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Oddball Comics hits the LA Comedy Scene

Cartoonist and comics historian Scott Shaw! is taking his popular Comic-Con show Oddball Comics to a Hollywood comedy club all month long. Every Saturday night, he is presenting a slideshow of some of the silliest, weirdest and most baffling comic books known to man, and provides hilarious color commentary and background information.

Oddball Comics is appearing weekly at the comedy club Oh My Ribs! in Hollywood. Every show has a different focus or theme. This Saturday will be about sex, drugs and rock and roll. It will include a special look at the hidden (and not so hidden) sexual imagery in comics covers. Animation historian Jerry Beck will also join in on some of the commentary.

The show started last Saturday night and runs weekly until May 14 for a limited run of six shows only. If you’re in the LA area, catch it while you can. The show starts at 8 PM. Tickets are $20.

Comics influence Los Angeles Metro’s new Expo Line artwork

Comics are all around us and you may not even realize it. Here’s one example.

The light rail Expo Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City (and eventually all the way to Santa Monica) is creeping closer and closer to its official opening (after over a year delay). This week, Los Angeles Metro unveiled the featured artists whose work will be displayed at each station. Metro’s Expo public arts program has dedicated .5% of its construction budget to commissioning the creation of original art. Over 200 artists submitted proposals. Of the nine chosen, three either directly or indirectly reference or draw inspiration from sequential art, showing how even the fine arts are embracing the amazing language and aesthetics of comic books.

Loteria by Jose Lozano

Lotería by Jose Lozano (LA Metro)

José Lozano‘s Lotería is featured at the La Brea Station. While the concept is based on a Mexican card game, the visuals took inspiration from Mexican comic books that Lozano saw in his childhood.

From José’s artist statement:

“LA Metro Lotería depicts scenes, people, objects and situations having to do with the Metro riding experience. The color and style of the cards are reminiscent of Mexican comic books from my youth and the Sunday comics. I want to create something visually interesting and poetic from what seems to be mundane and ordinary.”

While Lozano has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, his first seven years were spent in Juárez, México, with his mother. Mexican comic books, cinema, fotonovelas and other cultural touchstones made a big impact on him and continue to influence his work.

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez (LA Metro)

Samuel Rodriguez uses white silhouettes of bicycles to break up his images like panels in a comic book. His work is at the Jefferson/USC Station.

Samuel Rodriguez weaves a visual narrative that includes fragments of building facades, vintage rail cars, realistically rendered human figures, and fictional characters. These illustrations are representative of images that may wander into the mind of the waiting traveler. Each art panel is visually divided by the silhouette of bike frames, resembling the layout of a comic book.

In fact Rodriguez’s graphic design company Shorty Fatz first began in 2002 with xeroxed mini-comics, or “ghetto funny pages”.

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos (LA Metro)

Ronald J. Llanos considers himself a visual journalist. He uses a loose sketch style to capture people he observes while people-watching, and then fleshes them out to create a documentation of the urban environment. This art at the Western Station was done by him capturing the people in the vicinity. So if you live in that area, maybe you’ll see yourself.

Ronald Llanos is a collector of images. He sketches while people watching at a café or navigating the city. Often, these character drawings reappear in self-published ‘zines.’ For Western Station, Llanos proposes to develop a visual narrative that spans the two station platforms like the open pages of a book.

That creation of a narrative and his use of self-published zines are very much in the spirit of comic books. In fact, his style reminds me of the fantastic Italian comics illustrator and graphic novelist Gipi. Even the subtitle of the name of his project, “Visual Essay,” could be considered a form or type of graphic novel. And comic book journalism is a growing field, as this excellent interactive comic by Dan Archer explains.

The Expo Line has been in the works since 2006 and most of the artists have been working on these projects for about three years. Nearly all of the Phase 1 stations had the art installed earlier this summer but the real unveiling won’t happen until the Expo Line officially launches later this year or possibly early next year. Metro says the Expo Line is approximately 90% completed and currently undergoing train testing for the next several months.

(via Curbed LA)

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Banjo Playing and Speedo Wearing

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul (click to see what I got)

Those two things didn’t happen at the same time but they were two of the most memorable moments of Comic-Con for me this year.

As the comic fates would have it, I was only able to attend one day of Comic-Con this year. Dreading the annual 3-hour drive down to San Diego, I decided instead to ride Amtrak’s Surfliner train down to San Diego from LA’s Union Station to spend the day, and then head back that same night. It ended up being a great way to get around the inevitably terrible traffic and parking headaches. I got to relax, enjoy the spectacular view of the California coast, check out Comic-Con’s app (much improved over last year) to mark panels I might want to see, waste time on Facebook without feeling guilty, take a nap or two, and on the way back I got to read some of the awesome graphic novels I bought. It was dreamy. I will almost surely be doing this from now on (until Comic-Con finally moves up to LA to make it more convenient for me).

Because I only had one day, I wasn’t able to do everything (impossible even if you’re every minute of the day). There were a few people I couldn’t connect with (sorry, Kristian and Brandon!), some publisher tables I never got to (sorry, Boom!, Archaia and IDW!), and some panels I missed (ThunderCats nooo…). Another day probably would’ve done it for what I wanted to do. But I bought a (very heavy!) ton of graphic novels, got to hang out with Scott Shaw! and share a laugh with Sergio Aragonés, and got to experience two things that really stood out as unique and made me absolutely happy that the world of comics exists.

© Eric Drooker, http://drooker.com

© Eric Drooker

The first was artist Eric Drooker‘s panel. Here’s how Comic-Con’s program described it:

Visual artist and Comic-Con special guest Eric Drooker will project hundreds of his magical images and explore how his early years as a street artist in New York City inspired his award-winning graphic novels Flood! and Blood Song. He’ll discuss the process of designing the animation for the recent hit film Howl, starring James Franco, and how he adapted it for the new book, Howl: A Graphic Novel. Best known for his numerous cover paintings for The New Yorker, Drooker will tell hilarious-but-true stories of how he wound up getting published.

A pretty straightforward description. Drooker is a fantastic artist and storyteller, so hearing him talk about his process and history sounded great. It turned out to be so much more than that. He did talk quite a bit about his work and his background, but Eric Drooker also happens to be a talented musician. Over the projected slideshow of his artwork, which has a haunted quality evocative of woodcuts from the 1910s and ’20s, Drooker played his banjo or harmonica and occasionally sang. Like his art, the music he created seemed to harken back a century. There was something incredibly powerful, moving and intimate about seeing and hearing two different forms of art that he had created and was creating live right before us. It seemed like such a personal expression. Here he was expressing himself to us on multiple levels, visually and sonically, and with such immediacy. I guess the easy description is that he created a soundtrack for his own art, but it felt deeper yet more transcendent than simple accompaniment. It was beautiful.

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face from Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 3

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face of Johnny Ryan

The second event was a tad sillier but a great example of how comics can take back some of the main spotlight from Hollywood at Comic-Con. I was standing near the Fantagraphics booth when this growling voice bellowed out over the conversations and white noise of the convention floor. In stalked a large hairy man covered in fake blood and wearing nothing but a speedo. He immediately started yelling at people around him, threatening them, cursing at them, mocking them. Now this is Comic-Con, so while there was some confusion, it didn’t take long to figure it out. The bloody man started pacing like a caged tiger behind Johnny Ryan, who was quietly signing copies of his new graphic novel Prison Pit 3. Johnny Ryan is a hilarious cartoonist but he is most definitely not for children. Crass and abrasive, his punchlines are more like blunt objects of comedy that shock and delight at their willful disregard for… everything. He released the third in his Prison Pit series of graphic novels at this year’s Comic-Con. It’s basically a trilogy of absolute violence and gore done on such a deliriously excessive level far beyond the parodying done on The Itchy & Scratchy Show from Matt Groening’s The Simpsons. As a promotional stunt, Johnny Ryan and his publisher Fantagraphics had performance artist Ajax Wood (aka Ardent Vein) done up to look like the main character in Prison Pit, Cannibal F***face. Everything Wood yelled was dialogue from Prison Pit 3. Some of the other exhibitors were mildly annoyed at the disruption, but I think it was a great promotional bit. Now maybe this example scared off more people than it drew in, but it certainly fit into the spirit of Johnny Ryan’s work, which itself isn’t exactly mainstream (although he regularly contributes to Vice Magazine). So it’s actually a pretty accurate marketing stunt. If that kind of spectacle is something that amuses you or draws you in, you’ll probably like Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit 3. Personally, I would’ve given him a few assistants (maybe with fliers) and had him skulk around the convention floor a little bit before sticking him behind the Fantagraphics booth. But it was great. It got people’s attention. Usually at Comic-Con, all of the really flashy stuff is from Hollywood. Publishers and artists would do well to remember that comics are worth some creative pomp and circumstance too. Comics should be the main spectacle of Comic-Con.

The common thread between these two events is that the artists found a way to add performance art to their work. The two had different goals and purposes (one was a panel, one was a book signing) but people in comics are creative enough to come up with more ways to add a level of performance to their art for public appearances like conventions. When they meld so perfectly with the artist and their work, like these two did, it adds a new level of experience and awareness for fans. And it brings back some of that unorthodox spirit that comics have had in the past that make them so memorable.

Comics at the LA Times Festival of Books 2011

LA Times Festival of Books loves comics, Hi De Ho

Comic books, graphic novels, manga (whatever you want to call sequential art) was pulling in the crowds at this past weekend’s LA Times Festival of Books, the nation’s largest book fair. After 14 years at UCLA, the free open air event moved to rival campus USC in South LA and it didn’t seem to hamper attendance. The more concentrated layout, and the campus’ access to public transportation seemed to please most attendees.

(Although, it could’ve been more clear where to park and where to walk to get to the Festival as you arrived. We saw no signs at Vermont and Jefferson after heading south from the 5. Hardly an obscure route.)

That nitpick aside, all seemed to go well for the most part, and perhaps the most favored part of the Festival was comics. While I was only able to attend over half of Saturday, almost every comics booth and panel I checked in with had a heavy turnout with a good mix of what seemed like a lot of curious newcomers and some diehard (or at least familiar) comics readers.

Hi De Ho Comics & Books with Pictures, a longtime store located in Santa Monica, had a very prominent location and a big booth setup (right). This was probably one of the most consistently and heavily trafficked booths we saw on Trousdale and Childs Way. Legendary Archie Comics writer George Gladir, co-creator of Sabrina the Teenage Witch with artist Dan DeCarlo, was signing copies of Archie’s Americana series. He was particularly proud of his name getting credited in the two Best of the Eighties volumes, noting how rare it was for Archie to name the creators at the time. Adults that grew up on Archie and kids that are growing up on Archie now clustered around his table, sometimes making it near impossible to even see him. By the middle of the day, Hi De Ho had sold out of Best of the Eighties Volume 1 and George had to keep asking for the staff to replenish copies of Volume 2. It was also great to see the great diversity of people that were drawn to him, proving that Archie truly is a pervasive American icon. On the other side of the booth, graphic novelist Mark Kalesniko was providing free sketches with purchases of his books, like his latest release Freeway, about that most unique of LA experiences: soul crushing traffic. Yet just from the little I’ve read so far, it maintains such charm and humor with an amazing ability to depict movement and the main character’s emotions, sometimes with no dialogue whatsoever.

SLG Publishing was the second booth we discovered, and it kept getting waves of people checking out their great selection of graphic novels, comic books, t-shirts, posters and Ugly Dolls. In addition to their own material, they also had a smattering of graphic novels from other publishers. We easily spent the most money here, which surprised me. Nahleen actually out-spent me at SLG, which might be a first when it comes to comics.

Kids, parents eat up kaboom's Disney comics

Right next to SLG was the Boom! Studios booth, which had a constant mob trying to check out the Disney and Peanuts graphic novels from their kaboom! imprint. Boom! smartly had a buy 1, get 1 free deal going on. Kids and parents alike were asking all sorts of questions about what’s best, what’s age appropriate, and more, and the Boom! staff was great. They clearly love this material too. One kid asked which volume of Donald Duck: Double Duck was best, and the guy responded not as a dry sales person, but as an enthusiastic reader. One somewhat awkward moment came when a mother asked where Boom!’s store was located, so she could buy more at a later date. She had to be informed that there is no store, Boom! sells to other stores. She must’ve sensed it was going to get confusing so she said she would just check out their website, and I suspect she did based on her kids’ eagerness. Fortunately kaboom! has an online store, so I’m optimistic they’ll eventually get what they want.

Next stop was the booth for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. This was a pleasant surprise, because I didn’t see them listed on the exhibitor list posted on the Festival’s website or iPhone app. The CBLDF provides crucial First Amendment protection to the comic book industry, so it’s great to see them accepting donations and getting the word out about their work in this kind of mainstream venue. Unfortunately not as many people were stopping at their booth. Maybe it needed to be laid out differently, with the tables pushed more toward the front of the tent, or maybe people thought something with the word “Legal” in the title was too boring to even bother. But they had a steady stream of 2-3 people at a time, at least. (One guy abruptly stopped in and asked if there was a way to volunteer to get into Comic-Con, which seemed a little transparently like someone didn’t get tickets to the sold-out convention, but still wanted to go and maybe or maybe not cares at all about the work CBLDF does. But whatever.) They had awesome “I Read Banned Comics” t-shirts for sale, as well as signed copies of some fantastic material all reasonably priced.

The web-comic Green Pieces Cartoons had a booth with a great set-up that was constantly pulling people in: a monitor displayed to passers-by artist Drew Aquilina drawing his environmentally-friendly characters. The gag strip has been covered by National Geographic Kids and there was a near-impenetrable wall of people there when I stopped by. A print version of the web-comic was for sale, along with t-shirts and tote bags.

Lots of interest at the Archaia booth

Archaia Entertainment had another popular booth (right) with probably the best deal at the festival: buy 1, get 1 free; buy 2, get 3 free. This kind of belief in their product goes a long way and caught some off-guard. There were also a few artists on hand to offer free sketches, like Dave Valeza, artist of the graphic novel An Elegy for Amelia Johnson. It’s great cover design really popped out, and was getting a lot of questions, some from young women. Comparisons to Blankets were made. Mouse Guard and The Killer were also getting a lot of attention (The Killer Vol. 1 had sold out), and Revere got one of the best pitches from publisher Stephen Christy (“The British are coming, but the werewolves are worse”).

The team-up booth of Wondermark and Sheldon also had a wall of people in front of it. They not only were attracting a lot of interested, but they probably won the Devoted Fans Award. I overhead a young woman tell Sheldon creator Dave Kellett that she had traveled a considerable distance just to see him. The rest of the Festival, indeed the rest of Los Angeles, was apparently inconsequential. These two web-comics have a unique look and their styles are different, so that no doubt explained the big draw. They were undeniably eye-catching, which probably explains why the comics booths in general got so much attention. Graphic design skills pay off. And then the quality substance kept them there.

The only panel I was able to make was the Graphic Novel panel moderated by the Hero Complex‘ Geoff Boucher. The panelists were three amazing talents: Daniel Clowes (Mr. Wonderful, Wilson, Ghost World), Dash Shaw (BodyWorld, Bottomless Belly Button), and Jim Woodring (Weathercraft, Frank). The three had a fully engaging and frequently funny discussion about their approach to their art, storytelling, technology, their work environments and more. The panel wasn’t quite sold out but the room was definitely packed within 5 minutes after it started. It was fascinating to listen to creators with such diverse styles and approaches.

In 2009, the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, begun in 1980, added a Graphic Novel category. This year’s winner, only the second since the category was created, was the amazing debut graphic novel by Adam Hines, Duncan the Wonder Dog: Show One. Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld and Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft were also nominated, along with You’ll Never Know Book II: Collateral Damage by Carol Tyler and Karl Stevens’ The Lodger. (Both Tyler and Stevens were guests for the earlier Graphic Memoir panel.) Last year’s Graphic Novel Book Prize winner was the worthy Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. The LA Times Book Prizes were awarded Friday night before the first day of the Festival.

For more pictures, see my Flickr set.

Free Comic Book Day 2011 is this Saturday

Do you want FREE comics? You’re in luck! This Saturday, May 7, is Free Comic Book Day!

After enjoying the new Marvel Studios movie Thor opening this Friday, head out to your local participating comic book shop and get yourself some all-new comics for absolutely nothing. It’s a great way to discover comics for the first time, get back in to them if it’s been a while, or just celebrate the American art form of comics! (It’s also a great way to prepare yourself for the other big comic book movies this summer: Priest (May 13), X-Men: First Class (June 3), Green Lantern (June 17), Captain America (July 22), and Cowboys & Aliens (July 29).)

You can get exclusive comic books made just for Free Comic Book Day featuring the Amazing Spider-Man, Avatar the Last Airbender, Star Wars: Clone Wars, Green Lantern, Betty & Veronica, Darkwing Duck, Kung Fu Panda, Richie Rich, the Dark Crystal, the Simpsons, Captain America, Thor, Inspector Gadget, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Tick, Mickey Mouse, Young Justice, Batman: the Brave & the Bold, and so many more. See here for a complete list of free comics available at participating stores.

Lots of stores are also holding special sales and events including signings with comics creators.

Locally, comic stores all around Los Angeles County will be celebrating with free comic books, discounted comics and graphic novels, guest appearances by comic book artists and writers, and more! Additional announcements will probably be announced this week, so keep your eye on your favorite store’s website or Facebook page.

Some stores have really pulled out all of the stops:

Golden Apple on Melrose will be open an hour earlier than normal for the big day. Starting right at 10 AM, there will be comics creators giving free autographs and sketches all day, plus 20% off everything, free Lipton Brisk Green Lantern tea & hot dogs, free Priest movie stuff, a bounce house for kids (!) and more! Creators signing: 10 AM – Top Cow Productions president Matt Hawkins, writer Jeff Cahn (Red Spike), writer Owen Weisman (Samurai’s Blood) and cartoonist/animator Scott Shaw! (The Flintstones, Simpsons Comics); 12 noon: actor/writer Walter Koenig (Things to Come); 2 PM – writer Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Super Dinosaur) and artist Jason Howard (Super Dinosaur); 4 PM – writer Marc Andreyko (True Blood: Tainted Love, Let Met In: Crossroads), and writers Brian McCarthy & Michael Lent (Brimstone).

At Earth-2 Comics both store locations will have plenty to do, like free sketches from 10 AM to 12 noon by Todd Brocasso Harris (in Sherman Oaks) and Justin Rodrigues (Northridge). Then from 12 noon to 2 PM, writer and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, The Flash), and writer and Executive Vice President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb (Batman: Hush, Spider-Man: Blue) will be available for autographs in Sherman Oaks. The two will be at the Northridge location from 3 to 5 PM. The store will also have an Earth-2 exclusive Green Lantern comic.

Free Comic Book Day 2011 (by Darwyn Cooke)

Meltdown Comics will be holding amazing special events all day long! From 11 AM to 3 PM, including a free screening of Jim Henson‘s classic movie The Dark Crystal and life-sized Skeksis statues used in the original 1982 movie! Writer Brian Holguin, who wrote a new Dark Crystal story in the free comic book flip book released for Free Comic Book Day, will be on hand for autographs, as will David Petersen, writer/illustrator of Mouse Guard, which makes up the second half of the flip book. Plus free posters, prizes, giveaways, and gourmet grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Truck. At the same time, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Jason JFish Fischer of Studio JFish will be present to sell his new underground comics, the adults only Junqueland #1, art anthology Fine Literature #2, and fantasy/adventure Jaephisch and the Dark Rainbow Chapters 1 & 2. At 1 PM, Shane and Chris Houghton, creators of the all-ages comic Reed Gunther, will hold a comics creating class just for kids. From 2:00 – 3:30 PM, writers Jeff Cahn (Red Spike) and Owen Weisman (Samurai’s Blood) of Benaroya Publishing will be signing. Finally, at 4 PM in the Meltdown Gallery, there will be a Graphic Noir panel with writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (Echoes, Tumor) and writer/artist Kody Chamberlain (Sweets, Punks: The Comic), as they discuss their creative processes and influences, followed by a brief signing.

Burbank’s House of Secrets will be going all day long, from 11 AM to 7 PM. From 12 noon to 2 PM, they’ll have Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants and Sherm Cohen, cover artist of the new SpongeBob Comics.

The Comic Bug in Hermosa Beach has a ton of creators lined up, scheduled for 12 noon to 3 PM giving free sketches and autographs in addition to huge sales and live super-heroes for photo ops. Their line-up will include writer/artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy, Baltimore), writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre), TV & comics writer Christopher Yost (Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, New X-Men), writer Joshua Williamson (Fractured Fables, Yo Gabba Gabba Comic Book Time), writer/letterer Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), animator/artist Phil Ortiz (The Simpsons), Jeff Stokely (Fraggle Rock) and lots more. Artist Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika) will be there 3 – 5 PM.

Collector’s Paradise Comics & Gallery in Winnetka has a full day of events planned, including featured guests like Whilce Portacio (Wetworks, Artifacts), Tomm Coker (Undying Love, Daredevil Noir), Joshua Fialkov (Tumor, Echoes) and a lot more giving autographs and/or sketches to raise money for the non-profit organization The Hero Initiative from 12 noon to 3 PM. Plus the store will be having its biggest sale of the year, costumed superhero characters, and the Calbi gourmet food truck.

Read more on the history of Free Comic Book Day… Read the rest of this entry

This Friday is brought to you by Banana Battling Kitteh

Sort of a sequel to this.

Things to do tomorrow in LA:

Mini-Comics Day at The Comic Bug in Hermosa Beach, Saturday 12 noon – 7 PM.

The 45 Show opening reception, an art gallery show of work using cover art of vinyl records, co-curated by my friend Robert Rodriguez of Wanted Records, at the Twenty Miles East Gallery in Pomona, Saturday 5 PM – 9 PM. Gallery is open through April 9.

Family-friendly improv comedy show with the Magic Meathands (and me!) and Jump Start at The Spot in Culver City, Saturday 8 PM.

Release Party for Undying Love by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman at Secret Headquarters in Silver Lake, Saturday night.

(Video via I Can Has Cheezburger.)

BREAKING: Newsstands still exist, kids still read comics

This just in: Print Still Happens! (Click for bigginess)

Amid all the attention put on digital, its exclusive contract with the future, and the “print is dead” mantra, it’s refreshing to be reminded that kids can still be completely entertained by a comic book made of dead trees and staples at their local newsstand.

The Los Angeles Times has a Southern California Moments site that highlights a local photo of the day. This picture, titled “Fully engaged,” was selected for January 25. It was taken by user bobcov1 on September 9, 2010. The kids sit at King’s Newsstand, located at 8361 Beverly Blvd. at Kings Road. It’s named after its neighbor Kings Road Café, although I’m not sure which was there first. The boy on the right is reading a comic book although I can’t tell which one. His brother (presumably) seems to be reading a magazine, another form of print that’s becoming more and more rare in this ever-increasingly app-powered world.

The photo’s caption reads, “Two young boys, clearly aware that life exists beyond Gameboy, entertain themselves the old-fashioned way.” Game Boy. How quaint. (Nintendo DS, maybe. Or the PSP.)

It’s easy to forget that outside of major cities, newsstands have become a rare sight, but Los Angeles actually has a ton of them. In fact there’s one a few blocks away from me on the corner of National and Sepulveda that I could probably walk to in about ten minutes. (Incidentally, there’s a pretty crummy comic book store in the strip mall kitty-corner to it that I’ve finally given up on.)

According to Yelp, there are over 1,000 newsstands in the greater Los Angeles area. It would be interesting to see what kind of presence comic books have in these newsstands, and what kind of sales they generate. I mean, does anyone actually still buy comics at their local newsstand? Here’s the photographic proof that says they do.

(Via The Beat)

LA Comics distributor warehouse closes

Despite the bustling comics scene here in Los Angeles, it’s not all sunshine and ponies.

Diamond Comic Distributors, by far the biggest and most powerful international distributor of comic books and associated products delivering to comic book stores and specialty shops, is closing its Los Angeles distributor center/warehouse this March. How does this effect us readers? Probably not much, at least directly. That is, as long as your local shop can still get their shipment of new comics. And afford it.

The final shipment from the LA center will be the first week of January. After that, the southern California area (and beyond) will instead be serviced by a Diamond distribution center almost 2,000 miles east, in Olive Branch, Mississippi. In their notice to effected comic shops, Diamond stated, “based on our quality control monitoring of shortages, damages, and overages, the Olive Branch facility consistently scores on par with Los Angeles”. Given the errors and frustrations some local stores have had with Diamond, that’s probably not very comforting. According to Bleeding Cool, this brings the count of Diamond’s warehouse facilities to 4, down from 24 at one time.

The same week the Olive Branch center takes over, Diamond begins it’s new Day-Early Delivery program for all of its customers, where instead of comics arriving to stores Wednesday morning to go on sale that same day, comics will be delivered Tuesday with a street date of the following day. This should help pad out any delivery delays during the transition. However comic shops must pay a fee to be included in the program, which apparently pays for “secret shoppers” to make sure stores are obeying street date rules. So if they don’t pay in, stores will instead receive their boxes of comics early Wednesday morning for a same-day scramble to get comics sorted, counted, displayed and pulled for subscribers.

Another factor is that some stores opt to drive themselves to the distribution center and pick up their orders, instead of paying for UPS to drive comics to their store. With the LA distribution gone, will stores be forced to pay for deliveries? Diamond says no, for now. A pick-up location will be determined for those stores, at no additional charge. While that’s great, I can’t imagine that’s something they’ll keep doing forever. What’s the point of closing a distribution center if you still pay the rent on a pick-up location?

Comic stores often operate on a slim profit margin, especially smaller stores. With shrinking sales, will these new fees force some stores to rethink doing business?

And what of Diamond’s Los Angeles employees? If they’re willing to relocate to Mississippi, some may still have a job. According to ICv2: “Long-time Diamond Regional Manager James Nash will relocate from Los Angeles to Olive Branch. Other staff has been encouraged to apply for positions in Olive Branch after their tenure in Los Angeles ends at the end of March.”

Hammer Museum celebrates 75 years of DC Comics

Hammer Museum: 75 Years of DC Comics (click for enbiggification)

The Hammer Museum here in LA reached out to let us know about a free event celebrating 75 Years of DC Comics on Tuesday December 14th at 7 PM.

Yes believe it or not, back in 1935 (!), 12 US Presidents ago, way before either Iraq Wars, before the Cold War, the Vietnam War, a few years before World War II and with the country still trying to shake off the Great Depression, a company then called National Allied Publications took a risk by publishing the first comic book of all-original material, New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine. Before then, comics were mostly or entirely made up of recycled newspaper comic strips. It was an uphill venture that initially didn’t pay off until 1938 with the release of Action Comics #1 and the debut of Superman. This was not only a huge hit, but it ended up inventing an entire sub-genre: superheroes. As National Allied changed hands, it’s name evolved to National Periodical Publications and eventually DC Comics and just recently DC Entertainment, named after the home of their second mega-hit Batman from Detective Comics. DC has remained an industry leader since the late 1930s, publishing more world icons like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash to accompany Superman and Batman.

Last month saw the release of a massive retrospective, 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, written by former DC Comics president Paul Levitz. (Levitz was among our interviewees for Dig Comics at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego.) To help in the yearlong celebration, Levitz will be joined at UCLA’s Hammer Museum by current DC executives and creators Jim Lee and Geoff Johns to discuss the history and future of DC. The event will be moderated by comedian Patton Oswalt, who’s no stranger to the world of comic books.

Within its short 75-year lifespan, DC Comics has created and destroyed entire cities, worlds, and universes with a cast of characters that includes the titans of the Superhero world. Comedian, actor, and writer Patton Oswalt will moderate a discussion among DC Comics’ Paul LevitzJim Lee, and Geoff Johns, the creative and editorial superheroes behind the pages of BatmanSupermanWonder WomanThe Flash and Green Lantern, who will discuss the pulp origins of DC Comics’ story lines and characters, as well as the future of digital publishing.

ALL HAMMER PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE FREE. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required.

Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00pm.

While this looks like fun, the really interesting part to me is the inclusion of discussing the future of digital publishing. DC has made some good moves in this area just in the last few months, but it has also sadly shut down its imprint for original webcomics Zuda Comics. Word is that some more bold moves are in the works. I’m not expecting any solid announcements, but I’m hoping there will be some positive discussion to show that they’re ready to push strongly in that direction.

And I’m also unrealistically hoping they’ll pass out free copies of Levitz’ 75 Years of DC Comics to everyone in the audience, Oprah-style.

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