Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Blog And Welcome To It!

I recently finished re-reading Peter Bagge’s remarkable 30-issue run on the comic book Hate, many of which I hadn’t read since they were first published over a decade ago (!). Hate was the first “underground” comic I ever picked up. Growing up in Montana, underground comix were buried so far underground you’d probably dig straight through to China before you found one. Consequently, my journey away from Marvel Comics was a slow one, marked by more adult but still genre-based fare like American Flagg! and Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing. I stumbled across Hate #3 on a trip to Minneapolis to visit family. I don’t think I’d even heard of it before. But something about it called out to me. Hate led me to discover other titles like Eightball, American Splendor and Maus, all of which conspired to make me the twisted comix-hording freak I am today. Thanks, Pete!

As opposed to the fancy, square-bound collected editions of Hate that are readily available, I dug out all thirty of the original dog-eared pamphlets from one of the cardboard comic boxes that clutter my home. I still read and buy comic books but I’ve come to realize lately that the number of titles I buy in their serialized form has dwindled to less than a handful. Part of this is the changing nature of the form. Something like 100 Bullets for instance, which I started out reading as a monthly, is so intricate and dense that the story makes more sense when read as a whole. But a far bigger reason is that most publishers aren’t giving us a good reason to pick up the monthly anymore. While re-visiting Hate, I also re-read the editorials, letters columns and backup features. Letters are virtually non-existent in comics anymore and editorials are falling by the wayside themselves. The few titles I do follow on a month-to-month basis (or would if they were published that consistently), such as Criminal, Doktor Sleepless, Casanova, and Fell, all have additional text features that are at least as interesting as the stories themselves. I can’t imagine I’m the only one that misses these backups.

Interestingly (to me anyway), while I was a religious follower of letter columns, I never once submitted a letter to a comic. On a trip back to the ole Montana homestead a few years back, I discovered my one and only attempt at being a letterhack, a short missive in reference to an unremarkable issue of The Amazing Spider-Man written when I was about 11 years old. I remember thinking at the time that this would be my opening salvo in a concentrated letter-writing campaign to Marvel. I had my sights set on being the T.M. Maple of Montana (give yourself a No-Prize if you get that reference, Effendi!). However, I wisely decided that my observations on Aunt May were not especially profound and the letter remained unsent.

One of the most laudable elements of Petey O’Bagge’s Hate editorials was how he used his bully pulpit to recommend work by other cartoonists, especially self-published mini-comics and ‘zines. Reading these editorials again got me to thinking about the way the internet has forever altered the publishing world. Self-publishing is easier than ever. Once I hit “post” on this blog, I’m a self-publisher my ownself, pally! That’s all well and good but there’s something missing from all these blogs and websites. Producing your own ‘zine required ambition, persistence and skill (if not necessarily talent). Besides writing, you had to design it, lay it out, create a cover and at least put some effort into making it look like something a passerby would want to pick up. After that was done, you had to make copies, talk record stores and coffee shops into carrying it, send out copies to people like Peter Bagge in hopes of getting the word out about it…in short, it was a lot of work. I put out a ‘zine of my own when I was a kid, though I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time. It was a fledgling attempt at writing stories and movie reviews, illustrated primarily with cartoons stolen from MAD Magazine. Its circulation was limited to theatre students and co-workers of my dad at Montana State University. I don’t have any copies of it anymore, for which I’m sure I am eternally grateful. I’m embarrassed enough by reviews I wrote two years ago, much less twenty.

These days, the ‘zine has essentially morphed into the blog which leads us to this one you’re reading right now (finally!). If you’ve read this far, odds are you either know me personally or through my work for The Digital Bits and/or Troma. I’m lucky enough to have a little cyber-corner at the Bits where I can spout off about movies and DVD (and, sigh…Blu-ray). Lately though, I’ve had ideas for articles, commentary or what-have-you that don’t fit the Bits. Thoughts about comics, books, the (gasp!) real world, etc. That’s why I’ve decided to start blogging here. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the way my stupid brain works, it’s that once it gets fixated on an idea, it has a helluva time switching to another one before that first one gets worked out. I figure that instead of just suffering from mental constipation, I’d work those other ideas out here.

I don’t have a clue who will be reading this, if anyone, especially since I won’t be able to count on the Pete Bagge Seal o’ Approval in the back pages of Hate. If you do choose to invest a few precious minutes of your life reading this thing, I will do my utmost to make it at least a wee bit entertaining for you. I have no clue when I’ll update it or how frequently, but I’ll announce new blogs on Facebook so if you want to keep up with it, you should find me there and count me amongst your close, personal friends.

Until next time, thanks for indulging me in this new experiment. See ya soon!

Your pal,


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