Sunday, November 20, 2016

Shift in Focus: Fundraising to Recruitment

Fundraising is an important function of any non-profit, but the Grand Comics Database (GCD) Board of Directors needs to shift their focus from fundraising to recruitment. We have sufficient funds and steady revenue stream to start new projects, but with very few exceptions, we do not have the volunteers to guide long-term efforts from approval to implementation. Our financial picture is solid thanks to Jochen and Ralf for setting up our ad revenue stream. According the the Treasurer’s 3rd Quarter Report for 2016, the GCD has $15,241.44 in its coffers. We have enjoyed a 9% quarterly growth due in large part to our ad revenue. Here is a snapshot to give you an idea of how our financial picture looks for the first three quarters in 2016: Ad Revenue: $4,4825.27 Donations: $1,080.00 Overhead: $1,737.13 As you can see, donations remain an important part of our budget. It covers nearly two thirds of our expenses leaving most of the ad revenue (86%) available to improve the GCD. We’ve accumulated enough to start new projects. Our challenge is recruiting volunteers to effectively lead new projects. Outside of infrastructure upgrades (thank you Andres), we’ve only had two projects with dedicated volunteer project managers. Mike chaired the conventions committee in 2014 which used $2,500 for an outreach project that saw members share their stories and experiences at 27 conventions and shows across North America and Europe. Don’s work to develop the creator tables and integrate Jerry Bails’s Who’s Who database provides a much better example of the persistence a dedicated project manager provides the GCD. He took the lead in finding and working with a vendor to deliver software (at $4,837.64) to make this long time project a reality. Don continues to spearhead the effort to implement this code. It is no small task and requires a great deal of commitment. The project manager doesn’t do it alone. Our membership has proven time and again the willingness to contribute. Over 25 people participated in the 2014 convention project, and Don has received assistance from several volunteers for his project. The GCD has an ambitious goal with plenty projects on the books. Fundraising is going well. We’ve increased our ad revenue and donations; we are exploring other non-profit giving opportunities through Guidestar, and we will soon have two online stores through Red Bubble and Land’s End. Our volunteers are passionate and generous. They have wide range of talents and skills, and they’ve demonstrated a willingness to lend a hand. We have the money and people, so I encourage the Board focus on ways to recruits a few more long-term volunteers to turn our great ideas into concrete results.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

From the Chair: We are a non-profit

I was recently elected Chairman to the Board of Directors. I am ready for the challenges and look forward to working with each of you.  I posted the following to the Board of Directors to provide them (and you) with a look at how I will be approaching the next year. Look for more from here right here on the GCD Blog.

We are a nonprofit organization. We rely on the talents, time and generosity of volunteers, but we operate using the best practices of nonprofit management. There are many different web sites, books and forums that provide organizations like ours with suggestions, guidelines, and recommendations. We aren't going to follow any cookie-cutter program or force ourselves to mold into an organization that we are not. We have unique a mission, and we will continue to maintain our identify. We will, however, consider how other nonprofits deal with similar challenges to those that we face.

During my research, I found some simple tips that aligned with my objectives.  You can read the article at, but here are my slightly modified interpretations of those 10 tips for the next year:
  • We will have a clear vision, mission statement, and performance metrics: what are we doing and how will we know we got there?
  • We can say "NO" to good ideas: each proposal must answer the questions of who will do it, what is the schedule and how will it be funded.  
  • Perfection is the enemy of the "good enough: this is a guiding principle of mine in any project I work
  • Work backwards from the finish line: what is the end objective of each effort and let us work together on how to get there from here
  • Remember to K.I.S.S. 
  • Lead from the front: I can't stress enough -- work outside your comfort zone
  • There is no "I" in team: we are a team, and we will accomplish our objectives as a team
  • Under promise and consistently over-deliver: authorize and track projects that we can reasonably deliver
  • Don't forget to take a vacation: seriously, take time to index and do what you love to do.
  • Smile: I strongly encourage you to meet our fans, members, and professionals with enthusiasm and a smile. You are GCD's ambassadors. 

I will make mistakes. I expect be called out, but I am surrounded by some of the best people I know within the GCD. Many of you have a substantial body of work that clearly demonstrate you are willing to do what it takes to advance our objectives.  Very little of what I just said will be any different than what you've already been doing since joining the Board. It still bears mentioning so that you know where I am coming from.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Comics I Learn From, Part One

by Tony R. Rose, ©2014

What do you re-read? Not just once, but what do you go back to again and again to study and analyze? What comics compel you to understand how and why they work? What comics do you go back to to just enjoy over and over? What comics possess the ability to awe you again and again?

I made a list. And here it is, in the order that I thought of them. Which says something but it shouldn't be considered a ranking. I elected to limit myself to comic books and leave comic strips for another time.
  • Barks' ducks 
  • Cerebus
  • Tomb of Dracula 
  • From Hell
  • Swamp Thing 
  • Ditko's Dr. Strange 
  • Lee's and Kirby's Fantastic Four 
  • Love & Rockets 
  • Spirit
  • Legion of Super-Heroes 
  • Promethea 
  • Magnus Robot Fighter 
  • American Flagg! 
  • New Gods

So, what's the pull of these comics?

Barks' duck stories are well-drawn, smartly written, and could serve as a textbook for how to tell a story. Wikipedia paraphrases him (without citation) as saying his early favorite comic strips were Little Nemo and Happy Hooligan and I can see the influence of both in his drawing, but where did he learn his story-telling? Not from his animation work for Disney. There's nothing in an animated film that relates to how to compose a comics page as a series of panels, with the story – the action – moving across and down the page at a pace that is a collaboration between the creator and the reader. And his scripting. Read a line of dialog without the images and you can probably tell Donald from Uncle Scrooge from Gladstone. Each of the characters has his own personality. Well, the nephews share one personality, but you know what I mean. Even in those story cycles as distinct as “Donald as master craftsman” as opposed to “Donald as avaricious loser,” you can “hear” that this is the same character. And, unlike a lot of “funny animal” cartoonists, Barks is almost always pretty funny. I should slip in here that I think Rosa is funnier than Barks and that I re-read Rosa a lot, too, but not with the same eye toward analysis.

Cerebus. A scholar could make a career of Dave Sim and Cerebus. The largest body of a single work driven by a single creator's vision in the history of comics. And do you just re-read the comics or do you re-read just the letters pages or both? Unless Sim has perpetrated one of the all-time great literary frauds, he has laid his soul pretty bare in those “Messages from the Publisher” and the letters pages. You cannot fail to be impressed by his growth as an artist in the first 30 issues or so. He goes from doing a standard fanboy riff on Barry Smith to his own hand. Of course, with a good bit of Will Eisner and Neal Adams thrown in but in a way that is uniquely Sim's. And, by the end of the series, I think he might have become the best letterer in the history of comics. No one in comics draws better visual jokes. Yes, he stole from Groucho Marx and Chuck Jones, but he didn't try to hide that; he reveled in it. And drawing a joke is not nearly as easy as telling one. But, of course, Cerebus wasn't always a comedy; Sim was also more than capable of imbuing his characters with great pathos. The romance between Cerebus and Jaka is utterly heartbreaking. And he knows how to do literary research, giving us his versions of the lives of Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. And I do find the thread that runs through Sim the pothead, Sim the misogynist, Sim the born-again Christian, and Sim the Muslim to be fascinating and worthy of study. I note that I've failed to mention Gerhard. I do recognize his contributions and they are invaluable.

Tomb of Dracula. As far as I'm concerned, this was Gene Colan's masterpiece. He penciled it for the full run of seventy issues and, from #4 on, he was inked by Tom Palmer, who was never outdone by anyone when it came to inking Colan. And for way over half of the series, Palmer was the colorist as well. I should also mention that Marv Wolfman becomes the writer with #7 and that is when the series becomes readable, as opposed to just look-at-the-pictures-able. Do not mis-understand me: this is not a wonderfully written comic but it is at least serviceable. This was the series that Colan was born to draw. With his moody, photograph-like shadows and his sometimes suffocating use of blacks, Colan created a universe on the paper that put the emphasis on the “natural” part of supernatural, making Dracula seem an organic part of the depictions of London and Boston wherein the series was most often set. Wolfman's best work here is the story arc leading up to the birth of Dracula's son and the guest appearance by the exceptionally well-used Silver Surfer. I don't read this series as much as the two previous entries, but I look at it a lot.

From Hell. This is probably my favorite comic book of all time. There is no need to debate whether or not Moore presented a reasonable solution to the Ripper crimes. That's not the point. The point is that he told one of the very best historical crime stories ever told in comics. And he presented the “Prince Eddie caused it all” solution in a way that makes it compelling even if there are problems that other professional Ripperologists have pointed out. Not the point. This is a work of fiction. Eddie Campbell's depiction of Victorian London is suffocating, just as the real thing must of have been with its crowded streets, polluted air and maze-like alleys. And the depiction of Dr. Gull's descent (ascent ?) into madness, both in words and pictures is just plain horrifying. And, until Moore's Promethea, discussed later, this was probably his most explicit discussion of the practice of magic, an understanding of which greatly enhances one's understanding of Moore's work.

Swamp Thing. More Moore. But beyond those issues as well, on into Rick Veitch's run as writer. This is one of the examples in this list of a work that is not driven by a single creator. Moore worked with penciler Stephen Bissette in the way be works will all his collaborators (including Eddie Campbell in From Hell): he gives them those (in)famously long and excruciatingly detailed scripts and tells them to do what they think works. Bissette worked almost as a co-plotter and so did Veitch, later on anyway. This was Moore's first American work and he didn't start slowly. There's a horrible screeeeeching noise when he hits the pavement with his wheels already running at 80. Horrifying words, horrifying images. And a beautiful love story. And the best Crisis on Infinite Earths cross-over of them all. Moore's tour of the dark side of the DC universe. And then Veitch's own tour of that universe, complete with time travel. I suppose it's the story that captures me here. The plotting and the Easter eggs and the sometimes white-hot fury with which Moore writes his early issues.

Steve Ditko's Doctor Strange. I think that's the fair, honest descriptor to lead off with. This is not the essay wherein I make my arguments for why calling it Lee's and Ditko's Spider-Man or Lee's and Kirby's Fantastic Four but Ditko's Strange. I trust that folks will either agree or disagree and we can have that fight somewhere else. Strange is Ditko's Hero at the point in his career where I can best enjoy him. He was a bad man who became a very good man and has no doubts about what is right and what is wrong and where he stands in relation to the universe. In fact, his very powers come from his ability to invoke universal powers and bend them to his will. And he's never lost, no matter how bizarre the landscape. And he's never afraid for himself, only for others. He's not still making mistakes, like Peter Parker and he's not become absolutely insufferable like Mr. A. I can work with this guy. We've all gone on and on about Ditko's ability to depict surreal otherworlds but his moments with human faces are when I like his work the most. The bulk of his run, the running battle with Mordru and Dormammu's confrontation with Eternity, makes for an epic hero's journey. Perhaps one that someone could map to that other Campbell's philosophies. Unless those are now passe in anthropology/sociology circles.

Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four. Best super-hero comic ever? Maybe, but at the very least the only pure super-hero book in this list except for the Legion. And it grows from such humble roots. The first three issues are just Tales to Astonish and Strange Tales science fiction monster stories dressed up a bit with super-heroes. Giant monster. Mysterious being with seemingly wondrous powers that prove to be very mundane. Invasion by shape shifters. Yep. All covered. But then Johnny quits and the Sub-Mariner and Doom and the Sub-Mariner AND Doom and and and. And it doesn't let up until Him and the Beehive and then it coasts on out to the bitter end. And along the way, Kirby re-invents himself as he is given more and more freedom to cut loose and let his mind and hands craft what he could see in his mind's eye. And Lee tells us how a family of extraordinary people live their extraordinary family lives. It may come as a surprise that I think you can compare the FF to Barks' ducks with more comfort than to any of the other works on this list. Family warmth. Astonishing adventures. And great big panels filled with the clearest, most earnest action scenes ever. While Barks may not have used the extreme foreshortening that was Kirby's trademark, Donald and the Thing throw punches with the same exaggerated enthusiasm and the same speed lines!

Love & Rockets. What we used to call “indies” were almost always self-indulgent and quite often awful. That was/is imply not the case with Los Hermanos Hernandez. Writing the equivalent – WHOA! I just realized that this is the only title on the list that is still in serial publication – of doorstop-size prose novels, the Hernandez Brothers have a real claim to that poorly defined and almost always mis-used term “graphic novelists.” Jaime's “Archie style” might be a bit confusing for the uninitiated, contrasting as it does so often with the story matter he presents. I hesitated to use the hackneyed “uninitiated,” but on reconsideration, it's apt. Diving right in the middle of the Locas/Hoppers cycle is probably not the best way to get the most out of it. There's a lot going on. Both Jaime and Beto (in his Luba/Palomar cycles) have engaged in a lot of mythos creation in their long-form works. And they haven't done it in the haphazard way that marks super-hero comics. They've taken their time and used foreshadowing – sometimes years in the making – and the development over time of minor characters into major ones. Characters grow and change as a result of their experiences and we get to see that growth and change in the images as well as read it in their “voices.” And the faces! Most comics book artists have three faces: man, woman, child; but Beto and Jaime each give each figure its own, unique face. But, at the same time, you can family resmeblances between characters that are related by blood. It's amazing that they can do so much with such simple shading. Both brothers work in whites as much as in blacks; every line is placed with precision that is made to look easy. I can go on a great deal about Love & Rockets but I'm trying to keep to my self-determined commentary length. Suffice it to say that Love & Rockets is the most important comic being serialized today and mean in important in the sense of what is says about and to the medium. And it is really, really good.

That's eight of the fourteen. I'll save the rest for the second installment. I hope that ya'll will make you own lists of the comics that you return to for study and analysis and share some of your reasons.

Tony Rose has been a contributing member of the GCD since the late 1990s.  He was a member of the original board of directors and has served there since 2000 and has served as membership coordinator, policy coordinator, new indexer mentor, editor, committee member, and treasurer.

Editor's Note: Don't forget to check out the Grand Comics Database at to learn more about each of the books in Tony's list:  Carl Barks's Checklist, CerebusTomb of Dracula, From Hell, Saga of the Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing, Strange Tales, Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, Love & Rockets

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A look at our International Statistics

The GCD reached two significant milestones over the last few months during its 20th Anniversary.  The first occurred on July 20th when Canadian Peter Croome indexed the 200,000th issue (Archie Comics #318).  On August 25th, the GCD hit 1,000,000 issues when Mexican indexer Ruben Cortes added John Constantine Hellblazer #2 from publisher Editorial Televisa (click here to see our press release).

Neither of these achievements were possible without the support of every indexer and editor over the last 20 years! Since 1994, over 1,000 volunteers from around the world have contributed information about comics from 53 countries to create the largest comics database on the web. We've seen is a lot of work from our international volunteers, and I asked myself "How does this break-down?"  I grabbed the International Statistics from the GCD page on 13 September 2014 and put them into a nice little spreadsheet for some analysis.  I am throwing a few set of numbers at you, so stick with me.

Total Number of Issues: 1,003,730
The GCD now lists over 1,00,000 issues in the database.  The European comics represent an impressive 60% of all issues in the database.  Here is the breakout of the top 13 countries

United States245,53424%
United Kingdom173,17817%

United States150,92274%
United Kingdom5,6923%
Total Number of Indexed Issues: 202,726
Another number that we focus on is the total number of "Indexed" comics (those issues in which at least 40% of the pages count has been indexed).

"Completion Rates"
I was very curious to see how the "completion rate" for each company (number of indexed issues / number of total issues).  I removed the countries with less than 10,000 issues and then looked at the number of indexed issues / number of total issues.  Based on the numbers above, it wasn't surprising to see the US leading in this category, but it was good to see more countries represented.

United States245,534150,92261%
United Kingdom173,1785,6923%

United States253,01451%
United Kingdom30,4236%
Covers: 492,467
One final set of numbers that typically interest many members and users.  We are quickly approaching 500,000 covers.  Since I was in the numbers, I figured I would take a peek and share.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Outside Your Comfort Zone

I don’t like Golden Age comics.  There, I said it.  In our little community, that seems like a shameful sin, but I can’t hide it any longer.  I understand the history, appreciate their significance and respect the creators.  If it wasn’t for their hard work, books that I enjoy wouldn’t be possible, and for that, I am deeply thankful.  Still, the stories themselves don’t appeal to me or speak to my generation.  I am not a historian nor am I particularly well-read when it comes comics.  In fact, my corner of fandom is so small, that I can’t carry on a decent conversation with the GCD elite.  I don’t even try.

And there lies beauty of the GCD, right?  We have a community of fans with a variety of interests that range across the ages, genres and national borders.  We have experts and novice alike indexing issues creating a database that is versatile enough to be used by users from all different types of backgrounds and interests while still maintaining accuracy strong enough for researchers.  That is no small feat and considerably more ambitious than similar online comic database who are more focused in scope.  Our members are really that good.

We’ve been at this for 20 years with a impressive success story to share, but I want to challenge you as we look forward to the next 20 years.  Expand outside your comfort zone.

The 2014 GCD Convention experience has been my foray outside my norm.  It has changed (for the better) how I see the GCD.  I continue to struggle with meeting new people or starting conversations with strangers, but the rewards have been worth the energy and fear.  I’ve met so many different types of people who have never heard of the GCD and always encouraged by their reactions when I explain it.  It has been  positive experience for both me and, I hope, the GCD.

I encourage you to look for opportunities to reach out to a different set of comic fans that you wouldn’t normally visit.  Go to conventions, shows and exhibits that are not in your area of expertise to talk to the independent artists, manga lovers, store owners and pop culture podcasters.  Find venues that you wouldn’t normally attend.  Share your story.  After all, we are a grassroots organization that will grow through personal connections and interactions.  Our future is strongly tied to members like you spreading the word.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy Birthday GCD!

Happy Birthday GCD!  Yes, you.  I am talking directly to the 200+ people from around the world who turned an ambitious dream into the largest collaborative comics database online. Each of you have been a part of a 20-year-long, pioneering experiment that continues to grow in content while still attempting to take advantage of expanding technology.  Take a moment to think about that achievement.  We started with Snail-mailing floppy disks and now have an online data entry system.  The database is completely searchable, making it accessible and relevant to the entire comics community -- professionals, fans and scholars alike.  Unlike other similar (and much younger) ventures, we utilize editors to maintain a higher level of data quality.  Our database includes international comics and older, often forgotten, comics.  And we did it all with volunteers just like you.  One word springs to mind: Impressive!

It is worth my time and effort to celebrate our 20th Anniversary, so between March and November 2014, I have been and will continue to be working with other volunteers to highlight you and your accomplishments.
  • Volunteers will be running booths at up to 6 US comic conventions!  Members will also share their experience at other shows across the US and Europe.  Check out a full list at the GCD Conventions Site.
  • We started a GCD Community Page that will be incorporated into our “official” website. It is place to document our member contributions, history, photos and member accomplishments outside the GCD -- a reminder of who we are and where we come from. A celebration of our community 20 years in the making.
  • We have t-shirts!  Originally designed for convention volunteers, we will soon be making them available to GCD donors.  We are working on the details now and will have something out to you shortly.  Based on some of the buzz, you are interested.
  • We will creating a press kit to share with the outside community.  Unlike the “news-like” nature of a press release (which we will continue to generate), the press kit will be a brochure that we will use as we expand our presence to comic news sources, application developers and other potential collaborators.  It is our chance to shine.

The Grand Comics Database Blog is YOUR blog.  We will be using this forum to share information from the traditional sources such as news from the Board and reports from the Committees.  The real meat, however, will come from you!  This is your place to post research articles, experiences and other contributions if you don't have your own blog (and even if you do).  Submission details will come out shortly, but do not hesitate to contact me if you have something to share.

It is a busy nine month birthday party, but our 20th Anniversary only comes once.  There is still a lot to do, but I encourage you to take the time to congratulate yourselves.  You deserve it.

Daniel Nauschuetz
PR Coordinator