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Ten Years!

by  in Comic News Comment
Ten Years!

It kind of sneaked up on me, to be honest. But it’s been ten years almost to the day since Brian Cronin sent me a private message over the CBR forums saying, “I think you should write for the blog.”

I’ve never asked him, but I’m pretty sure Brian got the idea from a discussion some of us old-timers were having on the CBR Classics Board about Steve Gerber, and I was explaining why I loved Gerber’s writing so much in general and on The Defenders in particular.

The reason I’m pretty sure that was the prompt is because it was the only actual writing I’d done about comics in a long time. Truthfully, I’d gotten pretty disenchanted with message-board communities by then, which is an inevitable consequence of trying to administrate one. Since becoming a volunteer admin here on the forums, more and more of my CBR time seemed to be spent separating brawlers who couldn’t agree on whether or not Batman could beat Thor (to this day, just seeing the words “prep time” can give me a little bit of a facial tic) or endless circular discussions with my fellow moderators about whether or not something was REALLY a bannable offense — like, say, calling someone a mouth-breathing moron if the guy actually was one and the person doing the calling was a Marvel editor.

Believe me, there’s nothing to suck the joy out of your time on the internet like policing arrested adolescents who possess the needlessly baroque vocabulary of an English Lit professor coupled with the blind relentlessness of a shark. The worst part of it was that I was spending so much of my time at CBR being a combination of Judge Judy and a bar bouncer, I wasn’t getting to spend any just hanging out and talking comics, which was the whole point of coming to CBR in the first place. So the Defenders discussion I’d happened into was a rare thing for me then, and I guess my passion for the subject showed through… along with the sheer joy of just being a comics fan at CBR for once instead of “a goddam interfering mod” or “censor” or “Nazi” or… well, whatever the slur of the moment might have been. Anyway, I’ve always suspected that particular Classics discussion was the trigger.

Whatever the reason, Brian asked me, and his timing couldn’t have been better– because my OTHER column gig, doing a monthly movie review for With magazine, had gone away a few weeks previously and I was coming to the realization that I missed it. Sure, it was nice to have some time off, but I was getting bored. And just as I was trying to figure out some kind of new project, why, here’s Cronin with an offer that was just too good to pass up. So I told him I’d try to have something every Friday, because I knew without a real commitment on my part it’d never get done, and he said sure.

And in my head was the unspoken rider, Until it stops being fun. Because I’d already made that mistake with the volunteer admin thing, and I didn’t want the same poisonous burnout with fandom I’d reached after years of dealing with, let us say, (air quotes) “less-socialized members of the comics community” to happen with me writing about comics.

That was the first week of December, 2005. Eventually Jonah offered to host us here on CBR and suddenly it was a real paying gig. Shortly thereafter I stepped down from the moderating, and the blog here has been my preferred corner of ever since.

Now here I am in 2015 and it’s still mostly fun. I rarely hit my self-imposed Friday deadline any more– I’m getting awfully self-conscious about the category title, I wish I’d had the foresight to suggest Brian call it “Weekends with Hatcher” back in the beginning. Nevertheless, though I rarely make Friday, I haven’t missed a week. Some of the pieces are better than others but there’s only a couple that make me wince today, and I take pride in the fact that I get to share this space with so many other talented people and don’t feel like I’m not pulling my weight.

So as a sort of celebration, I’m going to borrow a tradition from television and do a little anniversary ‘clip show’ with links to past columns that for one reason or another ended up being more meaningful than I thought they would back when I was just trying to get something posted for that week.

The Gerber-Defenders discussion that started it all eventually became this column.

The reason I am so pleased with that one is because Gerber himself read it and mentioned it on his blog as being worthy of attention. 1970s Marvel was a huge thing for me and probably the single hugest part of it was Gerber and Buscema on The Defenders. I’m glad I got to tell him so, sort of, before he passed away.

Speaking of reader reactions that pleased me, this column about bullying seemed to hit a chord for a lot of readers.

The story of what a miserable time I had in grade school, and how Mr. Pokarney, the school principal, became an example of heroism and decency that I never forgot, apparently had parallels with a great many of your own grade-school experiences. But the BEST response came in an email from Mr. Pokarney’s son Bruce, thanking me for such a vivid portrait of his dad that he could share with his own sons, who had been too young to know the man before he passed away. That’s the kind of reader response that keeps you warm at night.

This one about Superman, Lois Lane, and superhero marriage is of course largely irrelevant now that DC’s rebooted, but I still like it.

One of the most entertaining things I have gotten to do over the years of writing a column a week is do research and learn stuff. This column and this column, about the old serials, were just tremendous fun to work on and I found out all sorts of things I hadn’t known before.

The DVDs are out there and can be had for way cheap, too. I’ve still got to get around to the Kirk Alyn Blackhawk one of these days.

The road-trip bookscouting expedition stories are always fun to write, and really I enjoy all of them. This is an older one about one of our best trips.

I really had no idea there was such an overlap between comics fans and Trixie Belden readers, but there you go.

The columns featuring my version of what Peter David called Useless Stories and most people call fanfic are probably the nerdiest things I’ve ever written about anything ever. This one, with the Dr. Strange-Dark Shadows crossover and also the League of Extraordinary Kenneth Johnson Gentlemen, are both ideas I’m still kind of hankering to really write somewhere for somebody.

If anyone at Marvel or Dynamite sees this– work out the licensing and call me, guys. Seriously. I’ll work cheap.

Speaking of Kenneth Johnson, this column recounting the era in which bionic superpeople took over seventies TV got me a nice note from him.

Writing that one was actually how I kept myself distracted while Julie was having surgery, talking it through with our pastor. The pastor and I were out in the waiting room; she was patiently nodding throughout my lecture on the 1970s Marvel movies and Cathy Lee Crosby’s Wonder Woman and all sorts of other stuff. Probably thought it was my version of an anxiety-attack talking jag. Which maybe it was. But it became a column.

Anyway, those are just a few. I hope you enjoy seeing them and that they are new to you, or at least that it’s been long enough that they’ll feel like something new.

Because by and large the people who read the blog are really nice and I feel like I should be at least moderately entertaining for you. I began by talking about being burned out on fans and their jerk behavior, and an unexpected and unintended consequence of writing for the blog was curing that burnout, as it happens. I couldn’t begin to recount all the really wonderful people I’ve met, never mind all the lovely folks I’ve corresponded with or gotten to know via email, in ten years of writing a column about comics every week. I’m humbled and grateful that so many folks seem to like it and I’m happy to have the gig.

So thanks to Brian for asking me to do it and to Jonah for hosting it and most of all, to you folks reading it. It’s still fun and I imagine I’ll be here as long as they and you will have me.

Certainly, I’ll be back next week. See you then.

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