PopMatters round-up for the end of 2014

Here are my recent publications on PopMatters since my last update:

In Worlds in Panels:

  • From October, a critical examination of Warren Ellis’ and Jason Howard’s Trees (Image).
  • From November, a reflection on GeekGirlCon 2014.
  • And from this month, a look at how digital comics has affected my relationship to print.

In October, I also had a feature on narrative themes in Buffy, Angel and Grimm.

August “Worlds in Panels”: comiXology’s “My Backups” and DRM

In my most recent column for PopMatters, I look at what downloads of comics from your comiXology library means for the future of DRM:

When I buy a print copy of a comic, there are a number of things I can do with that copy beyond simply reading it myself. I can, as noted, loan it to someone else. I can give it away or even sell it. I may not have to buy the comic in the first place; in many cases I could check the book out from the library to do my reading. With print there’s a clear distinction between owning a copy of a work and owning the work itself. I can do what I want with an individual copy that I come to possess by legal means, but what I can’t do is start making copies of my own for sale or to give away; that right adheres to the owner of the underlying work.

Read the column

New column at PopMatters on the disposability of comics

My latest “Worlds in Panels” considers what it means to think of comics as “disposable” on digital platforms:

While digital media are not indestructible, and publisher practices may change at some point, for the moment, the electronic “printing” and distribution of comics means that scarcity is essentially non-existent. For readers who have been only by default also collectors, this is liberating, and re-enables a relationship to the medium that is primarily about reading and pleasure and less about preservation. I have held onto any number of titles in print simply because I had hopes for a book, hopes that may not have been immediately validated, but the only sure way to see the promise fulfilled was to keep having the book pulled, or risk having it be unavailable when and if it became what I wanted it to be.

Read the column

New Worlds in Panels this week: a year of digital comics

My latest column posted at PopMatters on Thursday. I reflect on a year of buying and reading digital comics, updating the series with which I began 2012.

I continue to experiment with ways to read mainly because one point I made in my initial column on this topic is still salient: “…. digital comics are almost entirely being made from print comics or comics that are made with print as the primary format and digital as a secondary or adjunct release.” While one can find comics that are made with digital as the primary format and that also experiment with the different possibilities of digital—like, for example, the previously referenced Valentine by Alex de Campi and Christine Larsen, Power Play by Kurt Christenson and Reily Brown, or the books in Marvel’s Infinity line—such offerings are the exception. The vast majority of digital comics, even those made expressly for digital distribution, are built on the established book and pamphlet template.

Read the full column.

 

New “Worlds in Panels” and other column updates

I have a new comics column up at PopMatters today. I look at the local comics shop and why I think these are vital places:

With more publishers offering same day as print for digital, the availability aspect of the Wednesday-at-a-comics-shop experience can be simulated electronically, certainly with more verisimilitude than with traditional mail order. But what tablets, phones and computers don’t replicate as well is the (palpable) collective and social aspect of the traditional brick-and-mortar visit. I don’t want to overstate the depth of the connections I’ve made with the clerks or other customers at my local store, but I have had a couple of interesting conversations with the owner, alerted others to certain titles, learned about new books myself, and I also like to see what others are buying.

Read the column

This piece continues what has been a recurring theme for me in the new year: digital comics. My January column is focused on reading, while in February I considered sharing.

January comics

From tfaw:

Monthly comics:

Angel: Illyria: Haunted #2 (IDW)

Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner have a good idea for a story started. Given how few episodes Illyria appeared in, I imagine that she is a good character to write. Getting the voice right remains hard.

Birds of Prey #8 (DC)

“The Death of Oracle” story continues and the title seems to have found some stability in the art. Gail Simone writes strong stories about the human/meta-human divide and this looks to be one of those, at least in part.

B.P.R.D. – Hell on Earth: Gods #1 (Dark Horse)

The new story starts fast with a cast of unfamiliar characters, but ends with an awesomely rendered final page. Guy Davis also designs a great-looking, though enigmatic, cover.

Casanova: Gula #1 (Marvel Icon)

Another new story starts. Lots going on, people intersecting from different timelines, and Casanova missing in one of them. Full of the kind of action and geekry I have come to expect from this title.

Generation Hope #3 (Marvel)

I am wondering where this title goes after all of the new mutants have been found and pacified by Hope. I suppose this issue is an indication, with them coming together as a team somehow, but that Kieron Gillen’s next story arc should be even more of an indication of this.

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #1 (Dark Horse)

Scott Hampton’s style is slicker than I am used to seeing on this title, but Mike Mignola’s story seems like creepy fun. Short mini.

I, Zombie #9 (DC/Vertigo)

Gwen and Horatio finally have a date, while the vampires scheme, Ellie gets jealous, and maybe rash, and Scott deals with his life. This is turning into quite the ensemble title.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 (Marvel)

Settles into kind of a conventional action thriller mode, unless you count all of the zipping around in time and space. This title is so strange, that I wonder that Marvel allows Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver make it at all, especially since they are radically shaping the history of one of the Marvel Universe’s key institutions. And, yet, here it is.

Spider-Girl #2 (Marvel)

Quick, dramatic, and maybe not so positive turn in the story. I am guessing it will take a few issues to work through the implication sof what happens to Anya here. Less encouraging is the splitting of the art.

Spike #4 (IDW)

The point of this issue is pretty well revealed at the end. Drusilla remains a work in progress. I think that Nicola Zanni’s Dru can grown on me, but there is a lot of variation in how she looks here, with face and body not quite settled yet.

Uncanny X-Men #531 (Marvel)

I will say this about this title right now: as per my prior comments, I do not like Greg Land’s style. But it does work for Lobe’s alternate X-Men. The panel where they gather to go be heroes is well drawn, and the plastic-y, beautiful look works well for these wannabes. It still remains a problem for many in the main cast; I even think he manages to make Emma boring, despite the fact that she is a character who can also wear his style well.

X-23 #4 (Marvel)

So, Laura gets her own story after all. Maybe Marjorie Liu is finally getting some ownership now that “Wolverine Goes to Hell” is behind her. One thing I have noticed about this title is that covers are often oddly inappropriate. This month, we see X-23 in X-Force mode, but most of the time she is drawn as some kind of sexy fashion plate. None of these looks has had much to do with the stories.

TPBs:

Batman: Joker’s Asylum Volume 2 (DC)

Ordered this to scree for A, who loves Harley Quinn and likes the Batverse. On the whole, a reminder of how depraved Gotham is, but I also found Mike Raicht’s (writer), David Yardin’s & Cliff Richards’ (art) and Jose Villarrubia (colors) Killer Croc story to be strangely affecting, especially the by the time the next to last panel shows.

Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Volume 3 (Marvel)

Forthcoming.

X-Men Forever 2 Volume 1: Back in Action (Marvel)

Fun-ish sideshow with Rogue and Spider-Man, and the reemergence of the Morlocks. Mystique. High soap opera. Pretty much what you expect from this series.

Digital comics (from comiXology):

Suburban Glamour #1-4 (Image)

Probably the best thing I read this month. Beautiful, pop-y art from Jamie McKelvie and a story that nicely intertwines classic genre elements and fantasy with contemporary suburban ennui. Maybe moves too quick and crams too much in, and points towards sequels a little too broadly, especially if they never happen. What I like most about McKelvie’s art is how real it looks despite the simplicity. Renders well on my iPhone, except for the letters pages, which are next to impossible to read that way.

Recommended daily reading – 13 January

A few items of note from the past few days:

On Comics Alliance, David Brothers analyzes data on digital comics sales. He finds that, in contrast to the direct market, digital comics sales are dominated by independent and smaller publishers and creator-owned works. What this means for comics, or what this tells us about who is buying what, are still open questions, but these results are interesting for how dramatic the contrast is between the two sides of the market.

In matters related to environment, creativity, and urban spaces, Juxtapoz explains how to make graffiti from moss, and Inhabitat points to a New York restaurant that is using the rooftop of its building to grow fruits and vegetables.

Two short, funny, though still dismaying, takes on Sarah Palin and the state of political discourse in the U.S.: one from cartoonist Matt Bors and the other via Crooked Timber.

Finally, ComicCritics has a perceptive strip on a particular expression of comics fandom.