Friday, June 8, 2012

A Book Worthy Of Your Almighty Dollar

My pals Sam Johnson and Mike Gagnon have come out with a really fascinating new comic called The Almighties, and Sam was kind enough to get a copy into my hands (which is brave of him, as he has no idea where these hands have been).

I'm going to pay this comic a compliment that I rarely ever use: I have no idea where it's going. Now, with far too many of today's funnybooks, that's a definite negative. But in this context, I point it out as one of the book's greatest strengths. Unlike a lot of comics, I can't say "well, this is obviously trying to capitalize on the readership of Vertigo titles," or "it's obvious that they're going for a Teen Titans vibe here." The Almighties is very much its own thing, and as someone who takes great pride in trying to make my comics unique, I can appreciate that quality more than most.

Ostensibly, this is a superteam comic, but its line-up is a quirky hodge-podge of interesting characters, including the power-armored Maxi-Tron (who finds himself in need of a testicular exam), Ms. F (sort of a Carol Danvers type, but also nothing like her), Nite Fang (a werewolf), Mason (a mercenary), and Stefanos, who apparently runs a kabob shop between having meetings at the White House and fighting crime with a big skewer of meat (and not the way that Ron Jeremy does).

Now in and of itself, a peculiar line-up of characters doesn't make a superteam book unique, as we've seen similar things in 1980s indy comics like Southern Knights, Justice Machine, etc., and in some ways this book is reminiscent of such great titles (though the Almighties team is odder than most). But the real difference is in the WAY the comic is written, and that's where my job here becomes difficult, as how do you describe an unknown quality without using a "yardstick" of familiarity with which to compare it? If I had to describe the way this story is told, it would be sort of like if you took a more light-hearted superteam comic (say, the Great Lakes Avengers of the Legion of Substitute Heroes), but then you doused it liberally with the sheer oddness of Bob Burden's work (Flaming Carrot, Mystery Men, etc.). There's a certain controlled lunacy to the comic that could be misconstrued as just wackiness, but there's actually a lot more to it than that. In the salad days of the Comics Journal, I think they might've called this comic "dadaistic," which might be as appropriate, and as incomplete, as any other classification.

However you chose to label it, though, I really enjoyed it. There are laughs (my favorite probably being the L'il Jonze character's preoccupation with sex and dips), cool character interaction, and a very fast pace. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the artwork by Eleonora Kortsarz, Pablo Zambrano, and D.C. White, which is equally hard to describe (again, it would be like if you took the cool indie team books of thirty years ago, but then added an almost underground points it almost looks like the Elementals if Bill Willingham had collaborated with Reid Fleming's David Boswell!), some great coloring by Gulliver Vianei, Jennifer Scott, and the aforementioned Mike Gagnon (oooh, Mr. Multi-tasking!), and first-rate lettering by Kris Johnson.

Again, I'll praise the book in a strange way: it's not for everybody. And thank goodness for that, as I really don't want to read a comic that's for everyone. But I do want to read one that's intended for sharp readers with an appreciation of creators doing something outside the box, and that's what we've got here.

Check it out. The Almighties #1 is published by Actuality Press, Rated Teen+, and is available at and in $3.99 regular and Variant editions. And the $1.99 Digital Edition is available now at and

It's cool to have another comic out there that I actually want to read. I may not give up on this funnybook thing yet...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

If Luck Be a Lady Tonight, She Doesn't Think You Drive a Cool Car...

Today I saw a link to a FB post that not only got my goat, but bent him over and gave him a Ned Beatty to boot. Here's where you can read it in its entirety if you wish. I'm a bit iffy on something called "We Survived Bush, You Can Survive Obama," as it seems to discount all of us who didn't want to have to survive either of them, but what the hey.

Now, this thingy started off OK, with the author saying that not everyone who is out of work right now is lazy or not looking for work. Okey dokey, I'm with you there. It's a crappy economy right now, despite what the White House might want us to think, and there are a ton of hardworking folks who can't find a job at the moment. That's not debatable; it's simply fact (just like it's a fact that at ANY time in history, there are also going to be far too many folks who DON'T want to work and would rather have other folks do it for them; I don't think these folks are the majority, but they exist).

HOWEVER, then the author goes too far, and ends the piece with this little nugget:
"Unless you're a millionaire reading this then we are all running the same race and quite simply some of  have us just gotten luckier in our circumstances than others. That is all that separates us."
OK, Hoss, that's where you lost me. People who have succeeded more than others are ONLY there because of luck?

Bzzzzzzt! Oh, so sorry. You've lost the lightning round.

Is it just possible that in SOME cases, just MAYBE effort, determination, and forethought might have the slightest iota to do with it?
OK, I'm going to use myself as an example here. Bear in mind that my college paid me $19,000 last year, so it'll probably be a while before I can save up to be a millionaire; therefore I guess I have a right to address this "luck" pontification.

In my own case, as most of you know, I occasionally get to write comic books (whereas I'd like to do so more than occasionally). Of course, I'm no heavy hitter when it comes to fame or fortune in comics (99% of comic readership hasn't the foggiest who I am), and by my standards I haven't accomplished anywhere near what I want to in the funnybook realm. But truth be told, I've accomplished more than the MAJORITY of folks who WANT to write comics (not those who actually have, but simply those who have that as their goal). I've been up for some Eisners, I've gotten to work on some fairly major characters, my work is being optioned for other media, and on the rare occasions when I DO work, I've gotten a decent page-rate.

Now, the small success that I HAVE had in it all because of luck? Well, as I point out to folks when I'm interviewed, I probably wouldn't be doing this stuff professionally now if Jim McLauchlin hadn't wandered by my table at the 1997 Wizard World Chicago convention, noticed my comic Holey Crullers, and bought them and enjoyed them.

Was there an element of sheer happenstance in that? Sure. If Jim had taken a different route around the convention floor, if he'd been distracted by a bug as he passed my table, etc., things might have gone completely differently. THAT could be considered good fortune, as it's not something I could control.


Now let's look at the elements that I COULD and DID control. Jim couldn't have picked up my comics had I not made the effort, that year and the six years previous, to go to the convention and peddle my unknown mini-comics (mainly to people who had no interest in reading them, and who had no problems letting you know that). I had to write the comics, find artists for the comics, print them up, fold and staple them, lug them to the convention and back, pay for the table, and push them on anyone and everyone I could.

Beyond that, he might not have LIKED my comics enough to make my comics career possible if I had not spent nine years in college specifically to improve my writing abilities, not to mention the fifteen years or so that I spent working at concession stands, convenience stores, gas stations, mowing lawns, etc. so that I had the money to PAY for those years of college.

If you want to say that a guy who did EVERYTHING that I did to succeed, and then STILL failed, is only separated from me by circumstance, then maybe we might have a topic for discussion.

But to say that ANYONE who doesn't succeed is only different from me because I was "lucky"? Sorry, but you're cuckoo for coco puffs. There's a PROFOUND difference between me and a guy whose only effort to get into the funnybook business is standing around bending the ear of his local comic shop owner about what great comics he would create if the Big Two would only have the brains and the nerve to "give me my shot!"

Nine times out of ten, every success story that seems like mere "luck" has a TON of hard work and patience
behind it. Most overnight sensations happen over years, sometimes decades. But most failure is pretty much instantaneous, and yeah, most of the time it is equally due to what its "victim" has done or not done.

Think of it like the stock market. Is there an element of luck to investment? Sure. A rutabaga crop can be destroyed by a drought, and you lose your shirt. It happens. But most of the time your success or failure in the market is due to which investments you make. If you bought into IBM years ago, you might have made a fortune. If you instead chose to put all your money into New Coke, you F-ed yourself in the A.

Likewise, I made an investment when I decided I wanted to write
comics. Truth be told, it may not have been the brightest investment, as my Master's in creative writing is hardly the key to gainful employment, and the comic book industry is neither stable nor going out of their way to hire unknown folks (they're more likely to hire well-known actors or directors or soccer players than a guy like me).

But that was my choice. If I don't succeed, it's not because the Fates didn't smile on me, nor is it because there are a lot of mean people out there trying to hold me back. The credit or blame for my success or failure rests squarely on one guy, and he's the same one who makes sweet love to my girlfriend whenever possible (and if I ever CATCH that bastard...!).

Are there folks out there suffering because of circumstances beyond their control? Sure, and hopefully we can quit dicking around and put policies in place that will encourage hiring rather than discouraging it.

But to say that the only difference between a guy like myself... and another guy whose biggest investment in his comics-writing career was to buy every issue of a matter of sheer LUCK?

I'm a comic book writer, but even I can't pass off a fantasy like that...