Thursday, May 4, 2017

0007: Mann 'Splaining?

Many years ago I worked in a large, chain bookstore. Unlike many of its competitors (and some of its suburban mall locations), we had a pretty literate and knowledgeable staff. Inevitably, some of the quirkier corporate decisions about organization caused knowing eyerolls to be exchanged. Most were really subjective, coin-toss decisions, but one that bothered me, as a science fiction and fantasy fan, is that whenever a book falling into either of those categories was a hack, by-the-numbers, franchise installment it was shelved in the sci-fi/fantasy section, but if it was a critically acclaimed work of literature (Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Michael Crichton, even Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") then it would be kept out of the section and shelved in General Fiction. Seeing the buzz currently surrounding the television series based on Margaret Atwood's excellent "The Handmaid's Tale", it burns me to know that people seeking out more of her work won't be finding it surrounded by Edwin Abbott's "Flatland" or Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles". At least it will be spared the indignity of competing with Volume 15 of "The Laser Gun Wars Imperative Saga" or whatever is getting mechanically cranked out these days.

On the bright side, there's the internet. Someone surfing to find out more about Atwood might come across the documentary "In The Wake Of The Flood", a record of her innovative book tour to promote her "The Year Of The Flood" before turning 70. That might lead to links about the director, Ron Mann, best known for his self-produced documentaries "Poetry In Motion" (1982), "Dream Tower" (1984), "Tales of Rat Fink" (2006) and "Altman" (2014). I'm hoping their attention will also be drawn to another film he directed which, like "In The Wake Of The Flood", was a bigger scale production involving a lot of travel and some co-producers. "Comic Book Confidential" (1988) was the right film at the right time. Four years later, one of the artists profiled would be the first graphic novelist awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Below are the cover and first page of a promotional comic published in 1988, when the documentary was released in Canada, both drawn by Chester Brown. At the time, Brown was creating the comic Yummy Fur (published by Vortex after life as a mini-comic) and was about two-thirds through the "Ed the Happy Clown" feature. By late 1989, Ed was over and Yummy Fur would begin 1990 reinvented as an autobiographical comic.


The inside front cover were typeset credits for the movie. The credits for the comic, such as they are, are in the indicia on that first page, below Brown's art. The inside back cover is all text mini-bios of people credited on the inside front cover. Pages 2 and 3 are below, designed by Mark Askwith and bpNichol with lettering by Ron Kasman (per the indicia):


Pages 4 through 14 each have two capsule biographies    
and self portraits of the creators profiled. The portraits
are usually assembled into posters to package or
promote the movie, as on the back cover (right) →

Finally, the remaining pages, 15 and 16, are a short story
by R.G. Taylor called "Addicted", actually a four-pager.

If you're curious about what else was published by Sphinx Comix, don't lose any sleep over it; Sphinx Productions is Ron Mann's film production company in Toronto, Ontario, home of several small comics publishers. Sphinx Comix was no doubt created solely to create the promotional comic and rented the resources used by any of several publishers in the area.

During the 90's the movie made the rounds on VHS (ISBN# 1559401613) while a new generation of innovators (Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet, Adrian Tomine, Seth, Joe Sacco and others) emerged, often from the same publishers carrying the artist profiled in the film. The tape was followed by a CD-ROM in 1994 (ISBN# 1559402644) that added "over 120 pages of comics by the film's featured artists". Don't ask me what the contents are, specifically. I'm just quoting the package copy.

The DVD was released in 2002, including what must be the extras from the CD-ROM since, in addition to the trailers, etc., there are short stories by each of the artists that I would estimate total about 120 pages. Below is the sleeve, then the inside front cover and first page of the booklet. Brian Azzarello writes the new introduction.

The remaining eleven pages of the DVD booklet reproduces pages 4 through 14 of the free promotional comic, so if you pick up the DVD you can enlarge each of the scans above and reproduce the experience of finding the free promotional comic. It won't reproduce the experience of 1988 movie ticket prices, but what do you want from a free blog?

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Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...