Friday, November 11, 2011
That Day is Done
I don't know why this post is suddenly so hard to write. I've been writing it in my head for a couple of months now, ever since it became clear that there wasn't going to be a pood #5. Yet suddenly I find I'm a bit overcome, and the words that have floated around my head as I made the four hour drive week-after-week from my home in upstate NY to my job in Long Island escape me now.
There are so many mixed emotions. I realize now that I'd invested a good deal more of my heart than I'd thought-well, pood was always a labor of love, I mean, it's never about money in this game, is it? But that the loss of it might hit me this hard is not something I was prepared for. Deb and I have lost a lot these past few months, the flood in September took away her store, and so many other things; one would think the loss of pood, in the scope of things, wouldn't be quite so difficult. But...
I'm not a publisher. I'm an artist. and pood was an art project. The difference -obviously, is that artists aren't business people. I've never written up a business plan in my life, it's always been on a wing and a prayer-with just enough money to produce the thing, and no more. From an artist's point of view-that's enough. To me-the format was the inspiration; newsprint, man! I love the stuff! And I love great art that comes cheaply--found in the most innocuous places; 12 cents for a masterwork, right? Well, pood was that-and more---it was about the page; the single, canvas scale page-in the tradition of the great comic strips of that Golden Era long gone- there's still no better format than that great, wonderful page.What can we do with that format? Where can we go with all this space?
Well, the results are there. Four issues. The idea made manifest. And what's great about comics,the "comics world" as it were, is that you can make that happen. Anyone with the idea and a couple of bucks can go out there and make a comic book, can put their vision out in the world, right up there on the comics shop shelves with the books and characters that you've grown up with and dreamed about your entire life.
Of course, in the "marketplace of ideas"-- the thing isn't enough. "....Build it and they will come...." Well, only in the movies. Advice to those just entering the game, put three times as much dough into promotion as you do the book--and bring on somebody to do PR who isn't embarrassed by the process and has no qualms about shamelessly peppering all the news outlets with info, endlessly. I could only do so much before I began to feel ashamed for being so rude. It's just not in me. And it's necessary- if you're gonna survive.
That was the dream- to create a self-sustaining vehicle for continuous exploration and experimentation, a place for comics of all kinds and comic creators of all stripes--that would entertain as much as it played around with form. In many ways, like the Sunday funnies in the first few decades of the 20th century. But---in the 21st century---the vehicle wasn't self-sustaining.
I suppose one might be tempted to draw all kinds of conclusions from the end of pood, regarding alternative comics and the state of the market,unique formats, the retail business, etc.etc. But for now, that's for others to do if they wish. Like I said, I'm not a business person. So....if I ever publish a paper comic book again, will I take these lessons to heart before I send the money to the printer?
I have to laugh. Are you kidding? What am I in this for? For the buzz, man! The buzz of a good idea, an interesting formal play-a twist on an old format! Look at the stuff I've done the past few years, "Monsters", "fandancer","pood" not a viable format among them! Retailers hate that shit! But artists love it. (I'll never forget the reaction to "fandancer" from one owner at a very famous comic shop--famous for their support of alternative comics---"oh christ, we hate oversize". )
Clearly, the stuff that motivates me is antithetical to good comics business! So where do ya go from there? Well, you probably don't print more comics--at least not for distribution to comics shops. Maybe mini-comics-or hand made stuff. I don't know--somehow I've never been torqued by the mini-comics thing. I'm a little guy, but I like my comics BIG! Napoleon thing, I guess. And I don't find enough variation to play with at Kinko's or POD. And when I've tried to be conventional("Nice Work") well, let's just say that I chafe at the restrictions after awhile and find my attention diverted elsewhere. At the moment, I'm all consumed by this damn website. And trying to produce enough content, in enough variety, to make it an interesting...space. I'm enjoying the simple, repetitive nature of the webcomic strip. As much as I love comic books, maybe more, I love comic strips-(pood, again!)-and it was a dream as a kid to do a comic strip. "Babyheads" seems very conventional in format, but from an artist's POV the process of writing in short bursts has a mantra-like characteristic that's very interesting ,almost like minimalist music, in the way one note grows out of the last note, etc. So, "Babyheads"is not only a challenge, in many ways, but it continues a play with form that's essential to keep my interest active. As far as my future is concerned, I think it will-- for a time anyway--- revolve around lookoutmonsters.com more than print. That's the world we live in.
Reading the responses from the "pood artists" to my "farewell pood" letter of last night has been a humbling, emotional and joyful experience. The pood artists were hand-picked by Kevin, Alex and myself to be a part of this project, and each and every one of them did it for the love of art and newsprint and the challenge of the big page. To compete with Herriman, Crane, Foster and Raymond! That was enough for them-not a single one of them asked about money, not a single one did it for pay-other than copies. It has been an honor to work with each and every one of them-these are among the best comics artists in the field today--and they worked from their hearts and it shows. Pood was theirs as much as mine-and its because of them it is such an enjoyable package to behold.
I've said this privately many times, and I'm proud to say it publicly now. The best part of pood was working with Kevin Mutch and Alex Rader. They are two of the smartest, nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, and I feel blessed to have become partners and friends with them both. They are the best, and I've enjoyed every minute of our collaboration. We're still buds, but I'll use the opportunity to wish them the best of luck, and love. (read "The Moon Prince"!)
This morning was hard. After reading some of the kind and thoughtful replies to last night's letter, and then Skyping from work to my wife back home, I found myself involuntarily breaking down. Crazy, huh? It's just comics. But that's the point--there's no "just" about it.