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Does 4thletter Promote the Illegal Downloading of Comics?

May 20th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

During the last DC panel of Wondercon, the talk turned to illegal downloads, their ethics, popularity, and effect on the comic book industry.

My take is that they’re not ethical, they’re very popular, and their overall effect is bad.  That being said, I can’t really lord morality over anyone.  I don’t get permission for the panels I use to illustrated stuff on this site, so to the extent I can steal, I suppose I do.

To the extent that I can.  To be honest, a part of what’s keeping me back from at least sneaking a few downloads to get the flavor of a particular book, is that I honestly can’t do it.  At all.  I’m a half-wit when it comes to know-how.  I don’t really know where to look for anything that I can’t look up in a book.  I’m also a half-wit when it comes to technology.  I tend toward the user-friendly programs and everything else is ‘magic’.  Half times half leaves me with a quarter wit to navigate my way through torrent sites, and I’m not up to the challenge.  I’ll pay the three dollars, thank you.

Another part of what keeps me shelling out money for books I know are going to frustrate me, is the overall atmosphere.  To me, going to a comic book store is like going to a bar.  Specifically, my well-loved, local bar.  I see people every week.  I catch up with them.  I talk comics with them.  I drift away and read when they talk sports.  I come back and we talk about what’s on TV, and eventually they close up and I head home.

Downloading comics has its appeal, especially to the broke and cheap, both of which kind of describe me, but at the same time – come on.  That’s like saying, “Why go down and meet my friends for a beer when I can make gin in my bathtub and get drunk alone?”  Sure, you can.  But why would you?

Except that, thanks to 4thletter, and Comics Alliance and Io9 and Comic Book Resources and LJ and Dreamwidth and Twitter and hundreds of message boards, that’s not true.  Hell, half of why I got into comics was the vast amount of resources, and company, online.

So I wonder, is this part of why people download comics?  I know, I know, less human connection, less local communities pulling together, standards.  I’m not frowning on it.  Like I said, I wouldn’t be into comics if I couldn’t talk about them whenever I have the time, and if I couldn’t get the number of angles on them that the internet provides.  Supplanting local with global might not be picturesque, but it gives a lot of opportunities for connection, and for variety.  At the same time, when you can get comics online for the same price that you can get conversation about comics online, maybe that’s competition too tough for vendors and creators.  And given that they’re who we need for our fix, maybe that’s going to be a problem pretty soon.

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Wondercon Wrap-up!

April 6th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

If you asked me to sum up my Wondercon experience in a couple of short, witty phrases, I’d just tell you that I ate six pieces of pizza over the course of two days and that I spent more on karaoke than I did on anything even remotely comic-related.

That’s not the full experience, though. It was an interesting con for me, due in no small part to the ongoing evolution in the way I approach comics, and being a fan of comics. I got no signatures, no sketches, no freebies. I paid for three books and got one for free. I spent maybe twenty-five whole dollars at the con, a drastic decrease from the usual foolishness I get down to. I’ll get to that, though.

I left work a couple hours early on Friday to hit the con and get my pass. It was painless, with less than two people in line ahead of me. Other than my pass saying “4thletter!/Popcultureshock.com” for some reason, it was easy like Sunday morning.

I figured I’d walk the length of the hall from wall to wall, but the first thing I did at the con was find Matt Maxwell, Jeff Lester, and Heidi MacDonald chit-chatting in Artist’s Alley/Small Press. I killed some time with them for a while, talking about the con and comics, and that more or less set the tone for the con.

I spent a lot of time talking to people about comics and only attended a few panels. I stopped in on the DC Nation panel because a few friends (Esther, JK Parkin, Graeme McMillan, Carla Hoffman, Laura Hudson, a couple others) were there. It was, in a word, abysmal. They completely flubbed looking like they had any idea what they were doing with digital comics, there was a lot of “Wait and see,” there were a few “Wait until San Diego” answers… it was boring. I liked when someone asked about plans for Nightwing and got a succinct “Yeah, he’s Batman” in response, and I love that Dark Knight: Boy Wonder got announced, but it was a snoozer. I had a similar experience at the Marvel panel I accidentally attended the next day, again because friends were in effect and I had an opening in my schedule. I spent most of it poring over Darwyn Cooke’s The Man With the Getaway Face.

I attended a couple panels that were cool. The Greg Rucka spotlight moderated by Laura was a trip and well worth the price of admission. It was in a huge room, for some reason. The Boom! Studios panel was also pretty good, and Ian Brill seemed genuinely excited to be writing Darkwing Duck.


There was a Disney Comics superfan in the audience, too, who kept interrupting to ask about minutiae. At the end of the panel, I went up to say hi to Ian, and as I turned to leave, the superfan was right behind me. He was mumbling something about how we should print the Disney newspaper strips in black and white and not colorize them and something something Carl Barks. I tried to tell him I wasn’t part of Boom!, that that was the other black guy in the room, but he just said, “Yes, yes, but I think that…” and kept going. I shrugged and walked away while he was talking. I’m not getting trapped in an infinite conversation ever again, and that definitely had the makings of one.

(You ever had one of those? When someone keeps going and going and you can’t find a polite way to excuse yourself because they’re so focused that all they want to do is talk about whatever? Yeah. Infinite conversations. They’re gonna be the death of somebody one day.)

I attended the Black Cartoonists as Social Commentators panel, too. It was good, but the moderator was a little too overbearing. It was clear he had a very clear and academic formula he wanted to follow, but Keith Knight and Darrin Bell are hilarious, personable, and have great anecdotes. I would’ve much preferred to see them let loose with a conversation about themselves and their work. The glimpses we got were great, though, and if you aren’t reading either, get familiar. Bell’s story about how he was getting hate mail after hate mail before Hurricane Katrina and zilch after… that was a good one. It was a good panel.

I spent most of my time walking around with friends like Lauren Davis and Ana, digging in the various half off book booths and looking for stuff to buy. I didn’t buy much, as I said before, in part because I know exactly how much stuff is sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be read. I stuck to books I knew I’d love and get to relatively soon. This means I missed out on deep discounted hardcovers, but that’s okay. I think.
Read the rest of this entry �

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Hot Wondercon News

April 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Just so you know, Comics Alliance is the place to go for hot off the presses Wondercon news. Two bits of note for Friday:

-Greg Rucka is done at DC Comics and his Batwoman? Well, y’all are gonna be waiting a while. I have more details in the link.

-Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is back on track. It hits again in February 2011 under the name Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, a six-issue miniseries. I can’t even front, that news is super exciting. I can’t wait to see more of Miller/Lee’s take of the Dark Knight universe. Grant Morrison has faltered for me, due in part to the on and off art, and Dini is writing the kind of comic book you use to break up weed on. Miller/Lee’s ASBAR was like a chilled shot of vodka– something bracing and surprising, and something that’ll rock your world when you least expect it.

More on that later, though. Stay tuned, true believer :)

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Support Worthy Causes

April 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

If you’re coming to San Francisco for Wondercon, or if you live in or near the city, try to stop by and check out Cartoon Art Museum. It’s a pretty neat place. It has some fairly ancient animation cels, an actual Yellow Kid page, some classic Gene Colan art, a lot of Ed Hannigan works (and he is the beneficiary of a party on Friday evening), and a whole heaping lot of Batman stuff right now.

They have regular lectures/events. I’ve attended a few alone or with friends and enjoyed all of them, even when I had no idea what Scott Kurtz was talking about that one time. I’m really glad this kind of place exists, where comics are treated as art and a focus is placed on creators and characters equally. The Gene Colan exhibit was amazing, and I’m happy I got to see it.

If you stop by and dig the place, give some thought to supporting CAM. Membership starts at 35 bucks, though they also take normal donations. It’s a good place, and I’d like to see it stick around. Give it a look if you get a chance.

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You’re Always a Day! A! Way!

April 1st, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Wonder-Con is tomorrow!

The booths!  The people!  The smell of storm-trooper armor.  Me, skulking around the DC area hoping that someone will say something spoilerish like they did at Comic-Con.  Me staring at Gail Simone like a creepy fangirl who can’t manage a conversation – which I kind of am.  Oh well!

The panel that David and I and the theyFanboys are hosting on Saturday, 12:30, in room 220.

Already I’m thinking about the regrettable purchases I am going to make, the awkward questions I am going to pose, and the possibility of running into Kevin Smith in the halls.

Oh, it is going to be fantastic.

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Wondercon Invasion!

March 23rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Wondercon is right around the corner, taking place from April 2nd to April 4th. It’s probably my favorite con, maybe tied with New York Comic-con, but slightly ahead because I can walk to Wondercon if I like. This one’s gonna be super special, as you can see from these descriptions of Saturday’s programming:

12:30-1:30 Comics Podcasting— Celebrating 5 years of podcasting about the comics industry, join the voices behind the iFanboy series of podcasts, Ron Richards and Conor Kilpatrick, along David Brothers and Esther Inglis-Arkell from the Fourcast! from 4thLetter, plus some possible very special guests as they discuss the ins and outs of podcasting about comics, what’s changed over the past 5 years, and what the future holds. You won’t want to miss this frank discussion, which is sure to be filled with often embarrassing stories of comics creators, conventions, and other comics related amusements. Room 220

6:00-7:00 Comics Journalism— Join David Brothers (4thletter!), Kate Dacey (manga critic), Graeme McMillan (io9), JK Parkin (Robot 6), and Ron Richards (iFanboy), for a roundtable discussion of comics journalism from all angles. What should publishers and readers expect out of the varied and often fluctuating landscape of comics criticism online? Is comics print journalism dead? What makes a writer worth reading? Expect answers to these questions and more as the panelists, each practicing a different discipline of comics journalism, talks about the what’s, why’s, and how’s of writing about comics online. Room 232/234

So, you know, if you’re around… come around. We’re up against some stiff competition, but really, who cares about Brightest Day and Toy Story 3, anyway?

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An Interview With The Team That Reinvented Supergirl

March 4th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In the Eighth Grade was reviewed on this site a few months ago when the fist issue came out.  Conclusion:  funny, sly, and cute as a button.  Since then I’ve been reading the book and it has managed to keep all those descriptors accurate, despite having to pull off several difficult balancing acts.  The book has to fold in enough ancient continuity to make the long-term superfans happy while making sure the story is accessible to new readers.  It has to keep the language simple enough for young children without being dull for an adult reader.  And it has to make us laugh at the miseries of junior high while reminding us why we wouldn’t be dragged back there kicking, screaming, weeping, thrashing and begging for mercy.

At WonderCon, Landry Walker and Eric Jones spent most of their time signing and sketching at the SLG Comics booth or being mobbed during signing events for DC, but I managed to talk to them briefly about how Supergirl came about. Read the rest of this entry �

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Batgirl

February 28th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

There were two things I learned at the DC Universe panel.

There is going to be a Batgirl book after Battle for the Cowl is over.

Cassandra Cain is not going to be ‘part of the batfamily’ after Battle for the Cowl is over.

I asked who was going to fill the cowl and was denied an answer, so I’ve compiled a list.

1.  Barbara Gordon:  Her upcoming series is titled ‘The Cure.’  Dan Didio has gone from flatly denying the idea that Babs would ever walk again to giving cagey answers like, “There’s a lot to be said for a Barbara Gordon Batgirl.”  I think I’ve made it no secret that I would love to see Barbara Gordon as Batgirl again.  But then, isn’t she just a bit old for the ‘girl’ title?  And since the position of Batwoman is filled at least up until the end of the JH Williams Batwoman book, there might not be a place for an adult Batgirl.

2.  Stephanie Brown:  What can I say?  I don’t give up hope. 

3.  Charlie Gage-Radcliffe:  After all, she adopted the title for a while, and Barbara took her under her wing.  But what’s more - It’s been a long time coming.  And let me say, there were times when I truly believed I would never see this day.  But at last, at long last, there might possibly be a heroine with a hyphenated last name in the Batbooks.  Stay strong, sister!  Make us proud!

4.  Cassandra Cain:  Because sometimes a DC editor can be the father of all liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeees.

5.  Deathstroke:  He shows up in every book.  It was just a matter of time, really.

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