What constitutes a good "top ten"?

A couple weeks back (holy crap when did it become late September) I got an email from the excellent Steve Morris (of The MNT, CBR, and Shelfdust) asking me if I’d be interested in contributing to an experiment he’s doing. He hasn’t posted the results yet so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but ultimately what he asked of me was for my top ten comics. Specifically top ten issues of comics, not graphic novels or arcs or trade paperbacks even.

Cue semantics crisis. I know what my favorite comics are, but I can only identify them by arcs. Maybe there’s a one shot here or there but it’s a real struggle to think of comics that I love that are single issues rather than two to ten jammed together to make a cohesive story. Single issues of comics are hard to craft, they’re beholden to so many different influences and short enough that they fall out of your head a lot faster than a 300 page book might.

But what I was really hung up on was the idea of a top ten. Did that mean my personal ten favorite comics? Did it mean the ten I think are mandatory reading for all comics lovers? Is it the ten comics I wish more people read? None of that seems particularly helpful to anybody, if I’m honest. There are a lot of “required reading” comics, those books that were hugely influential to the industry in so many ways, that I would never demand (in some cases, would never even suggest) people read. Do you need to read The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s triptych of suffering in order to understand modern Batman comics? No, absolutely not. Does having a baseline knowledge of what those books covered help? Yeah, probably.

So after thinking about it way more than I should have, I landed on my own personal criteria for what I would include in a top ten list:

  • It has to be easily accessible.

  • It has to be a comic I would happily encourage someone to pay money for, let alone read.

  • It has to be able to at least vaguely be able to stand alone as a single issue.

  • It has to demonstrate in some way why I think comics are so great and what comics are capable of.

That fourth one is really loosey goosey, but I couldn’t think of a better way to put it. I love converting non-comics folks to enthusiastic comics readers. I love watching people who’ve only ever read cape-and-cowl stuff from DC or Marvel pick up something way outside their comfort zone and be blown away by it. And really, that’s what I’m talking about. I want a comic that I can hand someone and even if they’ve never read a comic before they’ll have an emotional reaction and want to read more.

So here’s my list:

  1. Pluto: Urasawa x Texuka Act 21: Uran’s Search (this is in volume 3 of the collected manga)

  2. Bitch Planet #6

  3. Sandman #48

  4. Hawkeye #19

  5. All Star Batman (2017) #13

  6. Lady Killer #5

  7. Preacher #8

  8. Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth

  9. DC Bombshells #12

  10. Batgirl (Vol 4) Annual #2

Of course, there were a slew of honorable mentions. These all fell off for a variety of reasonsons, either because they didn’t exactly fit the format of the request or because I honestly can’t count to ten and thought I needed more.

  • Shaft #6

  • Monstress #1

  • Russian Olive to Red King

  • Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1

  • Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853)

With one or two exceptions, these aren’t from my favorite series of all time, and they certainly aren’t the issues that mean the most to me, personally (off the top of my head Batman (2011) #27 is probably pretty high up there). It doesn’t even approach how much I adore webcomics and graphic novels have been left out of the conversation almost entirely. But they are comics I would give to someone and say “This is why I dedicate so much of my time and energy and love to this medium. Please spend a half hour with this.”

And really, that’s the best part of my job as both a reader and a reviewer. Sharing a book with someone and saying “I like this, I hope you like it too.”

Make it easier for me to give you my money!

Yesterday I saw a tweet urging people to pre-order a comic from their local comic shop, complete with an image of a you could print out and hand your LCS crew, including the Diamond code.  Handy! Here's the thing: the tweet didn't include the date the book comes out. 

A quick Google revealed that the comic had premiered digitally last year.  I went back to the tweet, because the book sounded super interesting and I wanted to find out more info.  The publisher's logo was on the form, but it was pretty little and I had to squint to figure out which publisher it was.

The publisher's website had no information about the book.

Here's the thing: this isn't a call out of the person who tweeted the form or even the publisher.  In the course of reviewing or researching books, I end up doing a lot of digging to find really basic information, so I'm the kind of person that will dedicate 20 minutes to figuring out what's going on.  Your average comic reader?  Probably not.  For folks who don't have an LCS, or prefer to buy digitally, that tweet was all but useless, which is a bummer.  

takemymoney.jpg

And this is something I see with alarming frequency: creators of many stripes (but especially comics) making it harder for people to find and buy their work.  I ended up having a bit of a rant about it on Twitter, and some smart folks added a little bit of advice, so I wanted to formalize it into a post.

Step 1: Acknowledge that the publishers you work with are not going to do you any favors, especially if you are a letterer, colorist, designer, etc.

Step 2: Make a website and buy a domain.  It doesn't have to be a fancy website, but the domain should probably be your name or some variation on it.  Add the domain to your Twitter/Instagram/whatever.  The site should include:

  • Your work! This feels like a dumb thing, but seriously it's important.  I see creatives with no portfolio site and their Twitter bio includes books that ended months ago.
    • If you can, try to list out every individual issue that you worked on.  This is a pain in the ass, but it's especially important if you work at one of the publishers that has super long runs of a book, or multiple runs of a book with the same numbering.  The ultimate goal is that if I Google "Comic Book Title #34 Colorist" your site will come up.
    • Every once in a while, open an incognito window or private browser and do that Google thing I just described.  See what happens.  Does your site come up?
  • Consider putting a picture of your face on there.  It can be a headshot or your favorite selfie or a picture of you smooching your cat. The reason for this is twofold: first, it makes you a real person instead of a hypothetical. People feel more connected to those they can picture in their head. Second, it makes it easy for people to ID you if you table at a con somewhere. I can't tell you the number of times I've walked up to get something signed only to find out the person I'm talking to is a tablemate or a helper.  It's not the end of the world, but it can be a little awkward.
  • A link to any store you might have, and links to where to buy your books (digital or physical).
  • When you announce a new book, do it on your site! You can link back to that post from Twitter or Facebook or whatever.  Make sure to include:
    • The full name of the book.
      • Excellent advice from Kieran Shiach: Consider SEO when you name a book (if that's in your control). Is there already a comic with that name?  Is there already a book or movie with that name?  Is the title you're considering a regularly used word?  Basically, if I have to Google "[Title] comic 2018" to find your book, maybe reconsider.
    • The entire creative team and their roles.  (Seriously, at least do writer, artist, colorist, letterer.)
      • Help your buds!
      • Link to their portfolio sites if you can.  Links like this help people get jobs and help SEO*.
    • The publisher (do them a favor, even if they aren't doing it for you).
    • The date it's hitting stores.
    • Bonus points: give an elevator pitch instead of including the publisher's marketing stuff.  What would you tell your friends to get them to read it?
  • Appearances! Any signings or cons you're doing.  Basically, if you're gonna be in public selling or talking about your work, put that on your site.  (Please include your policy about signings.  For example, do you ask for donations to the Hero Initiative, but sign stuff for free up to 10 items?  Write that down.)
    • This is also a good place to advertise if you're selling anything or taking commissions at those appearances. 
  • Brag about yourself.  Include the kind of blurbs you'd want on the back of a book on your site!  Any positive reviews or great tweets.  (Asking for permission first is always a good look and it will likely flatter anyone you quote.)
    • You should also curate a list of reviewers, sites, and journalists that like your work.  Send them PDFs or ARCs whenever possible.  If it's easy for them to get hyped, they will!
    • Share this list with your publisher(s).  Urge them to reach out to those folks, too.  Offer interviews.
      • A note about interviews: whenever possible, do it as a total creative team.  Let's change how we talk about comics art and colors!
  • Any awards you you win or might be eligible for.  Letting people know what you're eligible for takes the guesswork out for them.  It feels like being narcissistic asshole, BUT, especially some non-industry awards rely on eligibility announcements to know what's up.
    • Bonus points: awards that aren't in the comics industry.  Winning a scifi/fantasy award like the Hugos exposes your work to an entirely new population of readers.

*SEO is Search Engine optimization, the art/science of making the results you want show up when people use a search engine.

If you have a WordPress site already, here's some great advice from @Bairfanx: You should install the Yoast plugin on your WordPress and use good meta titles and descriptions for everything.

So there you have it.  This will hopefully make your life easier, I know it will make my life easier as a reviewer.

Hugo Eligibility

It's the time of year where my friends (mostly the incredible Michi Trota) remind everyone to pipe up and let people know if anything I worked on this year is eligible to be nominated for a Hugo Award.

Category: Best Fanzine

I've been participating in Ladies' Night Anthology since it launched in early 2013 as an editor, later as a participant, and as the treasurer/webmaster/inventory clerk ever since we've had inventory to clerk.  I can't really articulate what an amazing group of women this is.  Over 60 women from all around the world have been involved over the course of the last four years, most of them making comics for the very first time.  LNA is all about teaching people the process of creative collaboration, and I'm proud to say that several women have leveraged their experiences with LNA to get paying jobs as inkers, colorists, artists, writers, and storyboarders.  For more information, check out our website.

In 2016, LNA published Volume 3: How to Magic.  We received 60 pitches to fill just 10 slots.  Over twenty women were paired up and created an anthology of unique, never before seen comics, all based on the theme of magic.  I'm biased, but I love it, and I think it's like nothing else out there.  Please contact me if you'd like a PDF copy to check it out for nominations.

Category: Best Fan Writer

I'm going to be perfectly upfront: between global, national, and personal (I got married!) events, 2016 had a lot less long form writing than 2015, which is something I'd like to change this year.  I did contribute to several pieces that I think do showcase what my work and I are all about.  (Please note my work for The Learned Fangirl qualifies for this category, I'm including these pieces from The A.V. Club to show more examples.) You can find my other work here.

January 2016 The Learned Fangirl: We’re Just Getting Started: Merely Existing in Comics Isn’t the Same as Being Represented 

May 2016 The Learned FangirlReview - The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics

August 2016 The A.V. Club: Akira kicked open the door for manga’s rise to popularity in the U.S.

November 2016 The A.V. Club15 years ago, the prescient X-Force used mutants to explore the dangers of fame

Thanks so much for your consideration!  For my recommendations for other categories, please check out this post.