Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.

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Read Dara and Tom's comic @ Brainbotjr.com and in Melt magazine.

Read Tony Goins' webcomic Downs.
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Friday, May 30, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/30/2003 05:11:00 PM :



Good god, do you think there's enough Hulk movie tie-ins and merchandise out there yet? The movie's not even out yet and everywhere you look it's Hulk this and Hulk that. Beach towels. Bowling balls. Lunch boxes. Cotton candy. Sour Gummies. Power Pop. Chocolate bars. Skate boards. Metal Wall Posters. Shorts. T-shirts. Pez. Party supplies. Paper towels. 3D models. Action figures. Playing cards. Ad nauseam and ad infinitum.


I'm pretty sure in about 1 month after the movie is released all this shit will end up in the discount bins.

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Thursday, May 29, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/29/2003 12:37:00 PM :


Chicago Comics

So my girlfriend and I took a trip up to Chicago over the long Memorial Day weekend. She used to live there, which made it great because I had a very knowledgeable (and cute) tour guide. Amidst the usual stops at blues clubs, famous buildings, and museums, we also took a little trip to Chicago Comics. I wanted to check out the store famous for it's indy-friendly atmosphere and huge selection of small-press and mini-comics. She wanted to find a unique birthday gift for her brother, who's a huge Kevin Smith fan. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. (Oh, and she ended up getting him the Bluntman & Chronic TPB)

Chicago Comics has a huge selection of independent and alternative books. They carry all the major alt publishers like Oni, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics, plus just about every other small press and indy publisher. They have a diverse selection of foreign graphic novels, manga, mini-comics, and tons of comics and pop-culture memorabilia like games, lunch boxes, action figures, dolls, statues, busts, etc. My only nit was with the layout of the store. There are a lot of smaller racks and shelves in the middle of the store where it seems lots of books have been placed at random, which makes finding a particular title a bit confusing. However, the staff is helpful and knowledgeable so I don't think that's really an issue.

Of course my ulterior motive was to check and see if they would carry the Ferret Press titles in their small press section. The answer was a resounding yes. In fact, they will carry any mini-comic or zine sent to them. If it sells, they keep 40% and pay you the difference, plus they'll ask you to send more. If it doesn't sell, they'll ship the books back to you, postage paid! How's that for indy friendly?! If you have a book you'd like to send them, drop by their website and print out their consignment form.

I should mention that their sister store, Quimby's Bookstore, offers the same deal and also has a great selection of indy books. I didn't get a chance to visit that store, but from what I hear it's the quintessential comic book store.

For those of you in the Chicago area, drop by either store and pick up a copy of AKA #1, #2, or Panel vol. 1.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/28/2003 05:17:00 PM :


Captain America: point and counterpoint

By now I'd imagine most of you have heard about, if not actually read, film critic Michael Medved's infamous column examining if the recent storylines in Captain America portray him as unpatriotic and a traitor. If not, you can check it out here. There is now a very well written rebuttal by Scott Slemmons, which you can read here. And isn't that what free speech is all about?

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Friday, May 23, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/23/2003 04:46:00 PM :


People sure do love their porn
So every once in a while I check the logs on my Ferret Press website to look at referral URLs and see how people are finding out about the site. As you can guess, most are coming from a Google search. And do you know what the most searched for phrase is that leads them to my site? "Alien Porn". I kid you not. It comes second to "Ferret Porn".

I guess that's what I get for having a story called Xxxagnut Beefman: Alien Porn Star on my site. But still...people are weird.

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Thursday, May 22, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/22/2003 12:54:00 PM :



The way-cool The Small Press Magazine website has a couple of interviews up in their (sadly) final issue. One with yours truly, and one with AKA artist Steve Black. Drop by and check it out.

By the way, even though James won't be updating the site on a regular basis anymore, it's still and excellent resource for all self-publishers. The Resources page has a very comprehensive listing of indy-friendly stores, publishers, distributors, convention listings, and more. Worth a look.

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Friday, May 16, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/16/2003 12:51:00 PM :


The Adventures of Manuel Pacifico, (gay?) Tuna Fisherman

Well, ok, maybe not officially about gay fishermen, but at least subversively so. I'm talking about Scott Shaw's May 9 Oddball Comics column over at ComicBookResources.com which features this promotional giveaway comic from 1950 (for "Breast O' Chicken" brand tuna). Scott includes quite a few examples of the interior art from this funky comic.

If you've never checked out Oddball Comics, I highly recommend it. Scott finds some of the truly bizarre, odd, silly, or ridiculous comics of yesteryear and presents a detailed synopsis of each accompanied by a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. But he's also quite the comic book historian, presenting behind-the-scenes stories about the writers, artists, editors, and publishers of these books. Often times he will even correct the "official" credits by revealing the real names behind the pen names and ghost artists. Funny stuff.

So what do you think, pretty racy for 1950's America, no? And check out those hand-drawn word balloons. Wow, that's craftsmanship :-)

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Thursday, May 15, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/15/2003 10:42:00 AM :


Superman: Commie Pinko?

There's an interesting article up in the entertainment section of the Canada.com website (Canada's huge Internet portal) about the new Mark Millar/Dave Johnson Superman series, Superman: Red Son, in which the Man of Steel grows up on a farm in 1930's Soviet Union. The writer of the article, Jeet Heer, takes a look at Superman's early political leanings by examining the backgrounds of creators Siegel & Shuster. For example, he posits that "As second-generation immigrant Jews who came of age during the Great Depression, Shuster and Siegel developed their politics in a distinctively left-liberal milieu." You can read the article here.

Thanks to my friend Muness for the heads-up on this article. You can check out his crazy-ass political and social ideas on his blog site :-)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/14/2003 09:58:00 AM :


Mamma, don't let your children grow up to be comic book pros

So you wanna be a comic book writer or artists? Think you got the skills and heart to make it? Well, comic book writer/editor/veteran Mark Evanier says don't even think about it. Why? Well, you'll just have to read about it in his weblog. Food for thought.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
  Posted by Sean McGurr on 5/13/2003 08:03:00 AM :


Comic Books in Academe
The most widely read publication in the academy is The Chronicle of Higher Education. They recently published this article, "The New Scholarship of Comics", which discusses both the history of comic books and the place of comic books at the university.

I've only given it a quick read, but it is well-written and makes some good points. Take a look at let me know what you think.

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Monday, May 05, 2003
  Posted by Sean McGurr on 5/05/2003 09:03:00 PM :


Scott McCloud Speech
This afternoon I saw noted comics theorist Scott McCloud give a talk entitled "You Are Here -- Reader Engagement in Japanese Comics" at The Ohio State University. McCloud expanded upon many of the ideas he presents in his book Understanding Comics, such as the abstracting of characters and the transitions between panels, to illustrate his thesis that manga, or Japanese comics, uses certain techniques to provide readers with a more engaging experience than Western (read American) comics do. Scott McCloud answers a question about manga

Appearing older and a bit heavier than the avatar that narrates his books, McCloud did a great job presenting his material with a more academic and critical eye than he does in his books while still keeping the talk flowing at a good pace and humorous. About 150-200 people, mostly students, attended and seemed to enjoy the talk also.

As with many of McCloud's ideas, the eight points that he presented about manga seem obvious once he has stated them. I think that many of the points in Understanding Comics were easily recognizable to most readers, but hadn't been articulated as clearly. I haven't read much manga, but I can tell there are some significant differences. Once McCloud started explaining them, I got it right away.

His eight points on how manga directly engages readers are:

  1. Iconic characters

  2. Environments (versus backgrounds)

  3. Silence/transitions

  4. Subjective motion

  5. Real world anchors

  6. Genre targeting/evolution

  7. Use of archetypes

  8. Technology of storytelling

Rather than go in depth into each point (I'll let you contact me if you want more information), I'll just say that McCloud did a good job of explaining each of these and their use in Japanese comics. While many of these overlap with each other and examples can be found in American comics, using many examples to illustrate his point, McCloud ably defended his thesis. The examples were a tool that McCloud didn't have the ability to use in his books to the extent he could in a presentation. I thought that it brought the presentation to life.

For us folks on Panel, I think there were a lot of salient points that we could think about. For example, McCloud mention the "gravity of character," or how easy it is to draw a close up of a character rather than a lush background that might contain things that are harder to draw. In fact, rather than think of it as a background, it should be an "environment" which fully adds to the story.

Another technique is to use space to set mood rather than rush into the story. This could make the story more realistic by mimicing how people actually experience the world. Even the placement of characters and other techniques that we are used to from an American perspective can be thought of differently. Like I said, I am not that familiar with manga, so maybe this is apparent to others, but there was some insight for me.

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  Posted by Dara on 5/05/2003 02:10:00 PM :


The X2 Columbus Connection

Hmmm, just found out one of the screenwriters for X2 has Columbus origins. Michael Dougherty went to De Sales high school, and worked for Character Builders, the animation studio in Worthington co-founded by Jeff Smith. Here's a quote from Michael: "Yeah, I was a nerd. One of the reasons the comic book spoke to me was that high school was not the easiest time of my life.''

You can read about it in The Columbus Disparch here.

C-bus reprezant! Word!

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  Posted by Dara on 5/05/2003 01:38:00 PM :


Some Thoughts on X-Men 2...

I don't usually go to see movies on the opening day. Even movies that I'm really looking forward to, like, say Matrix or Lord of the Rings. It's the whole crowded theater thing. The waiting-in-line thing. The paying-$8-for-a-ticket-when-I-could-just-as-easily-see-it-at-a-matinee-show-cheaper thing.

But Tim F. and the other fine folks of Panel wanted to see it Friday night and I said "sure". Hell, what better way to see a comic book movie than with fellow comic book fans and creators. And it didn't disappoint. Now, I'm no huge X-Men fan. I never collected the series, but rather read it off a friend of mine who was big into the X books. And even then I stopped reading the book right around when Jim Lee started doing the art. I haven't read a single X-book since.

But I liked the movie.

I liked the kinetic, busy, multiple-interwoven-plotlines, multiple-characters storyline. It was pretty much a typical team comic book brought to the big screen. And I liked how the moviemakers assumed the audience had already seen the first movie and dove straight in to this one without bothering to explain who the characters were or what their powers were. Again, almost like picking up an issue of an ongoing comic book series. Yet I thought the story was still understandable and accessible to your average non-comics reader. The Nightcrawler special effects were incredibly well done, with the White House fight scene being tops as far as the action sequences went. Magneto's escape from his jail cell was also brilliantly executed. And from what I remember of the characters, they were all handled fairly well in terms of staying true to their characters. The various cameos such as Colossus and Kitty Pryde were fun for the comic geek in me, though I didn't notice the ubiquitous Stan "The Man" Lee cameo? Was there one? Overall, it was a very fun, entertaining movie with minimal insult-you-intelligence factor that unfortunately is so prevalent in big-budget Hollywood action flicks. Kudos to Bryan Singer and the rest of the folks involved in making this movie.

On a side note, we had the pleasure of sitting in the row directly in front of an EIM (Easily Impressed Moviegoer). You know the type...every single trailer was followed by a squeal of delight from this woman exclaiming "ooooh, that looks awesome!" or "I have to see that!" And it didn't matter what type of movie the trailer was for. The Hulk, Hollywood Homicide, Bruce Almighty...apparently to her they were all works of genius that just begged to be viewed. Oh well. To each their own.

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Thursday, May 01, 2003
  Posted by Dara on 5/01/2003 03:03:00 PM :


Lettering: love it, hate it...pass the beer nuts

I learned computer lettering out of necessity. I mean, it's hard enough as a writer to find good, reliable, enthusiastic artists to work with on stories (hell, it's damn near impossible, but that's a whole 'nother rant), so I didn't want to throw in yet one more person in the mix. That's one more creator to search for, rely on, communicate with, barter with, etc. etc. etc. Don't get me wrong, I love collaborating with other creators, but it's very, very difficult to find the right folks in the first place, not to mention that the realities of day-to-day life take their toll on projects regardless of the enthusiasm of the folks involved, so if you can do with one less person in the fold you're going to mitigate a huge risk (yikes, I actually said "mitigate a risk"...damn day job is turning me into some sort of corporate lingo slinger!)

So I learned how to letter.

And now I have a love/hate relationship with it. When an artist finishes one of my stories and it comes back to me to letter, I always put it off till the last minute. This is mainly because I'd rather be writing and don't want to revisit a project that in my mind, oddly enough, should be considered "finished". But of course no comic book story without the word balloons and caption boxes is "finished", so I finally break down and get to work lettering it. And that's when things change. I become obsessed with the lettering. Just the right placement to this box so as not to obscure Steve's richly detailed background. Just the right shape for that balloon to lead the reader's eye from one character to the next. Just the right font. Layout. Balloon tail. But best of all, lettering is where I do the "final draft" of my script! I'll rewrite dialogue, rethink captions, shorten some passages, and add verbiage to others, all while lettering. It's a great way to revisit the original script after a short break with a fresh pair of eyes and determine what works and what doesn't. And I realize that I probably spend way too much time lettering a story. It's that perfectionist part of me that shines through when the lazy slacker part is off somewhere taking a nap. But I love it. It's fun. It's challenging.

Until I'm done. Then I can't wait to start on my next writing project and dread having to letter the next story already in the pipeline. And so the vicious circle continues.

Maybe that's why I've got this great idea for a 22 page "silent story" :-)

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