Tuesday, August 24, 2004

JMS Catches Waves with Silver Surfer

J. Michael Straczynski updated readers of rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated on several upcoming projects. One thing he mentioned was that he would be doing a new Silver Surfer mini-series ... wow, the body isn't even cold on the other Silver Surfer "mini" series that Marvel just canceled. He also hinted at a "secret" project at Marvel.

Apparat-ly

The artbomb blog has the 411 on Apparat, another Crazy Warren Ellis Production(TM), complete with cover images. They sound like pulp on speed:

Crime is the map we build our houses around. Everything's based on crime. This is how Frank Ironwine sees the world. New York's built on the bones of the people who were murdered to make it happen. There are no new crimes in New York City, not really. They've all happened before, and understanding their patterns is a step towards understanding the city. But no crime is ordinary.

Avatar will publish them in November.

billjemas.com

Back during the "U-Decide" brouhaha, Peter David registered billjemas.com, but didn't do much with it. He gives an update on the status of it over at his blog:

...after having some giggles at Bill's expense, I publicly stated that if he wanted to take it off our hands, we wouldn't cybersquat on it. Never heard from him. Until recently.

Best of luck to Bill and whatever he decides to do next. Maybe he and Jim Shooter could team up for something?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Brian Hibbs vs. Peter David

...well, not really; as Peter David says, "I don't feel like I'm in a pissing match with Brian." But they are having a spirited debate on retailers, comics activism and why is it so difficult to find Fallen Angel in comic shops these days?

It started with a passing mention of Fallen Angel in Brian's Tilting at Windmills column on Newsarama:

Do you want to know why it is so hard to launch new books into the market? Why we need “comics activism” for She-Hulk or Fallen Angel? It’s precisely because we get weeks where there are 9 X-Men books and 5 Batman titles, and that is when those books ship. Of course, that’s also the week that someone at DC thinks it’s a grand idea to ship two of the struggling “Focus” titles. “Uh, but why doesn’t this sell?” they then ask.

Then David responded on his blog:

...pundits look at troubled sales and cynically wonder when DC will stop publishing the book, proclaiming that there’s lack of fan interest. But fan interest is irrelevant when there’s lack of retailer interest. The first, best tool in generating increased sales is positive word of mouth. But word of mouth doesn’t get it done when the books aren’t there for purchase. Under ordinary circumstances, browsing customers will spot Fallen Angel on the stands, say, “Oh, I’ve heard good things about this, I’ll check it out,” and buy it. That can’t happen when retailers don’t bother to put so much as a single copy out.

Then Brian responds on his blog:

Now, let me get the “bad part” out of the way. I carry FALLEN ANGEL, and I do so beyond subs. I don’t believe I have sold out of more than 1 of the 14 released issues. And our sales have steadily eroded until they are down to, for the last 5 issues, 1 copy preordered by a sub, and 1 rack copy sold. I’m still ordering 3 copies, mind you, even though I have pretty good proof that last copy is not selling and is a waste of my $1.13. That’s the kind of store I try to be. We ordered 1 copy of the trade. Haven’t sold it.

And Peter David responds again:

My point--and I did have one--was that in recent months the book seems on the verge of overcoming all of that as more and more reviewers rave about it and more and more readers start seeking it out...only to discover it couldn't be found, and there's apathy in some quarters about getting it for willing readers. While the non-ordering habits of some retailers is certainly not the only reason Fallen Angel has been a tough slog, I hardly think those same retailers could be exempt from comment or criticism simply because there's a lot of books out there they have to deal with. Because I'm the one hearing from the fans who are complaining (and by the way, will someone PLEASE swing by Brian's store and buy the copy of the Fallen Angel trade he says he hasn't sold yet? Whoever does, I'll toss in an extra something cool when you send for the bookplate. Thanks.)

Oh, and his first post, Peter David made this offer to fans:

I am going to produce a limited edition Fallen Angel bookplate, which artists Dave Lopez and Fernando Blanco are doing the art for. I will autograph the bookplates, which can then be affixed to the title page of the trade paperback. Any retailer who has copies in his store, send me a self-addressed stamped #10 envelope to PO Box 239, Bayport, NY 11705, and tell me how many you need. I will send you up to five (if more postage is required, I’ll cover the difference). If you need more than that, send me some sort of written proof that you’ve ordered that many. I will also make these available to fans, since I don’t want to freeze out people who order via Amazon.com or whose retailers simply won’t carry it. Likewise send a SASE, and include a copy of your receipt. (If you don’t have the receipt, send a photocopy of the cover or a picture of you holding the book(s), something.) Hey guys, you could do worse for a holiday gift for your girlfriend or spouse than a signed trade paperback of a well-reviewed series featuring a strong female protagonist.

...so if you have a copy of the Fallen Angel trade, this sounds like a fun offer. As a kid, I remember when David took over Hulk, and he noted that Hulk was only receiving three or four letters each month from fans. So he made the offer to personally respond to every fan who sent in a letter about the book (I wonder what I did with mine)?

So this isn't the first time David has gone out of his way to promote his work and please his fans. That's reason enough to check out Fallen Angel, if you can find a copy.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Hey Kids--Free Comic

On his blog, Neil Gaiman has outlined how to get a free signed Cerebus comic from Dave Sim:

If you'd like to read one of the Sandman parody issues of Cerebus, Dave will send you one. He'll send it to you very happily, free of charge. He will sign it for you, too. And he won't charge you a thing. Not even postage.

And if you're wondering what the catch is, it's this: Dave wants to know (as, I have to admit, do I) how many of the people out there in internet-land will actually go and do things that don't involve passively clicking on a link and going somewhere interesting. So what you have to do is write Dave a letter (not an e-mail. Dave doesn't have e-mail) telling him that you read that he'll send you a signed Cerebus, and telling him why you'd like him to send you a copy. It's as easy as that. And, quite possibly as difficult.

The address to write to is:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674 Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Dave, I suspect, thinks he'll get a handful of requests. In my more pessimistic moments, I think he's right, although I'd love it if he got deluged with letters, like those kids in hospitals who don't exist but are still collecting postcards...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

WTF PDF?

In a recent email on his BAD SIGNAL list, Warren Ellis threw out an idea for a .pdf-based magazine:

Short fiction works best on a computer screen. Get yourself donated a bunch of 500-word fictions. Get yourself donated the art to go with them, and whatever other elements you think a breakthrough sf magazine should contain. Don't make it sprawl. Keep it tight -- no more than a 1.44 meg download, for instance.

And BitPass it. Put it behind a micropayment gate. Say a Yanqui dollar. Which doesn't sound a lot, but remember the bulk of a short-run magazine's cover price is eaten by production, printing and distribution, and all you're covering is time and bandwidth.

Put it out and plug it where you can, and whatever you make is your war chest for your next issue -- where you use the same people and pay them for their time from said war chest, all the money moved around by PayPal or money orders.

Just an idea. Thought I'd release it out into the wild.


Some people are taking exception to this idea, as Regie Rigby highlights in the latest Fool Britannia on Silver Bullet Comics:

It’s just that, well, it’s already been done, hasn’t it? Silver Bullet readers should be familiar with a publication called Borderline, which was a .pdf comics magazine of about 1.44megs distributed through the Internet. Ran for ages and had a world wide readership that was frankly huge.

The idea didn’t need releasing into the wild Warren – it was already there. But perhaps it just passed him by – just because he’s in comics doesn’t mean that he reads everything there is.


Regie's column includes quotes from Phil Hall, one of the creators of Borderline. He was a bit hacked off and called Warren Ellis a cunt.

Warren responded on Bad Signal:

Apparently, when I was talking about doing a paid fiction magazine in PDF format, I forgot about a comics journalism magazine called BORDERLINE that was released in PDF a few years back. The couple of issues I recall downloaded were
nicely laid out but not especially good, but, according to the rant in the above link, it ran for some 20 issues. Of course, I was talking about a form that could
be used for a fiction magazine, so there was no reason BORDERLINE would come to mind, really.

...

Anyway, Phil's always had my email address and my phone number, but I guess it's much easier to just call me names on a website...


A careful reading of Warren's original email shows that yes, he was talking about a fiction magazine and no, it didn't include any kind of assumed trademark or patent on the idea of a .pdf magazine. What's funny is that doing a .pdf magazine isn't really all that new--they've around as long as Adobe Acrobat has been--and they are really unfriendly to navigate on a computer screen if they aren't done right. So anyone doing one should make sure they are worth the paper they'll need to be printed on.

Blanderizing of America

In discussing Fallen Angel on Newsarama, a poster made this comment about why comic shops don't support it:

It seems comic stores now are geared to picking up customers coming off the back of the marvel films, and with stores having no interest in trying to promote a title that breaks the trend of comics and are trying to make new ground and do not star a well known character or brand the future looks bleak for Fallen Angel and comics like it.

Peter David responds with an excellent post that sums up the state of, well, everything in the United States:

Well, that's just an extension of the uniform blanderizing of America, when you get down to it, right?

Once upon a time America was filled with diversity. A vast array of family run or independent Mom and Pop stores, restaurants, service outlets, clothing outlets. There was variety. There was something for everyone.

And over the years, American tastes have become more and more limited in scope. Less adventurous. Less interested in trying something new and different. What's the Holiday Inn slogan? "The best surprise is no surprise." That's what Americans want.

Which is why Mom and Pop stores and family-run stores are dying, and why every major road in the country is a clusterf**k of Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, the Gap, Home Depot, Office Max, Staples and Borders Books.

That's what mainstream comics have become. A book like "Fallen Angel" is a Mom and Pop diner drowning in an endless cacophony of signal-to-noise through which it cannot penetrate because the vast, vast majority of fans are too busy chowing down their McComics.

I cannot tell you how many people came up to me at San Diego, telling me they're huge fans of my work, love everything I write. And when I would say, "Do you read 'Fallen Angel?" the response was invariably blank looks. "What's that?" "Never heard of it." "When's it coming out?" It hasn't registered on their radar. But Every Single One knew about "Madrox" and it doesn't ship until next month.

Losing readers? How about they're just not finding us. Based purely on numbers alone, about 80% of comic readers have never even tried it...and based purely on personal experience, the vast majority of that hasn't even heard of it. And every retailer who can't be bothered to stock it or hides it behind other books just makes it that much harder.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bugle Boy

Looking for news from Marvel's Ultimate Universe? No, not announcements about Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis writing yet another Ultimate title ... real news, from the streets of Ultimate New York. Then check out the Daily Bugle, a fun fan site with fake Ultimate Universe news. Here's how it describes itself:

The New York Daily Bugle is a fan-based website that highlights events from the Ultimate Marvel Universe. The Ultimate Daily Bugle will covers stories from Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, the Ultimates and all the other Ultimate Spin-offs and Mini-series.

Brian Michael Bendis gives the site a thumbs up: Bravo to you... Love the site, showing it to Marvel. I wanted them to do this for the longest time, it looks great and we are really flattered by it.

Be sure to read about Dazzler's big Las Vegas concert, Michael Moore's documentary on mutants and the classifieds.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Hackarama

This afternoon, Newsarama fell victim to self-proclaimed hacker MeM. Instead of the usual message board, users found themselves looking at this:

Click to enlarge the screen capture.

According to several posters, music played when you went to Newsarama. But for me, I did not hear a thing. I tried to get the audio going with the little control panel in the middle of the screen but nothing happened. I guess MeM should learn how to encode and embed audio universally for all browsers and operating systems. Ha!

The two images on the page were animated .gifs of the following:



Currently, the boards are down as administrators scramble to fix the problem.

EDIT: I found the link that MeM streamed the audio file from. You can listen to it at http://www.soutiat.com/sounds/n/n21.ram. If anyone can help translate the audio or know what kind of website it came from, Post-Crisis would appreciate it.