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Community Spotlight: More Fun Comics, Talking Shop With DC


 

It is one of the first chilly days in a New Orleans November when I arrive at More Fun Comics, known to many of its loyal customers as “DC comics”. The iconic owner, DC has been embroidered in its rich tapestry of comics and graphic novels of any themes and subject matter imaginable. This is the “slow part of the day,” which still includes a respectable, steady flow of patrons drifting in, asking this sensei of fandom his advice, which he gives in much enthusiastic detail. His clients find what they are looking for and they leave carrying their findings happily out the door, bound for some great reading time.

I sit down to get to know more about DC, this local fixture and go to guy for anything and everything comic and graphic novel related, including honest feedback regarding recently released film adaptations of these beloved publications.

Margaret: How long have you been running More Fun Comics?

DC: Since about 2001.

M: Awesome. Has it always been at this location (Oak St)?

DC: Yes.

M: Do you have a preference for graphic novels or comics?

DC: If you’re asking if I prefer, like, the periodical format versus a collected edition I don’t really have one, but it depends on the book. I know that there’s a convenience factor for the collected edition because they go on your bookshelf. Some books are written in long form, and to be a true graphic novel it has to come out in that form. Other things that are called graphic novels are just collections of monthly books. It’s like if we were talking about music, it would be like asking if you like singles or albums, and of course the answer would probably be, it depends. It also depends on if it was originally meant to be in long form, sometimes it’s better to just wait until it’s collected. For instance, Watchman is known as a graphic novel, but originally it came out as a series of issues, but it was written to be read in long form.

M: What, in your opinion, are some of the best movie adaptations of comics or graphic novels?

DC: A Road to Perdition was really good. Do you mean as far as being true to the book, or my overall favorites? Because some of my favorites didn’t resemble the comic at all (laughs). I really liked Scott Pilgrim. Some people hated it, but I thought it was done really well, it was different and they collaborated with O’Malley while they were filming it. In fact, he hadn’t even finished the series when they started filming it, so they had to write the last chapter as they were writing the script for the movie.

M: Wow, that’s crazy.

DC: I think a lot of them fail when they try to stick too closely to the book. There are exceptions of course, but I think when they attempt to translate the actual page and text onto a movie screen it feels empty.

M: How did you feel about Unbreakable?

DC: I love Unbreakable.

M: How would you articulate the difference in experience between reading the comic and watching the movie?

DC: Comic writers get in your head and in your imagination. When you’re sitting passively in a movie theater, having everything thrown at you, the music, the dialogue, the costumes, the actors, the pacing, everything is done for you. When you watch a movie, it’s a very passive experience. Whereas reading a comic book is a more active participatory experience, since you control the pace and your imagination has to fill in all the missing pieces.

M: That’s true. So is that what drew you to More Fun Comics?

DC: I started working here because I needed a job (laughs). But I’ve loved comics my entire life and I had an aptitude for it, so I just sort of fell into it. But it’s amazing that I’m surrounded by, things that I love and I have conversations about things that I love and I meet people that I like. So I probably worked a lot harder to keep this place going than I would have if I was mixing cement for a living.

Margaret: Absolutely, it seems like a very fun job.

DC: It had nothing to do with having an idea and a passion for comics and then wanting to go after it, it was all circumstance, amazing circumstance.

M: Have you ever attempted to write a comic or graphic novel of your own?

DC: I know far too many people that are outstanding at it. I am a musician. I play music. I’ve written songs, I’ve worked in film, and written some scripts, but I feel like if I can genuinely contribute something original and have a voice I’ll do it. But comics is something that I just.. Well, I’m an appreciator of comics, not a creator.

M: So what are a few of your all-time favorite series and why?

DC: All time favorite series? Camelot 3,000 was very formative for me in the eighties. It was not a wholly original idea, but it was one of the first to address, um, I don’t wanna say body dysmorphia, but basically, the story was that the knights of the round table wake up suddenly in the year 3000, and some of them wake up and as different genders.

M: (Laughs) Wow.

DC: (Laughs) Yeah. And it was one of the first to really kind of dig into that and I thought they handled it very well. When I was a kid I was big Green Lantern/Green Arrow guy. I would not miss an issue. I forced my mom to drive to every corner store and gas station with a comic book rack until I found that month’s issue.

M: It seems like a lot of comics have what some would consider shocking scenarios for lack of a better term, is there any kind of governing body that prevents comics from saying certains things or expressing certain ideas?

DC: Yeah, it was called the comics code, and it was a big deal because there’s a whole long list of things comic writers couldn’t do.

M: Like the FCC?

DC: It was very similar to the FCC only it was imposed by Fiat, by the government until one day in the early seventies, Marvel and DC both decided that they had a story about a drug addiction. I mean “Speedy”, the Green Arrow’s sidekick was a drug addict. And there was also a Spiderman issue where he was investigating drug use because he was afraid of the effect it was going to have on kids. And there are still ratings today but they have changed a lot. I mean, obviously, there are some that are more adult, some that are all ages and some they have rated T for teens. They still do that, but, but it’s, it’s a self-imposed restriction, not a government imposed restriction like it used to be.

M: So people can buy their kids more adult comics at their discretion of course?

DC: I always tell parents that, hey, you know your kid, your 10-year-old might be different from other 10-year-olds. Your 12-year-old might be different than other12-year-olds. I recommend that you take a look through the book, put yourself in their shoes. Because it’s not like 10 is a, is an exact marker of what their comprehension level is, what their ability to handle complex story-lines is gonna be. So I just say, look, you know, your kid, I recommend you look through these. I’ll throw you some recommendations to narrow it down. I believe being a very active parent is important.

M: Absolutely. But some kids are going to get their hands on things they probably shouldn’t anyway.

DC: Yeah, I was sneaking like Mad Magazine, like far too young, like they’re going to come across this stuff, especially now with the Internet and everything. I remember one time when I was about 10 years old, I wanted a Mad Magazine from the grocery store and my mom said you’re not old enough for that yet. I’m like, I’ve been reading this for years! (Laughs)

M: I remember my dad asking the Major Video staff for advice on what’s appropriate and what’s not. What are some of the comic slash graphic novel based movies you feel least lived up to their full potential?

DC: Watchmen.

M: Really?

DC: I don’t even have to think about that one (laughs). Yeah.

M: How would you have done it differently?

DC: Uh, well I would have followed the story. I wouldn’t have changed the ending. I wouldn’t have gotten the entire point of the movie wrong! (Cursing Snyder). If you look at all these Marvel movies or even the new DC Universe movies, there’s no comic I could point you to that it’s going to tell you what happens in them. They’re based on characters and events and you’re taking 40 to 80 years of comic book history and trying to put it into a three-hour movie. There was a series for Marvel called Civil War that they used the themes from but did not follow the storyline. So I can’t really say. But then again, you’ve got things like Sin City where they literally just used the actual comic as a storyboard and the script is a direct translation and almost an academic study in doing that. In the case of Watchman, they were you trying to exactly replicate a panel from the comic book but then they got the point of the story wrong. I think you either need to do an adaptation or stick to the original idea because if you betray the story I think you lose.

M: That seems to be one of the main frustrations for a lot of fans of the original series.

DC: I mean, the point of that is, in a world where there are real superheroes, you wouldn’t read superhero comics, right? You’d read adventure comics and real-life comics because you don’t need superheroes comics because the real, it wouldn’t be interesting.

M: If you could go back in time and smack someone who totally botched a series who would it be and why?

DC: John Byrne!!! There was this big deal that John Byrne was coming back to do Wonder Woman and I was so into that. I mean, Diana was an ambassador, and she had an office, and then she had a Minotaur for a cook, and then she had this contest where she had to go back to fight for the right to be Wonder Woman in a man’s world again. But she lost, and then Artemis was Wonder Woman, but she was still the Ambassador. It was great. It WAS. It felt grounded in the real world. I remember thinking this feels like it’s really got weight to it. And then John Byrne comes back and the first issue he does she’s like fighting a tyrannosaur or something again, like fighting dinosaurs and you’re like, man, you just had this great run going here where you were bringing the mainstream DC audience into what felt like was only was going on in like maybe Vertigo and I don’t mean by fantastical. I just mean like it felt weighty. And then all of a sudden it just becomes a fanciful again, which is fine. I have no problem with that, but that was, for me personally, one of the biggest disappointments, because John Byrne is great. We love John Byrne. But him coming back to Wonder Woman, just, lost a lot of momentum on that one.

M: What are some of your favorite comic book protagonists and villains?

DC: Oh, Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan for sure. Um, Yorick Brown from The Last Man, I guess he’s, he’s, he’s a funny one. Uh, gosh, The Sculptor, the Scott McCloud book. I think that’s one of the finest examples of a comic book “mic drop” you can get. Uh, gosh, that’s a tough one, there are so many great ones. Obviously Jesse Custer, I mean you’ve seen my lighter (laughs).

M: What are some of your favorite themes?

DC: Any crisis event in DC is such a great conceit to have built into that universe. Any crisis event is really enjoyable for me. What seems to drive people to write comic books. And this goes for everything from like true life comics, to activism comics, to adventure, is, ‘how do I find my place? I know I have all of these powers, but where do I fit in, how do I find my place?’ And that that’s true of everybody. I think that every individual thinks that they have some unique superpower, and they do to some extent right? How much of them wants to fit in, and how much of them wants to remain unique?

M: Absolutely.

DC: And the whole idea of a secret identity, ‘I can’t let people know who I really am because I will endanger my family and friends and my enemies will come after them.’ It’s all about like, ‘how much of myself can I give, I have these special abilities, how much do I owe it to myself and how much do I owe it to the world?’

M: And that’s why Alfred Pennyworth is the best butler ever.

DC: (Laughs) Yeah, pretty much.

M: So will you tell the readers a little about your band, Clockwork Elvis?

DC: Um, we are an Elvis Presley tribute band, we’re not Elvis impersonators, but we do play Elvis music. We started at the request of the bar that wanted to have an Elvis party. He said, hey, you guys learn some Elvis songs and play my party, I’ll pay you. And we did it and we kept doing it because people kept asking us to do it and we said, okay. It’s a fun band and our next show is at the kingpin on January 12th. We do get a couple of private parties lined up a couple of other events. I also sing Elvis songs with the Krewe of Muses parade. Um, that’s a great honor, they’ve had me be doing that for, I want to say going on 10 years now. We’ve got a list of about 100 songs. I love my audience I truly do, each and every one of them, if you’re reading this, I love all of you.

M: So in closing, is there anything you would like to say to current or future customers and fans of comics and graphic novels around the world?

DC: About every 10 years, there is almost a seismic shift in style and content and tone, and the comic books that survive are the ones that maintain respect for the core of the characters. Right now, there’s a huge backlash against comics that attempt to address certain societal issues like homophobia, racial tensions, things like that, and my stance has always been that if those conversations are going on in the real world, why wouldn’t they be going on in comics? And It’s a good way to get ideas across and I think having read them, that they’re handling it very, very well. They’re not being casual with activism or anything, they’re being very careful, and the stores are very well rounded. But, but the thing is, there’s a whole group of people that are now in their thirties and forties that want comics to be the way they were in the nineties. And I appreciate that, but if you recall, the nineties was all giant guns and huge muscles and every line on the page pointed to someone’s crotch; the early image years, that kind of thing. And that’s all fine, but was sort of a golden age for a lot of stuff. I mean, yes, it’s fun to go back and look at them and great artists and great stories. But it’s not entirely relevant today. And from an artist’s perspective, from a storytelling perspective, from a cultural perspective, you want comic books to evolve. New comics have to stay current.

M: Absolutely, I agree every medium has to, especially one that’s so heavily tied to our imagination and our ideas of the future. Well, this has been absolutely great, getting to pick your brain about comics. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

We goof around a little bit more about heroes, villains, and shared opinions of many kinds before I take my leave, watching the store to fill up behind me. It is a pleasure to share a little banter with DC, and I look forward to other encounters and the lively conversation that comes with them.


Margaret Marley is a regular contributing author for Big Easy Magazine. Be sure to check out her interview with Duke Stewart, as well as her other artist profiles and articles here.

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