Local Scenes, Christmas Dreams, and *Shudders* My Art: The December 2023 Mailbag is Here!

2024 is almost here, but before we go, let’s do one more Mailbag Q&A here on SKTCHD. Thanks to everyone for the excellent questions! I greatly appreciate them, as per usual.

If direct market comics become less and less stable, do you think there could be a space for local comic scenes? – Stephen Adkison

It depends on what you mean by local comic scenes, but I think there’s always room for local comic scenes regardless of direct market comics, and that they exist already even if you might not know it. Even my home of Anchorage, Alaska has one, despite it being a bit more disconnected than one might like. Go to any decent sized community and you’re likely to be able to find a comics-centric scene if you really want one, even if it isn’t robust. That’s one thing that is amazing about comics both as an art form and as an interest: fans of the medium are so in love it’s hard not to bond over them, regardless of differences you may have (please ignore your average conversation on Twitter, as that is proof that it’s not that hard).

If you mean local comic scenes in terms of replacing the direct market for selling your wares, I don’t think that will be a thing, if only because it isn’t necessary. The beauty of the past few years is that while the direct market is still a crucial part to the overall industry, we’ve also seen creators turn to crowd-funding and online ventures as their primary efforts — and succeed in the process. I’m not sure that would work for everyone. But the point is, we’ve seen that people can succeed with or without the direct market as an essential part of their mix. Whether it’s local comic scenes, crowd-funding, online platforms, or whatever, if forced to, I think people in comics would find answers if and when the direct market goes away. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen any time soon though because it will be a painful process.

Most of us are cursed with limited shelf space, and yet, publishers keep putting out beautiful hardcovers (absolute, deluxe, premiere, library, and other superduper fancy editions). How often do you double dip when a nicer looking edition comes along? Also, what would be your must-have comic book Christmas present? – Tjas Debeljak

Rarely. I’ll do it more often when it involves a comic that I only have single issues of. Kaijumax is a good example. I have all the single issues but none of the trades, so I am happy to get the hardcovers for the series. But that’s also not really double dipping in the sense you mean, as those are different formats. I typically wait for what I believe to be the ideal format (typically a hardcover that collects no more than 12 issues) and get that. I’ll also double dip if there’s a material change to the comic, i.e. Scott Pilgrim or Bone with color versus the original black-and-white. But even then I do it and think, “This looks wrong. Why are there all these colors?!”

Truth be told, I just looked at my shelves and realized I have double dipped on exactly zero series. Absolutely nothing! One I still might do is replacing my 20th Century Boys tankōbons with the Perfect Editions Viz released, because they’re so nice. But my brain will likely reject that, because it’s obsessed with logic.

As far as my must-have Christmas present is concerned, in the “not realistic” camp, I have Incredible Hulk #181, a comic that I have legit asked for every single year of my life since I was…eight years old? Still haven’t gotten it, and it would have been so much more affordable back in the 1990s when I first added it to my list. In the realistic camp, I just actually got it, probably. My parents got me Jim Lee’s X-Men Artist’s Edition this year and it’s unreal nice. I was incredibly happy about that, and I’ve loved looking at those scans of his original pages. It’s wild to see Lee’s journey and improvement as an artist.

I feel like so much of comics discussion is so myopically focused on Marvel, DC, and Image (you can throw in IDW, Dark Horse as well I think) that it’s often forgotten that there is a huge world of comics to be found that don’t fall into those buckets so… what were some of your favorite indie books of the past year? Did you see anything outside of the major publishers that caught your eye? These could be non-major publishers, crowd-funded books, just curious if you’ve seen anything that was off the beaten path that you thought was worth a try. – Matt Battaglia

I actually responded to Matt when he asked this question, letting him know that a significant portion of my Comics of 2023 would be coming from outside that world, so that would be a good place to start for some of my favorite indie comics. And what a year it was in that regard! Based on my count (which was done quickly and without confirmation outside my memory), 15 of my 25 Comics of 2023 were from different publishers, which speaks to the glorious and varied options available to you. And I barely touched the surface of what’s out there! There was no manga, webtoons, Fantagraphics, IDW, Vault, crowd-funded comics, or zines on my list, all of which offered plenty of tasty treats for readers this year, assuredly.

My favorite comic of the year was a perfect example of all this. Lucie Bryon’s Ocean was a ShortBox Comics Fair release, one that was only available for the month of October, and one that was an absolute delight and masterclass of cartooning. But to ultimately answer Matt’s question, that list of releases offers a good guide. While I still could and should expand my comic reading horizons, I’m doing what I can, and finding the experience rewarding as I do. If there were any incredible indie comics I missed that you all think Matt and I should read, though, please let us know!

You are going to have a cameo appearance in a comic. Assuming you already have a Stilt-Man cameo lined up, what comic are you appearing in and who is drawing you? – Mark Tweedale

Daniel Warren Johnson’s Transformers, and I want Shockwave to shoot out a tape, which inexplicably transforms into a robot that looks exactly like me.

I’m not going to lie, I came up with that in approximately five seconds and I do not believe I can come up with a better answer than that. I need to commission Daniel to do that for me…that would be unreal.

Everyone knows you’re the biggest Stilt-Man fan. So, can you draw Stilt-Man from memory, right now, without looking at any other pictures of him? (And show us your drawing, of course.) – Andrew Tan

The answer is clearly “sort of.” I will say, I did just recently move my Stilt-Man figure as I cleaned my office, so I did have a bit of a refresher. But there’s no amount of looking at Stilt-Man that can make me good at drawing anything. Look at that dang left hand. It’s like AI was trying to draw one of those hand turkeys from when you’re a kid. What a nightmare! I also took about two minutes to draw that and went straight to inks, but even if I had an infinite amount of time, my drawing would still look hideous.

As they say, those who can’t draw comics, write about them on the internet.

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