27th Nov2012

Blast From The Past: Small Press Expo/SPX 2006

by Will

So, I pretty much find any excuse to let you know that I was once a purchasing brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors. Basically, I helped make the Previews catalog, and worked with small press publishers. Anyway, I was going through old emails yesterday, and I found this draft from that time. I’m not quite sure why I never posted it. I think I was going through a blogging dry spell. Anyway, I thought I’d share it with you, as a lot of my feelings haven’t changed in the past 6 years. I’ve also added annotations to it. So, sit back and enjoy this blast from my comic past!

I went to my first-ever Small Press Expo today in Bethesda, MD, to see what the nation’s alternative “comix” creators and fans are all about

My initial impressions:

1. It was a different scene than the Baltimore Comic-Con last month. For one thing, there were a lot of young women — the brainy, hippie types with pale skin, sharp noses and chins, piercing eyes and Lisa Loeb glasses … if you’re into that sort of thing. Sadly (*sigh*) I totally am.

Heh, I’m gonna get in trouble for that one. And it’s right up front. Next!

2. Even the guys looked different. Super-hero comics guys are two-thirds fat slobs, one-third skinny geeks. Indie comix guys are two-thirds skinny geeks, one-third fat slobs. Indie comix cost more, so maybe their readers can’t afford food.

Aren’t stereotypes a wonderful thing? Still, I maintain that you’re more likely to find a vegan amongst the indie crew than the mainstream set!

3. It’s hard to casually flip through comix for sale on a table, then walk away, when the artist is sitting right there, staring at you. I felt guilty. A similar problem: Opening a comic, realizing it’s very explicit gay porn and worrying that I’m going to look like a homophobe to the artist two feet away if I quickly close the comic and put it down. So, um, how long do I have to stand there?

So, there’s an anthology I picked up called True Porn. It’s really just trying to cash in on the taboo nature of sex, but it’s pretty graphic. For years, it was one of my prized indie collections. A few years later, I picked up True Porn 2. This volume, however, was nothing but trucker sex and glory holes. I’ve never ventured to see if there was a 3rd volume.

4. Lots of self-published comix have colorful, well-drawn covers with clean lines … but then you open them, and the interiors are black-and-white scribblings from an epileptic chicken that must have clutched a Bic pen in its claw. One guy was charging $5 for a comic in which he had simply scratched out typos, rather than use Wite-Out.

True story, boo.

5. I think I’m the only fanboy who does not want to write or draw comics or comix.

This part is why I didn’t last long at Diamond. The vast majority of the employees are in the midst of a conflict of interest. Everyone wants to be a writer or artist. I just liked getting comps. If you’re not trying to get your foot in the door, you’ll realize you care more about paying your bills than having an uncredited short story in a Red Sonja anthology.

6. Scott McCloud packed a room to share his latest theories on comix storytelling, which bored the crap out of me. He drew a four-box grid, divided it into “classicists,” “animists,” “formalists” and “iconoclasts” and talked at length about the wars between those camps. He referenced ongoing debates on THE COMICS JOURNAL message board — in-jokes that provoked waves of nerd laughter. I left early. My seat was claimed immediately.

I don’t remember this at all, and I pride myself on my memory. I remember trying to read Understanding Comics while in college, and ditching it after a few pages. I just don’t care about the “science” of comic making. To me, that’s taking the fun out of it. Sure, it’s cool to learn about creators and influences, but when you get into the mechanics of thought bubbles and page gutters, I’m out.

7. The panel next-door, on political cartooning, was much more interesting. Ted Rall is very funny. The cartoonists agreed that America is so badly polarized now that nobody is going to change their minds on any serious issue, such as the Iraq War. So they see their job as rallying the liberals, the way Fox News Channel rallies the conservatives. A dozen lost elections in a row — way to go, cartoonists!

I do remember this, which is funny because I grew to dislike Ted Rall and his whole schtick. To me, this is the crowd that birthed the Occupy Movement.

8. Rick Veitch, our Comicon lord and master, is a truly nice guy. I walked up to his table, stuck out my paw, gave him my real name and said I was one of his message board idiots. He smiled and asked for my screen name, which he claimed to recognize. And he didn’t tear-gas me! We had a pleasant chat about Comicon, which he says he enjoys doing, except for the occasional defamation lawsuit threat. Veitch and co-owner Steve Conley apparently are thinking of ways to make this place bigger and link it to other parts of the fanboy Web world.

This. This shit right here. This…OK, let me back up. I don’t remember this. I don’t even remember having a screenname on Comic.com. I remember the site. It used to be awesome, as it had The Pulse, The Beat and more. I don’t remember being on a message board, though. I HATE message boards. I tend to always kill threads. I need a medium where a response is somewhat guaranteed. I do remember having nice correspondence with Jen Contino, who used to edit The Pulse. Was that on a message board? Who knows?

Here’s the kicker: when I got to Diamond, I kinda got in some shit with Rick. Ya see, part of the conversation that I didn’t post was that he kinda steered me into talking about his books. I get kinda starstruck, so I was all like “Sure, sir. We’ll put the spotlight on your books!” Later on, I realized that he was, at that point, primarily a backlist publisher. This meant that he wasn’t putting out anything new, but was depending on reorders of his back catalog. Let me tell ya something: unless you’re Marvel or DC, Diamond doesn’t give much of a shit about your back catalog. So, I essentially made promises that I couldn’t keep – something I was raised never to do. So, my Diamond career could be charted by a series of flubs and make-goods for Rick Veitch. I gave him an ad in Previews ($3500 value!) but none of his books were in stock. Once they were restocked, he wanted his free ad again. Instead, I relisted all of his books (something that’s never supposed to be done unless there’s a new printing or REASON), and he didn’t like that there wasn’t enough of a spotlight on things. I think I even requested a “Rick Veitch Month” for Previews, and no one could understand why I was doing all this. Mainly, I had to make good on my word. He was a tough bastard, though I feel he kinda took advantage of me. I had offered him things he hadn’t really earned, but he was going to hold me to it. I learned a lot from that experience.

9. Fantagraphics sells a ton of lovingly produced comix and books (boox?) that I’d read for free at my local library out of curiosity, but I don’t see myself plopping down $5 to $45 to buy it. Like a comic about an unshaven clown who weeps. For the entire 20 pages. In French. Drawn with chalk. On black paper. Who has the money to fill their house with this?

I later became the Diamond contact for Fantagraphics. Regardless of how I felt about your product, I became a starstruck poseur once those people were on the phone. I pimped everything that came down the pike from them, and it’s not like you can suggest anything because they’re FANTAGRAPHICS! Once I was gone, I started railing against all their stuff in the comments sections of hoity-toity blogs. Such a coward. They’re still cranking out the same kinda highbrow pablum, though.

10. My apologies to those who suggested questions for me. I had no chance to ask McCloud anything, because I left his panel to hear the political cartoonists. I started to ask Gary Groth a question at the Fantagraphics booth, but as I opened my mouth to speak, he snarled at some guy that he wanted to catch the next flight the hell out of Washington and get back home. It wasn’t a “come introduce yourself, my friend” snarl. Groth is a relatively short, compact, wiry guy with dark hair fading to gray — ironically, he looks like Harlan Ellison did about 20 years ago.

Who the Hell am I apologizing to? Questions? I didn’t have readers to submit questions. Hell, I only have about 20 readers now when I don’t write about Power Rangers. I don’t know what’s going on in this blurb. How the Hell did I know what Harlan Ellison looked like 20 years ago? I guess I had read some old Comics Journals or something.

11. I think I like super-hero comics fanboys better than indie comix fanboys. Comics guys don’t take themselves half as seriously as do comix guys. Even John Byrne, on his most arrogant day, isn’t waiting for his MacArthur genius grant so he can start his 1,400-page autobiographical graphic novel.

This is one of most incorrect statements I will ever make. I wasn’t as entrenched in the internet at this point (MySpace was still hot and The Facebook hadn’t let in the riffraff yet), so I didn’t know what was going on amongst the various message boards. Both fan bases are two sides of the same coin. I hold the same opinion of the indie set, but I also apply those traits to the mainstream.

So, there ya have it – the ramblings of 25 year old Will. I enjoyed my time in the industry, but it was definitely a “don’t meet your heroes” kind of experience. Also, I ABHOR the stylized “comix”. I hope I wasn’t too hard on the small press. Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of cool small press books that I’ve recommended to friends (some are even in the Adventures West Coast posts!), so there’s definitely some great stuff out there. That said, I just can’t bring myself to go to SPX anymore. It has gotten was too hippie at a time when I just don’t have time for that. I’m not sure what that says about me or them, but we’re just not in the same place anymore. To read this post, I’m not sure we ever were.

08th Feb2012

The Toy Fair Post

by Will

This is part of a post that I teased all the way back at the tail end of 2011, and here we are, almost 2 months later. Before we jump into things, I should probably tell you that you won’t get the whole story this go-round, but it’ll lead into wonderful new things. That’s worth it, right? Anyway, I thought this would be a great time for the post, as many of my e-friends are gearing up to head to NYC for Toy Fair, and what you’ll see here ties into that. What’s Toy Fair? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The American International Toy Fair is held every February at both The Javits Center and the Toy Building in NYC. It’s a trade show for the industry, where buyers come to see the toys that are expected to be the hot items during the next holiday season. As it’s a trade show, it’s not open to the public. So, this has caused the show to be surrounded by a certain mystique, as toy fans have wondered what occurred within those halls. To a toy fan, going to Toy Fair is like going to Mecca. In recent years, however, it has been easier to gain access, as blogs have been able to gain press access. What used to be relegated to a ten-minute segment on 48 Hours is now the bread and butter of the toy blog set. Toy Fair news, especially the exclusive kind, is guaranteed site hits.

As we’ve already covered on the site, I love learning about the toy industry. Sure, the product is nice, but there tends to be a more interesting story behind the product. It recently occurred to me that I never wrote about my own Toy Fair experience. I, like other toy fans, have had dreams of entering the halls of Toy Fair. Remember that 48 Hours special I mentioned in the last paragraph? Well, that’s how it all started. I remember it clearly: 1988 – I was eating one of those giant chocolate chip cookies that you get from delis. And since I had a loose tooth, chewing said cookie knocked out my tooth. Anyway, while eating this cookie, I was watching 48 Hours (I was a weird kid), and they were showing the Galoob Star Trek: The Next Generation toys. This was also the dawn of my Trekkiedom, so seeing toys and Star Trek at the same time sent my little heart a-flutter. I noticed that the toys were being presented by spokesmodels wearing Starfleet uniforms. As I continued watching, I learned that this show happened EVERY year! Unfortunately, it was also only open to people in the toy industry. I didn’t know how, but I was going to find some way into that show. That was the plan.

Fast forward 20 years later. Yes, it really took 20 years. I was working at Diamond Comic Distributors, and I’d pretty much exploited that job for every opportunity it presented. I got sent to New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and worked with the dude who wrote most of the episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hell, my biggest account handled Transformers, G.I. Joe and Ghostbusters! I’d made all my dreams come true – except one. It was time to go for the brass ring. You see, Diamond also has a toy department. Well, they actually kind have two: there’s Diamond Select Toys, which is basically Art Asylum in sheep’s clothing and there’s the Diamond Toy Department, which buys up mass market things, like Marvel Legends from Hasbro, and then distributes them to comic shops. Due to its role in the toy industry, Diamond also has a presence at Toy Fair. I don’t know how I pulled this. I honestly never expected this to go through, but I mentioned to my awesome, awesome boss that I’d always wanted to go to Toy Fair. A few days later, he tells me that he can get me a pass. Sure, I’d have to get up there on my own, find my own lodging, etc, but I could get into the show. To this day, I wonder how he pulled that off, as they really loved to say “no” around there. So, one Vamoose Bus ticket purchased, and I was in NYC.

So, Toy Fair. It was everything I ever wanted yet nothing I expected, all at the same time. First off, while the news outlets focus on the hot popular stuff, like Star Wars, Cabbage Patch (well, in the 80s), and G.I. Joe, I was amazed by how much of the show actually catered to toys you’d never really think much about. See, as a Toy Fair novice, I didn’t realize that the GOOD stuff is at the Toy Building. Most of the major companies, like Hasbro, Mattel, etc, have year round showrooms at the Toy Building, and they hold most of their presentations there. The Javits Center is where they might set up a booth, but it’s not where they’re showing the best stuff. Instead, the Javits Center is comprised of smaller vendors. To make a comic analogy, Marvel and DC are in the Toy Building, while Javits is the small press.

Walking around, it was interesting to see 10 different Chinese vendors trying to sell the same little pedal car. I guess they all use the same factory, and then it becomes a bidding war to see who can give retailers the best price. Oh, right. I forgot that part. The purpose of Toy Fair (in theory) is so that retail buyers can get a sneak peak at the holiday season’s projected hits, so that they can place their orders for the season. I said “in theory” because it’s a not-so-well known fact that there’s actually an earlier November Toy Fair that’s just for the big guys like Toys “R” Us, Target, and Walmart. So, while the February Toy Fair might feature “new” stuff for some buyers, it’s more of a refresher for the bigger guys. Anyway, you end up seeing more stuff that would end up in a mom and pop toy store than you would in a major market retailer. For example, this was during the Mentos/Coke craze, so there was actually a science kit with elaborate tubes and stuff, allowing you to really get some mileage out of that explosion.

Since I didn’t know about the Toy Building showrooms at the time, I missed out on all the cool stuff. Still, I made my dream come true, and I got into Toy Fair. There was a lot of other stuff that happened during that trip, worst of all was me losing my cell phone in a cab. It was like a scene from a movie – I realized I’d left it in there just as it pulled off. I ran after it, but it turned a corner. As I ran around the corner, there was a SEA of yellow cabs. Which one was it?!! So yeah, lost my cell phone in a cab, in New York City, on a government holiday ( I think it was Presidents Day).

So why did I post this now? Well, one of the best parts about Toy Fair is the exclusives. Some of these are rare toys, while some are just industry-specific brochures. I’m sad to say that I didn’t leave with much during my adventure. I still have the program, and I think I have a picture frame, but that’s about it. However, over Christmas, I went to Denver and found a few Toy Fair items that I simply couldn’t leave behind. I think any child of the 80s would love to see these, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen…tomorrow.

22nd Nov2011

Off To See The Wizard…

by Will

So, in an effort to sort out my junk room, I decided that I could probably start with my longbox of Wizard publications. I quickly tired of being reminded of Wetworks and Vampirella books, so I decided to focus on my issues of Toyfare instead. For those not really “in the know”, Toyfare was a monthly magazine published by the fine folks who also gave the world Wizard: The Guide to Comics (which later rebranded itself as a “Men’s Pop Culture Magazine”, whatever that means). Anyway, Wizard used to highlight toys, but as the industry ramped up, there was too much to report than the meager 2 pages in Wizard allowed, so the toy focus was spun off into its own magazine. At its best, Toyfare gave an in-depth look at fan favorite toy lines. At its worst, it was a glorified toy catalog. To be honest, “glorified” doesn’t even fit, as regular toy catalogs at least listed prices – something Toyfare couldn’t be bothered to do in many cases. Anyway, while flipping through the pages, a few thoughts came to mind, and I figured I’d share them here.

-What happened to Palisades Toys? I was never a Muppets fan, but I could respect that they truly paid attention to detail in making those Muppets toys.

-Diamond Select should’ve been run out of business for those horrible Serenity figures. I’ve actually said this to DST staffers. They like to change the subject when that line is brought up. I’m no Serenity fan, but I know a slap in the face when I see it.

-Did Hasbro ever present a use for those Jedi Master points?

-Is bbi still around? I remember they used to make those awesomely detailed solider dolls. Sometimes they’d use a Hollywood likeness without ever really securing the rights. So, instead of a Saving Private Ryan doll, it’d be a “World War II Officer” with a Tom Hanks face or something.

-An issue from 2002 stated that we had a better shot of seeing a Thundercats revival before a true G.I. Joe renaissance. Huh.

-The book REALLY started to suck when they took a parody approach to the articles. It was cute for the April Fools issue, but for a good  3 years every article in the book was like a Robot Chicken skit. While Robot Chicken showed that approach could be funny, it just gets tired in print.

-I wonder how many of the toys previewed in Toyfare actually NEVER came to fruition. I know for a fact that King of the Hill Series 2 never came out. That was when everyone wanted to jump on the interactive soundchip playset bandwagon, but I guess Toycom realized they couldn’t swing it.

-When they started posting the Complete Photo Guides to toy lines, that made the magazine worth the price of admission.

-Near the end, they were just reprinting the movie articles from Wizard, seeing as how comic movies also tended to have toylines.

-I never realized how many 80s Toy Quizzes they published. That magazine survived an extra 3 years just by jerking off fans to fantasies of a M.A.S.K. revival.

Culling the ranks of the Toyfare stash didn’t take much time, so then I cam back around for the herculean task of weeding out the Wizards. After all, I had a complete run for about 10 years or so. Along the way, I noticed a few interesting things:

-Where is Christina Z these days? For those not in the know, she was the first woman to make Wizard’s Top 10 Writers List, and she used to write Witchblade back when it was all T&A. That way, whenever someone criticized it for being a T&A book, Top Cow could protest, “No, it’s written by a woman!” Her last publicized work was Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter. I bet that wasn’t a T&A book at all…

-Paula Cole should sing “Where have all the CCGs gone?”

-I don’t want anything to do with J. Scott Campbell until he finishes Wildsiderz.

-Brandon Jerwa started his career on G.I. Joe with a fan submission

-I had no idea Fox has been using the “Animation Domination” name for its Sunday block since 2005!

-Broken Promises: Bryan Singer’s Ultimate X-Men arc

-Broken Promises: Jeff Loeb & J. Scott Campbell’s Spidey title

-Broken Promises: When Bendis left The Pulse, he said it would continue with another writer. This didn’t happen.

-Yay! Kubert’s on Batman. Surely, he’ll have a long run on this book!

-In ’03, J.Scott Campbell went exclusive with DC. Can anyone name what came from that? Anyone? No, because NOTHING came from that contract.

-Why did they stop making DC Minimates?

-There was actually an article called “Treasured Chests”, where they compared the cleavage of Talia Al Ghul, Power Girl, and some Wildstorm chick.

-Kia Asamiya. Yes, I get that everyone had Manga Fever, but WHO THE FUCK PUT HIM ON X-MEN?!!!

-Broken Promises: Loeb & Lee’s promised post-Hush 6-issue arc on Batman.

-Before they diversified their brand with Pilot Season, Top Cow was pretty much just, “Hey, kids! Tits!”

-After Chaos went under, Lady Death went to the Code 6 imprint at Crossgen. Now, she’s at Avatar, under the Boundless imprint. Lady Death: She Doesn’t Just LOOK Like The Village Bicycle!

-There was an Olympic ad in the March 2002 issue. Like, a real brand, and not some e-store or superhero-inspired motorcycle jackets. The actual Olympics, with the athletes and shit. SO out of place.

-Chaos allowed fans to serve as associte editors on books. They spun it as “interaction”, but it was really just cheap labor. They went under soon afterwards.

-Only in 2002 could Joe Mad make the Top 10 Most Influential Artists List. He ranked higher than Sienkiewicz!!!

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was supposed to take over Amazing Spider-Man, and JMS was to move over to a new book. Smith also said in interviews that he only agreed if they would allow him to reunite MJ and Peter.

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was also announced as the writer of a new iteration of Brave and the Bold just before signing an exclusive with Marvel.

-Based on the number of articles, Fathom “returned” about 12 times, but never actually finished.

-Top Cow has been streamlining its universe since 2001, with no end in sight. The first event, Universe, made Tomb Raider & Fathom part of TC canon…interesting, seeing as how both properties are no longer under the TC umbrella.

-Where is Devin Grayson? Did her career end at the same time as her relationship with Mark Waid?

-I think the best depiction of Rogue was the promo image to her Icons mini. She’s strong and athletic – believably 19 (which is the age she’s rumored to be), and not a busty, 30-something skunkhead.

-Alicia Witt would’ve been a MUCH better Mary Jane in the Spider-Man movies.

-Instead of rushing to reprint them, Bill Jemas put the Ultimate titles online, 12 pages at a time, to “reward the readers and retailers who jumped on the Ultimate bandwagon at the beginning, thus making those initial issues all the more valuable.” – 2001

-In 2001, Poison Elves creator Drew Hayes signed an unprecedented 50 year deal with Sirius Entertainment. While this was clearly a publicity stunt, Drew would pass away in 2007.

-Casting Call: Geoff Johns cast Heath Ledger as Wally West and Owen Wilson as Trickster.

-Issue #110’s letter column only featured mail sent by prisoners.

-They used to have a column called “oops…” where they made corrections to previous stories. This was phased out in later years, as the entire magazine became one giant collection of typos and mistakes.

-Broken Promises: Top Cow got the A-Team rights in 2000. Did nothing with them.

-Did America ever get Bandai’s handheld system, the WonderSwan Color?

-They were REALLY pushing for Brendan Fraser to be Superman, as they cast him in 3 different Casting Call articles over the years.

-Casting Call: Tom Selleck as Tony Stark, Kevin Sorbo as Thor, and Howie Long as Cap. This would’ve been fine…in 1990. They also cast Howie Long as Duke in G.I. Joe. Wizard really liked Howie Long.

-The same character was named “Venus”, “Sexbot”, and finally “Aphrodite IX”

-Finally, back when DC did the whole Superman Red/Blue thing, a few high profile artists were asked to redesign Superman’s iconic suit. One of those artists happened to be Jim Lee. Looks like he’s been married to that high-collar design for quite some time…



So, what were your favorite Toyfare/Wizard memories?

11th Nov2011

Will’s World of Wonder – It Begins! #111111

by Will

I need more collector friends – In Real Life collector friends. It’s not always easy being a collector. First off, non-collectors think you have a problem akin to an addiction. If that’s not bad enough, other collectors become the competition. You find yourself not wanting to share your secret haunts, fearing that other collectors will milk them dry. Plainly put, the life of a collector can be a lonely, paranoid one. But it doesn’t have to be.

For me, Twitter changed everything. Through Twitter, I’ve found collector friends. I’ve been able to compare war stories and let folks know which chains have the newest stuff. A lot of the time, we come across stuff someone’s looking for, and we help each other out (I know that Suribot, Engineernerd, and MrSithy can attest to that!). It truly is a sense of community, and it makes The Hunt a little less lonely.

Ah, yes – The Hunt. I know there are folks who hate hunting for new toys, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve heard that it’s a waste of time and gas. Like anything you love, you have to make time for it. And, honestly, I feel like driving to work is a bigger waste of gas than looking for toys. That’s just the kind of guy I am. The Hunt is like a drug, and looking forward to it is the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes. That rush you get as you make your way to the action figure aisle. The sense of dread you feel as you round the corner and see a guy standing in the middle of the aisle. Is he in front of the DC Universe Classics or the Young Justice figures? Is he a “friendly”? What’s in his cart?! AM I TOO LATE?!!! Just the thoughts that run through the mind of the collector.

For all of the excitement of The Hunt, I’ve found that I love the experience more than the reward. I’ve found myself buying figures for lines in which I only have a passing interest. That has led to a room filled with toys – both loose & unopened. The thing about The Hunt is that I’ve gotten damn good at it. I’m really not one to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a keen eye, and I come across amazing deals. If something catches my eye, I just can’t leave it behind.

There’s another reason I can’t seem to leave toy runs empty handed. You see, there’s been a lot of talk lately about collectors’ “Holy Grails” – those seemingly unattainable items that would complete any collection. When I see certain items in stores, I can’t bear the thought of a kid ending up with someone’s Holy Grail. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids AND I love toys, but I don’t necessarily love them together. My time at TRU taught me that most toys are purchased by exhausted moms and clueless grandmas. As a result, kids don’t always get what they want, nor do they appreciate those toys that they do get. They’re rough on toys, and it keeps those toys from getting into the hands of those would do appreciate them. Now, sometimes that person is a 30 year old man, but who am I to question love? All I’m saying is that I don’t think many kids want a figure of a hipster with a big staff, but I know a lot of collectors would like to have Modern Starman. So, sometimes I grab stuff in the hopes that I might one day cross paths with that collector, or maybe I already talk to him online (don’t bother pointing out the holes in my logic; I’m already aware).
So, I’m sorry if it seems like I’m rambling. This whole thing is building to a point. These are the key things to take away from this:

1) I’m looking to strengthen the collector community

2) I’m constantly on The Hunt for new things, many of those trips ending in success

3) I need a way to offer these finds to those who might appreciate them

So, what did I do? I created a storefront. I’d like to introduce you to Will’s World of Wonder.


I’ve always kinda toyed with the idea of being something of a “toy broker”. A few months back, my e-pal The Robot’s Pajamas put is best when he tweeted: “It’s seriously weird how I want to collect toys to sell now. I get a much bigger joy out of helping other collectors than owning things.” He took the words out of my mouth. I mean, to me, it’s really just enough coming into contact with certain items, but I know I wouldn’t appreciate them as much as someone else out there might. As you’ve seen in my Thrift Justice pieces, I come across some pretty cool stuff, and I’d like an avenue to share those things with others.

I’ve had a lot of success with craigslist, but those are just local sales. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just see Ebay as an old man’s game these days. Now, I know there are a TON of storefront sites out there, so why did I want to enter that pool? Out of all of those sites, many of the ones I’ve encountered are just people trying to offload stuff they’re tired of, but you’re pretty much limited to that stock. Well, I want to take the small town approach to retailing. Sure, you could go to CVS, but you go to the local pharmacy for the service and because they know your face. If you’ve already been reading this site, you have a pretty good idea of who I am. As naive as it may sound, despite the distance, I think of many of you as friends. I don’t screw over my friends. Also, The Hunt isn’t going to stop. I’d just like to use my powers to help others. If you’re into a certain thing, shoot me an email. If you’re an expert on a certain genre, I’d love to have your input on things. If you don’t really like a price that you see, let me know and we might be able to work something out. At the end of the day, I want you to think of this as your store. If nothing else, it helps me stay abreast of trends, but I really want to think of other collectors as sort of “brothers in arms” instead of toy aisle threats. And for those who hate The Hunt, let me do the legwork for ya!


Well, the timing was really organic. I’ve been working on this for the last three months or so, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently planning a wedding, and those things ain’t cheap! Plus, I’m sure Lindsay would love for me to clear some stuff out of the apartment. As icing on the cake, it’s also holiday time, so I can help you make a dent in your shopping list!


That’s a great question. Honestly, it’s from various sources. A lot of the stuff is from The West Collection. That’s what I call my “I bought this in the heat of the moment but I could really use that money for invitations about now” pile. Also, while I worked at Diamond, I received a LOT of stuff that I wasn’t allowed to sell while still employed by the company. A lot of it comes from my travels thrifting, yard saling, and the like. I’m always on the lookout, and I love a good hunt. In any case, the majority of it is comprised of things that I just feel might be more appreciated in someone else’s home.

So, that about covers the main points. I wanted to take a more active role in the collecting community, so I decided to create a storefront. I know it’s kinda bare bones, and not as flashy as other sites, but it’s the goods that are the focus. I’m launching with 75 items that I feel do a good job of covering the genres I’m familiar with. I’m new to this whole thing, so bear with me as I work out the kinks. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I hope you like what you see! Also, before I go, I’d like to thank Matt Guzy, Vincent Robot, and Brian at Cool and Collected, as I couldn’t have done this without their help!

24th Mar2011

Adventures West Coast: How I Made It To Eighteen GN

by Will

Oh…where to start with this book? Normally, I use this column as an excuse to get snarky, but this is the rare occasion where I can actually “talk shop”. You see, How I Made It To Eighteen is reminiscent of the kind of submissions that started coming in near the tail end of my time at Diamond. For those of you just tuning in, I used to be a brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors – the largest comic book distributor in North America. Basically, my department decided which books ended up in comic shops. Well, let me rephrase that: my department decided which non-DC, Marvel, Image or Dark Horse comics ended up in shops; based on their contracts, those publishers can put out whatever the Hell they want. So, basically, I was assigned to what’s known as “the small press”. I worked with sizable publishers, like Fantagraphics, IDW Publishing and Oni Press, but I also worked with a lot of one-man shops. It wasn’t a very “happy” job, as I was constantly crushing someone’s dream. These people had wanted to create comics all their lives, and here I was telling them that they weren’t good enough for widespread exposure. Who was I to judge them, ya know? It’s just that over time, you start to see a pattern in what sells. A lot of the time, these comic hopefuls had great ideas, but just didn’t have a good marketing plan worked out. They felt that just getting into the Previews catalog would be enough publicity, as it would get them in front of the eyes of the country’s comic retailers. Sadly, a Previews blurb is NEVER enough. If they had just taken more time plotting their attack, they might’ve had a better shot on the stands. In other cases, the book just wasn’t what we felt would move in the “direct market” comprised of comic shops. How I Made It To Eighteen would fall into the latter category.

How I Made It To Eighteen, by Tracy White, is a semi-autobiographical tale about “one girl’s struggle with depression and addiction.” I got that from the cover blurb. Before we tackle that, let’s back up for a minute. Prior to reading this book, I had no frame of reference for the writer. According to Ms. White’s included biography, she’s been making webcomics since 1996. While that’s an impressive length of time (this book was published in 2010), it could be argued that the audience for webcomics and that of published comics are two different animals. Not everyone can crank out a PvP or a Penny Arcade, so you often find that people follow webcomics because they’re free, but wouldn’t spend their hard-earned cash on a print collection of them.

One thing the book had going for it was the fact that it came from a book publisher and not a comic publisher. Roaring Book Press doesn’t really have much of a track record in the comic industry, but as an imprint of Macmillan, it has some clout in the “real book” world. Had this been submitted by a first-time creator, who was storing inventory in her garage, it probably never would’ve made it into stores. Diamond’s primary focus is on the +3500 comic specialty shops in the US, and this wouldn’t have appealed to many of those accounts. A book like How I Made It To Eighteen isn’t going to make waves in most comic shops, but it’ll do alright in a Borders, which is what I think to myself every time I see a copy of it on the shelf as I’m looking for the latest volume of Jack of Fables.

Ignoring the subject matter of the book, the art is the main reason that How I Made It To Eighteen wouldn’t appeal to your “typical comic shop”. This is a little known secret, but we rarely read the books that were submitted. There were just too many of them. If the art was good, the book could sell. If it was bad, the book couldn’t. However, in the rare case that the art was mediocre, that’s when we’d read it so that we could see if the writing tipped the scales in the book’s favor. Otherwise, you’re left to sink or swim based on your art. After all, comics are a visual medium – if it doesn’t look good, maybe it should be prose. To look at the art in this book, it’s clear that it came from a webcomic background. It’s rough and rushed – fine if you’re trying to keep some sort of consistent online schedule, but nowhere near polished enough if you want people to pay. Then again, what is “art”? It’s all subjective, so maybe it’s not my cup of tea, but it may appeal to someone else. With that in mind, let’s talk about the story itself.

How I Made It To Eighteen is somewhat based on the author’s life, though events and names have been changed to protect other people. The main character, Stacy Black, is a recent high school graduate who has found herself at a crossroads. She doesn’t want to go to college, but she doesn’t exactly have a plan for her life. She’s obsessed with her emotionally unavailable, yet controlling, boyfriend, and she has a strained relationship with her mother. Through a series of events, she finds herself checked into Golden Meadows Hospital, and the book follows her struggles with depression, addiction, and eating disorders. Now, let me say that I get the draw of this premise: on paper, this should be a great book to share with young women who might be going through similar circumstances. By no means do I wish to belittle Ms. White’s experiences, and many young women might be able to relate to her struggle. It’s for these same reasons, however, that I feel the book is a letdown. Considering the heft of the subject matter, it might be unrealistic to expect everything to be neatly wrapped up in a little bow by the end. That said, I did expect to get more out of the book than I got. The book doesn’t indicate that it’s a part of a series, but it feels incomplete – almost as if the entire story isn’t presented here. If this had been a documentary, we would’ve just been forced to digest the information that was captured, and we’d have the understanding that the footage was edited the best it could be, given what was available. Here, however, the author is in control of the narrative, but it doesn’t feel as if she realized it. The book travels at a somewhat slow pace, but it feels like the ending was thrown together in order to satisfy a deadline. Has the character of Stacy made any progress by this point? Yes, but the reader isn’t given enough information from which to draw any conclusions. I guess the editor felt the same way, as the book ends with a tacked on epilogue page, which has as much substance as those movie end credits that flash a character and say “Bobby went off to ‘Nam. He never came home.”

This is the kind of book that comic snobs LOVE, as it shows you can do more with the comic medium than just feature capes and boobs. Well, you can use comics to tell autobiographical tales, but the successful ones are a lot better than this. The book has promise, but it doesn’t stick the landing. I can forgive the art, as its minimal, rough look doesn’t mar the narrative in any way. What I can’t forgive is the fact that it just doesn’t seem like it was mapped out before it was put on the page. As I said before, a lot of small press books fail because the creators don’t seem to be thinking long-term. Ms White might be skilled in the webcomic format, but I’m not sold on her printed work.

04th Jan2011

My 20 Favorite Songs of 2010

by Will

Yes, I understand that it’s 2011, and that most people did these lists weeks ago. That’s the point. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle, so I figured I’d wait for everyone else to get their own lists out of their systems. Plus, I really didn’t want to be caught up in the whole “Best Of” phenomenon. I think it was during my time at Diamond when I realized that I’m not really qualified to judge the “best” of anything (which is probably why I never got tapped to judge the Eisners). Quality is completely relative, and all I know is what I like. So, instead of focusing on the best of 2010, I’m going to focus on the songs that I most enjoyed.

Now, as you know, I sometimes do a content sharing thing with TGRI Online . The thing is, I’m not their primary demographic. Usually, when I write something with a musical slant, I immediately think of posting it over on that site. With this kind of project, however, I’m fairly certain that that audience ain’t gonna be onboard with my choices. Likewise, I’m not always keyed into the musical tastes represented over there. I wouldn’t know moombahton if it threw a brick through my window. So, with that in mind, I figured I’d just do this for me. Of course, you’re welcome to follow along. I do, after all, like attention.

20. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts

I think I first heard this song at a gas station, but it was beautiful. Apparently, it gained fame from being played on So You Think You Can Dance, but I never watched that show so I can’t vouch for that. It reminded me of a more mellow Evanescence, and I really loved that group. Back in the spring, I made a joke on twitter that I felt emo high school girls were probably scribbling these lyrics in their notebooks, and I still believe that.

19. Flo Rida – Club Can’t Handle Me

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: this song is WAY more fun than it has any right to be. I usually don’t like David Guetta’s stuff, and it’s a throwaway movie song. That said, I loved the Hell out of this song during the latter half of this year.

18. Bed Intruder Song – Antoine Dodson and The Gregory Brothers

Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Sure, I got tired of him just like everyone else, but this was truly the Year of the Autotuned Amateur. We got a ton of imitators, but none made as much of a mark as Mr. Dodson. “Hide your kids, hide your wife” became a part of our vernacular, and shows like Cougar Town were even giving shouts to the song.

17. Eminem – Not Afraid

We’ll leave the video out of this one, as I didn’t really dig the Em-As-Neo imagery, but I still loved this song. The lyrics are strong, but it’s the background that really makes the song. No, not the beat – the background. It’s really epic, like it could be a score for a superhero movie. I loved it so much that I rock the instrumental just as much as the album version.

16. Elton John & Leon Russell – When Love Is Dying

The critics weren’t too kind to Elton & Leon’s collaborative album The Union, but I love anything Sir Elton releases. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album has a definite rural flair to it – one that we haven’t heard from Elton since around 2004’s Peachtree Road. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and after repeat listens, I simply fell in love with it.

15. Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this song at first. No, let me correct myself. I loved the song, but I didn’t like Bruno on it. I didn’t think his voice was strong enough. I felt that it needed stronger vocals and more strings, which would’ve boosted it to the next level. Over time, though (especially due to BarkBite’s constant pimpage of the Bruno Mars brand), I came around to really liking the song. What I initially saw as weak vocals turned into a sort of earnestness. I think the public connected with that as well, which is why the song has become such a huge hit.

14. V.V. Brown – Shark In The Water

You can’t deny the hotness of that chorus. An import from the UK, V.V. hasn’t really taken off yet, but this song is popping up in commercials, so don’t count her out just yet.

13. Eminem feat. Lil Wayne – No Love

Ok, full disclosure: I am a fool for Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” Loved it when it came out, loved the A Night At The Roxbury revival, and I loved this. I kind had to give Em credit for even rapping over what some might consider to be a cheesy song. Not only that, but his flow is INSANE. To complete the circle, I also downloaded the instrumental. I’m not sure why more artists aren’t using that track on mixtapes, as there’s a lot of potential there.

12. Natasha Bedingfield – Touch

I’ve always loved the Bedingfield family. I think there’s audio evidence somewhere of me butchering “If You’re Not the One” on an Ithaca radio station. I even loved his little sister, even though her debut album was riddled with songs about how hard it was to write an album. So, I really liked this song, even though the video is really just a Plenty of Fish commercial. In any case, I felt Natasha was venturing into Kylie territory with this song, which isn’t a bad thing.

11. Chris Brown – Yeah 3x

This is dumb, but one of the things I love about this song is the name: it’s not “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, but is instead “Yeah Three Times”. It’s a stylistic thing, but it resonated with me. Whether you forgive him or not, CB’s back. I actually enjoyed Graffiti, but he still had the Rihanna incident looming over him. The video’s kind of a pandering affair, as he dances surrounded by a bunch of little kids, but I still found it to be a fun song.

10. Chris Young – Getting You Home

No, we’re not leaving country off this list! Lindsay & I listen to the country countdown every Sunday morning on the way to church, and this song was ALWAYS on. Avoiding the stereotypical country tropes, this is actually a really sexy song. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really came to love this song over the course of the year.

9. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You

This song needs no introduction or explanation. Next!

8. Miranda Cosgrove – Kissin’ U

If you follow me on twitter, you already know I have an unhealthy obsession with iCarly. It’s nothing dirty or unseemly – I just like bad television. A guilty pleasure, if you will. This song didn’t blow up too much, but I liked it because it sounded like something M2M might’ve released back during the Pop Renaissance of 2000.

7. DJ Khaled featuring a whole bunch of motherfuckers – All I Do Is Win

I’ve got so many versions of this song that I’ve lost count. I first heard it at my friend Jason’s wedding, and then I couldn’t stop hearing it. It gets in your head like that. The best way to listen to the song, however, is driving through the back roads of rural Virginia, at about 10 PM. Also, you’re required to take your hands off the wheel and make ’em stay there.

6. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind Part 2

I’ve never been the biggest Jay-Z fan, but I will say that I love his samples. I have discovered more music than I can remember from samples that Jay-Z has used on his tracks (I’m still cranking “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City”). That said, as huge as his NYC anthem became, I preferred Alicia’s solo take on it more because it had more heart. While Jay is just name-dropping things you might see mentioned in an I Love NY brochure, Alicia really makes you feel what it’s like to be swept up in the city.

5. Neon Trees – Animal

This song is just infectious. It’s perfect for car jingles, fast food ads, and it’s got “one-hit wonder” written all over it. Despite all that, the sound is reminiscent of the days when The Killers sounded like they were actually having fun in the studio. I can only hope there are more like this from this group, but “Animal” was the only track I liked off their album Habits.

4. Shontelle – Impossible

This was a powerful ballad that just kind of snuck up on me. When I first heard it, I thought it might have been a new Brandy track, as it did have that “Brandy-When-She-Doesn’t-Suck” vibe to it. I remember not thinking much of Shontelle’s debut song, “T-Shirt”, but this track definitely changed my opinion of her. It was a slow burn up the charts, but I think she’s finally making a name for herself.

3. The Band Perry – If I Die Young

Back to the country stuff, this band seemingly came out of nowhere during the second half of the year. A family act, The Band Perry have only released 3 singles so far, but this one has gone to #1 on the country charts. As for subject matter, this is the kind of stuff Taylor Swift would be performing if she could grow out of her fairy tale obsession.

2. Darius Rucker – Comeback Song

I have loved Darius since the days when all of y’all were calling him “Hootie” (btw, he was not Hootie). While that group had an impressive debut and a pretty lengthy career, Darius has almost taken the Justin Timberlake path, as he has achieved way more as a solo country act than he ever did as a member of that group. The funny thing is that it’s not like he even really changed his sound; if you loved Hootie songs, you’ll love Darius’s solo songs. He’s the first black man to make an impact on country music in 2o years (sit down, Cowboy Troy!), and he’s been grabbing awards left and right. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, and this was his biggest song of the year.

1. Sara Bareilles – King of Anything

Kaleidoscope Heart didn’t get a ton of love from critics, nor did I see it on anyone’s Best of 2010 list, but it was by far my favorite album of the year. I think a lot of people wanted to write Sara off after the success off “Love Song”, but this song proved that she wasn’t a one-hit wonder. It has the same lyrical playfulness of “Love Song”, but the beat and the handclaps really just help to bring it all together. Nobody does Cute Tell-Off songs quite like Sara. I highly recommend every track on the album, but this is my favorite, as well as my favorite song of the year.

Thanks for playing along! Leave your comments/concerns below. Next time, I’ll probably have a comic rant. That is, if I remember to pay my ISP…

09th Jul2010

Best of the West #1: Signed Amazing Spider-Man #583 Variant

by Will

Going through my posts, I realized that I never really spoke much about my time in comics. On top of that, I’m supposed to be this big collector of comics and toys, yet there aren’t many posts that reflect my hobby. So, instead of being all snarky and digging up a bunch of dirt, I figured I’d try something new, by showcasing a few of the best items in my collections that most haven’t seen. You might see some cool stuff, or it might result in me having my apartment broken into. In any case, I’ll give a little rundown of its history, and voila, I’ve got a new regular column.

So, today’s item is what you see here:


Yes, that’s a first printing of the hard to find variant cover of Amazing Spider-Man #583. The first of the popular Obama Comic Cover gimmick, this book sold out quicker than hotels on prom night. Last I checked, I think it got up to about 5 printings, many of which are still being sold above cover price. Well, I somehow managed to get a copy. But wait, there’s more! If you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s signed. No, it’s not signed by Big O, himself, but by Marvel Editor-In-Chief and Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada. So, how did I snag this comic? Well, it’s funny you should ask…

Last year, I went to the New York Comic-Con with a couple of my Diamond friends.  Near the end of most conventions, the Marvel booth has a giveaway panel. This isn’t a nice, orderly contest, however.  No, at the Marvel booth, everyone stands around yelling for shit, kinda like those  businessmen watching Jennifer Connelly get it with that double-ended dildo in Requiem For A Dream.  There’s a guy (and I really should know his name by this point), who’s like Wayne Brady with the huckster showmanship of Stan Lee. The Marvel Minions bring him large, unmarked boxes of stuff, and he just grabs something out. The stuff ranges from big ticket items (autographed books), to dead overstock (Dark Towers hardcovers), to random licensed items (lunchbox, anyone?) on down to Saga books. That’s right – I’ve seen them give away the same crappy promo comic you would’ve gotten stuffed in your bag at your LCS.

Anyway, I’ve witnessed this thing quite a few times, so there’s generally a formula: “Wayne Lee” generally looks around to see who wants the item most. Sometimes, he might ask a trivia question or ask you to dance for him or something.  He usually goes for the cute kid, the 20-ish girl, etc. In fact, he tends to go for everyone *except* the stereotypical “fanboy”. By adhering to this pattern, the Marvel Giveaway Panel may be Marvel’s smartest initiative to reach out to a new audience; cater to the young, the women, etc. So, the trick is to save your energy for something that you really want. Nobody walks away with 2 items. Not even that  kid in the wheelchair. If you don’t want the Spider-Man sleeping bag, don’t even waste the energy to acknowledge it. Wayne’s pretty good at scanning the crowd, so he’s gauging what you really want. When everyone’s jumping up and down like they’re on The Price Is Right, you become more conspicuous if you stand still. Wayne notices that, and he knows you’re being strategic. Hell, it’s best not to even make eye contact with him. Save it for the big prize.

So, I knew all of the above going in, and I used all that to play my hand. I didn’t acknowledge the Wolverine baseball cap or the Eternals hardcover. Out of the gate, we knew that the big ticket item was the Obama cover, especially since this was about 2 weeks after the inauguration. There wasn’t even a second printing at this point, yet here it was, SIGNED by the creative head of Marvel. I knew they had 5 copies to give away, and those were the only things I went for.

After he had given away the 4th copy, I probably should have gotten discouraged. I mean, I’d been at this panel for about an hour and a half, watching people sacrifice their young for a Hulk pencil sharpener. One thing about me, however, is that I don’t quit. I had a good feeling. I had no basis for said optimism, but I really thought I was going to leave with one of those books. I’ve actually been really lucky in life when it comes to comic-related contests. When I was 12, I won a Batman watch from a Choice Hotels Batman Returns sweepstakes. When I was 13, I won some Avengers/X-Men Bloodties trading cards from a contest I’d forgotten I had even entered. And the list goes on. So, I felt like some of that magic might be in the cards for me for that Spidey comic. My friends were leaving to go to dinner, and some of the booths had even shut down, but I was determined to see this to the end.

Wayne got to the final copy, and made quite a showing about it being the final copy. He paced the floor with it. He’d stop and think about whether the time was right to give it away (he does this a LOT – pulls out an item, gauges the reaction, and then swaps it for a Human Torch backpack once the fever builds). He decided to ask a question: “What’s Wolverine’s real name?” This, my friends, is somewhat of a trick question. I didn’t know which answer he wanted. After all, everybody knows it’s “Logan”, yet this was after Origin had come out, so the real answer was “James Howlett”. Seeing as how he IS the guy from Marvel, I figured Wayne would want the Howlett answer. So, I jumped up and down, screaming “James Howlett!” I could hear a good deal of the crowd going the Logan route, while my fellow fanboys were chiming along with the Howlett chorus. I have to believe that Wayne noticed how I’d played the game. I think he knew that I was there for one thing, and he was determined to make me wait for it. Or, maybe he just noticed me at that point. Whatever it was, he was prepared to make my day. It felt like slow motion, as he walked over and handed me the book. In my haze, I shielded it until I could get out of the crowd, and I quickly put it in my sketchbook for safekeeping. Once I got to an empty corner of the Javits Center, I double-checked to make sure that it was real, and that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. What I saw in my hands was the book that you saw above, and it’s been sitting on my makeshift mantle ever since.

12th Jan2010

Introducing “Adventures West Coast”

by Will

“I might jump an open drawbridge, or ‘Tarzan’ from a vine…”

So, I haven’t written about this in some time, but I used to work in the comic industry. More precisely, I was a buyer for Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest comic distributor in North America. Basically, I looked for new talent in the industry, while helping to compile Previews, the monthly catalog that was sent out to retailers. The bottom line of it, though, is that I acquired a LOT of comics. I mean, more comics than a person would probably be able to read in a lifetime. Some of these were from new creators, while the majority are from the major publishers. In any case, I have about 2 IKEA Buddy Bookcases worth of graphic novels and trade paperbacks that need to be read. I figure, now that I’ve got some time on my hands, it would be a good chance for me to get through a good deal of them. Since I love attention, and need to further my goal of more regular posts, I figured I’d half-assedly review them here.

It’s my belief that there’s too much highbrow journalism these days when it comes to comics. Sure, everyone’s tired of the hamfisted “Bif, Bam, Pow!” articles from the mainstream press, but I’m going to kill a hobo if I read one more thing about Dash Shaw or Paul Pope. There’s just not enough fanboy journalism. If you like Rob Liefeld, despite his inability to draw realistic anatomy, good on you! If you’re a sucker, like me, who buys everything put out by The Big 2 just so you can understand the lastest Big Event, welcome aboard! I don’t claim to know everything there is about the medium. I was honest about that when I worked in comics, and I’m honest about it now. I just know what I like. I also know what I don’t like. You’ll get doses of all of that here.

But wait, there’s more! I didn’t want to just treat these like any old posts. My friend, Marcus, has taught me the importance of columns and titles. So, these posts will carry the banner:

Any old school Marvel fans will get the reference. Yeah, my design skills suck, but I don’t have Photoshop for this computer, so I used what I could get!

So, come back next time for the 1st installment, and your input is always welcome!

18th Sep2008

Fall Out Boy Mixtape and An Insider’s View of Diamond

by Will

“We believe in Barack Obama! He loves you and he loves your mama!”


Could it be? Is that an Obama endorsement from Williambrucewest.com? No, it’s not. But it does lead into this little tidbit: Major props go out to my man, Marcus, for recommending “Welcome to the New Administration”, the new, FREE mixtape from Fall Out Boy. A thinly-disguised prObama project, the collection not only drops snippets of the upcoming Fall Out Boy album, Folie A Deux, but it also introduces you to the music of some of their musical friends, like Panic at the Disco, Tyga, The Cab, and others. The new FOB album sounds tight, and I certainly wanna hear more from Tyga. EVERYONE should download this package, and you can get it free right here: http://www.friendsorenemies.com/web/foe/users/falloutboy/ It’s worth it just for Luda’s interlude alone.

Did y’all realize there’s a rapper named “Niggalas Cage”? I shit you not! In fact, he’s even got a track with Akon right now, called “You’re the Reason”. If you ask me, they should’ve recorded a track called “Kon Air”.

Speaking of Akon, he’s on one of the hottest tracks on NKOTB’s new album, “Put It On My Tab”. I recently posted a Facebook status saying that the album “doesn’t suck”, but after repeated listenings, I’ve got to admit that it’s HOT. It’s got that ‘NSYNC circa “No Strings Attached” vibe going on. And the guests on it are pretty surprising: Akon, New Edition, Pussycat Dolls, Lady Gaga, Ne-Yo. It’s a great dance album, and one of the best pop albums released in recent years.

While we’re on pop, TRL is shutting down. Man, that kills me, but it’s time. The TRL model isn’t appropriate for what passes as “pop” these days. Before, it was a crowd full of screaming teenage girls, clogging up Times Square, for the chance to catch a glimpse of dye-job, curly-q Justin Timberlake. TRL works best when pop is at its most “bubblegum”. Sure, you can still have Chris Brown drop by, but Daughtry and the rest of Top 40 radio are more suited for VH-1. Even the teen stars being cranked out, like Jordin Sparks, are more suited for an older crowd. TRL, like the early WB, used to MAKE stars. Now, it’s merely a shadow of its past self. MTV claims the show is just “going on a break”, but anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows what that can mean. I think it’ll reappear, though. The UK had a similar show, Top of the Pops, which was on the air for over 42 years (!). Eventually, the formula got stale, and they put it on time out. Like TRL, the BBC promises it, too, will one day return. Maybe their returns will coincide.

That BET R. Kelly interview is priceless! I love the look on Toure’s face. The entire interview, his face is screaming, “Is this nigga for real?!”

So, last night, I watched The Temptations for what must’ve been the 10th time. I don’t know if VH-1 planned to show it all along, or if it was to honor Norman Whitfield, the prolific Motown writer/producer who passed away yesterday. Let’s hope the reason is the former, as the miniseries doesn’t exactly portray Whit in the best light. Hell, I just realized that it doesn’t portray anyone in a positive light…except for Otis Williams. Seeing as how Otis is the only surviving founding member of the group, the movie was written from his perspective. That said, it took me all these years to realize that it is the most masturbatory, self-congratulatory thing I’ve ever seen. There are WAY too many private scenes between Otis and random characters, as they have heart to heart talks where the other person thanks Otis for being the force that holds the group together, or thanks Otis for putting on the pressure when the less-disciplined needed that sort of monitoring. Everyone dies in the most heart-wrenching, tragic ways, even though most of the Temps’ families have disputed the accounts of their relatives’ demise, especially in the sensationalized account of David Ruffin, who’s shown thrown in front of an emergency room, from a moving limo, after overdosing. They say karma’s a bitch, so it Otis did make this stuff up, I’d say he’d better watch his back. Nothing like having 4 ghosts in leisure suits coming to get you, dancing slowly in formation. That reminds me, though – I’ve been working on a Leon/David Ruffin post for the better part of 2 years now. I should probably do something about that.

Watched Baby Mama the other night. This comes as no surprise, but I LOVE Tina Fey. She’s pretty much playing Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, which is what I’ve come to believe is the real Tina. The sexy, smart, insecure funnywoman. This movie, however, not that great. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. I don’t think it makes the most of any of the cast’s strengths, and it could’ve been better, Honestly, it’s about what I’d expect from an SNL movie, but I kinda wanted more, considering Tina wrote it, and she WAS head writer of SNL for about 9 years.

Got a lot on my mind, but I’m gonna wrap things up with this thought: a lot of people go through life with a dream. They go on with their day-to-day lives, but in the backs of their minds, they have a “what if?” idea that they never act on. Now, what happens when you act on that, and you find you’re not good at it? Are you better off knowing that? One of my dreams was to work in comics. I felt that it was something I was BORN to do, and I’d kick ass at it. 2 years later, and I realize I wasn’t that good at it. I always said I’d write a book about that experience, called Diamond in the Rough: My Life in Comics, but I don’t have the patience, plus nobody’d want to read it except those in the industry, and it’s gonna piss off most of them. Instead, I’m sure my ideas for said book will probably trickle onto the site over time.

Anyway, how did I come to this conclusion? Well, if any of you have ever read the Previews catalog (NOTE: Previews is a catalog that ships ever month, informing retailers/fans of upcoming comic books so they can place orders – I used to help make that catalog), you might’ve seen a segment in the middle called “Featured Items”. Those were the 16 items, NOT from Marvel or DC, that we felt “every store should buy”. We’d have monthly meetings where we’d sit down and go to war over who should receive this honor, even though John Q. Public really didn’t give a shit. Us giving an “FI” to Red Sonja #25 isn’t gonna make retailers buy more copies. If Sonja dies, or flashes a tit, THEN retailers are gonna buy more and sell them for 3x cover price right out of the box – they ain’t doing it because of some faceless company in Maryland.

These “discussions” (and I use the term lightly) always got heated because no one respected anyone else’s choice. Plus, there were the politics. Certain publishers are guaranteed a certain amount of FI’s due to their contracts with Diamond, so our hands were a bit tied at times. I can’t tell you how many times we gave an FI to Dynamite for “To Be Determined”. They might have this book ready, but it’s more likely it’s gonna be late, so we’ll give it to Book X. We got into the business of supporting companies rather than books. We were given the explanation that certain companies were poised to be the next Marvel or DC, so we needed to support those. I understand the need for growth and encouragement, but who would replace those companies that were about to “graduate”. We were so focused on Dynamite and IDW becoming the next Marvel and DC, but I always felt we lost sight of the fact that someone would need to groom the next IDW and Dynamite (which ain’t necessarily a good thing – grooming the “new Dynamite” is akin to discovering Super AIDS). I like to think a lot of my FI choices were focused on “the next generation”, yet we were always told that we “weren’t looking at the bigger picture”. Eventually, it got to the point where the meetings were no longer seen as productive, and were done away with. Instead, we had to send our choices/arguments to the team managers, and they would decide based on the evidence we’d provided. Seeing as how this took place behind closed doors, we never really knew what went down. We were simply to trust that they’d make the right decision. That’s how things were when I left.

Well, the other day, I found out that the FI meetings had been reinstated. It seems that the main reason the meetings had been done away with was because the FI picks submitted by me, as well as another former brand manager, weren’t seen as strong or deserving. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, or if I was easy to blame because I’m no longer there to defend myself. Even still, it kind of hurts (and somewhat surprising) that I was divisive enough to derail a process that had been working for years, which is magically reinstated the minute I’m gone. I stand by my decisions, as I think some of the most surprising, engaging stuff is going to be coming from the Oni’s and the First Second’s. Because so many of those situations were presented in vagueries, I had no idea it was my ideas that were hindering the process. If someone had just told me… That said, I still think Scott Pilgrim 4, even though it’s the 4th in a series (a bestselling series, mind you) trumps the adaptation of some videogame sequel that’s delayed by months. That’s how I played the game, and how I felt it should be played. I don’t know if it’s the bloggers or the small press crowd getting to me or what, but I thought I was looking out for the industry, while the gatekeepers of the industry weren’t on the same page. So, was I truly born to work in comics? I don’t know. I don’t think so. If I was, it certainly wasn’t in the capacity in which I was working before. Langston Hughes once pondered what happened to a dream deferred. I, on the other hand, am trying to figure out what happens to a dream deflated…

11th Mar2008

Company Dinner Faux Pas

by Will

“How’re you gonna fix it, fix it, fix it?”

Huh. It turns out my last post was Post #600. There were no bells and whistles or anything. I’ve got to pay more attention to that kind of stuff. Oh well, I don’t really like the number 600. I’ll make a big deal out of #650. Anyway, here’s a conversation that I had tonight, at a company dinner, with the director of the sales department:

Me: Hey, Mike…what’s the name of that chick you took to Stardust that time?

Mike: What?

Me: Remember, when they basically gave everyone in the whole damn company tickets to Stardust? You had a girl with you. I think she works in customer service. She’s cute and, well, to put it another way, kinda…”thick”….(yeah, I used the finger quotes)

Mike: Oh, no…she’s not in customer service…

Me: Really? You sure? Who is she, then?

Mike: That would be my girlfriend. And you’re a dead man.

*laughter erupts around the table*

Me: Oh, shit…well, let me tell you, in my community, “thick” isn’t a bad thing!

*more laughter*

Mike: Oh, really?

Will: Dude, she’s really cute. She is a cute girl. Hell, I’m glad you got to her first! You beat me to the punch!

Mike: Uh-huh. You’re a dead man.

Me: Man, I’m serious. I’ve been looking at her since that day, and all I could think was, “Man, she’s cute. Why the Hell is she with Mike?”

Keith: Yeah, Will, you should probably shut up now.

And that, folks, why I’m considered such a “people person”.