New York Comic-Con State of Mind

April 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

So, 4l is hitting up New York Comic-con and we’re gonna do it big. Our FBB connects are gonna be there. We’re a bunch of black republicans, man. Straight up young money types, holla at us. We’re walking around like we got chest colds, we got so much ice around our necks. A bunch of young dudes with bad upbringings and worse intentions.

But, you know, F-Unit wants to meet up with a bunch of people at NYCC. Cheryl Lynn is gonna catch up with us for sure. That puts basically the entire black comics blogohedron at New York Con, so if you want to put us out of commission… learn to run if you’re shook, son.

Just for future reference, I’m on the right and Pedro Tejeda is on the left:

We had a photo shoot last week, so they put that up for us.

Who else wants to meet up? Hit me with comments here and we’ll see what’s up. ’cause, honestly, we’re trying to do one thing during NYCC:

except i’ve been stuck in SFO this morning after not sleeping last night and my plane is straight up leaving when it was supposed to land in NYC so i am super pissed and i will leave you with a buck 50, kid

(actual content coming later. my buddy Matt Silady was nominated for an Eisner and I want to talk about that!)

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Guerilla Grodd, Three Years Later

March 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Check it, it’s like…
My man Jus used to keep an ox between his teeth
Said he could spit it with pinpoint accuracy if there was beef
We chuckled out loud… Still the thought of it intrigued me, (right)
So now I keep a jackal under my tongue to spit with related reasoning

–Aesop Rock, “Nickel Plated Pockets”

(an ox is a razor)

If he talkin’, he a target
–Royce da 5’9″, “Politics”

I missed my third year comics blogging anniversary by a just under couple months, looks like. I’ve been preoccupied, I figure.

Anyway– three years of blogging. Wow. I think I took a break of a few weeks at some point in 05, where I relaunched 4l after being a little less than enthused with both online and offline things, but it’s been more or less weekly ever since. Hopefully more than weekly. Maybe thrice weekly. Maybe a bit more, I don’t know.

I was mulling this over and thinking about what I’ve learned and seen. Interacting with people via blogs, message boards, and emails has been interesting. What have I learned? Let me boil it down to 13 things.

1: Don’t expect e-fame. Three years on and I’d consider myself small time. A few people who run popular blogs know my name, and that ended up in me running another comics site (and what a ride that is!). We’ve got a grip of readers, but 4l was never about hits anyway. It was about me listening to the sound of my own voice while I talk about comics with other people who may or may not agree with me. It was about learning, listening, and laughing.

If you’re blogging to get famous, you’re probably not doing it right. Do it because you like it.

2: Timeliness helps. If you want readers, you have to attract them. Part of that is being timely, whether that means meeting a daily deadline or talking about current comics events. Doing 29 days in a row for Black History Month was a beast, but I felt good when I finished and I felt like I’d learned something. Even better, I felt like maybe somebody else had their thoughts provoked a little bit.

4l has been not quite daily in varying degrees of “not quite” since forever. We’ve added a considerable amount to our visitors ever since we started doing “almost daily” rather than “not quite daily.” Timeliness helps.

3: Timeliness doesn’t matter at all. Honestly, if your content is good, people are gonna tune in. One of my favorite blogs is Not Blog X, a review blog for X-Men comics that were coming out in the 1990s. Each post is a trip down memory lane for me, but the most recent comic reviewed on the blog is basically 14 years old. Fourteen years old. Regardless– it’s awesome. Each post reminds me of something from when I was a kid, and G. Kendall is a pretty dope writer. He’s got a format, a good hook, and a site that I immediately added to my RSS feeds.

4: Blogger is terrible. Seriously, I switched to using WordPress and bought my own domain a few years back. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since. My site only breaks when I break it, rather than when Blogger goes down and freaks out. I have total control, and that is a wonderful thing. 100 bucks a year isn’t a lot at all. RSS feeds, RSS comment feeds (I can’t describe how much I love those), plugins, all of that. It’s golden. Livejournal and blogger are dinosaurs. Make your own site.

5: Don’t name your site after yourself if it’s a group blog. For some reason, the exclamation point in my site’s name always ends up left out and a space gets added in between 4th and letter. However, 4thletter! means one thing– D. As in David. As in me.


It’s catchy, though, and 4l/fourel is kind of a cool abbreviation.

Sorry Gavok and Hoatz! It’s all about me-me-me-me-me. We’ll have another 7thletter! and an inaugural 8thletter! day sometime in 2009 when I finally stop talking about black people in comics.

6: Don’t be afraid to use your real name. When I asked Gavok if he wanted to do some work at PCS for me, I also asked him if he wanted to be credited as Gavok or Gavin. He said Gavin, ’cause PCS was a different kind of site than 4l. Here, a nickname is gravy. It’s a fansite, it’s a place to make stupid posts about Jubilee or What Ifs.

I can see where he’s coming from, but I took it a step further. There’s only one place online where I still use a pseudonym, and that’s more due to laziness than anything. Plus, “hermanos” is a really, really crappy secret identity.

Using my real name is just taking away that (thin) veil of anonymity that the internet gives us. It’s saying, “Yeah, you can’t see me, but I’m here and my words matter.” No one can use that “Oh, you’re hiding behind a fake name” excuse when you call them out.

7: If you’re talking, you’re a target. This is step one is basic discourse: don’t open your mouth if you aren’t ready to back up what you say. This is the internet– someone is gonna argue with you on whether or not the sky is blue today. What makes you think they won’t call you out when you’re wrong?

I think about every blog post I write. I’ve had posts checked out by other people when I’m really worried. This is because I’m not the type of person to pop off at the mouth with something half-cocked. You have to think if you’re going to blog, and you have to be prepared to be disagreed with. Expecting everyone to fall in line behind you like you’re Pollyanna is dumb.

I once wrote a love letter to Joe Quesada. Joe Q is a guy that half of the fans out there want dunked in acid for “ruining Spider-Man forever.” I did it and got away with it because I backed up what I said. I thought it through and argued my points. Looking back, I could’ve done better, but that’s any post I’ve ever made. Some may not agree, but they can’t say I didn’t try and didn’t make sense.

8: Controversy sells. The flipside of the above is that the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. The loudest blogger gets the hits. Going off half-cocked and shouting at people is going to get you attention. Being a jerkbag is going to you even more attention, as people who should know better will come to try and set you straight or debunk your points. Don’t be afraid to troll a little bit. Call that blogger worthless. Call that creator as a pedophile. Put out that hit piece on a popular comic and how overrated it is and all its fans are racist ageist sexist misogynist misandrist flat-footed pot-bellied balding imbeciles who probably eat babies for lunch and senior citizens for dinner.

However, all of this will make you look like a jerk to everyone ever. At least, I hope so. Anyway, don’t do this one. Controversy doesn’t sell, it just makes you look dumb.

9: Everything has a funny side. Learn to laugh at yourself. Taking yourself too seriously is for, I dunno, action figure bloggers (do those exist?), not comics bloggers. We’re talking about funnybooks here, and while there are Issues to be solved, you cannot take this too seriously. It’ll kill you.

Seriously. Your blood pressure’ll get up and then you’re screwed. Semi-famous comics blogger dead at 27 of a fatal heart explosion due to reading the internet, news at 11.

Don’t be jealous, either. Sure, there’s an idiot of a blogger with crap opinions who has higher hits than you, but screw that. Do your thing. They’ll self-destruct eventually, right? If they don’t, uh, pretend like I never said that.

10: Comments count. I’ve had some of my best conversations in comments. That’s part of why I love WordPress’s Comment Feeds feature. It’s brilliant.

There are three kinds of blogs out there. Ones with comments, ones without comments, and ones with moderated comments.

Ones with comments are wonderful. You get to dig in, debate, question, answer, troll, reply, and figure things out with others. If things get out of line, the blog owner can step in and shut things down. In my mind, this is the perfect blog. It’s like a mini message board or classroom. It also turns the blog into a two-way street– if you’re going to make a stupid post, someone out there is gonna call you an idiot for it.

Ones without comments are less wonderful, but still good. Nine times out of ten in this case, you can toss an email at the blogger and get into private conversations with them. In a way, this is a better thing for the blogger, ’cause you’ve got to the space to make your point clear and you don’t have to worry about commenters getting things twisted up. It’s all about you. No distractions.

Ones with moderated comments are worthless, nine times out of ten. I feel like moderated (as in approval first) comments just lead to commenters toadying up to the blog owner, neutering your point so you don’t offend, and a culture of yes-men playing greek chorus in each post. It’s lame. The temptation is too strong to just leave out the negative posts. After all, who wants to be told that they’re wrong? Who wants to be questioned?

I want to be called out when I’m wrong or lazy or intellectually dishonest with my points. I’m in this to learn, not to have my feet rubbed. Yes, Virginia, that’s why this blog has comments– so that I can be called an idiot when I need to be.

11: Any idiot can be a blogger. And sometimes, that idiot is you. Or me. Or a friend. Make an effort to not be that idiot.

12: Make some friends. I hesitate to call them allies, mostly because that sounds corny and terrible, but go out and find semi-like-minded people and chat. Discuss things over email. Keep in contact. I’m hitting New York Comic-con again this year and I’m easily supposed to meet over a dozen people who I only know via the internet. All of these are online friends that I’ve been talking to.

This includes the iFanboy (though I met them at Wondercon), Funnybook Babylon, and PCS gangs. Not to drop names or anything.

I wonder if I can convince Pedro that the FBB/4l! alliance should be called F-Unit. Funnybook Babylon, Four(4)thletter!…

Anyway, knowing people is great. It’s a huge plus to blogging, and gives you even more people to talk shop with. If someone writes a post you like, drop them an email. It’s more personal than a comment, but less personal than visiting their house. Give it some thought. All of my e-buddies are e-cool.

Also, you can use your friends to bounce ideas off of, or check to see if you’re out of line.

13: It’s just comics. If blogging isn’t fun, you aren’t doing it right.

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Funnybook Babylon is video podcasting

January 3rd, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Lifestyles of the Rich and Ballin’ | Funnybook Babylon

Don’t worry guys, I’m going to put a stop to this.

I’m going to meet up with them at New York Comic-con and put them down like the rabid dogs they are.

What is that, Pedro, a sweater-vest? *smh*

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Blokhedz: Keeping It (Magical) Real(ism)

March 6th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

It’s a tale as old as time. (Pardon the slight Beauty & The Beast reference.)

There is a child, sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, with a hidden talent and a good heart. They may not recognize this talent at the beginning of the story, but others see this potential in them and attempt to nuture it. Outside forces discover this talent and attempt to either take it away or control it. Eventually, the child realizes his or her worth and takes control of that power.

There are a lot of reasons why this story is so old. It speaks to the idea that we’re all special, and if only we can find that special thing inside of us, we’ll be happy forever. It’s a cautionary tale from parents to children, warning them to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s a fun adventure romp about a relatable person doing great things. It’s a morality play, will you or won’t you abuse that power? There are dozens of interpretations.

This is a classic story. It’s straight out of Campbell. It’s Spider-Man, Superman, Star Wars, Snow White, and a thousand other stories. It’s a story we all know and can appreciate, and a story we’ll likely be telling for hundreds of years to come.

This is also the story of Blokhedz.

First, some info and errata. (I’m trying out these new Amazon links and info formatting. Good idea, bad idea? They seem a little large, which could make formatting a pain.)

Title: Blokhedz #1: Genesis
Creators: Brandon Schultz and Mike and Mark Davis
Homepage: Blokhedz.tv
Publisher: Street Legends Ink/Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books
ISBN: 1416540733
Book Info: Blokhedz #1: Genesis collects Blokhedz #1-4, originally published in 2004 by Street Legends Ink. It is going to be released on March 20, 2007, and will be followed up by a straight to graphic novel volume 2 in Fall 2007.
Misc. Info: Interview with Format Magazine. Publishers Weekly article on the move to Pocket Books.

Extra special thanks to Ed Schlesinger at Pocket Books for getting me one of the last comp copies at New York Comic-con last weekend!

Blokhedz is the first offering from Pocket Books’s graphic novel line to my knowledge, and it’s a good start.

The hero of the book is Blak, a young black kid in Empire City. He’s extraordinarily skilled at rapping, both from written rhymes and freestyling. The book opens on him telling the story of a tragic shootout. From the first scene onward, it’s clear that he’s torn between two things. Is he going to be a smart rapper and speak the truth, or is he going to play dumb and rap about things he was never involved in? Is he going to be true to himself or is he going to “keep it real?”

The person he was rapping about is his older brother Konzaquence, who cautions him to stay true. He doesn’t want to see his little brother fall down the same path he did and gives him his lion medallion as a kind of contract between the two of them.

The hook in the book is that the words in rhymes can alter reality. It’s a little bit Dr. Strange, a little bit Biblical, and, to me at least, a little bit Invisibles. The first time this power is shown is when Vulture, a rival rapper and gangster, has his crew attack Blak. This causes Blak to lose his medallion and pride, but gain new abilities. His words become reality.

Blokhedz #1: Genesis is an engaging read. The story is familiar, but tilted to a new angle. Blak has to dodge the allure of gangs, thug rap, and life in the city in order to survive. His older brother has been there, done that, and did the time for the crime, literally. One of his brother’s old running buddies has gone from drug-dealing to running a rap label, bringing to mind Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves, wherein Mr. Large, the guy who runs all the crime in the city, also dabbles in rap management. He courts Blak and, unbeknownst to him, uses his rhymes to create Crypt, a drug that hits the streets hard.

It’s about choices. Blak is torn between good or evil, God or the Devil, and vengeance or justice, but he must choose one side or the other. Both sides are tempting, but Blokhedz presents one side as being right. Good and evil are clearly delineated in the book, even down to the bad guys looking sinister. Vulture, for example, looks more than a little like his namesake and behaves worse than that. It’s simplistic, but it works. It’s also kind of refreshing in today’s comics landscape to see this kind of black-and-white viewpoint, particularly when pulled off without being either preachy or overly adult.

This is a good read, and a pretty good book for kids, despite a little bit of salty, but censored, language. There are a few gaffes, such as a handful of main characters appearing on-screen and having speaking roles without actually being introduced. I didn’t know the name of Essence, the spoken word poet and inner city crusader, until a chapter and three scenes after she was introduced, if memory serves. The focus of the book is on Blak, of course, but it would be nice if his supporting cast didn’t feel quite so not-there. A brief introductory bit of dialogue, or even a caption presented with the same flair and style found in the rest of the book would be great and enhance the read. We get that Blak has friends, but they’re a group of friends, rather being distinct individuals.

Still, this is a great start. It’s easy to read and the art is quite attractive. It’s a blend of American and anime-inspired art and it works really well. The characters can convey emotion easily. The book looks a lot like a cartoon, but in a good way. I’ve got to give them props for the backgrounds, too. Even in Marvel or DC produced comics, the “Big Two,” the backgrounds tend to be pretty bland, nondescript, and sometimes even nonexistent. These backgrounds are busy. They’re cluttered. They’re almost completely covered in tags. They have character. You really get the feeling that Empire City is a genuine city thanks to this attention to detail.

Blokhedz #1 is a good showing, and it’s cheap, too. It’s well worth a read.

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New York Comic-con: Day 1

February 24th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

4l is coming to you live and direct from the New Yorker Ramada in Manhattan.

Yesterday was the first day of the con and we’re about to head out again. Loot reports will have to wait, though!

I met Geoff Klock and spent a good bit of time talking with him about Morrison, Morrison on Batman, Frank Miller on Batman, and why DKSA is a good book! It’s nice to know I’m not hte only one who digs it and ASBARtBW. He was an extremely cool guy and it was neat to pick his brain.

I also got to meet Johanna Draper Carlson, who is a blogging hero of sorts for me. She was extraordinarily gracious while I babbled at her, and the blogging panel on Friday was pretty sweet. Heidi Mac was cool, too, and I missed a chance to meet Chris Butcher.

In other news! From left to right, David Mack and David Brothers; Gavok, the love of his life, and some random lady who hopped in the picture (kidding) (not really); an Echo print I bought from Mack (as well as completing my Kabuki collection); and the bloggers panel. L-R is Heidi Mac, Chris Butcher, Ron Hogan, and Johanna Draper Carlson.

More to come! I’m off to get more stuff.

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Linking it up

December 26th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

— Dinosaur Comics is one of the hands-down funniest webcomics out. Here is my favorite strip. It is a comic about the male gaze (yes, that male gaze) as explained by a neon green t-rex. The red-tinted text is the devil speaking. Enjoy!

— I’m a Wonder Woman fan for very specific stories, and Amazons Attack sounds like one of those stories! Plus, Pete Woods and Will Pfiefer are great together. I’m not sure why they’re attacking, or how, since I could’ve sworn that the Amazons disappeared to another dimension or oblivion along with the Greek gods and didn’t exist any more, but okay. I do like that Pfiefer is going to focus on the foot soldiers, though. That sort of thing has always been more interesting to me.

— Amazons Attack is a great title and I’m glad that they’re actually going to use it. It really, really needs an exclamation point, though. 4thletter!. Amazons Attack!. It’s dynamic, exciting, and cool. Very Silver Age.

— Paul Pope is one of my favorite creators. He is definitely among my ever-growing Top Five Favorite (I’m up to 150!). He has a must-read blog. He’s got a lot of Kirby-related shots up. A little bit of FF, a bit of OMAC (a little Erica in my life). Their styles couldn’t be more different, but both bring a large amount of energy into the fray. Their figures pop off the page. Pope’s OMAC story in his issue of SOLO was great, great stuff. I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of THB (much to my chagrin), but I own 100% (brilliant comics) and One Trick Rip-Off in trade, 3/4 of Batman: Year 100 (and I will buy that trade when it hits), and his issue from Spider-Man: Tangled Web. I love his indie and superhero work equally and I eagerly await everything he puts out. Anyway, read the blog. The stuff about the Batman typeface is fascinating.

— This is an odd thought, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Jack Kirby-drawn Batman. I think at the point when Kirby hit DC, Batman was enjoying the new and gritty revamp, so his style might not have fit? I’d kind of like to see his Bats.

— The 4l crew, as far as we know, are all going to be in full effect at New York Comic-con, Feb 23-25. We’ve got the hotel room booked, flights scheduled, and money saved for getting on a jet plane. See you there? Quite possibly!

— Brian Vaughan’s The Escapists, with art from Phil Bond/Steve Rolston/Shawn Alexander turned out really, really well. Excellent book and possibly my pick for miniseries of the year. Christos Gage and Mike Perkins’s Union Jack, from Marvel, was another surprise hit. It was kind of delightful in a superspy action movie kind of way. The end bit with Sabra and Arabian Knight both not being willing to let go of their prejudices, despite a grudging respect between the two, was pretty well-written, too.

— Come to think of it, Gage wrote that pretty awesome Deadshot mini from a couple years back, too. Someone give him more work. Stormwatch is a start, okay?

— Is it possible to read too many comics? I’ve consistently cut boring or bad comics off my to-read list, so my reading habits are pretty healthy, but I think I try to read everything that’s good. Speaking of good, I think we’re due for a new volume of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster any week now…

— There is a game coming out pretty soon called Arthur and The Invisibles. It isn’t the picture to the left, there, in any way shape or form. It’s based on some movie or another, but I’m so disappointed that I don’t even want to see the flick or play the game! I mean, this thing right here is what you call a killer crossover. You get in the toddlers and youngsters and the dope-smoking smelly hippie crazies! I’d see it twice, even! Arthur Read meets Dane McGowan. The world would never be the same.

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