Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Takashi Miike speaks truth

Via Warren Ellis's sometimes bewildering, but always entertaining, column about comics, Do Anything, comes this quote from Japanese film director, Takashi Miike:

“We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Japanese film industry we always say we don’t have enough budget, that people don’t go to see the films. But we can think of it in a positive way, meaning that if audiences don’t go to the cinema we can make any movie we want. After all, no matter what kind of movie you make it’s never a hit, so we can make a really bold, daring movie. There are many talented actors and crew, but many Japanese movies aren’t interesting. Many films are made with the image of what a Japanese film should be like. Some films venture outside those expectations a little bit, but I feel we should break them.”

Substitute the term "Japanese film" with "American independant comics" and you'll get where I'm coming from.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shameless, really

A bullet point I forgot yesterday:

• I found maybe the best synopsis/write-up ever of 100 Girls yesterday on a site that, as far as I can tell, is used by librarians and teachers. CMIS? Anyone out there familiar with it? Anyway, the review starts off with the line, "This book unfolds like an origami swan, with intricacies at first hidden, then slowly revealed with a surprising intensity underneath." And it just gets better from there. I'd really like to find the person that wrote this and give them a great, big kiss.

And I think that I'm going to pull out the swan line any time I meet a creator whose book is better known or reviewed than mine. Basically, all of them.

"Oh, yeah, well my book unfolds like a freakin' origami swan, so suck it, Jeff Smith.*"

*Jeff Smith, if you happen to read this, please be aware it's a joke. Bone totally rocked.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The points, they are bulleted...

• Today marks the last day of visitors at our home. More than a week of guests. For someone as hermit-like as myself, it was a little hard there at the end.

• One of these guests was my mother-in-law. She watched Oscar for a week and cleaned our house and made us dinners and generally made life very easy for us. Just so that you understand I am not complaining.

• She also paid a very nice young man to mow and weed our entire yard. Lord, there is no way we can repay her.

• The day today was capped off with a mad dash to the Portland airport because our friend TM left her wallet at our house and she would be unable to board her flight without it. It was a lot like every romance movie you've ever seen. Minus the romance.

• This week I did manage to letter the Dalton short story that Todd and I are doing for Myspace/DHP. I am happy with the results and hope the editor is as well.

• I realize that I need to get serious about writing. Is there a pill I can take to make this happen?

• I purchased much music this weekend via the Interwebs: albums or EPs by Arcade Fire, Jenny Owen Youngs, Au Revoir Simone, The Pixies, They Might be Giants, Bon Iver, Spinerette, and The New Pornographers. That's a lot of music I need to find the time to listen to.

• I can't stop thinking about new comics. This is a problem because I can't concentrate on already existing ideas.

• It is not, per se, a bad problem to have.

That is all for now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ignite recap

I'm sitting in a darkened hotel room right now. Melissa is off somewhere having dinner with some of her family. Oscar is asleep just a few paces from me and I have nothing but time on my hands. These are the moments I find to write in now. It's not a bad life.

Last Thursday, the 18th of June, I spoke as part of Salem's first ever Ignite event. Twelve speakers, each with five minutes to declaim on any topic of their choosing. Each also had to have a 20-slide Power Point presentation to play behind them. It was a fun and interesting night. The topics were varied and some down right intrigued me, but the best part of the night was meeting some of the other presenters.

This being the first such event in town, there were some technical glitches. I think only about half of my slides played behind me, but it was still worthwhile. I spoke about a subject I've been thinking about a lot lately, using the Internet as a content delivery system. I've written about this topic on this blog on more than one occasion. Basically, I'm trying to talk myself into it and using this public forum to state my intention is one way to do that.

I thought that my talk might be of interest to someone out there, so here it is. (And please note that I am not subjecting you to my PP slides, but I will sometimes break from the main body of the text and tell you some of the information that was on them.)

My attitudes about New versus Old Media can be summed up with this analogy:

Old Media are the Roman Empire. New Media are the Visigoths.

Which basically means that while Old Media isn’t dying, its power is waning and becoming decentralized. It also means that New Media isn’t necessarily the thing that will replace it, but it is making everything messy and interesting.

What this means ultimately is that things are in disarray and that individuals who want to create something and get it in front of an audience can use this to their advantage.

Provided they have something to say. I chose to characterize that something to say as an obsession in the title of my talk for a reason. It’s not enough to just want to make something, and it’s certainly not enough to want to make the same old things that have been under construction for the last 50 to 100 years. You have to want to make something new and personal.

Creating art of any kind may be fun, but it’s also a slog. And it can often feel like a curse, because it is something you feel compelled to do no matter what.

"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

George Orwell

So, let’s say you are so compelled. You’re creating art, you’d like to have it seen by an audience. For various reason (such as how hard it is to break into established media, having to give up editorial control over your work, sometimes having to give up ownership), you decide that Old Media is not the avenue you want to pursue to get it seen. Maybe you want to give this Internet thing a try?

There are a lot of folks out there already using the Internet to broadcast their stories. But there are even more people out there who are waiting for new content. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review looked at the microblogging site, Twitter.com, and found that 90% of it’s content was generated by just 10% of its users. And it’s probably a similar story with the rest of the Internet.

There are an estimated 251 million households with Internet access in America. Using the 90/10 formula (which I realize is a gross over-generalization, but I’m going to do it anyway), that means that 2.5 million households are generating most of the content on the web and more than 240 million are consuming it. This is an amazingly large potential audience.

Of course, no one is going to attract the attention of all of those users. The most successful will only be seen by a small percentage of them, and how will they attract and keep those folks’ attention? By, again having something to say, by having an obsession.

Those entities that are already on the web attracting an audience are doing so because they have a clear, strong theme running through their work. Some examples of this are on the slides behind me.

But if these folks, or you for that matter, hope to make any money out of these endeavors, just putting your stuff up on the Internet isn’t enough. One of the advantages of Old Media is they have all these people and department in place to take your work and design, print, market and sell it. In the New Media, you get to do all of that. Seriously, keep your day job for a while.

On the screen behind me, six examples of web sites I feel succeed in the New Media model of content delivery flashed by. Those sites were:

Penny Arcade

Hark a Vagrant


Diesel Sweeties

Katie West


All of the examples flashing behind me have found ways to monetize their work. They print or otherwise collect them and sell them, yes, but they also create merchandise, some of them are absolute monsters when it comes to publicity. They maintain presences outside of their own web sites. It sounds an awful lot like work.

“I think the growth of the business has been directly geared to my ability to take the whole endeavor more and more seriously. In other words, approaching the work like a professional has made it into a profession -- the attitude always comes first.”

David Malki!

creator of Wondermark.com

But the advantage of this method would be total ownership of what you create and total creative control(two things that are hard to come by in the world of traditional comics publishing at least). But with total control comes total responsibility.

I’m bringing this all up because I think it’s part of the obsession , too. You have something you want to say, and you want to say it so badly you’re willing to take on all of this enormous load of work to get it out there and make sure people see it. But if you can do all of this, an audience will find you. Then it’s up to your talent to keep those folks interested.

My area of interest is comics and I’ve focused most of my talk on that, but what I’m talking about can be applied to number of disciplines. There are any number of free blogging sites out there, each of which is better at certain things. You could publish fiction, poetry, memoirs, photo galleries. You can make videos and post them to youtube or vimeo. Record songs and throw put them up for everyone to see. The potential of the Internet as a means to get your work seen reminds me of ‘zine culture times about a million.

And there’s one more thing I feel compelled to mention. I decided to make this the topic on which I’d talk mostly because I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge into the world of New Media myself. Despite some success in the world of traditional comics publishing, I’ve been feeling a certain disappointment with many of the processes involved in it. I’m thinking about putting my money where my mouth is and joining the ranks of entrepreneurs on the web. All I need is to convince some artists that they need to come along with me.

All I need is to find some folks with a similar obsession.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Goodnight, Internet

As you can imagine, we are watching more Sesame Street around our household than we did previously. SOme of it I can take or leave, but some of the older clips featuring musicians really knock me out. Here's one of my current favorites featuring Johnny Cash and, of course, Oscar the Grouch:


This is just to say that Todd Demong, my collaborator on 100 Girls (do I have to say that every time I mention his name?) and I have sold a short story to an unwitting publisher!

Dalton is a brand new character from us and should go live in the August issue of Myspace/Dark Horse Presents. Provided we hit all out deadlines. Which we totally will, no problem. I think.

Dalton is something Todd has had in mind to do for a number of years, so we're glad to see it get a shot at some kind of life. In fact, it was an eight-page Dalton short story Todd submitted as a sample that convinced me I wanted to work with him. I remember at the time thinking that if everything worked out between us that I'd like to ask Todd if I could work on the character with him. It's nice when things work out, even if we did have to wait a few years for it to happen.

Now we need to figure out what other new projects we'd like to work on.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Much the Miller's Son

Received in the mail today a very nice surprise. Steve LeCouilliard was nice enought to send me the first two volumes of his comic, Much the Miller's Son. And all I had to do was give him a semi-coherent quote to put on the back of the book--which I was happy to do.

Steve is a very nice guy who holds a day job in animation, much like Todd Demong, with whom Steve is friends (but please don't hold that against him). I bring that up to point out that Steve's time in animation informs his comic. The art style is fluid and crisp. The action flows smoothly. And there are gags aplenty.

The story is a retelling of the Robin Hood cycle told from the point of view of the title character. I have to admit that before reading this comic, I didn't even know there was a character called Much in the Robin Hood stories. So, you know, it's educational, too.

The book is a lot of fun, something comics aren't very often. I highly recommend it. Hell, I let Steve put my name on the back of the book, right? Of course I recommend it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ignite Salem

Have you heard of these Ignite events? For the last couple of months the term has been cropping up and sticking in my consciousness. This means, more than likely, that it's been cropping up a lot longer than that and I'm just now finally becoming aware of it. I have been intrigued by the mentions, but I didn't really know what it was all about. Well, lifted wholesale from the Ignite web site, here's their explanation of what they are:

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers.

Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. Since then 100s of 5 minute talks have been given across the world. There are thriving Ignite communities in Seattle, Portland, Paris, and NYC.

Seems straight forward enough, huh? 

Not to be outdone by the lies of NYC, Paris and Portland, my wee hometown of Salem, Oregon is hosting its first Ignite event on the 18th. Which, it occurs to me, is next week. This matters because I'm going to be one of the speakers and I'd better figure out what I'm going to say and what slides I need. Pardon me while I panic.

Back now. It'll all be fine.

Anyway, here are the details for the event:

Northern Lights 
3893 Commercial St. 
Salem OR 

8:30 - 10

And if you go here you can reserve your (FREE) tickets.

If you're in town that night, I'd love to see you there.

Pretty young things

Over on the Gear school blog, Nuria has once again published an update about what Bamf! Productions is up to with the book. There are a lot of photos of actors as well. And I note that Nuria hasn't come right out and said what this is all about so I'm going to keep shtum on the matter.

And, just a little off topic, I'd like to mention that the kids pictured are really good looking. Are kids this good looking in America? If they are, I think they're all former Mousketeers, have hyphenate entertainment careers and are well on their way to their first stint in a rehab center.  But the youngsters in the photos are all Spanish and therefore, I assume, all very  nice kids who do their homework and respect their parents. Yes.

Oh, and the fellow in the picture above, while very handsome in his own right, is not one of these Very Handsome Kids but is, instead, a member of the crew. I just really liked the photo.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gear School update

Nuria has once again updated the Gear School blog with some hints and lots of photos. Everything looks super cool. I suggest you go and check it out. And thank Nuria for actually making regular contributions over there. One of these days I'll do the same. I promise.