I have six more reviews to excerpt and cross post here that are live at Cinescape. I’ll still take a break from that for now, however; I believe that there are at least another 12 reviews in the queue at Cinescape to post as well.

I also have a huge pile of material from the Gainesville-based publisher, Alternative Comics, which will yield at least twenty-five more reviews; I need to take a break before I start grinding them out. One fascinating side effect of re-immersion into non-superhero comics today is an awareness both of the remarkable breadth of independent comics publishing today and a sense that I’m witnessing some sort of middle period in American comics publishing.

In order to really get a broad enough exposure to the currents I think I’m seeing, I need to get the hook up with Marvel and DC to start flowing me the goods – but preferably in a restricted quantity, as they churn out so much there’s no reasonable way I could even maintain interest.

Dark Horse has apparently got me on the list, so I just finished reviewing a pile of their indy-oriented material. As a business, I find DH absolutely fascinating: they were publishing independent, ground level material over a decade ago, and since then have very successfully broadened into licensing and merchandising, up to and including film adaptation, the holy grail of indy marketing.

Then you can have your cake and eat it too – your property get the benefit of the huge marketing muscle of Hollywood at the same time as Hollywood pays you based on the success of their efforts – the better they market it, the more you make. Sweet!

As they’ve grown, they’ve not only maintained an interest in groundbreaking, genuinely original work such as Tony Millionaire’s Sock Monkey, but also devoted considerable effort to merchandising even the most arty, outré material, such as this Chris Ware lunchbox, which manages to qualify as a work of art in its’ own right.

The graphics form a subnarrative of Ware’s just finished RUSTY BROWN opus, which is primarily concerned with the dehumanizing potentiality of fanboy culture and thus may be perceived as critiquing the lunchbox itself, to the great concern of some and the indifference or amusement of others.

At any rate, in 1984, when I graduated high school, the undergrounds were limping along, Fantagraphics was just finding its feet, and zines were taking off. Shortly, there would be a boom in black-and-white and independent comics, but the majority of the work would either function as parody or homage. The notable exceptions tended to cluster around Fantagraphics, and the giants of that wave were clearly the Hernandezes.

Fantagraphics still maintains a lock on wildly gifted creators – Chris Ware being the most notable, and they have Millionaire’s MAAKIES – but Bagge’s out of the picture, Dark Horse is clearly pressuring Groth, and Mason’s label is only one of several garage-band publishers. There’s opportunity here. It ain’t the same class of opportunity we all noted the firs time we saw a web browser, but something’s afoot.

I won’t lock myself into a topic for a set period this upcoming week, but I have some thinking out loud to do on the topic of comic book publishing.