• Rattlesnake – St. Vincent
  • Another Young G – Anti-Lilly
  • Keep It Real – Mobb Deep
  • Livin For You – Al Green
  • Far Away – Marsha Ambrosius
  • Be Better Than Me – T.I.
  • Hold the Fuck Up – Duke Da God ft. Juelz Santana + DJ Clue
  • Nao/Now – Kev Brown
  • The Bottle – Cookin’ Soul X Gil-Scott Heron
  • Wholy Holy – The Roots ft. John Legend
  • Comics Quote of the Week

    [W]e need to … stop looking at the comics market as the “big two” or the “big three.”

    There are only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.

    Everything else should be irrelevant.

    So stop letting publishers lie to you and deceive you and your readers so they can prop up their position in this industry in their craven attempts to appease shareholders.

    That may help them in the short-term, and maybe it puts an extra couple coins in your change purse at the end of the week, but the reality of the situation is they have literally everything BUT your best interests at heart.

    -Eric Stephenson, publisher of Image Comics. From his comments at ComicsPRO, the comics retailer trade association. via ComicsBeat.

    Great speech. For some reason, I imagined this in Killa Mike’s voice (from the introduction to his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II mixtape). There’s a temptation to focus on his critiques of Marvel and DC, but I’m most interested by his comments on licensed properties. Although I think that original properties native to comics should be the ideal, I’m not entirely sure that it’s fair to characterize licensed comics as ‘lesser’ versions of the original. Sure, there are some blatant cash grabs, but there are some amazing, sublime books – like Christos Gage and Antonio Fuso’s GI Joe: Cobra series or Max Brooks, Howard Chaykin and Antonio Fuso’s GI Joe: Hearts and Minds series – both of which were far superior to the original animated series.

    A few more thoughts:

    • These speeches about the state of the American comics industry remind me that Marvel and DC aren’t in the same business as other publishers. they’re units of larger cultural conglomerates that are primarily interested in maximizing the income from their legacy characters in multiple media. Retailers should always be aware that the long term health of the industry and the art form aren’t the priority of either ‘publisher’.
    • I’ve always thought that the music industry’s problems were related to its failure to fulfill the desire of listeners for disaggregated inexpensive content and it’s overestimation of consumer willingness to keep repurchasing music in different formats. Yeah, the relentless strip mining of the past was a problem (and a poor investment of resources), but I’m not sure that it drove fans away.
    • It’s good to hear a straightforward defense of the direct market that’s not entirely rooted in sentiment or nostalgia. I complain a lot about comics retailers, but there’s no denying that they have a critically important role to play in the future of the American comics industry. I’m a huge fan of digital comics, but it’s hard to ignore the high barriers to entry for less affluent or younger readers who don’t have access to tablets or smart phones.
    • I never completely understood why Saga receives near-universal, almost rapturous praise from its supporters. Saga is a interesting, well made book, but it never struck me as particularly brilliant or transcendent. After reading Stephenson’s comments, I think I get it. Saga’s commercial and critical success helps us imagine a post- Big Two Direct Market that holds on to a non-trivial percentage of exclusively Marvel/DC readers. There have been a number of incredibly successful and widely popular non-superhero comic books not published by Marvel or DC over the last few decades, but Saga is one of the few that captures the visceral thrill of reading superhero comics without referencing the genre at all (Kirkman’s Walking Dead is another notable example). It doesn’t hurt that Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples have maintained the high quality of the book while adhering to a regular schedule, or that they seem to have the ideal partnership between writer and artist. There’s always been some tension between those who argue that there is a silent majority of fans hungry for mainstream books that are not Marvel/DC superhero books and those (especially risk-conscious retailers) who are reluctant to alienate the fans who comprise the bulk of their customer base. Saga suggests a positive sum solution – a story that appeals to non-traditional audiences while providing the high stakes serialized action and melodrama that superhero readers love.

    Images of the Week

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    -Wes Craig, color art by Lee Loughridge, Deadly Class #2. Story by Rick Remender. I love Craig’s use of the panel borders to direct the reader.

    2014-03-01 12.59.31

    -Fiona Staples, Saga #18. Words by Brian Vaughan. Staples’ art is even more impressive when you focus on a single page. You can get lost in every detail.

    Recipe of the Week

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    A mediocre picture of a delicious dinner – salmon pastrami on rye with red cabbage and green apple slaw, via Blue Apron. Not pictured: a side of Nathan’s french fries. I was given a free week of Blue Apron as a gift from a friend during my parental leave and soon became addicted. Every week, the company sends the ingredients and recipes for three interesting meals for two people. My life felt impossible to manage during the first few months of parenthood, and it was nice to not have to think about what I was going to have for dinner for a few days a week. Other than the salmon pastrami on rye (which turned out great even though it didn’t really evoke the tastes I associate with ‘pastrami’), some highlights have included the roast beef with horseradish sour cream and heirloom carrots, the Moroccan Beef Tagine with dates and honey, Seared Cod with Kaffir Lime Juice, and Chicken Supremes & Broccolini
    with Forbidden Rice, Pepitas, & Mustard Sauce
    . I have a few quibbles with Blue Apron – it’s pasta recipes tend to be underwhelming for cooks with pasta experience and they don’t offer customers who select the ‘omnivore’ option an opportunity to opt out of pork dishes – but it’s typically worthwhile.

    Music Video of the Week

    The password to this Nicki Minaj looking ass ni***a mashup is: selfhate from pierre bennu on Vimeo.

    -Pierre Bennu. Inspired by (and featuring music from) Nicki Minaj’s Lookin’ Ass Nigga. The password is “selfhate”. via egotrip. I didn’t find the original video (or Nicki’s appropriation of the image we associate with Malcolm X) particularly offensive (I grew up listening to the first wave of gangsta rap in the late 80’s/early ’90’s after all), but I love Bennu’s response. We can play with offensive, taboo language and imagery all we want, but we should never forget what they actually mean.

    Podcast of the Week

    David Brothers continues his excellent Inkstuds Spotlight series with interviews of Spike Trotman, Jay Potts and LeSean Thomas (the last one is great for those curious about a career in animation). Check it out.

    See you next week.