Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Weird and Wakky Internet

Ok, this is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while, but I’m not exactly sure how to put my thoughts into words.

It concerns the Internet and the creator-audience relationship.

Two things got me thinking about this, one was a personal experience and the other was a comment made by Scott Kurtz of PvP.

You see, the internet kinda turns the creator-audience relationship into a bit of a grey area. Something that doesn’t really happen in other media.

For example, if you’re watching a network TV show and an actor gives a particularly good or bad performance, very, very few of us would consider trying to contact that actor to either congratulate them or tell them they suck. Very few people think of contacting the writers of shows to offer ideas or suggestions.

The internet isn’t like that.

My personal experience of this came from a couple of the reviews I’ve written over the years. My reviews are the one thing on this blog that I consistently get emails about. People often arrive at my reviews when they have a problem with the thing they’ve bought and ask for help or advice.

Now, most people understand the relationship I have with them through this blog, which is that I’m a normal, every-day person who just happens to have experience with the thing they’re having problems with. These people tend to write me nice, ‘personal’ emails along the lines of:


You don’t know me, but I read your review of the Casio LK300TV keyboard. I read in your review that you managed to put your own midi files onto the keyboard. I’ve tried but can’t get it to work and I can’t find a tutorial or anything anywhere. If you aren’t too busy, is there any chance you can write me back and let me know what I’m doing wrong?


I really don’t mind getting these types of emails and most of the time I’m more than happy to help. I’ve done the same thing in my time and what goes around comes around.

It’s the other types of emails that piss me off. These are the ones that don’t ask for information or help, they demand it as though I actually work technical support for the company whose product I bought. These tend to be more like:

I bought a Casio LK300TV and midi files won’t transfer. Send me info on how to do it.

These ones I tend to prickle at. I think “Dude, I’m not your personal tech support. I don’t owe you anything and I have better things to do with my time that spend an hour researching a problem for a random stranger who didn’t even say please.”

This is one side of the creator-audience coin. Because of the anonymity of the internet, people forget that an actual person writes this shit, and it’s not some automated info-service set up just to assist them. Because people just see a webpage, they forget that just emailing and demanding info is like seeing someone walking down the street with an iPod…and just walking up to them and demanding they give them detailed instructions on how to work iTunes.

The other side of this coin is a little more complicated.

Scott Kurtz commented on the emails he receives where people he’s never met write to him as thought they’re close friends…even going so far as to write long ‘break-up’ emails if they decide they no longer like his comic.

I can totally understand his point of view. I mean, imagine how freaked out you’d get if someone you’d never heard of wrote you a two page email about how much they used to love your blog, but recently decided that you’ve totally ‘lost it’, your stuff just isn’t interesting or funny anymore and because of that, after two years of dedicated readership, they will no longer be reading your blog.

My response would be a solid WTF? If you’ve been reading my blog and decided you don’t like it anymore, just stop reading it! Do you expect me to feel bad that one of my readers no longer likes what I write? Do you expect me to work extra hard to recapture that ‘old magic’ to keep you? Hell no.

The problem is that the internet creates a definite feeling of ‘false closeness’.

Take Scott Kurtz as an example. I’ve been a dedicated reader of PvP for about the past four years. I also read his blog and listen to his podcasts. Scott is also almost unique in the way that he tends to share some details about his private life in his blog.

I think the podcasts are most to blame here. ‘Webcomics Weekly’ is a podcast where Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Dave Kellet and Brad Guigar basically sit down and ‘talk shop’ for an hour or so. ‘The Daily Affirmation’ was a podcast where Kurtz and Straub would just turn on a couple of microphones and chat for fifteen minutes before starting work.

Because these podcasts (especially The Daily Affirmation) were so informal, it gives the listener a sense that you’re simply sitting in a room with these people listening to them chat. Basically, think of all the times you and a few friends have gone to the local Applebees and sat and just chatted for an hour or so…that’s what these podcasts are like.

So, while I’m sane enough to realize that none of these cartoonists actually know I exist and that we are certainly not friends, on some level you do get a sense of that kind of relationship…so while I understand Kurtz’ point of view, I can also understand the point of view of someone writing and email to give their two cents on a podcast discussion.

It’s actually something I caught myself doing until I caught myself. I was having a problem with a particular Photoshop technique that I know Kurtz uses, and having just listened to three back to back episodes of ‘Webcomics Weekly’ the night before, I found myself thinking “Hey! I know, I’ll email Scott and see if he can help me out!”

Of course, being sane, a few seconds later I realized just how inappropriate that would actually be. As much as I ‘know’ Scott Kurtz, I don’t actually know him. Essentially, what I’d be doing is contacting a complete stranger totally out of the blue and asking him to take time out of his very busy day to walk someone he’s never heard of through a Photoshop technique.

See what I mean? ‘false closeness’.

Maybe ‘closeness’ isn’t really the right word. The best way I can explain it is that the internet works in such a way that it makes us see strangers in the same way we see acquaintances.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Perfect Timing

I was totally bored, so I burned a few of my iTunes playlists to a CD, popped it in our DVD player (with awesome surround sound), pulled out a sketchbook and started drawing.

I should mention here that my taste in music is a little strange. The playlist I burned included everything from rock to classical to light jazz to pop.

Anyway, I had the music on nice and loud when nature called. In other words, I had to go pee.

So I headed to the bathroom, turned on the light, stood in front of the toilet... and the very second I unzipped, from the living room I heard the unmistakable sound of the Superman movie theme.

God damn if that wasn't the manliest I've ever felt in my entire life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Reason To Hate Printers

Ok, regular readers know of my sheer hatred for printer manufacturers.

Well last night I was trying to print something when the paper jammed. To clear the jam you have to open the top of the printer, which it detects.

So I open the top, clear the jam, drop the lid down which makes the printer automatically go into a ‘clean’ cycle. This pisses me off to begin with…and then the printer stars beeping at me.

“Black Ink Almost Empty” it says.

Bull…Shit. I reply.

You see, I checked the ink levels before I started printing. It was showing the black cartridge as half full. Just to make doubly sure, I open the top again and pop out the black cartridge.

Not only is it not ‘nearly empty’…it’s damn near full. One side of the cartridge is clear and I can see a ton of ink in there.

So I put the cartridge back in…and start grinding my teeth when it cleans itself again. While I’m waiting for it to finish, I put the print job in the queue.

The printer finishes ‘cleaning’ (read : Pointlessly wasting ink)…and then it beeps at me again. The readout on the front of the printer says:

‘Black Ink Empty…Replace Cartridge.’

Then, just because it can probably sense that the vein in my forehead is about to pop, it flashes up

‘Magenta Nearly Empty’

So, basically I’m tired of getting screwed over. I’m tired of spending sixty bucks on a cartridge that only uses less than a third of its ink…especially when the leaflet that comes with the ink basically tries to guilt me about ‘being green’ and tells me it’s my responsibility to return the cartridge to the manufacturer at my own expense.

Yeah, that’ll happen. I’ll spent $60 on two teaspoons of black ink, print about five pages, and then send the half-full cartridge back to them so they can refill it and sell it to me again.

So I decide that there just has to be a hack somewhere. Something I can do to ‘trick’ the printer into actually letting me use the ink I’ve paid for…you know, like printers did ten years ago when they printed until the ink actually ran out.

So I jump on google and start searching. I didn’t find a hack, but I did find the following little bit of information.

Hewlett Packard is currently being sued because a hacker discovered that HP ink cartridges come with an built-in ‘expiry date’ that’s not mentioned anywhere in the printer or cartridges literature.

Let me just spell this out in case you’re not getting it yet.

HP ink cartridges are actually programmed to tell you that they’re empty a set amount of time after you install them, regardless of how much ink is actually left in them.

This has nothing to do with print quality (it’s not like the ink goes bad or anything), or even remotely ‘disguised’ as a feature. It’s nothing more that an extremely dishonest way of making you buy more ink.

So let’s just recap.

Printer Ink costs over $8000 a gallon.

They program their printers to regularly waste ink under the guise of ‘cleaning’.

Their cartridges are chipped, preventing you from filling them yourself.

These chipped cartridges report they are empty when they’re still at least a third full.

Printers refuse to print at all when one color is empty, even if you want to print black and white and have a full black cartridge.

…and if that wasn’t enough, they now ‘expire’ at a preset date regardless of how much ink is left.

To put this into perspective, that’s like owning a car that only runs on one extremely expensive brand of gas. It would leak 10% of the gas onto the floor every time you started the engine. It would refuse to start when you got down to half a tank (and force you to drain every last drop of gas still in the tank before refilling…and if you filled your tank and left it in the drive for a week, it would refuse to start and say the tank was empty when you went to start it.

Is anyone else as pissed as I am about this?

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I’ve loved comics since I was a kid. While I was never a super-fan (I don’t have a massive comic collection and I’ve never been to a comic convention), I still bought and read comics…and I still do.

As I’ve said in previous posts, comic books (just like video games) have grown up with their audience. I honestly believe that if comicbooks didn’t have that ‘just for kids’ stigma, there would be as many people would be reading comics as there are reading novels.

The proof of this is in recent box-office takings. People might not read comic books, but millions and millions of people go to the movies to see Superman, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Sin-City…and of course, Batman.

My point is this: If these stories are ‘silly’ and ‘just for kids’…why are so many people going to watch movies that are directly lifted from comicbooks?

Batman on its own is a deep psychological study. Spider-Man asks the question ‘What would it be like if a real, normal person with the same problems you and have suddenly found themselves with Super-Powers?’

My favorite comicbook series of all time, Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ went even deeper. I’ve wrote about that before, so I won’t go into it again…except to say that as a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Marvel’s Civil War should be taught in High School English class.

At first I was glad that one of my favorite media was finally getting the attention it deserved. I figured a lot of people would see the movies and maybe, just maybe, go pick up a comic book. The Spider-Man movie came out in 2002, but all the Spider-Man movies are just a tiny peek into a 46 year long series.

Unfortunately, I forgot how these things always go. I remember cringing when I saw Samuel L. Jackson presenting the video game awards and listening to all these celebrities talking about how they all love this ‘exciting new medium’. New? Well, if you consider a thirty year old industry to be ‘new’ I suppose they’re right on the money.

So, flicking through the channels today I saw that G4 and Starz were showing coverage of Comic-con08.

“Awesome!” I thought. Having never got to go to a comic convention I was looking forward to seeing some coverage. You know, interviews with some of my favorite comic book artists, maybe a section on Webcomics and how they’re changing the genre, interviews with comicbook writers on the direction they’re going to be taking some of my favorites in the future.

Instead, what did I see? Interviews with movie stars about the comic-based movies they starred in. Interviews with people talking about what franchise will be taken to the big screen next. Even interviews with freaking games developers on the games they’ll be making based on comic franchises.

Did ya forget the actual comics there buddy?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m far more interested in an interview with someone like Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley (The writer and artist of ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ respectively)…than with some freaking actor who didn’t even realize that their movie was based on a comic until halfway through filming.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An open letter.

Dear Teenagers,

It’s time we had a talk.

Here’s the deal. No matter how bad you think your life is right now, no matter how much you think your parents ‘don’t understand you’, or how badly you felt when that girl you’ve totally been in love with for weeks turned you down on a date…

No one gives a shit.

You see, you think acting all sad and depressed makes you interesting and ‘mysterious’. In reality everyone just thinks you’re a miserable, annoying turd who puts a downer on everything you get involved in. I mean, maybe that guy or girl wouldn’t have turned you down if you actually smiled once in a while and were fun to be around.

Try this. Next time someone says “How are you?”, smile and say “I’m great thanks, you?” Try that instead of sighing, hunching your shoulders and saying “The whole world is just a black pit of despair, no one gets me, my math teacher hates me and I’m thinking of ending it all.”

You see, that way someone might actually want to talk to you...instead of muttering ‘freak’ and walking away…giving you something else to whine about in your livejournal.

The thing is, you turn up at a party, a place where everyone is trying to have a good time…and you spend the entire night cornering people and yammering on about how unbearable your life is…and then you wonder why people don’t like you.

Let me give you a little peek at reality. You don’t actually have any problems. There’s nothing ‘tragically misunderstood’ about you. Don’t like school? Tough. Not all that popular? Boo-hoo. Daddy won’t buy you a car for your birthday? Cry me a river, build me a bridge and get the fuck over it.

Believe it or not, I’m actually trying to help you here. You see, while right now you think you’re the most tragically misunderstood ‘lost soul’ in the world…one day, you’re going to be an adult and have real problems and worries.

On that day, when you have a mortgage, the bills are piling up and you have to go to a crappy job every day just to keep food in the fridge…you’ll look back at the way you are now and think “Christ, why was I such a tool?”

Anyway, this is just my way of telling you all the following:

If I land on just one more webpage where you’ve written really bad poetry about how the girl you went for coffee with ‘trod on your heart and made the your soul turn black’ when she turned you down for a second date (Probably because you spent the whole time talking about what a black pit of despair your life is)…I will personally hunt you down and stab you in the face.

Thank you, you annoying butthole.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but if that’s the case, how in the blue hell do you explain those vacuum-formed plastic containers that just about everything comes in now.

Someone must have sat down one day and said:

“You know, these cardboard boxes are just too easy to open! Why are we making our packaging out of this recyclable, bio-degradable packaging when we can cocoon our products in an impenetrateable plastic shell that will take our customers fifteen minutes with a pair of scissors to get open and then spend eternity in a landfill?”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


If there’s one thing Sunny hates more than anything else is when I get a bout of insomnia on her days off.

I can totally understand it. We get into bed, I look at the insides of my eyelids for four hours or so, then I give up, get up…and by one in the afternoon I’m about ready to collapse.

Sometimes, however, she just brings it on herself.

Last night I got into bed at about 3am. Sunny said she’d follow me in there when the pillow cases came out of the drier.

So I get into bed and amazingly manage to fall asleep in about ten minutes (it usually takes me around two hours to actually get to sleep). So I’m off in la-la land, fast asleep when suddenly…


My eyes fly open, my heart starts racing because it sounds like something heavy landed on the bed, just missing my head.

It was at that moment I noticed my darling wife standing in the doorway putting the pillow cases on her pillows and then throwing them, throwing them mind you, onto the bed on her side, right next to my head.

By now you’re probably thinking “How loud can a pillow landing on a mattress be?” Well, go try it. It’s not amazingly loud, but when you’re dead-ass asleep in a totally silent house you might as well be throwing hand grenades.

You see, a normal awake person would have the mental faculties available to think “Hmm, what’s that sound?”

When you’re fast asleep and having a really weird dream about the Green Goblin stealing your ice-cream, you hear a sound like that and a part of your brain screams:


So, my sleep-addled brain realizes that there are no burglars, and not only is the Green Goblin not stealing my ice cream, I don’t actually have any ice cream for him to steal.

So my heart rate begins to slow down, my muscles begin to relax and I find myself drifting back into the sweet, slow dark or sleepy time.


Sunny lets loose a sneeze that could knock a mansion of its foundations. The kind of sneeze that you have to put your whole body into.

I jerk awake again.

Ever have that feeling where you’re drifting off to sleep and it suddenly feels like your feet get swept from beneath you and you fall? Multiply that by a factor of about eighty-seven million and you’re be approaching what that sneeze did to me. From total muscle relaxation to fight-or-flight in less that a microsecond.

Then, acting like nothing untoward happened, Sunny gets into bed.

Things settle down, except my mind suddenly decides it doesn’t want to risk sleep again with so many unexpected happenings going on. So it puts itself in full mental-diarrhea mode.

While I’m fighting to get to sleep, my brain begins to ponder some of the world’s most important mysteries, such as ‘How would Spider-Man get around in a city with no tall buildings?’, ‘What was up with Superman’s ‘rebuild-the-great-wall-of-china vision’ in Superman IV?’…and ‘Who thought it was ever a good idea to put Fran Drescher on TV, considering her voice sounds like a baby seal being beaten with a live cat?’

Finally, nearly four hours later, my brain is beginning to calm down, I’m in that lovely soft, floaty area that exists between sleep and wakefulness…and the Sunny lets out a sound that can only be describes as halfway between a wolf howl and Chewbacca getting his wedding tackle shut in one of those doors on the Death Star that close really fast.

I’m instantly awake and roll over to see what the deal is. Sunny opens a single bleary eye and says “What?”

“Are you serious?” I ask. “What was that noise all about?”

“What noise?”

“The sound you just made.”

“I didn’t make a sound.” She says…and falls back asleep.

Hey! Says my brain. How come Chewbacca doesn’t wear any pants?


So here I am at 8.20 in the morning after roughly 12 minutes sleep…and I know Sunny will get up in a little while and be all pissed that I’m probably going to sleep through a good portion of her day off again.

Well, you know what? It’s her own damn fault.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Asshole Daschund

I hate to say it, but I may have to kill Sunny’s dog.

Let me be absolutely clear on this. Sunny’s dog, Barney, is a grade-A, dyed in the wool asshole.

First of all, we’ve had him for four or five months now, and he still isn’t house trained. It isn’t down to a ‘training error’ either. In my lifetime I’ve owned five dogs. All have been house trained. Buddy went from no training whatsoever to fully house trained in less than a month.

Let’s just say I got so desperate, I even started taking hints from those awful dog-training reality shows. (That’s how bad things are, I actually sa through a couple episodes of ‘It’s Me or the Dog’).

Despite all this, Barney will ask to be let out, so I’ll put him outside, leave him there for half an hour…and then he’ll come back inside and shit in the kitchen. Did I also mention that despite the fact we only feed him one small bowl of food per day, he shits in the kitchen at least 6 times per day.

Not only that…he snores. I mean real snoring. He alternates between sounding like a rusty chainsaw and grumbling like an old man who’s lost his teeth. He’s also totally disobedient, he does what he likes when he likes…no matter what I do. Crate training, positive and negative reinforcement, nothing works.

I used to believe the maxim that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. Barney has single-handedly changed my mind. Like I said, I’ve owned five dogs, all have at the very least learned to sit, stay, keep off the furniture, not mooch food…and above all, learned to shit outside.

Well, last night was almost the last straw.

I was bored to tears, there was nothing on TV, so I sat down at my drawing desk and started sketching.

For some reason, I decided to draw Spider-Man swinging through New York…and let me tell you that Spiderman is just about the hardest comic book character in the world to draw. The guy has zero body fat, ultra-defined muscles and, while swinging, ends up in almost anatomically impossible positions while keeping an overall feeling of total fluidity and grace.

Let’s just say that it’s one thing to draw the arm muscles…it’s another to draw those arm muscles twisted into a very awkward position with some extreme foreshortening. The other thing is capturing that fluidity. Get it right and it looks awesome…get it even slightly wrong and instead of looking like an other-worldly astoundingly graceful acrobat, he looks like a dude having a seizure in his pajamas.

The thing is, what started out as a five minute sketch (that I knew I’d get wrong) actually turned into an awesome drawing. The talent monkey was definitely with me…and as I’ve said before, at this stage, my drawings coming out well or not is about 40% skill, 60% luck…and lady luck didn’t just smile, she smiled, winked and gave me her phone number.

About two and a half hours later, I had the best drawing I’ve ever done in my life. I literally could do no wrong. Even pencil shading, something I normally never do and therefore suck at, worked perfectly.

Now, my regular readers know I never usually toot my own horn. I’m my own biggest critic…but in front of me I had a drawing of Spidey, swinging towards the camera, hand flung out in the characteristic ‘THWIP!’ position. Every muscle was rendered perfectly (even those very tricky rib mucles that usually make the characters I draw look starved instead powerful)... it was awesome.

It looked fluid, it looked graceful, it looked dramatic. It was only drawing I’ve ever done that I could take to a comic convention, show to a professional and know they’d be impressed. It looked professional, something that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of an Amazing Spider-Man comic…and I did this with zero reference. It was totally original, not someone else’s drawing that I’d copied.

At risk of laboring the point even more, normally when I finish a drawing I like, I put it in a folder with my other drawings and don’t think about it any more. With this one, the first thing I thought was that I wanted to go to the local art supply store, get some fixative so it wouldn’t smudge and get the stuff I’d need to matte and frame it.

That’s right. I’m the guy who usually shows his work to someone and says “Yeah, I know this looks wrong and that looks odd, and I really need to work on this…”

This was a drawing I wanted to frame, hang up in my hallway so people could look at it and say “Hey, where’d you buy that drawing of Spidey?”…and I could say “I drew it.”

Anyway, back to that stupid, stupid dog.

So I finished the drawing. Usually I walk away from a drawing for a while, and spot a ton of mistakes when I get back. I’d walked away twice and the only thing I thought when I came back was “Wow, I can’t believe I drew that!”

I left the drawing on the desk, went into the kitchen and made some coffee. I hadn’t eaten, so while I was out there I decided to cook a couple pieces of chicken.

About half an hour later I walk back into the living room…and I spot these little white flecks on the carpet in the middle of the floor. “What the hell?” I thought.

Now, when I draw, if something just isn’t working, I just crumple the paper into a ball and drop it next to the desk until I’m done. In the past, Barney has gotten hold of one of these paper balls and played with it. Something I’ve punished him for. I figure that’s what happened this time.

So I start picking up the paper, when I notice something on one of the larger pieces that I recognize.


Not willing to accept the evidence my own eyes are showing me, I look over at my desk. The drawing’s not there…but the air conditioner is right next to the desk and it’s running.

I instantly pictured the scene. The AC blows the drawing off the table. Barney sees it land. Buddy eyes it and remembers just how much trouble he got into when he chewed up that ten dollar bill when he was a puppy. Barney eyes it and remembers how much trouble he got into when he chewed up one of my job application forms.

Buddy relaxes and goes back to watching Stargate on TV (One of his favorite shows…seriously). Barney remembers that he’s a gold-plated asshole and tears the whole thing up into as smaller pieces as possible. Making sure to literally chew sections and use his tongue to really make the graphite run and smudge together…making sure that I couldn’t even scan the torn pieces and try to restore them with photoshop.

You know what I did?

I didn’t say a word. I turned out the lights and went to bed.


Because I knew I couldn’t punish Barney without totally losing it and actually killing him. I know it would start with the usual light shake by the scruff of his neck, telling him no and giving him a couple slaps on the backside…but it would have ended with my fingers around the little bastards throat while I choked the life out of him.

Then…just to add insult to injury, before I go to bed I go to make sure the front door is locked…and the little bastard had shit in the hallway…less than twenty minutes after coming back in.

So…anyone want an asshole Daschund?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Warning, this post is going to contain some spoilers, so if you’re a fan of ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ comic book series, you might wanna skip this one.

Ok, let me start by saying that Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ series is an absolute masterpiece. Putting on my Bachelor of Arts hat for a moment, I honestly believe that the Civil War comic-book series should be taught in high-school literature class. It’s just that good. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a ‘comic book series’ because of the negative connotations. I usually think the term ‘graphic novel’ or ‘sequential art’ is way too pretentious…for ‘Civil War’ those terms just aren’t grandiose enough.

What I want to talk about today, however, is ‘reboots’. When by fair means or foul the writers simply throw continuity out of the window and go off on a totally different track. The laziest, most disappointing…and down right aggravating trick in the writer’s arsenal.

Reboots can sometimes, on very rare occasions be a good thing. For example ‘Batman Begins’ going back to the original ‘dark and broody’ theme of Batman…instead of the campy, neon colored celluloid abominations of cinema that Joel Schumacher vomited onto the screen.

The bad kind make me want to strangle writers. Let me fill you in.

First, let me fill you in on the main storyline of ‘Civil War’.

A team of teenage superheroes (filming a reality show, no less) get in way over their heads in a reckless attack on a group of Super Villains. The battle results in an entire small town getting blown off the map, killing over six hundred people, including a whole school full of children.

So the Government in response to the public outcry put into law the ‘Superhero Registration Act’. This new law requires all superheroes to register their real names and addresses with the Government, so they can be controlled, regulated and held accountable for their actions.

This splits the Superhero community right down the middle. On the one hand there are Supers who think the S.R.A is simply the next logical (and inevitable) step for superheroes. The other see it as a breach of their rights, especially considering that not only does the act basically represent a ‘Superhero Draft’ (all superheroes would be put on a payroll and assigned jobs whether they want them or not)…Supers who refuse to sign are imprisoned indefinitely without trial.

The big shocker for me in this series is that, at the start, Spider-Man (thanks to his close friendship with Iron Man) actually comes out in support of the act, even though it’s against his better judgment. An even bigger surprise is that he goes on live TV and unmasks himself, ‘coming out’ as Peter Parker.

If I’m completely honest, at this point in the series I was shocked and a little disappointed. Peter Parker has always been one of the Superheroes who was most guarded about his identity…and I just couldn’t see him siding with the pro-registration folks.

However, after he sees that Supers are being imprisoned indefinitely, and without trial, he publicly switches sides.

I won’t go into any more details except to say again that the series is a work of art. It’s not just a ‘Super Vs. Super Battle Royale’, but explores the themes of civil rights, racial tensions and, above all, the personal dilemmas of heroes suddenly finding themselves in a situation where they’re fighting against people they used to fight beside.

Anyway, at the end of the Civil War series, Peter is technically a criminal and is on the run with MJ and his Aunt May. While, at first, this may seem like nothing new (Spider-Man being painted as a criminal is par for the course)…remember that this time, everyone in the world knows Peter’s secret identity.

Worse still, the Kingpin orders a hit on Peter…making sure to tell the hitman that MJ and Aunt May are targets as well. In the last comic of the Civil War series, Peter arrives back at the Motel room he and his family are holed up in just in time to pull MJ out of the way of the assassins bullet…but Aunt May gets hit instead.

The next series (Back in Black) is also stone cold awesome. Peter tracks down the assassin, traces the hit back to the Kingpin…and breaks into the jail and serves up a royal beat-down on the Kingpin. He makes a point of showing the Kingpin that he’s fighting him as Peter Parker, not as Spiderman.

In the climactic scene he puts his wrist to the badly beaten Kingpin’s mouth and tells him he’s going to fill his mouth, his throat and his lungs with webbing. He tells him that he’ll ‘reduce his lungs to nothing more than useless bags of tissue and webbing’. He tells him it’ll take three seconds to happen.

He counts to three and…


At this point, I was disappointed again. Here was a guy holding up his worst enemy, running on nothing but pure, unadulterated fury. I thought the writers had chickened out. I was fully expecting a speech about how Peter wouldn’t kill him because he was better than him, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Instead, in a moment of pure awesome, Peter says (I’m paraphrasing here):

“I said I was going to kill you, I didn’t say it would be today. You see, I’ve learned a thing or two about cruelty from you, Fisk. I could kill you, but right now you know I’ve beaten you…and for a guy like you, someone so prideful, someone who needs the world to think he can’t be beaten, that’s the worst pain I can inflict…and all these people here have seen you beaten, and they’ll tell their friends, who’ll tell their friends and so on and so on…and that’s just going to eat you up inside. But let me tell you this. The second my aunt dies I’ll be back for you, you ended her life, so I think it’s fitting that you die when she dies…and when we meet that time, I will kill you. If I were you I’d be praying that my Aunt lives a long and happy life” He then addresses the surrounding convicts. “And all of you, put the word out. Anyone, and I mean anyone touches my family again, I’ll kill them…as slowly and painfully as possible.”

After the beat down, Peter returns to the Hospital where they have Aunt May booked in under an assumed name (the government is still looking for Peter, remember?)

Anyway, Peter is basically told that Aunt May isn’t going to make it. The chances of her making a recovery are so slim that everyone, including the doctors, are basically telling him he should start planning May’s funeral.

So, awesome so far, right? What’s going to happen next?

Aunt May could survive by some miracle, and we get to see Peter on the run from the government and S.H.I.E.L.D, maybe he’d find his way back into their good graces, maybe he wouldn’t.

Or maybe Aunt May dies. It’s certainly a possibility, considering they killed off Captain America in the Civil War series. Maybe Peter goes all ‘Batman’ on us.

Two great possibilities, right?

Well, instead, they went for a third option. What actually happens is in the first issue of the next series ‘Just One More Day’, Peter makes a deal with Mephisto (Basically the Devil)…who offers Peter May’s life in exchange for his Marriage.

Basically, Mephisto tells them that their marriage will simply have never happened. In a tearful scene, they accept his deal, swearing they’ll find each other and everything will be okay.


The next issue in the series shows Peter not married to MJ, Aunt May is still alive…and no-one knows his secret identity.

I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

It’s like the writers basically said “Let’s take this storyline, change it so we take everything awesome out of it…and instead start a series about how hard it is for a care-free Peter to find a job.”

I read about six issues into this series…and no, it wasn’t a two issue fake-out. They’re actually continuing with this shit.

I got totally invested in the Civil War series, and was looking forward to seeing the aftermath through the eyes of my favorite Marvel character…and instead got a poorly disguised “and he woke up, and it was all a dream!’ ending.

Seriously. The writers of ‘Just One More Day’ should be shot, and the next series should be right back at the moment ‘Back in Black’ left off.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A comment from DJ Coffman? Holy S**T!!!!

So I wrote yesterday about my dislike of competitions etc where the ‘prize’ is some sort of contract, such as American Idol’s recording contract, because these contracts are usually heavily weighted in the contest owner’s favor.

I used Webcomic Artist DJ Coffman’s recent troubles with Platinum as an example of what can go wrong…and I was surprised as hell that today I received a comment from DJ himself.

In case you’re wondering why I’m surprised, it’s because I’ve been a fan of DJ’s comic ‘Yirmumah’ almost since it started. For me, it was kinda like mentioning one of your favorite TV stars in a post, and getting an email from them in return. I was seriously like “Holy Shit! DJ Coffman contacted me!”

Anyway, I realized I had quite a bit to say in response to his comment, so I thought I’d make a whole new post out of it. Here’s DJ’s comment:

“DJ Coffman here. Just wanted to clarify a few things for you on your article here. While a lot of what you say is great advice and warning to creators, I can't be used as an example of someone who's been screwed over, even though I ended Hero By Night.

1. Even if they continued to do anything with it, I get royalties and bonuses in my original contract. So, it would bring me joy to walk in and see a HBN lunchbox and know I'd have an accountant going through records to see what I was owed. Anything they do with it, I get paid. Although, I would rather them use common sense and allow me to continue a webcomic myself or such... which leads us to...

2. The rights thing. I didn't ask actually, THEY offered it to me first. But they DID change their mind after I talked publicly about not being paid on time. I guess they got bent out of shape about it.

3. HBN wasn't my "baby". While I am proud of it, there were never stars in my eyes thinking this would be the thing that takes me to the top. I've often publicly told creators to not sell their "babies", and i Have a few things of my own that are never for sale (Yirmumah, and others)

I went from working with a company that was always distrusted by the comic book community, and was very hard to get press for (unless you were paying for it) right off to working with the band The Flobots on a graphic novel and website designs for them. Not everyone can have a freelancer mindset to do this as a profession (drawing comics)”

Ok…Firstly, let me just say I never meant to give the impression that DJ was a ‘cautionary tale’ about what happens if you go into a situation blindly. My ‘bad feelings’ are directed towards Platinum, not DJ himself.

Thee main reason I used DJ’s case as an example is simply because I was a fan of Hero By Night and was very sad to see it go. This is probably selfish, but my point of view was that if he drew it independently, or had just licensed HBN instead of selling it, I’d still be able to read it. (I say selfish because as I’m sure that as much as I want to read Hero By Night, DJ wants to actually get paid to draw it)

Anyway, I don’t want to sound like a hippie or a suck-up here, but while my point of view and his are opposed on a lot of points, I will say that both points of view are valid. There are multiple ‘paths to success’ in any business. In simplest terms, DJ just chose a path that I personally wouldn’t.

So let me answer his comments with my point of view:

1) I can’t really argue with this one, and can just apologize to DJ. Apparently, what I’d heard about his situation was heavily filtered by the internet grapevine. All I will say is that royalties are a fraction of what a creator would get if they remained independent. Of course, this brings me back to the ‘different paths’ and a catch-22. Remaining independent means you potentially make more money later…but remaining independent also means you have a much smaller chance of actually getting to that point.

2) This was the main point of my original post. A company like Platinum might give a creator their rights back, or at least license the rights back to them, but then again, they might not. I’m currently forty strips ‘in’ to a webcomic that I plan to publish on the web in the near future…and the idea of giving a third party the power to say whether I can or cannot continue my comic is something I’d never consider. My point is that whether you get your rights back is out of your hands. Remaining independent gives you total control over your idea. Even if you choose to go with a third party, negotiating a contract rather than entering a competition and winning one gives you much more control over what’s actually in that contract.

3) This one is purely my opinion and I know many creators will probably see it a totally different way, but I don’t think it’s always possible to know what ‘your baby’ will be. I’ve started projects that I’ve considered to be ‘my baby’ only to totally lose interest in it later…I’ve also had ‘throwaway’ ideas that have later become ‘my baby’. My point is, if HBN had become as popular as Batman…would it become your ‘baby’?

Anyway, I just want to say that my intention wasn’t to paint ‘big business’ as ‘evil corporations’ that will always try to screw you over. There are advantages and disadvantages to any ‘path’ you choose.

This whole thing reminds me a lot of the ‘Print vs Web’ debate. The way I see it is that it’s just two business models that produce the same product. Both have advantages and pitfalls and it comes down to personal preference and what you want to do.

My overall point is that you should always do a little research and go into any situation like this with your eyes open. As I stated above, I absolutely do not want to give the impression that I was using DJ’s case as an example of what happens if you stumble blindly into a situation. I’m sure DJ knew the potential risks and decided the potential benefits outweighed them. He got burned on the deal, but that can happen with any deal.

Anyway, in case I’m coming across here as taking back everything I said in my previous post…I’ll state categorically that I think these competitions are a bad thing.

I think DJ read my post as saying ‘Being independent is always better that going through a third party’. As he said at the end of his comment: “Not everyone can have a freelancer mindset to do this as a profession (drawing comics)”

I’m not saying that independent is always better than going through a third party, because that idea is obviously false. If my webcomic becomes a success and I was approached by a company such as Marvel or DC, I’m not going to stay on the web because of ‘corporate phobia’. The truth is that a big company can get your comic in front of a lot more eyes than a website can.

At the risk of sounding condescending, the problem is that there are too many people who see competitions like this as a quick and easy step to fame and fortune…and forget that companies like Platinum are businesses that are out to make money, not altruistic charities that just want to make you rich and famous. Again, I’m not saying this is what DJ thought…but a lot of people do.

There are plenty of people who will sign anything put in front of them to get their work ‘out there’ Even Penny Arcade accidentally sold the rights to their comic…twice…and it’s only through sheer luck that they managed to get their rights back. So when you have a 16 year old kid who suddenly has a fairly major publisher saying they want to sign them up, they’ve not studied copyright law, they don’t understand the business aspect…and more often than not, they get burned.

I can speak from experience here, although not nearly on the same scale. Back in England, I had a short story published in a magazine. I was so flattered that a honest-to god publication wanted to publish my story, that I signed the contract they sent to me without even glancing at it. These people were going to publish my story, were going to pay me for it and all I had to do was sign on the dotted line. Today a small magazine, tomorrow, the best seller list!

It was only later that I realized I hadn’t sold this magazine the publishing rights, or even exclusive publishing rights…I’d sold my story lock, stock and barrel. Luckily, nothing ever came of it (It was a small magazine)…But if another publisher wanted to publish my story in a compilation, or let’s say the impossible happened and Universal wanted to turn it into a movie or as the basis of a TV series, I’d have been totally cut out because that story doesn’t belong to me anymore. Hell, I can’t even publish it here on this blog for free.

Anyway, I can say the following with total confidence. Entering a competition like Platinum’s might actually make you famous and make you more money than you can by remaining independent. However, you will never get as good a deal through a competition as you will by approaching a publisher and negotiating a contract.

Now, there’s one last point I want to address here.

You can read everything I’ve just said and think “Yeah, but what are the chances of a major publisher stumbling across my work on the web? Winning a contract through a competition might not be the best way to get a deal, but it gives me a much better chance of actually getting a deal. I’m making nothing more than ‘pizza money’ from my comic now…even if I only see a fraction of the money my comic actually makes in the future, I’d rather make $50,000 a year off my million dollar idea than remain in obscurity and make less than a hundred bucks a year going it alone!”

Well, that’s all well and good. If that’s what you want to do, feel free to do it. I’d also like to reiterate that I’m not saying independent is always better that going through a publisher.

Completely stepping away from DJ for a moment, just because I don’t want to give the impression that the following reflects on him…My point is that you should always go into any deal with your eyes open and actually understand what you’re signing and what the risks are.

A little research and care can save you from a lot of heartbreak later. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re signing and don’t consider every opportunity to be your ‘big break’ or your ‘one chance’.

Anyway, those are my opinions.

You can find DJ’s other webcomic ‘Yirmumah’ at If you’ve never read it, I suggest you go give it a read, it’s one of my favorites.

Winning is Losing

Today, I was sitting on the couch reading while Sunny was watching “She’s Got The Look”, a reality show where the ‘prize’ is a contract with a modeling agency.

Now, I despise reality TV in all forms, as I’ve talked about at length in the past, but I hate shows like ‘She’s Got the Look’, ‘American Idol’ and ‘America’s Next Top Model’ for a totally different reason.

These shows basically prey on people’s lack of understanding about the business side behind ‘dream jobs’. There are millions of people out there who want to be singers, artists, writers etc, but only a tiny percentage of those people understand things like licensing or primary and tertiary rights.

Basically, if you enter a competition like these, all you’re doing is competing for a job while simultaneously giving up all your rights.

Let’s just say that there’s a reason that 99% of the runners-up on American Idol make more money than the winners.

Let me give you a real-world example.

Every year Platinum Studios holds a ‘Webcomic Competition’. Like American Idol, on the surface it sounds like a really good thing. The ‘winner’ gets a comic book deal where Platinum will publish their comic in print, host it on their website and make sure it gets an absolute ton of advertising and marketing. You can go from an obscure, backwater internet comic to getting worldwide attention over night!

The problem comes in when you actually look at the terms of the contract you win. Platinum aren’t publishing your comic…they own it. That’s right, they’re not publishing your comic for you. They take ownership of your comic and pay you to draw it for them.

Want to know the worst part? You’ve just made yourself totally expendable. They own your comic, so they don’t actually need you any more.

So, if your comic doesn’t actually do all that well, they drop it after a couple of months…but they’re not going to give your rights back to you, meaning you can’t even continue it on your own on the web.

Even worse, if your comic becomes the next ‘Superman’ or ‘X-Men’, guess who’s going to get all that money? The answer is not you.

You’re nothing more than a paid artist. Because they own your idea, they’re free to pitch it to Hollywood, get it on TV, make lunchboxes and action figures. When you enter than competition you’ve signed a contract that says Platinum now owns your comic and they’ll pay you to draw it for a fixed period of time.

So imagine that for a second. You’ve won this competition and suddenly your comic is made into a blockbuster movie, you can’t walk into a store without seeing posters, action figures, coffee mugs and all other sorts of merchandise with your characters on them. Your idea is now worth millions…but all you’re getting is the salary you agreed to when you signed that contract.

Then you have a choice. You can either keep drawing your comic for the relative pittance, or you can rock the boat a little, get fired and get zero.

If you think this is an extreme example, DJ Coffman, last year’s winner posted on his blog that he was ‘ending his relationship’ with Platinum because they were either paying him late or not at all.

Then he asked Platinum if he could have at least the web-rights back, so that he could keep the readership he’s gained so far…and Platinum flat out refused. After all, why would they? They make their money by selling ideas. Why give an idea back for free?

In other words, DJ Coffman’s idea is dead. The idea I’m sure was ‘his baby’, something he was proud of and thought would take him ‘all the way’. Instead, it’s at the bottom of a filing cabinet somewhere and will probably never see the light of day again…and even if it does, and eventually gets turned into a blockbuster movie…all Coffman will be able to do is watch.

I can’t talk about this without mentioning Siegel and Shuster. While they didn’t enter a competition, they were so desperate to get their comic in print that they signed whatever was in front of them.

They sold the rights to their idea for $130 dollars. They then worked on the comic for a few years until they sued for more money…and were completely cut out of the loop.

Yes, it’s true that they were making around $70,000 a year while they worked on their comic, damn good money in the 1940’s…but it’s cast in a whole different light when you realize the character they created was Superman…a character that was making National Comics Publications millions and millions a year.

My point is that that what I’ve talked about here is true of all of these ‘competitions’.

Look at American Idol. The winners do get recording contracts, but they only get contracts that say they have to pay for their own wardrobe, their touring costs, marketing costs etc. In other words, they basically become the recording studio’s bitch. Lots of money is made, but the so-called winner sees very little of it.

Here’s my point of view on it. If you have the chops to become a singer, writer, artist or whatever, you have a skill or talent that these company’s want. Entering one of these competitions is doing things backwards. You should be attempting to sell your skill or talent for the highest price possible…not competing with other people for the worst possible contract.

At risk of laboring the point, entering one of these competitions is like hearing about a car dealership that’s desperate for second hand cars, and instead of driving your car over there and negotiating a fair price, instead you enter a competition where the ‘prize’ is the right to sell your car for a fraction of it’s actual value….and if you win and decide that you don’t really want to sell your car for a tenth of its worth, they get your car anyway and just don’t pay you.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rant Time

You know, there are some people that it should be legal to punch in the face repeatedly.

Today, Sunny and I were at the grocery store and just as we were starting to unload our groceries onto the conveyor belt, some random woman leans across from the other side of the little rail thing and says:

“That’s my buggy…” She points to a shopping cart pressed against the side of the checkout counter. “When you’re done loading your groceries, pull it in behind you, because I’m next.”

Then she walked off towards the back of the store. Did I mention that there was a fairly long line behind us already?

Here’s the deal, douchebag, don’t ask a complete stranger to save your place in line, especially when there’s going to be a freaking crowd of people behind me who are going to get pissed at me for letting you ‘cut in line’. Oh, and if you absolutely must…ask me to do it, don’t order me and then walk off without so much as a thank you.

Even better, how about you get your ass in gear, show a bit of consideration and get what you need and get back to the line before I’m finished, so you can catch the heat from all the other people in line.

Here’s another thing. Especially if you’re shopping on your own, the time to go to the checkout is when you have everything you want in your cart. If you get in line and realize that you’ve forgotten something…get the fuck out of the line, get the item you’ve forgotten and then go to the back of the line.

There is a special circle in hell reserved for people who unload half their stuff, then realizing they’ve forgotten something, just stroll away and spend twenty minutes browsing through the rest of the store for a particular brand of fabric softener…leaving a long line of pissed off people waiting for their return.

Pay for your shit, then go back and get the item you forgot. You’ll have to wait in line again…but that’s your fault for not writing a list…not the twenty or so other people in line who get held up for twenty minutes.

There’s one more thing that really chaps me out about the checkout line:

The checkout line is not the time for socializing.

It happened to me twice today.

I went to the local art supply store for a kneaded eraser. My plan was to walk it, grab it and walk out.

So I get in line, and two of the three people in front of me decided to hold a deep conversation. I mean, to the point where they literally forgot where they where. I mean, they put what their purchases on the counter, and chatted for five minutes before pulling out a checkbook…then took another ten minutes to actually write the check because they couldn’t stop gabbing.

I’m not exaggerating, it literally took them nearly fifteen minutes to buy about five items.

Finally they left and I thought I was home free.

Nope, it turned out the woman in front of me was friends with the checkout girl…and then they spent five minutes chatting before they even attempted to pay for anything.

At this point, I’d been waiting for almost half an hour, so I leaned in and said, as politely as possible:

“Excuse me, I’m kinda in a rush, I have groceries defrosting in my car as we speak…can we hurry this up a little, please?”

I got a look like I’d gone into the woman’s house on Christmas morning and pissed all over her kids. I mean, the two of them looked at me like I was being really rude for interrupting their conversation. How dare I have the sheer audacity to want to pay for my purchase in a checkout line?

You know, I’m a nice guy. I have no problem with someone having a chat while they’re working, but if you can’t work and talk at the same time…don’t. Believe it or not, when I go to a store, I want to buy my stuff and leave…not spend twenty minutes listening to you babble on about your friend’s hysterectomy…and I especially don’t like it when I get made out to be the bad guy for asking you to actually do your job.

Here’s the deal. There are other people in the world. Show a bit of fucking consideration.

End Rant.