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Friday, May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman, star of Diff'rent Strokes, dead

News link here

The oft recounted tragedy of a child star's life is not that they didn't remain a star, but of how their lives went awry in the absence of stardom, or, how they were abused during their stardom by people who should have cared for them, rather than seeking to make money from them.

Gary Coleman faced a lot of problems in life, his health was bad, he was used as a money making vehicle for family, and he was keenly aware that the people who saw him remembered him not for his wit, or abilities, but for his time as an actor on a comedy show. There are many different stories of his struggles to be alive in a quiet existence, but his life didn't allow him to fade away gently, or quietly.

I liked Diff'rent Strokes when I was younger, but now I see it as a facade covering some sad people's lives.

Farewell Gary Coleman, I hope wherever you are now you enjoy your existence more than you did this one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bare-Knuckle Steel Cage Art

I caught the tail end of an interview on the radio today with a choreographer who expressed a wish that some of the interest that we have in this country for sports events could be shown for the arts as well. He felt some optimism due to the exposure dance has gotten from TV programs focusing on competitive ballroom dancing; "ballroom dancing is a form of dance," he conceded.

My immediate reaction was "Yes, but..."

The reason why Americans watch sports is not to admire the ballet-like grace of Brett Favre executing a precision pass, or Michael Jordon soaring over the basketball court; it's to see who wins. Seeing your team play well has a beauty of it's own, to be sure, but we still want to keep score. Skill and artistry are but means to the end; and Vince Lombardi could tell you what that end is: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

The choreographer on the radio admitted as much when he attributed a renewed interest in dance to TV dance competitions. Oh, he put the emphasis on television for bringing dance to the multitudes, but the fact is that television wouldn't be interested and neither would those multitudes unless there was a prize to fight for.

But that got me to thinking. Maybe that's just what Art needs; a little conflict, a little drama; a little good, healthy competition to get people's interest.

But then, isn't this antithetical to the very idea of Capital "A" Art? After all, Art is supposed to be about Beauty and Aesthetics and Good Stuff Like That There, right? The Artist should be pure, creating Art solely for Art's Sake, without crass consideration of commercial value. Otherwise, Art gets dragged down to the level of the Lowest Common Denominator and we'll be stuck with blah, derivative art that imitates whatever's popular at the moment.

Except Art also needs an audience. If no one experiences the Art in one way or the other, it's just a tree in the forest falling on a philosopher when there's no one around to hear him yell. More importantly, even a Starving Artist has got to eat. As Samuel Johnson once said, "No one but a blockhead ever drew nekkid cat-girls except for money." (Or maybe he said something like that).

And even closer to the point, artists compete all the time. They compete against each other for inclusion in art exhibits; for grant money; for seats in an orchestra. It comes with the territory. This Darwinian Survival of the Most Aesthetic generally goes on invisibly, out of the view of the usual consumer of art; but maybe it's time to bring the general public into the process.

Theater was actually born in this type of environment. Greek theater started out as religious rituals, re-enacting old myths and legends of the gods; but by the Classical Era, it had become the tradition to hold competitions. At the Diyonisa, an annual festival in Athens, prominent community figures would produce plays that would compete against each other and the audience would vote on the best. Most of the Greek plays that have come down to us were entries in this competition.

Now granted, the Greek plays that are most highly-regarded today weren't always the ones who won the prize; but the very fact that they were a part of the competition brought them to an audience.

So would this type of thing work in other areas of art? It's an interesting indea. Composer and satirist Peter Schickele once offered a suggestion along similar lines:

New Horizons in Music Appreciation.

Then again, maybe what Art Galleries needs is more cheerleaders.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One of the Good guys: Douglas Dial of Hometown Comics

Douglas Dial and I began our internet friendship via the social network Myspace. He had a profile pic of Nick Fury as a Skrull and I left him comments saying Krees rule. Eventually he poked back, and really, its been fun.

He owns a store in Edwardsville, Illinois, and it is called Hometown Comics. When he told me he had some big news I thought to suggest an interview, and I am very glad he said yes.

Alex: Why do comics?

Douglas Dial:
We LOVE comics! The amazing mix of story and art is fantastic! It is the ambrosia that we live for! Hollywood gets it wrong more than right with a lot of their adaptations. Movie fans are discovering they've been cheated out of a lot of great entertainment. Comics are being seen as a more viable entertainment option as the stigma of being only kids fare diminishes.

What is exciting about selling comics right now?

It is exciting to be surprised by the level of storytelling and art that can be produced on a page. It is most satisfying to have people who, after making their first visit here, come back to thank us for the recommendation and ask for something else that will stimulate them.

Do you stock books too or just comics and tpbs?

It is 95% tpb's, a few comic/scifi/fantasy novels. I've got Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter, WWZ, 10¢ Plague, Comic Wars, a bunch of D&D/Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance/ Warhammer/WoW and a few novels by local authors.

When you started were you one of many comic stores?

There was nothing in town when we opened up. Then a Borders showed up 7 months later and two other stores in the area started adding comics to their mix of product sales They've only helped my business by helping to create more comic fans, that eventually come to us.

What is your ultimate dream/goal for your store?

For Hometown Comics to be one of the stores people think of regarding comic shops that provide entertainment for everyone of all ages. To have people come to Hometown Comics every week for their entertainment the same way they currently go to the video, book or music store for those new releases.

Do you do mail order, or online sales?

Just started. People can go to Hometown and order anything we put up there.

When people come to your store what do you want them to think?

I want them to think, "This is where I want to go for comics".

In 10 years will there be single issue comics, or will everyone download from the publishers directly?

In 10 years, there will be a LOT of digital comics. But, people will still want their new comics every week or the latest collected edition. There have been some interesting attempts at animating existing comics, Watchmen, Astonishing X-Men, Iron Man, Spider-woman to name a few. I'd like to see the quality improve on those.

What do you think of the comic market in general and the direct market in particular?

I think that the industry needs to get control of their deadlines. There is a LOT of hype for things that end up late. We retailers order for two months down the road. One example. Spawn #197 just came out the beginning of May 2010. It was supposed to ship in October 2009. Meanwhile, I recently placed my order for Spawn #204 which is supposed to come out in June. I do not see Image publishing 7 new issues of Spawn by June. Companies should solicit in a catalog what they know they can publish, not just put stuff in a catalog to have something listed in a catalog. Some fans get mad and I tell them, "I can't make them publish the books any faster. We all have to wait til the get their...stuff together". Then I show them something else to spend their Spawn money upon that did come out on time.

Tell me, about your store’s selection

We maintain over 3000 tpb/gn's in stock and growing. Different, unique books not just DC and Marvel. Borders and Barnes & Noble will pad their shelves with multiple copies to make it seem like they have a lot. We had to buy more shelves to display them all. Some of the best stuff is Independant Publishers. The only way a small "mom-n-pop" shop like this can compete with multi-million dollar corporations is to have what people want when they want it and to know what they're talking about regardless of how obscure. We don't get paid extra to push the Marvel or DC stuff. We try to spotlight great works coming out regardless of their publisher, that leads me to my news. Who do you think of when you think of comic horror writers?


He's coming here.


He has a new series with IDW titled, "Mystery Society". Steve will embark on a 13 store signing tour starting the day issue 1 arrives, May 26th. He will arrive at Hometown Comics on June 8th.


The closest store on the tour to here is either Pennsylvania or Texas. The 1000 copies we're getting have our logo on the cover that will be available at Hometown Comics on May 26th.


Steve Niles! One of today's most acclaimed horror writers, best known for 30 Days of Night, as well as Spawn, Batman, Criminal Macabre, and MANY other, is coming to Edwardsville! Steve has a new series that releases on May 26th, titled, "Mystery Society" produced by IDW Publishing! He is embarking on a signing tour across the U.S. to promote this awesome new series. Cities include L.A., Houston, Pittsburgh, Boston, NYC, Miami ... and EDWARDSVILLE!

Hometown Comics is proud to be a part of this event to bring Steve to town for you, the fans, to meet and get things signed by him. The closest stores that are participating are Pittsburgh and Houston. There will be a LOT of people wanting to meet Steve and get their books signed.

IDW has printed up for us 1000 copies of an exclusive variant cover of "Mystery Society" #1 which you can see in the pictures gallery. Steve will be signing all 1000 copies. Also, because we want people to have the chance to read as much of Steve's work, all Steve Niles books are 20% off! That is, except for "30 Days Of Night Volume 1", which is HALF PRICE! Only $9 instead of $18! This sale continues while supplies last until the day Steve arrives at Hometown Comics on June 8th!

Pricing on Mystery Society #1 as follows:
"Mystery Society" #1-Regular Cover is $3.99
"Mystery Society" #1-Special Variant is $8.99
"Mystery Society" #1-Hometown Comics Variant is $3.99 for regular subscribers at Hometown Comics until after June 8th. $4.99 for non-subscribers who prepay by May 25th. $5.99 for non-subscribers from May 26th-June 7th. $6.99 on June 8th.

Any questions, call 618-655-0707

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is it so tragic?

Here is an example of how beautiful people are the darlings of media. Brittany Murphy died to much sorrow. Her husband, Simon Monjack, 8 years older and not nearly so beautiful dies and people barely flinch.

Brittany Murphy was beautiful. Simon Monjack was not. But they are both far too young to have died.

The tragedy of loss of both is immense.


Monday, May 10, 2010

A great artist passes away

Frank Frazetta lived a full life, doing great work. But the selfish instinct we have is to desire him around to continue to paint. Rest in Peace Mr. Frazetta, we wish that you had never passed behind the veil.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Plea to Todd McFarlane to please make money

Dear Todd McFarlane

Steve Niles is now a very popular writer, he is famous now for 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and you might remember when Niles wrote Spawn the Dark Ages and Hellspawn. I'd very much enjoy paying the little money I have to you in exchange for collected versions of those runs.

Thank you
Alex Ness

Dear Reader...

Spawn: The Dark Ages in my opinion was a comic book series worth collecting as a trade paperback (TPB).

Lord Covenant is a 12th Century knight killed in holy crusade and is returned to earth as a Spawn from Hell. He is faced then with a choice that marks him as either hero, or demon. Does he choose to defend his people, his countrymen, or, does he join in the deathly task of killing and causing havok.

The setting is perfect, the Norse wars are just about to peak, the violence of the era palpable, and, the first 14 issues of the book established an interesting world. But, whatever the quality of those issues, Steve Niles, Nat Jones and Ashley Wood took the book, and made it incredibly powerful, even if not a lot of people bought it. The raging choices of morality, decisions based upon his flesh versus soul, and the imminent threat to his land lead Covenant to make decisions that remind the reader why they read heroic fantasy.

The mood is horror, the setting is medieval and violent, and the work, while somewhat raw, is very well done. Niles is in his perfect place, being able to show horror while depicting the thoughts and emotions behind the decisions. Nat Jones is decidedly perfect for the genre, the work is angular and jagged, depicting the emotions of the story. And, Ashley Wood kicks major ass upon the work on most of the covers, particularly the last few of the run. i.e. If you enjoy horror this book has it. If you dislike other versions of Spawn, this one has meat to the story that goes beyond gore. If you like heroic fantasy, this book works in that fashion too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dark Humor to waken a spirit.

Please click the pic to get the full view

When I am depressed I need something to crack open the ice upon my heart.

Shakes the Clown does it for me.

It is a dark, horribly dark humorous satire of the world of entertainment. Clowns, Mimes and Clowns who are Television hosts are analogues for Comedians, Actors and Talk Show hosts. Ready yourself to be repulsed and shocked, but then, realize this work is free from cliché and works to tell a story that is an allegory for a world you might not realize exists. It is dark, yes, but it is also funny, and affective.

Why am I depressed? Original member of and Poplitiko Alan Coil died upon April 30th, 2010 of a massive heart attack. He was one of my better friends in this world, and I will miss him, deeply.