The Bittersweetness of $4 Graphic Novels

Article / 07 January 2021

When I was a kid, I loved comics. You could buy a whole stack at a flea market or a yard sale. Comic shops had a 25¢ bin. You could buy a bag of random back issues at local department stores for $4.99. Brand new issues sold on the spinner rack of your local convenience store for $1.25.

Those were the days. It's no wonder that I amassed a collection of thousands comics in my childhood. I could have rolled in comics the way a lot of you pervs imagine Bettie Page rolling in cash. Rolling, endlessly rolling, riding crop swinging in the air... Anyway, try to keep focused on the main point here: happiness.

They were folded, stapled, four-color or black and white happiness in small doses of 24-32 pages, that any kid could afford by the mitt full.

They were so affordable, you could buy loose boxes of comics in almost every Christmas catalog that was published. It was my favorite part of Christmas. Still is, in memory at least.

Nevermind that kids today would never believe that massive catalogs of hundreds or thousands of pages, one from each retailer, were just dropped off for free on EVERYONE'S doorstep, or the fact that most of those retailers no longer exist, or the fact that I sold most of that massive collection over the last 20 years to finance my own comics projects with middling to nil success.

Comics were fun. And they were affordable. And then, they weren't. Cover price increases have far exceeded the rate of inflation multiple times over, making comics something kids and parents of kids, can no longer afford to get into as a hobby. That's a problem, because the entire monthly comics industry is built on kids and parents being able to afford making it a habit. You know? An affordable hobby? And one comic at a time doesn't do it. Reading a comic once a month doesn't do it. They've got to be able to buy a few at a time, every week or two, to make it a habit. They have to get into the adventures of Clark Kent AND Peter Parker and many others. At $5 each, that's no longer realistic, which is bad for an industry built on that.

It's no surprise that in an ever tightening, ever competitive, consumer-driven system would see the graphic novel replace the comic book. If A kid can't afford to follow everything, and one comic isn't enough, a graphic novel is the next logical purchase decision. If you can't follow them all, then at least you can focus on one character at a time and get one complete storyline. Demand and budget restrictions dictate that some collectors will continue to follow the single issues, some frustrated that the store is always sold out before they get there will switch to graphic novels or drop the title altogether. And yet some, those on a tight budget, which these days is most of us, will stop buying the floppies and willingly keep themselves 6-12 months behind the monthly storyline in order to save about 30% of the cost of this collectibles hobby. Roughly speaking, $30 worth of monthly comics are reprinted as a $20 graphic novel. 

With a graphic novel being a bigger dose, a kid can get into the hobby and read a $20 graphic novel per month, where they wouldn't perhaps be able to buy multiple monthly comics every week or two.

It's a much narrower opportunity to pick up new fans, and a far cry from the affordability when I got into the hobby.

The closest thing in recent times is the advent of graphic novels being added to the shelves of dollar store chains, something that became prevalent in 2019. 

See, in the book store industry, the have "returns". Unlike comic shops, book stores can return unsold books to the distributor for a full or partial credit. These books are then returned to the publisher, who must reimburse the distributor for any money they have been paid for the books that are returned. This leaves the publisher with X number of books that they can't essentially sell as new. Even if they are in pristine condition, the books are essentially considered "seconds" and no longer sellable as new product. 

The publisher can't just sit on a warehouse full of returned books that could accumulate quickly if the publisher has multiple titles, so the publisher then sells their returned books to a discount distributor. Regardless of how much the book was originally priced for, discount distributors pay roughly $1 per book. This dollar usually goes straight to the publisher without any percentage going to the creators, something often worked into the contract, and these $1 sales do not generate any royalties for anyone involved in producing the book. The books purchased by a discount book distributor are then sold to department stores and other retail outlets to fill discount bargain bins where most books sell for roughly $5.

So, it can be assumed that since the rise of popularity of graphic novels in books stores, there must also be an equal increase in returns and a proportional number of graphic novels now available through discount distributors, such as dollar store chains who now carry graphic novels in the $3-4 range. Books that are selling for $30-$40 on shelves in book stores and hobby shops are also sitting on the shelves of your local dollar store for $3-$4.

It's not the 25 cent bin, but when you consider that a graphic novel gives you much more comic bang for your buck, and that the dollar store offers the same graphic novels as the hobby shop and book store, at a lower price than a single floppy comic, it's plain to see that this is how the kids of this generation are going to get into comics and reading. 

So, as I do every year, I bought a little something for myself for Christmas, as a kind of reward for the year. This year I bought myself a whack of random graphic novels and when I opened them, it was like re-living a small sliver of that Christmas joy as a kid. opening a box of comics and being amazed at the variety of characters, stories, art and imagination. 

I also sent a box to each of my nieces and nephews, in the hopes that they would experience the same thrill and joy that I did on Christmas. I think it was successful.

It's not a box of comics from a Christmas catalog, but the dollar store is what kids who are going to get into comics have today. 

It sure does give me mixed feelings. I don't like to promote or give free advertising to large corporate retail entities, that's why I'm not mentioning any specific chains. You will find that different chains do have different selections, likely because they deal with different distributors and those distributors deal with different publishers, but if you are diligent and willing to put in the work, you can find comics from across all publishers, age groups and genres.

I have to assume that hobby shops and retailers won't like this kind of news getting out one bit, but it's already out there and the retail dynamics are not the fault of the consumer. The simple fact is comic shops got strong-armed into unfavorable no-returns policies because they agreed to buy comics from one distributor who controls flow and access to product. If comic distributors accepted returns, the retail environment would be much healthier for hobby shops.

Currently, the same book that your dollar store pays $1.50-$2 for and sells for $4, sells to your local hobby shop for $20 and retails for $40. It's no way to compete in a consumer driven economy and doesn't help the shrinking number of comics and hobby shops who are struggling to stay open during COVID. 

At the same time, I'm not sure we can rally around comic shop owners to demand change, when it is us, their very customer base who cannot afford to entertain ourselves with the $40 books they have on offer, and if we or our kids want to enjoy an affordable and entertaining hobby, have to go with the cheaper alternative. If I have to choose between the health of one industry, as much as I love it, over the financial well-being and stability of EVERYONE who is currently struggling, I choose what is good for everyone. (It also helps that my local dollar stores have a wider range of publishers and genres than some of my local comic shops.)

So for the time being, I will spread the word about dollar store graphic novels, to help others cope with the quarantine, even though I know that none of the money from those book sales go to those, like myself, who create them professionally. Those that are buying the $3 graphic novel today are the potential future comic collectors that will come into hobby shops in the future. To be honest, dollar store graphic novels are probably the best advertising that these comic publishers and retailers have had in years. No dollar store has the complete set or run of any series, so those hard core fans who want to fill in the gaps will have to go to a retailer eventually. My partially completed set of Eagle Moss Star Trek graphic novels is proof. 

So, it may not be the situation we want, but it's the situation we live in. Maybe if people stop trying to defend and protect their own interests, those involved in this chain can work together to improve it, not just for their own benefit, but more importantly, for the comic buying and loving public. 

As a man nearing his 40s, this topic makes me surprisingly and unexpectedly giddy. I'm constantly suppressing the excited school boy inside of me because I want others to discover the same love for comics that I have. I even thought of approaching some of these chains to see if I could work out a sponsorship deal to do youtube videos of my dollar store finds. I hesitate though, mostly because I don't want to compromise the content that I create with advertiser influence. 

BTW it took me many hours over multiple days to write this. I'm thinking about doing these longer blog posts as videos or even animated explainer videos. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below. 

BTW here is some of my recent art:


Thanks for reading, 

Mike



I want my phone to be a phone

Article / 03 December 2020

Smartphones can do a lot of things. They can tell you the weather, they can track health goals, they can keep your schedules and appointments and e-mails and photos and a million other things.

Know what I want my phone to be?

A phone.

Let's face it, the majority of functions, apps and uses for a smart phone relate to one of two (if not both) things: Work and social media. 

Do we really need to be taking work and social media with us in our pocket, wherever we go? Are we so badly in need of stimulation that we have to distract ourselves with e-mails that can wait until work hours the next day or photos of meals being eaten by acquaintances and strangers?

Is it even healthy to have constant connection with these things?

Doesn't the very act of taking these things with us everywhere break the work/life boundaries and give these things an elevated and false level of importance in our lives?

For those over 30, Do you remember a time when friends and family couldn't just connect with you on a whim at the faintest thought, and expect a response in a very short time frame? Remember when if someone wanted something from you, they had to call your home, and if they didn't reach you, they had to leave a message and hope you'd get back to them? Maybe in a couple days? You know, when you weren't busy and it was convenient? Now it doesn't seem to matter who it is. If someone needs something and you don't respond, expect 8 texts from that person in the next hour. 

Don't get me wrong, communication is good and valuable and something we need lots more of, but quality communication about real things. Somewhere along the way, with the advent of the technological age, society seems to have somehow altered the social contract that we all have and expect of each other, and now it seems perfectly normal to expect a response to a text in five minutes, e-mails are often expected to be responded to same-day or less. 

I don't think this level of expectation is healthy and think it causes more frustration and poor communication than facilitating real, useful communication. It seems to be the ultimate expression of self-importance. Most people are using this technology to push their priorities onto others that can help meet their goals, getting attention, help and action immediately, and although it sounds great, I think it devalues our personal relationships to the point where friends, family and acquaintances become one more contact point to push toward achieving our goals, but removes the personal connection, the humanity and the honest communication out of the way to achieve goals that you think are important now, but may not remember or care about 5 years, or even one year from now.

This isn't me chastising techies or vilifying the smartphone, just some food for thought that I think we should all consider if we want the advent of high-technology to be a positive thing that improves humanity, not in efficiency, but in clear, compassionate communication.

Failing to keep this in mind could see a day when the average person is nothing more than a fleshy robot drone completing tasks from a list assigned to their smartphone by a cold and indifferent employer. 

Personally, I'd like to get a new case for my smartphone, one that's bigger than a breadbox and bolted to the wall with the smart phone embedded in the middle. This case would be made of wood, and have a listening horn on one end and a mouth piece on a cord, just like an old antique phone. Of course, it would have more modern touch tone buttons, because no-one wants to go back to the rotary dial. Once or twice a day I might open the case to view any digital communications sent, but other than that, it would only ring when someone calls and I am under no obligation to answer every time it rings. 

That would be nice. I'd probably get a lot more actual work and art done. 

One can dream.

In the meantime, here's some art I did!


Thanks for reading,

Mike

What Can Be Done About Floppy Comics?

Article / 05 November 2020

If you have more than a passing interest in the comics industry, such as myself, you are probably aware of the maelstrom of conflict that the comic industry has been in 2020. Corona hit the comics industry particularly hard, disrupting shipping, publishing and release dates. The temporary shut down of distribution, crippling many businesses. The backlashes against DC Comics for their involvement in creating a new distributor or Diamond for being a monopoly with questionable concern for their clientele. A nerdy shitstorm if you will.

Lots of people have weighed in with different ideas, theories and blame, aimed at different figures and businesses throughout the industry. Well, since I'm a people too, and I might just have a couple of decades of experience in this industry, I might add my two cents and maybe give an insight into some possible resolutions that may not have been thought of.

First, let's all agree that comics is no longer the core of the business. What were once comic shops are now really pop culture and collectible stores, and have been for a long time. When comics publishers were just that, comic publishers, and not owned by media conglomerates, comics were the core of the business. That's all they did. They did it well and a successful comic book from a major publisher could sell 500,000 copies on the stands. Today, a successful comic book from a major publisher sells 20,000-50,000 copies. 150,000 copies is a run away success. In most cases, discounting advertising revenue, a comic book publisher is lucky if they are clearing $50,000 profit on any issue. I don't think it's any surprise that this has happened gradually, after all the comic publishers that were comic publishers were bought up by media conglomerates. Comic books are no longer the core of the business and haven't been for a long time. The comics are on the verge, possibly already there, of being an advertising expense. 

Objectively, imagine you are the head of a multi-media monopoly that owns the rights to a prominent character. The production of a monthly comic book has stresses, headaches, time invested, unreliability of talent and at the end of it all you might bring in $50,000 for the company at the end of the day. If you are lucky. In contrast, movie and television projects, based on the same character, have a track record of bringing in multiple millions, even billions of dollars, for little to no headache or effort from the rights holder (in this example I assume the movie rights are licensed to a separate studio, in some cases, like Marvel, a different branch of the same company produces the movie but have similar expense and profitability scales). So if your job is to exploit these characters and intellectual properties to make the company profit, what's the better option? A comic that may make $50,000 or a film that takes less effort on your part and brings in $50 million?

The truth of the matter is that the characters and intellectual properties are much more valuable now than the actual comics that they star in. Part of this may be because of the shift in focus, from a dedicated editorial team trying to craft the best stories possible, to a corporate board who see the character as a profitable asset to be exploited. If this troubles you, perhaps you could take solace in the fact that if comics collapse and disappear tomorrow, the characters will live on. With this shift of focus and direction among the major publishers after being bought out, it's no surprise that comics have gotten less attention than more valuable delivery channels and slowly fallen by the wayside. At this point the comics barely generate enough revenue to even be worthy of notice to mega-corporate organizations. The comic book sales are not what made these companies attractive to media companies who bought them. Media companies buy comic book companies because the intellectual property is more profitable when exploited, licensed and merchandised to the hilt. 

The fact is, even merchandising such as toys, posters, costumes, t-shirts etc. is more profitable than producing the monthly comic book. 

Now that all these properties are being closely guarded by corporate giants, their biggest fear is that the weirdoes on the creative team of the comic will produce some kind of crazy story that will get negative press and damage the value of the intellectual property. So, the mega media overlords, like an overgrown fanboy, keep all the characters protectively sealed in mylar, to preserve their value. No major changes, no controversy, no touchy subjects and if we do tempt the fates and teeter on the edge of such things, we undo it in the next storyline as quickly as possible, as it if never happened.

Sounds like a fun creative situation, right?

Added into the mix of this is the recent upheaval at DC Comics and the rumors of an on-again, off-again, cancelled, re-vamped project that allegedly would have seen DC's major heroes stepping aside for a new generation of characters to take over the mantle of their heroic duties.

And of course people lost their minds at the idea that Bruce Wayne might be replaced...and by a black man instead of Robin. Oh the horror. 

The shame of it is, that is what DC is good at. For decades, they were a company known for legacy characters that handed down titles and built a family dynamic and history. I feel fortunate that I grew up in a time when I could follow the adventures of The Flash. Barry Allen was a great character, and then I learned that he wasn't the first Flash, that was Jay Garrick. Then we were introduced to Wally West, Barry Allen's kid nephew who accidentally recreates the lab accident that happened to his uncle, giving him the same powers. We saw Wally grow up, mourn the death of Barry and take over his mantle to become a major hero of his own for a long time and truly step into the role and legacy of the Flash and become the Flash, not Kid Flash pretending to be the Flash. Look at Infinity Inc. A great team book that was entirely based on the idea of family and legacy, tied directly to major DC Properties like the Justice League, Justice Society, etc. 

I've been blogging on comics and working in the industry for 20 years, and I can tell you I was one of the people clamoring for more diversity and inclusion in comics. Since then, some small progresses have been made. Some of those steps have been blatant pandering, just looking to get money out of people who are part of an ethnic minority or alternative lifestyle. 

I think we're beyond the point of needing character change and development, I think we MUST have it if publishers intend to keep selling monthly comics. 

Let's face it, these characters have become engrained in the culture and there is no shortage in demand for content, it just needs to be the right content. 

As I said before, the comics are essentially an advertising expense at this point. Figures show that the comics bring viewers to the movies. Conversely, movies do not always being new readers to the comics and the response of movie-goers becoming comic readers is often inconsistent and unpredictable. It's a strange contradiction until you consider that any interest that the average movie-goer has in the comic content will be directed at the stories that inspired the film, which are often the early issues that may have been published 30-80 years ago. 

There's a simple solution. It could work for any major publisher and save tons of money. Stay with me here...stop making the monthly comics.

At least, stop making the pristine, hermetically sealed cryogenically frozen versions of these characters that can't be sullied by negative press in comic book form. Stop making new stories of these old characters. 

Let me elaborate using Batman and DC Comics as an example (I feel like I'm picking on Batman this week):

DC Comics could stop making new Batman monthly comics tomorrow and not lose any money. In fact they might even save some money. As mentioned his value is in licensing. They could literally just stop making new Batman comics and they could start reprinting single issues in chronological order every month, starting with his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 from May 1939, and they would sell. There is a demand for them. People want to read those stories and in spite of some limited re-prints of key issues, most people don't have access to them. DC could spend the next 80 years reprinting individual issues of Batman on a monthly basis and they would sell and they would never have to pay for new art to be produced again. Alternatively they could collect them into trade paperback graphic novel collections that release every 1-3 months for the next 20 years and still not have to pay for new art. On top of that, whichever method they choose, enough time will have passed that they can reprint the series and then start reprinting all over again from the beginning and fill the demands of a whole new generation. 

Literally if we are being objectively honest, the top 3-4 comic publishers (with some minor caveats such as the fact that Image doesn't own their characters) are at the point where they may never have to generate new comic content again, they have enough content in their massive libraries that they can feasibly and realistically run a business that licenses rights to the characters and continues to just reprint the existing content in perpetuity. 

Where is the room for new comics?

I'm glad you asked. If rights holders want to reinvigorate interest in new comics, they need to take the kid gloves off and let their properties out of their mylar bags. Let them take risks. Let them get dirty. If DC or any other company wanted to revitalize the interest in new comics, something needs to happen. something significant. I'm tired of the circles that Batman and Catwoman go through just to have everything go back to status quo in a few months. 

New comics is a great opportunity to tell new stories, with new talent in new ways. Legacies, reimagining's, and handing over the mantle. New comics are the place for stories of Damien Wayne or Luke Fox or any of the many Robins as Batman. These stories would move on and be firmly set in the present or near-future and feature legacies and descendants of prominent characters in a cohesive DC Universe. 50 years from now people could be discussing their favorite Batman alter ego the same way they discuss their favorite Bond actors. 

These comics could also be produced on a monthly basis, but wouldn't have to be, freeing them of the obligation of monthly scheduling. These characters could be featured in mini-series or original graphic novels instead. With hype, marketing departments and the tremendous vault of re-printable content, DC could still produce Batman related content with a new release published every month, just not numbered or presented as a monthly ongoing series. The beauty is that when you are done reprinting 80 years worth of comics, the new material that you produced in parallel can then be added to the end of the reprint content and reprinted all over again.

Reprinting the classics and switching up the new comics would also give creative talent more freedom to experiment with new ideas and interpretations. It would be a great space to also try out wholly new characters that the overlords may not be as protective of. 

All it would really take for any major comics property holder to implement this is the right person who can respect and control the properties while implementing a sensible publishing plan for reprints and new content together, without becoming obsessed with just cranking out new content or balking at reprinting controversial stories that might cause a dip in profits.

I mean, that's my solution anyway, I've read lots online that I don't feel work as well, but I'm all ears if you've got one. 

Meanwhile, here's some art that I did!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Why the Public Domain is Important

Article / 03 November 2020

Though you may have heard talk of the public domain and possibly even public domain reform, many people aren't sure exactly what the term Public Domain means and what it entails. I'm going to take this opportunity to attempt my own explanation, as accurate to my knowledge as possible. 

Most often, the idea of Public Domain is demonstrated with the idea that when a creative work or artistic production has existed for a given period of time, that it becomes entrenched in the very fabric of cultural identity and considered a "public property" that anyone can use as they wish. Reprint, remix, redesign, revamp, reuse, reboot, reinterpret freely and without any need to pay royalties or licensing fees to someone. 

Some prime examples are this short list of characters that I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard of:

Dracula

Peter Pan

Frankenstein

Sherlock Holmes

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Alice in Wonderland

Snow White

The Wizard of Oz

and many more. 

The issues facing modern public domain are mostly political. 

Large corporations that own vast libraries of intellectual properties don't want to risk their profit potential by allowing the characters that they currently control to enter the public domain. 

So, these large entertainment conglomerates like Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros., Sony, etc. Hire lobbyist. These lobbyists publicly claim to be fighting for the IMPORIVEMENT of public domain laws and claim to be pushing for changes that will improve the rights of artists and creators, when in reality it is a smoke screen to push through changes that continue to protect the interests of corporate America and keep moving the goal-post as to what criteria have to be met in order for a property to enter the public domain. 

The prime culprit is the public domain calculation that looks like this: Life of artist + 70 years = Entry into public domain. So in this case, as the current law stands, a work cannot enter the public domain until after the creator has been dead for 70 years. In the last hundred years, corporate lobbyists have pushed to extend this term from 50 years and before that, 30, and they will keep pushing to extend that term as long as possible, because entertainment media wants to have full control of an intellectual property without allowing anyone else to use it as long as possible. 

The biggest and most glaringly hypocritical abuser of this is Disney. A company that built it's empire on public domain characters and refuses to allow it's few original creations to enter the public domain. 

The reasons that people accept and go along with this, even get duped into believing that these corporate interests are the same as theirs are two-fold. The first idea is that by creating an original character, you can provide a life of idle luxury to your descendants (This is a rare enough occurrence to be considered delusional). The other is that when a character enters the public domain, it is no longer profitable and its potential value drops. 

Has there been any shortage of successful and profitable movies, shows, games and books based on Dracula, Robin Hood, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland and more? No. In fact, these projects are technically cheaper to produce because they don't need to pay royalties to the original creators. 

Public domain properties are experiencing more popularity and profitability for major studios than ever before, but they want you to believe that your characters will be worthless if they enter the public domain. 

On top of that, the machinations of corporate legal teams are not above filing trademark claims on public domain characters, just to tie up the character in legal knots and allow their corporate clients to control it and milk profits a little bit longer. These and other dishonest deeds keep some characters tied up that should already be in the public domain such as:

Winnie the Pooh

Batman

Superman

Bugs Bunny

Mickey Mouse

The Human Torch

The Lone Ranger

Zorro

The Phantom

and many more. 

The hypocrisy of these studios that build castles on public domain characters and use that money to keep their own characters out of the public domain is glaring. 

In all honesty, I don't believe any corporate entity should be able to buy intellectual property or use work-for-hire contracts. They should have to license the property from an original creator, a person, who gets royalties. I elaborate on this a bit more in my blog about copyright.

As a creator, I don't think I need 70 years of protection after I die. I don't have children (because I wouldn't sentence another soul to living in this purgatory), but if I did, I would expect that kid to do a little work to support themselves. Even if they capitalized on my name to get attention for their own creative work. We've been seduced into this idea that we can create a character that will keep our decedents living in luxury for generations, which is so unfathomably rare as to be delusional. In most cases, if a property is worth anything it is purchased and then controlled and kept out of the public domain by entertainment companies

For me personally, I think an idea or project that is unsuccessful is perfect for the public domain. Why not let someone else see if they can do something with the idea and build on it?

I for one am looking forward to taking part in Public Domain day, celebrated on January 1st. On this day people celebrate the properties whose 70 year protection has expired and enter the public domain and artists all over the world choose to donate works and characters into the public domain for others to use. 

I also made some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike


Your Grandkid is Weird Because You Sold Out

Article / 21 September 2020

For someone perched right between the boomers and the millennials, I gotta say it’s weird to see the 2 age segments that can learn the most from each other react like oil and water when thrown into the cesspool of the internet. If I’m really being honest and objective, no generation has taken more shit and criticism simply for being who they are than the millennials.

I get it, they’re goofy, but this is what you fought for Boomers; before you gave up, for whatever reason, and decided corporate brands like McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart were reputable members of the community that you trust with your best interests.

As a GenXer, it’s really all I can do to say anything at all. I’d much rather play my typical role of the uncle sitting in a dark corner, hidding my cigarette from the kids and rolling my eyes at how ridiculous the older and younger generations sound when they squabble. Now I’ve gotta put out my smoke and think about how much shit I’m gonna get for telling the kids the dirty secret their Mammy and Pappy have been keeping.

Guys, I grew up as a child of the 80s and 90s. I grew up in a culture where you guys patted your backs and showed off with all of the self-aggrandizing film, and television, and pop culture you could. Media trumpeted about the great achievements you made with the hippy movement, sexual liberation, love and peace and saving the Earth.

What the fuck happened guys? I mean I know something happened between the events glorified on celluloid and when I was born. Before I was old enough to pull my pud, I knew the world that I lived in, did not work the same as the one they lived in. It doesn’t take more than a 5-Year old intellect to put together that if half the back-patting you did about bra-burning, desegregation and defying authority were true, then something must have happened, some sort of compromise, for the world to have changed so much by the time I came along in 1981.

I’m sure we asked when we were kids, maybe once or twice. I vaguely remember maybe being given a half-hearted “I dunno”.

So really, what the fuck happened guys? 

You raised us in a world that worshipped and praised money, fame, power, and violence, while telling us stories that extolled the virtues of austerity, humility, justice and peace. Somehow that also relates to how great of a guy you were for marrying the same lady you fucked in a field at a music festival or peace rally. 

So what finally got to you? Was it just the money? 

What was it that got you started? Did the system break you? Or did they seduce you with the promise of a better life than the one you had?

I mean something happened.

Maybe it doesn’t matter where it started if you still have the ability to look back and see it.

HOW DID THE GENERATION THAT FOUGHT TO SAVE THE PLANET BECOME THE GENERATION FIGHTING TO KILL IT?

Really. How did the generation that started Earth day become pro-coal? How did the generation that praised peace and love become the first one to broadcast bombings in foreign countries on live television?  How did the generation of free live become anti-gay?

Listen. I get maybe you’re insecure because deep in your subconscious you’ve been waiting to be called on your bullshit, and you resent that kind of judgement from someone that is your junior and you therefore perceive as having less life experience than you.

Guess what, they don’t have less life experience than you. Since you decided to give up your fight and accept the gnawing embrace of corporate capitalism into your lives, every generation after has been paying it forward, so that you can be comfortable. Boomers, we have more in common with your parentsthan you do. A financial system that is stacked against you has a way of making a person more frugal and have to make more sacrifices just to make due with less.

I like to think of it that way anyway and not some other way; like whatever the compromise you made was, has turned you into a bloodthirsty vampire, siphoning off of your subsequent generations to pad your retirement fund.

But that’s what happened.

In our lifetime, Genx has seen the cost of most things increase 400%. I’m not kidding. And it doesn’t make sense. It well exceeds the natural rate of inflation. Books, cars, houses, gasoline...it’s real easy to see. What causes artificial inflation like that?

Greed. Human greed. And guess what? It’s not going to the average working class person. All that extra inflation money went to senior staff, upper management, members of the board. The old boys.

As you slowly siphoned off the money in the wage pool that your kids would have been able to use for a down payment on a house, you justified it to yourself, saying that it was a small shortfall, your kids would have plenty of time later in life to work hard and make up the difference. It would be like it never happened.

After awhile you kinda got used to the taste of that extra lettuce, and with the way inflation and increased prices are going, you might just have to grab the rest of that wage pool money yourself. You took care of them so long, but you can’t take care of them if you don’t take care of yourself. Besides, that money will be so much more meaningful and make them much happier if YOU GIVE it to them.

Before you know it, 90% of your generation has spent the house fund for the kids on expensive toys and entertainment and you’re working 60 hours per week, demanding a larger and larger salary than your underlings, and justifying that your grandkids work full time and have to use the food bank, but it builds character and they can have your money when you die.

Hell, if the retirement bonus is big enough, you can dump whatever you want wherever you want. It takes like 100 years for those chemicals to show up, and we’ll have figured out a better cleaning and disposal method by then, I’m sure.

Except that last gamble didn’t pay off and your descendants are soon going to turn their gaze on you and ask you to explain why you would poison the planet that they have to keep living on after you, even as they watch that planet die. But nature’s resilient right? Feel free to choose any other cliche’d saying to help you sleep at night if you don’t like that one.

Now, I just want to take a moment to say; some of you Boomers are also the sarcastic uncle or aunt who sits in the corner smiling and trying not to laugh as they thoroughly enjoy witnessing us give our parents shit. We see you and we’re cool. This message isn’t directed at you. We know that you know the old “do as I say, not as I do” routine has gotten a little tired.

But really. What amount was it? A huge raise and we’re okay with polluting rivers? A decent holiday bonus, and it’s not so hard to look the other way when they burn a rainforest? How much did it take to make it okay to fill the ocean with plastic?

I mean for god sake, you raised us on tales of glorious tree huggers who just want to save the planet, all the while placating us with sugar and saturated fats so we wouldn’t pay attention too long and ask uncomfortable questions.

Well guess what? 

The truth comes out no matter how deep you bury it in potato chips and Sunny D.

The one good thing that came out of it was an idea. Hope. Hope that things could change and that another opportunity would come for people to stand up against the tyranny of an oppressive system and push back. Beyond that, and even more than that, maybe we could actually make a small sliver of that imaginary utopia real for our kids, simply by being tolerant and not trying to force them into the molds that you were forced into.

Your parents may have told you how to dress, think, act and love, but we’re not doing that to our kids.

My generation grew up talking about being confused about who we were, in large part due to the mindfuck of the mixed messages coming from you Boomers, lauding your advancements in enlightenment while calling for the blood of Saddam Hussein with childish glee.

We’re not here to call you out on the hypocrisy, but we just want to make it clear ahead of time that we will always shield our children from you, as long is there is a chance it will make them happier.

Now they’ve decided that they’d like to save the planet, and we’d appreciate if you’d get out of the way  so that they can finish what you started. No judgement. We’re not even going to push for you to explain this drastic 50-year long reversal of position.

At the end of the day, even if climate change isn’t real, why are you fighting people who want to protect the planet that you live on? You told us to listen to the children, because they’re our future. Okay, so LISTEN TO THEM!

No, I don’t want a same sex relationship, to dress as a furry, eat avocado toast or want a 3 foot rainbow mohawk, but if they do, why not let them? If they are healthy, happy decent people trying to make the world a better place, why try to make them behave differently? It’s not hurting anyone and they don’t need to ask your permission anyway, so why insert yourself?

Stop getting sucked into all the bullshit and just get out of the way if you can’t pitch in and help clean up this mess.

Also, here's some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Advice on how to determine who you should vote for.

Article / 16 September 2020

As the looming federal election down in the U.S. crawls into the very near future and campaigning begins here in Canada, it occurs to me that there are probably a lot of people out there like me, who feel that voting is important, aren’t decided on who they will vote for and also feel that all politicians are full of shit. Agendas, parties and policies can be a minefield to intellectually navigate, so here are a few things that I think about when I choose who deserves my vote.

1. When they share stories, speak publicly or debate, do they say “I” or “we”, when they talk about solving problems? Do they brag about past achievements and talk about how they will single handedly fix major issues, or do they talk about how colleagues, partnerships, bi-partisan projects, and public will work together to resolve issues and improve conditions for the people that they govern?

It’s my theory that a candidate that refers to the self and “I” more frequently than “we” my be motivated more by power, awards and accolades. They want bragging rights and to top the previous thing on thier list of achievements. Someone like that will devote little attention to solving the problems of the average person unless they can somehow leverage the situation to further benefit themselves. Conversely, someone who says “we” may have the wisdom and maturity to understand that there are oroblems and that it will take hard work and co-operation to make things better.


2. Any candidate that uses smear tactics, or tries to rally followers into violence and hate, is manipulating others for their own benefit. I don’t believe naturally occurs in humans. I certainly don’t believe hate organizes naturally on its own. If it did, we never would have survived this long. The variety of colors and races African and Eurasian continents would have all killed each other dead before anyone could have discovered the new world. Our ancestors had to have been tolerant of each other, or they wouldn’t have survived. Yes of course there was racism and war, but I don’t believe the sentiment that humans are naturally predisposed to war or that humanity has always been at war since the dawn of time. In order for someone to want to organize and create a group or movement based on hate, they must at least partially exist outside of that demographic psychologically before they can recognize it as a trait that they can use for their own benefit. If the organizer believed in the cause or had the same hate, they wouldn’t need to use someone else’s hate to advance their agenda, because they would use their own and they wouldn’t be afraid of speaking up independently. The person who organizes the hate group or hate rally has to have a mindset that recognizes the hate in others as an asset they don’t have, that’s why they need them. The organizer is a manipulator who need to take advantage of the actions of their followers because it will somehow benefit the organizer. It’s the actions of the followers that benefit the organizer when they purposely whip people up into foaming anger. No one who uses and manipulates people that way is looking out for the interests of others. Their behavior has already shown that they made the decision to put profit before morality or ideology. If you follow someone who preaches hate you are being duped. Don’t vote for someone who hates the same people as you, choose the person that you genuinely feel will work to make the quality of your daily life and that of your loved ones better.


3. Any candidate pushing a pro-military action is not to be trusted. War is real, war is serious and war costs people’s lives. Someone who fully understands the gravity of this does not use the gamble of those lives as a bargaining chip to win an election. The decision to go to war should be solemn and respectful, not a marketing campaign. I truly believe that humanity has come to the point where we are intelligent enough that any problems between countries, nations, groups, etc. can be resolved with negotiation and mediation. As long as both sides are willing to talk and voice grievances openly, communication and negotiation can always be used to solve a dispute. No more of this always having someone jump in and say “but what if they do this...” to try to undermine the point. We’re not five yars old any more. Clearly if one party demands the extermination, persecution or confinement of the other party, they aren’t being reasonable or negotiating in good faith. Yes, there will always be leaders who for one reason or another feel the need to prove status or be unreasonable, but when someone is like that, negotiations would stop and the issue would be forwarded to the U.N. There the nation members could make decisions about sanctions, aid relief, limiting trade, etc. as tactics to pressure the unreasonable party to reconsider and come back to the negotiation table with more reasonable demands. If not, only when all other options have been exhausted should the UN consider sending in military or peace keeping forces. This process should be respected and not condone direct nation-to-nation conflict and should never be used to weaken, take over, or otherwise take advantage of smaller or weaker countries, but only begin in the case of a dispute between two separate countries, a border issue or a human rights issue. With all that in mind, I don’t think any candidate pushing for war fully understands these things and just believes a military is a tool for them to bully others and take what they want. That’s also someone who doesn’t care about your well being.


So those are my thoughts anyway. Yadda yadda yadda, you may not agree and that’s okay.

Here’s some of my recent art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

We have what may be the first, last and only civilized option NOW!

Article / 13 September 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world in general lately, ever since this whole worldwide mindfuck known as the ‘Rona started.

I’ve made it pretty clear on here that I don’t have faith in the current system and that it will collapse under the current and prolonged stresses and pressures that the system will be under. I think everyone underestimated the side-effects and fallout of grinding an economy being run by incompetents and criminals to a halt.

I believe that to be true no matter what side of the argument you are on. Real or hoax.  Mask or no mask. Liberal or conservative. Act of God or Conspiracy. Regardless, I think human ego severally caused us to misjudge humanity's ability to maintain a society under the systems we currently have. We miscalculated. Now we are just stuck in a corner unable to do anything but wait and watch the collapse caused by our mistakes.

I believe that same human ego, something that each one of us may be biologically prone to,  has caused us to over-estimate the strength of our systems and their ability to cope with the pressures that the leaders of our civilization have chosen to put them under.

So, I believe the system is going to collapse eventually anyway. I don’t believe that trying to go back to the way things worked pre-corona is going to work.

So, I believe, that we, as a society, can turn this into an opportunity, possibly the only time it will happen in history.

I think that if we, as a society, work together instead of letting our disagreements and differences divide us, can build a new system together without having to destroy the old one.

Essentially instead of tearing down and burning everything before we rebuild, which is how every civilization has been built before, including ours, we can be smart and civilized enough to recycle and repurpose what is left of the old system in a fair and measured manner. 

I think that if we want to avoid a collapse that includes a societal division resulting in a civil war in countries such as ‘Murica, we need to work together now and stop fighting with everyone on social media about differences in opinion.

We need to talk with each other, in a productive nature, to plan, discuss and figure out how we can make a new system that allows the basics of human rights to everyone and how we might reallocate resources, retrain those whose jobs may be affected, repurpose public property, and a number of other things that we would need to do if we wanted to be the first society in history built in civilized and compassionate manner, an approach that would focus on building and repurposing instead of destruction. 

Maybe we are the first civilization that has reached the point of simultaneous intelligence and enlightenment that we are capable of working together to create a new civilization that acknowledges the past without clinging to it, where every person treats every other person with an equal level of dignity and respect.

It might sound crazy, but if the alternative is watching society collapse as your friends and neighbors fight each other in the streets over differences in opinion, maybe it’s worth considering?

Also, here’s some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

It’s okay to be angry

Article / 11 September 2020

Okay, so I know we all try not to carry around negativity and anger in our lives, but sometimes circumstances occur that make anger the only sane response.

I’m mad. I’m mad at the state of the world. I mad that, if you say anything and speak out, there’s a perception that you’ll be labelled with the social stigma of being a crazy or conspiracy nut.

I’m mad, that I spent 30 years chasing dreams, reaching goals and developing skills, only to have the society that I developed those skills within crumble around me. I commited to chasing my dreams in a world where I expected that civilization would still exist once I felt confident enough to call myself a professional.

Had I known that the people steering the ship were criminally incompetent or corrupt or both, I would have had to choose a different path. When a person decides to follow their dreams, it’s because they believe that the people in charge of the basic infrastructure of society are competent enough to keep it running for the foreseeable future. In my lifetime, that’s how society has always worked. It doesn’t anymore. I love my life and don’t regret my choices, I just can’t help but feel like if I had known how bad things would get, if I’d foreseen society moving backward, maybe I would have tried to get involved in law enforcement, law, government, humanitarianism or politics or something else that would have improved the world in some way. 

I’m trying not be to resentful or negative about the world, but I don’t understand how everyone else in the world doesn’t seem to notice society crumbling around them, while I want to write an apology letter to future generations. I don’t know, it it just me?

I also made some art!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

My name is Mike Gagnon, and I do not want to be the next President (or Prime Minister)

Article / 06 September 2020

As the title states, I’m Mike and I don’t want to be the next President. Since I live in Canada, I can’t. We have a Prime Minister, but let’s be real, I don’t ever expect to be a running contender for that either.

In reality, I don’t want to be President or Prime Minister or any other title with a similar job description.

To be honest, I don’t think the job should exist. I’m not just talking about “THE PRESIDENT”, though the last few years of events with my neighbours to the south are an excellent example of why.

I’m going to do my best to keep this shortish.

I think the entire system of a single decision making/ruling figurehead should be abolished.

That right, I said it: The Presidency should be abolished.

Here’s why:

When the idea of a presidency was created, it was very fine and valid for the people of the time. In an unconnected world, the decree of one ruler can only have an effect on so many lives. Things moved so slowly that it took a long time for negative effects to spread.

Today is not the same. When the presidency was created we didn’t have the internet, or a 24/7 media cycle,...or nuclear weapons.

Let’s set aside the big red button issue for a minute and simply talk about what can happen when a person who may not be mentally sound is given such a level of power that their choices have direct effect and repercussions on the life and prosperity of millions of people.

Just look at how life in America (and North America) has changed since Trump took office. Crashed economy, joblessness, racial unrest, murder in the streets, and so on and so on.

Much of this, if not created by Trump, has certainly been exacerbated and encouraged by him.

Thanks to reach of things like media and social media, the world learns news much faster than just 20 years ago, and much faster than 50 years ago, and so do the negative effects of a despots choices.

No one person should have the power to negatively impact the lives of millions on a whim.

Honestly, I don’t see the point of the position any more. If we are actually interested in making sure everyone is represented and included, developed nations should be ruled by senate. Basically the same way a senate works now, (each state/province/region votes locally for a candidate to represent the interests of their area as part of the federal senate, usually located in a nation’s capital)

There is no reason that the choices and duties of a president can’t replaced with a majority vote in the senate. Eliminate the VP position too obviously, and increase the security of each senator and have access to a community bunker for emergencies. 

Turn the White House into a museum and have it generate income from tours etc. (Basically the way it does now, but with exhibits like “the oval office”.)

This also makes it much harder for any foreign or domestic terrorist to assassinate your leader, too.

But beyond that, in a world with nuclear weapons, no ruler of a developed nation should have access to launch a nuclear attack on a whim. 

You can’t tell me that Trump is the kind of person who should have access to nuclear weapons (guys, if he doesn’t launch ‘em, he’ll probably sell ‘em). There’s been clear evidence that he is not stable and is not the kind of person you let play with any kind of weapon, if nothing else then to protect themselves and those around them.

The world hasn’t gotten fully up and running from the Corona lockdown yet, so there is no better time than now to take action and cause a major shift, as well as systematic change.

Regardless of which party to support it’s time to take action. If you’re a Senator or in a senior position of power, you need to be working together to approve having the secret service forcibly remove him to confinement for psychiatric assessment, then you can start working together to help implement a senate system with minimal disruption to society. Then you can work on healing America and lifting it’s international status back to previous levels.

Rule-by-Senate isn’t communism or socialism, nor is it anti-democratic, it’s just a better system for managing a large and powerful society in a modern age.

Also, here’s some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

To be honest, I don’t want to work for an employer that checks Facebook first.

Article / 03 September 2020

I know humanity is stuck in this “replace religion with technology worship” phase that we may never move forward from, but I don’t like the trend of employers checking social media and online presence of applicants before hiring.

Whether on social media or my blog, I’m expressing myself and my opinions are my own. My beliefs and how I spend my free time away from the job are mine and up to me. These things should not affect my hirability.

The excuse is, that the business wants to protect it’s reputation and in these ever prevalent web connected times, businesses can’t afford to be associated with someone that might create a scandal.

I call bullshit on that.

Not that there can be a potential scandal based on who you are associated with, but that the value of that risk and the preservation of your businesses reputation is more valuable than my right to exist publicly as a human being with my own individual set of thoughts and feelings. Sorry, potential scandal is a risk of doing business and I shouldn’t have to worry that some petty issue makes me a less attractive candidate.

I don’t care who you are or what you business is, I shouldn’t have to censor myself in regards to what I say about important issues or add explanations to defend myself. 

I shouldn’t have to worry that if I write about my anxiety, that a potential client or employer will be apprehensive to hire me because I might be crazy.

The surface excuse is always innocuous or exagerrated: “We just wanna get a feel for your personality” or “we just wanna make sure you’re not a serial killer, ha ha”, but there is way, WAAAAY, too much potential for abuse and misuse. Apply somewhere that a hiring manager has opposing political views? You don’t get called. Have opposing viewpoints on legalizing marijuana? Resume in the trash. Hated the newest movie that helped them through an emotional time in their lives? You get the picture.

And those were trivial, yet feasibly realistic examples. What about the hot-button issues of society, such as race, religion, gender, identity & lifestyle, etc.?

I believe in freedom of speech. I believe that every person deserves dignity, justice and respect. I believe that everyone deserves these things regardless of race, religion, color, gender, sexual preference, gender identity or anything else. Of course there are always going to be extreme aberrations that require a legal system to solve crimes or issues, but just bringing up “well what if this person did this...” does not negate the fact that we still need to have respect and equality for others in order to thrive as a society. It’s okay to be skeptical, but why don’t we just try it and see if respect and dignity for our fellow man doesn’t reduce that number of extreme exception that happen?

If there is any employer that is offended by those personal beliefs, I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

Btw, I did some art today:


Thanks for reading,

Mike Gagnon