Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quarterly Report: October-December 2006

To paraphrase a classic, this quarter of the A Comic A Day project was the best of times and the worst of times. In my first quarterly report (which was logged a mere three days after those first three months were complete, which means, if my current pattern persists, the next quarterly report will be written shortly after our year is complete), I listed the varied obstacles I had encountered during this blog's launch, including an "unstable Internet connection." To clarify, my Internet provider at work is connected to a T1 line, which is fairly reliable, and at home my girlfriend and I still use good old AOL dial-up, the cyber equivalent to Native American smoke signals, I know. It's slow, but effective. So, the instability is often a result of my desire to "get out of the house and write," to frequent coffeeshops and inhabit that weirdo-with-the-huge-laptop role, that wanna-be writer we all see from time to time toiling over his lingual wares and a toffee nut frappaccino. That's me. I thought that this obsession would be the death of A Comic A Day. I never would have suspected that my friend's computer in Goodyear, Arizona, with its global satellite hook-up from the open desert to the world wide web, would have been my Achilles heel. Alas, on November 4, I confidently read, reviewed, and presumably posted an entry about Top Shelf's Conversation #2, then discovered my effort was in vain the following day, too late to correction and maintain this blog's chronological continuity. I felt like my experiment had failed.

Fortunately, though I felt like failure, I was too discouraged to return to the frontlines with my keyboard blazing, and when I returned to California, I posted not one, not two, but three posts in a single day: the lost review, that day's review, and the second part of my impression of Action Comics #844, an issue so fueled by its own hype that I felt it warranted more thoughts than a single entry could muster. Perusing my list of comics from the past three months, I observe that Action #844 represents a phenomenon I encountered on several occasions: the collision of mediums through creative involvement. Richard Donner's current run on Action has certainly elicited some attention, thanks in large part to his latest efforts to secure his legacy in the Superman franchise. His seemingly insistent and arguably pompous Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is the comic book equivalent of Bill Clinton's retrospective reports on his single-handed bin Laden near-misses. Yes, gentlemen, we see and understand that you played critical roles in your respective theaters, but we also recognize that other players have since had equal or even more prominent influence in those regards. The world will spin without you -- and in Donner's case, it'll even spin backwards. Other celebrity contributions I encountered last year weren't nearly as lofty; Bruce Campbell's Man With The Screaming Brain Rob Zombie's Spookshow International were fun romps, inspiring the frivolous vigor with which they were undoubtedly penned. However, the distinction remains that those series were the unique byproducts of their famous creators and could possibly not exist at all without their input. Now you know why even one day's respite from this project affects me so.

Campbell's and Zombie's comics were also cornerstones in my effort to parallel my reviews with the given month's respective holiday, and for obvious reasons, Halloween was the most successful season for this endeavor. While Christmastime inspires definitively "Christmas comics," any horror title is technically qualified for the "Halloween comic" category. Fortunately, the horror genre includes enough sub-genres, i.e. ghosts, monsters, psychological thriller, etc., to keep thins interesting, and I'm satisfied that I explored the gamut of nightmarish possibilities. Holidays, especially the commercially potent ones like Halloween and Christmas (sorry, Columbus Day and Kwanzaa), speak to comic book culture, what with their rife visual iconography and mythologies. Santa has all but become one of the Justice League's "big seven," as his appearances in the medium surely out number B-listers like Aztek by now, and old St. Nick even earned his own entry in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe this year. Although I will continue to make my entries socially relevant through overt connections to holidays and events (and I have mastered the skill of stretching any content to parallel another subject of choice, if you haven't noticed that already), October, November, and December are obviously the best months for this exercise. No more visions of sugar plums.

Finally, last quarter skimmed the surface of this experiment's potential regarding the varied formats of comics. I read both Nickelodeon Magazine and Heavy Metal Magazine, each on opposite sides of the audience spectrum, yet each also offered fresh takes on the comic as a malleable forum for thoughts and ideas. Further, although neither would be traditionally classified as comic books, their comic content was more concentrated than many mainstream, readily available titles, and their numerous contributors liken the mags to print incarnations of the web comic forums that are steadily increasing in popularity. These magazines are significantly keep the print format important. Further, I'd like to experience more differently formatted comics this year; The Best of DC Christmas issue, The Clock Maker, and the dreaded Conversation #2 are good testimonies that good things can come in smaller, or at least differently shaped, sizes. I already have a few issues that will fulfill this objective, but I'd dig an unconventional comic once a week, to maintain the balance of what the medium has to offer altogether. This iceberg runs deep.

The joy of A Comic A Day is discovering and/or incorporating my long-time favorite aspects of comics into the flow of this project, and this quarter offered those opportunities, too. The Thundercats, the Ghostbusters, and Agents Mulder and Scully all made appearances these last few months, all of whom are childhood favorites and not commonly associated with comics. Artists like Norm Breyfogle made critical contributions, too -- the very creators that sucked me into comics all those years ago, now with new material to fuel the guilty pleasures of my inner child, who really isn't feeling very guilty at all. Believe it or not (another comic from this quarter), some days I actually lament reading only one comic at a time! Nothing is more frustrating for a fanboy like me than splurging in a discount bin, bringing home a fat stack of unread or even unheard of issues, and reading only one. Maybe a day's respite was good for A Comic A Day. When someone finally calls my little comic book collecting hobby to the carpet as borderline obsessive, I can use that day as evidence in my sanity's favor. Thank you, you faulty satellite you . . . where ever you are.

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