This was my introductory editorial when I took over editing duties for SAVANT's Toolbox section. Toolbox was a bunch of printable stickers, t-shirt designs, and viral marketing inserts designed around movies, DVDs and other cross promotable books. I had big plans to revamp and expand the whole section... ooh the plans I had. Before I could accomplish anything with it though, SAVANT imploded, and it seems the idea of comics activism went with it. Too bad, it's still a viable idea. As an article, this really doesn't hold up well. Delphi is mostly dead. Matt Fraction is well on his way to becoming a comics superstar in his own right. And SAVANT is a fond memory, and an internet ghost town.
by Dan Traeger
You can only smash your head against a brick wall for so long before something's gotta give. So, still dripping with arterial spray and picking chunks of my own gray matter out of my hair, I stumbled over to Matt Fraction's Delphi forum in search of help.
If any of you want to go read what happened, the thread is located in the "questions and queries" folder. It starts with, "I think I need some help from SAVANT's old guard." A lot of SAVANT's original writing crew hangs there and I thought it might be a good place to go for advice. See, I wanted to know why I wasn't having much impact on SAVANT's online community, no matter what I wrote. I thought there might be some trick to this online activism gig that I was missing. In a moment of weakness, I reached out for help from some of the writers who helped create SAVANT Magazine… and I got bitch slapped. Then my thread was stopped cold before I could respond or even say thank you. That's right, "Thank You." Sometimes you need someone to shake you up a bit.
I had forgotten something that Fraction knew all to well:"…online tribes descend into tribalism, hostile and intimidating to new voices."
It made me take a few steps back and think about things. It made me think about the online tribe I'd chosen and what I wanted to bring to that community. In order to figure that out, I first had to decide what I wanted from the whole comics nation.
So, I decided to make a couple of lists. I like lists. They help force chaos into pretty, well-ordered patterns. It's kinda like fractal painting.
Top 5 things I want from the comics nation.
1. I want creative genius to be rewarded with money and recognition, just like it is in other creative fields. Brian Wood, Paul Sizer, Renee French, James Kochalka… there's a long list of massively talented people I can't even begin to type out in full here who deserve a lot better from their chosen profession.
2. I want to be able to walk into any comics store and find a big fat indy selection packed with the good stuff from Slave Labor Graphics, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Oni, and IDW. I want the entire AIT/Planet Lar catalog racked right at the top with flashing lasers, blinking neon, flowers, balloons, confetti, gutted beanie baby carcasses, and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, all loudly proclaiming that Larry Young is one of the most innovative, excellent, and important publishers putting out comics today.
3. I never want to see a weak, joyless, nostalgia fueled, piece of shit comic, based on any crappy licensed property, ever again crack comics top 100 bestsellers.
4. I want comics specialty stores to start acting like proper retailers and give me clean, well lighted, good smelling shopping, topped off with excellent customer service. Moreover, I want the retailers who already do this to stand up and be counted.
5. I want everyone I meet to know how cool comics are, and I want them to know how empty and worthless their lives are because they don't read them.
Once I had this in perspective, I then went back and looked at what I wanted to bring to my tribe, the SAVANT readers. It didn't take me long to figure out that the best way for me to accomplish anything here was to lead by example, thus, another list.
1. I will treat creators with the respect and admiration they deserve. Online, at conventions, or at signings, these people are rock stars and I will treat them that way. I will buy their books, and I'll make sure that everyone who comes to SAVANT knows where to go for great reads and how to avoid the dog shit.
2. I will buy the good stuff that comes from all of the indy publishers. I'm gonna pimp the holy shit out of their books, and I'm gonna use SAVANT to do it.
3. I will never again buy any comic tied in to a licensed property. And I'm gonna mercilessly fuck with anyone who does. You hear me Potter? You're not safe, buddy!
4. I'm gonna keep badgering my local comics shops, help them out when I can, and fight my battles one at a time. I will continue to effect changes in the way they do business by being a better customer.
5. I will keep preaching the gospel. "Comics are cool!" I will continue inviting new members into the tribe and accepting them with open arms, even if I don't like or agree with what they have to say. And I will arm every one of you, so that you too can go out and preach to the masses that aren't a part of the comics nation.
For the first time in its nearly three year history, SAVANT has added a new editorial position. For some bizarre reason, when Dave, Al, and Dan Carroll were sitting around trying to figure out who they knew that was psychotic enough to take it, my name came up. Of course, when they offered me the job, I jumped at the chance. It's a job much akin to master weapon-smith. It doesn't pay anything, and it's largely thankless, but I think it may be most important job on the website. I get to create and oversee the creation of the tools we use to spread the word that comics are cool.
I'm the new editor of SAVANT's toolbox section. That's the part of the website that gives you weapons to use against the filthy heathen hordes of non-comics people.
If we're a tribe then so be it. I'll provide the weapons. You provide the war party.