Same Difference

Same Difference is a 16-part online comic focusing on a Bay Area friendship between two twentysomethings. Jerry pointed it out, and it’s been getting citations for a few days, as the story arc just completed.

It’s really quite excellent – not standard webcomics fare, which can tend to reflect the demands of the web by presenting condensed, efficient bursts.

This well written and thoughtful, and the script takes its’ time in moving from point A to point B. Additionally, considering the work technically, the author, Derek Kirk Kim, has a strong grasp of comics craft.

In several passages he uses the story to display this command. While these presentations felt tentative, as though it was the artists’ first use of the method or that a given technique was being invented as the page was designed, they are uniformly successful.

In this thread, he’s invited reactions to and discussion of the 2-year project.

Comic book musing

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.


Here, laid out for ogling (no jostling, dammit!) is the as-promised sumptuous prize package to be delivered to the fortunate and determined Pinax.

Some points to note: two of these books are not strictly duplicates, but rather differing versions of material I have in another format, the McCay book and the Gonick book.

There are two possible collectibles in the batch: a first-year, possibly first printing (but it doesn’t say) volume three of the ground breaking, still-sells-like-hotcakes DARK KNIGHT series by Frank Miller, and Chris Ware’s ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY NUMBER 10. I can’t tell if the Ware book is a reprint or not.


Ware is a genius, and this little book of bitter misanthropy has made me laugh so I hard I’ve frightened small children. Purchased by mistake while hypnotized by the pretty colors and enchanting landscapes that populate his work. Keep that Prozac handy so you don’t slit your wrists from the grim hopelessness and misery!


This forms Chapter One of the second collected book of Gonick’s monumental work of cartoon scholarship. It remains the single best cartoon introduction to the sweep of Classical Greek history (did that come out right?), and there’s never a dull moment. The period covered here is from the defeat of the Persian invasion of Greece to Alexander the Great’s ill-fated venture to India, roughly 480 B.C. to about 330 B. C., just shy of that gifted and peculiar man’s death.

I could go on and on, but just take my word for it, a whole lot of very interesting, profoundly influential things happened during this time, stuff that directly affects your life in ways you don’t even think about. Gonick sets it up and provides a bibliography while cracking wise every step of the way.

Winsor McCay’s LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND, Book 2, in the unfortunate Blackthorne Press edition.

Winsor McCay invented the fantasy comic as well as the entire field of animation. No, really, he did. LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND was his sunday full-page comic from very early in the century, and his work on the series is noted for immense, surrealistically detailed drawings and fantastic attention to detail in coloration, all within overall, full-page compositions that still, nearly one hundred years later, grab your eye and just won’t let go.

For reasons unkown to any living man, the erstwhile publishers of this version of the work, Blackthorne, have decided to cut the strips up, reproduce them in black and white only, and to randomly blow up or reduce the panels so they’ll fit the misguided format better.

Thankfully, Fantagraphics has come to the rescue with a multi-volume beautiful coffee-table-size series of reprints that do some justice to the work of this early cartoonist and giant of American art.

This book is still of value as an introduction, and hopefully Pinax may be moved to learn more about McCay’s wild body of work.

Frank Miller and Co.’s HUNT THE DARK KNIGHT, volume three in the initial publication of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, 1986.

I have no idea how I ended up with two copies of this one issue of the series. For all I know it’s worth something. At any rate, the collected edition – along with Alan Moore’s roughly contemporaneous WATCHMEN – is still on the best seller list for graphic novels, year in, year out.

Ah, that year it was really something. Comics were changing! Art was possible, and you could even make art with superheroes! The big publishers were gonna open up to cool new narrative techniques!

Watching Miller and Moore slug it out to boggle the comic reading public’s mind remains one of the fantastic spectacles of my youth.

How do they fare, nearly twenty years on? They still surprise, although the visual shock of some of Miller’s innovations is gone; you can still see their influence on both mainstream and alternative publishers in the increased quality of paper and printing and the artistic latitude and encouragement given to artists in developing new, flashy approaches.

In the end, though, Moore’s WATCHMEN stands out as truly original; Miller’s debt to Sergio Leone and the image of Eastwood’s amoral wanderer – relected back at Miller in Eastwood’s ’92 UNFORGIVEN, which liberally borrows from DARK KNIGHT – has become clearer over time. Which is not to say DARK KNIGHT isn’t cool.

I don’t know how easy it will be to follow the tale with just this one chapter.

Jaime Hernandez’ WOAH, NELLIE #2, 1996.

In WOAH, NELLIE, one of Jaime’s post LOVE AND ROCKETS mini series (it might be the first, I forget) he follows his leading lady Maggie as she goes on the road with a relative acting as the road manager for an all-ladies professional wrestling league.

I drifted away from comics shortly after the initial publication of this book, and still have not caught up with the who-all-what that’s gone down since I checked out. At the time, ’96, both the Hernandezes were checking out too, along with the cast and crew I’d spent many a drunken punk rock night reading up on.

We were all getting older, and hitting the road, having kids, or seriously comitting to self-destruction appeared to be the only items on the agenda.

I managed to avoid all three, thanks to the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride we affectionally refer to as “the internet” around here. I wonder what’s become of all my old pals from Hoppers.

They’re all YOURS, Pinax – just send me your mailing address privately and I’ll have them loaded into an anti-grav-mounted statis slab for interstellar delivery within several short, short months! How time will fly as you await your picture books.

The House at Maakies Corner

Master_SiteArticle284559.jpgOriginally posted November 12, 2002. Excerpted from Cinescape online. Click pic for full review.

THE HOUSE AT MAAKIES CORNER collects the MAAKIES alt-weekly syndicated strips of Tony Millionaire for the years of 2000 through 2002. At around the time the first of these strips were appearing, a notable expansion of work for the artist had begun to occur.

Today, in addition to MAAKIES, Millionaire produces a comic book (SOCK MONKEY) for Dark Horse which includes iterations of the strip’s protagonists, Uncle Gabby and Drinky Crow (in the guises of dolls Mr. Crow and Sock Monkey); he’s written a pair of children’s books featuring the stuffed companions, been involved in animation projects, and appears in the pages of THE NEW YORKER.

Meatcake #12

Master_SiteArticle283576.jpgOriginally posted September 8, 2002. Excerpted from Cinescape online. Click pic for full review.

MEATCAKE emerged, it seems to my unreliable memory, fully formed from creator Dame Darcy’s brow. She herself appears to spring from very brow of Goth, equally fully-formed, her being and our idea of that subculture merging and blurring. That’s not to say that Darcy’s work, or her presentation of herself as a character within the milieu of both Goth and MEATCAKE, are predictable or specifically derivative. It’s more like a sense of recognition: “Of course”, one thinks. “That’s exactly what a goth comic book should be.”

In a larger sense, this is because Darcy is working within the constraints of genre, and when a creator commits to a genre, part of the measure of success is how closely the artists’ work adheres to our expectations of that genre. From this perspective, her work is very successful indeed. However, because MEATCAKE is only a facet of the ongoing project of self-creation and presentation which is Dame Darcy herself, standalone consumers of her comic may miss more normative aspects of comics craft, such as plot and character.

The Golem's Mighty Swing

Master_SiteArticle283819.jpgOriginally posted November 11, 2002. Excerpted from Cinescape online. Click pic for full review.

Published last year and now in a second printing, James Sturm’s THE GOLEM’S MIGHTY SWING garnered critical attention outside the comics arena and in the light of Sturm’s upcoming gig scripting the FANTASTIC FOUR for Marvel in a series titled UNSTABLE MOLECULES, this book deserves a review.

THE GOLEM’S MIGHTY SWING is set in the 1920s and tells the story of an itinerant baseball team (think “Bingo Long And The Traveling All-Stars”) whose primary ethnicity is Jewish; the team takes their name from this and are known as the Stars of David. They are approached by a huckster to add a gimmick to their play: the only African-American member of the team might don a costume to emulate the appearance of the Golem in the silent movie of the same name, a current hit. He does, it’s an audience draw, and the team makes out – until they roll into Putnam. Things get ugly, but telling more would offer spoilers, so I shan’t.

The Great Comic Book Heroes

Master_SiteArticle283499.jpgOriginally posted August 31, 2002. Excerpted from Cinescape online. Click pic for full review.

In the midst of the Silver Age reflorescence of super-hero comics, as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s verve and energy steered Marvel to its great age of glory, media interest in the comics revival took many forms. From the introduction of the beloved campy BATMAN television series to BARBARELLA (the movie), it was the first of the many periodic expressions of interest in and enthusiasm for the comic book from Big Media.

Playing a key element in this wave of coverage was certified New York intellectual Jules Feiffer. Feiffer was well-established as a thoughtful, razor-sharp cartoonist frequently seen in the pages of THE NEW YORKER and other upscale magazines and occasionally contributing equally well-crafted essays to the same market. In 1965, Feiffer published a book (and a magazine piece covering the same ground in PLAYBOY) titled THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES.

Weasel #5

Master_SiteArticle283581.jpgOriginally posted September 10, 2002. Excerpted from Cinescape online. Click pic for full review.

Let me just say this: Canadian clown porn. But don’t get worked up; if that excites you, I want you to put the review down, and walk backwards out of the room. Keep your hands to your sides, where I can see them. Good. Now, shut the door. Anyone out there under eighteen? Why don’t you go out the window so you don’t have to deal with that person we just chased out the door.

Great. Now it’s just us stable, mature adults, those of us with a firm grasp of our own neuroses and horrific fascinations, right? Great. Great. OK, here’s the deal: Dave Cooper is a genius. He is utterly fascinated with making you, dear reader, squirm. But it’s not the good clean fun of Steven King, or even of Bret Easton Ellis: no blood, no gore, no dead people. Just us, and our society’s confused messages about sex and sexuality. And it’s icky.