on the comics signatorship

For those of you who don’t know (namely those of you who’ve never spent even ten minutes in conversation with me), I run the comic book reading room at my school. Recent conversation with one of our more dedicated readers () yielded some of my thoughts on the matter:

apologies to Eliah for cutting out a lot of his comments:
On a new resource for the room
(15:24:07) me: http://www.slingsandarrowspublishing.com/
(15:24:19) me: i think this will be a great asset
(15:24:36) eliah: it looks pretty cool
(15:24:36) me: it’s recieved great reviews across the board
(15:25:11) eliah: surprisingly inexpensive as well
(15:25:36) me: yeah
(15:25:48) me: check out the sample
(15:26:33) eliah: that looks awesome
(15:26:37) me: big entries for hulk, hellblazer and heavy metal
(15:26:57) me: a decent review of a 4-issue Peter David miniseries for Chaos! Comics
(15:27:58) me: a summary of the howard the duck debacle
(15:28:03) eliah: heh
(15:28:16) me: for something like hellblazer, i really need an article just like this
(15:28:24) me: who did what when, what was good, etc
(15:28:32) eliah: yeah, and i agree with it pretty well
(15:28:35) me: ’cause i’m not going to read 200 issues of hellblazer
(15:29:55) me: (Giant-Size Man-Thing is still the best title of a comic ever)

what my job (as i see it) entails
(15:31:53) me: grr. the database needs updating badly. maintaining that stuff was work enough; now that I have to make purchasing decisions as well it’s quite a task
(15:33:34) me: i almost want to divide the signatorship into a “creative director” and “operations director”
(15:33:44) me: but i still want to do both, and think I’m good at both
(15:33:56) me: and i’m not sure i could tolerate someone else doing it
(15:34:01) me: :/
(15:34:24) eliah: is there a lot of administrative-type work?
(15:35:03) me: i haven’t even had to deal with the paperwork-and-Senate stuff much yet
(15:35:12) me: thanks for reminding me. more headaches
(15:35:39) eliah: ha. sorry.
(15:35:52) me: i was thinking of the mailing lists and inventory management
(15:36:23) me: although the emails should be written by the person who’s making the purchasing decisions
(15:36:39) me: “here’s why i bought this comic”
(15:37:53) me: and controlling our purchasing is really a hefty task. not only am i trying to monitor upcoming releases (trying to predict what will be good out of hundreds of short ads three months in advance)
(15:38:09) me: and checking out online reviews to see recent stuff we missed
(15:39:54) me: but also trying to cover huge gaps in our coverage of essential reading – why buy another shitty Batman issue when we don’t even have anything by Seth?
(15:41:00) me: all the while trying to come up with a coherent coverage philosophy as an institution
(15:41:12) eliah: eh? coverage philosophy?
(15:41:45) me: what sorts of things should a comic reading room (for [Reed] college students) have?
(15:42:24) me: not to mention that getting people to realize, read, and appreciate what we already have could be a full-time job
(15:42:47) eliah: hey, just reading it can be a full time job.
(15:43:09) me: and if I buy things too quickly because I’m racing to cover shameful gaps in our coverage, it floods and nobody reads any of it
(15:43:37) me: I bought two hefty trades of Alan Moore’s Supreme run just at the end of the year
(15:44:08) me: in September they’ll have to go on the shelf (cause there’s a huge stack of new stuff from summer) and i’m afraid they’ll disappear there
(15:44:38) me: not to mention that I also like to read the damn things myself
(15:44:48) me: not only personally but in my role as signator
(15:45:16) me: maybe i can stay at Reed after I graduate and just… signate

crossover burnout
(15:53:02) eliah: hey, did you catch House of M?
(15:53:19) eliah: I’ve just read the first so far
(15:53:24) eliah: and I kind of like it
(15:53:33) eliah: but i’m worried it’ll just be another big stupid crossover
(15:53:37) me: i don’t know what to think
(15:54:21) eliah: ‘course, i also don’t know some of the back-story
(15:55:10) me: DC Prelude to Countdown to Infinite Crisis on Infinite Crossover really burned me out, i think
(15:55:17) eliah: heh
(15:55:23) me: and i’ve been unfairly dismissive of House of M as just the Marvel equivalent

DC Comics declines to innovate
(15:55:36) eliah: I’ve still not managed to get into any DC titles
(15:55:53) eliah: I grabbed Green Lantern, but it didn’t really get me
(15:56:58) me: i’m so skeptical of mainstream comics these days
(15:57:19) me: green lantern was a big hoopla because Hal Jordan’s back
(15:58:00) me: I was never terribly attached to him in the first place, but he was gone
(15:58:11) me: with a rather cool corruption story, even if he didn’t make much sense as a villain
(15:58:20) me: but then he was the Spectre, and that was cool
(15:58:45) me: but i feel like this is just DC declaring all the GL stories of the past ten years invalid
(15:59:02) me: not exactly “progressive”
(15:59:02) eliah: They seem to mess with their back story a lot
(15:59:46) me: messing with continuity is one thing. i’m more concerned with the fact that this represents a conscious rejection of the possibility that they might tell new stories
(15:59:59) me: “we’re going to go back to the way it was in the good old days.”

Archivism, and originality, in an ephemeral artform
(16:00:50) me: I dunno. it’s a tough thing to argue, because unoriginality is more excusable in comics than, say, novels
(16:01:07) eliah: Why?
(16:01:35) me: Mark Twain’s works are still around and easily accessible – much more so than most contemporary debut novels
(16:03:00) me: whereas comics start becoming harder to find, the moment they hit the shelves
(16:03:06) me: they’re printed once and gone
(16:03:17) eliah: true. there is that inherent ephemerality…
(16:03:25) eliah: excepting collected editions
(16:03:59) me: until we [i.e. the comics industry]have a robust archival program – and we’re much further on that than we used to be, but there’s a long way to go – new readers have no way to get to old classic stories
(16:04:02) me: not to mention:
(16:04:34) me: 1) lack of coverage – new readers can’t know about the old classics if no one tells them
(16:06:00) me: 2) the comics business has changed tremendously in the last 70 years. production values have grown so drastically that people used to contemporary comics may be unable to accept decades-old coloring
(16:06:56) me: and some writing doesn’t age well either

a depressingly-accurate analogy?
(16:08:08) me: can you imagine if every CD went out of print a month after its release?
(16:08:53) me: you’d be limited to “new releases” every week, plus whatever stuff the label decided to put together in a “compilation”
(16:09:03) eliah: yeah, that would suck

past vs. present
(16:09:19) eliah: and it is hard to look at 15-yr-old books after a bunch of modern stuff
(16:09:26) eliah: but that just makes the present more exciting…
(16:10:08) eliah: a rather unique medium
(16:11:01) me: but the important thing about the past is that we can evaluate it! we have a critical context for it; we can eliminate the crappy stuff and concentrate on the best!
(16:11:26) me: i have no idea whether House of M is going to be good
(16:12:21) me: I know that Joe Sacco’s Palestine is a landmark of investigative journalism in comics form, well-reviewed in all camps
(16:12:52) me: or that Carl Barks’ Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge influenced a generation of cartoonists
(16:12:59) me: you get the idea
(16:13:49) me: when I’m (painfully) aware of the great stuff of the past that we don’t have access to, it makes me reluctant to gamble on new stuff
(16:13:50) eliah: yeah
(16:14:03) me: so that’s a tough balancing act

cry for help/input?
(16:14:51) me: I’m gonna try to keep leaving Diamond Previews in the MLLL every month so other people can look through them

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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