Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The RIght Madness

James Crumley writes hardboiled fiction like a Raymond Chandler who is still alive and drinking after all these years, and doing drugs on top of that. And has a closet full of guns.

C.W. Sughrue is the Hunter S. Thompson of hardboiled detectives. If H.S.T. could've shot people (other than himself.)

I love it. I lost count of the colorful characters and falling bodies, but you don't read Crumley for the plot. You're just along for the ride.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Virgin Comics, only half a Virgin?

Every few years, a multi-millionaire will enter into the comic business with great fanfare, ready to show us fanboys how it's really done. Cross Gen, the late, unlamented Tekno (which I seem to be the only one who liked), are only two of the examples. They have a common characteristic of having big names involved -- who usually lend not much more than their name.

Virgin Comics was sponsored by Richard Branson.

Never took flight.

Not enough people gave it a spin.

I don't necessarily believe that there is wholesale rejection of new companies -- more that comics are a hard sell, no matter who you are, and if Marvel and DC weren't already Marvel and DC they'd have a difficult time.

Which makes Dark Horse Comics achievement all the more remarkable.

I'd say Image, too, except that they've come down so far from the height, that just surviving isn't really a success.

Interestingly to me, these comics often tend to find their footing a couple of years in, actually publishing comics that people want to read. I'm not sure if this is just because they have produced so many comics that they finally hit on a success by accident, or because they finally figure out the market. (See above Dan Dare comic....)

Of course, the Holy Grail of all these companies is to create licensed characters that can be made into movies, toys, T.V. etc.
I'm beginning to believe, in fact, that comics are nothing more than the Research and Development arm of Hollywood. Huge creativity expended at a relatively lower cost.

The comic pundits -- yes, we have pundits -- are ready to blame the insular comic market for these failures.

For instance, Dirk Deppey of Journalistica has this to say:

"The Direct Market caters primarily to a closed network of 25-35 year old men who’ve been reading Marvel and DC Comics for over a decade, and have next to no interest in buying anything that doesn’t cater to their narrow set of interests. You can occassionally snag a moderate number of readers by producing work that grabs them by the fanboy short-hairs — vampires, zombies and licensed versions of characters or creative works that they fondly remember from childhood are usually required — but anything else is slow death where money is concerned."

He apparently doesn't see the irony of an earlier statement in the same article:

"Setting the question of content aside — I haven’t read enough Virgin Comics to speak to that — "

Who screwed Virgin Comics? We all did.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hugo Award for comics?

Well, graphic novels at least.

I suppose it might be hard to ignore Watchmen, 300, Sin City, etc., even for Science Fiction snobs.

Besides, why should there be such a thing as S.F. snobs. (And believe me, they exist....) Didn't they suffer from that same attitude for a generation?

Lot's of Mom's think it O.K. now to read S.F. and Fantasy.

Next.... broadening of the minds (or dumbing down of America, depending on which camp you inhabit) .........comics!

Quit playing video games, son! Read a good comic!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bones of the Earth, Gridlinked.

I've known about Neal Asher for some time now, simply from recommendations and reviews. I even ordered most of his books for my store.

But I was waiting for a used copy to show up. I was almost ready to give up and turn one of my new copies into a used copy when Gridlinked appeared at Linda's store.

This is the first of Polity series, and it's very good. A far future cyberpunk novel, much like Richard Morgan's Kovic series, (Altered Carbon.)

I was feeling lucky in finding a new author to explore, when I picked up the second book pictured above. Bones of the Earth.

This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time. Not sure why I hadn't read it before, because Michael Swanwick had written my favorite steampunk novel, The Iron Dragon's Daughter.

This is one of those compulsively readable novels that pin you to the couch and won't let you go. Time travel, paradoxes, creationists, and dinosaurs. Really fun. It's rare to read two great novels in a row, and I'm really relishing it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marvel -- Soleil Comics.

I'm glad to see Marvel doing these kinds of comics again. Back in the day, they had an Epic imprint, a kind of Americanized Heavy Metal. I personally thought Epic was more readable and enjoyable.

When Marvel ran into financial difficulties in the 90's they pretty much stopped doing any 'licensed' product, including titles like Star Wars and Conan. (Dark Horse comics was the big beneficiary of that -- and they've done a great job, much better than Marvel in my opinion.)

Anyway, these are French titles under the Soleil imprint, and I really enjoyed them. Skydoll is very racy, but a fun romp. Universal War is straight ahead Science Fiction, with a cast of misfits (a Dirty Dozen, if you will) confronting a galactic menace.

What's funny about this venture is, if these same subjects had been printed in a Humanoid Press (collectors of Heavy Metal type stories) hardcover book, no one would have bought them.

I was probably a little too conservative, and sold out of most of the issues that have come out so far. Having read them, I'm going to up my orders on the other titles and reorder these.

We really, really need Marvel to expand it's offerings beyond the in-house superhero genre, because they are by far the industry leaders. They can lead the way, if they chose to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Cult" books.

(Cult books, not occult books, dammit!)

If Watchmen isn't our all-time best selling book yet, it is almost inevitable.

Meanwhile, I've been selling the two books shown here on a steady basis for years. A couple of titles that most people haven't even heard of, that are passed lovingly from one reader to the next, those in the know, the ultimate 'cult' books.

The first is Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, Tim Burton's weird poetry and illustrations. Sick humor.

The second is Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez, (who did the Invader Zim cartoon). Also sick humor.

Hmmmm. Seems to be a pattern.

I admit, I was a little late on board with these two books. When I sold the mall store, it eventually passed into the hands of a former employee and a former customer, who were a little more hip to the goth scene than me. But I jumped on board.

I love these kinds of books, because I'm pretty sure that Barnes and Nobles doesn't have a clue. Even if they carry them, they are probably buried somewhere.

I stick them front and center, like a badge of honor -- we are different, we carry fun titles.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Captains and Opera

I'm a real sucker for Horatio Hornblower type science fiction. The best, by far, is the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Naomi Novik series, about Captain Will Laurence (dragons and Napoleonic ships!) is also fun. I couldn't really get into the Honor Harrington series, which seemed like a poor copy of Bujold's books.

And this series, about Captain Nicholas Seafort. Prisoner's Hope, by David Feintuch, is the third book out of five, and I'd read the other four. A fascinating wreck of a character -- a priggish, guilt ridden, martinet Hornblower. Disliked him all the way through -- but the true test, I guess, is that I read them all.

One of the things I really, really liked about the Vorkosigan series is that Miles is shown as a strong, eithical, intelligent character. Whereas it seems to me that Nicholas Seafort seems to fall into situations, showing neither smarts or talent, but nevertheless wins in the end. It's the Lord Foul's Bane compared to Lord of the Rings, if you will.

Death at La Fenice is a well written parlor room mystery, or in this case, an opera house mystery. Set in Venice. Interesting enough, but I've really lost interest in this kind of mystery. Devoured all the Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey books when I was younger, and kept reading. But they seem too mannered and formal to me these days.

I prefer the hard-boiled type mystery -- though I'm well aware that they are just as mannered and formal in their own ways.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bookstore visiting.

Linda and I went on a bookstore tour, of Klamath Falls, Grants Pass, Crescent City, and Brookings, with stops at Chiloquin and Rogue River. I'll be talking about them on my BMWJAMAGEH blog.

But I got some great ideas, that I'll be trying to implement.

I take in a notebook and just start stealing ideas. With permission, of course. And we always buy at least one item in every store, sometimes several, and it gets a little expensive, especially in the new bookstores.

One of my favorite things is to just let titles or bookcovers grab me, and I write them down. There is a sea of books, but something in the look or feel or subject matter of a book just appeals to me. I let each store give me 3 or 4 titles, so that by the time I get back, I have a couple of dozen books I want to order that I think will fit my store.

One thing is for sure...there are plenty of books being published.

Interesting thing about this trip is that not one of the independent bookstores were doing the "Book Sense" program. Unlike the 90% of the stores we've visited elsewhere.

More, later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

That didn't take long!

The readership of this blog, such as it was, has diminished rapidly. I've only been away 4 days!

My Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy ever had has never missed a day, and often I post more than once.

Interesting difference. That plus it has so many more connections than this one.

Anyway, I'll be back to posting daily tomorrow, and once I start again I don't intend to let more than a couple of days go by without some news.

Been visiting bookstores out of town again, so lot's to talk about.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I was really disappointed in this movie. I expected much better.

It was pretty good up that that moment where -- and I don't think this is a spoiler to anyone who hasn't seen the movie -- a refrigerator goes flying through a wall.

Up to that moment, there were some nice bits about what it means to be a 'super' hero, the marketing of a superhero, the loneliness of a superhero. They could've taken this movie to another level, by putting into conflict the 'marketing' vs the ethics, the friendships vs. the right thing, and so on.

Instead, in an apparent effort to reach a deeper meaning, they jumped the shark. In a sense, I thought they were very disrespectful of the comic form. They were saying, we have deeper meanings here, and comics are silly and we aren't.

And in doing so, they reached for meaning that has been overdone in comics; that no self-respecting comic would stoop to.'s quite obvious that other than Will Smith having superpowers, they didn't have a clue about comics.

I've seen this in my writer's group over and over again. Someone comes with a Science Fiction idea that has been done a million times, that was done to death in the first decade of S.F. , that has had Twilight Zone episodes and bad movies; and the writer doesn't even know it.

And sure enough, when you ask, they almost always say, "Oh, I don't READ science-fiction, I just had this cool idea."

That's Hancock, the second half. Stupid, half baked and very tired cliches.

Monday, August 4, 2008

X-Files: I want to'll go see it.

Linda and I went to see the X-Files movie. We have always been huge fans, and for a number of years it was our 'event' T.V. show, where we'd have friends over for pizza and oh and ah over the brilliance of the show.

I thought this movie was great. It reminded me how much I liked those two characters of Skulldar and Moldy. The actors have become, if anything, more attractive and charismatic. (Especially Gillian Anderson...oh, la la.)

I liked how they did a more 'monster of the week' kind of storyline, because the conspiracy stuff got old even for me.

My Mom once got dragged the Star Trek 4 (the one with the whales.) Now Mom never knowingly read a science fiction or fantasy novel (except mine, of course.) She always wondered what happened to her number 2 son, who seemed to have been carried off by fairies.

But she came back from S. T. 4 with the comment: "That was very enjoyable. It was like visiting old friends."

That's the way the X-Files felt to me. Old friends. Sad if it's a flop, and they never get a chance to make another. Get off your butts, people!

P.S. I haven't read the above comic because I wasn't sure if it was the movie, and I didn't want to spoil it. I'll do a post-script as soon as I find out today.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

I don't know......I'm not you think this will sell?

Coming in December.

Also, considering my rather relaxed attitude toward books: I keep missing the demand on the "Twilight" series by Stephanie Meyer. I try to get more of them, and even the distributer is out most of the time, with thousands of copies on order.

Anyway, I've got more on order, just not sure about my chances.

This series just seems to get bigger and bigger. I'm glad that it's popular, though I wish there was a broader base support for reading instead of this huge rush for Harry Potter, or Twilight, or the DaVinci Code. least they're reading.

I have to rely on news and requests and reviews for these young adult and or women oriented books. I don't have the instinct, though I try to be very responsive.

I ordered what I thought was a four month supply of the Watchmen, and I may run out in a couple of weeks. Never seen such a response to a 30 second trailer. What's really amazing is that this graphic novels has been selling well for years and years. DC Comics is supposed to be making an announcement soon that it's sold like a MILLION copies...or something like that.

Tried ordering a bunch more, since the movie is still 9 months away, and it's out of stock. There were tens of thousands of copies just a day or two ago, so the odds are that one of the big bookchains just raided Diamond's stock and scooped them all up.

Oh, well. I've still got some, and I'll just let them sell naturally for awhile instead of pushing them.

Exciting that graphic novels are getting more and more notice.

Which they deserve.

Which they need to continue to deserve.

Which I have my doubts about. It's too much of a sea change to happen all at once. I saw a huge influx of comic readers when the first Batman Movie came out, what 20 years ago? But since then, there has been response to each license -- selling a lot of V for Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc. but not yet creating the habit of buying them.

I'm thinking by the end of my career that graphic novels may became a firm part of any true readers repertoire. Not altogether sure that would be good for business, but it would be good for the culture.

Reading and imagination. Words and pictures.

How about that?