Loose Cannon: Issue #58

Thu, September 9th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

HOW YOU DO THAT VOODOO THAT YOU DO

In addition to the ten bloggers I originally interviewed for this survey of the comics blog scene, this week, please join me in welcoming Erin Schadt to the mix. I got a few really surly emails from bloggers whining to me that I hadn't included them in the original question session, and I don't think they realized I just wasn't aware of their work, so I didn't know them to ask in the first place. Remember, just posting something into the ether doesn't mean everyone sees your brilliance. Gotta get out there and make sure the people know about you and your work.

But Erin's was the only note I got from a blogger who said "Hey, I enjoyed the article, here's a link to my blog; sounds like you might enjoy what I do."

Since I like to reward that sort of politeness, let's have Erin from The Comic Queen lead us off with the first answer to this week's question:

How do you see the coverage you offer? Do you try to go for a journalistic viewpoint of the latest pop culture news, or are you content to provide links to news others point out? Or is there a third path your blog travels?

Erin says, "There is so much pop culture and comics news out there that is better and more fully covered than The Comic Queen blog ever could, that I'm perfectly happy sending readers to other sites (such as CBR) for this information.

"My blog is a new endeavor, so my blogmate, Kerry Garvin, and I are still working on defining the specific content we'd like to include both in the near future and long term. The direction we see the blog moving toward is more coverage of small publisher and indie work. In fact, we'd eventually like to cover this area of comics almost exclusively.

"I have a journalism background, so my instincts are to present information as fairly as possible. That being said, the meat of the blog is reviews and getting the word out about comics and comics-related miscellany (such as events or organizations) we think deserve some more attention (or sometimes less attention). Thus, the blog is inherently filled with bias and opinion, but I think that can be a good thing when it's either a) constructively informative or b) entertaining, and hopefully, we really get it right sometimes and manage to do both."

That cheeky Ken Lowery, who has obviously addressed the raw power he exerts over the Internet and his new-found responsibilities bestoed thusly, has changed the name of his blog between this week and last. "I'll link to news I think is cool," says Lowery, of Ken Lowery Presents: Ringwood, "but I don't go out of my way to keep people updated on anything... unless it's a favorite writer or artist or book, as I stated above. I basically just try to hit on the Really Important Topics when they come up, or bash on Green Lantern for awhile if nothing else is going on. Or post some sickly humorous EC comics cover. Or whatever.

"If you consider the blogo-hive to be something like a comics magazine, you could say guys like Kevin Melrose and Shane Bailey cover the news aspect. They find the relevant and interesting stories, maybe comment on them a bit but basically just let you read them unfiltered. Jakala, Dr. Scott (Polite Dissent), Dorian or Mikester, they do feature-style stuff, writing on topics that don't have the immediacy of whatever it is Kevin and Shane are talking about. Me, I'm just a columnist.

"Mine is a vanity blog, basically. Just so happens a fair amount of people like to hear me go off on stuff. No, I know... ranting at high volume isn't exactly a sellers market on the Internet, but I get by just fine."

Next, Kevin Melrose, of Thought Balloons: "I'm not sure that I'd describe my viewpoint as 'journalistic,' primarily because I don't do any reporting. I see Thought Balloons more as a clearing house for comics news, with occasional snippets of commentary thrown in for good measure. Why do I do it? It started out last October as a way to make myself write every day. Now it's become part of my routine."

Mike Sterling is a respected comic book retailer, and writes Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin. "The primary reason I have a comics weblog is to entertain myself. As a result, I'm sort of all over the map...sometimes I'll link to news that interests me, sometimes I'll point out sites that are interesting, sometimes I'll just blab about my day at the shop, but the main reason I started this weblog was to post covers and panels of comics that amuse me, and discuss them if necessary. I didn't see too many people in the 'comicsweblogosphere' really doing that to any great extent (and I know why...oy, the bandwidth!), but it's really the part of my weblog I most enjoy doing."

David Allen Jones writes the Johnny Bacardi Show. "Again, I never really set out to be any sort of a complete one-stop comics news and commentary source. Generally what I do is when I run across something that inspires me to hold forth, such as DC's November solicitations, then I'll link and go for it. On the other hand, I only commented superficially and sparingly on SDCC and Wizard World Chicago. There are multitudes of comics blogs, especially now, that do a very thorough job of providing news and/or provide links to much of the high-profile (and some not so high-profile) goings on in the comics world, and I'm just not capable of or interested in competing with them. I just don't have the time, even if I had the inclination. So in my typically roundabout way, my answer to your question is yes, I think there's a third path, and again, I merely set out to write about not only comics, but music, movies and occasionally sports that interest me and move me to comment on them...and if people like to read my opinions then that makes me happy. A side note: just about all my life, I've enjoyed reading and studying the styles and opinions of professional media critics, and kinda aspired perhaps to build up a body of work with which I could get some sort of freelance job writing music or comics criticism for some desperate, I mean receptive publisher, and I thought that blogging might be a way to hone my skills, such as they are. The more I do it, though, the more I wish I had majored in Journalism in college rather than Graphic Design..."

Tim O.Neil writes the blog When Will The Hurting Stop?: "I just sort of do what is interesting to me. I tried the whole linkblogging/news thing, in the wake of Dirk Deppey's departure, if you recall - it's a thankless job, and I would never do it again unless someone paid me ungodly sums of money. I don't usually pay any attention to the news unless it pleases me to do so - few things bother me more than a self-important blogger who feels the need to put 'his stamp' on every bit of news that comes across the transom. Basically, I do what I do because I enjoy it. I don't do stuff that isn't worth the time to do, if that makes sense. In my own mind, I definitely see The Hurting as a finite experiment - the moment it stops being fun and becomes a chore, I won't do it anymore - it's that simple."

Pop Culture Gadabout Bill Sherman says: "Given my flibbertigibbet approach, I'm not usually the source to come to for new comics news. The only story that I think I've broken on the comics blogosphere was the announcement of the Complete Peanuts series - and that story basically dropped into my lap. I do occasionally jump into blogosphere-related debates, but I don't often get into discussions of the flaps around the Big Guns, since I don't particularly have anything new to add to the discussion. I'm much more willing to discuss, for example, aspects of the Jesus Castillo case.

"Too, I'm not much incensed by flaps that arise when individual creators are public loudmouths. It's pretty much a non-story to me.

"The occasional times I've published news without injecting my own opinion - or at least indicating my degree of interest in the topic - I've felt like I was only doing half a job. One of the things that drew me to blogging was the way it got me flexing critical muscles that were close to atrophying. The basic purpose behind Gadabout is to present the opinions of one reasonably intelligent (though readers may argue that point) audience member on various aspects of pop culture."

Shane Bailey, of Near Mint Heroes answers, "Right now the site mainly provides links to news that others point out. I see the site as almost like a Wal-Mart for comic book news. There may be more in-depth news at other sites, but you can stop in for a minute and find just about anything. I try to collect all the news that's flying around the web about comics and movies and point to it from here. Near Mint Heroes is more a portal to other sites that anything else. I used to do about the same thing as the comic book forum moderator at http://www.creationmatrix.com for friends that I had on the site and this is just the next logical step in that process. Having said all that, I plan on producing more original content including interviews and regular features."

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag, possibly the world's biggest Aquaman fan, writes the well-named Bloggity-Blog Blog Blog. She says, "I write my blog because I realized long ago that I didn't have the discipline to be a writer... this is a long-going writing exercise for me, a test to see if I can write something for every day and if my writing improves over time. At its most basic, I'm only writing for me. The comic book bit is because comics are my primary hobby. But I don't limit myself to comic books.

"When I do cover comics I do have an agenda. First and foremost is promoting comics I enjoy, particularly the one superhero I love. I also include any other stuff I find, and I'm always finding good stuff. I'm not so interested in reporting on the latest action from the big publishers as there are many other blogs/news sites that cover that much better than I can ever hope to. I'm more interested in getting people to try cool comics they wouldn't usually pick up. I'll link to cool news, but that's not the focus of my blog."

You may be familiar with Graeme McMillan, who writes the Fanboy Rampage blog. "The third path Fanboy Rampage travels is generally cynical linkage. I try not to put too much of a heavy-handed editorial 'this is what I think' voice in the posts, but there's usually a line or two where I give some kind of opinion. Normally I try to keep it generally humorous, if only because it's nicer to say that you think that someone is talking shit if you're showing that you're not taking it too seriously yourself."

Our last respondent is a newcomer on the scene, Matt Maxwell. Matt writes the excellent Highway 62/ He also writes long answers that make a nice anchor: "In terms of the coverage I offer, I'd say it's a balance of things that plenty of other people link to and random other stuff that's likely only of interest to me and a few others. Granted, that's skewed, but it always evens out.

"I'm not comfortable calling myself a journalist, particularly in a field that's as driven by personal taste as comics is. Really, there's only a few journalists actually working in comics, much less comics blogging. Most of it is heavily opinion-driven and doesn't make any pretense at being more than that. Besides, I've always been leery of journalists and the whole concept of journalistic impartiality. Journalists are people. Media outlets are run by people. People are biased, whether they choose to own up to it or not is up to them. The facts might be ironclad, but the context into which they're spun is far from it.

"Why I do what I do is directly tied into that skepticism regarding reporter's neutrality. We've all got opinions, right? I just want to make sure that mine have a fighting chance of getting expressed. Are they any more or less valid than anyone else's? Not particularly. If you don't like 'em, there's always a comments section (or failing that, you can blog about 'em yourself.)

"Aside from this, there's a social aspect to it that I won't deny. It's just another way of communicating, and I've been doing online communication of one form or another since I was in college. I dragged my feet about blogging but realized that I was spending so much time commenting on other folks' blogs that I figured I'd have enough to say on a blog of my own. Easier said than done."

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