Monday, March 29, 2010

El Maestro

Hello everyone!

I'd just like to share some background on an important documentary - in the works. The subject of the documentary is the Puerto Rican social revolutionary, Pedro Albizu Campos. Before being unjustifiably incarcerated, Albizu led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party towards the island's sovereignty and political freedom from the United States. Revered by respected Latin American leaders including; Gabriela Mistral, Simon Bolivar, and Ernesto Guevara, Albizu was a man of unwaivering spirit. Check out the link above to learn more about this world class hero.




Wednesday, March 24, 2010

City... PopCult @ Reggie's

Hello everyone!

Reggie's Rock Club, in Chicago IL, is Ground Zero for post C2E2 convention parties the weekend of April 16-18, 2010.

Friday, April 16 Reggie's is hosting what I'm sure will be a night of insanity. There will be Booze, Broads (Superhero-themed Burlesque Show) & Bands... Comics, Original and (possibly) Live Art for sale. This event kicks off at 8pm.

Sat & Sun, April 17-18 Reggie's will be hosting PopCult and the 'OhNo' crew.

Read more about the C2E2 convention by clicking on the title above.

This is a great way to kick off the 2010 convention season. Don't miss out! I hope to see you there.



Thursday, March 18, 2010

City... Pulp & The Eye: 2

Hello everyone!

Here is Part 2 of my interview with Books. In this part of our interview, we dive deeper into what the future of comics may hold - as well as where/how Evileye Books fits. I suggest checking out the sites by clicking the titles above or finding the links to the right. Enjoy!

AR: You have some truly exciting things going on. And (it seems) the future holds a lot more excitement, which makes a perfect segue into my next question...

In what direction do you believe the conversation/industry is moving?

MM: There are a two pressure points I like to gauge.
One is the social pressure from the popularity of comics-based movies. It is forcing a bit of a change in the perception of comics and comics fans. In a sense, fanboys and girls are having to grow up in front of the media. This is part of what gives credence to comics lit like the new graphic novel, Stitches, for example. So we've begun to expand both the public and self-image of comics away from the old cape-wearing, primary-colored heroes stereotype toward a more realistic —dare I say post modern- take. We're growing up, which presents an entirely different set of problems for comics. But that's for another time.

Another force building steam is technology within comics. In terms of its effect on old mediums like print, this will be the year defined by two buzzwords: Tablets and Paywalls. At least fifty different tablet computers will be introduced into the consumer space this year, the most anticipated being Apple's iPad. This presents a potential new delivery channel for comics, one that I think dovetails with the aging comics demographic and just may well save the periodical format. The social relief felt by having comics neatly archived and organized inside a portable device where fanboys can finally sit at a café to read them without the fear of being laughed at can't be underestimated.

**Note: Which also harkens the need for change in general public attitude in regards to comics as a form of literature, rather than the past time of children. - AR

As an aside, digital comics pose interesting questions for the Direct Market, among them a navel-gazing exercise of what their inherent value is to comic book fans. I think the DM will have to look again at how to recapture the idea of collectables; how to tap into the distribution of digital comics; and how to make their stores more engaging.

AR: I've heard this point-of-view before. I think it was none other than Stan Lee who put a lot of capital into digital comics before it went belly up. What has changed or is changing about digital publishing since the collapse of that venture?

MM: The delivery channel. In this case, the emergence of portable, highly-capable computer-like devices. Smartphones and now tablets. They bring back a semblance of the intimacy that we all feel when we read print comics or graphic novels. In the aggregate, they will be more ubiquitous than comics and comics shops themselves. Even if you only capture a fractional share of mobile device users to read your comics, it would likely be a market larger than all comic book shop patrons combined because the pie of mobile device users is so much larger.

Tablets will bring with them a sea-change in how we value comics and other traditional print mediums. On this platform, we see the clash between the crowd that clamors for the Internet to be free and the reality that content is hard and expensive to produce. The tablet will encourage the evolution of our definitions of what a newspaper or a book can be. Experiments will surface to make digital comics more than just flipping through "pages" on a screen. Motion comics are an early experiment, but they fail because they feel like bad animation. This innovation will help preserve the value of paying for comics as well as drive more diversity in pricing and products.

AR: True. I do agree, to a certain extent, some of that failure is due to the cheap trick of motion comics. But there are still many people who simply love printed literature.

I also agree public perception of the medium has to change. But would you agree the comics community, itself, has/is doing little to improve the image of comics outside the local comic shop? I mean, capes'n'tights is a dirty word. Still, I don't think little Johnny is ready for Grrl Scouts, Heavy Liquid, American Elf or Blankets yet. Erik Larsen has been railing against updating Spider-man and Superman to suit the tastes of adult readers. What are your thoughts?

MM: With regard to kids and comics, part of the trouble the Direct Market faces is the aging customer base, which begets adult-oriented comics, which tends to exclude a younger reader, one that is serviced well by Scholastic with BONE and manga for girls. A bright spot, though, is the recent wave of kid's titles from Disney published by BOOM! Studios. But now that Marvel is owned by Disney, I wonder how long BOOM! can keep that relationship going. That, of course, presents a new opportunity for the indie segment to pick up the ball (just as it did in the eighties and nineties) to introduce comics for a more mature audience, today, indies may be in a great position to introduce a whole new wave of children-oriented comics. AMULET is a good recent example.

AR: James Kochalka has also been on the frontline of indies producing children-oriented (comic) books, such as; Squirrelly Gray and Johnny Boo. So there is definitely a move to create new readership. And these, obviously work better in print... creating opportunities for adults and children to sit down a read together.

MM: On the matter of exposing comics to a broader base, I suspect a seismic event could occur if John Lasseter and Joe Quesada ever get together to do a Marvel-based Pixar film. If that happens, the marketing push alone could ensure the creation of an entirely new generation of readers interested in comics. That would present a very interesting opportunity -- and problem -- for the Direct Market retailers. I wonder if they would be ready to move beyond their geek underground status. It would also present an interesting situation for comics publishers across the board, whom have been focused on the older comics reader.

AR: Now, that would be very exciting. There is certainly an abundance of animation-influenced artists out there the establishment has had trouble introducing through standard channels. I can only think of a small handful who've enjoyed success. But even they have met opposition. New comics could be created to feed Pixar animated features which would, in turn, deliver a broader reader base to the comics.

Many of the 'perception' challenges we're citing here are bigger issues in the US than in - let's say - France and Japan. Would you agree with that statement? In much of Europe and Japan, comics are not merely a geek's game or just another form of entertainment for children. With the exception of the hipster/indie readers, this is the painted picture of comics here. What have Europe and Japan done differently... without the use of technology? And do you find yourself taking a similar approach with Evileye Books while embracing the digital?

MM: I can't speak very intelligently about European comics or manga from a business perspective, other than to say that I wish we had the broad acceptance in the US they enjoy across demographic groups there. Then we'd have as many comics shops as Barnes & Nobles and coffee houses with comics racks.

AR: I don't know about other cities, but indepedent coffee houses, being community-oriented, are very comics friendly. They encourage local creators selling their wares on their shelves. I'd love to see more of that happen.

Anyway, if I'm reading you and the marketplace correctly, the Digital Age may be the last hope for adult comics. To be sure, there are some comics-friendly co-ops and coffee houses in the US... but not nearly as many handheld digital devices potentially owned by domestic consumers. And that is a difficult point to argue against. This, of course, explains the need for progressive and aggressive outfits like Evileye Books.

MM: The thing about open markets is that any variable, no matter how small, can change the course of the market. So I would be weary of phrases like "last hope".

However, the evidence I do see is that US comics do not have the critical mass they need at the retail level to be a cultural force. They either need to move beyond the Direct Market or the DM has to evolve to embrace more demographic segments. The realistic scenario is a LOT of both. Until that happens, the rise of digital technologies like tablets offer an opportunity for comics publishers to reach audiences in a bigger pond, as it were, than the DM. The potential is in the critical mass of a new kind of reader.

AR: And maybe comics will be devoid of some of the negative stigmas mentioned earlier when we see that "new kind of reader". Are you hitting the convention circuit in 2010? Making your rounds at bookstores?

MM: The more we look at the current comics convention model, the more we believe it's broken, and does a disservice to indie publishers. So it's an ongoing study to see which events, if any, make sense for us.

AR: Which is bizarre when you consider how many indie publishers hand over their hard-earned cash to support the conventions. Of course, the relatively recent rise of the live art aftershows, hosted by indie creators, is a creative approach to promotion outside the convention hall.

AR: Do you have any parting words for readers?

MM: These are exciting times for comics and publishing. I'm glad we're around in this time in history to see it happen and play a part in it.

AR: Thank you! It's always good to see positive and creative approaches in the evolution of the medium. I'm glad your a part of it too. Best of luck!

Make sure you check in at and Evileye Books regularly for reviews, updates, submission opportunities, and the general excitement indie comics are generating.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

City... Pulp & The Eye: 1

Hello everyone!

I'm back with what is both a return to form and a change of pace for my Cream City Conversations series. Appropriately enough, I'm using the new tone of these pieces to introduce a relatively new publisher. This 'conversation' will be posted in parts. I hope breaking this article up in this manner will afford me the chance to deliver deeper insight to the process behind the literary force of comics. Enjoy!

AR: Hello. For the benefit of those who don't know you, please introduce yourself.

MM(Cue voice echo machine): I am known by many names; Aaron, Nathaniel, Ommus, A.N., even my given name (Mike), and sometimes by names that should ever be uttered to a sensitive human being like myself. But why I use a pen name is a long story best left for a night drinking Knob Creek with the fellas.

I am Editorial Director of Evileye Books, which publishes both graphic novels and prose fiction books. I also started a few years ago.

AR: I've taken the liberty of writing about, in the past. What was the inspiration behind that project?

MM: It wasn't so much inspiration as frustration. I'm a comics fanboy through and through. I enjoy all kinds of comics; capes, underground, noir, horror, comics lit—all of it. So I consume a great deal of media that talks about their creators and the stories themselves. The usual suspects. I won't name them here because they are good guys and have actually gotten better.

But for a while, I noticed there was very little news coverage, review or commentary about comics not published by the Big Two. When it was covered it was because there was some sort of connection to the bigger publishers, like when a Brian Michael Bendis puts out POWERS through Image, but writes for Marvel... that sort of thing.

I grew frustrated so I decided to launch a blog myself to talk about comics from everybody except the Big Two. For quite a few years the loyal five or six followers of the blog have kept me going.

But a lot has changed since then. The mainstream online comics news media are now doing a decent job of covering independent creators and titles, though I wish they would do more. As the media has changed, and my goals and interests have grown, is about to change as well.

AR: So, to summarize the mission of is to give mainstream style/quality coverage and reviews to independently published comics/graphic novels. Would that be a fair statement?

MM: Not at all. Its goal has never been to be a copycat of other sites... it has always been far too personal for that. And, anyway, there are many sites that provide news about comics, and do a great job at it—better than we ever could.

In that sense, we're not looking to compete. Think of the site as part of a larger conversation within the community of comics and their creators. We don't want to be the one that takes over a conversation at a party; we just want to add an interesting dimension to it, one that, when we started, was missing.

AR: Got it. And this part of the conversation would be the one sites like Sequential Tart, The Comics Journal, and the Daily Cross Hatch have also played a great role in in developing?

MM: Yes, and we can include the bigger comics news sites as well. Of late, they've been paying more attention to the indie segment, and they've done a decent job of covering it.

AR: I'm aware of the fact has enjoyed the support of well respected mainstays such as Jim Mahfood and Sam Hiti. How did those relationships develop? Do you think reaching out to well known indie mavericks has added street cred to and/or contributed to your success?

MM: You mention some great creators. I met Jim a few years ago at Wizard Chicago. I've never met Sam. In both cases, I approached them by email, asking first for help in providing masthead images for the launch of the site.

As for street cred, I'm afraid I don't think much about that. We like comics for their cultural, literary, aesthetic and entertainment value, and we talk about the ones we find intriguing without trying to talk about everything published or be the end-all site of comics. Hopefully, there are a few others out there that feel the same way.

AR: Definitely. You mentioned change is in store for Are there any details you can share with us?

MM:Two key events have come to pass that affect the original mission of

The first is that today there are many—and I mean many—websites that now cover non-mainstream comics very well. Some of this is due to the Hollywood effect of bringing attention to comics; some the bookstore effect of having graphic novels available to a broader consumer segment than the Direct Market. And some of it is due to the critical success of an emerging segment of comics, Comics Lit (books like the award-winning American-Born Chinese, Blankets, Footnotes in Gaza, and so many others). Our original goal of giving light to indie comics and their creators is still valid. But simply reviewing indie comics is no longer as unique as it used to be. As the comics conversation evolves from the almost embryonic stage of simply getting news out there, the challenge becomes how do we evolve our own contribution to the conversation?

AR: That is a very good point, and a grand task to take on. Cream City Conversations started from much of same frustration you mentioned earlier. We decided to spotlight creators in which we believed to take the conversation to the heart of who these people are. I think this insight is important... in much the same way the Abstract Expressionist and, to a larger degree, the Pop Art movements empowered gallery patrons.

You mentioned a second key event?

MM: The second event is the launch of Evileye Books, which takes my commitment to comics and prose fiction from being a hobby to a professional level. I've raised the bar for ourselves to produce work worth reading... that entertains... but also contributes to the tradition of the genres we publish. So, for example, when we got together with horror writer, Mike Oliveri to launch THE PACK novels and comics, we knew we wanted not just to publish werewolf or horror books. With the series we want to contribute to the popular mythos of werewolves by exploring areas that have never been touched upon. It's the same with the horror genre: we knew we didn't want to just publish slasher fiction. We want to experiment with the blending of genres to create something new, and hopefully interesting, which is why the prose book series of THE PACK is a mashup of the supernatural/noir mystery/thriller genres.

AR: Evileye Books. I was surprised to see a new publisher on the scene during trying economic times. What kinds of different things are you doing to promote longevity?

MM: Evileye Books has been in the making for twenty years. The problem has been timing and waiting for technology to catch up to the industry needs. Publishing has been broken for decades. But it's like the oil industry, it's engrained in our economy and the players are not to thrilled with the idea of killing their cash cows. So they "milk" the system until they absolutely have to change. The moment of change is here.

The key problem has always been the aggregate cost of issuing a book title because original content is expensive to produce (it begins to sound like a litany, doesn't it?). The second problem has been that, despite the number of bookstores filled with books, the distribution system is highly inefficient, in that it works well for new titles, but is not so great for backlist and specialty titles. That inefficiency adds to costs related to publishing a book.

When so much of the revenue of a cover price goes to pay for production and distribution, it's no wonder a writer's royalties have been so abysmal. But, you know, nature abhors a vacuum. So here come and the digital frontier of e-books and a new platform to read them on, and like Emeril likes to say, BAM! you have a new paradigm shift in the making. Evileye Books was launched because publishing is finally making sense again, for publishers, writers and readers.

AR: We'll tackle the impact of the Digital Age in our next segment.