Happy to hear Comics Alliance is back this morning. It’s a website that went away in the midst of a weird corporate reshuffle, and while I’m always happy to see an opportunity to remind people in the comics industry to own what they create so this sort of thing can’t happen, I think the site was more valuable than that.
Essentially, Comics Alliance’s greatest strength was the way it trained its readers to care about a wider medium.
All websites train their readership to expect things, and with enough time influence the way its readership views and understands things. Most comics related websites pull hard (HARD) for Marvel and DC, announcing literally every single piece of promotion from either company with equal or greater weight to legitimate news stories from the rest of the medium or industry. Marvel releasing a pictureless image with a piece of text on it for a second- or third-tier book is given the same ‘news’ weight as cartoonist imprisonment in Egypt, as a feature-length interview with a comics master, as a Hollywood casting rumour (when they bother to cover the middle two). This isn’t a direct criticism, just an observation. Today it’s “Villain Month” at DC, as if the other 11 months of the year were somehow “Villainless,” but that’s the game and that’s how sites choose to play it, all the luck in the world to them.
In running their content this way, sites have trained their readerships over time to treat all news this way, that what Marvel and DC are doing at any given time is equally as important as literally anything else happening in the industry or medium. And, very much for the better I think, Comics Alliance got in there and changed the focus significantly towards a much wider view of the medium and industry, and was very successful at it. It tackled gender and sexuality in a way that most sites did not, it tackled webcomics & tumblr comics culture (Adventure Time & pin-up art in particular) in a way that most sites did not. It was generally a fun site to visit, and the tone was consistent. Granted, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch–on the day the site went dark, only 1 of the 12 articles posted was actually about an actual comic book–a pretty poor send off for the site and an unfortunate billboard to leave up for critics happy to see it go. But generally half to three-quarters of the content on the site on any given day is about comics and their creators, which is a pretty good mix when you want those general-interest geek-culture eyeballs powering your ad dollars. Marvel and DC promo stuff gets a nod, but generally only when it is something largeish (reboot, multi-month marketing event), and apparently literally anything at all that Chris Sims wants to write about is given equal weight to that. It basically put forth a vision of “comics” that didn’t really exist beforehand, one that included young people and queers and webcomickers and ladies and POC, and that’s very much to its credit. That is a good thing.
It, understandably, doesn’t do much for people who have a deeply contrasting view of comics. Tucker and Abhay over at TCJ ripped Comics Alliance a new asshole last week on news that it would be returning, in the grand style of TCJ ripping new assholes out of things that it doesn’t particularly appreciate. With all due respect to Tucker and Abhay, I don’t think they get what’s important about what CA did, and will apparently continue to do. I mean, I don’t care about 75% of what Comics Alliance posts about either (gasp!). I don’t ever want to read a story about a Batman car seat, it’s a waste of where an intelligent article could go. But the industry and the medium needs that readership and the comics that Comics Alliance caters too–and most other sites ignore outright, TCJ included–just as much as it needs a regular column for people to be snotty about things that aren’t to their taste. Insert smiley-face.
So! Comics Alliance is now back online at http://www.comicsalliance.com. They’re currently undermining this entire post by running a review of a 2006 titty-movie based on a video game as their top post. Comics!