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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Nexus Graphica is a column about graphic novels and comics that grew out of discussions between Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams. They will alternate columns.  

| 2012-2013 Columns | 2010-2011 Columns | 2008-2009 Columns |
2009
Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Another long, fast, strange and lively year, Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams complete their round-up of work that struck them most profoundly, left the most lasting impressions. As Rick noted last time, in Part I, neither of them carry the conceit that this list is an objective "absolute best." Which is to say, there were doubtless other projects -- comics, graphic novels, web comics, etc. -- worthy of making the countdown. But theirs is comprised of the stuff they've actually read.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Rick Klaw has cleaned the house, shelved the books, and chilled the bubbly so it must be time to announce the Nexus Graphica best graphic novels/comics/funny books of the year. As with last year, Mark London Williams and Rick each picked the top ten titles that they encountered over the past year or so. The back half of our countdown (10-6) falls on Rick's shoulders. Since they have different tastes and don't always read the same books, their lists tend to differ greatly. For this initial part, just one title ranks on both lists -- in the same place, oddly enough, since they determine their lists independently.


Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Gary Phillips, author of The Jook, and the Ivan Monk mystery series, knows his L.A., and more of it is cropping up in comics form -- web comics form -- at FourStory.org, a social advocacy/journalism website, whose slogan is "better living conditions for everyone." On the edge of those conditions is Bicycle Cop Dave -- done in collaboration with artist Manoel Magalhães -- which has its own slogan: "Patrolling the underside of gentrification." References to shifting economic sands are everywhere. Mark London Williams thought it'd be a good time to catch up with Gary, now that he's taken to writing like Dickens -- which is to say, in installments.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
In the late 90s, manga, Japanese comic books, finally exploded into the American consciousness. Unlike its animated cousin, anime (popular since the early 60s following the introduction of Astro Boy to the US), manga didn't make a significant impact in the United States until the 1980 release of Barefoot Gen. Rick Klaw concludes his look at how the much maligned comic book edged toward the precipice of mainstream acceptance.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
And so arrives the one book -- especially the one "graphic novel-y" type book -- Mark London Williams has been waiting for all year. (Well, he wouldn't mind a look at the latest Umbrella Academy collection, either, but it hasn't shown up yet....) And that book would be the already much-discussed book of Genesis, illustrated by one of his own favorite cartoonists (as longtime readers of this column can attest): R. Crumb. Mark's reasons for waiting eagerly -- hungrily? -- for the book may not be quite the same as yours.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Roughly twenty years ago, it was clear that if Rick Klaw wasn't writing comics for children then he produced pornographic stories thus making him a person of questionable character and morality. Jettisoning any argument about the types of people who create erotic comics, the belief that there was only one type of comic book for adults bothered Rick. Hadn't these people heard of Maus, Watchmen, Love and Rockets, American Splendor, and countless others that were being produced by the early 90s for more mature tastes? Thankfully, this perception has changed.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
In an earlier column, Mark London Williams had talked about a couple of "Madeleine Cookie" experiences he'd had with recent arrivals over the transom, the first of those being the 4th Batman collection in DC's Showcase series of archival B&W compendiums. And how that collection brought him back not only to "then," but several subsequent phases/stages of growing, changing, aging in general, and as a comics reader -- and occasional writer -- in particular. He also wrote of a second "cookie," but had run out of space for it, and he figured he'd get to it in a subsequent column.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
The last time Rick Klaw wrote an original story for comics, it never even made it to press. In 1997, he crafted the five-page "Pox," a Twilight Zone-like eco-thriller for an anthology that was never completed. Since then, he has adapted several Joe R. Lansdale stories -- most notably for Avatar's By Bizarre Hands series -- and penned lots of comic book criticism, but no original comic creations. But he spent the past week crafting his first original comic book story in over a decade. Seems odd that it has been so long since, for the first half of his writing career, all he wanted to do was write comics.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Of Robert E. Howard's many heroic creations, Solomon Kane ranks among Rick Klaw's favorites. The fighting Puritan's single-minded purpose, conflicted spirit, and often delusional zealotry combined with poetic violence and sundry supernatural elements resonated to a childhood dominated by heroes, monsters, and sports. Rick looks at the history in comics of Solomon Kane.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
The question that came to Mark London Williams while standing outside the convention center at this year's San Diego Comic Con was "if the geeks have won, how come I don't feel better?" The "Con," of course, now only deals in "comics" as one aspect of the pop media buffet/entertainment news cycle launching pad that it has become, which shows you far the formerly "fringe" types of fandom -- not only the four-color sequential stuff, but "sci fi," "fantasy," noir, gaming, "cosplay," etc. -- have seized the mainstream.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Mark was en route to writing another column entirely this mid-month. Originally, he was going to write about the burgeoning field of online comics, and how a lot of successful offline collections of comic strips, in particular, start on the web. This may not be news to some of you, but via his 15 year-old son, he kept discovering new strips, and it seemed to warrant some attention. And then he had not one, but two "madeleine cookie" moments this week, with comics arriving over the transom. The first such moment happened when a copy of the DC Showcase series arrived, in this instance the fourth volume of their Batman compilations. This particular Showcase volume gathers Batman and Detective comics from the summer of 1968 through the fall of 1969.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Rick Klaw recently attended the Writers League of Texas Agents Conference. Unlike genre conventions, this event focused completely on authors getting agents rather than established writers promoting their wares. Nearly twenty agents presented and offered critiques for the some 600 attendees. As with all these type of functions, the Conference afforded panels with industry experts. For the panel Beyond the Strip: Inside the World of Comics & Graphic Novels, Rick shared his stories from the trenches along with fellow writers Alan J. Porter and Tony Salvaggio. Overseen by crime novelist Kit Frazier, the three of them bantered about the inner workings of comics for a dozen or so graphic novel neophytes.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
The first time Mark became truly aware that one could make art directly out of one's life -- unfiltered by fictionalization -- was during his college days, in that long-ago era when the hapless Carter years were giving way to the malignant Reagan ones. He had a Work-Study job in television production and one of his co-workers used the equipment, during off-hours, for various video projects such as sitting in a chair in his backyard recording monologues about life, intercutting narratives with objects like school film strips and interviews with former girlfriends. Mark London Williams is reading two graphic memoirs, Stitches, written and drawn by illustrator David Small and You'll Never Know by C. Tyler.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Like many people, Rick Klaw's earliest memories of nonfiction comics start with Ripley's Believe It or Not. First appearing in 1918 as Champs and Chumps, Robert Ripley's one-panel strip about sports evolved by 1919 into the more general Ripley's. During his childhood in the seventies, most bookstores sold Ripley's paperback collections. The one on UFOs helped to foster his lifelong interest in science fiction and scared the bejeezus out of him. That, along with the numerous Bigfoot "documentaries" of the era, kept him awake many a night. Now that he is older, Rick explores the evolution on nonfiction comics without a flashlight.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Remember those funky Star Trek comics from the late 1960s/early 1970s published by Gold Key that never seemed to get things right? The ones with flames coming out of the Enterprise's nacelles. Well they weren't alone. At the same time that Gold Key was publishing its infamous series, other, equally bizarre, Star Trek stories were being published on the other side of the Atlantic. Mark London Williams has engaged the talents of guest columnist Alan J. Porter to give us a glimpse of how Star Trek fared as a comic in the UK.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Following the success of their EC-inspired horror anthology Creepy, publisher James Warren and editor Archie Goodwin began Blazing Combat in 1965. The new magazine employed a similar format, using many of the same artists of the previous Warren publication -- Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, John Severin, Al Williamson, Gray Morrow, Russ Heath, Alex Toth, and Wally Wood. Like Creepy, Blazing Combat also featured Frank Frazetta covers, and Goodwin scripts in a magazine format. But unlike its predecessor, Blazing Combat died a ignoble death after just four issues. Rick Klaw follows the trail of Blazing Combat along with that of Jack Kirby's The Losers.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
It's hard out here for a comic book pubublisher. Especially if you're not Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse -- someone with an established pipeline to film production, for all that good syntax that comes with titles appearing both on theater marquees and comics shelves. Of course, whether the "single issue comics shop" model can continue to thrive in the era of the graphic novel is an open question. Again, name brand comics will sell single issues for awhile, but for indies, the future may be in bookstores. Mark London Williams gives us an inside view of how an adaptation he was working on for a proposed Danger Boy comic, a kind of sequel to the print series, is developed.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
For a comic book-centric town, Austin, Texas has historically lacked significant events for fans of comics. The city's long running and influential speculative fiction literary convention Armadillocon only recently opened its doors to comic book creators, but remains primarily a prose affair. Throughout the 80s and 90s, several small one-day comic book conventions popped up and failed -- the most famous an affair in an abandoned McDonalds in the basement of a University of Texas dorm. All that has changed with the arrival of STAPLE! Rick Klaw tells us what he found there.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
In this column, Mark London Williams is annotating a brief "guide" to graphic novels that he wrote for the parents at his youngest son's school. It was the time of their annual spring fundraiser, which came with a handbook to the evening's festivities. This year, they wanted some handy "how to," and "where to" type guides within the booklet, so it would have some "evergreen" value -- as they say in both the journalism and ad businesses.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Alan Moore injected relevancy into mainstream comics in the 80s. Previously, comic books lagged some five to six years behind current trends. Moore's skills moved mainstream superhero comics ahead of popular culture and established new trends, the punk to the old guard's rock 'n' roll. His success paved the way for artists such as Moore protégé Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola, as well as the re-tooling of superheroes that lead to this century's spate of successful films such as the Spider-Man franchise, the X-Men series, Iron Man, and even The Incredibles. Rick Klaw has some thoughts on how Alan Moore's vision translates onto movie screens.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Mark London Williams is in New York, brought east by a production of a play of his, running in an off-off Broadway venue. While in the city, he's taking long walks around Manhattan, signing the odd Danger Boy, and stopping in at the legendary Forbidden Planet comics store near Union Square. He has been musing about the effect of the city on the development of the comic book itself. A distinctly American artifact, the comic book was born in NY, even if its antecedents -- the comic strip -- can be traced originally to early 19th century Europe.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
From the time Rick could read, his mother took him to the library. As a child, he lived in Old Bridge, NJ, which had this minuscule two-story house for a public library. He could hear his mother from literally anywhere in the building. In the 70s, the prevailing wisdom in education circles argued that comic books impaired a child's reading development. Thankfully for Rick, neither his mother nor (apparently) the Old Bridge librarian ascribed to that view. Rick Klaw tells us of the joy of discovery of comics in bound book form and his geek future was all but guaranteed.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Mark London Williams says we are the cusp of, if not hopefully some great, or at least good, then at least sane things in the U.S. (and by extension, whether we like the idea of empire or not, the world). Much has been made of the new White House occupant's part-time geekiness -- or nerdiness. Which, in Bush era terms, could've simply meant "anyone who reads a book," or perhaps "knows six words in a different language." But with a certain Barack Obama, it means -- as the media has famously let us know -- that it also means he reads comic books.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
As Mark London Williams so elegantly announced last time, the Nexus Graphica brain trust have compiled our very own top ten graphic novel or comics-related publications lists of 2008. Mark began this shindig, so it falls to Rick Klaw to introduce the final five selections. Even with the economy crashing down around them, publishers produced enough excellent books for each of them to create diverse lists. Outside of their three identical selections, Mark and Rick managed to generate unique groups of astounding quality.

2008
Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
It's that time of year again -- the existential suspense redolent in the air over whether your uncle will get blindly drunk at Christmas again, whether the country will survive until January 20th, whether you'll get lucky on New Year's Eve. The usual swirl of late December concerns. And in that swirl are the year-end "ten best" lists as well, compiled by movie, music, book and other critics. The erudite Mr. Klaw and Mark London Williams thought it might behoove them to compile a similar top-tenny sort of rundown for graphic novels and comics and split it into two parts. Here are numbers 10–6 of the list.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
On November 8, 2008, Rick Klaw attended his first comic book convention in almost a decade. Throughout the 90s, when he served as the managing editor for Blackbird Comics and Mojo Press, he frequented as many as seven cons per year, primarily in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, and San Diego. When Mojo Press began to dissolve in the fall of 1997, Rick whittled his convention schedule down to the local literary gathering, Armadillocon, and few random World Fantasy Cons. Since then, he has re-invented his professional persona from an editor and comic book writer to a columnist, reviewer, and pop culture critic.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
The Obama Presidency will be a kind of Rorschach for America, with people reading into his campaign, and eventually into his administration, what they want to see in themselves. Or, as per the routine projections of the far right, what is unbearable in themselves. Mark London Williams began to muse about what the role of call-and-response is in graphic novels, etc., as part of the overall zeitgest -- to what degree comics are indistinguishable from media as a "lump sum" -- will future anthropologists distinguish between types of pop culture, when sifting through moves, TV shows, novels, et al., to determine what it was we thought of ourselves? -- or do comics occupy a perch of their own?

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
A friend of Rick Klaw revealed his Obama presidency fears to Rick. While he stands firmly with the candidate, desiring a change from the Republican rush to ruin of the previous eight years, he fears that the neo-Nazi racists of the extreme far right, fermented by the assertions of neo-cons and their new poster child, Sarah Palin, will come to believe that Barak Obama and his "terrorist" friends will destroy the so-called "real" America of the pro-life, gun-toting, evangelical Christians. These worries over unlikely scenarios lies beyond his control, yet it paralyzes and consumes him. Rick Klaw understand the instinct to freeze when confronted with the overwhelming. He encounters a similar situation every day,

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
It's hard to know what's meant by "rebel" anymore, when a pro-corporate Presidential candidate, whose supported nearly the entire agenda of his wealthy predecessor, can insist he's a "maverick." Or when a large computer corporation insists you can "think different" by, well, ponying up for their products. Or to put it another way, if there is a "rebellion," and it's not televised, will it simply be diffused in the numerous blog posts of the individual participants? Mark London Williams has some thoughts about Rebel Visions by writer/filmmaker Patrick Rosenkranz and what it was like growing up in the heady days of underground comix.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
An essential aspect of comics since almost the beginning of the medium, the first all horror anthology, the one-shot Eerie Comics (Avon), appeared in 1947 with six stories including early work from art pioneer Joe Kubert. The following year, B&I Publishing (later known as American Comics Group) published Adventures into The Unknown, the first ongoing horror title. Featuring primarily ghost stories, the series ran for 174 issues for over twenty years. Rick Klaw says that both of these titles later seemed tame in terms of violence, gore, and content when compared to the emerging the EC line of terror tales, the first great horror comic books.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
The "Janes" have been reigning, to certain degree, over the graphic novel world. Those would be the P.L.A.I.N. Janes created by writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg, the kick-off title to DC/Vertigo's Minx line of graphic novels, the marketing ploy being that they are more femme-friendly types of comics, and the irony being that Cecil was one of the few actual femmes initially writing for the imprint. Mark London Williams gives a little history and has an inteview with Cecil.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Things changed earlier this decade. Graphic novels, largely ignored by both comic and book collectors, suddenly acquired a collectible status similar to their prose and periodical brethren. Rick Klaw first noticed this phenomenon about five years ago when a customer came into Half Price Books to sell Miracleman Book 3: Olympus.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
In 1992, Rick Klaw appeared on his first Armadillocon panel along with Ellen Datlow and Gardner Dozois. In 1993 and at the majority of Armadillocons through the rest of the decade, artist Doug Potter and Rick were typically the only acknowledged comic book guests. In 2002, comic book contributors flooded the convention as the previous detractors embraced this newly discovered medium. My, how things have changed over the last 25 years.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Speaking of summer travel, as noted at the end of the last column, Mark London Williams is back from the San Diego Comic Con. In some ways, there's not a lot to say about the Con anymore. This is because everyone else is already saying it. Which is to say: It has apparently become the mainstream America media/pop culture event of the year.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
In L.A. it has been the summer of books. No, not because everyone here in the Pueblo of Angels is suddenly cracking open copies of Ask the Dust or Day of the Locust to unearth their town's own literary history, but rather, because the two main gatherings of the book industry -- the Book Expo of America (or "BEA") and the American Library Association's annual gathering (or "ALA" for short) -- were held there. Our intrepid reporter, Mark London Williams, scouted out the graphic novel scene.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Reality plays by its own rules. This tenet, in the form of metafiction, litters the comic book landscape. While this type of self-referential literature was quite common in comics strips, the earliest story of this type that Rick Klaw uncovered, appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #22, dated March 26, 1943, some eight years after the publication of New Fun, the first comic book of original material.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Regular readers of comics news and reviews already know that Rory Root, the affable, pioneering proprietor of Berkeley, California-based Comic Relief passed away suddenly last month. The scope and breadth of what the store carried, how Rory was an advocate/supporter of lesser-known, or just-starting-out-of-the-gate work, and how well liked he was in the comics community by creators and retailers. Mark London Williams remembers his days growing up in the Berkeley area and how Rory affected his development into the writer he is today.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
On May 8, 1940, The Chicago Daily News published Sterling North's influential condemnation of comic books "A National Disgrace (And a challenge to American Parents)." North calls comics "a poisonous mushroom growth," calling upon parents and educators to "break the 'comics' magazines." And those who don't would be "guilty of criminal negligence." He claims that "the antidote to the 'comic' magazine poison can be found in any library or good bookstore." Rick Klaw notes that in 2008 most libraries and bookstores gladly sell "these lurid publications" and that the line between prose and comics literature has never been closer.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Comics were never just exclusively for the tights crowd, even if, for a few decades there, a glance at any American newsstand would give you that impression. More and more, the film biz seems to be noticing, as other types of stories get picked for translation to the big (or at least medium) screen. Thus, stories like Perdition and A History of Violence, and now, from the company that produced the latter, another mob-themed pick-up, a four-issue story, indie-published story, replete with its own "history of violence," called Pencilneck.. Mark London Williams has a chat with the writer of the series, Victor Carungi.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
During the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) business meeting, some discussions took place as to what kinds of works qualify professional science fiction/fantasy writers for membership. Rick Klaw has some thoughts on what was said, what they should do to update their definitions and what is happening in the rest of the world when it comes to graphic novels.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Nexus Graphica is a column about graphic novels and comics that grew out of discussions between Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams. They will alternate columns. The nature and subject of each piece will vary from month to month, but it will always have something to do with graphic novels or comic books. For his first column, Mark is grappling with the idea of what comics are for. Are they just for fun? Or are comics -- when at their best -- simultaneously about individual lives (even spandex-encased ones) and everyone's lives, our lives, all at once? Social commentary, perhaps.

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Nexus Graphica is a column about graphic novels and comics that grew out of discussions between Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams. They will alternate columns. Like Rick Klaw's Geeks With Books, the nature and subject of each piece will vary from month to month, but it will always have something to do with graphic novels or comic books. For the first column, Rick describes how they met and how their friendship evolved.

| 2012-2013 Columns | 2010-2011 Columns | 2008-2009 Columns |

Copyright © 2008 Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams


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