Spotlight Sunday 1.28.18

A relatively decisive win this week means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Only The End Of The World Again
Writer: Neil Gaiman (Adapted by P. Craig Russell)
Artist: Troy Nixey (Layouts by P. Craig Russell)
Cover: Troy Nixey
$19.99
Dark Horse

The other day I was thinking about actor Rutger Hauer.

Except I wasn’t really thinking about Rutger Hauer, because I could not, for the life of me, remember his name.

I remembered that he portrayed Roy Batty in Blade Runner, that he was in Sin City, and that he was the topic of discussion on more than one occasion in some of the books in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

But as to the actual name of the star of Hobo With A Shotgun, in that moment, I didn’t have the first clue.

In an earlier time, I would have set my subconscious to working on solving this problem, and likely awoken with a start at 4 AM some morning saying, “Rutger Hauer!” But this is a post-internet world, so I simply looked him up.

The point is, my memory isn’t what it once was, not that it was ever that great, and the mental skills that I once used to compensate for (once somewhat less-frequent) lapses in memory have withered and atrophied to a large degree.

I mention this because when I picked up this adaptation of a Neil Gaiman story, I knew that it was a story I had read in some collection of his work (Smoke and Mirrors, for the record), but beyond that…nothing.

This is no reflection on the story itself, nor am I suggesting that it’s not memorable, even though I couldn’t remember it, because, well, Rutger Hauer.

As I read the adaptation, though, the vague recollection of having read the original came more sharply into focus, and soon I found myself actually remembering it in the way that, before the internet, I might have eventually come to remember a particular Dutch actor.

The setting of the story is the Lovecraftian town of Innsmouth, where a man named Lawrence Talbot has taken up residence and works as an adjustor. Lawrence is having a bad morning, particularly given that it’s actually late in the afternoon, mostly because he’s waking up after having an even worse night.

Talbot is a werewolf, and this is the day after his monthly transformation, a day that starts by vomiting on the bathroom floor, and noting that, contained in the vomit, are the fingers of a small child.

He stops at a bar on his way to work, and once he’s in his office is surprised to find an old man there sleeping, though the man doesn’t allow the fact that he’s asleep from talking to Lawrence about the imminent – but then again, isn’t it always imminent? – end of the world.

From there, he heads next door to visit a fortune teller (it doesn’t go well), then, noticing that there are men waiting to ambush him in his office, he heads back to the bar.

After noting the absence of the patrons who had been there earlier, Lawrence learns from the bartender the other customers are up at the cliffs performing a ritual to bring about the end of the world.

Lawrence, accompanied by the bartender, makes his way to the cliffs, where he finds the old man who was in his office, as well as the men who had been waiting to ambush him. In the waters below are the townspeople, including his landlady, who have assumed froglike forms.

The fortune teller is also in attendance, and it seems that Lawrence is the guest of honor, as the stars are in the right alignment to summon the Elder Gods and end the world, and all that’s required is the sacrifice of a werewolf. And, of course, the easiest way to kill a werewolf is when he’s not in his lupine form.

However, even though it’s ahead of schedule, Lawrence transforms, and attacks the fortune teller, finding himself battling her underwater – where she has also transformed into something…else – and after emerging victorious, thus disrupting the ritual. The enraged bartender who remained behind during the struggle, lunges at the wolf, who simply moves out of the way and allows the bartender’s momentum to carry him over the edge of the cliff.

The old man provides some exposition to the wolf – it was, somewhat ironically, the propitious celestial alignment that brought about the change in Lawrence that prevented the end of the world – and soon though the man continues on, telling him important things, the wolf grows bored and restless and heads into the forest to find a late-night snack.

In the morning, Lawrence wakes, and after a hawk flying overhead drops a small, dead squid on the ground in front of him, turns his (naked) back on Innsmouth and walks away towards the nearest city.

That straightforward summary of the plot – which skips a few details – doesn’t really tell the whole story, of course. The more interesting elements are in the interactions between Lawrence and some of the townsfolk, most notably the nonchalant manner in which pretty much everyone he encounters, out of the blue, offers advice and suggestions – pretty much all of which involve dying – for how to deal with the curse of lycanthropy.

The setting itself is a significant part of the story as well. As I’ve mentioned in the past, horror isn’t really my genre, so my familiarity with the works of Lovecraft are largely the result of cultural osmosis and from reading things – like this – that were inspired by his work. Still, I’m familiar with the gist of the mythos, and one of the things I find interesting in works set in a Lovecraftian universe is the way the familiar is made unfamiliar. In the broad strokes, the world is just like ours, but it’s when you get into the details that you notice that things are a bit askew, such as when Lawrence reads a note from his landlady – she leaves him a lot of notes – talking about the Book of Revelations [sic], which, honestly, wouldn’t be all that odd in our world, but specifically talking about how it mentions the Elder Gods rising up from the oceans. I don’t recall John of Patmos mentioning that. Not in those terms, at least.

The theme suggested by the title is present in the stories, both in telling and in showing, as the sleeping man informs Lawrence that the world is always coming to an end, and the end is always being averted, often through the simplest of actions. For example, simply stepping aside when someone charges at you with a ritual dagger.

The story originally appeared in an anthology of stories set in Innsmouth and was inspired in part by the novel A Night In The Lonesome October by the late Roger Zelazny, which is another story I have a dim recollection of having read – there is very little that Zelazny wrote that I haven’t read, after all – but can’t remember in the particulars. (See:  Hauer, Rutger)

(It’s also worth noting, as some of you most likely did, that Larry Talbot was the name of the original Wolfman.)

I’m not familiar with Troy Nixey, but I like his art here, as it combines a strange sense of anatomy – fitting, I suppose, for the subject matter – with a tremendous amount of attention to small details. It would be interesting to see the style used in animation, and an adaptation of this story, with this style, would have been a good fit for MTV’s Oddities, if the show were still around and were more of an anthology-style series than it was back when it existed.

This volume is a new printing of the existing comic, originally printed by Oni Press, and as a very interesting bonus, in the pages that follow the story proper, it includes scans of the original layouts by Russell side-by-side with scans of Nixey’s inked art. Pretty neat.

Neil Gaiman first made a name for himself in comics, but it’s been some time since he’s done any proper comics, so it’s nice to see some of his prose work being adapted in this fashion, so that comics-readers can get a Gaiman fix. Some other examples of this are linked in…

Recommended Reading:
NEIL GAIMAN’S HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES – From the Locus Award-winning short story by Neil Gaiman–one of the most celebrated authors of our time– and adapted in vibrant ink-and-watercolor illustrations by the Daytripper duo of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, this original hardcover graphic novel is absolutely not to be missed!

FORBIDDEN BRIDES OF THE FACELESS SLAVES IN THE SECRET HOUSE OF THE NIGHT OF DREAD DESIRE – A celebrated send-up of gothic literature, beautifully adapted into a dark, brooding, and oddly comical graphic novel. Somewhere in the night, a raven caws, an author’s pen scratches, and thunder claps. The author wants to write fiction: stories about frail women in white nightgowns, mysterious bumps in the night, and the undead rising to collect old debts. But he keeps getting interrupted by the everyday annoyances of talking ravens, duels to the death, and his sinister butler.

THE SANDMAN VOL. 1:  PRELUDES NOCTURNES – I mean, duh, of course I’m going to recommend Sandman.

Bonus:

Does anyone really want this?  Really? Okay, but I’m getting pretty close to dropping this book.

Anyway, in Bettie Page #7 we discover that Bettie was sent to Cannes to retrieve an artifact from her now-dead Russian contact. Said artifact being the odd jewel in the necklace she had back in Hollywood that powered the flying saucer that was part of the commie plot to convince the US of A that an alien invasion was underway. It turns out that the jewel was found inside the crater left behind by the Tunguska Event.

Bettie finds the artifact in her late contact’s room, and she and her partner narrowly avoid getting caught by the Reds…or do they?

Before we wrap things up this week, I just wanted to add something of a programming – and personal – note. I don’t want to jinx things – or do I? – but it’s looking as though I’m on the verge of getting a job. From the perspective of forcing me out of my current reclusive lifestyle, and, you know, bringing in income, this is a (potentially) good thing, but it could be deleterious to OpenDoor Comics in general, Worldtamer in particular, and downright deadly to the Weigh In and Spotlight, given the demands that having a job again would place on my time and energy.

Maybe I could continue doing Spotlight Sundays, but my commute for this (potential) job would mean that I probably wouldn’t pick up my comics at all during the week, which would mean less time for voting, less time for reading, and less time for gathering my thoughts by Sunday.

I say this not to prepare you for the day on which I make an announcement about how I’m shutting this feature down, but to ask you to do whatever you can to make sure that I don’t have to.

So, once again, consider all the ways that you can help keep the dream of OpenDoor Comics – which extends beyond these weekly write-ups – alive, and make it possible for me to avoid having to dash myself against the rocks of being a cubicle-dweller in pursuit of the siren song of collecting a regular paycheck.

So tell people about OpenDoor Comics, make a donation, maybe actually buy something in the Recommended Reading, as I would get a small cut of that, become a patron, or, best of all, start making comics of your own using the platform I’m trying to provide.

Okay, with that out of the way, that does it for this Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for Weigh In Wednesday (While it lasts!) to see what I bought and to cast your vote for which comic you want me to ramble on about next week!

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).



Is This Thing On?

Jon Maki, President and Publisher

I have a problem.

Well, really, I have a lot of problems. Physical, mental; really, just a huge pile of problems both large and small. For the purposes of this post, though, there’s one problem in particular that I’m grappling with though in fairness, the problem is made up of several smaller problems, and it’s connected to many of the other problems I have.

It’s basically a rat king of problems, which is an extremely gross metaphor, but bear with me.

In the simplest terms, my problem is a question: What should I do?

This is, of course, a question that all of us face at various times and in various circumstances in our lives, and really, it’s the central question of existence.

But I’m not thinking – at least not entirely – in broad, philosophical or existential terms. It’s a specific question related to a specific set of issues.

Issue the First: At the moment, and for the last several moments – since the end of March – I don’t have a job. I’m doing okay financially, even though I currently have no income, as I was prepared for this, and it will be quite some time before my lack of employment becomes a pressing concern. I would, however, like to avoid getting to that point, so after taking most of the spring and summer off – during which I had hoped to accomplish rather more than I did, or even anything at all – I have begun seeking out employment.

Issue the Second: But I don’t want to. I have pretty much zero interest in returning to anything even remotely like my former corporate life. Not (just) because I’m lazy, but because it just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s not how I want to live. Which means that I need to find an alternative revenue stream.

That is, in part, the point of OpenDoor Comics, but to date…well.

I believe that it can be that alternative revenue stream, but that brings us to…

Issue the Third: This site, and the platform that it’s meant to be for comics creators of all kinds is so far…well, not that platform part. But I believe that it can be, with a more committed investment of time and money, devoted to improving the underlying technology, and to spreading the word about its existence. I have the time, and I kind of have the money, but…

Issue the Fourth: The money I do have, while I remain unemployed, is being used for mundane things like keeping a roof over my head, and keeping me fed. And that’s the heart of the conundrum. I’ve got time, and I’ve got money, but the more money I put into it, the less time I’ll have before things get desperate and I absolutely have to get a job, which will bring in money, but take away my time.

However, this post isn’t just about the problem; I want to talk a little about the solution I’ve settled on.

What should I do? This.

I believe in OpenDoor Comics, the vision I have for it, and its mission. I think that, if I can get others to join me, we can make it into something great.

As for the money problem? Well, I’m taking some steps to address that. If you visit the Supply Closet, you’ll find that I have prints of some of my artwork for sale (artwork, I’ll note, that is better than my comics might suggest).

Beyond that, I’ve launched a Patreon page, where people – like you! –  can go to provide financial support. (It’s worth noting that I do feel a lot of anxiety about this step. The sheer audacity of it! I’m a fraud! I haven’t earned it! But I remind myself that it can free me to work on earning it, so…)

I’m also going to become much more active here, blogging more – and possibly bringing in guest bloggers – posting more (and not as shitty) comics.

Will my efforts pay off? I don’t know, but I’ve decided to find out.

If it comes down to it, I’ll find a job, but I’ll retain my commitment to OpenDoor Comics.

In closing, I want to thank everyone who has provided support so far by liking and sharing my (shitty) comics and my posts, but while I do appreciate it, truly, I have to ask that you keep it up, and, if you can, help me in other ways.

Buy some prints! Disable your ad blocker! Or make a donation via the donate button!

But mostly, just keep believing, either in me, or in OpenDoor Comics.

I’m good with either. (Though both would be nice.)




Still Open

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

I know, it’s been a while, and not very much has seemed to happen in that time.

Not here, at any rate.

That’s not because I’ve given up on OpenDoor Comics, but the fact of the matter is that what I had hoped would happen so far, well, hasn’t.

What had I hoped? Mostly that people would find their way here through my (admittedly minimal) efforts to publicize the site and its mission, and that they would begin utilizing the platform to share their comics, traffic would build up, some revenue would start flowing in, and I could use that revenue to start pursuing active development and marketing, and begin the slow process of bringing the vision to life.

Yeah, not so much.

But that’s okay! As I said, my efforts – for a variety of reasons – to promote the site and mission have been minimal, but it’s not because I don’t believe in them, or have given up on the vision.

For one thing, I’ve always intended to take it slow, choosing to be cautious – perhaps even cowardly – and not diving in without testing the waters.

Well, the waters have been tested, and the results indicate that I need to do a lot more work before I can consider diving in. But make no mistake: I intend to dive in.

And, it turns out, sometime in the near future, I may very well be pushed.

But that’s all a consideration for another day, and I mention all of this merely to point out that I have not abandoned OpenDoor Comics or the vision behind it. The site is still here, the Door is still Open.

And that, I think, is an important point, because while not much of anything has happened here, out there, in the real world, on the other side of the Door, a lot has happened.

There is an effort underway to close doors, to put up barriers, to separate and weed out diversity, to turn away from inclusion and focus on exclusion.

As we need to keep reminding ourselves, This Is NOT Normal, and though it may seem self-serving to say, this movement, this abnormal shift, makes the vision and mission of OpenDoor Comics more vitally important than ever.

There are voices that need to be heard, stories that need to be told, and images that need to be seen.

Those voices, those stories, those images – they are welcome here.

YOU are welcome here.

As long as I have the means to hold it, the Door will always be Open.

…And You Can Do It All At OpenDoor Comics!

Just popping in to share this comic from Owlturd Comix.

View post on imgur.com

 

That whole working with an artist/writer thing?  That’s part of what OpenDoor Comics is all about!  Doing it yourself?  Do it here! Terrible at everything?  Post your stuff here anyway!

Key takeaways:

I like Owlturd Comix

You should sign up to be a Collaborator and/or create your own site for posting comics at OpenDoor Comics!

This Space For…

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

…well, not for rent, but I’m not sure that saying “This Space For Free” would make much sense.  Not without some additional context, at any rate.  So here I am, providing some additional context.

What do I mean by “This Space For Free,” you ask?  Exactly that.  This space right here?  Free.

Less flippantly, I’ve been doing a lot of yammering here, which, it is my site, and this is my dedicated “Stan’s Soapbox” corner of it, so that’s only to be expected, I should think.  BUT!  As I mentioned in the Media Kit, this site, and the idea behind it, are not about me.

Another thing I mentioned in the Media Kit is that I’m interested in providing this space to guest posters who have something to say on the topic of comics, diversity, and inclusion.  Comics pros, comics fans – it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you have something to say, I’m willing to give you my “soapbox” to stand on.

And that’s the point of this post, and the message behind “This Space For Free.”

I’m looking forward to some occasions on which the face up in the corner is not mine – assuming you want to have your picture appear, of course – and the content of the post isn’t from me.

So if you or someone you know is interested in utilizing this free space, drop me a line at comics@opendoor-comics.com.

Finding The Balance

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

As I continue to grapple with the task of getting the word out about OpenDoor Comics and getting creators to begin posting content, I have to admit that it’s difficult to avoid getting at least a little discouraged.  When I look at the traffic stats – or lack thereof – it’s a little depressing, even though I knew from the start that it was never going to be an overnight success, or possibly even an overyears success, and I continue to have faith and cultivate patience.

Along with that creeping discouragement is the fear that, in terms of the site’s functionality, I haven’t done enough to get it polished and ready to go.

I’ve mentioned before that starting with something that’s pretty basic was a deliberate choice, as I wanted to work with enterprising creators who are willing to take a chance on dealing with the initial struggles to develop something that is more sophisticated and also suitable to the needs of the people posting content here.

I don’t want to develop something that just works for me, or that I think will work for someone else, I want to find what works best for (almost) everyone and work to develop that.

But more than that, the fact that people continue to be excluded from participating in comics – as creators and as readers – is behind the creation of OpenDoor Comics, and a large part of that exclusion is the result of not listening.

I want to listen.  I want to learn.  I don’t want to tell you what to do or how to do it, I want you to tell me.

This comes into play more on the services and support side of the side than it does on the comparatively more straightforward technical side, but it is a component in all aspects of the site’s operation.

To give an example, when I first created the sign-up form, I included what seemed to me to be a pretty straightforward set of fields, including one for Name.

However, until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t consider that for many of the people I’m particularly interested in reaching out to and recruiting as creators who will contribute their content, this seemingly innocuous question is not innocuous at all.  Anonymity isn’t just a nice feature, it’s an essential aspect of everyday survival.

Those are the kinds of issues that I’m not going to be mindful of without assistance and guidance, and the thing is that I know enough to know that I don’t really know all that much, which plays a big role in determining the amount of upfront work I’m going to do on the site and my overall approach to developing the features and services offered by OpenDoor Comics.

However, while for the most part in those areas in which some of my goals seem a bit vague and hazy it’s something of a deliberate choice, I am concerned that the reasons behind that lack of clarity are unclear and it just looks like I have no idea what I’m doing.  (But I do, I promise; I just don’t have all of the ideas.)

And of course there’s the matter of time and resources (financial and otherwise).  I make a comfortable living, and I have more money that I could put towards development of the site, but given that I don’t exactly have an unlimited amount of money, and earning that money eats up a lot of my time and resources, I’m really uncertain as to how much of my time and resources I should really invest in what is, so far, a completely unproven idea.

As I look at those goose egg numbers listed in the site usage statistics, I suspect that I haven’t found the right balance and that I should be shifting more resources into the development and marketing of the site.

Still, even though I have no intention of getting discouraged, it would be nice to see some amount of progress happening as a result of what I’ve already invested and to know that if I do start looking at funding some additional development I wouldn’t be throwing good money after bad…

In any case, those tiny moments of despair and questions of investment and development aside, I’ll keep plugging away, because, unproven or not, I continue to believe that this is a good idea, and it’s something that I want to keep working on.

The Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

If you’ve visited the main page of OpenDoor Comics recently, you may have noticed a bit of a change in the form of the embedded, interactive(ish) OpenDoor Comics Media Kit!

It took a lot of time and effort to put together, and while it’s not everything I hoped it would be – one critique I received is that it’s too self-effacing; I’ll have to work on being less modest, I guess – I thought that time and effort called for putting it front-and-center right on the main page.

The Kit is available in PDF form for anyone interested in taking a look at it offline.  It will also be available in physical form someday soon.

Now it’s just a matter of identifying the various media outlets with whom to share the Kit and passing it along.  Feel free to offer any suggestions on that front.

And, as always, feel free to be an unpaid shill and spread the word about OpenDoor Comics, which would include directing any members of the Fourth Estate you happen to know towards the Media Kit.

Coming Soon(ish)

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

While the site itself seems to be languishing with nary a visit nor, more crucially, a comic creator sign-up, I haven’t been idle.

As time (and energy) allow, I’ve been working on some projects to get the word out and hopefully increase traffic and generate some interest from prospective comics creators.  They are, after all, the primary reason this site exists.

One of those projects is a press release describing the site and its mission and driving home the message that we’re looking for creators to start helping it fulfill that mission.  The release will be, er, released very soon to assorted media outlets, as well as to some of the bigger names in Webcomics and other comics professionals with an online presence, in the hopes that they will help spread the word.

The other, somewhat more involved project, is a comprehensive Media Kit, of which that initial press release is only one component.

Given that this is a place for comics, naturally the Media Kit will emphasize that purpose by the very nature of its format.   It’s still a work in progress, but here’s a sneak peek just to assure you that I am, in fact, still working, despite all other evidence to the contrary.

Media Kit Cover

An Egg Or A Chicken?

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

As I’m sure many of you are at least vaguely aware, the pop culture juggernaut that is San Diego Comic-Con took place this weekend.

You’ve no doubt seen the trending stories about movie trailers, TV pilots, and other big multimedia announcements, and, if you’re actually primarily interested in the “comic” aspect of Comic-Con, you most likely saw a lot of announcements about new creative teams, new books, and exciting new directions and storylines.

If nothing else, you may have browsed through galleries full of pictures of clever and creative cosplayers.

I’ve never managed to make it out to Comic-Con myself – I spent most of my weekend engaged in exciting activities like mowing the lawn – though one day I hope to, both as a fan and, in my role as President and Publisher of OpenDoor Comics, an industry professional.

While I’ve got the fan part down, I’m still a long way from being an industry professional, given the place that ODC currently occupies in the industry, which is to say none.

I continue to work on that part – much of my time over the weekend that didn’t involve cutting grass to an HOA-approved height was devoted to marketing strategies and the development of a media kit – but I can’t help wondering if I’m directing my efforts correctly.

So far my approach has been, to use a weird metaphor, to treat this site like an egg.  Over time, with proper attention, it will go on to become a chicken.  The idea being that I’ve essentially launched a no-frills site (laid the egg), and now I’m focusing on getting the word out that it exists in the hope that creators will begin posting their comics (sit on the egg), which will help to develop the site into something more fully-featured (become a chicken).

I can’t help but wonder, though, if instead of saying, “Hey, here’s an egg!  Come sit on it to help it hatch!” I should focus on developing the features and say, “Hey, here’s a chicken!  Come…do…chicken…things?”  …okay, I should probably start moving away from the metaphor, but I think you get the idea.

But that’s the question, particularly as I think about my Comic-Con ambitions:  Which should come first, the chicken, or the egg?

Do I keep trying to get the word out and hope that pioneering souls will find the vision and mission compelling enough to sign up to help me develop the site into the platform, the community, I want it to become, or do I focus my time, effort, and money* on development and try to build the platform first?

I’m sure there’s probably some sort of approach in the middle that I can take, and really, that’s likely to be how things turn out, but it will never be exactly in the middle, as one approach will require more focus than the other.

Regardless of which way I go, it’s unlikely the path I follow will bring me to San Diego anytime soon, but I will, no doubt, begin establish a presence at conventions that are bit closer to home, but when I go to those cons, will I be cosplaying as a chicken or an egg?

*Developing the features I want will not be cheep.  …I’m so sorry.

Independence Is Just The Beginning

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

Between my day job, being sidelined by a nasty bout of bronchitis, and a visit from my family, I haven’t been able to devote much time or attention to the site in recent weeks.

That will change going forward, but in the meantime, I wanted to wish a happy and safe 4th of July to all those who celebrate it.

As the USA enters its 239th year, we have much to celebrate in terms of the diversity and inclusiveness in the country as a whole, and in comics.  But, as always, there are still a lot of challenges remaining, and the mission and vision of OpenDoor Comics is as vital as ever.

So, after a short break, efforts to spread the word about OpenDoor Comics and to continue developing the site will resume.

Once again, have fun, and stay safe!