Poplife: Issue #9

Thu, April 4th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

Send This to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.

I AM ONE OF THE PEOPLE PRAYING FOR GEORGE BAILEY

They will tell you that you cannot make a difference, that your voice doesn't matter, and that you should keep your opinion to yourself. They will tell you that no matter how much you yell, you will not, can not, and must not be heard. They will tell you that you know nothing, can do nothing; that you are nothing. They will call you insignificant, they will call you nave; they will call you children and pay you no heed.

They will grind you into the dirt if you let them. They will relegate you to basements, to attics, and to damp, dark corners if you give them the chance. They will dismiss your opinions as uninformed and useless, they will render you mute and impotent.

They say you do not matter.

I say Fuck Them.

I say we burn it down and knock it over-they can't stop us. I say we are all bullets waiting to be fired-they can't dodge us.

And now let's pull the trigger and prove them wrong. Let's show them how a mountain can be made from small stones.

Long story short: a distribution company called LPC has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. This allows for a fiscal restructuring while simultaneously allowing business to continue-and LPC happens to be in the business of distributing Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks to bookstores. LPC do this on behalf of just about every publisher, save Marvel, DC, Fantagraphics, and Avatar… I think, anyway. I might be wrong there.

LPC assure the world they'll be up and running again soon, but the problem comes in the shape of Money Owed to publishers that cannot afford to be left in the lurch. Publishers that make sure vital, exciting, groundbreaking sequential works get out there into the world are left in a very large lurch right now.

[Top Shelf Productions]In Marietta, Georgia, a guy named Chris Staros and his pal Brett Warnock have started a publishing company called Top Shelf Productions. These two guys have released some of the finest graphic novels and trade paperbacks our medium has to show for itself. They're responsible for getting From Hell, Eddie Campbell's Alec books, Pete Sickman-Garner's Hey, Mister! comics, the sublimeGood-Bye, Chunky Rice, Alex Robinson's why-didn't-more-people-read-this-and-talk-about-it Box Office Poison, the works of all-star comics sociopath (and I mean that lovingly, I really do) James Kochalka, The Soap Lady from the divine mind and hand of Ms. Renee French; the dreamy, strange Strangehaven by Gary Spence-Millidge, and many, many, many more notable, remarkable comics out into the world.

Top Shelf Productions is one of the publishers dependant on the now-fiscally-restructuring LPC. Since LPC have had this-let's be polite-hiccup in their finances, a check for $20,000.00 has bounced to Top Shelf, causing Top Shelf in turn to bounce an estimated 30-40 subsequent checks written to creators, printers, etc. Top Shelf is also owed about $80,000.00 from LPC.

Top Shelf Productions needs your help, right NOW.

I don't mean they need your help to make things easier for them in a time of hard cash crunching or that they need your help to raise their profile-Top Shelf needs your help to keep their doors open, their creators fed, and their books shipping. LPC assures all of their creditors that they will get paid sooner or later… but many LPC-dependant publishers, like Top Shelf, can't afford the later. Which means that, for the time being, Top Shelf books should be ordered straight from them, and not through your retailer-the money wont get to Chris and Brett for 90 days at least. So direct action. Let's go to the source.

(Sure, there are other publishers out there that are hurt by LPC. But I don't really know them. And I know they're not run by two guys named Chris and Brett out of a house in Marietta, Georgia.)

Let's order some comics. Help get money in Top Shelf's hands so they can weather this fiscal fuckbomb. You don't have to order a hundred dollars worth of stuff, or even fifty. If you have a little extra bread in your slacks this week, give Top Shelf a try. Every little bit helps.

Check out the wares these guys are peddling, and you'll see that they're a boon and bastion for this medium and this industry. There are things at Top Shelf for all tastes and all types-all you have to do is look.

If for no other reason than to Prove Them Wrong. If for no other reason than to show something positive radiating out of comics readers all over the world. If for no other reason than to come together with a singular focus, a singular purpose, a loose confederacy of people scattered across the Internet being seen, heard, and felt by powers larger and stronger than any of us individually. We're not useless. We're not powerless. We can move mountains when we like.

Well, folks, I'd like to move a mountain right now. And I'd like you to help out.

First off, you can go to the Top Shelf site and order their entire catalog of books straight from the source: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/topshelf/. You can order online, or call Chris directly at 770.425.0551.

Or if you're looking for a little guidance and suggestion, my associates at ARTBOMB.NET set up a Crisis Shopping Cart (man, that sounds like a comic, doesn't it?). At our site, you can read our reviews and order Top Shelf books directly; we're even throwing in free ARTBOMB t-shirts (designed by the hardest of hardcore, Brian Channel Zero, Cous Cous Express, Public Domain Wood) with every order. You can even check out PDF previews for many of the books below.

Here's a sampling of how ARTBOMB found what's really only a handful of the Top Shelf Catalog, with more to come from ARTBOMB in the next few days.

[Abe]Abe: Wrong For All The Right Reasons, by Glenn Dakin.

…ABE is something really special. When you read the stories in ABE, they are so spontaneous that you can imagine Dakin whipping them out as soon as the idea smacks him in the head, and then move onto the next one. This is the artist at his purest. ABE collects over ten years of such insight and experience, and is a remarkable achievement in autobiographical comics…

[Alec]Alec: The King Canute Crowd, by Eddie Campbell

…This is one of the great instinctual masters of the medium taking everyday life and showing it being lived, showing people achieving and losing and changing and loving and hating, making the living of life glorious and riveting - life as we remember it when we look back on it.

You need this book because it's one of the rare things that shows you what comics are really capable of…

[Alec: How To Be An Artist]Alec: How To Be An Artist, by Eddie Campbell

…This is the story of Eddie Campbell's journey from the self-published mini-comics scene in 1980s London to the hard crash of the "new comics" in the early 1990s. It's also the story of him meeting, marrying, and moving to Australia with his wife. And the battle of attempting to show her bum to the bus that passes their window every day without having his own pale Scottish arse revealed to the innocent passengers instead.

…I think Eddie's experiences as a struggling creator are universal, but someone who knows of Alan Moore, Hugo Pratt and the general arc of the graphic novel over the last twenty years will relish the insider's perspective. In any case, Eddie Campbell has his powers about him here, skillfully weaving the personal and the documentary into a warm, funny and perceptive work.

[Alec: Three Piece Suit]Alec: Three Piece Suit, by Eddie Campbell

…It's a love story, in the vein of Lolita and The Graduate, and you'll either come away thinking Campbell's a fearless genius or that he's completely lost his mind. Either way, Kitchen is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining, poignant, and, if I may say, spontaneous works in autobiographical comics.

These are charming, insightful works that might teach a life lesson or two. And with titles as "The Author Is Coerced Into Doing 'Real' Work, Like They Used To Do In Olden Times" and "The Pyjama Girl's Big Night Out", you know you're in for a real treat.

[Bacchus: Immortality Isn't Forever]Bacchus: Immortality Isn't Forever by Eddie Campbell.

BACCHUS is Eddie Campbell's answer to mainstream comics - a fun-hearted departure from his poignant autobiographical Alec tales, it's undoubtedly my favorite work to come from the resurgent British comics scene of the eighties. With these early stories, Campbell creates something that looks like an adventure serial, is at times a biting satire, and often a journey into historical legend. Campbell's the Seijun Suzuki of comics and BACCHUS is his Branded To Kill, a self-styled masterpiece that defies description.

[Bacchus: The Gods of Business]Bacchus: The Gods of Businessby Eddie Campbell

…The Telchines, one-time merchants to the gods turned modern day yuppie business tycoons, are determined to claim the power of The Eyeball Kid, the omnipotent slayer of Zeus (with nineteen eyes!). Standing in their way is Joe Theseus, the legendary hero of Minos, now the heartless, backstabbing, miserable boss of a global crime syndicate. Bacchus, the titular character who plays a background role in this volume, says it best, "The mantles of the gods have been passed down to a bunch of scallywags."

[Bacchus: Doing The Islands With Bacchus]Bacchus: Doing The Islands With Bacchusby Eddie Campbell

…Whether its interpretations of classic Greek myths, intriguing vignettes on the subject of wine making, or the occasional poignant morality tale, DOING THE ISLANDS is a tour-de-force of loosely connected comic shorts. In many ways, the format of the book, dictated by the fact that many of these stories were originally published in different magazines by a variety of publishers, enables Campbell to display a wide range of storytelling techniques that few artists in the medium are capable of.

And, yes, there's a sardonic pagan sacrifice orgy tale in the middle of the book. If that won't encourage you to try this, then nothing will.

[From Hell]From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

…To pigeonhole FROM HELL as just about Jack the Ripper does Moore and Campbell's work a great disservice, however. Across its pages, Jack becomes a death-metaphor for the modern era, weaving a legacy of madness and bloodshed across gaslight streets and the sullen masses living therein; indeed, across time itself. A polemic on the nature of murder and violence for the 20th century, FROM HELL is an intricate watch-work of a book, steeped in soot.

[Hey, Mister! The Fall Collection]Hey, Mister! The Fall Collection, by Pete Sickman-Garner

…I laughed so hard at HEY MISTER! that about two drops of pee came out.

[Pistolwhip]Pistolwhip, by Matt Kindt and Jason Hall

…PISTOLWHIP feels like an anachronism, like a book that slipped out of a seedier (if somehow sweeter) time unexplained and unexpected. PISTOLWHIP is a kind of Pulp Fiction for the radio age, a period-noir that succeeds in being steeped in the past without succumbing to the nostalgic cloying bygone-era tales normally fall victim to - even the artwork is a loving throwback to the Peter Arno style of deco elegance.

[Strangehaven: Arcadia]Strangehaven: Arcadia, by Gary Spence-Millidge

STRANGEHAVEN has a slow, drifting sense of time. It's a softer, stranger, more insidious, cider-drinking cousin to the great British TV serial The Prisoner. It doesn't stand up and shout at you and run around like Patrick McGoohan. That's not Gary's style. Gary sits you down with a pint and mutters a while and eventually you realise he's tangled you up in a story you can't easily get out from. Like STRANGEHAVEN, the ties are invisible and sneak up on you and are very, very binding…

[Strangehaven: Brotherhood]Strangehaven: Brotherhood by Gary Spencer-Millidge

The hypnotic trick of STRANGEHAVEN - a very English book, but entirely accessible to anyone who reads English - is that there is a main plotline, but after a while you just don't care.

So we drift through Gary Spencer Millidge's spectral English village, following the clandestine machinations of a secret society and wondering what they have to do with the apparent loop circling the town that keeps Alex Hunter within it no matter what... and suddenly we realise the trick that's been pulled on Alex Hunter has been pulled on us. We can't leave. And don't particularly want to. We're locked in and we want to know more...

Okay. Next week, we'll go back to your regularly scheduled adventures of America's Favorite New Comics-Writing Gallivanting Jackass, I promise. But this was more important. Thank you for reading, and thanks for helping out. You're gonna move a mountain.

Poplife Home | Poplife Archives

 
Poplife