10 May 2018
I’ve added a section to what I guess we can call the front of the site, the business side (if this remains the personal). I’ve called it Notes. It’ll sort of be another blog — to the extent I use it to opinionate anyway. But my aim there is something a good deal less free-form than what I’ve been doing here over the years. I hope to see it acquire a fairly clear — not to say neat — informational structure with a little time.
Something I don’t expect to be doing much there is discussing comics publishing. There’s no denying, though, that the sharpening of my attention to ‘media & business’ in the last few years owes a good deal to being able to turn to comics illustrators on the social platforms, Twitter particularly, for inspiration and for example in (for lack of a better way of putting it) continual gathering of one’s wits. That effort to gather myself for the plunge into new forms of work is ongoing, really something of a struggle. And so many people working and aspiring to work in comics (and games, &c. — but here, mostly comics), in virtue of the ‘realness’ in personal character that often seems to come with or accrue to people taking paths such as the one they’ve chosen, have been both window through which to take in the wider media world from the position of labor, and also encouragement, in indirect and occasionally direct conversational ways, to persist, to keep learning and find the path in my own work.
These commercial artists, most of them freelancers, sell their work in a market dominated by the brand-properties of a handful of well-known entertainment-industry groups, of course — a situation that’s held for a long time, widely accepted as a sort of natural order. It doesn’t get the attention the music biz, for instance, does, but plenty’s been said about this market and its fortunes, particularly (of course) as it intersects now with the blockbuster movie market. Whether I will have much to say about it, for my part, I don’t know. But maybe. It has features that pique the interest of observers and critics of evolving economic arrangements in our time, and I am attending to that, these days, as well as I can.
It likely goes without saying that people making livings selling their work in that scene have a variety of views of their own positions vis-à-vis the superstructural layers of corporate power with which their interests are bound up in being part of ‘the industry.’ I’ve had a funny little exchange with the great Kyle Baker on Twitter, this week, that serves as nice reminder to this effect.
I buy my books at Target. Also, Royal collectibles. Also the airport. Also, Google Play. Also, the Apple App store. Also Rite-aid. Also, the guy on the sidewalk with a folding table. Also, I read at the library. Also Costco.
— Professor Kyle Baker (@KyleJBaker) May 9, 2018
Baker started as an illustrator and graphic designer and had the talent, versatility, and drive to make a name in the field very early, as anyone reading here who recognizes his name will undoubtedly know. He’s the kind of guy who isn’t content with making artwork to be owned and sold by others, moreover. Today he produces and publishes a range of media under his own company name. I gather that he’s doing well with it; certainly he has the business sense to talk as if he is. His message is that he’s independent. He sees himself accordingly as set to thrive, business-wise, when the path between him and his reading/viewing customer is relatively short and uncomplicated — the sort of path Amazon’s retail platform paves for businesses like his, as I take it he sees things.
More might be said about that, but it’ll have to wait. What I do feel compelled to highlight here before closing is Baker’s mention of Royal Collectibles, the corner store in Forest Hills that was one of my own neighborhood spots, every couple of weeks on walks down to the Trader Joe’s, until I left New York earlier this year. Was I living in Kyle Baker’s neighborhood for three years? That’s pretty cool.
It bears mentioning as well, I think — footnote to my suggestion above that there’s a down-to-earthness characteristic of people in this business — that as I follow Baker on Twitter, he also follows me. This just fits in a way with his preference for direct access to customers, chances are, but it’s appealing nevertheless that this man with the wide recognition and many industry accolades is the kind of social-media user who’ll ‘follow you back’ no matter who you are. (In my Twitter experience, getting followed back even by people who know you in person isn’t very common.) Not the most striking instance of not being too great to associate with regular folks that I’ve encountered among this set, but a noteworthy one, still, to my mind.
The books I pick up on my stops into the comic shop are only rarely superhero titles from the two big houses — the owners of the peculiar character-products more or less synonymous with ‘comic book’ in the American market — but my regular reader (or two) knows well that I have an interest in these things, the fictional compound figures and their cultural persistence and diffusion. These days, gradually, my interest is tuned also toward (without yet being very deeply informed about) the tension between private and public rights — between enclosure and commons — those superhero product lines embody. It’ll take me a while to find useful ways to talk about it, I expect, since I’m not really part of the conversational circles where property rights over images and stories of the comics market are everyday concern. I don’t know, again, how much it’ll be a subject of further discussion here. But I’d be glad for any reading recommendations on the subject in comments below.
Alright, on that thought, here’s a little Ben Grimm I’ve fooled around with here & there this week.