I am a terrible salesman. I bombed out of telemarketing jobs in high school, could not move a single chocolate bar for band fundraisers, and always had a huge pile of unsold Scout-O-Rama tickets every year. Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross would probably have me taken out back and shot.
If you’re reading this site, you’re probably already a fan of the adventures of Cade and Barrows, and you’ve probably already bought RED, WHITE, AND BLOOD — now available in the UK as well. If not, I’m not going to try to convince you. (I think you’d enjoy it. Of course, I would say that.)
But if you’re here, and you are looking for something to read, I can offer you some other suggestions as well. Some of these people are friends of mine. Others I just admire. Either way, I get nothing but warm feelings from these recommendations, so you can be sure I’m not pushing them on you out of any kind of profit motive.
OVERSEAS by my friend Beatriz Chantrill Williams, on sale now. Time travel and romance and Wall Street, with plenty of war for the guys. You should pick this up before the inevitable movie with Brad and Angelina. Then you can say you were ahead of the curve.
THE GONE-AWAY WORLD by Nick Harkaway. It took me a long time to get to this one, and now I’m feeling like an idiot for stalling. It’s a remarkable book. I honestly considered reading it to people on my book tour instead of my own work.
WYNONNA EARP: THE YETI WARS by my pal Beau Smith. If you’ve already read my work, you’ll know why I love this graphic novel. It’s got Bigfoots vs. Yetis, the paranormal crimes division of the Marshals Service, and vampires, all mixed up in a blender of violence and humor.
LIMINAL STATES by Zack Parsons. Another wholly remarkable book, which spans decades and genres as it tells the story of two men in the Old West who discover a way to live forever, and the hate that binds them, and the terrible price they impose on the world for their existence.
THE APOCALYPSE CODEX by Charles Stross. Really, everything by Stross is worth reading. He’s an incredibly smart writer who has the gift of seeing his fictional worlds all the way to the end of the tunnel, no matter what’s coming from the other side. But this is another one of the Laundry Files novels, and as such, I’ve pre-ordered it without so much as a peek inside. Imagine saving the world from the Forces of Darkness were up to a bunch of overworked and underpaid bureaucrats, who are forced to deal with mind-eating terror but also get their expense reports done on time. It’s funny and dark and amazing.
CHEW by John Layman and Rob Guillory. My current favorite comic book out there, in convenient bite-sized package form. I’ve sung the praises of this before, but it just keeps getting better. Briefly, Tony Chu is a cibopath — someone who gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. And he’s also a federal agent thrust into one disgusting, insane, and deadly situation after the next, where often the only answer is to be found by taking a bite of something really awful. Start at the beginning. You won’t regret it.
Halloween. When we’d get dressed up as our favorite superheroes — or at least, as the design geniuses at Ben Cooper imagined them.
Now you can get studio-quality Batman and Superman costume replicas over the Internet. But back in the days before multi-billion dollar movie franchises, many adults seemed to have only a dim notion of what super-heroes looked like, and were not very motivated to fill in the gaps of their knowledge. This was true for our parents as well as the people who were, theoretically at least, being paid to make kid versions of the superhero costumes for Halloween.
That’s how we ended up with vinyl aprons that featured badly copied versions of comic-book art on the chest.
As usual, The Simpsons said it first and said it best.
Lisa: I don’t think the real Radioactive Man wears a plastic smock with a picture of himself on it.
Milhouse: He would on Halloween!
Chris Sims has a nice round-up of the worst offenders here at ComicsAlliance. But you can look at the whole, sad range of contenders at Wonderful Wonderblog and Plaid Stallions, which should eat up the rest of your afternoon quite nicely. You’re welcome.
I know I’m late to discuss DC’s complete reboot of its comic-book universe — sue me, I’ve been finishing a novel — but I’m fascinated by what it’s going to mean for the industry if it works.
First, Geoff Boucher and Ben Fritz have an interesting piece at the LA Times’ Hero Complex about the reboot. Didio’s quotes show that this is very much a half-court shot to rescue comics as we know them, at least from the big two publishers. Because while comic-book heroes have made roughly a kajillion dollars at the box office and inspired some not-so-good TV, they’ve been dying in print.
Sales are down, prices are up, and the distribution model is badly broken. Perhaps not too surprising, comics shops are dying, too. Atomic Comics, the largest comic book retailer in Arizona, filed for bankruptcy last month. I’m not sure how introducing same-day digital sales on the iPad is going to help retailers, but I do know that I’ve got more DC comics on my pull list than I’ve had since… well, since I was still buying comics at the grocery store.
Tomorrow, for instance, I’m taking this shopping list with me to Hi De Ho:
- Action Comics #1
- Animal Man #1
- Batgirl #1
- Casanova Avaritia #1
- Green Arrow #1
- Irredeemable #29
- Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: “Consequences”
- Morning Glories #12
- O.M.A.C. #1
- Stormwatch #1
Total number of books: 10.
Total number of DC books: 7.
Total number of Marvel books: 1.
Right now, at this moment, there are bins of half-price trade paperbacks going unfondled by me. There are lines of people waiting for hours for the chance to see movie trailers a month before everyone else and I am not one of them. There might be a 40-year-old nerd embarrassing himself in front of Paul Levitz right now, but it is not me this time.
That’s right. I’m not at Comic-Con. I have a newborn baby girl, a three-year-old and a novel due. The choice was not actually that agonizing or difficult.
Thanks to the Internet (and Geoff Boucher), I can get all the news without shoving my way through the crowds. I believe that this year roughly a kajillion people are expected to show up, topping last year’s previous record.
It should be obvious to anyone that geek culture has won, and Comic-Con is its annual victory dance. Even James Wolcott is at Comic-Con this year. Now that Vanity Fair covers Nerd Prom, maybe everyone can finally stop using the goddamn headline, “Not just for kids anymore.”
Like this guy, I feel the need for some credit and recognition: I was a geek long before it was cool. I can still name all the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes (see my embarrassment and Paul Levitz, above); I read Alan Moore before Watchmen; and I was properly ashamed of myself for indulging in what was supposed to be a diversion for subliterates and grade-schoolers.
My very first Comic-Con, I dragged my then-girlfriend/now-wife along. Guys still stared at her like she was some kind of alien species in their midst, and she wasn’t even in spandex. (To be fair, guys stare at her everywhere.) Now the floor is packed with women, many of whom are wearing outfits like the “Wookini.” My second or third Comic-Con, I saw Grant Morrison just hanging out in one of the aisles and said hello. We talked for almost 30 minutes without another person interrupting. I cannot imagine that happening now. For starters, Morrison’s phalanx of elite supermodel bodyguards would never let me near him. Not that I would get that close, since I’d be at the back of the mob straining to touch his blazing white suit.
The backlash is inevitable at this point. Some people cannot wait to turn their backs on the whole thing, as if they’re just as embarrassed as I used to be. Like horror movies a while ago, there’s the forecast of the death of the superhero movie. There’s plenty of evidence for that argument: they’re remaking Judge Dredd, for chrissakes. (This should last at least until The Dark Knight Rises shatters box-office records again.)
Maybe we will return to Jock Culture, which is what I grew up with, and which is still a much bigger generator of revenue, no matter how many kids line up to see Harry Potter at midnight. Maybe we’ll go back to nerds huddling in their nerd-holes, fearful of sunlight and pummelings. Lord knows it is still not easy to be a kid, no matter how many movies they make about guys in spandex.
I’m reading Morrison’s Supergods, just released this week. It’s a book-length essay encapsulating all the things Morrison has been saying in his comics for the past couple decades. But this is the graf that really stood out to me so far:
When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem so much like fantasy anymore. The world is badly in need of saving. Maybe we’re not escaping into comic book worlds as much as we are looking for answers and heroes and hope. Given the alternatives, I would rather have my kids dressing in day-glo colors and believing in infinite possibilities fueled by solar rays and pure imagination. So if they want to go, I’ll take them to Comic-Con someday.
And maybe if we’re lucky, they will come back from their insane splash-page adventures with the ideas that could teach us all to fly.