth did another book tour in 2005.  I'm familiar with two of his stops.  I've read at Quimby's in Chicago, and I've visited Skylight Books in Los Angeles.  Both are great stores and sell far more than comics.  Pick up a copy of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus at them!  And, if they're out of stock, then just buy something else cool (and order Emus from me).  One of the reasons "Clyde Fans" has been so delayed over the years are all the other projects Seth gets involved in.  In addition to his commercial illustration work, he also was designing the Fantagraphics Peanuts reprints, putting on art exhibitions, publishing graphic novels, and going out on book tours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Palookaville 17: Yet Another Continuation Of "Clyde Fans"!

In this issue, Simon talks to toys and puts his mother to bed.  Here are some random thoughts on the comic:

*One of cartoonist Seth's chief charms is his self-deprecation.  You can see this in the line on the cover.  It's not exactly selling the comic with sizzle, is it?  This issue came out in 2004, at which point he'd been serializing this story in Palookaville longer than he did all the other stories combined.  He might have been getting tired of it dragging on as well.  Now it's eight years on and we're about all in the same place, though the story has advanced a bit.

*I don't have much to say about this issue, other than I'm surprised that I didn't notice that I had missed the previous issue after I bought this one.  My comic collection was in a couple of different places, so that probably explains how I didn't discover that 16 was missing until a few years later.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Palookaville 16: The Missing Link!

Issue 16 moves ahead to 1966 and starts part 3 of "Clyde Fans".  In it, Simon is shown taking care of his senile elderly mother and pottering around the same building his brother will be pottering around in 1997.  Here are some random thoughts on the comic:

*First of all, this is the issue I discovered I was missing, and it was a pain to track down.  Sales of Palookaville must have declined because it wasn't in stock in any of the back issue bins of any comic store I visited.  Finally, I had to order it from Drawn & Quarterly themselves.  Fortunately, it was on sale, which helped to make up for the shipping cost.  It was nice getting it finally.  There's nothing like a hole in a collection to gnaw at a collector's soul!  Though the hunt is part of the fun of collecting!  Collecting things is definitely an odd pursuit!

*The cover continues a trend, which started with the previous issue, of the front cover and back cover combining to form a single image.  Earlier Palookaville covers often centered on a person, like a portrait; these "widescreen" covers aren't just landscapes in their orientation, they are literally landscapes, illustrations of settings from the narrative.  This difference in covers is symbolic in the growth in the series from autobiography to fiction.  Seth is no longer just interested in himself; he is interested more in the world around him, even if it's a fictional world that he's literally constructing (this is an artist who will sculpt a setting of a small town).

*Much of the issue has 8 or 9 panel layouts on a page (a couple have 12!), making it a satisfying read.  The price had jumped to $4.95 though.  Perhaps that's why I missed the issue when it first came out. In 2002, I was only buying a couple comics a month since I was trying to save money.  Given Palookaville's irregular publication schedule and low circulation though, it's possible I never even knew it was out.

*Simon mentions an Emily in this issue in a manner that suggests that she is his lost love.  This detail casts doubt on the gay interpretation of Simon.  Also, if Simon is a stand-in for Seth, then it's unlikely he's gay.  Instead, Simon just appears to be crippled by shyness and an introspective temperament (not that those are bad characteristics, but in Simon's case, in combination with other factors, they seem to have constrained his life to basically a single building).

*A tenth anniversary reprint of Palookaville #1 was released about the time 16 came out.  I've never seen it, but apparently it has a new cover.

*Each of the "Clyde Fans" parts were collected into thick comic books, but apparently at some point Drawn & Quarterly vetoed the rest of that collection in favor of collecting the series into trade paperback form.  Collecting a comic book series into thicker comic books does seem rather daft, but it's still done today.  DC's Vertigo imprint was doing it for a time recently, bringing back series into print that they didn't want to publish as trade paperbacks (possibly because they thought the interest in the comics was limited to a comic shop audience and the bookstore customers wouldn't be interested).

*Seth announces his marriage in this issue.  I wonder if the delay in "Clyde Fans" comes from the author being lonely perhaps at the beginning of the story's composition, then getting happy halfway through the long story but having little interest in continuing such a story devoted to heartbreak and loneliness.  It wouldn't be the first time an author lost control of a narrative.  That's one of the dangers of serializing a story before it's finished.  Seth's friend Chester Brown once even pulled the plug on a comic series called Underwater while some issues in.  It remains unfinished to this day.  Fortunately, for those of us who enjoy "Clyde Fans", Seth appears to be too stubborn to quit!  So we can complain that it's taking forever to finish the story, but at least he's still working on it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Palookaville 15: Simon Has A Bit Of A Nervous Breakdown

In this issue, Simon gets so stressed out trying to sell fans that he decides he'd much rather just sit down among some trees instead, and thus ends part two of "Clyde Fans".  Here are some random thoughts on this comic:

*Upon rereading this comic, I realized that it was 16 and not 15 that I was missing from the collection.  As I wrote in a previous post, I seemed to miss a lot of number 15s in my comic collection, but apparently Palookaville was not one of those series.

*Seth seems to enjoy drawing buildings in a small town, so part two of "Clyde Fans" enabled him to combine two great loves of his, drawing small town buildings and the mid-20th Century.

*I've enjoyed rereading my comic book collection, but after ten years of doing it, I'm ready to wrap up this silly little project.  Only five more issues to go!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Palookaville 14: Simon Gets Propositioned!

Simon continues to fail miserably at being a salesman in this issue, but he picks up some tips when another salesman attempts to sell to him.  Here are some random thoughts on this comic:

*The scene with the other salesman ends the issue.  Like the elevator scene in The Great Gatsby, the gap between this issue and next is open to a homosexual interpretation, though not much evidence exists to support it.  If Simon was a closeted gay man in 1957 Canada, then it would explain much of his shyness, awkwardness, and general not fitting in with the homophobic society of the time.  I'm not sure that's what Seth was going for though, Simon could just be a shy, bookish heterosexual, who never marries.  Just like how Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street are just roommates.

*In the letters page, Seth complains about the technology fetish of the turn of the century and notes that the comic book pamphlet seems to be becoming a thing of the past.  In a few issues, he would jettison the pamphlet format himself in favor of Palookaville becoming a yearly graphic novel.  Seth's distaste for new technology probably will not let him see that the comic book pamphlet might have a future online, but, yes, in printed form, it is dying.  I was able to see that while rereading my collection.  Comics such as Power Man And Iron Fist got canceled in the 1980s because they were only selling a hundred thousand copies an issue or something.  Today, those would be the bestselling comics.  You can trace the rest of the trajectory yourself as the middle-aged men, such as myself, keeping the printed comic book pamphlet alive get older and start to die off.  Oh, well, when the printed comic book pamphlet does essentially die off as a commercial medium (the medium will still exist as the odd enthusiast or two will keep it alive aesthetically), then Seth will have one more aspect of 20th Century popular culture to be nostalgic for and mourn.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Palookaville 13: Simon Goes Selling!

This issue starts the second part of "Clyde Fans", which is a flashback apparently to a time when Simon (the narrator's brother) tried his hand at going on the road to sell their fans.  It didn't go well, as any reader of the first part could probably guess.  I was cringing for Simon during this whole issue, and it's a tribute to Seth's storytelling that he could get me to care about a traveling salesman in small town Canada in 1957. Nothing much else to say about this issue though.  It was a pleasant, quick read.  Was that worth $3.75?  Apparently so because I kept buying the series, despite the price and long delays between issues.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Palookaville 12: Abraham Makes Dinner!

In this issue, Abraham, the retired businessman narrating the story, talks about the art of salesmanship.  He also makes dinner.  This is obviously not the world's most exciting comic, but it's strangely enjoyable.  Here are some more random thoughts about it:

*Abraham's brother collected novelty postcards.  In the comments about the collection, it's hard not to see Seth commenting on comic book collectors:  "It's somewhat odd that a man who was so well read , so knowledgeable, would waste his time on decades old paper sundries."

*This issue ends part one of "Clyde Fans".  I have no idea how many parts there actually are.  I'm not sure that Seth even knows.

*The letters page contains a letter by comic fandom historian Bill Schelly, author of The Golden Age Of Comic Fandom, as well as letters from cartoonists Steven Weissman, Ivan Brunetti, and Ariel Bordeaux.  On the page, Seth announces an art exhibition at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles.  Meltdown's a cool store.  I visited it this summer when I was in L.A.