Hey there, worth noting that Augie De Blieck Jr., someone who’s been writing about comics for as long as I have and certainly more consistently, has written a column that proclaims big comic book journalism dead. You can, and should read it. Mostly because he’s right.
(That image is my favourite from the column. Augie colour-codes the new front-page of CBR. Red for Hollywood articles, Blue for Comics, Purple for a comic that’s just a hollywood shill).
Augie makes a strong case in the body of that article for both his pedigree in making such a bold claim and the essential problem of contemporary comics journalism–it’s more lucrative (in that it is lucrative at all) to write about the things around comics and inspired by comics than by the comics themselves, by a factor of 10 on comics’ absolutely best day and Hollywood’s worst. It’s why the criticisms of contemporary comics websites for their lack of coverage of comics have always seemed necessary to me, but also terribly naive. If you want to make a living writing about comics, you have to write about the TV and the movies and the merch because that’s what will draw in actual audiences. Criticizing how someone makes their living because it’s not what YOU want is kind of shitty of you, actually! If that criticism were reversed comics creators would be appalled that someone in comics had the gaul to question their life, business, or art choices, but if it’s about comic book web sites, it’s apparently fair game. Which isn’t to say I don’t understand looking at the current state of writing-about-comics and despairing; I do. I just think it’s sort of shitty to decide someone making a maximum of $10 for a 500 word article is a reasonable target for your ire. Even the editors of these sites largely have no say, as they’re owned by media conglomerates and people you’ll never get to see.
Sidebar: That’s why it’s also shitty to be shitty to Marvel Comics writers/editors because Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmuter donates to Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Yeah, that’s disgusting, but it’s not like they can do fuck all about it. Just don’t support Marvel if you feel that strongly about it, without being shitty to people with nothing to do with it. And while I’m ranting here, being shitty to a Marvel editor or creator doesn’t absolve you of your guilt for financially supporting the company (including promoting them) when they do something shitty, either. Own your actions, don’t try and bully your way to absolution.
Your mileage may vary.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about doing more writing-about-comics, or comics journalism if you like, every few months since I ‘took a break’ from PopImage in 2000 (sorry, Ed). Realistically, I think it’s more important to do the things I used to talk about, to put good and important things into the world than simply to talk about doing that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss talking about it, or thinking about talking about it. But as I sneak-up on middle age, the idea of loudly being right about comics on the internet has lost its lustre, partly because the lengths that people will go to to prove themselves and their beliefs correct (doxing, hacking, threats of violence, starting a ‘receipts’ blog to try and bully people into suicide) make the fight unappealing, and partly because being quietly right and seeing the good work you do ripple through the industry is much more satisfying.
It does mean that I try to support good writing more, where I can, though. For example, I linked to Augie’s new site above, and pretty much any time he’s expressed an aesthetic opinion I’ve disagreed with it, but I think he does know how to break an idea down in an interesting way, and looks at things other people don’t. I also really like Brigid Alverson’s hard journalistic approach to comics, and I was worried earlier this week when I thought she was done at CBR. I liked her COMICS A.M. posts for Robot 6 a great deal, and I’m happy to hear they’ll be continuing. She, along with Deb Aoki, is also doing a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to ‘giving a shit about Japanese comics within the larger comics industry,’ and that alone is worth buying both of them a dinner.
Probably one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most, comics journalism-wise, over the last little while has been the launch of IMAGE PLUS magazine from David Brothers, himself a
former recovering comics journalist, working at Image, doing a house magazine, in print, focusing on what the company is putting out, and why it’s good and important. I’m sure that sounds suspect as hell to some of you out there, but it’s good stuff, honestly. And when you’re fighting over the ever-shrinking amount of blue boxes on Augie’s graphic up there, maybe it makes the absolute most sense in the world to be covering your own stuff, writing about your own stuff, promoting your own stuff, and getting smart writers to do it. Most of you reading here might not know that Marvel and DC both have staff writers for their websites, creating and running the sorts of content that online comics news sites used to. I’m actually happy to see Image doing the same, happier still to see it in print, which lends itself to better long-form work, and the whole thing is like $2 which is a steal.
Anyway, no grand statement here, I just think Augie’s right and we’re probably done on the whole, or at least very near the end of the line until something major changes. I think there’ll always be smart people running sites that pay almost nothing just on their sheer force of will, even as some of the more notable ones around us shut down. I think that, like this blog, many of us
former recovering comics writers will keep spaces for the thoughts about comics that coalesce into something longer than a series of tweets. Hell, I’m supposed to write a couple of articles for ComicsAlliance that are a month late right now, so I don’t think it’s possible to shake it off entirely. And if you’re one of the folks running one of those sprawling comics news websites that might just be impossible these days–keep up the good fight. 🙂