Friday, January 23, 2009

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: more Kill Bill!

Over in AICN's anime column, there's a snippet from Tarantino on a new anime sequence produced for Kill Bill by Production IG (the same studio that worked on the first sequence for the original film):
“We’ve actually added some things to it. We did a whole little chapter that I wrote and designed for the animated sequence, that we never did, because we figured, back when it was gonna be one big movie, it was going to be too long, so we didn’t do it. So when we were talking about re-releasing it, they asked is there anything you can put in, and I said no I put everything in there, but… there’s one sequence that we wouldn’t even have to shoot! So we got together with Production IG and did it, and it’s really cool. So it’s this little seven minute sequence, it’s really cool, it’s in the O-Ren chapter.” - Quentin Tarantino
Which confirms there is finally some action on the long talked of full version!!

This and a new Tarantino feature this August (Inglorious Basterds)?!?
Perhaps the new Kill Bill release is being timed for release with Basterds?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Diamond raises independent pubisher sales thresholds PART 2: beneath the surface

First be sure and read part 1, my reaction yesterday to the news of the changes to Diamond's indpendent publisher policy. Now, here are some more in depth thoughts on the topic...

Comics are a business.
However, comics, and by that we mean the US comics industry/direct market, have become increasingly a business about the large publishers.
There was a time when small press was a viable percentage of what the direct market was about, ushering in new creators, ideas, characters, companies, and franchises, offering a diversity beyond the spandex and cape comics that had conquered the newsstands, and growing the medium to it's current more mature existence.
Let's not forget, there once was a time that comics were truly for kids, and while Stan Lee and the modern Marvel universe may have played a large role in changing that, we certainly wouldn't have gotten to where we are today without the small press and creator-owned comic books of the 1980's and beyond.

It's easy to point to Diamond, and their handling of this material, being vastly the sole distributor to comic books shops, as the guilty party, but lets not forget, it's accross the board. Somewhere along the line, there was tipping point - most likely when the big two publishers realized they had a captive, and importantly, static market, and catered their publishing around that, increasing output and gimmicks to take more and more of their fanbase's comic spending dollars, leaving less money for everyone, accross the board, to spend on independent offerings. In turn, driving interest further in their direction, and therefore affecting every aspect of the industry, including print and web coverage. You see, it's not just tough to sell a book via Diamond, it's also become increasingly difficult to get any press whatsoever for the small press, as comic news sites become more and more corporate, and hit/traffic based revenue driven. They simply no longer afford much coverage at all to anything outside the larger publishers, as they need to drive their traffic based revenue, with the advertising rates rising, along with their hit counts, and the industries largest and main print publication, Wizard, fancying itself a media magazine, with coverage and expensive ad rates to coincide with it's bloated distribution numbers. There's increasingly no where for the smaller voices to turn, or even be heard, and increasingly more product from the large publishers, with high level, high volume exposure, competing against them.

The entire industry has become self serving to these larger publishers, and there's no one with any power, championing indpendent comics and the small press. Sure, the web is infinite, but small press centric sites come and go, and no real voice has emerged. (This has been a point I often muse about, and would love to address, putting together and pitching some sort of small press column to the big sites, but something I unfortunately haven't found the time for.)

In recent years, one can sight the emergence of the "indy" scene, and/or market, that's largely driven by those like-minded creators, and a growing convention circuit, arguably, mostly buoyed by, themselves. But yes, the indy market does exist, and is also linked to the growing alt/lit style book market. Both this convention circuit, and bookstore market, are unique, and mostly seperate from the comic book store direct market though, and therefore still leave a void in presence there. Most any independent publisher that traffics in this material will openly point out that Diamond and the direct market are just a fraction or subset of their business.

There is a real void of support for small press comic books across the board in the direct market, and no one to champion them. Readers can't be the ones to drive this effort, and Diamond is a business, simply reacting to the reality of their market (and, not deciding to invest in, or cultivate their back catalog). That leaves the retailers, and the publishers with the most interest, and power in this situation. If either doesn't band together and make an effort, to bring more focus to small press product, the ability for the market to offer it may slip away completely.

Or, perhaps it's all just a cycle, and it takes the fall of small press completely, and a clean slate, for some new publisher to enter the mix post collapse (like PC comics, or Eclipse in the 1980's), and get the attention small press used to draw, from lack of competition and renewed need for that material, for the whole small press boom to start again.

It's our choice, a proactive effort to bring visibility to this portion of the medium, to fight the control the large publishers are exerting on the market, or sit idiley by, do nothing, and see if fate, and the market, deem another rise from the ashes.

Of course, changing paradigms like digital distribution, and the switch in format to trade/graphic novel length material are large factors in where things go from here too, but that still doesn't change the current climate of the direct market and it's complete focus on the upper tier Diamond clients, which means any efforts in it's direction will face similar disadvantages seen in the current model.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Diamond raises independent pubisher sales thresholds PART 1: the surface

So the big news in the world of comics is of course the announced (or rather, exposed) changes to the Diamond Distribution independent publisher sales thresholds, and as an independent publisher that’s listed by Diamond, well, that’s me.

Basically it means that things will be drastically changed in what product you see in comic shops. Either a more seismic shift to trade or larger price point style format, and/or a dearth of variety outside the larger publishers, or a continued move to digital for those in the back end of the catalog. But most likely all of the above.

I know many of you kids out there have no real interest in what goes on in comic shops, or selling your comics via those outlets, and are already making good online, but for us old timers like me, it’s something we still cling to, perhaps pointlessly. Look, I’ve long said digital is the future, and nothing can change that, the economics are indisputable, and sure there will always be some print comics, however, instead of a the perfect app coming along to cause the shift, looks like it will be the direct market’s inability to support anything outside the big two publishers, who completely drive the industry (selling 70-85% of it’s product). Anyone who argues independently published quality can find it’s way, regardless, is deluded in thinking so, I'd argue that the playing field is simply too unbalanced at this point.

So, I’ll continue to look for solutions outside the norm, like the change in format I did last year to larger, original graphic novellas, and addressing digital solutions. This may be the end of an era, but it’s certainly the dawn of a new one.

Links to the story:

The Beat
Lying in the Gutters
The Comics Reporter

For the time being, you'll continue to see Super Real Graphics print product via comic book shops. For how long, remains to be seen.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


I was going to do a quick best of 2008, with 3 favorites from each category (movies, DVD, TV, music, comics), but once I got the wheels turning, I went with my muse, and took things a bit further.

So, I'll just post what I feel are the works I must mention from each category, however many that may be. Starting with the movies of '08.

There are some I'd love to include, like the amazing Into the Wild which hit DVD this year, but came out in late '07, or possibly, big films that hit late in '08, like David Fincher's Benjamin Button, and Mickey Rourke in Aronofsky's The Wrestler, but I most likely won't see those til they hit video, but ya know, this is the stuff that I've seen, that qualifies, working my way up to my favorite and starting with...

In Bruges

Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes are perfectly cast in this engaging, hilarious, smartly written, and verbally assaulting tale from inside the world of hit men, that could only happen in Bruges.


I’d really love to rate Wall-e higher. The animation and heartfelt story of the first act is pure poetry. However, as much as the rest of the tale is enjoyable, and pulls on the heartstrings, it’s not on par with the opening, and it’s also all been seen and done in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

For it’s unapologetic, ballsy humor, that hit’s the mark, and had it’s way with me the whole way through. Plus it introduced Russell Brand, and had great turns from Mila Kunis and a host of cameos.

Iron Man

I’d love to rate Iron Man higher, because it was so solid, the production, the cast, the story, the heart, and most of all Robert Downey Jr., who truly makes the movie, but it wasn’t without it’s flaws, mainly being a bit light on action, and sorely lacking a powerful climax (unless you count Downey/Stark’s closing “I am Iron Man” zinger, or Sam Jackson’s epilogue cameo).


Quantum of Solace

I stand alone here I think, including the latest Bond movie on my tops of ‘08 list, but damn if I wasn’t on the edge of my seat throughout, from opening to closing frames, loving every last minute of it. Daniel Craig is perfect, the production is flawless, and the overarching story continuation from the previous Casino Royale outing was rich and fulfilling.


Yes, another one that is mostly ignored (or forgotten that it came out in ’08), and even more so, unloved, but to me, Cloverfield was the height of movie-going, because just as with Quantum of Solace, it was a thrill ride that dropped me square in the middle of larger-than-life action, executed to perfection. I love this movie, just love it.

Dark Knight

No surprise here, except perhaps to me. You see, I thought Batman Begins was wildly uneven, and that Nolan destroyed everything he built with the gritty real-world origin of the first half. In Dark Knight however, he succeeds; we’re treated to the largest screen telling of a wholly believable city under criminal siege, with a powerhouse performance, story, and hero… none of them pulling any punches. The cast, production, effects, and score all heighten the showcase performance from Heath Ledger, and together create a truly epic motion picture. Dark Knight succeeds on every level.

2008 was a truly great year for movies, especially for genre lovers like us, an embarrassment of riches, with many anticipated comic book adaptations; Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, The Dark Knight, Hellboy 2, The Spirit, and genre standouts; old man Indy, the Pixar robot/sci-fi Wall-E, the Will Smith original superhero flick Hancock, the CG cartoon Star Wars The Clone Wars, the Daniel Craig Bond sequel Quantum of Solace, and the mysterious and much hyped Cloverfield, and overall, it was a success, with many solid, very well made films, and only a couple stinkers...

2009 is shaping up to be another very exciting year in genre movies, with Zack Snyder's highly anticipated Watchmen adaptation in March, JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot in May (that looks cool as hell), and a new Wolverine feature, Harry Potter sequel, a new McG Terminator model, and a Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds) release this summer, to name a few!!

So, come back soon for more best of's from '08, where I talk DVD's, TV, music, and comics, and hopefully shed light on things that aren't as universally known and talked about.