SURFING THE BLOGOSPHERE
I like what's become known as the "Comics Blogosphere."
For starters, it doesn't lose your attention. Everything is in bite-sized pieces. I can surf a dozen different sites, find something new on every one of them, and be done inside of ten minutes. In this day and age, that's what the world wants.
I like the blog format. Before blogs were ruled by teenagers discussing their crappy families and stupid friends, they were news aggregators. When Comic Book Resources was going through its last major coding revision, I suggested the model that Slashdot.org uses. It lets you update multiple times per day fairly easily. It has categories. You can browse contents by day or author. The message boards could be built in or handled separately. But, for CBR's purposes, it wasn't right and so it didn't happen.
I remember thinking one time about making Pipeline a daily column, which would be very blog-like. Shorter daily reviews and pieces. The problem with that idea is that it would require the creation of new software and some back-end work and new sponsorships to pay for it. Plus, Pipeline has been a Tuesday thing for five years and people seem to be in the flow of that. Why upset the apple cart? Having a "destination" column is pretty cool.
In the past couple of years, though, the blog format has exploded. Comics fans have their own circle of blogs, which are easily folded under the term "Comics Blogosphere." I surf it daily. Occasionally, it kills a column when someone else makes a point I was waiting for the next column to make. Sometimes, it inspires ideas or reading materials. Other times, it's just good for a quick snarky laugh.
Many times, it's just good to get all the ideas out there and churning. The Open Source programming community has a saying that "with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." If enough people are looking at the code, one of them is bound to found the cause of a given error, giving them the advantage over a closed source application (read: Windows) which is carefully guarded by its parent company and which nobody else is allowed to see.
The Blogosphere provides a handy way to organize a lot of eyeballs. While it may be more dispersed than a message board system -- even USENET -- it does offer a filtering mechanism and a clearer message. Ideas won't get lost in endless threads or pointless flamefests. Those are generally limited by the very nature of a blog and the owner's ability to moderate so closely.
And while much of the Comics Blogosphere seems too interested in tearing people down and making snarky comics for the sake of getting a giggle, there's a lot of interest to read there, too.
So let's see what went on this week that's worth talking about, and I'll link in to a few of the more interesting sites along the way.
The first thing that I love to watch for is rumor and speculation that turns into fact. The biggest one lately is the rumor that Joss Whedon is writing NEW X-MEN. Rumored out loud first in All The Rage and then "confirmed" as a rumor the next week right here in Lying In The Gutters, the Blogosphere has picked up the ball and run with it. Of course, there is ZERO confirmation on this assignment yet. Not from Whedon. Not from anyone up at Marvel. But it's quickly become fact in far too many minds.
It could very well be true, but some confirmation from anyone on the "inside" who would use their real name and not just be an anonymous source would be much more enlightening. Until then, I'm not preaching that particular gospel.
The man who is practically the founding father of the Blogosphere, Neilalien, linked to a report this weekend that St. Mark's Comics in Manhattan closed its doors for good on Saturday, mirroring the situation in recent editions of "Funky Winkerbean." I've only been to St. Mark's once. It was a small location just below street level, really, with a wonderful assortment of comics, many from the smaller press and independents. I picked up some hard to find UNCLE SCROOGE albums there, as I recall, a few years ago. It's never a good thing to see a store shut down, but at least this one will be folded back to its sister store in Brooklyn. Manhattan will still have two large stores in Jim Hanley's and Midtown Comics. Midtown is especially helpful if you're on an exercise regimen that involves climbing narrow stairs at a steep slop. Hanley's is easier to find: look for the Empire State Building. It's right across the street.
Correction: The St. Mark's Comics shop that closed was a third locationon Chambers St. in the city. The one in the East Village that I visited isstill open. Thanks to Cristoph and Kevin for catching that one.
My favorite of the blogs is Fanboy Rampage!. It's dedicated to picking apart all the stupid/interesting/inciteful things that are said on any given day across the comics sites on the Internet, from interviews to blog entries to message board postings. Updated frequently through the day, Grim keeps it funny, snarky, and occasionally thoughtful. And I don't just say that because he linked to Pipeline on Friday.
I should correct a couple of things in Friday's column, while I'm at it, that were first discovered there. The issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that I had researched for MARVEL AGE was #9, not #7. Also, a typo slipped through on the name of the television show, "JUNKYARD WARS." There, I feel better now.
I elaborated in the comments section there about how so much story in so little space can seem so lethargic. I can expand upon it further, but then I'd turn this column into a Scott McCloud-like treatise. I don't think anyone wants that.
Why, lookee here. CBR's own Larry Young -- if we can truly claim some level of ownership on him -- has started up an AiT/PlanetLar blog. Or perhaps it's just some company fluffery updated on a near-daily basis. One thing's for sure: it won't be boring, no matter what it turns out to be.
Come to think of it, why don't more publishers put up such a system? Marvel and CrossGen have links to recent news stories about their product, which I'm sure could count as a blog. But wouldn't it be better if the major companies each had a collective blog where their editors could post updates every day? Give five different editors five different days. Have them update the world as to what they're working on, what the creators on their books are doing right now, what's coming in the future, etc. It would be a great promotional vehicle, and could help lend a more personal and friendly air to the company's editorial staff.
On the other hand, corporate red tape, "oversight," and editorial commands from above would no doubt kill the entire thing, strangling it in a new bureaucracy all its own. It's worth a shot, though.
For updates on CBR's own Rob Worley, I present his Thanator.com website, in which you can get updates on the status of his much-anticipated YOUNG ANCIENT ONE comic from Marvel's no-longer-much-anticipated Epic line.
John Jakala's Grotesque Anatomy posted cover images of Marvel's new manga-wannabe imprint versus TokyoPop's, just to show the similarity in designs. I don't think, however, that this is Marvel trying to trick people into thinking their books are TokyoPop's. I think it's a couple of other things. First, the art reprinted on the cover is in a slightly different ratio than the page size it's being printed on, so the horizontal strip is needed in lieu of art cropping. You can see that happening in the oversized RED STAR trades, as well as the ULTIMATE MARVEL magazines that were coming out a couple of years ago.
Secondly, Marvel probably thinks it's the standard packaging style for books of that size. We should all be thankful they didn't opt for the LONE WOLF AND CUB trade design. I don't see that style working with RUNAWAYS at all.
I did think it a little odd, though, that the Spider-Girl cover is done up in a manga style, when the book is clearly not drawn that way.
I hope I answered some of the Marvel Age questions shooting around the blogosphere in my column last week, too. I don't think Marvel has done a good job in selling it or explaining what it is so far, but I also think some of the more snide comments on the line aren't warranted. And, for balance, you can go here to find someone who likes the idea.
I have nothing specific to link to in Mark Evanier's News From Me blog, but it is a must-read every day. Topics covered stray from comics to television to local color and Broadway. Even the most potentially tedious and nostalgic topic can be interesting when Evanier writes it up in his highly approachable style.
While the plight of Middle Eastern political cartoonists doesn't tickle my fancy, Journalista! is still a daily must-read for comics fans of any stripe. Dirk Deppey does an impressive job of collating the comics news from both inside and outside the industry, while writing insightful and well-written essays to explain more complicated subjects as they arise.
Alan David Doane's blog is a good place to keep track of Abhay Khosla's hilarious comic rants. If you're a James Kochalka fan, you'll feel right at home there, too.
Peter David's blog, when not hijacked for the random political musings of its webmaster, is an interesting site to surf, especially for the occasional "Peter's Last Thought For the Night." Those posts are generally good-natured goofiness combined with stinging indictments of the English language. Any news you might have read about Peter David's comic book work was probably first posted in his blog, also, so check it out to keep a half step ahead of the news cycle, if you're a fan.
I can't find it now, but someone linked to MicroColour International this past week. Those are the people who produce comics on microfiche. Yes, that's right, microfiche: That funny transparent thing that you place over a bright light in the library to look at old New York Times articles. Maybe that was just my high school experience, though? I used it for such purposes as finding Isaac Asimov's obituary and an article on Chuck Jones from the 1980s.
I'm a bit confused about MicroColour, though. The company currently has a British address. I could have sworn there was a MicroColor based here in the States about a decade ago. That MicroColor advertised in the pages of THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE , as I recall, which fit in well with their target audience. It's all Golden Age DC type stuff that they produce. I don't know if they're still doing it or not, though. Can't recall seeing their ads lightly. It seems like a very antiquated product to have these days, but I imagine the copyright holders would be happier with microfiche (or even microcards) than they are with CDs.
MicroColor was based five minutes away from Pipeline HQ in Midland Park, NJ, in the same building as a pharmacy my father worked in when I was growing up. I always wanted to walk over and take a look, but never did. Don't know if they're still there or not. I'll take a look next time I'm in the area.
Finally, just to balance the occasional political musings of every other Comics Blogosphere poster, I give you comic writer James Hudnall's unabashedly right wing blog. Not much in there about comics, if ever. But the politics certainly balance out everything else I just read for this column.
Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday. Maybe I'll read some comics for a change and have something to report back to you about them. Wouldn't that be novel?
Various and Sundry had a backend software update that was completely transparent to the visitor, except for those times when the whole site was down. The next upgrade of software will be much more obvious. Topics covered this week include Apple's silly iPod mini, TiVo's silly math, musings on bowling a certain spare, stupid people who try to steal lotteries, and more.
Nearly 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.