Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Claypool, We Hardly Knew Ye

I realize that this will make me the eight-billionth person to blog about Claypool, but I type nonetheless. It is a sad situation, this eminent demise of Claypool, and I wonder why. Magazines start and fold all the time. TV shows (hell, TV networks!) come and go, but no one seems to get depressed about it. But a comics company that no one knows about folds, and it's really sad. Go figure.

In another life, I worked at a store that ostensibly carried Every Comic Published. That actually only meant that if it was solicited in Previews, we would get at least a copy or two, and in a more specific sense, it meant we carried an issue of each Claypool title. Actually, it meant that we had Claypool books that would sit on a shelf, until they got bagged and filed as back issues. Or sent to the fifty cent boxes.

I never, ever once saw anyone buy a Claypool comic. This is in one of the largest markets in the country. It's certainly not a judgement on the quality of the books, just an anecdotal observation of their sales.

So they may be producing the finest comics ever read by man or beast, but it's all for naught, because they can't seem to sell them. So they go under. Supply and demand. It happens all the time, but for some reason, it seems particularly sad in this case. Why is that?

A lot of Claypool's supporters point out that they've been publishing for ten solid years. So they've published monthly non-stop for a decade, diligently producing books that no one really reads. Am I sad to see them go because I respect their publishing ethic?

The design of the covers is bland, the content is nothing that grabs me, and aside from Elvira's boobies, I can see nothing in these books that exites me at all. They don't make the sales cut, and the axe should fall. It happens all the time in every other form of entertainment media. "This TV show is boring and no one watches it." Cancelled. Easy. But comicdom is a tiny kingdom, and the death of any village always feels like the possible start of a plague.

We meet these creators at conventions, we commune with fellow readers every wednesday, we check the blogs and news sites.... This isn't just business. It's a friend of a friend about to die, and even if that guy got on your nerves and was too loud anytime he drank a few beers, your still sad to hear the news. There are creators involved with Claypool that we kinda know about, and now they have these wee labors of love on a chopping block. The fact that no one reads them is kinda beside the point... it's a sad state of affairs! These are nice guys, making books because they love them, and bugger all if no one else cares. They're in it for the love, and they're about to get the axe. It depresses me to think of it. Ten years is long enough to garner some passing familiarity, and to the Comic Fan (like myself) familiarity is warm and inviting. (Now, if Speakeasy or Alias were to go the way of the Dodo next week, I odubt too many folks would be upset. They haven't had a comforting presence at the bottom of the rack for a decade...)

I think as the next few years come and go, we will see alot of folks fold up their handful of cards and leave the table. We will also see some folks take off their shirts and throw them on a pile of chips, only to be asked to get out anyway. The market is changing, and no one can predict how it will play out. I know that not changing you cover dress for ten years, and not adjusting your failing marketing strategies is no way to go. I know that ignoring the rise of Trade Paperback dominance is not a good thing. I know that if your book is sitting in the Brave New World of book designs by Kidd, Ware, Seth, etc... and can't remotely compare, you will get lost in the shuffle. Still, I hate to see anyone get lost- comics are egalitarian if nothing else. Where else can fat, myopic, awkward greaseballs gain the same respect as slick L.A. television writers? I love comics, and I love the Comics Scene. When part of it dies, one shakes his head and sighs.

So despite the fact that I don't care about the books, and I have actually never seen anyone buy one, I am sad to see Claypool go*. It is kind of comforting, though, to be involved in a hobby where the demise of a company that no one seems to care about can generate this kind of sympathy.
Ahh, the life of a comic fan- I'm depressed for Claypool, but I'm not gonna go out of my way to help prevent it. Cest la vie!


*- I know you're saying "Alex, they ain't gone yet!", but even if they manage to stick around, does it make a difference? At this point, Claypool's biggest exposure is as the company that couldn't meet a minimum order requirement after ten years publishing. It's a bummer, but THEY issued the press release...


Via Eric Reynolds at Fantagraphics:

Really, though, it was a fairly benign story; the only reason I mention it was the final graph, which featured the following choice words from DC Publisher and legendary Legion of Super-Heroes scribe PAUL LEVITZ, who clearly has his finger to the pulse of the contemporary comics-as-art scene:

"Because comics are done collaboratively, a lot of the best stuff is 'Can you top this?' You've got three or four top practicioners of the art sitting around saying, 'Wouldn't it be cool if'? That's how the best of this stuff builds."

Word UP, man! That's TOTALLY how the best of this art shit builds. Stan Lee couldn't have put it any better. It's like that time Chris Ware was sitting around with his inker, and the inker was all, like, "Shit man, wouldn't it be cool if Jimmy Corrigan had a grandpa that totally went to the old Chicago World's Fair an' shit? I'd love to ink me some of them motherfuckin' buildings!" Or that time when Dan Clowes was talking about Ice Haven over lattes with his letterer, and the letter dude was all, "Bro, I could make some BITCHIN' logos for all of these characters, you should totally break this up into different strips that add up to a more gnarly whole. Let's build this shit UP!"

Heh. I love the FantaBlog.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Quick Seven Soldiers Notes

OK, first of all, both the last issue of Zatanna and the first of Frankenstein were great. Wonderful art both, though completely different in style. Good stories, great lines, and interesting meanings. My "sister" Jinah is in love with Frankenstein now. And I couldn't help myself but "touch" Zatanna's hand as she reached out for me.

Here are some quick, not-completely-formed thoughts:

1. The Seven Unknown Men seem to be some sort of metafictional device. Two ideas. They could all be different Grant Morrisons, who each wrote the different books. That sees unlikely. Also unlikely but a bit neater, what if (since they're all supposed to be previously-appearing characters) they're all comic writers that have appeared in DC comics? Morrison, Maggin, Schwartz counts . . .I dunno.

2. Zor = Moore? The name, the beard comment, the "bad" magic, in Morrison's mind . . .or is he the Johns/Winnick crew, trying to rewrite reality in a crap fashion?

Anyway, today is my last Make Believe War at Comic Book Galaxy for a while. Blogging here, writing a novel, planning a wedding, and my teaching duties are kind of pushing it aside for now. Hopefully I'll be able to come back to it at a later date.

Amazing Joy Buzzards last week was pretty frickin awesome, from the Yeti sex and Stevo's origin, to katana race car battles to everything else. I love love love that book, and I would even if my name and part of a review weren't printed on the inside back cover.

Gotta go do some other stuff. Enjoy, folks. Hope you had a great Turkey Day.