That’s the Spirit

I’m not going to try to pretend this is topical, or that there’s any sort of reason for me to bring it up at all. Sure, it’s the 26.5-year anniversary of the event, but that’s not exactly a round number. Suffice to say, it came up on social media recently when my old underground-comic compatriot, Chris Howard, dug up these artifacts from The Spirits of Independence tour that hit Manchester, Vermont back in 1995.

This was the high-water mark of a revolt in the comic-book industry that saw creators, new and old, shrugging off the shackles of the traditional publishers (especially The Big Two) to strike out on their own, handling all the business logistics themselves. Spurred on by Dave Sim of Cerebus fame, who had been doing it for years, comic creators took on the additional tasks of printing, soliciting, shipping and distribution. The premise of the movement was that there was no point in selling off the rights to our original creations to predatory corporations just so they could take care of basic bookkeeping. If we were clever enough to write and draw our books, we could handle a few more petty jobs and keep all the profits and rights for ourselves.

It was a good plan, ahead of its time, and petered out over subsequent years because it was a little too early. The publishing business was still in its analog phase, not so far removed from the days of the Gutenberg press. The digital age was several years away from exploding and making the whole process a lot easier on a number of fronts, thereby rendering traditional publishers largely redundant.

What was once the outlying Spirit of Independence has since become standard fare. Although I’m not working on any new comics, I’ve been able to take my old Longshot Comics graphic novels and redesign them for Amazon distribution. Now, instead of dealing with orders myself, it’s all print-on-demand, with Amazon fulfilling for me. All I need to do is advertise, and only as much as I care to. Same deal with all of my novels, which I write and design myself. There are no more print runs, no more crippling overhead bills, no more unsold copies rotting in a warehouse. It’s all been streamlined and made more efficient.

On the comic-book front, the old pillars of the business are crumbling. The Big Two, even with their billion-dollar Hollywood blockbusters, have been unable to hold down the fort on the newsstand. More and more creators have gone indie, with crowdfunding becoming the standard for their new books, all of which are creator-owned passion projects that look slicker than anything that’s come out of Marvel or DC in years.

I got out of the comic-book biz decades ago, when I felt cash-grab variant covers were killing the industry, and television writing opportunities opened up for me. I miss the shitshow sometimes, even when I hear just how shitty things have become of late. The close camaraderie of nerd culture doesn’t exist in film and television the way it does in comics.

But on to the nostalgia artifacts, presented here for posterity…

A spot check of the video reveals a familiar face at 35:40 shuffling through another stack of the original minicomic edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers.
An after-hours jam piece features the handiwork of the famous and infamous. My own Jane Doe of The Squalids is seated lower left.

Damn You, Ed Asner

My nemesis is dead.

For the past quarter century, every time the notorious Lou Grant actor appeared on film or television in my presence, I would shake my fist at the screen and yell, “Damn you, Ed Asner!”

Admittedly, he’s a weird choice of nemesis, but I have my reasons.

Back in 1997, I was coming back from an appearance at the San Diego comic con. Having hopped a train to Los Angeles, I was trying to get a flight to Montreal. To save a buck, I was flying standby. My Dad used to work for Air Canada, so I was able to fly on a free pass from time to time provided I was willing to go standby. Usually, that wasn’t a problem. There are always spare seats and last-minute cancellations on damn near every flight.

And I was eager to get home. After making the rounds at the convention all week, I felt like I was coming down with something. I only had to hold out for five or six hours more and I’d be in my own bed, sleeping it off.

I was waiting in the lounge for final word about that seat I was hankering for when He showed up.

For whatever reason, Ed Asner was on his way to Montreal. Given the state of exasperation coming from the booker, this was a very last-minute thing, but he had the cash to pay his way, and he was determined to get on that direct flight.

He got the last seat.


Hours later, they were able to book me a standby seat to Toronto. From there, I’d be able to grab another plane for the final hop to Montreal.

By then, there was no doubt. I was sick. Horribly, wretchedly sick.

It didn’t get any better on the plane, and dealing with the authoritarian shitbag customs agents at Pearson International only made things worse. By the time I rolled off the plane in Montreal, I was angry, exhausted, and deathly ill.

I blamed Ed Asner. For years.

It didn’t matter how many charming old-man roles he played, how many beloved Pixar cartoons he headlined, or how fondly he was remember for his signature curmudgeonly roles. He was a thorn in my side. One of us had to go. As it turns out, he went, finally, at the age of 91, today.

My nemesis is dead.

I win.

Dot Dot Dot Ellipsis

Yesterday’s blog post pushed for more Amazon reviews of Longshot Comics (particularly Book Two and Book Three) after a single naysayer sank the ratings for the otherwise unreviewed sequel volumes deep into the negative.

Many fans own past printings of Longshot Comics. Maybe the original minicomic, maybe the Slave Labor Graphics editions, or maybe even one or more of the foreign-language translations. But if you don’t have the new Amazon reformats that came out in 2018, let me make it easy for you.

This weekend only, I’m making the ebook versions of all three books (all 11,520 panels worth) free for download from Amazon outlets. Reread the first two volumes if you haven’t cracked them open in years, try the finale of the trilogy if you haven’t checked it out yet.

And then please leave an honest review. A few words, a full paragraph, or simply a star rating. Shit on the books if you must, but I worked hard on The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers on and off for twenty years, and I won’t have it sitting on the biggest publishing platform in the world at a one-star rating. Especially not on the say-so of one anonymous disgruntled reader who only made the effort to make a single condemning click.

I know most comic-book collectors prefer to have physical copies of their floppies and graphic novels, but digital comics have made strides in recent years. Although I prefer readers buy the paperbacks I spent so much time designing, it costs me nothing to give away ebook copies to any interested parties for a limited time—ebooks I also spent so much time designing.

Hopefully this will fix my lopsided review problem, and the disconnect that occurs when some of the top comic-book talent in the world heap praise on a book that is then seen to languish at a dismal review rating because somebody just didn’t get it.

Don’t let this one-man brigading stand. And enjoy your free books.

Lone Star Posse

I like one-star reviews.

Whenever I’m thinking of buying a book, I always read the one-star reviews first. Praise is fine, but you can really discern the merit of a book by who hates it most. When the reviews expose the haters as unintelligible, barely literate morons, I’ll usually buy the book. After all, if dummies hate it, it’s probably a smart, challenging, interesting piece of work.

I like one-star reviews on my own books as well. Not too many, you understand, but some. Books with all five-star reviews look like they’ve been love-bombed by friends, family, and, all too often, paid shills. But some less-than-stellar, or even all-out-venomous reviews help tip the average down just enough to make the overall reaction to a book seem reasonable and balanced.

Plus, I especially love it when the one-star review helps market the book. Cries of “very disturbing” as one GoodReads user recently said of Petty Crimes and Vindictive Criminals may warn off those of delicate sensibilities, while drawing in others as a selling point.

I don’t like one-star reviews when they’re dropped on a book that has no other reviews to act as a counterbalance. That’s what just happened with my Longshot Comics series of (dare I say legendary) graphic novels. Someone clearly didn’t care for the gimmick of the books, probably didn’t bother to read them once they saw they were not standard comic-book fare with the sort of artwork one would normally expect, and one-starred the whole trilogy. No reviews, just single stars.

That doesn’t do much damage to the first book. The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers has been advocated by many fans for nearly thirty years now. People reading the new Amazon editions have been leaving their reviews on Book One, so that ratio is reasonable. Unfortunately, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers and the all-new The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers have not been branded by their own star ratings. Not until now.

One displeased reader, with no comment, has condemned these two books to ratio hell. This person was only the second one to rate Book Two, and the sole person to date to have rated Book Three. It’s probably my own fault for not badgering my readers to leave reviews, but I don’t like to do that, and I want to avoid any perception from Amazon that I’m fishing for compliments. They don’t like authors to do that. There can be terrible consequences.

I can, however, encourage honest reviews from readers. Reviews help raise the profile of Amazon books, and they apparently tickle the fancy of the mysterious algorithm god that decides what gets suggested to shoppers.

If you’ve read my books, and have any sort of opinion, please go to Amazon and express it. Reviews are nice, but even the small effort of clicking on a star rating will help enormously. I hope to see the Longshot Comics feedback repaired to something a little less biased against epic minimalism in future. You can make all the difference.

Batman Day Cancelled by Costumed Madman

I was expecting it to be lame. I was not disappointed.

If you watch this promo video for the event, it looks like the other participating cities had a lot of fun with Batman Day a couple of weeks ago, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the character.

Montreal, true to form, fucked it up.

It’s all been forgotten and swept under the rug by now, but after trudging downtown and into the fray, I thought it was worth documenting our local embarrassment. So I covered the fiasco for Bleeding Cool. The article is up now, and you can read it here.

Meanwhile, this begins tomorrow.

The Floor Show

I have been to the Montreal Comiccon and I no longer fear hell.

The Palais des congrès, also known as the Lite-Brite convention centre due to its design atrocities and crimes against aesthetics, is conveniently located right on top of the Place des Arms metro station. Last Saturday, I came spilling out of the turnstile wearing my new Necropolis t-shirt with a QR Code on the back (or, as I call it to be technical, “blocky-blobby-stupid-phone-thingie”). The idea was to walk around the comic convention for twelve hours straight and see how many people would scan me and get directed to the Amazon book page. This, I was certain, was a terrible idea.

It was first thing in the morning, on the big middle day of the three-day show. And there were already thousands upon thousands of people there. It had been a while since I’d done a comic convention, but I recognized the usual misshapen body types, along with a phenomenon new to me since the last time I’d attempted an appearance. Never before have I seen so many tatted-up scrawny nerds. I’m used to seeing tattoos on people with more meat on their bones. Some of these kids looked like they weighed 98 pounds soaking wet, but were sporting the kind of ink you usually need to do ten years in a supermax to earn. They don’t make comic-book geeks like they used to.

Despite my comic background street-cred, I felt like an outsider. I was the sweaty middle-aged dude, grumpy about the early hour, dying in the July heat, eager to get into some air conditioning only to find it negated by so many human bodies packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

“I’m in the entirely wrong line to buy tickets, aren’t I?” I said, once I’d spent half an hour following the incorrect flood of people, spurred on by the convention centre attendants demanding “Avance! Avance!” at all the tourists who didn’t understand French.

The girl at the ticket-check smiled sympathetically and directed me outside to a whole other line for kiosks that weren’t even operational when I first passed them, forty minutes past the supposed opening time of the show.

Great start.

At least I didn’t need to be anywhere. The main point of the excursion was to get that QR Code in front of as many people as possible. And the people just kept coming. Surely some of the bored attendees in the queue would whip out their phones and scan my intriguing shirt to pass the time.

Once I was inside, one $55 ticket later, I took some time trying to get my bearings in the enormous hall. It’s always nice to pay that kind of money to get into a venue filled with nothing but people selling things for even more money. I stopped by the closest booth, and any illusions I had about not belonging there were dispelled immediately when I caught a father asking about the identity of a superhero Lego minifig on behalf of his young son.

“I don’t know all the DC guys,” apologized the shopkeeper.

“That’s Dr. Fate,” I said, feeling a certain shame in knowing that.

I was thanked profusely, yet still felt dirty.

I don’t know why I ever bother to feel dirty about knowing geek stuff or flogging my wares. If I was dirty, then everyone else there was absolutely filthy. Particularly the celebrity guests.

Yeah, I know it’s standard for them to charge for photos and autographs, but dammit Elijah Wood, you starred in three of the biggest movies ever made. Didn’t you save some of that cash?

$95 for an autograph, another $95 for a selfie? A selfie! That’s right, for $95 you have to take your own damn picture. Nobody will even press the button for you. Fuck you, Frodo! Can’t you at least get your bitch, Samwise, to handle somebody’s camera for them while they’re paying your exorbitant fee? It’s not like you’d even have to give him a cut. He’d probably do it all day long for a thimbleful of mead, a turnip, and a pat on the head.

Okay, I’ll try to give the guy a break. He’s been making a lot of indie films for the love of his craft lately, and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore was my favourite film of 2017. But damn dude, even working for scale on all those projects has to add up.

At least I know who Elijah Wood is. And Lou Ferrigno. And Christopher Lambert. Some of the other guests? No so much. Describing them as celebrities is a use of the word “celebrity” I am unfamiliar with. Take it from a old pro, not everybody who appears on a TV show is famous. Or the least bit notable.

As I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at all the merch for sale, and marvelling on the rare occasion I spotted actual comic books, I quickly filled up my Bingo scorecard of cosplayers.

Darth Fatty? Check. Unintimidating average-height Michael Meyers? Check. Damaged girl dressed as Harley Quinn? Check.

Check. Check.


Goddamn, that’s a lot of Harley Quinns.

On a related note: ladies, if you’re wearing a costume that would make a stripper say, “Girl, get some clothes on!” rethink that. In fact, any outfit concept that has you walking around the show half naked, rethink that. I’m talking to you too, gentlemen. Nobody liked Jared Leto’s Juggalo-Joker. Nobody. Tuck your boy-titties away.

Props, however, to the guy dressed as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. At least somebody was trying to get laid by dressing for success.

I should say that not all of the more repulsive cosplayers put me off. A small child crying in terror at the sight of some murder-clowns brightened my day. I’ll admit it: I had to hide my face behind my program to stifle a laugh.

One of my key goals of the show was to scout out Artists Alley and see if it was well-travelled, or a desert of tumbleweeds and bored artists with no one to interact with. I have a notion I might want to pay for a table of my own next year and see how many books and comics I can hustle.

Once again, keeping to the theme of modern comic conventions having as little to do with comic books as possible, I was several rows into Artists Alley before I even knew I was there. Where were all the comic artists? Tucked into the very last stretch, it would seem. Most of the tables were manned by artisans of a different sort, selling all sorts of derivatives of comic-book culture without tainting their displays with any art that ever appeared in an actual comic. It’s great if you want a fashion accessory with an Avengers logo on it, not so great if you’re looking for someone who had anything to do with an Avengers comic book to sign your back issues.

I remain on the fence about dropping the chunk of change necessary to secure my own shop next year. It might prove to be money well spent, or it could turn into a PR fiasco. Speaking of which…

So how many confirmed pings did I get on my blocky-blobby-stupid-phone-thingie after exposing it to tens of thousands of nerds who would probably enjoy the hell out of Necropolis if they gave it half a chance?

Last I checked…four.

Promotion ain’t no easy thing.

Listen to the first half of last week’s episode of Cinema Smackdown if you want to hear additional details of my Comiccon adventures. Broadcast version is here.

Are Comics Still a Thing?

It’s been a while.

I can’t quite remember when I last attended a comic-book convention. I used to go to the one in Montreal all the time. No, not The Montreal Comic Con—the big one in the convention centre with all the celebrity guests—I’m referring to the boutique one. When I used to go, it was a little show in a hotel off the highway in the middle of nowhere. It was stuffed full of comic retailers, back issues, and an average of three guests. Usually two within driving distance, and one real guest they had to pay to get there for the day.

It was small time. So small time, I was a guest once or twice.

There were other conventions. More generically science fiction and fantasy conventions. One downtown—I can’t even remember what it was called—had me for a few panels. It was the single worst experience of my entire professional career and it made me swear off ever attending another local con.

In the realm of the big time, I did San Diego twice and Dallas once. That was back in the ‘90s. So long ago, comic-book conventions were still mostly about comics. They were experiences worth having.

Montreal has had its own similarly huge comic convention for several years now, and I’ve been tempted to go more than once. But when even an appearance by Malcolm McDowell failed to draw me in (to get him to sign my DVDs of the Mick Travis trilogy, of course) I figured I was never going to attend.

And yet.

For a variety of work-related reasons, I’m compelled to scout out the show this year. It’s going on right now, but I’ll be there for the big Saturday festivities, wandering around aimlessly, watching the clock until I can go home. If you’re there, come say hello. I’ll be the one in a Necropolis t-shirt. Unless I end up giving some away, in which case I’ll be just one of the guys in a Necropolis t-shirt.

Exhaustion permitting, I’ll stick around for the Pornomedy Hentai Edition show at 9:00 pm. Monica Hamburg is hosting, and we just had her on last week’s episode of Cinema Smackdown talking about all sorts of filthy porn-related things, including her time at the Eve porno theatre (featured in David Cronenberg’s 1977 film, Rabid) that burned to the ground shortly after she started working the projector there. An unrelated event, I’m sure.

Listen to the episode at the CJLO archives, or watch the raw studio feed below.

I’ll be back on the radio on Sunday, so I’m going to skip a return visit to the comic con that day, even though there’s some local-kid-made-good named Bill Shatner who’ll be there. He was on an old TV show or something. I’d turn out to support the ex-Montrealer, but I’m pretty sure I’ve bumped into him before.


The year 1997 was a busy one in the history of Longshot Comics. Book Two, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, came out under the Slave Labor Graphics banner, and I was hopping flights around the continent doing multiple convention appearances.

I was also working on several shorter Longshot stories to help promote the book. In the midst of this, Brian Michael Bendis approached me to do a page for his Jinx Special. This was a charity collection from Caliber Comics, centred around his titular bounty-hunter character. Most of the pieces other artists were doing were pinups, but I’m not exactly a pinup artist by the stretch of any lunatic’s imagination. What I offered to do was an original Longshot piece, featuring a crossover between one of my characters and his. In a sex shop. There would be a reference to what had been going on in Jinx’s comic, as well as an update on the current whereabouts of Douglas Gethers (Bradley’s estranged son).

“Douglas Gethers’s Worst job Yet” was published under the two different covers of the Jinx Special and later collected in a larger Jinx omnibus. At San Diego, Bendis told me he was getting a lot of questions about me. Namely, “Where did you dig this guy up?” Four years into the Longshot Comics saga, most people had still never seen anything like it.

Skip ahead a quick twenty-one years, the story has been reproduced in the new forty-panel format. I’m hosting it on my Patreon page for free (as in not behind a pay wall), so parties interest in both Longshot Comics and Jinx can go check it out, no strings attached.

I also shot a short video about it last night.

I’m still trying to decide when and how to move forward with this fledgling Youtube channel. Three videos in, I’m debating upgrading my broken-down dead-pixel flip. Interest in the material is, unsurprisingly, minimal so far, since I barely speak of it. Nevertheless, I got a random subscriber out of nowhere. Just one. But it shocked and delighted me.

I don’t know. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get used to talking to myself alone in a room. The radio show is vastly easier since I’m interacting with other people. Plus I’m concerned about unleashing my inner opinionated dick. Blogging is bad enough. Get me on a vocal rant and I’m likely to say all sorts of things that will get me fired off projects down the road and sabotage my eventual run for political office.


World’s Finest

Bleeding Cool has announced the release of Longshot Comics, and I couldn’t ask for a nicer article.

The headline flatters my ass clean off. Here it is in the mix of headlines on the front page.

I have nothing to add to that.

But in update news, I should mention that I had to bump up the price of the Longshot ebooks. This was my first time publishing a graphic novel through Amazon—the key word being “graphic.” That means lots of pictures taking up a lot more space than mere text. And I’d forgotten to account for Amazon’s distribution fee for larger file sizes.

Jeff Bezos ended up eating my lunch for the first couple of days of release, and there’s a guy who doesn’t need to get any richer off the efforts of poor, starving artists like me. I’ll take the sales that went directly into his pocket as a life lesson and move on. Thankfully, the vast majority of copies sold have been for the paperbacks, because collectors still like physical copies of comics to entomb in bags forever.

As an incentive, I’m lowering the Kindle MatchBook price to FREE. That means, if you buy a paperback of Book One, Book Two, or Book Three, you can also download a Kindle ebook copy from Amazon for zero dollars and zero cents. This one’s on me. And Jeff.

Back me on Patreon for more Longshot Comics stories, and to force my hand to start work on a Book Four.


They Weren’t Called “Eyestrain Comics” for Nothin’

One of the great advantages to having a digital version of Longshot Comics is the panel-zoom feature on the Kindle. Here’s a short video where I, and my lovely and talented assistant Finnegan, explain how that works. It’s the perfect solution for old, tired eyes.

If you’ve already bought a paperback copy, you can also get a digital copy from Amazon for the reduced price of $0.99 (down from the regular $2.99). If you don’t have an actual Kindle like the one in this video, there are free Kindle-reader apps you can download for your phone or computer.