At the insistence of a friend I was asked to watch the film “2016: Obama’s America”. I could only assume that it would serve as propaganda tool for the Republican party. For the most part it is an entertaining film that offers a fascinating look at the Obama legacy. If you’re looking for a truthful answer as to why this country has taken a turn for the worst, you won’t find it here. It spends too much of it’s time vilifying Obama as the only reason for our current events. The film is never hostel, and at times even calls to question the filmmaker’s own bias. It’s a clever trick that seeks to show the filmmakers “fairness”. “Obama’s America” never strays from it’s intended purpose of convincing undecided voters to side with the Republican party.
The film is staged well and is beautifully edited, a task that is accomplished with more grace than Micheal Moore’s films. The filmmaker is smart and his manipulations are subtle. Towards the middle of the film there’s a scene that is strangely staged. The film maker is on his cell phone outside of a Hawaiian college. The camera cuts back to a hotel room where his interview subject is speaking on the phone. This sort of thing would work well in an a drama or a comedy but it doesn’t work in a documentary. It implies that an actual conversation never really occurred. The scene was either scripted or the subject was interviewed and asked to repeat certain comments under better lighting. Documentaries are about fact finding and asking questions and getting honest replies. When you begin to pull at that thread it and it’s implications it deeply ruins any creditability the film maker is looking for.
The connections to Obama’s past in Kenya are fascinating. It shows a man who is torn by the love of his mother and the respect of his father, trying to find his own way in a black or white world. If anything the film exemplifies why Obama is so good at understanding both sides of an argument. He is the walking example of a man who never truly belongs in either world and must find within himself a reason to do right. The film maker takes about three trips to Kenya where he attempts interview everyone in Obama’s extended family. They mostly think of Barack Sr. as a highly revered politician who spent too much time at the bottle. The filmmaker interviews one of the last children Barack Sr. sired during the late 80′s, George Obama. The film reminds us that George was living in poverty as his brother was entering office. The interviewer tries quite deliberately to get George to say something disingenuous about his brother but he gracefully answers every question and deflects every attempt at slander. You can see the frustration in the interviewer’s eyes.
The film’s basic premise is that, if Obama continues in office for the next for years we are headed for a disaster. To make it’s case it assumes three basic tenets that may or may not be true.
The film calls into play Obama’s religious beliefs. It never out right states that Obama is Muslim but it tries to link his actions as one. It’s a subtle manipulation. The film shows an extended speech where Obama says that Muslims and Americans have many points in common (The film maker uses the same trick at the beginning of the film to show us that he’s very much like Obama in a few superficial areas.) Obama has a history of reaching out to both sides. One of the best negotiating techniques is to assume the best in other people. Look at Obama’s reaction to the now infamous Clint Eastwood “Chair” speech. “Huge Clint Eastwood fan, a great actor, and an even better director.” He then goes on to say “if you’re easily offended, you should probably choose another profession.” Obama is able to separate what he likes about Eastwood into one category and understand that the politics belong in an another. The film assumes this is a bad thing, as if he’s secretly trying to convert our nation to Islam.
The film then tries to scare us with nukes. No joke. It assumes that Obama’s goal of lowering the amount of nuclear warheads is putting us in more danger. In actuality it just highlights another example of Obama’s supreme ability to negotiate. Whether we like it or not America is the biggest bully in the room. When we have 3000 nukes and the next biggest guy has half of that it can look kinda scary to everyone else. Having more warheads actually makes us a bigger target. It makes all the other little guys in the room real nervous. The thing to keep in mind about nukes is that they aren’t meant for partial destruction. Nobody wants total destruction. The film laughs at this strategy, but think about the genius of letting go of a few hundred nukes. It shows that we are serious about peace and it makes everyone else feel like they have an equal say and equal stake. That’s something people will die to protect.
The biggest issue and the scariest issue the film brings up, is the financial crisis that’s looming over America. The film pins the blame on Obama, but anyone watching American politics will know that the Republicans are actually more at fault for this problem. The Republicans are quick to assert that a proposed democratic solution is the worst idea, and have spent millions of dollars to repeal said legislature. From day one Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have pushed to tear down any progress Obama has tried to make at actually solving problems. Is it racism? A bunch of white guys couldn’t get it right for the last 200 years so there’s NO WAY a black man could get it right. Or is it something much sinister? Maximizing profits. That’s it. No concern about right or wrong. Just making the most money with as little expense as possible. The rich want to stay rich by not sharing their wealth with the non-rich. I’m not talking about communism. I’m talking about investment. I’m talking about innovation. I’m talking about responsibility.
The truth is that Republican leaders, namely Mitch McConnell, have been paid off to protect the interest of big oil and big business to suppress any legislation that would weaken their profits. I can safely make that assertion because those same republicans have recently blocked legislation to disclose such information.
America is failing because legacy companies have done everything in their power to suppress new technology. Oil is the life blood of our economy. If we decrease our dependency then it means oil companies are out of jobs. It means the crack dealer has to get a new job and do something productive. As long as they’re in power there will be no end to the oppression.
And frankly the fact that America has taken God out of the equation hasn’t helped things much either.
Here are some of my favorite Indie comics, in their own special categories. *denotes for Mature Audience
RASL* (ending soon) by Jeff Smith
Glamourpuss* by Dave Sim
The Goon* by Eric Powell
Savage Dragon* by Erik Larsen
The Next Issue Project various artists
Prophet* (From issue 21 onward) various artists
Supreme* (From issue 41 onward) Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher
Mouse Guard by David Petersen
Madman by Mike Allred (currently on hiatus)
The Walking Dead * by Robert Kirkman
Graphic Novels worth checking out:
A Contract With God* Trilogy by Will Eisner
Cerebus by Dave Sim (Various titles including High Society, Church & State, and Melmoth*)
Bone by Jeff Smith
Blankets* by Craig Thompson
Maus* by Art Spiegelman
Sin City* by Frank Miller
American Barbarian* by Tom Scioli
American Splendor* by Harvey Pekar (Various titles including “Cleveland” and “The Quitter”)
Any Empire by Nate Powell
China Town by Eric Powell
Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian
Lethargic Lad Greg Hyland
Spy Guy by Mike Kitchen
The Possum by Blair Kitchen
Axe Cop Ethan Nicolle
Blink by Max Ink
Elephant Eater Comics by Ryan Claytor
Afrodisiac* Jim Rugg
I know I’m leaving out a lot of GREAT people but this is the best list I can come up with at the moment.
As a comic fan I’m feeling very conflicted these days. On one hand we have all these “great” movies coming out soon that will help promote comics to a larger audience. On the other hand it feels morally corrupt to watch these movies, knowing how the creators have been treated.
I haven’t been buying Marvel or DC for about 3 years now (With one notable exception being Tom Scioli’s issue of Captain America: Hail Hydra). I was pretty overwhelmed by all the event books being put out. It made DC’s books impenetrable and I felt that Marvel was more concerned with getting to the next book rather than creating a satisfying, self-contained story. I also have personal motivations for shifting my allegiance to creator owned comics. I’ve been promoting “Straw Man” for 8 years and through that process I’ve made a lot of friends. Those friends have created great, “one-of-a-kind” books that offer more rewards than those offered by corporate comics. You see I’m supporting an artist, an idea, and a dream for some of these people. The creator loves his creation and he will do all he can to make it work (even if it means working for years for nothing to make his dream come alive).
Corporate comics have had a rich history of denying creators of their creations. From a distance “the comic book” looks like the combined cooperation of several creative individuals. But when you dig deeper you’ll see that often characters were created under duress. With comic genius Jack Kirby you’ll find that he was essentially forced to give up his creative rights to feed his family. Sometimes creations and ideas were outright snatched from artists.
It’s come to my attention that Gary Friedrich, the creator of Ghost Rider, has been sued by Marvel for $17,000. 17,000 from a man who is unemployed and absolutely broke. Shame on you Marvel. I don’t understand all the specifics of the case but I do know that something is absolutely wrong here. You could easily make an argument that Jack Kirby knew he was signing his creations away when he worked for Marvel, but as I understand it Gary Friedrich had tried to defend his creation. Same goes with Steve Gerber, creator of Howard the Duck, who fought tooth and nail against Marvel and was buried under piles of litigation. Jack Kirby felt so passionate about the way Steve was treated that he helped draw “Destroyer Duck” to raise funds to help Steve Gerber’s court case.
Now let’s turn our attention to DC. Forget the convenient fact that DC didn’t do right by Shuster, Siegel, or Kane. We have in recent days seen Alan Moore’s Watchmen characters rehashed for a new series of comics called “Before Watchmen”. From an artistic point of view you must ask “why?”. The work was complete as is. It was the single vision of one artist with one statement. I think it would be just as fool hardy to attempt something called “Before Mona Lisa” which would of course consist of a frowning, teenage Mona Lisa in front of a freshly planted sapling forest. From a legal point of view Alan Moore will be conveyed the rights back to Watchmen whenever the graphic novel goes out of print. The thing is, Watchmen has never gone out of print. Moore never expected the book to last, just like Kirby never expected the Fantastic Four to be more than a fad.
Point is, Marvel and DC don’t care a thing about protecting their creative talent, especially when it involves their bottom line. Why then should I as a consumer support these companies? Every dollar spent on a Marvel or DC comic says “I agree with the way you treat your employees and creators”. What makes this incredibly difficult for casual fans is that it’s hard to recognize that the Big Two are levying this irresponsibility against beloved and well know characters. Who doesn’t want to read the next Watchmen story? Seeing how the original was brilliant, who wouldn’t want to read more of that? Or how about that new Avengers movie coming out? If you had told me as a kid that not only would we get four different solo Avengers movies, but also a fifth movie that put them all together?! That’s more than any child should have the right to dream about.
So I’m coming to a very difficult decision to not see the Avengers in the theaters nor buy “Before Watchmen”. I am insatiably curious about both of these projects so I will probably borrow “Avengers” and “Before Watchmen” from the library when they eventually hit the shelf. The point is Marvel and DC will not get one red cent from me regarding these shameless projects. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and tell people I’ll never view these things, but I feel like I’ve reached a compromise that I can live with. Maybe by that time I’ll have lost interest.
I don’t think my “boycott” will really effect Marvel or DC in the long run. I do think there is a way fans can make a difference. One idea would be to print a short document describing Marvel’s actions on to a sticker and slapping that on to the movie poster. It might remain on the poster long enough for casual film goers to read.
Or we could help change copyright laws. I think if a corporation hires an artist to create a character that the copyright should be split between the publisher and the creator. The creator can self-publish his version of the character and the publisher can continue to publish their version. If the creator loses interest in his creation then he simply has to do nothing. If the creator has a good relationship with the publisher he could choose to work with the publisher indefinitely, for their mutual benefit. It stands to reason that if one version is inferior then sales would drop and the inferior product would be rendered impotent.
I believe that mutual risk is inherent with both the publisher and the artist. The artist invests his creativity, time, and physical effort to pursue a risky venture. A publisher invests it’s time, money, and resources to pursue a risky venture. That means the risk is shared and that the copyright should be shared. Anything else is just a strong-arm to stranglehold creators into giving up their creative rights.
Almost let a week go by without remembering to blog.
Well I’ve been in the “promoting” thinkindy.org mode for a few days now and was pleasantly surprised when I received a nice package in the mail from a Mr. Dave Sim. I had purchased an ad on cerebustv.com to promote the website and to get that kickstarter thing going. I thought for all the hits cerebustv was getting –surely 100 dollars would be worth the investment. I wasn’t sure if I was really “getting my money’s worth” out of the ad. Just because you have something prominently placed doesn’t mean people will bite.
Well the package Mr. Sim sent included a copy of the “Ultimate Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing”. I had the standard version and had read it years ago but was still tempted to buy the new edition. It includes new passages about web comics and publishing in the 21st century. As I began to re-read the book… I began to realize that a lot of my efforts to get ThinkIndy.org going might be wasted efforts. Not to say it’s not a great idea or that it’s not worth doing, but that it may not be the best use of my abilities and time. I had pretty much decided/declared that I will never make money doing Straw Man. It is now my duty to complete what I’ve started and move on in my life. I have to grow up now, I concluded. The idea to push “Think Indy” came about after reading “The Dip”. I thought, “If I’m going to be a mediocre artist and that’s the best I’ll ever be*, then there is no need for me to make that a major goal in life.” I do love comics and so maybe I can apply that energy to something that is useful to everyone. I might be able to excel at promoting Indie Comics.
*That is in comparison to all the celebrated artists of today’s competitive comic book field.
But after re-reading passages from the Self Publishing Guide I began to realize that my attempts to unify artists may indeed be futile. It occurred to me, maybe it’s best not to meddle. What happens naturally is those that deserve recognition do so by earning it. Perhaps the only way I can be effective is to lead by example.
I still would like some of the basic approaches that I’ve thought about be implemented in the years to come.
1. Standardized ordering and delivery for comics using a Print On Demand system.
2. Treat comics as literature and find new audiences that don’t read comics on a regular basis.
3. Use networking between artists to introduce characters and concepts to new markets.
It’s something to think about. You can view my video at www.thinkindy.org
(Cue “Worry Wort” by Radiohead)
Funny thing about today. I’m starting to think about where my money is going and how I’m using it. Or how am I’m spending my time (or a combination of both). I feel like I learn lessons after they lose their effectiveness. I felt like a skipping stone today. I’m going somewhere fast, headed for disaster, but I keep bouncing back.
Got sometime to myself to work on projects but ended up wasting a lot of it on the road. I brought my computer and phone (mobile broadband) with me today so I could work from the restaurant. Ordered my meal first and then started working. Problem is by the time I starting thinking with focus the restaurant started filling up. So I couldn’t concentrate. I felt distracted. I feel distracted at home too but I thought at least I could be comfortable if I headed home. But that meant another hour or so on the road. It was necessary to leave because the battery on my phone was running low and I forgot to bring the charger (even though I sat it out this morning).
After dinner today we went to Borders for their close out sale. It wasn’t much of a sale but I wanted to see what they had. I’ve been wanting to get the Tron soundtrack for a while now and I thought this might be my opportunity to get it a better price. I was out of luck but was able to find the new Arcade Fire for 20% off. Sounds like a deal but I ended up buying a book about Flash CS5. So I ended up spending 40 some odd dollars. When I got to the car I suddenly realized what a compulsive spender I am and how I could have saved a lot of money if I had just shopped online. I just checked ebay and I could have got the cd anywhere from 2-10 dollars. I feel like such a sucker. My impulsiveness got the better of me.
It’s important that I learn to be a better manager of things I have and the gifts and talents that God has blessed me with. I’m lucky to have so much and I would be foolish not to treat it right. I’m getting serious about developing a career and managing myself. When I can do this with effectiveness I’ll be able to provide more for my family. Not because I save a little bit shopping online, but because I’m paying more attention to all the opportunities that are around me.
I’m trying to raise money for a magazine called “Think Independent” (
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1237563042/think-independent-magazine). The only way I can succeed in raising the funds is if I get serious as a manager of my time. Persistence, gorilla warfare tactics, and networking will all pay huge dividends in my personal life and in the success of the magazine. Just one more reason why I need to start taking control of my resources and depending less upon the haphazardness of others.
I’m trying to make it a habit to blog every Tuesday this year. I don’t know if I can do it but so far I seem to be keeping at it. I think it’s down right awful that I haven’t updated this website with new “Straw Man” strips in a loooong time. But that is not where my head or my heart is right now. I’ve been a father now for almost 5 months. It’s been a big blessing. Not just because you get to see that smiling face everyday but because you are now without a doubt an adult.
Sounds basic I know. Most people become “adults” when they’re 21. One of my English teachers once asked do you remember when you became an adult? I didn’t really know how to answer that question. I still felt like a kid. A few years went by and I thought I had experienced what my professor was talking about. I made a promise to my boss to get something done by a certain time. I made a commitment and one that seemed impossible, but I fulfilled it. I thought… even though I procrastinated I did the adult thing. I was reliable.
There’s nothing like having a child that brings perspective to life. I have since found that yes I have grown up. It just dawned on me. My action figures, video games, and even my music have become almost a distraction. They’ve become clutter. It’s not that I don’t like the toys that I grew up with or ever long to turn on the wii… It’s just that I’m able to see them clearly for what they are –pieces of plastic.
I still love music but getting to really listen to it the way I enjoy is a thing of the past. Last Friday the new Radiohead album came out. I was a HUGE fan of Radiohead when Kid A came out. They were one of my “first day” bands. Meaning I went out to get the new cd on the first day no matter what. I still don’t own this album and I haven’t downloaded any illegal files to listen to it. When it comes down to it I don’t have the money to pay for it and I don’t have the time to really enjoy it right now. So… why spend the money? I can just wait. If it’s really important I’ll remember it later on and enjoy it. If other priorities take over, what have I lost? (as of now pitchfork has not official weighed in so I don’t know what I’m missing)
I can’t ignore everything that’s important to me. I’m trying to balance my life and taking it all in stride. The big push right now is developing my business. I’m working independently right now. It’s great to see things blossom. I’m doing more websites and getting repeat customers. Things are looking up. But I have to keep in mind the spiritual aspects of my life (prayer and scripture reading). I need to enjoy the time I have with my daughter. I need to remember to keep my drawing skills sharp by practicing as much as possible. I need to take time to feel those “Paul McCartney ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ ” bass notes. I need to be a supportive husband. I need time with friends. I need exercise. I need to excel.
Of the 9 years that I’ve been working on Straw Man I have never made a profit. This afternoon I found out that Indie Comics #1 (containing the Straw Man story “Has Been” part 1) did better than expected in sales. In fact I’ll be receiving a check that will cover the cost of printing the 8 pages and then some. Not a lot more. But the important thing to stress here is that I did not lose money AND it met Diamond’s minimum order requirements. To be perfectly honest I never expected to get a dime back in sales. This is a concept that just blows my mind.
Indie Comics is the brain child of Gary Scott Beatty of Aazurn Publishing. I think one thing we all struggle with as independent comic artists is “how do I get my work in the hands of someone who wants to buy this without selling everything I own?” Gary’s genius solution was to spread the financial risk around to eight different creators. By diversifying the book with different creators he also lowers the purchasing risk of the new potential customer.
When it came to music I used to have a 3 songs rule before buying a cd. If I liked three songs it was ok to buy the cd. I think comic buyers are faced with the same decision. They may be looking for a change but don’t want to risk all their money on one book that they know absolutely nothing about. If they like the cover they might be getting great interior artwork but the story might stink. Why bet all your money on one horse? Indie Comics is the perfect vehicle to help the consumer bridge the gap between the unknown artist and the “new to indie books” reader.