I sat down to write this entry and realized I’d forgotten my login information to my blog. After 10 or 11 tries, I made it in, but… wow. How’s that for perspective?

It’s funny too because I actually sat down to relate an anecdote about blogging.

You see, I’ve been blogging here (although it’s been getting faaaaairly intermittent) since 2002, and writing a version of this blog since 1997. I ‘came up’ with a lot of other people, and was right on the edge of the blogging explosion. While it’s since imploded somewhat, making way for microblogging like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, there are still folks putting good material out there on a regular basis in the medium-length blogging format. I still follow them through Google Reader (well, for another few months anyway) when time allows, and it’s fascinating to see the way that people and their lives have changed in the dozen-plus years I’ve been doing this.

I’ve been following one blog for a while now, maybe 6 years? It started as being a blog about someone who moved to Tokyo and their efforts to acclimate, and became less about the day to day and more about the family that they were raising there. I, and anyone else following, was getting the same updates about this bloggers’ life and family as their friends and family back home were. I was scrolling through baby pictures a year or two back on the computer, as that was what had come up in my feed that day, and my husband stopped to ask whose baby it was. I started trying to explain and he kind of got a look on his face like he was mentally remembering to raise his Facebook privacy settings again.

I’m not so naive or crazy as to think I’m “Like a part of their family,” now or whatever–that’s some crazy shit right there. But we’re definitely peers in the blogging world, and I’ve been–a fan? –silently observing? the parts of this blogger’s life that they’ve chosen to share with me, and with the world, for longer than I’ve known some of my closest “IRL” friends. It’s a type of relationship that didn’t exist a generation ago, and now thanks to microblogging it’s probably the most prevalent relationship in the lives of most users of Twitter, of Tumblr, of macro and micro blogging. I know more about people hundreds of k/m away than I do about certain people in my social circle, because the people farther away are way better at Facebook.

This is not news, probably, to anyone reading. Both mainstream media and interpersonal media have been digging into this divide for quite some time now. But I had a very sharp moment of clarity just before I sat down to post this, and it’s what prompted me to share.

You see this blogger I’ve been following for years had taken an extended vacation from Tokyo–with child, sans spouse. And stopped updating their blog. And… I couldn’t help but be worried that this meant they were getting divorced. It was a stupid, unexpected feeling to have, but over 5 or 6 years of learning about the daily life of this person, I have grown to care for them. I was almost immediately critical of my own feelings–’You don’t even REALLY know this person, and they certainly don’t know you!‘–echoed around my head. The media message is very clear as well; we can mock or hate or celebrate or enjoy the people on the other side of the screen and that’s acceptable, but to actually care about them is pitiable or suspicious. Half the responses to any sort of personal, financial plea for a Kickstarter or Paypal fund-drive are met with hostility. I mean, go back through this blog post you’re reading, check out the language I’m using to not seem like a creepy stalker… and I’m one of the ‘enlightened’ commenters, as far as I can tell.

So yeah, totally worried about the possible end of the marriage of two people I’d never ‘met’, but had spent dozens of hours with. Until just 20 minutes ago, when on that user’s Flickr a bunch of new photos popped up of the happy family back in Tokyo. Still no blog post, still no real update, and frankly still no real insight into their lives or situations beyond some happy pictures in the park, but my sense of relief that everything was ‘okay’ was genuine… which started that whole weird shame cycle up again.

So I thought I’d sit down and write about it here.

The thing is, I’m aware that I’m a pretty public person, even though I’ve worked in the past few years to pull some of the truly private stuff back as much as I can. I’m aware that the things I’ve created or that I participate in are bigger and more important than me, and that means pulling back a little bit of my rather large personality to let them shine. Not completely of course, as any drunken evening on Twitter will tell you, but there is effort being expended. :)

Despite being a public person though, I am still genuinely unsettled at first when people in the real world tell me that they like my blog. Here at comics212.net. Or that they’ve been reading for years. Or even when they tell me that I’ve positively impacted their lives. It’s disconcerting. I’m not entirely sure why, like I said I know what goes up here and what I’m trying to do. But yeah, it takes me a second to tamp that shit down and respond like a normal human would: “Hey, thanks. That’s nice of you to say.” Often followed by “ugh I’m sorry I haven’t updated in like, forever.”

My relief at finding my blogging peer was still safe and secure in their personal life was weird–but expressing that concern/relief to them would be mortifying. I mean, why should it be, right? But it is.

It’s something that really resonated with me, as I’m still meeting people for the first time that have been long-time readers of Comics212. People that have seen me share probably more than I know in these 15 years, that might be getting an even larger piece of the Christopher Butcher ‘puzzle’ through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, or who knows? I’m still pretty steadfast that knowing about someone and ‘knowing’ them remain separate things, particularly as most people curate the aspects of themselves that they present to the world… But I was reminded by my own thoughts to have empathy for the actions of others, to calmly and rationally respond to what may seem like overbearing familiarity, and, since I’m the one putting it out there, to take some responsibility for my role in the situation.

(As a very important aside: I’ve never felt unsafe because of the blog (very fortunate there) so my prescription is for myself. Folks who have been threatened should deal with that as seriously as possible–I hate that I need to put this in, but looking at the tone and tenor of Internet ‘discourse’ in 2013 I pretty clearly do.)

So to close: I did not write my blogging peer and wish them well, but I do. I just wish they’d update their blog more, now that their vacation is over.


- Chris

While I was in Japan two weeks back, I have an interview to the Yukari Shiina from AnimeAnime. I was having a lovely dinner with Deb Aoki (Manga.About.com) and Yukari, and we decided to turn it into an interview (hopefully) offering some insight into the North American manga market. I dared to criticize scanlation, so I’m sure it will go over well.

Check out both parts of the interview if you read Japanese, or if you trust Google Translate. ;)



- Chris

Debuting in May.

- Chris

I just wanted to make a short, small blog post, in favour of Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel DRAMA. I had been given an Advance Review Copy nearly a year ago, and the book itself came out this summer, but I finally made time to sit down and read it this past weekend, and it’s wonderful, and I had to share.

DRAMA is about a middleschool girl who, like her friends, is just starting to navigate early romances and complications they cause among friendships, set against the backdrop of the school’s big Musical Production, the actors, and the back-of-house tech crew.

DRAMA is a much tighter story than Raina’s smash-hit Smile, and I think Raina continues to grow wonderfully as an artist too. The storytelling is clean throughout, and there are a couple of really great, inventive sequences (mostly in the bookstores) that go above and beyond.

The story, about liking someone who doesn’t like you back, will resonate with pretty much any reader. I spotted myself in 11-year-old Callie’s dilemmas, and I think most people who read the book with an open mind will see themselves there too. The story’s added complications of falling for a boy who only likes boys, and then having to navigate that new territory, put a welcome, modern spin on the proceedings.

This is a great book, written and illustrated by a great friend of mine, and I’m glad I finally moved it to the top of the giant to-read stack. If you’re looking for a smart read for the about-to-be-teen family member in your like, I can heartily recommend DRAMA.

- Chris

I was offered the chance to turn my thoughts on this subject into something publishable, something definitive and succinct, but given the nature of the subject and my own lack of time, that wasn’t going to be possible. So instead I’ll say the same thing in an unpublishable and not succinct way:

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot. If he will not even attempt to atone for his dangerous bigotry (including: hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence), then I don’t care if he never gets another job again. Let alone writing a beloved icon of children and adults.

The faux-Liberal hand-wringing going on around this is gross. Orson Scott Card is not merely an ‘artist,’ but also a public figure who actively seeks to increase his fame through attaching himself to high-profile projects. He then uses that fame, and the income generated from these projects, to promote and directly support his hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence. There can be no separation of art and artist when the artist uses his art to directly fund oppression.

If you are standing up in defense of someone who will take a portion of the income they make from writing a Superman comic book and send it directly to an organization that works to oppress a minority, and you are in opposition to those that would see him stopped from doing so, take a good long look at yourself in the mirror.

Holding a public figure accountable for their actions isn’t censorship, and it certainly isn’t fascism. It’s called “being an adult” and if Orson Scott Card wants to use his writing, his “art”, and all of the tools at his disposal to push his agenda of dangerous bigotry, then he deserves to be held accountable for that.  Suggesting otherwise is ignorant.

- Christopher
P.S.: I am aware that the value of the Superman character is already highly compromised due to DC’s horrible treatment of the creators of that character and their families, but as an icon outside of DC’s control the character still possesses enormous weight that makes its role here both valid and central to the issue.

Currently circulating around Twitter and the Blogosphere is this article entitled “When To Give Up” by Calista Brill on the First Second blog. First Second is a publisher of fine graphic novels, about 20 to 24 per year, and Calista is an Editor there.

The article details when and why a comics creator (artist / author / graphic novelist / cartoonist) would or possibly should give up on their dream of making comics their vocation. It’s written from the perspective of a New York City publisher who sees hundreds of submissions per year, and it’s part of a series of articles on the publisher’s website tagged “Behind The Scenes,” that gets into the nuts and bolts of graphic novel publishing. I think it’s generally smart and very on the ball, in that it clearly espouses the economic realities behind comics as a vocation (it’s difficult at best) and confronts readers and the aspiring-to-be-published with some basic truths about the business of comics.

Specifically, I like that Calista takes a bunch of time to couch her advice and experience by pointing out the flaws in her own method, despite that it’s the best method she’s got to work with. Early in the piece she links to two different dissenting viewpoints from hers–about not giving up in the face of discouragement and that editors like her are human and make mistakes–but she goes on to make her overall point: “Take a realistic look at your work and its reception amongst your peers and the marketplace, and if it’s not good, maybe reassess your career goals.” (Paraphrasing)

Where the article slips is in not using clearer language to differentiate between an artistic career, and art as a vocation. It’s clear to me that she’s using phrases like “publishable” to mean “publishable with the hopes of finding financial remuneration.” As I mentioned this article is also part of a series of blog posts on that subject, and being made by a publisher for whom making enough money to stay in business and keep publishing is an end goal (though clearly not the only one). If this was the first article you’d read on this site or were otherwise inclined to do so,  you might interpret this as a ‘quit making art, you suck’ and Calista’s partly at fault here for not being clearer in the second half that this is about the economics of making art. A strong concluding statement would have helped a lot too, to incorporate the economics and vocational aspects clearly outlined in the first half into a final statement–as it is the article just sort of stops, rather than concludes.

All in all, I think it’s a ballsy move for a publisher to come out and preemptively ask artists to do some soul-searching about their chosen vocation. If the people who are going to be providing you a paycheck in your chosen vocation can’t give you advice on that subject, then who can? This article speaks directly to their publishing model and publishing philosophy, and has opened up a heated discussion on Twitter about other models, other philosophies, and the nature of artistic passion. I kind of wish it’d started a discussion about the nature of economic survival in the face of artistic passion, but beggars and choosers, right?

Ultimately, my favourite comment about this article came from Michael DeForge, a very talented comic creator and a friend of mine who was dismissive of this article in its entirety:

“that :01 article going around is dumb, but if that sort of thing could actually convince anyone to quit they were a probably a sissy to begin with”

Straight to the point–DeForge is amazingly skilled creator whose comics ability improves rapidly, whose work I love to follow, and who is already interrogating his own work in many of the ways outlined in the article. He isn’t someone who lacks insight into his own work in the slightest, and the article, which recommends it, is therefore pointless. I think that perfectly sums it up for me.

- Christopher
P.S.: I am friends with Calista and the folks at First Second, just as I am friends or at least friendly with every single person I’ve seen criticizing this article. Just in case you were wondering where my bias is, it’s in favour of realistic expectations of the industry–not the medium–of comics.

“One of the overriding themes of comics this year is the pressing need for models and ways of getting work out there that match the innovation and energy of the comics themselves.”

- Tom Spurgeon, prompted by a cartoonist profile of Oily Comics’ Chuck Forsman.

I just got a very welcome e-mail from Fantagraphics, with information about their new, upcoming edition of 7 Miles A Second. This book was revelatory to me as a young man, exposing Wojnarowicz’s struggles as a young man himself, though as a hustler on the streets of New York, and later, as an artist and his unfortunate stuggle with AIDS/HIV. James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook do a phenomenal job at bringing his story to life, and this is a vital and important piece of gay history that had been denied to me as a gay teen, and which has been out of print for far too long.

I’m happy to share a 7 page preview with you, and I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy when it is released in February.

- Chris

7 Miles a Second
by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook

68-page full-color 9″ x 12″ hardcover • $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-60699-614-0
In-Store Date: February 3, 2013 (subject to change)

7 Miles a Second is the story of legendary artist David Wojnarowicz, written during the last years before his AIDS-related death in 1992. Artists James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook unsentimentally depict Wojnarowicz’s childhood of hustling on the streets of Manhattan, through his adulthood living with AIDS, and his anger at the indifference of government and health agencies. A primal scream of a graphic novel, 7 Miles a Second blends the stark reality of Lower East Side street life with a psychedelic delirium that artfully conveys Wojnarowicz’s sense of rage, urgency, mortality and a refusal to be silent.

Originally published as a comic book in 1996 by DC’s Vertigo Comics, 7 Miles a Second was an instant critical success and has become a cult classic amongst fans of literary and art comics, just as Wojnarowicz’s influence and reputation have widened in the larger art world. This new edition finally presents the artwork as it was intended: oversized, and with Van Cook’s elegant watercolors restored. It also includes several new pages created for this edition.

“Revolutionary…. a runaway, over-the-top circus… An excursion into areas few, if any, comics creators have tread.” – Jim Steranko

“Seven Miles a Second veers between an almost unbearably gritty naturalism and the incendiary heat of surrealist hallucination.” – The New Yorker

“A revelatory work of art.” – Art in America

“A cult classic… both a celebration of the unlimited potential of the comic book form, and a perfect melding of inspiring, iconoclastic imaginations.” – Jim Jarmusch

ABOUT THE CREATORS: David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was an artist, writer, filmmaker and activist prominent in the New York City art world of the 1980s. James Romberger is a fine artist and cartoonist living in New York City. Marguerite Van Cook is an artist and musician living in New York City with her husband, James Romberger.