We picked up our marriage license yesterday and we will get legally married before November 4th. For this and for the following, I want to apologize. I want to apologize to my family because you can’t be here for this. There’s no time to get my mother and Matt’s parents here for the legal ceremony. I am sorry that in order to live the American dream, we are forced to elope.” - Ed Matthews, PopImage.com

Hey, there’s a U.S. Election in a few weeks. You may be aware. If you’re voting In California, you’ve also got a chance to vote to ensure people like my friends Ed & Matt can get married, and stay married. They’re good guys, and they’ve been together for something like 10 years. I want them to be happy.
Ed put me and Mal up in his living room for 2 or 3 days the first time I visited New York, which was easily the most amazing time I visited New York. Ed took over PopImage for me when I went on “break”, a break that has lasted about 5 years at this point. Ed’s even put his money where his mouth is, and published a few comics I really enjoyed, like the full-colour Young Bottoms In Love anthology collection from a few years back.

This week Ed is back at PopImage, and has written an editorial about his life–his desire to get married to the man he loves, the fact that he had to uproot his life and move from New York to California to do it, and how he wants other couples like him to have that same opportunity.

I will have been married for two years next week, to a pretty wonderful guy. My life has improved immeasurably since I met him… Hell, any of you who’ve followed my writing for a few years will notice that right around 2004 I stopped screaming at people all the time. He made me a happier guy, and while I still rail at the injustices of the comics world, I’ve managed to keep it to once or twice a month, rather than once or twice per day. I want Ed & Matt to have what I have, because it’s great, and it’s the right thing to do.

Ed is imploring all of you who live in California to Vote No on Proposition 8, a proposition which would amend the state constitution to ban marriage between Homosexuals. Further, he’s hoping that you can spare a little money and donate to the Vote No on 8 campaign. I can’t, unfortunately, because I’m not a U.S. Citizen. But I can blog about it, and hopefully send a few people from here their way.

California courts have already decided that equality is a right enshrined in the state constitution, and a bunch of people that don’t believe gay folks are equal to straight folks are trying to change that constitution. Being happy, being married to the person you love, it isn’t a special right. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness. I hope that, those of you reading this, can do a little bit to ensure that that’s true.


SPX 2002: The Big Gay Dinner, featuring (l to r): Dave, Aman Chaudhary, Tim Fish,
Jay Laird, Ed Mathews, David Frankel, Christopher Butcher.

http://www.noonprop8.com/
http://www.popimage.com/content/viewnews.cgi?newsid1224622428,65514,

- Chris


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Update: Simon and Schuster representatives wrote CR Monday evening claiming that the number of images used in the publication of this interview (eight, including cover) Sunday morning surpassed the number of images they allow anyone to use for free.” - Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter.

Brazil… When hearts were entertaining June, we stood beneath an amber moon and softly whispered ‘Someday soon’. We kissed and clung together then; tomorrow was another day. The morning found me miles away with still a million things to say. Now when twilight dims the skies above recalling thrills of our love there’s one thing I’m certain of: Return, I will, to old Brazil!

- Christopher



    “I have seen contracts within the comics industry shift frequently. Why, one of the biggies has a clause that grants them Universal rights to the work. You know, for the huge comics audience on Mars. Mark Smylie of ASP is a longtime friend of mine & one thing I can vouch for 100% is his honesty. I don’t think he would strong-arm anyone. Both of us had witnessed another indie publisher do that to other artists. If Mark says that the contract he came up with for Archaia artists was the direction the industry is headed, then I am sure that is his experience. Image is (to my knowledge) the only major *comics* publisher with a contract as creator-friendly & rights flexible as it is.”
    Eva Hopkins, from my comment section.

BAD BEHAVIOUR ISN’T EXCUSED BY ITS FREQUENCY: IT’S STILL BAD BEHAVIOUR.

I am going to be completely inappropriate here, but maybe that means I’ll get quoted everywhere and people will get the message:

Saying that because most companies in the comics industry have shitty contracts and take advantage of people so it’s okay for one more company to have a shitty contract and maybe take advantage of them too? That’s a lot like saying that most guys at the bar you drink at are date-rapists, but you’re willing to take your chances with the new guy. Just go drink at a different fucking bar, it’s right-the-fuck next door.

Stop defending the comics industry when it behaves badly! Go get yourself deprogrammed from this Stockholm Syndrome Nightmare that tells you that this is just the way things are! It’s a lie! If your work really wasn’t worth anything, these assholes wouldn’t want a cut of you.

Image Comics! IDW Publishing! Slave Labor Graphics! Fantagraphics! Drawn & Quarterly! Five great companies that offer contracts that don’t take media or ancillary rights. All of them have published stories that have been turned into film or animation. Five comic book companies, bang! Then there’s a whole book industry with dozens of publishers doing graphic novel work ethically, working within a medium with a history of respect for creators’ rights. There’s self publishing, for fuck’s sakes. You have options! You don’t get the fake-prestige of working with someone blowing smoke up your ass telling you they’re going to give you 10% of your own movie deal which is practically in-the-bag, they-gotta-guy, but so what? If your work is marketable, people will come to you. Agents, lawyers, hollywood people, they swarm up and down the aisles at Comic conventions, on the web, the whole nine.

Quit shrugging your shoulders, comics. Quit giving in. Quit saying “that’s just the way the industry is going” like you’re powerless to stop it.

This guy’s got it:

    “What they want to do is make a deal to do the graphic novel, which would be great, and there’s no money there, which is fine — obviously you’re doing it for the fun of it — but if a movie comes out of it, then they guarantee that they will not pay you for it, that they will screw you.”Eric Bogosian, MTV Splash Page Article

Go to another bar.

- Chris


I’m kind of having a tough time finding stuff that I want to blog about, or having the time to do it. Sorry readers! Hopefully I’ll be back on the ball this weekend.

- Chris


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I don’t know why everyone keeps going on about this “Archaia Studios Press” being bought out… I had thought it was the publisher of Publisher of Mouse Guard being bought out… Or at the least, The Publisher of Mouse Guard and they’ve got some good French licenses as well. I mean sure, The Publisher of Mouse Guard is publishing other books, and they’re all produced by nice-enough folks and there’s a general level of quality to the line which speaks well of managing editor Mark Smylie. But The Publisher of Mouse Guard publishes Mouse Guard, which is a phenomenally successful indy publishing story, possibly the best-selling indy comic of the past few years. It’s sold tons and tons in hardcover, and the soft cover edition was published and distributed by an imprint of Random House, Villard Books, which is a pretty big deal. So why hasn’t anyone mentioned Mouse Guard in all of these proceedings, then?

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Let’s just throw some actual facts out there:

- ASP apparently had a great, great creator ownership contract. (Except for a strange non-compete clause).

- Mouse Guard sold a fuck-tonne of books, which would mean ASP would either have paid or would owe Mouse Guard creator David Petersen a fuck-tonne of money, because again, that contract was pretty good.

- David Petersen hasn’t updated his blog since July 30th, wherein he won two Eisner Awards. I haven’t seen any public comment from him anywhere throughout this whole ordeal or since that time.

-  Despite books continuing to dribble out from ASP over the past few months, despite the restructuring, we haven’t seen a new issue of Mouse Guard, with the second series stalled at 3 issues (of a projected six) since February 26th, 2008.

- Mouse Guard is ASP’s best selling book.

- If they’re in a situation of financial uncertainty, and they are publishing books occasionally, why aren’t they publishing their best selling book?

- Everyone, everyone, wants that second Mouse Guard collection. Diamond Book Distributors devoted more of their Book Expo America booth to Mouse Guard as a property than any of the other publishers). You know Diamond wants it. I bet ASP wants that second book. Villard too, probably. Booksellers want it (I want it).

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So where is it? I can only imagine that whoever acquires ASP will want that book, that money, and the rights to make toys and cartoons based on the series too, and if I had to hazard a guess, that would be a big part of why we aren’t seeing it… Of course, that brings up the fact that no issues of the series have shipped since the end of February, and the “media rights” contract is a fairly recent development. Something else is going on.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it’s fascinating that the crown jewel of the ASP line hasn’t been mentioned in any of these discussions; it’s the elephant in the room with an army of tiny adorable mice riding its back. If someone told me all 9 issues of Mouse Guard published to date sold more than every other comic book ASP has published combined, I wouldn’t even blink–I certainly know that’s true for us at the store, in our limited experience. I’d go so far as to say that the vast majority of the reason one would want ASP, and demand partial ownership of all of their properties, is solely to get a hold of Mouse Guard.

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So let’s move from statements of fact to a line of questiong:

- What if you were the guy that owned the most successful indy book in years?

- What if your publisher went from a “fair” or even “generous” contract, to one that met the “industry standard” in an industry where that standard wallows in a sewer, rights-wise, most of the time?

- Where you were now expected to give up all of your media rights without so much as a bidding war, despite the fact one is very-much called for?

- Would you sign that contract?

- What if that “Industry Standard Contract” was a lie, in an industry with Image, or First Second Books, or even Villard (with whom you’re already working)? Where not every publisher demands those rights from you? In fact, factoring mainstream book publishers, most pubs don’t make those requests of you.

- What if almost anyone in the industry would publish your book on your terms, just because it would make them so much money on the publishing alone?

- What if not signing the new ASP contract meant that you couldn’t put out your series again for a year, or more, because of a “non-compete” clause in your original contract?

- What if that derailed the intense momentum of your series? Made it so that you couldn’t meet the deadlines of your other contracts with Random House? Severly disrupted your cashflow, your work schedule?

- Would you sign it then?

- How would you feel being put in that position?

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It’s very easy to forget the human face behind words like “Strongarm Tactics” and “Industry Standard Contracts”. It’s easy to forget that PR spin is just that: spin. It’s easy to forget that just because someone describes something as “Industry Standard” doesn’t make it true… That just because one creator is willing to sign a bad contract (see: Platinum, Tokyopop, etc.) doesn’t mean that every creator is obligated to. That silence does not mean consent.

So how would I answer my own questions up there? Simply, I’d just go ahead and start publishing again, that second collection through Villard, and let Random House’s massive team of lawyers take all comers… If there were any contention at all of course. Sometimes legal posturing is just posturing. I think that would be the way to go, and it would minimize the interuption to my creativity, my cashflow, and my life. Because it’s coming up on February 26th again soon.

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But then I guess we won’t know until The Author of Mouse Guard speaks up. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

- Chris
All art from Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen. Theoretically Copyright 2008 David Petersen.


mrcheese.gifMike Sterling over at Progressive Ruin sat down and watched arguably the worst movie of all time, Batman & Robin, in order to liveblog it. That poor bastard.

Watching some the clips he linked to (because I’m never, ever going to watch that movie) reminded me of the single best thing ever to come of it: Mr. Cheese. From the pages of Greg Hyland’s Lethargic Lad comes this fantastic mockery that has a legacy far deeper than the movie ever will.

According to his biography: “While trying to find a cure for his wife’s rare cheese disease, Dr. Arnold Cheese fell into a giant vat of liquid cheese, which turned him into a supervillain. Mr. Cheese… also has an encyclopeadic knowledge of cheeses, which he uses within his speech; either as puns, or just as a sign of insanity.”

The character is responsible for dozens of awful cheese puns. Seriously, every appearance is Cheese pun after Cheese pun, and instead of freezing people, he has guns that shoot liquid cheese. It’s even better than it sounds.

So to finish up this post I was going to go recommend you check out Lethargic Lad Online, creator Greg Hyland’s regularly updated webcomic featuring Lethargic Lad, Mr. Cheese, and all of the superhero parody characters you love! But… Dude, Greg, if you’re reading this (hey, it’s Chris! Long time…) your webcomic has the single worst interface I have ever tried to use. All you need is a “NEXT COMIC” button and a “PREVIOUS COMIC” button and we’re good. But your current system makes me reconsider wanting to read your funny comic because each comic takes 2 clicks and two mouse moves to go from strip to strip. It’s the opposite of intuitive design. I recommend: ComicPress, a plugin for WordPress.

Anyway, Mr. Cheese! Ask for him by name, in better back-issue bins everywhere. It’ll be gouda for you to meet him!

- Chris


Urgh: So, I forgot when I started writing this review that I said I’d only recommend stuff that would actually be in stores for you to buy… And I think this is still a couple of weeks away. So, uh, sorry. I’ll probably re-run this review when the book comes out. Hope you don’t mind? I’ll try and come up with a little something that you actually CAN pick up in stores this Wednesday.

moresukine_cover.jpgMoresukine
By Dirk Schwieger
$15.95, 176 pages (with foldout), Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-56163-537-5
Published by NBM Publishing

Reviewed by Christopher Butcher

I was lucky enough to grab an advance-advance copy of Dirk Schwieger’s Moresukine at this summer’s Comic Con International in San Diego, direct from the artist himself. I paid full price, and it’s the only book I got signed while I was there. That should tell you that I liked it. Even though I was already a fan of the work from its serialization online in 2006, I have to admit a little bit of disappointment at the print edition, which saw many of the pages suffer unfortunate cropping and printing problems. Many of the densely-packed pages of art and text were bleeding right off the edges of the page, more-or-less legible but incredibly distracting. But it’s with great joy that I can announce that the review copy that arrived today is free of those problems, which may account for the book’s exceptional lateness (it was originally due in July). It looks like NBM might have gone back to press on this title, to provide a better edition. If so? Bravo for them, for their commitment to quality! And… maybe sometimes it’s better not to get one of the first copies off of the press.

Moresukine is how you pronounce “Moleskin,” as in the notebook, in a Japanese accent. The book is named after the diary that German-in-Japan Dirk Schwieger used to chronicle his adventures in the city of Tokyo, comics-style. But he took the casual observation of his temporary home a step further, offering his comics’ online readers a chance to shape the comic and his coverage in the most direct way possible: tell him what to do, and he will do it, and draw a comic about it. And people did just that from January to June 2006, each week with a new installment and a glimpse into life in Tokyo. We get to see first hand almost as it happened what Harajuku fashion is really like, the terrifying truth about Japanese toilets, and discover the deadly fugu fish in a way heretofore only afforded by The Simpsons.

It’s funny, when I first start to tell people how much I enjoy this strip and this new collection, they do a little politically correct-minded wince at the strip’s title, worried that it might be drawing humour from an uncomfortable place. I understand those concerns, but I can’t really see anything in Schwieger’s stories that are mocking or denigrating Japanese culture; Dirk takes great pains to engage Japanese culture on its merits, whether serene or seemy, and to present his experiences as honestly as possible. It’s really not until the end of the book when the reader is exposed to more… uncomfortable attitudes towards “foreigners” (and let’s not forget: Dirk is the ‘foreigner’ in this book) that you realize the careful way in which Schwieger has presented his experiences in this culture. More on that a little later, though.

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At first flip Moresukine is a bit of a mixed bag…Schwieger’s thick line impressively diagrams the food and architecture that make Japan so alluring, but it seems uneasy and occasionally awkward depicting the human form. Each entry (“assignment”) starts off with a singularly unflattering and perhaps even ugly profile portrait of Schwieger, and considering that both North America and Japan love their clean, attractive human forms when it comes to comics, I can see how it might turn off potential readers. The ugliness of those portraits belies how accomplished Schwieger’s cartooning really is, as Schwieger is called upon to chronicle a startling array of objects, and situations. He displays a high level of craft in his depictions of the intricate folds of origami, or in the heavily-rendered and detailed (and photo-referenced) can of coffee that sits at the center of one assignment. His depictions of his human characters tighten up noticeably when working from photos, and his drawings of a friend taking him to his first okonomiyaki restaurant, or of the trance-music pioneers Sam & Valley are miles away from his cartoonish self-portraits thanks to the photography. In fact, it’s in Schwieger’s illustration of popular Japanese slang that you get a peek at where I feel his true passion may lie; expressions like “Working with your ass on fire” or “All of America wept” are illustrated in a broad, cartoony style more at home in satire rather than reportage. A few stories in, though, and I feel that these competing styles coalesce into a whole. It’s a bit like Tintin or other clear-line art styles, with intense and detailed backgrounds and objects and cartoonish characters laid over top… give it a few stories and you’ll grow to love it.

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Schwieger’s a real formalist too, which serves the reportage aspects of the stories well. In one assignment he spends the night in an infamous Capsule Hotel, a cramped outing for the 6’4” Schwieger told through a similarly cramped 12-panel grid, each panel in the shape of the coffin-like capsule rooms. In another assignment he attempts to diagram the relationships of gender and sexuality in modern Japan, and the book folds open and out: A 4-page map trying to connect masculinity and femininity and male and female genders in a series of overlapping, crossing, and messy lines; as fluid, confusing, and wonderful as the real thing. His depiction of the lofty bliss of eating great sushi is matched side-by-side, panel-for-panel with the creeping horror of ingesting natto, and is particularly effective. Schwieger’s narrative experimentation gets the better of him a couple of times: A tier of panels randomly reading from right to left to fit design rather than function is distracting, the cacophony of imparted cultural knowledge occasionally overwhelming the reader, but these are minor complaints. Ultimately, Schwieger takes great pains to match the interest of the experiences with a similarly interesting visual narrative; another success.

Of course, I’m coming at all of this from the point-of-view of being an avowed Japanophile, and it’s small wonder I feel that the experiences of a Westerner discovering Japan are fascinating…Schwieger’s experience inspired parts of my own trip to Japan last year. But you’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to share in the humour and joy of discovery that Moresukine offers… particularly if you got that Simpsons reference that I made up top. Moresukine is a prism, refracting equal parts fuzzy pop-culture impressions and learned Japanese cultural knowledge into a first-person man-on-the-street travelogue that anyone could enjoy.

A last note to those groaning at the thought of adding another book to their already-stuffed shelves when the content is available freely online; the print edition of Moresukine features Dirk Schwieger making a challenge to his fellow cartoonists, to discover the Japanese culture around them: “Meet a Japanese person in the city you are living in and have a conversation with him or her. Document whatever you deem noteworthy.” A range of poplar webcomics answer his call, and 10 comics responses from Dinosaur Comics, Pokey The Penguin, and American Elf amongst others are reprinted in this book. It makes for a fascinating corollary to Schwieger’s experiments, particularly an extended and “un-politically correct” story from Monsieur Le Chien that makes you realize just how far afield Schwieger’s own presentation of Japanese life could have gone.

- Christopher


Hey there, sorry I missed the Tuesday Review last week. It was a stupid couple of days. I feel pretty good now though. I was weighing a bunch of options for stuff to review for tomorrow, but? NBM just dropped off a copy of Moresukine for me to review, and that’s awesome. I both enjoyed this one and have a bunch to say about it… and NBM have been sending me review copies of stuff for years, so far, for naught. So once I’m done work for the day I’ll get right on it, and with any luck I can introduce all of you to a great book, and maybe appease the nice folks at NBM?

- Christopher