Thursday, November 26, 2015

Signed books for sale! With title page drawings!!

I've been getting tons of requests for signed books, but, frankly, I have no interest in running a mail order business here. So I've settled on a solution that benefits all. I've stocked up my favorite indie bookstore here in Cleveland, a store which serves as my home base (and was Harvey Pekar's before me), with a stockpile of signed copies of all my books. Not only signed copies, but copies with drawings on the title pages, too, what is known as a dedicace in France and Belgium.

These copies are available for cover price, as long as supplies last. That's right. No extra charge for the drawing. Mostly it's hardback copies of Trashed, but there's also some softbacks.... as well as copies of My Friend Dahmer, and a few of Punk Rock & Trailer Parks. Fifty or 60 total, I lost count. It's first come, first serve, so don't hesitate.

The bookstore is Mac's Backs and they happily do mail order. Call them at 216.321.2665 or place an order by email HERE

Monday, November 23, 2015

Stan Lee's failed comic strip "Says Who!"

Here's an interesting artifact I just stumbled across. This is a failed 1976 comic strip by none other than Marvel's Stan Lee, titled Says Who! It's a tepid ripoff of National Lampoon's popular Foto Funnies and (before that) the photo comics in Harvey Kurtzman's Help. 

Lee was technically the president of Marvel in 1976, but he had ceded the day-to-day operations to others and was really little more than a well-paid figurehead and company spokesman. His main job was pitching Marvel to Hollywood, resulting in a string of cheesy tv series, Saturday morning cartoons and godawful tv movies that were a far, far cry from the blockbuster films of today. Here's the worst one, a Capt. America tv movie from 1979. He also wrote the text in the bestselling Origins of Marvel Comics series (with the shameless credit hogging that got him in so much trouble later) and made a tidy living appearing before adoring fans at colleges and comicons. 

Say What! was distributed by the Register & Tribune Syndicate of Des Moines, Iowa, owned by a local press baron. Founded in 1922, the Register & Tribune Syndicate was most famous, comics wise, for Family Circus and Eisner's The Spirit. I can't find any info on Say What! at all. Did Stan pitch it to the syndicate, or did the syndicate approach Lee? Did he actually write this thing, or just attach his name to it? Unknown. I can't imagine he was scrounging up stock photos on his own time, which was fairly time consuming before the internet. I think it more likely an art director at the syndicate picked random photos from the syndicate files and then Lee wrote a gag to fit.

The strip itself is classic Stan, trying to appear edgy and hip, without really saying anything at all. There's not a single giggle in the bunch here. It's just hokey patter, but minus all the familiar "face fronts!" and "excelsiors!" that we Marvel readers lapped up. Keep in mind 1976 was also the year Saturday Night Live debuted and became a pop-cultural phenomenon, so edgy political satire was hot, but not, of course, in the staid daily press. Doonesbury was also at it's peak, and papers were leery of adding more political strips, since Trudeau was causing them so much grief with their conservative, aging readers.

Say What! is lame, but no worse than 90% of the crap on the daily comics page in the Seventies, which was the first of many dreary decades for daily strips. I'm guessing it failed, not only because it's not very good, but because a photo strip would have been very tough to reproduce in most newspapers, which were all using antiquated presses and technology that hadn't changed much in 50 years, and, in fact, actually got a bit worse as papers cut costs with cheaper plastic printing plates, before it improved exponentially with the digital revolution of the Eighties. 
Say What!, I conjecture, just wasn't worth the extra production work, especially since, well, it stinks. I can't find any info on when the strip began or ended. These samples are from October to December 1976. 

National Lampoon's Foto Funnies,
in contrast, was hilarious. 

As was Help magazine's photo comics, a decade earlier. This is the most famous one, art directed by Terry Gilliam and starring a young John Cleese!

Lee himself had a history with photo funnies. Marvel published several monster mags in the early Seventies in this vein. None of them lasted more than an issue or two. This is the is last attempt (I think) from 1972. It was hardly original. The many monster mags of the Sixties frequently did photo funnies, too.

The other problem with doing a topical strip in 1976 was the six-week lead time daily strips had at the time. It wasn't like today, when you draw a strip and post it the next day, or immediately. So news could, and did, change. Stan obviously didn't anticipate the GOP National Convention, held in August 1976, where Ford beat down a challenge from Reagan. Stan (or more likely, an editor at the syndicate) had to change the punchline of the strip below and mail out a correction. 

A few weeks after the last strip here, in January 1977, the Amazing Spider-man strip, 
which Stan wrote, was launched. It was also distributed by the Register & Tribune Syndicate and was an immediate hit. I'm guessing Says Who! was quietly retired at that point.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Want a signed copy of my books? Sure you do!

Just signed a large stack of books at Mac's Backs, Cleveland's finest indie bookstore. Most have neato title page drawings, just like I do for fans in Europe. Mac's has copies of Trashed, My Friend Dahmer and Punk Rock & Trailer Parks. And Mac's does mail order! I'll be keeping their stock supplied with these beauties, so if you can't make it to one of my signings, or I don't make it to your town, this is your best option.

There'll be a purchase link eventually, but until then just contact Macs by EMAIL or call 216-321-2665 and they'll arrange to ship it to you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The TRASHED tour so far

Got a little breather here in the TRASHED book tour madness. The opening leg– the SPX fest in DC, France, the new CXC fest in Columbus, the official US book launch here in Cleveland, then Comics Arts Brooklyn– all flew by without a hitch. Loads of fun. This weekend I'm off to appear at the Miami Book Fest, then I'll wrap up the Fall events with the Genghis Con indy comix fest here in Clevo. After that, everything tails off for the holidays. Stores don't want to schedule events during the Christmas Rush, because they get increased crowds anyways. 

Most book promotion is mostly done online now. I guess the thinking is that's more bang for the buck. No travel expenses and you can reach a lot more people. A lot of stores don't even want to bother with live signings, stores in the US anyways. In Europe, they love signings. What I've noticed more and more here is that if I do a store signing, I'll have a large stack of books waiting for me at the counter, requests for signed books from people who couldn't, or I suspect just couldn't be bothered to, show up during the signing hours. Some times I'll sign more of these books than books for people who show up! It's weird. The signing is over, the shop is closing up, and I"m signing a stack of books for fans I'll never meet. Not much of a payoff for me, but at least the bookstore gets the sales. That's classic America. We can barely be bothered to leave our homes!

So TRASHED just came out here in the US two weeks ago. It's getting a nice amount of press. All the comix sites have written about it, and a few mainstream sites, like Publishers Weekly, which picked it as one of its recommended books of the week, and in Entertainment Weekly, of all places. A few newspapers have reviewed it, those few that still review books. It hasn't gotten the widespread press that MY FRIEND DAHMER enjoyed, but that was a given. That book had the built-in, tempting news peg that media simply couldn't resist. TRASHED? This is just another comic book in the minds of Big Media Inc.

On the radio at WRUW, Cleveland's finest college alternative.
Podcasting with Tech & Comix writer Brian Heater outside Comics Arts Brooklyn.

The reviews have been almost all glowing ones, which is nice. I figured they would be, not to sound like too big a fat head. My garbage stories have always been popular and more well liked than any of my other work, and TRASHED isn't as controversial as MY FRIEND DAHMER, which some parties simply couldn't accept.

I was hoping the New York Times would finally review one of my books, but it doesn't look like that will happen. I'm just not one of the anointed. The Times has never written a single word about MFD, which is on the American Library Association's 100 Greatest Graphic Novels list. The only time the Times wanted to talk to me was after the Charlie Hebdo murders, because I was one of the few American creators with a big presence in France. Oh well.

Line out the door at a Paris bookstore!

Speaking of France, the news from there couldn't be better! TRASHED was released in French a month earlier than the English version. My publisher in Paris was anxious to get it out with plenty of time to sell before Christmas. I guess their shopping season is slightly different than ours, which, of course, doesn't take off until Black Friday. TRASHED got HUGE coverage in the French media, which really surprised me, and shot up the charts. It's already in its 2nd printing! My publisher tells me its selling better, out of the gate, than MON AMI DAHMER (that title sounds so much classier in French, no?). Now, after I won the Angoulême Prize, sales of that book took off, but that's still promising news.

I'll be heading back to France in January, for Angoulême 2016, then staying for the entire month of February, traveling around France and Belgium for signings. No, I'm not particularly worried about terrorism any more than I'm worried about being caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout here in Cleveland.

Then, hopefully, I'll have more signings in as-yet-undetermined cities into the Spring. After that, it's back to work on the next book.  And, no, I haven't decided what that will be yet.

Pugnacious Marc Arsenault, poobah at Alternative Comics, publishers of True Stories.

Oh. One more thing to look forward to. The next volumes of TRUE STORIES, compiling the strips of the same name from THE CITY, will start coming out in Summer 2016. Be nice to see them on the shelves. Three more, I think, then probably a trade paperback that collects them all at the end.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Comics Arts Brooklyn this weekend!

To mark the "official" launch date of Trashed, I'll be a featured guest at the Comics Art Brooklyn fest this Sat. and Sun. 

Sat. is the expo, from 11 am to 7 pm. I'll be at the Desert Island Comics table pretty much all day. Look for my 8-foot-tall Joey Ramone banner. It's easy to spot. This is my only scheduled signing in NYC (I had an earlier one at Book Expo), so don't squander the opportunity. It's a fabulous show anyways. Well worth spending the day there.

Sun. the fest moves to a nearby location for seminars and talks. I'll be interviewed by comics scholar Karen Green of Columbia University at 4 pm. There'll be lots of visuals, including (ugh) rare early work that I seldom pull out of the flat files. 

I'm really looking forward to this show. Don't miss it!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Trashed is out Tuesday!!

FINALLY! The official US release date of Trashed is tomorrow, Nov. 3. Copies will start flying out of the warehouse at the crack of dawn. (OK, maybe not, but I like to think they will).

It only seems like this book has been out for months. It was released in France in late September, and is already in its 2nd printing! French critics have showered it with acclaim and its gotten a surprising amount of coverage in the press. Surprising, because I wondered how French fans would take to this very American tale. My Friend Dahmer and Punk Rock & Trailer Parks are oh-so American, as well, but the former has the universal appeal of an iconic fiend and the latter of punk rock. Trashed doesn't, or so I thought, have that kind of universal appeal. Well, I'm happy to report I was wrong about that!

And now, at last, the US launch. I'd prefer you got your copy from your favorite local indy bookstore, but if that option is not available to you, here's the Amazon link.

Do a guy a solid and pre-order today. In the wacky world of book publishing, pre-orders count as Day 1 sales and are used to figure bestseller lists right out of the gate. That's why all those books are flaunted as bestsellers before they're even released. It's important, because that starts the ball rolling.