The Hot Seat

Mon, December 3rd, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
The Hot Seat, Columnist

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Welcome to week #4 of CBR's The Hot Seat. This week CBR's own Executive Producer Jonah Weiland wanted to share a brief history of CBR answering one of the most asked questions he gets.

It was a weekday sometime in September of 1995. It was late. Maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. I was lying in bed and CBR was about to be born.

Okay, so it wasn't quite that dramatic.

One of the most commonly asked questions I get concerns CBR's origins. While not a terribly sexy story, it's a mildly stimulating one that I think some of you may be interested in.

Back in August of 1995 I logged onto this thing we call the Internet for the very first time. I remember using newsgroups and finding search applications like Archie and Gopher fun. I found this whole Internet thing useful.

Later that same month a friend of mine put together his first Web page. It was a poorly designed personal page with links to friends and sites he thought were interesting visits (The funniest link was labeled "Click here to visit a guy who'll get you chicks." The link took you to Senator Edward Kennedy's home page.) The page was pure crap, but it was good enough to inspire me to learn how to do it myself.

Now this was the time of HTML 1.0. There was no Java. No Javascript. The most popular browser at the time was called Mosaic, which spawned Netscape. Internet Explorer didn't exist. Instant Messaging was in its infancy. Streaming audio sounded like howling monkeys and streaming video was humorous at best. Yahoo! was a humble Web site that only had links without any of the news, shopping or e-mail services you see now. AOL and Time Warner weren't even sleeping together yet.

On a side note, much as is the case now, you'll be happy to know there was plenty of porn to be found on the net, even in those early days.

So I set out to create a Web page. It was to be called "Jonah Weiland's Crappy Web Page." A collection of crap I liked. It redefined the word crappy. The site was pointless.

I had figured out HTML and showed my friend how a good (or crappy) Web page should look. I continued to tinker with it on a daily basis; He ignored his site, never touching it again. I was still amused, he moved onto something else.

So, this went on for a month until sometime in September of 1995. I was searching for a page that contained information about the DC Comics character Green Lantern. At the time Green Lantern was my favorite super-hero dating back to my early childhood. After hours of searching and finding few Web sites, I retired for the evening. Back then, there were no good sites I could visit to find links to comics pages. The inability to find what I wanted frustrated me.

So, as I lay there in my bed annoyed that I couldn't find a Web page that contained the answer to some inane question like whether or not Green Lantern's power ring could fashion a block of kryptonite to kill Superman (or some equally idiotic thing along those lines), an idea occurred to me. That night I visited some 30 or 40 different Comic related Web sites, why don't I put together a Web page that collected all those links in one place and share them with everyone else?

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[John Weiland's Crappy Web Page]
On a dark, late night in September of 1995, while lying in bed huddled under my covers, CBR was born.

CBR was originally called "Jonah Weiland's Crappy Links Page" (I called it that on the page, although the logo never reflected that title) a section of my crappy Web page. It was a single page with about 40 or 50 links to different comic related Web sites. I made an equally crappy logo for the page, which you can see to your right. I know, what a piece of shit!

So, for the next couple of weeks I added all the new comic web sites I could find to the page. An X-Men page here, a Batman page there. And around the beginning of October I grew bored with it. The page was maybe visited by 10 or 20 people at the most a day. I had a girlfriend. What did I need to be messing around with a crappy links page for?

Then, on October 9th, 1995, everything changed. My life would never be the same. (Here I go being overly dramatic again).

Back in 1995, one of the popular Web destinations was Cool Site of the Day. While the site pales in comparison today, CSOTD was a big deal back then. It was an honor to be spotlighted by this site, to win their "award."

On October 9th of 1995 Glenn Davis, the founder of Cool Site of the Day and a comic book fan himself, picked "Jonah Weiland's Crappy Links Page" as the site to visit.

The response was unbelievable. On this day my crappy, okay, let's be honest, shitty little Web page had over 2500 visits when it averaged only 10. I received hundreds of e-mails in response to the spotlight from CSOTD. I was even lucky enough to get a couple freelance Web site design job offers. This was also the first time I received an "If Wolverine's arm broke off would his healing factor grow it back?" type e-mail. All of a sudden my crappy links page seemed to be a tool people liked and used. How the fuck did this happen?

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[Comic Book Resources]
So, from that day forward I poured myself into this whole Web thing. I began doing some client work to supplement my day job and continued adding links to that very early CBR. The site began to slowly grow from a single links page to categorized links pages with additional content like cover scans and more TV themes. Also around this time the name officially changed to Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources. The site was still pretty crappy, but it was evolving.

On May 6th, 1996 I started a new Web site, The Unofficial Kingdom Come Home Page. I was excited about this new DC series and was pretty bored with CBR, so I used this site as a way to energize my Internet interest again. The big draw on this site were the message boards, where hundreds, if not thousands, of Kingdom Come fans dropped by to discuss the series at length. By the fourth issue the site was averaging about 1500 visitors a day, and keep in mind this was in 1996. The Internet was a much smaller space back then and comic fandom wasn't what it is today. The site still exists, mostly for historical reasons, but it hasn't been touched since March of 1997.

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When the series ended I had to figure out what to do with all those visitors. So, it was time to redesign CBR. The "orange and yellow" era of CBR began (referring to the color of the logo) and the message boards were moved over to CBR. The new site looked less crappy, began to gain some focus and became more organized.

The orange and yellow CBR changed a lot over the years. I was never comfortable with the design, constantly messing with things. Probably every 4 or 5 months I'd tweak the site, changing the layout or style. For one the logo was far too huge. I think at one point it was 400 pixels wide and 300 pixels tall. Find me a Web site today with a logo that big and you'll have found a poorly designed Web site. Eventually the giant word balloon was removed in favor of just the basic logo. Modems around the world thanked me.

Traffic increased, the message board community was growing, the links pages grew and everyone was happy, except me. I grew bored with the site design again and felt it was time to mix things up.

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Two versions of this logo made the rounds on CBR.
Sometime in 1997 CBR changed again. A massive redesign and rethinking of the Web site took place, which eventually lead to a new focus for the Web site. We moved from the Orange/Yellow logo to the new Purple/Gold logo that you see to your right. If you consider yourself a CBR veteran you probably first became acquainted with CBR during this period.

Now some have asked if the purple and gold design was inspired by the purple and gold featured in the team colors of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. No way. Anyone who knows me at all knows I'm a die-hard fan of Los Angeles' other basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers (who BTW blew out the Indiana Pacers something fierce Sunday night!!!) and have much loathing in my heart for the Lakers. No, this really has nothing to do with the history of CBR, but any chance I have to get a shot in at the Lakers is a chance I'll take. (Damn their 1 loss and 14 wins!)

The site continued to grow and flourish and in June of 1998 CBR really changed forever. Beau Yarbrough joined CBR to write a twice weekly news column called The Comic Wire. It was the first time CBR really had original content. The Comic Wire had an immediate impact on the site, growing traffic VERY quickly and I was finally excited about CBR. I liked the design. I liked the direction it was moving in. I no longer considered it crappy.

After the Comic Wire more original content was added, much of which is still running at CBR. In May of 1999 Augie De Blieck Jr.'s Pipeline was added to the pages of CBR. Soon thereafter Randy Lander and Don MacPherson brought their reviews to CBR for a brief stay, after which columns by Steven Grant, Gail Simone and Rob Worley all became mainstays of the purple and gold CBR. The site was growing and it was no longer crappy. Well, at least I didn't think it was crappy.

We went about our daily business, worked hard, brought you interesting news and columns, and generally had a lot of fun. But as is the case with the Internet, change is not only inevitable, but necessary. It's imperative on the net that things be kept fresh. In the middle of 1999 it was decided that CBR should be redesigned once again, not only in appearance, but the site needed to get a bit more complex.

I knew I couldn't handle this all by myself, so I brought in designer Jim MacQuarrie and programmer Jason Schroeder to help create this new CBR.

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The hardest part was coming up with a new design. Jim and I spent many hours thinking up ideas. It came down to creating a dynamic and exciting logo and then moving on from there. One of many early drafts can be seen to the right. It was a slow process because I was being a picky bitch, but I wanted to create something I'd be happy with for a very long time.

One day Jim sent me the logo you're familiar with today. I loved it. The logo went through a bunch of color changes, Steven Grant actually suggested the color arrangement you see today. Jim nicknamed it "The Logo of Steel" since the color scheme is similar to that of Superman's. Then we got to work on the site. It took about 3 months to design and compile the site and finally, at Noon pacific time on December 3rd, 1999, the all new CBR launched with the first issue of Warren Ellis' "Come In Alone."

The relaunch of CBR was both fantastic and nightmarish. The feedback we got was plenty. There were a LOT of bugs that needed to be worked out that weekend and people were more than happy to point them out. The response was mixed. About half of the visitors enjoyed the new, slicker look, while others complained that it looked too corporate. Still others felt it was wrong to change it at all without consulting the community first. All that being said I was confident that given time people would appreciate the new design as well as the additional content added to the Web site.

And they did. The yelling died down quickly and some of the new CBRs biggest detractors even wrote to apologize to me personally for the rude comments they had made on day one. That surprised me the most.

Since then CBR has continued to change, adding new columns from Scott Shaw and Larry Young, comics by Scott McCloud and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, expanding the Comic Wire into CBR News and the recent addition of this column, The Hot Seat. We have even more plans to grow in the future with new columns and features. And yes, I'm already thinking about a new design for CBR, but for those who like the current design you'll be happy to know that won't happen for many months.

So there you have it. CBR started as a simple, crappy little links page.

Ultimately those who made CBR what it is today are our contributors and visitors. If not for the amazing content the CBR Staff writers have come up with over the years and your visiting, CBR wouldn't be the popular destination it is today.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, thanks. It has been fun as it will continue to be.

-- Jonah Weiland

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