It’s official: Dirk Deppey (currently in contention for the title of The Person Seanblog Talks Most About Next To The Missus) has declared the comics blogosphere mature!
QUOTE: “There have been comics-related weblogs for some time now, of course, but the collected group seems to be finally getting big enough, and complex enough, to take seriously as a sort of ecosystem of ideas. We’re starting to see more and more real writing on the subject, from a wider variety of viewpoints — an environment that political weblogs take for granted, but into which comics weblogs are still growing. What started out as a set of isolated rants seems to be turning into a genuine, multi-tiered set of conversations, a state of affairs I’ve long wanted to see.”
Naturally, what the Comics Journal’s online presence praises, Dr. Strange’s online presence malaises. (Was that too much of a stretch?) In a characteristically grumpy post (that’s since been largely deleted) NeilAlien begs to differ:
QUOTE: “Slapping ourselves on the back? Sounds like a peak. Watch out. Years yearning for ecosystem, and then everywhere it looks like echo-system….Another website doing reviews? Another fanboy riot over something Marvel’s done? Another Journalista Supplement peeing on our leg and insisting that it’s raining?…Isn’t there something more important to do?”
Much as I (preparing obscure Bowie reference–ed.) love the Alien (obscure Bowie reference away!–ed), I’ve got to side with Dirk on this one. First of all, only at the Comics Journal website could a half-graf arguing nothing more than “you can have a decent exchange of ideas about comics online at this point” be considered “slapping ourselves on the back.”
Second, Dirk’s right on about the “genuine, mult-tiered set of conversations.” Witness his epic blogstrosity “The Trouble with Marvel,” which spawned long, thoughtful responses and rejoinders from NeilAlien, Bill Sherman, Franklin Harris, Jim Henley, and myself (more than once!). The debate’s been entertaining, illuminating, and (dare I say it) has the potential to be helpful to Marvel should a company man take the time to wade through it. Similar “blogversations” took place over Nick Barrucci’s “call to arms” and Mark Waid’s firing from the writing chores of Fantastic Four. (I’m tired of hyperlinking, but sniff around any of the aforementioned folks’ sites and you’re bound to see stuff about those stories.)
In fact, I’ll see Dirk and raise him some back-slaps: I submit that without his excellent comics weblog Journalista, the maturation he spoke of would not have come to pass.
Over in the political blogosphere, debates and discussions had gone on for years, but it took a) the explosion of interest in political discourse and theory after 9/11; b) the entrenchment of blogosphere superstars like Sullivan, Reynolds, Marshall, and Kaus–each of whom almost everybody on every side of a given issue visits at least semi-regularly–to establish the blogosphere as a viable method of both holding a discussion and influencing that discussion’s direction.
It’s unclear what, if anything, has been the comics industry’s 9/11 (not in terms of tragedy, but in terms of ushering in a new era). It seems to me that it’s been a combination of factors: a wave of hugely successful comics-inspired films; the manga explosion; the infiltration of bookstores; the mainstream success of alternative books like Jimmy Corrigan, Palestine, From Hell and Ghost World; the “New Marvel,” as chacterized by the business and editorial decisions of Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada and the sales and critical success of creators like Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, Brian Bendis and Mark Millar; the wave of edgy-mainstream writers and artists at companies like Oni, Image, and DC’s Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints (all of which have been used as ersatz farm teams by Marvel); an increase in the amount, quality, popularity, and economic feasibility of webcomics; a post 9/11 jump in interest in non-fiction and political comics, from Joe Sacco to Marjane Satrapi to Aaron McGruder to Tom Tomorrow; increasing cross-pollination between the underground/alternative and mainstream/genre comics scenes; a generalized feeling that a new boom (of whatever kind) is just over the horizon. All in all, a lot of people feel that it’s an exciting time to be involved in comics, and they want to talk about it.
But, and keep in mind I’m speaking as a relative newcomer to the scene, legions of potential comicsphere centers-of-gravity were/are doomed to failure for a number of reasons. The outspoken Warren Ellis‘s legendary but now-defunct forum seems (to one who wasn’t there for it) to have been popular and important, but also to have too easily devolved into a cult of personality. The same could be said of other big niche-oriented sites, from Sequential Tart (its female-centric approach is refreshing, but perhaps lends itself too readily to simple-minded and unnecessary sparring matches with the kind of people who think “Sequential Sluts” is the height of wit) to Alan David Doane’s sites (earnest and articulate but often overbearing, his niche, basically, is “people who agree with me”–didn’t I hear he once kicked people out who refused to pledge allegiance to James Kochalka’s Sketchbook Diaries?). Sites and messboards devoted to particular creators or companies are, needless to say, either focused too directly on their individual output or dominated too strongly by their administrative and syntactic idiosyncracies. The vaugely Kevin Smith-related Movie Poop Shoot is thoroughgoing but incorrigably silly (along the lines of its spiritual forebear, Harry Knowles’s Ain’t It Cool News; the assorted sites associated with Rich “Tommy/Gutter” Johnston rise and fall with the strength of his latest gossipy piss-take. News sites like The Pulse and Newsarama are useful, but their message boards are pretty much useless as a medium of idea exchange, dominated as they are by people with Wolverine-derived screen names shouting about their most recent plans to lead a boycott of Marvel until they revive Psylocke. More enlightening but equally frustrating is the Comics Journal’s message board, whose constituency, some of the smartest and most well-read–as well as the most opinionated–comics fans on the Internet, is (as is readily apparent to anyone who spends five minutes there) as much a curse as a blessing.
Enter Journalista. Though I’m a tyro with the Internet in general and the comicsphere in particular, it seems to me that Journalista fills a substantial void in that online community: It’s an intelligent but comprehensible, opinionated but non-partisan, personality-driven but not personality-dominated, authoritative but not minutiae-obsessed clearinghouse for comics news and thought. It’s the Instapundit of the comicsphere, if you will. And like it (as I do) or not (as NeilAlien might), if the rewarding discussion surrounding “The Trouble with Marvel” is any indication, it’s going to be the comic-biz blogosphere’s agenda-setter for the forseeable future.