January 15, 2014

Review: COMIC BOOK BABLYON

When Clifford Meth offered me a complimentary review copy of his new book Comic Book Babylon, I leapt at the chance. His work for Aardwolf Publishing - including his Dave Cockrum and Gene Colan tribute books - were thoroughly enjoyable, and I've always thought highly of Mr. Meth. So I approached Comic Book Babylon in the spirit of being a series of portraits and reminisces about writing and publishing.

But it's so much more than that...and has easily  become of my favorite comic-related reads of 2014.

Beginning with his efforts to help his friend gain recognition and royalties from a major comic company, Comic Book Babylon is more than just a great book about the history of comics - it's also a great how-to manual in ethical behavior in the comics industry. This book doesn't just deserve your attention - it demands it.

Bookended by his efforts to aid both Dave Cockrum and Gene Colan during tough times, Comic Book Bablyon contains some really great portraits of comics professionals and other writers.This is mandatory reading for anyone wishing to learn the history of comics, especially portraying the more down-to-earth, grounded mentality of past masters versus the current scene's more showy, exaggerated mindset. (Michael Netzer's illustrations are simply gorgeous) 

But various other writings - from a slightly heartbreaking (in retrospect) interview with Christopher Reeve to a talk with Alan Moore as his works became adapted for movies - provide a wider scope to Meth's writing. There's never a feeling of self-importance or being an "insider", nor does it ever engage in simply watching and writing. Comic Book Babylon is an extremely powerful read, and quite simply, you won't be able to put it down. Writings were culled from a variety of sources, including Silver Bullet Comic Books (now called Comics Bulletin), and his own blog, as well as various other sites with some unpublished pieces. Overall, Comic Book Bablyon balances a very casual tone with great humility and very biting humor. Just a few sample quotes to give you a sense of Meth's writing:
Of course, I believed him right away. Joe can't even spell coup d├ętat, let alone pull one.

Speech may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn't give you the right to yell Poker game! in the middle of a crowded firehouse.

I prefer helping people. It hurts me to look at the 990s of even well-deserving charities and see executives taking $400K salaries plus $80K in 'expenses.' So I help people directly.

...I'm wrestling with a metaphysical (conundrum). I'm wondering how anyone in our industry can walk by this situation and not pay it heed. The petitions from fans are nice, the messages on the forums are encouraging, but there's too much rubber necking and not enough action; too many cameras and not enough food. And the blame game just ain't gonna work this time.

The women he draws make you want to throw away your family and job and take up the needle again
(The only way I could do Meth's book justice would be to copy and paste it in its entirety into this blog post, but one of Mr. Meth's best friends is Harlan Ellison. Something tells me Mr. Meth nor Mr. Ellison would take too kindly to that action, no matter how well-intentioned...and let me just add that some of my fellow non-profit/social good peers would also do well to read this book)

As I write this post, there's been much talk in Chicago over ethical issues in relating to fandom (pal Michi provides a better, more thorough job in describing it than I ever could). Perhaps now is the time for all good comics fans to consider reading Comic Book Babylon, an outline of how one fan can live a pretty decent, very ethical life.
Seriously - buy and read this book. Now.

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