So, Tuesday nights are band practice. We get together in a seedy old building in Seattle's Ballard district, an old theater of some kind that's been subdivided into a bunch of nonsensical, Winchester Mystery House-style rooms and stairways. The Grunge Era lives on here, where garbage bags filled with empty beer cans are piled in the main "lobby" about ten feet high by at least as wide. The cavernous, pitch black hallways that lead to the restroom can make you feel like you're in an indoor version of "The Blair Witch Project". The bathroom stall is splattered with red paint for dramatic effect. You need a lighter or iPhone to light the way. Walls are routinely tagged, there's new stuff on them almost every week. Imagine my surprise last night when I came upon these faces staring me down in one of the hallways:
Very creepy. I was afraid that Dave Sim was going to come through a door and rape me for not being more manly. I ran back to our room and locked it. We might need to explore a new practice venue.
The landscape for literature in Seattle took a major turn for the uglier yesterday when news leaked that the venerable indie bookstore Bailey/Coy, a mainstay on Seattle's Capitol Hill for 26 years, would be closing at the end of the month. This might be the single most alarming sign I've seen yet in regard to the future of independent bookstores and publishers. If the most literate neighborhood in the most literate city in the country can't support a great store like Bailey/Coy, it makes me think we're all doomed. We will greatly miss B/C, a longtime supporter of Fantagraphics and home to numerous Fanta events over the last 19 years or so. One of the only downsides to opening up our own retail space almost three years ago is that I haven't had the opportunity to work with B/C owner Michael Wells as much as I'd like the last few years, but I've always been grateful that he's never been nothing but encouraging and enthusiastic about us opening our own space. He's one of the true class acts in this racket and his store's closing will make the culture of Capitol Hill and Seattle that much less vibrant. If you're in Seattle, go do some early Christmas shopping at B/C, as the store will shut its doors at the end of this month.
Above image: One of the handbills for one of the seemingly dozens of successful Ellen Forney events that B/C hosted over the years.
Paul McCartney on "illegitimate" artforms, in discussing the forthcoming Beatles Rock Band: "Rock 'n' roll, or the Beatles, started as just sort of hillbilly music, just a passing phase, but now it's revered as an art form because so much has been done in it. Same with comics, and I think same with video games." From the New York Times. What graphic novels do you think Paul McCartney reads?!?
Every year during the baseball season, when the All-Star teams are announced, some beat writer will put together a team of non All-Stars that could potentially rival the quality of the actual All-Stars. To that end, here's my non-Eisner Nominee Fanta Heavy Hitter starting line-up for 2009, with their non-nominated 2008 books in paretheses:
I stumbled across a copy of Jeff Levine's old Destroy All Comics zine from 1996 and was re-reading a classic interview with Drawn & Quarterly Publisher Chris Oliveros, which contained the following exchange that was interesting to me insofar as it underscored just how much has changed in the world of comics in a little over a decade:
Q: Do you think it's possible that there could be more work in the future where the artist could sit and draw for two years, and release the entire story, or do you think just the way the industry is set up, and with history on the side of the periodical nature of comics...
Oliveros: I think the periodical approach is a good thing. In order for comics to be released in book form, where an author would take two or three or five years to complete this novel, the medium would have to attain this sort of popularity you have in general fiction, where you have fifty or a hundred thousand readers, and your best-sellers have five hundred thousand readers, where because you have this guaranteed income, you can get this advance from a publisher of, I don't know fifty or one hundred thousand dollars, and then you can afford to work on just your own project for a couple years. That obviously will never come to be in comics, so I think, for better or worse we're left with this set-up we have here, where the work is gradually being serialized, which in turn allows the author to collect a royalty on those issues. Without that, comics just wouldn't exist. Whether you like it or not, it allows these works to exist, and it allows the author to make some kind of living while the story is being produced.
Mind you, I would have agreed entirely with Oliveros at the time. And in a lot of ways, I think it still underscores a fundamental challenge facing publishers vis a vis the increasing inevitability of graphic novels supplanting periodicals as the chosen format.
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