Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why Before Watchmen is a bad idea

Besides the horrible title.

Over at Newsarama, Graeme McMillan wrote a blog post commenting that Before Watchmen may indeed be the project that rips the internet in half, as Brian Michael Bendis predicted "House of M" would.  McMillan points to the recent interview with Moore at Seraphemera and J. Michael Straczynski's interview at Aint' It Cool News. 

One point JMS, who is a creator I've admired for a long time (note: I haven't read any of his Spider-Man comics past those drawn by JRJr; I haven't read his recent Superman or Wonder Woman comics; and I've not read much, if any, of the work that has earned him such a bad reputation with fans and bloggers/critics), makes in his interview sits particularly poorly with me:

... neither Alan nor the detractors have the legal or the moral high ground here.
JMS argues a number of points leading up to this statement.  But, in signing on to this endeavor and in making the above statement, he - like a lot of other people - seems to completely miss the point at the heart of this argument.  Below is what I said in the comments section to McMillan's blog post:

I find it laughable and disappointing that JMS states Moore and his backers have no moral ground upon which to claim Watchmen 2 is a bad idea. I’ve been a fan of JMS ever since Babylon 5 ... but he, like so many others, seem to miss the point with this entire argument.

Neil Gaiman directly attributes his good working relationship vis-a-vis Sandman for DC/Vertigo with the way Alan Moore was treated and his vocal and strident response to that. Moore’s stance comes off as selfish to some, but at the heart of it, Moore is asking for these corporations to respect the creators, respect the work they do, and allow them the opportunity to work in an industry where writers and artists own that which they create like “real publishers” do. By signing the petition started by Frank Miller against labeling in the 80s along with the Creators’ Bill of Rights and being one of the handful of creators, if not the only one, who did not go back on his word, Moore has been at the forefront of creators’ rights in mainstream comic publishing.

By taking on Watchmen 2, despite all of his arguments, JMS is only propagating the status quo wherein Marvel and DC can leech off the writers and artists who work for them (will Marvel provide a bountiful pension to Bendis when his books no longer sell for them? it seems highly unlikely).

DC was smart to get high-profile creators to work on this. But, by agreeing, these “big names” have legitimized the outdated work practices at the Big Two. That is the moral issue at hand. and I find it depressing to think these people don’t see the problem here.

Ah, well. I’ll just go try to track down Saga, or get caught up on Wasteland, or pick up the new Fantagraphics or Top Shelf book. That, for me, is the good stuff anyway.

So, I won't be picking up any of these books.  Regardless of the moral stance I take in my response above, I found, when the story broke officially, that I was not interested in any of these books in the least.  I like many of the creators involved. But new stories with these characters just didn't excite me.  I got everything I needed in the original.

And - plug, plug - I'm blogging about that at my other site -  Check it out.  If you enjoyed the graphic novel, I think you might like what I'm doing there.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Indy Graphic Novel Library Project

I managed to finally land a full-time job a year ago.  It's at Fogler Library at the University of Maine, my alma mater.  It has been fantastic.  I was already in love with the campus after my four and a half years there almost twenty years ago, so getting an opportunity to work there, in the library, is amazing.

The library has the beginnings of a respectable graphic novel collection (though they are found in various spots throughout the stacks) including books by Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman, Chester Brown, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, G. Willow Wilson, and others.  But I really wished they had more.  And then I noticed the suggestions sheet in the main reading room on the first floor.  So, a few months back, I began putting suggestions there.  One a month.  And the library has purchased every one, thus far.

I've steered away from the obvious books and tried to get in some eclectic work from small publishers.  So far, the University has added the following books:

Vietnamerica by G.B. Tran.  No, not a small publisher (Villard), but a book worthy of a wider audience and one I don't believe has gotten the attention it deserves:

Inanna's Tears by Rob Vollmar & mpMann (Archaia Press).  I was introduced to this story by Brett Warnock, when he discussed its online serialization at the Topshelf blog.  Great book that I featured in my Pulse column, back in the day.  Plus, it has a quote from me on the back cover.  So, cool!

Storeyville by Frank Santoro (Picturebox Inc.).  Santoro is an artist who has shot to the top of my must-read list since I first encountered his work in Cold Heat after the MoCCA Fest in 2007 (I believe).  His colors and fine-art background, coupled with a wealth of comic historical knowledge, makes everything he does interesting and challenging.  Great, great stuff.

and the latest addition is Joshua Cotter's Skyscrapers of the Midwest (AdHouse Books).  I only have a screenshot from the online catalog, as I am currently reading it.  At the halfway point, I can tell you the plaudits it has received are well deserved.  Emotional, heartfelt, and compelling - Cotter's story and art mesh together nicely to create something special here.  Well worth checking out.

As more graphic novels get added to the collection, I'll drop them here on the blog.  And if you have suggestions of some great independent graphic novels, let me know.