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May 20, 2011

We need better and fewer comics, delivered on a tight schedule

Brian Hibbs at his best. Tilting at Windmills: The Self-Strangulation of the Direct Market - Comic Book Resources
It kills me, it literally kills me as I watch publisher after publisher, time and time again, walk up to their customers and say to their face, "Please stop buying my comics!". Whether that's feast-or-famine shipping, completely blowing the scheduling on new lines, not balancing a production schedule over the month, whatever. Behavior that we tolerate in the DM would never ever fly in any other medium. Can you imagine a TV show succeeding with the kind of stop-and-start, constant change-in-scheduling kind of production that we have in comics? No, the mass audience wouldn't be interested in those kinds of shenanigans. Again, it would be one thing if we were dealing with a market of big hits, in a healthy economy, where the losses from the dumb stuff could be ameliorated. But we're not in a market of big hits any longer. We've lost most of our buffer. The DM is interesting, because we also have the book format to work with as well, but the flat reality is that the majority of trade paperback (or, hardcover for that matter) releases have no legs whatsoever. We've completely overproduced reprints to the point that a significant percentage of people use it as their excuse to not buy something, but when the collection finally comes out you sell maybe one or two copies, then you never sell another one ever again. . . . I don't know how other retailers feel about this, but I'm feeling squeezed by both too much, as well as inferior, product, and it has caused sales to drop to a point of sludgy profitability. And while a correction in the general economic climate might improve that single-handedly, it's a pretty awful business plan to have to depend on outside forces to turn things around.

May 13, 2011

Chester Brown's "Paying For It" and the objectification of women

Confession time, I have never liked Chester Brown's work. I read a bunch of his stuff when I graduated from university as well the works of friends Joe Matt and Seth. It never really stuck with me. Because while I loved Seth's WAR ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD--a memoir of squatting in NYC--the works of Joe Matt and Chester Brown never reached beyond their own navels, or in this case, cocks. They are great storytellers and cartoonists for sure, but to what end? Do we need yet another memoir about a socially-awkward guy visiting prostitutes and treating them like interchangeable stress relief machines? No. I don't think we do. The creepiest part here is that Brown goes out of his way to depersonalize the prostitutes: he removes their faces. 'Paying For It' Without Regret: An Intriguing Graphic Memoir Of Prostitution : Monkey See : NPR
Brown believes that prostitution is a logical and healthy choice for him, and the women he engages, to make. His friends disagree, for a host of reasons. Paying For It is, at its cool, affectless heart, an argument for a deeply unpopular position, and as such it seems destined to become one of the most controversial memoirs of the year, graphic or otherwise. . . . Because again and again, a puzzling but doubtlessly intentional tension arises between Brown's text and his imagery. Consider, for example, his stated aim to depict the many women he's paid to have sex with him as accurately as possible, using as much of their own words as he can recall from his notes. Yet, to protect their identities, he changes their names, hair color and — in his most unsettling and fascinating choice — he depicts them with their heads turned away from the reader. This, of course, cannot help but reduce these very different women, and their stories, to a series of literally faceless, interchangeable objects. Brown knows this, just as he knows that by continually choosing to depict the sex as he does — so that we suddenly find ourselves at a far remove, gazing down at two tiny copulating figures suspended in inky blackness — he's causing us to view the sex as clinical, joyless and repetitive.