Poplife: Issue #26

Thu, August 1st, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don't get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE's purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.

Already at the halfway point? Jesus. Twenty-six down, twenty-six to go.

BIG HAT is, I hope, close to having an artist. As is my preference, it's someone who has not worked in the field before, someone with a style and grace to his work unfettered by having already worked in the medium. I hope it happens, because the guy I like has a brilliant hand and I look forward to exploiting it. As soon as I know something, you'll know something.

Color me dumb, but I always think it's great to pick up a book and find its pages graced with work so new as to be a revelation.

Damn. Apparently, comics are already cool. That's the biggest thing to get your head around. Comics don't need to be any cooler than they are, because the best of 'em are already superlatively great and cannot be improved upon. More different cool comics are always a plus, but by and large there are plenty of cool comics out there. They already exist as a strange subculture worthy of exploitation by hipster markets.

Example: I went into Abercrombie and Fitch the other day to buy some pants. Apparently, I enjoy pants that are too big for me and have multiple redundant drawstrings all over. My friend David Ivanick mentioned that Grant Morrison was in their new catalogue, so Kel and I picked it up. Sure as shit, there he was. Brian Azzarrello is in there, too, but there's no photo of the guy, only a Risso illo of the core 100 Bullets folk. Grant's pouting in a gray suit, looking every bit the yuppie terrorist King Mob became in INVISIBLES volume three. Grant Morrison is interviewed for two whole pages sandwiched between That Hip New Novelist and Those It Girl Fashionistas.

Fucking crazy, isn't it? Kel looked over to me and said, "Comics are already cool, apparently."

Good lord, the secret is that there is no secret. Comics are cool. Most comics readers aren't. You can't hip them folk up any easier than you could make the Fonz relevant for today's kids. Sometimes you have to lose a few fingers to save the whole hand.

However many times it gets said, by whomever chooses to say it, distribution is what it comes back to, ultimately. That Sturgeonian 10% could always be more robust, sure, but getting the cool shit out of the basements and into the streets is where the battle's ultimately going to be won. Why there weren't Invisibles and NewXmen trades sitting on the A&F counter right next to that catalogue is beyond me.

I guess they were too busy flogging that U-Decide abortion to notice.

Just in case you missed it, Eddie Campbell's Alec quartet has come to a close with the release of After The Snooter two weeks ago. Read back-to-back-to-back-to-back, these books are a marvelous work in autobiography, in comics-as-social-fiction, and in sheer tenacity. Across the span of the four books (The King Canute Crowd, Three Piece Suit, and How to be an Artist complete the set), we walk with Campbell (err… MacGarry, his sometimes and half-hearted alter ego… like if Superman wore Clark Kent's glasses while being super) through early adulthood to middle-agedness in one fell swoop. Snooter is Campbell looking at where he is, how he got there, and what it means ultimately to be an adult.

Kaleidoscopic, sincere, and rich, the Alec quartet collects some of the best comics I've ever read: without hyperbole these books are absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in comics beyond the punching bag pervert suit school. I want to go on and on about these books, but that particular path has been well beaten by better and smarter than I. So with the exception of an After The Snooter review for ARTBOMB next week, the above will just have to do. Someone should put them all in one big book. It is excellent, excellent, excellent work.

Last but not least, Egomania, Campbell's new magazine, was released yesterday. It's one part comic, one part essay and article, and one part The Very Definitive History of Humor Itself. Go buy it.

MTV are jerks. We sent a work order out to do a thing. They sent it back with some notes. Okay, I'm flexible, notes are good, no worries. Reading over them, the last bit of handwritten addendum read that Deliverables, budget, and schedule subject to change at request of Producer.

No, seriously. They wrote on a bit at the end that invalidated every other part that came before it, and played 'aw shucks' when we wanted to know why. We've been going back and forth ever since, their deadline ticking closer and closer, when all we need is someone over there with a sharpie and a spine that's ready to say that, yeah, we'll pay you what we said we'd pay you for what we asked you to do by the date we requested. It's a small, humble request that we're still waiting to get cleared up.

Oh God, do I need a vacation.

Please, someone, explain it to me in small words with lots of graphs and charts: what's the appeal of the nostalgia books? Transformers, Thundercats, Battle of the Planets, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, all of it. I don't get it, I don't see it. When I was a kid, it made sense because I could play with the toys or watch the TV shows and got my fill beyond all that by reading the comics. Today, now, as a twenty-six year old, I just don't get it. I tend to believe the direct market and the audience that it caters to is as far away from me as possible in terms of taste and opinion-- thereby leaving me alone and confused as to just what the hell everyone else is thinking. This isn't a judgment or a condemnation per se so much as a genuine and sincere inquiry. I think there's a micro-focus that you can get into through heavy interaction with comics people online. I think the online community by and large is so vocal and robust in their communications that one experiences an inevitable tunnel vision, skewing one away from The Way Things Really Are-- meaning I would like to believe that A is the truth, when in fact it's really B.

Questions like these get me pissy email.

Readying The Annotated MANTOOTH! for AiT/PlanetLar publication later this year. There were some issue-y type issues that needed to be resolved, and now, barring some ink drying, it appears that they are. The book will collect the entirety of the three 'Tooth shorts, the covers, and intro essays as well as the actual script, new annotations, and a gaggle of insanely great pinups all in one sexy package. The book is being re-toned and touched up by my brilliantly fantastic friend Timmy Fishsticks; the dialogue is being tweaked or, worst case, proofread. This is the book so important that it demands a preface, a foreword, an introduction, and a publisher's note by some of the biggest and best folks in the field, which it has-- and when it's all said and done The Annotated MANTOOTH! will be one magnificent package of stupid.

So, yeah. Prepare yourself mentally and physically. Rex wants to come in your chimney. Err-- down your chimney. Yeah.

The biggest thrill of the past week, comics-making-wise, was talking with Steven Sanders about The Mars Comic What Doesn't Have A Title Because Warren Ellis is an Old Phlegmy Bastard. He's finished the first part more or less entirely, and brought a fat pile of art for me to look at to the coffee shop on 39th the other day. It's gorgeous, theatric stuff. Ornate but sturdy, sweeping but precise. When this book sees the light of day, the next work you see from Steven will be from Humanoids, I swear to god. As he played show and tell, and as I drooled all over his pages, Steven gave me a little gift: a small bottle of Red Bull from Thailand.

Understand that I'm not talking about a can of Red Bull. It's a bottle. Little, brown. It looks almost like cough syrup. Tastes like it, too. It's like Red Bull but thick and syrupy, there's no fizz. I gave Steven his first taste of the Bull last summer; now he's bringing it to me from strange and hidden markets in bottles all bizarrely adorned.

Vicious little stuff in that bottle, let me tell you.

Well, I didn't make it to San Diego this year. Lack of time and lack of money, which is too bad. There's a lot of names I'd like to have faces to connect with, lots of folks I've met online that I'd like to hang out with.

Xenobiotic macro-infections aside, that is. I spoke with Jonah as he was leaving for the show, and asked if he was bringing hand sanitizer. He said he was, but I'm not sure if he thought I was kidding, and so he was kidding back or what.

You know, thinking about it out loud, it seems like swimming through a teeming mass of 60,000 people to meet, what, 60 people is kinda nuts.

Zealots and fanatics, all of you. Stay home, dammit.

Discuss this column on the Poplife Forum or on the Matt Fraction Forum.

Poplife Home | Poplife Archives

 
Poplife

Send This Article to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.