Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ten Things for Tuesday, September 16th

I just wrapped up a special Fall Preview column for this week's "When Words Collide," my mind is in list mode. So here are ten things I'm thinking about on this Tuesday in September.

1. I like Steve Ditko's Static.

2. The last two DC hardcovers I've purchased both have wrinkled pages on the inside, like water or humidity was trapped inside the books before shrinkwrapping. I had to return the first book because it was so bad, but the replacement wasn't much better. And then, last week, I found that my new Batman: The Black Glove hardcover had basically the same problem. Anyone else running into this with DC hardcovers?

3. David Foster Wallace was one of my first favorite authors as an adult. I picked up Infinite Jest soon after graduating from college, and although I still think it's an unrestrained mess, it made me fall deeply in love with postmodern American fiction. I always preferred Wallace's non-fiction writing, although the stories collected in Oblivion were powerful and vibrant in a way that few other fiction writers have ever matched. Wallace pointed me to Barthelme, and for that I am eternally grateful, and I still haven't shaken my love for footnotes. It's sad to go back and watch Wallace's Charlie Rose interview and see him struggling to find a sense of purpose in his life, even when he had achieved everything he thought he wanted in life.

4. All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder doesn't go far enough into its own vicious absurdity, and censorship is to blame, it seems.

5. The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics is pretty amazing, but when the hell am I going to have time to read it? (It's glaring at me from across the room.)

6. If I had to rank superhero artists who debuted in the past five years, Rafael Albuquerque would be at the top.

7. I don't know if the game holds up as any good now, but I really liked playing Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle with my wife when we were younger and had more free time and less kids running around the house.

8. Greg Horn's art doesn't help make reading superhero comics any less embarrassing.

9. John Byrne writes, "The notion of 'waiting for the trade' has, I am sure, had a negative impact on the sales of the monthly books. How much more negative impact comes from those trades being available in libraries? Not only are they reliably on the shelf from month to month in a library, they are free! Taken from the most cold hearted and mercenary stance (which is where I think we really have to be in this crumbling business!) are libraries a Good Thing for comics?" My question is: what libraries is he visiting? My local library has a wall of graphic novels, but not a vast selection. Does your local library have an impressive graphic novel section that you can rely upon? Personally, I really hate reading library books, and I don't know why.

10. My kids prefer Gene Wilder to Johnny Depp.


Kris Krause said...

3. I've been wanting to read something by David Foster Wallace for some time now. I didn't know him beyond the good words I heard about his work, but the loss of yet another creative person by suicide saddens me.

9. I've always wondered why the book industry doesn't go after libraries the same way the music industry or the comics industry goes after downloading. Could it be that sampling work actually brings in more business because it's risk-free exposure?

Sure, downloading is not quite the same as a library, but at the same time, if I had to pay for every book I've ever read, I wouldn't be all that interested in reading. There are very few authors I am willing to take a chance on and just buy one of their books without reading some of their work. I've read a lot of books for free thanks to libraries, but I've also purchased many more books than I would have without the books I read for free. So, regardless of graphic novel quantity at your local library, I don't think this would hurt the comic industry in the long run but actually widen its audience a bit.

Matthew E said...

There are two local libraries I visit semiregularly. One has a whole lot of TPBs, but they don't get new ones in particularly often, and I can't figure out the criteria by which they do get them in. (They don't have The Dark Knight Returns (although they have many copies of the sequel!), Watchmen or Kingdom Come. They have many copies of volume II of New Frontier, but only one copy of volume I. They do, however, have Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality, Pride of Baghdad, and the Jeff Smith Shazam! Monster Society of Evil.) The other library has a small and pathetic selection of TPBs that has never increased in my memory. I'd never rely on either one to satisfy my comic-reading needs.

Molly said...

I wrote something about my reaction to David Foster Wallace's death on my blog, if you would like to read it. (Because who doesn't want to read about inescapable mental anguish?)

irv said...

3. love dfw, loved ij. didn't think it was a mess. probably the only thousand page novel that made me want to reread the second i finished. there's (obviously) so much in there, and it's impossible to realize what's crucial until you've already read it. my favorite (partial) line is/was: "It was when...she'd first known she liked this more than anyone can like anything and still live."

my first (morbid) thought when i heard the news was "i wonder if his suicide note was 57 pages long with 13 pages of end notes?"

9. john byrne is a douche. not that i'm a huge fan (and haven't been since he split with claremont, way back in the day, but this is one reason it's best to separate the artist from the art. obviously ownership is what separates libraries from digital media downloads (esp. music/video). personally, i'm astounded given the price of comics relative to the quality of most (mainstream, superhero) comics and the ready availability (at no cost) of digital downloads of those comics, that an audience of buyers exists that can sustain the industry. anyway, i go to a fair amount of different libraries and the selection varies across the board.

Jer said...

I've always wondered why the book industry doesn't go after libraries the same way the music industry or the comics industry goes after downloading.

Because the right of First Sale makes it perfectly legal to purchase copies of books (and other material as well, I might add) and loan them out to the general public. The record industry was fighting libraries on this for some time back in the 90s (they also went after used music dealers) because they thought it was cutting into their profits. They got their knuckles rapped pretty hard and have toned down their idiocy since.

And Byrne suggesting that libraries are hurting comics just makes me cry a little inside. He probably also doesn't like the fact that among my group of friends we actively loan each other the copies of the monthly comics and various trades that we purchase - to the point where there's very little overlap in what we purchase any more. And he probably doesn't like the fact that a good portion of my actual trade paperback purchases these days come used from Half-Price Books. And I know that he doesn't like the fact that I take a stack of comics at my local Borders and read them all in their coffee shop without paying for a single one of them.

None of those things are in any way unethical, illegal or even morally dubious. The closest one is the Borders example, but since they are actively encouraging folks to grab a magazine or two and sit down with a coffee, I think it's safe to say that even that one isn't going to be sending me to Hell anytime in the near future. Comics are freaking expensive these days and the entertainment you get out of them is a terrible deal - with most writers I get about 5 minutes of entertainment for $3. (That's why I read a lot of Grant Morrison these days - his books generally take me longer to read, benefit from multiple readings, and I can always feel pretty assured that I'm going to get at least the cover price in entertainment value from a single issue).

BTW - my local library (Columbus, Ohio) carries a HUGE selection of graphic novels - both "mainstream" superhero and actual mainstream work. And because of that I've actually gone out and purchased books that I've read in the library because I knew that I would want them on my shelves later. "American Born Chinese" was the most recent one I can remember that I've done that way. Honestly, if the comics market is so fragile that it can't handle being in libraries, it probably deserves to just have a bullet put in its head and be forgotten.

irv said...

oh, and i was just reading an article on salon.com about sarah palin. and one line jumped out at me. who knew she was darkseid?

"She is dangerous. She is not just pro-life, she's anti-life. She is the suppression of human feeling and instinct."

Kris Krause said...

Because the right of First Sale makes it perfectly legal to purchase copies of books (and other material as well, I might add) and loan them out to the general public. The record industry was fighting libraries on this for some time back in the 90s (they also went after used music dealers) because they thought it was cutting into their profits. They got their knuckles rapped pretty hard and have toned down their idiocy since.

Interesting to know. Thanks, jer.

Scott said...

I've had the same issues with DC's hardcovers for the past year or so. The Justice hard covers feel like they're about to fall apart due to thin and wrinkled pages.

seth hurley said...

Rafael Alberquerque got me to buy an issue of Superman/Batman!

the guy is fantastic.

Chad Nevett said...

I tend not to get too many hardcovers (Marvel or DC), but my All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder hardcover has no problems.

andy khouri said...

John Byrne routinely pontificates on subjects he knows nothing about. Like comic books.

Marc Caputo said...

4. Miller's work on this book is just sad, sad, sad and he has only the "buying of his own press" to blame, actually.

6. I'd go with David Aja - my dear, lost David Aja.

8. Sadly, yes.

9. Asshat. Byrne, that is.

10. That's because your kids are well-exposed to the truly cool. I say that because my older daughter thinks the same way.

David Uzumeri said...

Rafael Albuquerque really is that good, especially when Cris Peter is coloring him. (What is it with fantastic artist/colorist boyfriend/girlfriend teams?)

Dan Coyle said...

The point and click interface is dated, and all the gameplay really amounts to is getting each character in the correct position to receive an item through a time portal, but Day of the Tentacle is still expertly written and hilarious enough to stand with anything on PS2.

Andrew said...

The public library in Eugene, OR has an impressive collection of TPBs and Graphic Novels (divided in an entirely random fashion between the YA section and the adult fiction section). However, as several other commentators have noted about other libraries, the influx of new material can be pretty random. As a result, I've actually purchased a number of comics that I almost certainly would not have without the library. For instance, I was able to read the first hardbound Invincible for free, but ended up purchasing the following trade paperbacks.

marcwrz said...

that's because your kids have taste.

veghead said...

I'll second that the Columbus Public Library has an unbelievably great selection of graphic novels and thank god for it. If there's any hope at all of getting kids to buy comics, exposing them to free comics at the library is the way to do it. And everyone should have the pleasure of reading Morrison and Moore and yes, even John Byrne's Next Men, not only those who can afford it. I've also bought a number of graphic novels for my collection that I'd first read at the library (though all of them second hand, so sorry Mr. Byrne).

And Rafael Albuquerque is great but holy cow the guy has no idea what mini golf is does he? Do they not have the game in Brazil. His rendition of putt putt in the latest issue is incomprehensible.

alex said...

I hate Ditko, but only because I hate Ayn Rand.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I got BATMAN: THE BLACK GLOVE, and it has some wavy pages, especially in the front. Too bad, since it's so good.