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Saturday, 21 April 2018

It's My Gemini Mind! Small Press, Indie Comics, French BD and Mainstream

People used to ask "How could you give that pile of crap a good review?" and "You hate that man's guts -and you gave a book he worked on a good review -how?"

I have explained this so many times over the years I now just shrug.

Let me explain here. I cover Small Press, European BD, US comics and Independents.  I get a, say, Marvel book I expect a high standard. I get a Small Press or Indie comic I do not expect high standards.  Oddly, some Small press and Indie comics are better drawn than Marvel ones.

But each book is looked at and reviewed based on art and story as well as production quality.  I do not look at Tommy Bobs Shirtless Turtle (it doesn't exist but I don't want to name a real title) SP comic and think "Let's see how it  compares to DCs Batman comic" because that is ludicrous.

Tommy Bob may be producing his zine for fun. He's not expecting the Netflix TV or even movie contract.
You look at Richard Anthony Pester, Tommy Ross or Paul Ashley Brown and what they produce -all three art different. Different art styles, different influences that they base their stories on.  All three produce work on very good quality paper stock.  All three are low print run publishers and (like others I will not mention such as someone typing this) all would at least like to be able to earn a living from their work.
Pekka A. Manninen in Finland has also noted that comic buyers there tend not to purchase a lot of Small Press/Indie books.  He's been publishing Sarjari for many years and it is currently at it's 101st issue.  His Kapteeni Kuolio has featured in a good few quality graphic novels and collections. His books are in Finnish which puts people off yet the stories are easy enough to follow as they are good examples of sequential art. He's not making a living from his books.

Independent comic publishers vary in quality -again I must point out that Image and Dark Horse are NOT "Independent" comics and form part of the "Big 5" -Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and IDW who make far more money and sales than any Indie publisher.

Then we have the established book companies who want to publish the hip and trendy graphic novel by some new sweet heart. Again, the quality varies and some of it can be quite bad.

There are the comic albums and collections from Titan Books that are top notch quality. I get European BD or comics occasionally and even Chinese Manhua.

Let's not forget Cinebook the 9th Art and their English translations of Franco-Belgian comic albums.

Each one of these books, as they arrive, has to be looked at "as it is". No "Not as good as that Titan Book..." and I tend to go by my first impression and reading.  If I see a big fault I point it out but I do that in the politest way I can -I have to remember that a great many creators (those who do not think that they are the greatest creator ever without doubt, there are a few) do not mind positive criticism when they know the person writing knows what they are talking about.  That said a great many are filled with self-doubt and concerns about their work.  The number of artists who will throw a page away, then another and then more until that one "fecking panel I cannot get right is passable" is quite high. We all see the image in our heads but getting it to look right on the page....

The point is that I turn my mind off of anything other than the book I receive. There are two specific comic writers whose work you will never see on CBO.  They are black-listed for life and that means life.  I enjoyed the stories they adopted into graphic novels -two for Classical Comics- and when CBO was still on the old Yahoo 360 this one particular writer took me to task in a very long comment for giving credit to the artists involved.  After all "I wrote those scenes and panel descriptions so the art looking good is down to my work!"  Princess stamped his foot.  I pointed out I had given him praise but he had NOT drawn or coloured the pages and that is why the artists got good write ups. But, no, he wasn't taking that -he wanted credit for everything. I informed the company -they had seen his comments- and pointed out that his attitude and rudeness (particularly against myself as a reviewer) were not on.

The company understood -I doubt that they had words with the writer because he did the same thing when CBO moved to WordPress. He was so far up his own backside I doubt he had seen daylight in years.  Despite my being polite he continued and was informed, as was the company, that any work from him was black-listed for life.

The artists were great though one was quite obnoxious -still the work got a good review.

I do honest reviews without bias but thinking I am going to lick your arse because you write a comic or book...not going to work.

With Independent comics I have met publishers who really have no idea.  I spoke to one at a Bristol Comic Expo and his comic was good quality. He used Print on Demand and I asked why he just used a black and white illo on the cover.  It was not impressive (I didn't say that) but explained that he needed to attract customers to view and buy and as it was no more expensive to get books with a colour He had been in this business a year.  He admitted to not selling many books. A year later he had a colour cover on his comic and it was actually selling well. He told me (obviously forgetting our chat the year before) how a good colour cover attracted customers.

Another person, Small Presser sent me a thick mini comic that had good production but every other page was blank. I wasn't too popular with him. The quality was good but 25% of the book was blank. I reviewed the book.  Months later he sent me a version up-dated as I suggested. He had his one review though.  Oddly, had I reviewed based on the pdf he had sent he would have gotten a good review for a project that when printed looked bad.

No hard copy -no review. In the mid 1990s to early 2000s it seemed "a thing" to send pdf of books and the art in them varied in quality.  People ordered copies....nothing arrived. I was asked where the books were?  How would I know I just review.  Some of the pdf came from people who had no intention of publishing but just getting money and others took the money but orders never reached the minimum figure they decided on so books never appeared.  Customers wanted their money back and I reviewed the PDFs so this point PDFs became banned.

Every individual has his/her own style or their own styles: remember Girl Comic from Scotland. Several issues were reviewed her and each contributor had their own styles so the book could not be looked at as "a" comic but a comic filled with several contributors.

It might be because I am a Gemini but even if I want to see McAllister McAllister III run over by an intercity train if I get a book he has worked on for review my personal opinion of the person has nothing to do with it.  I have seen people quite literally tearing at their hair when I explain this.  Just live with it.

So if it is Small Press "fun" or to try to earn a few quid, Independents, mainstream comics, French BD -whatever: each gets individual treatment.

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