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CSBG Archive

Committed: Answering Reader’s Questions

Over the year writing for Comics Should be Good I’ve received a fair amount of questions from people. I thought I’d share five random reader’s questions with you so that you can add your input too. And if you have any of your own questions, get in touch and I’ll take a crack at answering them.)

William asks:
My brother is an artist with a strong interest in politics. A few years back I got him Safe Area Gorazde, and I’m pretty sure I later got him Palestine, both by Joe Sacco; he liked both. Just off the top of your head, can you think of anything that might suit him?

Answer:
I haven’t read the two you mention, but I’ve heard of them. Here are the political comic books I can name off the top of my head. Hopefully one might fit for him:

Transmetropolitan
Political in a ranty way. A science fiction, futuristic book, reads like Hunter S. Thompson in that funny, vitriolic bitter way. (There are many volumes but you can start at 1.)

V for Vendetta
The now classic political comic, the best there is in some ways. Very ’80’s, very British. Different from the film in some very important ways that I won’t bore you with by going into here.

Ex Machina
About a very left wing mayor of NY. Backstory: He was an engineer. An accident enabled him to talk to machines. Became superhero and averted one of the planes in 9-11. Was then elected, which is where comic starts. (There are many volumes but you can start at 1.)

Burma Chronicles
French illustrator goes to Burma following his wife who is a doctor working for Doctor’s Without Borders. There he experiences the weirdnesses of a country operating under a dictatorship.

Persepolis
A first person narrative of a young girl living in oppressive Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Sweet and strange.

Brought to Light: Thirty Years of Drug Smuggling, Arms Deals, and Covert Action
Lots of exposey, explainey stuff about the creepy actions of the US govt. Very interesting, great, weird art. (This may be out of print, but if you find it on ebay or something, it will be absolutely worth it.)

Keith asks:
My parents are emptying out their garage, and have sent me all the comics that have been living there the past 20, 25 years. As I don’t really have the space for any of it, I’m thinking about ‘thinning the herd’ and selling large parts of my collection. I’m starting to look around online to get some ideas… Anyways, I’m just wondering if you have any experience or helpful anecdotes as far as reselling goes… if you happen to have some thoughts or recommendations I’d be most appreciative!

Answer:
Sadly I have zero personal experience with selling comic books – I love them far too much to let them go – but when I worked in a comic store they would sometimes buy by weight (so if you have anything good, it won’t work for you.) If your local comic store doesn’t buy back issues, they might be tell you about a local store which does.

In the last few years I’ve heard about people who are doing quite well by selling complete storyline runs on ebay. I’m not sure how valuable individual comic books are nowadays, as after the ’80’s a lot of people overbought for collecting, so it’s worth doing some research to see what they might be worth before you start selling.

Van GoghX asks:
Just wondering, but what do you think of the Alice character in [the Tim Burton film] Alice in Wonderland?

As a male, I found the story of a female lead who eschews the typical female need for a man refreshing. Knight in shining armor? Pfooey! She looks far better in the armor and is just as capable of swinging a sword as a man.

Just wondering about your opinion.

Answer:
It was visually fun, but I found the story frustratingly insubstantial. I’d have preferred it if they simply enjoyed the visual prettiness instead of attempting some half-hearted, heavy-handed message. I appreciate that they were trying to convey something about a strong woman, but firstly, she wasn’t strong, and secondly, it was totally invalidated by the ending. She is able to simply get what she wants, suddenly everyone values her opinion and she doesn’t have to get married. There is no reason why the sexist society she lived in would change, it made no sense to me.

wil asks:
Have you read Stray Toasters? My dad, who knows nothing about comics, got it for me for Christmas, and he said he just went into the comic shop and bought the thing that looked the most insane. It’s literally blown my mind, I don’t really know exactly whats going on in it but it’s still an absolute joy to read, and I normally hate painted art.

Answer:
Yes! I read it as it was coming out and it deeply confused me. I loved it so much back then… Re-reading it recently, it made a little more sense, and I could appreciate the whole thing more, without being quite as shocked by the style of it. You’re lucky to have a dad who buys you such interesting comic books.

Rob III asks:
Who defines what the essence of a character is? Is it the creator? or is it the writer /artists that embellishes/ignores what has gone before?

Answer:
Personally, I think this is definitely a case of whoever does it better. I know that isn’t fair or reasonable, but such is life. The one who handles the character best is going to be making the memories.

That’s all the letters I’ve got space for here. I hope you all have a very happy xmas (or whatever it is that you celebrate on the 25th), and I’ll see you next week for the last Committed of 2010. We’ll have to figure out a way to make it memorable…

28 Comments

Cool stuff, Sonia.

re: politics, I assume it still comes out (I heard about a museum type display for an anniversary in, I believe, Albany NY not long ago), but if the political minded person is a dirty stinking commie leftie :) they might like World War 3 Illustrated. Peter Kuper’s been involved over the years, Sue Coe, Seth Tobocman, etc. Would Maus count as political? Can’t think of anything else right off. And you may wish to mention that Brought to Light was put together by Joyce Brabner (Harvey Pekar’s widow) and features some stories and art by some guys named Bill Sienkiewicz and Alan Moore. Whoever they are.

I just got Stray Toasters a year or 2 back when Image (finally!) collected it. What was annoying was that it was supposed to be released over a year before it came out, so when it finally did, it came out THE SAME WEEK as the first Ted McKeever HC that Image did. So I had 2 $25 books come out the same day! It led me to whittle down my pull list, but still… Based on Stray Toasters alone, I put Sienk. in my top 10 list (that I did for myself) of writer/artists. Looking at it again, I’m not sure why, since I LIKED ST but not that much.

Did you vote in the top 50 favorite artists and writers poll here? Chad posted his lists, and through some vagary of the emailling followup comments, I got Kelly’s list, even though she made it secret correctly. I’d be interested to see your list.

I had to kill part of my comic collection 4 years ago. Sold every appearance of the New Warriors as a giant set, including all spin-offs (Night Thrasher, Justice, an almost complete Nova run, and other stuff like annuals, etc.) and got $70 for it. Plus $70 shipping to Germany.

The seller sent me the wrong address and it came back.

He gave me the correct address and paid $70 again. He still got a great deal.
I didn’t make a lot on it all and now the market is flooded, so I’m really not sure what to do, either as I have to do it again.

For William’s question re: political comics recommendations, second Kelly Thompson’s recommendation (as part of her CSBG’s She Has No Head! column) of Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. I’m about 3/4 the way through it right now and I’m really digging it! It’s a great memoir of politics personalized and digested. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve bought it for a few folks as a Christmas present – one recipient who spent a few weeks in Israel earlier this year.

Have to take a little issue with the description of Mayor Hundred in Ex Machina as “very left wing”. I think it’s clear he’s very middle of the road, and his personality is informed by his background as an engineer, i.e. he makes choices based on rationally considering data with less thinking about the emotional impact of his decisions. Or, in other words, he’s got the politics of Mayor Bloomberg who was once a Democratic, then a Republican and now an Independent and supporter of a “no labels” party, that is, pretty centrist.

Don’t let the far right loonies redefine the center!

And keep writing; I enjoy your columns

Stray Toasters freaked me out more than any comic ever. I was supposed to write a bit about it, like, four years ago for CSBG. I might, still.

You don’t even have to worry about redefining the center when discussing Mayor Hundred. Vaughan explicitly writes him as a mostly conservative centrist with a few liberal leanings. Did you read the last issue? I don’t want to spoil it too much for those who haven’t, but look at what party he belongs to there.

Nobody who reads this series could classify him as “very left wing” (no, not even T.)

I’m glad to see the corrections about where Mitchell Hundred stands on the current American political spectrum. It’s clear that he thinks that government can do good things, which some conservatives (as well as some left-wing libertarians) argue with. But scripter Vaughan has worked very hard to paint Hundred as a non-partisan centrist drawing ideas from all over. Whether that reflects the writer’s own politics, market considerations, or what feels right for the character is an interesting question to ponder.

Sorry about the political faux pas, I have to admit that I only read the first couple of volumes and don’t know much about how Ex Machina developed.

@Travis: I didn’t vote in the top 50, it was too daunting! As it is, it took me hours to choose my top ten books of 2010 for the CBR list.

Just to further the Persepolis personal/international politics/war lines of thought:
Fax from Sarajevo (by Joe Kubert)

I Live Here (a great, if oddly presented, collection of sort of comic memoirs of trips to war torn countries)

The aforementioned Maus.

Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds probably deserves at least a mention.

As does Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen. (The semi-autobiographical tale of a Hiroshima survivor and it’s aftermath.)

But probably my top mention in the comics for those with a political mindset is Takao Saito’s Golgo 13. On it’s face, it’s the story of the world’s greatest assassin. But that’s really just a framework (since there’s no real suspense on whether he WILL succeed, but how) to hang complex, meticulously researched political situations (in many of the stories).

And I’m always ready to recommend the original Enemy Ace for this type of reader.

Really, comics don’t get NEARLY enough credit for what they can, and if you look carefully enough, ARE doing in these fields.

For political and religious satire, you really can’t beat Cerebus “High Society” and “Church and State”. Ignore all the controversial B.S. that came later and enjoy a classic.

“That’s all the letters I’ve got space for here.”

Technically, you’ve got unlimited space, right.? It’s a blog.

Yep, just being snarky …

I actually love “emails from readers” posts and was sorry to see this was so short. Mebbe you could do up a longer one next time. I’ll even see if I can think up a question or three …

Pyongyang was excellent

D’oh, how did I forget Cerebus, my favorite comic ever? Jeez.

Also, there’s a couple books whose names escape me right now, one from a guy who went to Iraq and Darfur and other places, with an intro by Ted Rall, another called the Photographer (?) about the Iraq war.

My incredibly descriptive synopses are SO helpful, I know. Stupid memory.

I only read the 1st volume, but DMZ had some noticeable political content.

Nightly News, by John Hickman, and Channel Zero, by Brian Wood are about the role of the media and its relationship to corporate interests. Channel Zero has some good stuff, but some problems as well. Nightly News I can recommend without reservation.

I don’t think Hundred would consider himself a centrist(granted that could be simply because I simply don’t think politics can be so easily turned into a line between left and right) but I could be wrong. He seems very liberal in terms of his ultimate goals but isn’t bogged down to a specific way and willing to test out different ideas. I’d say that’s pretty liberal in the larger sense of the word.

I’m tired, so I’m hoping this comes out at least somewhat coherently

I’ve sold comic collections for other people, and I’m sort of in the process of selling off my own on ebay. Selling huge runs of series is usually the best way to get a decent amount of money (once sold a lady’s full run of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian for around $250). The only other way you’re going to get a good amount of money is if you have some really rare/vintage issue (preferably graded by CGC). For example, I sold off a guys graded copy of Showcase #14 (graded 4.0 if I’m remembering correctly) for $400+ last year .

Best thing to do before you start selling your runs on ebay is to check completed listings and see how’re they’re doing, then price accordingly.

Oh and 1 last thing, leave any idea of sentimental/price guide value at the door when you start selling. It’ll be easier that way.

I wouldn’t consider Maus particularly political, despite war setting (well, unless you need to discuss pros and cons of nazism with someone). Persepolis more so.
A bit older, but Concrete: Think Like a Mountain by Paul Chadwick is about green issues and I think other Concrete stories have political tones too.
Likewise older, The Hunting Party by Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal is about Eastern Bloc.

Then there are comic strips, beside some stalwarts like Doonesbury and Mallard Fillmore (what little I have seen of latter was really bad but anyway, the former at least has been sometimes interesting) there’s stuff like Dykes to Watch Out For…

Hundred’s definitely a centrist (it’s hard to discuss this without spoilers), and I think it speaks more about the state of the Republican party that people see him as leftist. He has allies and enemies on both sides and approaches each issue from a pragmatic standpoint.

Hundred’s definitely a centrist (it’s hard to discuss this without spoilers), and I think it speaks more about the state of the Republican party that people see him as leftist. He has allies and enemies on both sides and approaches each issue from a pragmatic standpoint.

Stray Toasters was awesome, and I think it was one of the only comics Bill S. Wrote. It came out shortly after the “Elektra: Assassin” limited series with Frank Miller, and both are a high point of Bill’s style of the time, though Toasters had more collage and found objects (wires, screws, doilies etc.) over the incredible painting and illustration. An amazing book, I’m glad it’s collected! Too bad I’ve got all my Christmas shopping done!

As to comics collections, look around on eBay for the sadly now-discontinued series of DVDs that came out a few years ago featuring PDF scans of every issue of certain Marvel comics from the beginning until about 2006. Those are a great space saver! I have most of them (Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Hulk, Iron Man, Amazing Spider-Man, and X-Men) and I’ve enjoyed them immensely! I’ve also given away lots of my old Spidey, Avengers, Hulk and other comics that used to take up space in my longboxes. Too bad Marvel pulled the contract for these DVDs (so they could offer their own screwed-up and expensive comics download offerings) before the releases of the next batch of heroes which would have included Thor, Daredevil and Dr. Strange! I would LOVE to have read all those Thors! I’ve been reading ALL of the ones I have in order, month-to-month, from the dawn of the Marvel age. Starting from FF #1 a few years ago, I am now all the way up to mid-1996, and the Puma (?!?) is about to fight the Beyonder in a Secret Wars 2 crossover. I’m not looking forward to slogging through the awful 90’s! There is also a Silver Surfer collection, but it’s only available bundled with the FF disk, as a tie-in to the suckfest that was the second FF movie. Similarly, I wish they’d released Thor before (or instead of, as it turned out) Ghost Rider, but they were milking the merch from the awful GR movie.

Uh, I meant to say I’m up to mid-1986 of course, not ’96.

Thanks to replying to my post.God, when the hell did I post that, must of been a while ago,I completely forgot doing it. I was reading thinking “That story sounds familiar” and then I realised I was being a dozy idiot

Also, I’m hoping my Dad takes the hints and gets me the Elektra Assassin hardcover this year…

More political comics suggestions:

EAGLE: THE MAKING OF AN ASIAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT by Kajji Kawaguchi (16 volumes at least, manga, I think published in the US by Viz Publications)

THE ‘NAM By Larry Hama & Michael Golden (Marvel) 84 issues total, two TPBs collect the first 20 issues. Not so much a political book as the war seen through the eyes of the soldiers, but there is some political drama in it.

@AS

I wouldn’t consider Maus particularly political, despite war setting (well, unless you need to discuss pros and cons of nazism with someone). Persepolis more so.

It’s political in the sense that Speigleman is trying to come to terms with an American Jewish identity, consider that he chooses to portray European Jews as mice or the “vermin” from Hitler’s quote that opens the story but by the second volume he portrays himself as a man wearing a mouse mask sitting on top of a pile of dead Auschwitz victims.

I would second the WWIII Illustrated recommendation and just about anything else from either Seth Tobocman or Peter Kuper.

Julian, guess you are right…I’ve been reading Maus on personal level, about relationship between Art and his father, but reading it on broader level is possible too.

Hundred’s definitely a centrist (it’s hard to discuss this without spoilers), and I think it speaks more about the state of the Republican party that people see him as leftist. He has allies and enemies on both sides and approaches each issue from a pragmatic standpoint.

Thanks, everybody! I appreciate the suggestions, and have filed them away for future presents for my brother. It’s always a little intimidating going into my local shops, so I’m glad to have a list in hand.

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