Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Honey, I Love

..I love how, until the other fellas post again and Jent gets his internet back, this is totally my site. Yeah!!

Having total power makes me feel like talking on one of my favorite subjects: library stuff. I'm a librarian in a big city, and the individual at the top of the library system decreed several years back that comics, graphic novels, etc have no business being in libraries, so we were not going to have any. The rule has relaxed a little since it was imposed; the central library has a decent selection of classic and current books, and most of the local libraries have things like Dark Knight and Watchmen. We also have some collections of popular syndicated strips. And oh yes, we have Tintin. But there's no collections of comic books, no manga (very popular with the kids these days), and we represent only a fraction of the many wonderful graphic novels out there.

It's pretty sad. When I was in library school (about a year ago), I needed some young adult books during a visit to the folks and found that the library in my ultra-conservative little hometown has a solid collection of graphic novels. The shitty library at which I did a two-week stint before Jesus himself outstretched His hands and personally delivered me into a good job was pretty great with the sequentials; they had a large selection of graphic novels and collected strips, and also a full rack of plain-old comic books (X-Men, Superman, Bone etc).* So, basically, if we take these two little suburban libraries as a bellwether for what's going on in the whole country, like I'm doing, our big fancy cityfolk library is way behind the times.

It's also pretty hypocritical. If I swivel my head about 40 degrees to the left I will be looking at one of the largest collections of children's picture books in the city. The definitions for sequential art/graphic novels and picture books are scarily similar: stories told in both words and images, where neither words nor images could convey the story alone. It's just that one is intended for kids and the other is not.

So, why is it that sequential art is beneficial for kids and not for adults?

That is a topic for another blog, plus we're closing so I have to go.

*Both of these libraries kept their graphic novels in the young adult sections, even if they weren't necessarily for young adults. The librarian at the shitty place told me the only one she had qualms about giving to teenagers was "Preacher," because it is so violent. I am currently reading "Preacher" and can attest that this is true, although I'm sure it's no worse than a video game.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Of promises made and forgotten

The time has come, it seems, as it does for all blogs, to turn the discussion to heartbreak. Let me take a deep, shuddery breath and continue with Part Three, the concluding chapter in the story of comics and me and how we came to be:

So, by senior year of college, I was the willing love-slave to Strangers in Paradise, and had dabbled in some others like Schizo, Artbabe, Optic Nerve, etc. I was also reading a lot of stuff by Chris Ware because I had a good friend who had lent me his personal folder of clipped-out newspaper strips---Quimby the Mouse, Jimmy Corrigan, Big Tex, and some randoms. This was the year I was in charge of little old art+performance, my school's super-hip arts magazine. I had one issue to plan, design, and produce, and I decided we would jump on the cool train and do a comics issue.

Friends, it was beautiful. 36 pages, full-color cover (colored by ME, and I'd never done it before), glossy paper. Original work by several nationally known artists and a very talented current student. Interviews with fascinating people, including Ivan Brunetti (on whom I still have a wholly unreasonable and heartfelt art-crush). Essays on such topics as being The Girl in the comics store, animated cartoons we had loved, and even a how-to guide. It was.. majestic.

(To set the scene, let me also tell you that during the 2-week period of heavy production on this issue, in which most nights ended with a 3am ride in the escort car back to my apartment, I was finishing three classes, one of which I had only attended 7 times, studying for finals, writing my honors thesis, of which I deleted half immediately after finishing, working 25 hours a week, and dealing with a recently acquired knitting addiction. Ok, so that was my fault, but I couldn't stop. I was also watching at least three hours of PBS Kids a day and crying a lot.)

And then? It didn't happen. A total motherfucking heartbreak. Our funding fell through at the last minute--because the school funding office forgot to cut a check to the printing company. It was awful... My co-editor and I consoled ourselves with the idea that we'd publish it first thing in the fall. The bitch then spent a glam-o summer in New York City taking all kinds of design classes, got all fancy, and upon returning to campus in the fall (I was graduated and gone), completely scrapped the comics issue and made a whole new one full of flashy pictures. My jaw knocked the phone out of my hand on its way to the floor when she told me. Never printed, none of the material ever used, including the original art!

My heart and soul! Poured out, then blotted up by a funding error and an Illustrator ego. It was a long while before I could read comics again. Too harsh. The disappointment still tears at me on occasion, like, when I think about it.

Oh well.

A year later I took a class on graphic novels and I read some more good stuff. 100 Bullets started my heart on the road to repair. It's just that good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

And for your penance..

I've been saying rosaries all day to punish myself for never picking up Meat Cake. The covers just never looked interesting. Dame Darcy, can you forgive an old fool?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Doin It and Doin It and Doin It Well

My quest for a randomly enjoyed superhero comic has met a successful end!

Well, it begins again anew with every trek to the comics shop, whether it ends in success or failure, but this week, at least, it ended well. I picked up #2 of BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin. I picked it up because I liked the cover--because the cover looked like a superhero comic I would have bought 20 years ago, even though I've never been a big Batman fan. It shows a bunch of Batman villains--the Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, and more--ready for battle. In the foreground, as if we're looking over his shoulder, is the side of Batman's face--he's a little taller than us and we can just barely peek under the nose of his cowl. The title on the cover: "by love . . . BETRAYED!"

Hell, yes!

I didn't kow what his min-series was, but the art looked pretty John Severin-like as I flipped through it. Apparently it's a reunion of heavy hitting 70's bat-team, but it's set in present-day continuity. BUT, even though it's set in the present, I was so-not-lost, even though I haven't been keeping up on all of the latest pre-INFINITE CRISIS hullaballoo.


(. . . this is the best part . . .)

Stuff happens in the book! Stuff happens in the book, and it's fun to read, and it makes sense, and it's self-contained in a way that doesn't leave you confused, yet moves the story ahead, yet makes you want to read the next issue. Will Two-Face kill the Joker if J. doesn't drop out of the governor's race? Will the *other* candidate for governor find out that Batman/Bruce Wayne is rollin' around on the ground with his lady, and Bruce's ex, Silver St. Cloud? What the heck is the Scarecrow up to, dressing as policemen and planting slow-acting gas on Batman's cape?

I mean, egads, folks! Them's is good comics!

My other attempt this week was #4 of Spider-Man/Human Torch, because it seemed to be set in the post-Secret Wars era black costume/Black Cat days. It was, but alas, it didn't live up to those stories I used to enjoy. I'll pass on more issues of Spidey/Torch, but Dark Detective is one I'll be returning to.