THE PERFECT COMICS MAGAZINE
While I'm in San Diego this week, I'm re-presenting this column. It was originally written as the 45th issue of Pipeline Commentary and Review and was published on April 12, 1998.
There are dated references in here, but I'm keeping them for color. I'll have a bunch of updates to the article in-between paragraphs of the article itself. It'll be the August 1999 Augie in italics. So even if you've been with PCR for a while, there'll still be something new below for you.
On with the show:
MY PERFECT MAGAZINE
It wasn't too long ago that I asked why the perfect comic book magazine hasn't been made yet. I described it as something of a cross between WIZARD and THE COMICS JOURNAL.
Well, this week the new TCJ came out, complete with a Kevin Eastman interview running close to 60 pages. This thing has it all. Eastman is uncensored not only in the material he's allowed himself to talk about, but also in his rough verbiage. (The 'F' word runs rampant, so keep the kiddies away.)
I'm only twenty pages into it so far and the thing is brilliant. I'm just getting to the discussion about the failed Tundra. This seems to be the bulk of the interview, but the TMNT stuff leading up to it itself is really interesting.
The highlight, meanwhile, of WIZARD this month is a 4-page interview with Adam Kubert, in which we learn that he likes White Castle hamburgers. WHO GIVES A FLYING LEAP?!? Yeah, it's fun to read about the hidden interests of comics creators, but c'mon! Surely they talked about more than the crazy lady outside the window and the number of burgers they can eat! Surely there's more to a comic book interview than the standard glossy crap Wizard spews forth here at Kubert. I know he used to letter comics and I know he works in the Kubert School basement...(And, ironically enough, the interview was dated the minute the issue hit the stands, as Kubert has since left HULK. That can't be helped, but it is kinda funny.)
The Alan Davis interview was interesting, in that it was covering new ground. Maybe I've just never read another Davis interview, or maybe he's always been quiet. I don't know. But this was new. However, it also was just covering the surface of the matter. There are no details here. There is no juicy gossip. No names are named. =)
Maybe it's the difference between alternative comics and mainstream comics that makes these two magazines so different. Alternative comics creators tend to work for themselves or smaller independent companies and so can open their mouth more without fear of retribution. And maybe the Marvel and DC guys are afraid for their careers. If they tell the truth on any given matter, in full and explicit detail, they could be blackballed from a company.
So maybe the biggest difference between the magazines isn't a choice, but a necessity.
However, this doesn't mean there isn't a happy medium. And so I present to you:
AUGIE'S GUIDE TO A GOOD COMICS MAGAZINE
1. Interview fewer people, and give them more space. I don't want to have to go to your website to read a full interview. Give it to me in the magazine, otherwise your magazine is useless and not worth reading, anyway. TCJ has it right here -- do one or two featured interviews per issue and give them plenty of space. Do a long interview. Cover everything. But keep it moving in a focused direction. Keep on the topic of comics and comics lifestyles. Don't talk about silly and stupid things like favorite cereals or hamburgers. Or if you do, make it a sidebar.
1a. Interview everyone. Interview Dave Sim. And Todd McFarlane. And Erik Larsen. And Peter David. (I'm sure by now, you could cover 60 plus pages with a PAD interview.)
The problem with the Internet is that I've now seen many of the same professional who have well-known e-mail addresses interviewed on every web site known to man. Larsen and David are two of them. Maybe it would be a better idea to find someone with less of a public façade. Who don't we see interviewed over and over again? Let's start with people like John Workman, who I hear has several ideas on the direct market, or Terry Austin. Maybe Tom Orzechowski or Bryan Hitch. You get the idea.
1b. Ask anything. I don't care if it makes the interviewer uncomfortable to ask a person what their page rate was on a certain assignment. Go ahead. Worst case: The interviewee refuses to answer. (Well, OK, maybe we don't have to go into one's personal life, and family life. I don't need that, but that's not comics-related for the most part, anyway.)
2. Make your comics magazine about comics. This sounds revolutionary, doesn't it? I don't want to read about video games that don't have some sort of comics connection. If I wanted that, I'll read a video game magazine.
Sadly, I also have to add "professional wrestling" to the list of things my perfect magazine wouldn't touch. I would happily include a Pokemon article or two, though, so long as it relates to Viz's best selling comic and not the cartoon or video game.
3. Include HOW TO articles. They're always fun and relevant and interesting for the ones who still dream of working in this failing industry. But try to keep the same columnist for a while, eh? If you don't know the columnist's approach to a matter, his opinions are useless to me. And the only way for me to become familiar with his style is by reading more than one column out of him. And let's have regular columns each month for writers and artists! (And then throw in a third for colorists, letterers, editors, etc. You can switch that around a little.)
4. The same goes for reviewers. We need to know their tastes. Those are more relevant than a grading system.
5. PLEASE don't try to be so damned hip. I read DEADPOOL for my hip quotient. I want a comic book magazine that is serious about its comics. I want to read reviews that don't attempt to insult the book with silly quips or which insults my intelligence.
6. At the same rate, recognize there is fun in comics and that not everything mainstream is slop and not everything alternative is art. (Are you reading this, Gary Groth?)
7. Color is not a necessity. It's nice, but if that's the price I have to pay for a quality magazine, I'll pay it.
Ah, heck, I'd make the thing black and white to keep the designers away from making the magazine completely unreadable with fancy designs and layouts. There's nothing wrong with columns of text. It's worked with newspaper for a couple of centuries now.
8. Price guides are not a necessity. I realize if this magazine I'm creating were to be Wizard's replacement, it would need a price guide, since many retailers rely on it, and since many kids still believe in the stupid things. So I sacrifice idealism for economic realities.
9. Have a letters column with intelligent letter-writers making actual points. And then run the full letters, and not just snippets for the purposes of your hip retorts.
10. Do investigative articles. Wizard and CBG will both mention that, say, the HEAVY METAL CD-ROM was cancelled. Only TCJ does a 4-page article on why, referring back to the court documents and interviews with the creators involved. Ditto the Carl Barks situation.
I'm happy to report that the Carl Barks situation has long since been resolved to the best of Barks' situation.
11. I like TCJ's SWIPE FILE. I'd swipe it, in one form or another. Maybe I'd just sponsor Genesis Comics' SWIPE OF THE MONTH web site. I don't know.
Give the troubles this has gotten me into lately, maybe I'll skip it entirely.
12. I think a lot of the articles Wizard does on the news and by way of reviewing products which are coming out is just plain redundant to PREVIEWS magazine. Wizard's "Stuff" column is easily supplanted by picking up PREVIEWS. But I realize not everyone can afford both, or has access to the web to read the news that way. So maybe we'll stick with that.
13. We don't need Top 10 lists. Uh-uh.
And even if the magazine did need such a thing, it wouldn't need to devote two whole pages for such a thing. Nor would there need to be three pages for a casting call feature every month. UGH
In the end, the above ideal is probably untenable. I doubt it would last in the market place. And isn't that a shame?
I'm actually a lot more optimistic these days. I see enough people who are pissed off with Wizard's worsening state. And I know one or two people might be interested in getting into the game. So maybe there is salvation yet to be found. In the meantime, it wasn't too long after I wrote this article that I realized I had just pretty much described AMAZING HEROES. I wish they'd bring that one back!