The Basement Tapes: Issue #45

Tue, July 12th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Joe Casey & Matt Fraction, Columnist

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Sometimes, this is what happens when two writers e-mail each other:

An ongoing conversation behind closed doors, equal parts experience, opinion, critique, and outright rambling, THE BASEMENT TAPES are an attempt to present somewhat serious discussion about the somewhat serious business of comicbooks between two writers waist-deep in the perplexing and ever-evolving morass of their own careers.

San Diego! San Diego San Diego! San Diego! San Diego San Diego San Diego San Diego! FUCK!

FRACTION: My lord, has it been a year already?

So apparently San Diego is in, like, fifteen minutes. Thoughts, plans, schemes?

I'm gonna be with Rick and Kieron at booth #2647, for the most part, and maybe hopefully getting some new stuff announced. Other than that, hanging out and catching up with people. It's Nerd Prom! Nerd Summer Camp.

Let's sing songs and make wallets.

CASEY: Man of Action booth #2104, baby. Right in the island with Active Images and AiT/Planet Lar. It's where the action is.

I'm still trying to process that this Con is once again right on our ass. It does seem like it was just last month that we were there. Every year I try to manage it better... to be able to function better within this geekasm bubble of life. I don't know what kind of progress I'm making... but I suppose in a weird way I'm looking forward to the festivities. Certainly, I could think of worse ways to spend five days of my life. Might as well hang out with friends and have a few laughs...

FRACTION: Yeah. Class reunion time, right?

So, rather than, I dunno, do a typical pre-Con kind of thing, I was thinking that we could maybe talk about stuff folks could look for? I think a lot of THE BASEMENT TAPES is reacting to news of the day and broad stroke trends and... well, as freelancers, a lot of times things can look grim. So-- cavalcade of madness aspects aside, maybe we could just go back and forth either recommending stuff that people can find there or just talk about whatever's on our particular wish lists? Talk about the good stuff, you know? The lost stuff, the forgotten stuff. Encourage wanton and reckless spending and maybe celebrate stuff that... I dunno, due to the nature of the column, we maybe don't have opportunity enough to do?

CASEY: Well, I would hope it goes without saying, but I do feel like the dealers -- y'know, the islands of long boxes -- are being shunted off into the shadowy recesses of the Con Center to make way for all the movie studio pavilions. But if you like to hunt down old back issues at cheap prices, this is the absolute Mecca for the Hunt. Perhaps the Hunt of all Hunts.

Then, of course, there's always the most important question that is Con-related... where to get the best drugs? Well, aside from certain creators' hotel rooms, I couldn't say one specific booth where the herb is the most potent, or the pick-me-ups are the most energizing. But they're there, believe me. You can practically saddle up to anyone with a headset and subtlety ask them, "Are you in?" and you'll probably be pointed in the right direction...

As for a wish list? Personally, I'd be down with finding some old ZENITH collections. Y'know, the ones that actually made it out to the stores, back in the day. An old Marvel back issue or ten. You know, the good 70's shit.

What about you...?

FRACTION: Odds and ends. I want to find the first collection of THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR. There's an IRON WOK JAN I missed somehow. I want to see if any of the import DVD dealers has SURVIVE STYLE +5 for less than a jillion dollars. There's a BD book that I read about, then forgot the name, then Tom Spurgeon reminded me of the name, which I've now again forgotten. So I want to nag him and see if he remembers. I don't think it's gonna be a big shopping year for me, honestly...

But, y'know, in case anyone ELSE out there is in my boat-- having that 'wanna buy comics' itch but are a little OD'd on the Summer of Infinite House and want stuff maybe they've not heard of, I have suggestions.

SIN CITY was pretty big this year, and I'd bet more than a few folks checked the books out for the first time. Travel up it's family tree and you'll find the work of Jose Munoz and Carlos Sampayo. Catalan put out a collection of theirs called JOE'S BAR that's absolutely worth seeking out. Or go see your pal and mine Rory Root and see if he brought with him any of those sweet Italian reprints of the material (called NEL BAR for some reason) that Coconino press put out.

I first ran into this stuff when it was running in the early days of spiegelman and Mouly's RAW-- you've never seen so much sweating ink in your life...

CASEY: Yeah, JOE'S BAR is definitely comics worth mainlining.

I gotta' say, though... I feel a bit of apathy abounding when it comes to this year's Con. At least, where the comicbook industry is concerned. I get the sense that we've surrendered the field, that we know it's become a kind of mini-Cannes (only without the actual movies showing, although even that's changing) and that the comicbook-related stuff has become just a whisper in the wind. Nothing comicbook-related will be able to drown out the noise of whatever hot actor Hollywood trucks down to wave and talk in the big room about some movie that probably hasn't even gotten past the pre-viz stage.

So, let me ask you this...? Why do we bother? And, by "we", I mean the collective comicbook industry? What does a massive event like Comic-Con have to offer us...?

FRACTION: Yeah, I... I dunno, I don't care. Is it okay to say I don't care? But, like, I don't care in a way different than the ways you mean. I don't care that the comics drown in a sea of movie-makebelieve. My first trip out there was in '03 by which time the whole affair had gone sideways, you know? I've no other frame of reference for the show other than me trying to swim my way through a throng of humanity there to see Starlet X or Trailer Y to say hello to some pal or the other, you know?

And the comic stuff that DOES get through is gonna be the big loud hype kind of stuff-- not the kind of thing that would really interest me beyond a political landscape sort of thing.

So, I mean, for me, the show's about reconnecting with friends and hanging out on the one hand, and trying to sell books and meet the people that buy them on the other. I guess i think that saying hello and shaking hands and trying to hand-sell my wares and make connections that way-- and since so much of what I do is non-franchise, non-super hero, smaller press stuff it's the best way to get it out there. I don't feel like I can ever have the biggest audience in the world, but if I can make a few sincere connections with they who actually *do* drop their cash on my stuff, then... yeah, mission accomplished. Most of all, it should be fun.

Like, I was telling Sanders (the amazing artist I collaborated with on FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE) yesterday, as he's going to SD for the first time-- you just gotta be able to laugh at it all. If the sight of 15 fat Boba Fetts (Bobas Fett?) waiting to buy 6-dollar slices of pizza isn't funny to you, then you can't laugh at yourself, either.

CASEY: Absolutely. In a weird way, it's about learning to have fun again. Which is just like riding a bike, isn't it? Or like learning how to master the art of the simile.

Yeah, guys like us do have to show up and take our shots at a little effective brand building. And we're the brand. Hell, I'm debuting GDLAND #1 there and I hear the first salvo Liefeld/YOUNGBLOOD remix I worked on will be an exclusive there, so I guess I've got a bit of product to talk about... I just don't want to get too wound up about it, y'know?

For me, aside from the bit of shopping I do (and you're right... the DVD bootleggers can offer up some tasty treats each year), I just want San Diego to be about hanging out with my friends. Even with the Man Of Action guys -- who I talk to all the time -- it'll be a chance to sit and bullshit and laugh for five days about whatever insanity crosses our path.

It's always the same dream for me, I guess... you want these things to be glorified versions of the times you spent as a kid in your hometown comicbook store, hanging out with your friends and the retailer who thought he had good gossip about the industry... that kind of feeling, writ large. There's an innocence to that. I dunno, I find the battle against cynicism -- the industry's, my own -- often comes to some sort of a head at Comic-Con. Sometimes I win and optimism rules the day, sometimes it wins and I come home a little more depressed than I was going down there. The most insane thing about that is that it's such a fine line, y'know? Last year I bought the 60's IRON MAN cartoons (y'know, the ones where they took the drawings right out of the comics and just moved the camera to create the illusion of movement? I fucking LOVE those things!) on DVD and I was as happy as a pig in shit.

Sometimes it's the little things in life...

FRACTION: You're doing a YOUNGBLOOD whatwhat?

You should buy OLDBOY, from the DVD people. Love it or hate it or just kinda laugh at it, like I did, it's absolutely worth what it costs to see The Hallway Scene. 'Nuff said, true believer. Or Kino just put out the Miku Hama trilogy on DVD-- the idea so good i punched myself in the head after seeing THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE... but I digress.

No, seriously, YOUNGBLOOD? Spill, earthman.

CASEY: Oh, please... just head over to Newsarama, where they've got the full scoop.

And, y'know, OLDBOY is on my mental list of things to find. I've heard a lot of good shit about that flick.

Comic-Con used to be a fairly life-changing experience for me. Or at the very least, I could mark epochs of my life by what occurred at the Con each year, and the effect it had on me and, by extension, my career. This is my eleventh year attending, and just seeing that number makes me suddenly lose all sense of self or perspective on the event.

Every year I fantasize about taking the next year off... but it never seems to happen like that. I'm drawn to the Nerd Prom like a moth to a flame. It calls out to me... beckons me with its siren song. And I just can't resist its charms. Comic-Con has undoubtedly made me its bitch.

FRACTION: Yeah, I mean-- it really is like prom. You don't have to go, and lots don't, but if you don't, you have to suffer through it being the number one topic of conversation for the next three fucking weeks.

And, too, you get to get really messed up in the hotel afterwards.

I'm not terribly good at networking. I like that at least at San Diego hanging out and smoking cigarettes on a rooftop until three in the morning constitutes "networking." Especially since comics-making is such a solitary thing, you know? It's nice to go and be able to be social and shoot the shit for a change. I guess I feel compelled to go because... well, all the people I want to shoot the shit with tend to be there. It's like a party of convenience.

CASEY: Well, party on, Wayne. Tomorrow, it begins...

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