APE is This Weekend

October 12th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The Alternative Press Expo is October 17-18 here in San Francisco. I’m going to be attending, because why not, you know? but alt comics are still not quite my bag. I’ve got manga, crime, and superheroes on lock, but I don’t know my Jeffrey Browns from my Chris Wares from my Kevin Huizengas.

What do I need to look out for? What’s worth picking up? Who should I see?

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On Niggapalooza

August 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

What we need, particularly on stages like Comic-Con International, is to show that the African American creative comes from lots of different places and that the African American community wants and, more importantly, needs lots of different choices and voices.

What we need is no more Niggapaloozas like The Black Panel each and every year.

-Vincent S Moore, Niggapalooza

Moore lost, and in the process, he lost me.

It’s fair to criticize the Black Panel. That’s the prerogative of anyone who attends any panel. Would I like it if there were more Q&A at the Black Panel? Sure! It’s always fun to pick a creator’s brain. But, it is what it is, and we can only judge it on its own merits, not on the baggage we bring to it.

Is Davis’s moderating style overbearing? Well, yeah. It’s his panel, which means he gets to run it as he sees fit. He didn’t inherit it, or kill the guy who had it before him and take it over. It’s his. It’s Michael Davis and his Amazing Friends, and has never been advertised as anything but. You’re gonna get a lot of Michael Davis in that mix.

Vincent Moore, though, came to the panel ready for a fight, took notes, and finally held up an entire panel as Everything Wrong With Black People Today. He went so that he could “vent [his] spleen about this travesty.” What he missed, and what the several hundred other people in the room seemed to get despite the apparent non-stop minstrel show, is that the Black Panel is important. Every time I go to one, I’m reminded of something vital, something that’s easy to miss if you get your comics news from the internet.

Black people are active in entertainment. We, the monolithic we that the Black Panel is bringing down, are doing things. We aren’t just hungry artists looking to get put on, writers chainsmoking and toiling in dark rooms, or people who are smart enough to get noticed, but not smart enough to get on. We are working, we are out there.

I can’t overstate the importance of that. This year’s Black Panel had a veteran actress, an artist who has been in the business for a couple decades now, a rapper learning how to tell stories in a new way, another rapper trying to stretch out into new areas, an experienced actor, a comedian staging a comeback push, an executive who has stayed busy for a couple decades now, an established television writer, and a woman working on a new property. That right there is a range of skills across a variety of disciplines, done by a number of vastly different people of various ages and levels of experience. It’s saying, in no uncertain terms, “You can do this, because we did this, and we are doing this.”

Moore, in his haste to demolish the panel and bury Davis, completely misses this. The audience at every Black Panel I’ve been to has routinely been the blackest at the con. Black people want to see what we’re doing, and the Black Panel is usually a good peek into that world.

At the same time, the Black Panel has never been, nor is it intended to be, the be-all, end-all of black pop culture. It’s a slice of black pop culture, like any other panel at the con. Marvel doesn’t discuss every single one of their books on their big panel, but no one holds that up as a cheat. In fact, for the first few panels I attended, Davis opened it by saying that it isn’t for complaining or whining about how a brother can’t get on. It’s about celebrating the fact that we are on, and have been on, and will be on.

The long list of people Moore wants invited isn’t even a real criticism– it’s “I know how to run my idea of what your panel is better than you do” couched in “you’re a failure for leaving out these people.” I could ask for Andre 3000 to guest star on every album ever, and DJ Premier to produce at least 50% of that album, but that doesn’t mean that’s a valid criticism. That just means that I want things.

The latter third of Moore’s essay basically boils down to calling Michael Davis a cooning minstrel hardhead who’s keeping other black panels out of the show, setting himself up as a Martyr for the Cause (Because No One Else Is Brave Enough), the usual call for black people to act better so that white people will like them, and a little bit too much “You kids get off my porch” for my tastes.

There’s a bit of completely unfounded conjecture, too. Moore takes issue with Davis’s story of how Milestone came about, which was basically “Denys had an idea, I was like ‘That’s a great idea!’ and then Denys got it going.” Moore says that “the silence of Denys Cowan at this point of the panel says so much more than I or any other commentator could.” No, here is what the silence of Denys Cowan at that point said: nothing. He’s ascribing motives here, seemingly just to paint Davis as that old golliwog jigaboo stepinfetchit lying negro.

Here is the gospel truth: who cares what (this theoretical and monolithic group of) white people think. Seriously: who cares? And if you care, get over yourself. Stop trying to appease massa. Black people, as a group, don’t have to prove anything to anybody. If someone is stupid enough to judge your entire culture off the actions of a few, and you care about their opinion, here’s a newsflash: you’re doing what is probably the dumbest thing in the world.

What we need is no more Niggapaloozas like The Black Panel each and every year.

This is the thing that pissed me off. The rest of the report, whatever, it’s a mix of perfectly fine opinion and some stretched truths. This bit, though, no sir. This isn’t how it works.

The Chris Rock Black People vs Niggas thing? That thing that you’re invoking here to describe the Black Panel? It’s kind of what I expect from a guy who says “We should use it as a chance to calm the subconscious fears of white people, to say that all we want is room to breathe and dream, just like you” or “I guess this is the price I pay for being a self admitted Boojie Oreo.”

We aren’t all like them, he’s saying. They’re niggers, you see. We’re just trying to get by, but those niggers on trying to get over.

I shouldn’t even have to explain this one, but I will. By terming the Black Panel “Niggapalooza,” Moore is making a choice. He’s choosing to use “nigga” like a slur, something to be hated, something of low class. He’s using it exactly like the white people he wants to impress used to, or still, use it.

Nice one.

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Four Color Reality, or Lack Thereof

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I attended the Four Color Reality Panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2009. It was described like this:

6:30-7:30 Four Color Reality: Making Comics Relevant to Readers Across Cultures— Comic book stories have become the core of American pop culture—is there a big-budget spectacular that doesn’t in some fashion owe its existence to comic book roots these days? But sales of traditional-format comic books themselves have been in decline for years. This panel explores one reason for this shrinking market: the divergence between the identities of mainstream comic icons, who are typically straight, white, male, and American, and the demographic makeup of a new generation of readers. How can the comic book industry connect with changing audiences—not just of diverse races and backgrounds, but of different cultural and national origins as well? Moderated by Jeff Yang (editor-in-chief, Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology). Panelists include Dwayne McDuffie (Milestone Comics, JLA, Ben 10: Alien Force), Gail Simone (Wonder Woman), Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile), Stuart Moore (Wolverine: Noir, The 99), and Jai Nitz (Blue Beetle, El Diablo). Room 3

Jeff Yang had a powerpoint presentation that kicked a few facts to start off the panel. One was a comparison of readerships between now and fifty years ago. Back then, comics were read by both boys and girls, at about a 50/50 ratio. In 2008, or 2009, I forget the exact year he quoted, it’s 90/10 in favor of boys. 90% of comics readers. He also showed a few quotes. I have the Paul Levitz quote exactly, since I took a picture of it, but I may have slightly paraphrased/cropped the Gary Groth quote.

Like all American media, [comics have] reflected the culture, which means there were things in the 1930s and the 1940s and the ’50s I’m sure we’d be less proud of today…
But in modern times, there have been either heroes or supporting characters introduced in our line that represent different ethnic groups and the world.

-Paul Levitz

It’s the chicken-and-egg question. The market is mostly teenage white boys. The reason is that the content has been aimed at white teenage boys. That’s why women and black adults don’t read comics. Most literate, intelligent people don’t read comics. We’re trying to change that, but it’s really difficult to do.

-Gary Groth.

Near as I can tell, Yang pulled the quotes from Facing Difference, a text book that was written in… 1997. The specific article is from the November 14th, 1993 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

One more time: November 14th, 1993. That’s sixteen years ago, give or take a few months. So, let’s get into my problems with the panel, and then loop back around into specifically talking about those numbers, and what they mean.

My (former) biggest problem with the panel is the way it seemed to conflate superheroes with comics. I didn’t quite believe it, but I took the 90% number at face value during the panel, despite my reservations. But even then, there is no way that number is accurate for comics in general. Maybe, maybe, for superheroes, but not for comics, which cover a range of genres and interests. Even leaving out manga, which is a dumb thing to do but something people do anyway, you aren’t going to see 90:10. You aren’t seeing 50:50, but you definitely aren’t seeing 90:10.

And even then, should we be looking at superheroes for racial sensitivity, anyway? This past year has convinced me that the only sensible answer is… no. Superhero comics, by and large, aren’t built for nuance. They are built to punch bad guys, be deconstructed occasionally, and to have large explosions. Nine times out of ten, superheroes are going to approach a subject from a black and white point of view, there is right and there is wrong, and that really isn’t how race and racism works. You can’t beat up racism. There are too many shades of gray, too many varied experiences, and too much baggage for that to ever happen. Sorry. Time to look elsewhere. There’ll be the occasional gem, but then there will also be Superman making proclamations and an entire generation rolling their eyes so hard that they go blind.

My new biggest problem with the panel, the problem I didn’t have before I started doing research with this post, is the research that apparently went into those figures that helped to set the stage for it. Numbers (with no sources) and quotes on the state of the industry from 1993 have about as much to do with the numbers and state of the industry in 2009 as the murder rate in New York City in 1936 has to do with the crime in NYC in 2009.

It’s irrelevant, and using those numbers, comics or murder rate alike, to bolster your point is intellectually dishonest.

Since 1993, we’ve seen an industry contract and nearly collapse. We’ve seen the rise of graphic novels and trade paperbacks as a viable way of reading and producing comics. We’ve seen a burst of movies based on comics. We’ve seen Time Magazine give Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home book of the year. Not Comic Book of the Year– Book of the Year. We’ve seen an explosion of fandom thanks to the internet. That explosion led to an explosion of female fandom online, with Scans Daily, Girl Wonder, and When Fangirls Attack probably being the three highest profile sites focused around girls’n’comics. Manga wasn’t a going concern in 1993. “Real” publishers didn’t care about anything but Maus in 1993. Bone hadn’t sold several million copies in actual book stores. Batman: The Animated Series was just getting going. And so on, and so on, and so on.

1993 isn’t 2009, and you cannot, absolutely cannot, use 1993 to make points about 2009. Those numbers? They were valid, once. Then that time passed, we moved on, and we’re in a different world now. 90% of comics readers being male in 1993, which I feel is already a dubious number but that’s just off gut instinct, has zip to do with whatever the ratio of male to female is these days.

I can understand where Yang was coming from with this. Race and gender and comics? It’s better than it was in the ’40s, yes, but it could always be better. But, pulling out figures from 16 years ago and using them to frame and position a discussion about the comics world of today is a mistake. It’s dishonest. It’s arguing against, what, a strawman? It was true at one point, perhaps, but isn’t now. It’s not a valid position to argue from.

And I mean, I’m ostensibly on Yang’s side. Should comics do better with regards to whatever ism comes to mind? Yes! Absolutely! Let’s get that range of portrayals going. But, to argue from data from 1993? That’s not how it works. If I’m on your side, and I have huge issues with your data, imagine what a theoretical nay-sayer is going to say.

Things are, and have been, getting better. I’d like to think that readers are getting smarter and more, for lack of a better word, diverse. My personal experience has certainly suggested that, and the experience of the circles that I run in.

But, really, we’ve got to do better. Halfway research and outdated figures don’t cut it, not even remotely. It doesn’t prove anything, and it doesn’t say anything beyond “Man, yesterday sucked, didn’t it?”

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Dwayne McDuffie Spotlight Panel

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Courtesy of Jamie Coville, you can listen to the audio from the Dwayne McDuffie spotlight panel at SDCC09. Here’s a link to the rest of his convention mp3s, if you’re interested. Hat tip to Dwayne McDuffie, as he found it first.

Shouldn’t all comic-cons do this direct from the microphones? It’d be nice to be able to download audio of any panel from the show after a week or so.

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Fourcast 09!: Live from San Diego

July 28th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Esther and I went to San Diego Comic-con and came back with stories and a few interviews. This is just the first of two fourcasts from SDCC. Pardon the quality– the mics pick up everything, and I think we can be heard clearly, but there’s a fair amount of noise on the line. Yowza.

-We talk a little about the con in general
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-I interview Jason McNamara, author of The Martian Confederacy. Jason’s a great guy, super funny, and always a pleasure to speak to.
-Leigh Walton, similarly to Jason, is another great guy in the comics industry. He does marketing for Top Shelf and is one of my favorite people to talk about comics with. He runs down Top Shelf’s line-up at the con and we nerd it out a bit over paper quality (so nice to find a kindred spirit).
-We come back to me and Esther, conversation already in progress. We talk about the Dwayne McDuffie and Darwyn Cooke panels at SDCC, discuss the future success and current failings of comics, and then ditch the podcast to go see the Women of Marvel panel.

Surprises to come! In the meantime, read the podcast boilerplate:
If you’re new to the Fourcast!, subscribe to the podcast-specific RSS feed or subscribe on iTunes. Our full-blown RSS, with space-age things like “text” and “images” is here. Befriend us on Facebook, too!

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Wolverine Contest, Adam Warren Interview

July 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m back from the con, barely, and I’ve got some reminders.

The Wolverine Contest is still on. Go, enter, and win a free book or two. It ends tomorrow, so go ahead and get your entries in.
-I interviewed Adam Warren after discussing his Dirty Pair and Gen 13/Livewires work. It’s a good read. He went above and beyond in answering all those questions.
-Podcast is due to return in the middle of this week. We’ve got a couple of special guest stars this time around, and it required a little more time than usual.
-Lone Wolf & Cub has been on unannounced hiatus for the past couple weeks. I hope to get back to it this coming Sunday, but at worst, it’ll begin again on August 9th. San Diego Con and a few other things bearing down on me meant that something had to give, and LW&C ended up being the victim.
-I totally screwed up my back at the con. Yow.

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San Diego Comic-con

July 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m here! And judging by my voice mails, Esther is here, too!

I’m going to be walking the floor today, attending only a few panels. Here’s a brief list:

10:30-11:30 Science Fiction That Will Change Your Life— The staff of io9.com, Eisner Award–winning author Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics), and others talk about science fiction from the last year that does more than blow things up. It might also blow your mind. What science fiction should you be reading and watching if you want your brain to grow so big it pops out of the top of your skull and starts throbbing and shooting lasers? The panelists have some tips. Room 8

12:30-1:30 Crime: Usual and Unusual— The heart of crime fiction is a crime committed against people or institutions—but the range of subgenres is diverse and fascinating. Panelists: Max Allan Collins (The Goliath Bone), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Cold Black Hearts), Alexander Irvine (Buyout), Gregg Hurwitz (Trust No One), Thomas Greanias (The Atlantis Revelation), and Kat Richardson (Vanished) cover traditional mysteries, espionage, paranormal mystery, and more. Moderator: Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy. Room 3

2:00-3:00 A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics— Crime comics are back with a bang! Darwyn Cooke (Parker: The Hunter), Greg Rucka (Gotham Central), and Steve Lieber (Whiteout) join moderator/noted mystery and comics writer Max Allan Collins (The Road to Perdition) to talk about the new incarnations of crime and noir in comics. Room 5AB

5:30-6:30 All-Stars of Comics Podcasting— Comics podcasting has grown from a novelty to a force within the industry, providing an outlet for reviews, interviews, news and general entertainment for comic book fans. Comic book podcasting veterans Jimmy Aquino (Comics News Insider), Charlito (Indie Spinner Rack), Brian “Pants” Christman (Comic Geek Speak), Bob Bretall (Comic Book Page—who will be giving away comics to the first 200 people to attend the panel), and Ron Richards (iFanboy) discuss the future of comics podcasting. You never know what may happen in podcasting, so be sure to come as some surprise guests may be appearing! Plus this is your chance to meet and talk to your favorite podcasters! Room 32AB

If you see me, say hello. I’m sure Esther will be at every DC-related panel ever. You can email me or twitter at me if you like.

I’ve pretty much got everything I want out of the con, as you can see here.

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Fourcast! 08: San Diego Comic-convicted

July 20th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

San Diego Comic-con launches this week, and Esther and I are going to be there. So, it’s only fitting that our show is a con-preview. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to mix this, so please bear with any technical issues.

-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental starts off the show, and then
-we get right into You Made Me Read This! This time around, Esther read Darwyn Cooke’s Selina’s Big Score.
-We both like it. Surprise!
-Darkwing Duck joke.
-We talk a bit about SDCC and what we’re looking forward to.
-Twilight fanfiction joke.
-Firefly Browncoats joke (Poor Taste Variant #2.)
-I talk about the time I embarrassed myself in front of Dwayne McDuffie.
-Esther talks about meeting Gail Simone, Devin Grayson, and Judd Winick.
-We talk a bit about the smokescreen of Marvel vs DC, I relate it to Yankees vs Red Sox, and Esther tunes out.
-We turn off.

We’ll be at the con from Wednesday to Sunday. If you’re gonna be there and want to say hello (without being creepy or awkward) you can either find us on the floor or throw us an email and we’ll see if we can work something out. No promises, though, as the life of a comics blogging superstar is a tough one, requiring a lot of scheduling and running around.

Or, you know, sitting on your couch with a laptop. Either/or. Maybe both.

Boilerplate podcast pimpery:
If you’re new to the Fourcast!, subscribe to the podcast-specific RSS feed or subscribe on iTunes. Our full-blown RSS, with space-age things like “text” and “images” is here. I hear that the kids like Facebook, too, so if you’re so inclined…

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Fourcast! 05: You Made Me Read This!

June 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

What’s on tap for Fourcast! #5?

-A special conversation about how Jack Kirby would’ve done the Transformers
-Our theme music is still 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-Special guest podcaster, Jeff Lester of Savage Critic(s)
-We debut a new segment called You Made Me Read This! I got Esther to read the first hardcover of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s Fantastic Four. Esther didn’t like it for what, in hindsight, is a very good reason.
-Our conversation about FF leads into a conversation about the different approaches DC and Marvel take.
-And… scene.

This one was a lot of fun, and I’m actually a little scared of which book I’m going to have to read. I’m pretty sure she mentioned this book… and goodness, have mercy! 🙁

Some Fourcast! notes–
-We’ve got one more podcast next week (07/06), also guest-starring Jeff Lester, and then we’re taking off the week of 07/13 off. We should be back in business the week of 07/20 with a pre-San Diego Comic-con show.
-Fans of the Character Continuity Clash Comics/Continuity Off/Comics Are Seriously Dumb/whatever will really like the 07/06 cast, I’m, betting. Tell your friends.
-Esther and I are both planning on attending SDCC, and we may end up doing a show from the show, so to speak.
-We’ve got real microphones! You won’t hear them on this podcast, or next week’s, but we’ll be using them going forward. I’ve got high hopes, as it’ll make everything from recording to editing much easier.
-We hit 1000 listens the other day. You guys rule.

The usual podcast stuff:
You can subscribe via podcast-specific RSS feed, site-wide RSS feed, or iTunes. Review us if you like us, review us if you hate us, and call us dumb down in the comments.

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4l!tv: SDCC Day Two

July 25th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Direct link to my videos! I recorded this this morning, but have been away from internet and am just now able to get it up!

4l!tv 02: SDCC Day Two from david brothers on Vimeo.

Now, though, I’m going to get some food.

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