h1

Help Chad Nevett Help The Hero Initiative

January 25th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Chad Nevett is doing a Blogathon for charity, a blogathon being a 24 hour blog writing jamboree, and I’m helping out. Helped, technically, but you haven’t seen my staggering contribution to the blogathon yet. Chad’s going big for his final blogathon, which is very cool. Here’s the roster of assistants: Tim Callahan, Tucker Stone, David Brothers, Alec Berry, Brian Cronin, Graeme McMillan, Jeff Lester, Tim O’Neil, Ryan K. Lindsay, Adam Langton, Matt Brady, Ales Kot, Shawn Starr, Kaitlin Tremblay, and Augie de Blieck, Jr.

Lotta people in there I dig a whole lot, though I run hot and cold on that Brothers guy.

You can see full details here, but here goes an excerpt, too:

Now, you may think that by bringing in 15 writers to do 16 posts, that means I’ll be taking it a bit easier this time. You would be wrong. For those half-hour periods, I will be doing a series of posts over at Comics Should be Good on the best of 2012. It’s not just a bigger Blogathon in contributors, but in blogs.

That brings us to the most important thing in all of this: the Hero Initiative. It’s a charity that provides financial assistance to comic professionals that require it. It’s an organisation that I have a large amount of respect for and one that, sadly, the comics industry desperately needs.

This is a good project, and you can help out by donating to the Hero Initiative in the project’s name. You can also buy products from their site or visit their eBay store.

Either way, on 1/26 — tomorrow! — take a look at Chad’s site and Comics Should Be Good and enjoy a whole bunch of opinions on and around comics.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 11

March 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

This is the last entry! the previous entry is up on Chad’s site! Spoilers abound, ladies and gents, we are officially in the danger zone!

DB: Oh man, I’m positively obsessive about the audience. I have a third-party counter and the official WordPress stats plugin going. The third-party is so that I can point to our stats and go, “Hey, look! You should let us interview X or give us a preview of Y! People read us!” A certain (a lot) of it is almost definitely simple ego-stroking. It’s nice to be wanted, and as a writer, about the best compliment I’ve ever gotten is “I like to read your stuff.”

Another reason why I pay attention to hits is money. I added ads to 4l! about twenty months ago, Amazon Associates maybe a year ago, and knowing the hits is a good motivator. I know that going a week without content means that hits drops which means Project Wonderful advertisers may not bid as high as they usually do which means I’ll eventually have to go back to paying for hosting. Which is no big deal, I did it for four years, but I really, really enjoy that after five years, 4thletter! pays for itself. It’s like the little blog that could.

But the hits thing… I think you’ve got to know your audience. The WordPress stats gives you the views by post, which is enormously useful. There are a few weird bits in the system (posts with a Read More tag get more traffic than ones without, for obvious reason), but it’s helped me figure out what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll write a post, be completely unsure of it, and throw it out into the ether and bam, it does gangbusters. That gives me something to look at and figure out what I did right, or what I did wrong, and adjust for the future. Not that I’m writing for hits, but it helps to know whether or not people are listening or if you’re just talking to yourself.

As far as approaching an audience… I kinda do and I kinda don’t. I like a lot of popular stuff, and I know if I do a cheap snark post it’ll get a different response than a long, in-depth analysis of some comic. But, when I’m sitting down to write, I’m just thinking of myself. I mean, I dedicate a month’s posting in February to racial issues, something 10% of comics fans barely care about and the other 90% are actively hostile to, I’ve done several thousand word essays on rap music, and I swear I’ve done other posts that only I care about in the entire world.

So, short, probably more sensible answer: I have an idea of what the audience wants, and while that sometimes lines up with my interests, I don’t have a reader in mind other than myself. I write what I want to read, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

CN: I imagine I would care more about hits if I had my own site and hosting fees like you do, but being on a free site like Blogger means I can be as oblivious as I want, thankfully.

I’m not sure there’s anything else to cover. We’ve discussed the past, the future, and well a bunch of stuff not covered by either label. I’ve really enjoyed this. A nice way to celebrate five years or so of comics blogging. Hopefully, we’ll be around in another five.

DB: I don’t have much to say (all appearances to the contrary), barring sincere and genuine thanks to Gavin, Esther, Thomas, and Paul. Hopefully in five years we’ll have another dot-com boom and we can all live in Comics Blogospheria, our own island country.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 09

March 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Chad has part 08!

DB: That links thing is a great idea. Gavin has a table of contents page, but that thing has hundreds of posts. I’ll have to do that… after I forget to do it for forever and then do it all one night at 2 in the morning because I feel guilty. Which is, in fact, more or less how I get my blogging done. My sleeping schedule went all off-kilter for a lot of 2009, and I pretty much had something like three to four hours a day for the latter quarter of the year, weekends excepted. So, you know, I got a lot of writing done.

Guilt helps, and it’s a pretty good motivator. People send me books out of the blue now, which is enormously flattering, but it tends to lead to a stack of unread or unreviewed books on my table. Ask Esther– every time she comes over to do a podcast, I’ve added half a dozen books to the stack and someone sent me a couple others. So, guilt makes me sit down and go “I need to talk about this so I haven’t wasted someone else’s money.” Sometimes it works out really well. Sometimes I don’t like a book until I re-read it with an eye toward a review, and the increased focus opens up new pathways in the text.

But the only motivator that really matters, the only one I really pay regular attention to (sorry deadlines, I love you but I don’t like you), is my personal feelings on a book. If it was a book that left me with nothing more to say than “Welp, that sure was a comic book,” I don’t talk about it. (Once I started applying that to my pull list, I suddenly started buying fewer comics.) I need to have some kind of strong reaction to a comic, be it positive or negative. Books that I care about, or hate, or that threw me for a loop, or provoked some kind of emotional response beyond “Whooo comics!” are the books that bug me like a splinter. I need to say something about them, I want to talk to people about them, I want people to tell me what I missed, and I want to organize my thoughts on them so that I better understand them.

A good example is that issue of The Brave & The Bold where the boring Flash goes back to World War II and has a good cry about how great the Greatest Generation was while they die all around him. I wasn’t going to read it at first, because that series had been a pit of mediocrity (with a couple highlights) for a long time, but David Uzumeri read it and egged me on. So, you know, I read it, and wow. I hadn’t hated a comic book like that in a long time. And I think it shows in the review.

Another great motivator is getting into the conversation. I tend to agree with Tucker on the subject of critical discourse: “who cares?” If I feel like I should say something because everyone else is doing it, I generally refrain from jumping in. I’d rather talk about what I like and let the discourse build organically. There’ve been times when I was going to write about something, some new book or hot button issue, but kept putting it off, and then Jog or Matthew Brady post about it and I just throw my hands up in defeat because they did it so much better than I would have. (More than a few times. I love those guys.) But if other people are writing about something, and it’s something I’m hyped about and have a perspective or point that they missed, I’ll definitely hop in. But never just because I feel like I have to.

Does that make sense? Is it hypocritical? I dunno. But I’m with you- I don’t want to write a lot without really having anything to say.

The thing about my process is that at some point, I think fairly early in high school, I realized that I hated writing drafts. You mean to tell me that I have to write something twice? So I’d basically write a finished essay for the first draft, save it, reverse-engineer that into an outline, then chop out a paragraph or two, intentionally botch some grammar (commas are easy to mis-use and easy to fix!), and turn that in as the first draft. I’d get feedback, incorporate whatever fixes whatever actually mattered into my pristine final document, and turn that in. So, yeah, I was a) an amazing underachiever and b) impossibly arrogant, but it worked. And that’s affected how I write for myself to this day, save in the day job. I have to do outlines for clients whenever I’m working on a new book, but my outlines tend to be these hyper-detailed monsters, several pages in length with every key point and feature and idea integrated into the mix. On 4l! and elsewhere? I just go at it.

At best, as far as planning goes, I work with brief notes. Just a couple lines of things I want to touch on, maybe a sentence I want to use, and a few quotes to springboard a paragraph or two. Normally, I start with a blank screen and just go. That usually ends up with me rearranging paragraphs in editing and chopping out a couple hundred words once I’m finished. In fact, I did that with this response. The high school story came after this paragraph before.

This method is easy for me because I’m generally thinking posts over for hours before I start writing. I know exactly what I want to say, just not how I’m actually going to say it. By the time I’m sitting down to actually do it, I can just pound it out and get it done. I try to be careful and source things I write about, like writers, artists, images, and dates, and that takes some time. The actual writing itself, though, is a pretty smooth process.

The Black History Month series every year are killers. I love them, and I like doing them (particularly because, as you said, who else is? precious few.), but they’re tiring and draining above and beyond the normal posts. This year I did something different, posting only about BHM during February (and focusing strictly on the positive), which I think helped my focus but increased my stress. I mean, that last weekend of February– I was awake for maybe twelve hours, total, across Saturday and Sunday. I was completely beat, just thoroughly drained.

By the end of each and every year of posts, I just want to quit talking about black people and comics entirely because it’s such an unpleasant experience. But that isn’t true– the experience is also wonderful and enlightening for myself. It’s just very stressful, because I’m trying to live up to whatever impossible imaginary standard I’ve set for myself. I generally just keep my head down and barrel through and things tend to work out okay. Have you ever had trouble writing something you wanted to do? How’d you get past it?

CN: I find that stress you feel a little hard to imagine since I have nothing like that. I’m a white heterosexual male, so I’ve never felt any pressure to discuss things from any of those perspectives and it’s difficult to know what it’s like to do so or to feel like you ‘should’ do so. No one expects anything like that from me — nor do I expect it from myself.

I do have problems writing essays and posts sometimes. I have a couple of documents on my desktop. One is a list of books to do reread reviews on for CSBG and the other is a list of topics for essays/posts on comics. And both lists just keep growing. I’m awful at actually writing things for the blog unless I either have a deadline or am trying to avoid doing other work. That’s why I like doing things like blogathons or themed months/weeks/whatever. By saying in public that I will be doing a series of posts on a set schedule, I can’t really put them off. If I say that you’re getting a new post every day, then I have to do that post every day. Without an external reason to do something, I’m really bad at getting things done. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, an idea will come to me and I’ll be so excited that I’ll just do it without thinking too much, but that’s rare. I’ve had a shortcut to a word document about The Programme and Thomas Pynchon sitting on my desktop for a couple of months and I just never work on it, because there’s always something else to do — or some way to waste time that doesn’t involve doing that.

One thing that I keep wanting to do is the write-up of Automatic Kafka as part of my examination of Joe Casey’s comics. I haven’t done some of his recent stuff, but this is the big hole in my analysis. It’s intimidating since the book is so important and central to his body of work that I’ve never felt ready to take it on. Of course, there’s nothing stopping me from doing it and then going back and revising my writing in a few years.

Then again, some ideas I have for essays are just good ideas that I know I’ll never do because they’re too big or don’t really interest me. One idea is for an essay on ‘the universe as a character’ when looking at Marvel and DC, which sounds great, but doesn’t really appeal to me as a writer. At least right now.

It’s also difficult to read books sometimes without feeling like I should then write about them. One thing I’ve noticed about blogging and reviewing is that it makes reading comics a bit of a chore at times. Not all of the time or even the majority of the times, but sometimes. Sometimes, I just want to read my books and not worry about what I think about them and how I can express those thoughts and opinions to others. So, I’ve been trying to read books at times just because I want to, not to write about. I recently reread Marvel 1602 for that purpose. I had the urge to reread it, so I did. I had no intention of writing about it and I haven’t. Has that ever been a problem for you? I think it’s affected me more as a reviewer for CBR where I’ll finish one week’s worth of reviews only for the next batch to begin and it’s every week without a break… then again, I have my own issues with the never-ending, ongoing parts of life (why can’t I just take a break from sleeping or eating or waking up once in a while? come on!).

Chad has part nine!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 07

March 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

We’re still talking blogging! Chad has part six, this is part seven!

DB: I used to make the Casey/Kelly mistake off and on when I was getting back into comics. It doesn’t help that they’re both involved with man of Action, they’ve both had runs on Superman, and have done several books that I’m extremely fond of. Also they’re both named Joe, and I mean, people barely pay enough attention to know how to spell Frank Quitely, it seems like

And you’re right– Wildcats 3.0 was the eye-opener for me. I want to say that I was pretty high off The Invisibles and these new and amazing comics that actually meant things, maybe partway through the series, and a friend pointed me at 3.0. I dove into it blind, only familiar with the original WildC.A.T.s, and loved it. Dustin Nguyen’s art was a huge surprise to me, expressive and action-packed, and he’s been a favorite ever since. Casey hit the “Comics for grown-ups” spot in a way that very few people had, and 3.0 has been a personal favorite ever since. It’s flawed, sometimes hilariously so, but one of those books that I enjoy basically cover to cover.

I worked my way backwards from there, reading his runs on Wildcats and Mr. Majestic midway through 3.0. I never made it as far back as his ’90s Marvel work. I’m not sure why, but it never seemed like something I needed to do. His Wildstorm work seemed like all I need to know, you know? Excepting Automatic Kafka, I mean. I never got into that one.

I followed Casey from there, hopping back over to Marvel after The Intimates went out in a blaze of… something. I read a few of his Roy Thomas/Geoff Johns books over there- Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, First Family, a few others- and found them ranging from pretty cool to being kinda boring. I was into Godland for a while, too, but fell behind in trades. I’ve heard that it’s wrapping soon, so I’ll grab it in bulk then and tear through.

Casey struck me as a differently kind of accessible Grant Morrison. Not more accessible, exactly, but a different kind of accessible. They both can play around with psychedelic and traditional superhero frameworks in their work, but they approach it from different, though complementary, angles. I think I like him best when he’s in his Wildcats 3.0 mode, which is reflected in his Youngblood, The Intimates, and Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance. Playing with public relations, the idea of what makes a hero, youth culture, all of that really tickles my fancy. I recently reread Casey’s run on Uncanny X-Men, and I can see why the editors picked him to write alongside Morrison. I wish it had worked out better than it did, but there are kernels of great ideas there, and once Casey hits his stride, he’s off the book.

It’s similar to your point about his work on the human level of things. People working out how to be heroes, or trying to be heroes in the face of everything around them fighting against them, is endlessly fascinating to me. Even old Luke Cage comics scratch that itch for me.

Where do you see yourself going with GraphiContent and your other work? I know you wear several hats as far as writing online goes- are all the gigs a stepping stone on your way to a dream job or are you already there?

CN: I’m definitely not there, but I seem to be on my way. Go back to before October 2008 and all I was doing was GraphiContent, so in the year and a bit since then, I’ve managed to get a pretty sweet gig doing reviews for CBR, got invited to join Comics Should be Good, and earned a spot co-writing a wrestling column at 411mania.com (which has led to other writing for that site). Now, only one of those gigs actually pays (and not nearly enough to live on — enough to buy comics, though, which is pretty damn great), so I’m not where I want to be, which is a full-time writer, but things are progressing. I’ve never thought of GraphiContent as a means to that, oddly enough. I’ve always approach the blog as a place where I’d post my thoughts on comics because I want to write about comics. I’ve never used a hit counter, because attracting an audience was never a goal. Writing on there was for me first and if anyone else liked it, well that’s good, too.

Beyond the blog, I also write fiction and have a Master’s in English with a specialisation in creative writing, so I’ve been pursuing fiction writing, too. For my Master’s, I wrote a novel as my thesis and have been sending it out. I have a short story coming out in an anthology of Canadian writers under 30 this spring that I actually just got the proofs for, which was an odd experience in a good way. I will admit that my fiction writing has been overtaken by the online stuff this past year, which I’m hoping to change.

I know you recently got a new gig writing for Comic Alliance, so is your goal to make a living off of this as well? Do you just do non-fiction criticism stuff or do you dabble in fiction as well?

Chad has part 08!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 05

March 26th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

We’re doing it and doing it and doing it well! Chad has part 4! This is part 5!

DB: I’ve had a slightly different experience. It leads to a lot more off-the-cuff remarks, brief bursts of info from myself regarding whatever book I just finished reading or whatever subject I care to talk about. I kinda like how, barring extra late nights, I can post an update about the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man or throw up a link to some amazing art I found and get an almost instantaneous response. It extends the Wednesday-at-the-shop experience over the course of a week.

You’re definitely right about 140 characters being a real constraint, but I’ve found that it really forces you to get to the point. Writing posts tend to involve a certain amount of beating around the bush sometimes, though I’ve been trying to break that habit. Sometimes I want to soften the blow before bringing the hammer down on a book, or explain the context of where I’m coming from. With Twitter, there’s no context and no room for softening. You have enough room for “That was a really bad issue, and I’m pretty appalled that anybody in that company thought it was worth publishing. Why even bother?” It’s all very blunt, but I appreciate that. Sometimes I’m reading a post and just waiting for someone to actually make a declarative statement– be it “this book is good” or “this book is bad.” With Twitter, that’s all you have.

I’ve found Twitter most helpful when it comes to getting book recommendations. #MangaMonday has been a huge help for me in finding new manga to read, not to mention people being excited about books I’d never heard of before.

Here’s a different direction- how do you find stuff to read and review for the blog? What’s your type of comic and do you have trouble stepping out of that comfort zone?

CN: To be fair, I’m usually a pretty direct guy, so Twitter hasn’t changed that. One of the things I hate most about my writing is how direct it is and how tough I find it to write really long posts at times because I’ll say in one sentence what others seem to take five to say. I don’t know why I see that as a bad thing, though… probably has to do with minimums on essays in school.

I’m a pretty ‘mainstream’ guy in that most of the comics I buy are from Marvel or DC. A lot of the non-Marvel/DC comics are written by guys who I discovered at those companies like Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis. It’s a weakness that I have tried to overcome and keep on trying to overcome. But, given money issues, it can be hard to step outside of the comfort zone. Or, rather, not being able to afford to possibly waste your money on something you’ll hate is an excuse to stick with what you know. I’ve used the CBR gig as a chance to try some new things, but even that’s fairly limited to the regular Marvel/DC output for the majority of my reviews because, well, that’s what the majority of readers want to read reviews of. But, when I get the chance, I’ll try anything new if someone whose opinion I trust recommends it. If I see you or Tim or Tucker or Jog praise something quite heavily, I’ll usually write it down or make a point to remember it somehow. You mention manga, of which I own exactly two books. I know! Shameful. The two books, though, were purchased because I saw a lot of praise for them from people whose opinions I trust/agree with and I loved both. (The books being Ode to Kirihito by Tezuka and Tekkonkinkreet by Matsumoto.) I’m pretty open to giving anything a shot if people say it’s good (and I have the cash to spare).

My reviews on my blog are usually just whatever books I bought that week and didn’t review for CBR. For the longer essays/posts that are different… that just depends on if I have something special to say. Usually it will be motivated by looking out and seeing that no one has said anything yet. I did my post on Brian Azzarello’s Deathblow because I hadn’t seen anyone else really talking about it. That’s how I got started on Casey’s work and Starlin’s… even the Bendis Avengers stuff was because I hadn’t seen anyone really tackle all of it as a whole despite his work being dismissed for only reading well in bulk… I like to be a little different, I guess.

My pull list these days is pretty much determined by creator. I’ll buy almost everything by Warren Ellis, Joe Casey, Grant Morrison… I’ll usually give Vertigo books a shot if they seem interesting. Some small press stuff like glamourpuss and Rasl I buy because I’ve read so many great things about Sim and Smith’s work that I didn’t want to miss out on them this time (and I love both books).

I don’t know what my type of comic is. Do Joe Casey and Warren Ellis have a lot in common really? I think my type of comic is the sort that approaches the material (whatever that may be) with genuine intelligence and an attempt to not simply do the same old thing. People accuse Ellis, to give an example, of doing the same thing over and over, but that’s not true as anyone who actually pays attention to him knows. His characters may not change, but his approach to writing books, to creating comics, is always in flux as he works to do new things and find new ways to communicate in the medium. It’s not always obvious and may be something as simple as releasing a bunch of three-issue minis to see how structuring a story across 66 pages works, but it’s something. It’s more than a lot of people try. Casey is the same way, always trying new things, always experimenting… I like people who try new things within the confines of pop comics. Of balancing the needs of experimentation and entertaining. Go too far in either direction and it’s a little boring. Of course, how Bendis’s Avengers work for Marvel fits into that is questionable, I know. Ha.

I’ll admit that some books will get a look before others because of that whole ‘I loved the character as a kid and I can’t help myself’ bullshit. I gave Straczynski’s Thor six issues to win me over because I like Thor. And it won me over. I know you have a similar thing for Spider-Man. Those characters that we’ll check in on for no reason other than we like them. Do you ever find that mentality a little weird? How you do buy/find books? Did what I just say make sense? Heh.

Want to read part 6? Click!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 03

March 25th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Flashbackville continues! Bloggers talking about bloggers! Read part two and come back here to read part 3! Words!

DB: Oh, I did feel that pressure. It was shortly after I got attention for blogging about race, I think, when I felt like I absolutely had to comment on everything. Very much a “If nobody else is gonna do it, then I will!” It was “with great power comes great responsibility,” but arrogant and stupid, because I absolutely did not have to say something about everything. It felt like an obligation, but in reality, it was just me being foolish.

Before I learned to say “Whatever,” I was over-extending myself trying to keep up with what was going on in blacks and comics. I still do feel that pressure, but I’m smarter now, and more discerning. I understand that comprehensive coverage isn’t necessarily the best thing, choosing instead to focus on a few worthy subjects. Sometimes I hear about something that I could write about, but it’s just a joke to me at this point. “Oh, Brian Bendis wrote a comic where Luke Cage was felled by a heart attack? What, all the black characters got high blood pressure?”

I like your point about Graphicontent being “Two English lit guys talking comics.” I don’t think bloggers need anything more than two eyes and a brain, but I’m kinda in the same boat as you guys. I started really studying lit in high school, thanks to a teacher who would crack the whip if you didn’t slacked off, and kept that up through college. In fact, if you go back and look at my transcript, I’m willing to bet that they were the only classes with consistent grades, because I actually cared about reading and dissecting what I read. For me, it’s very much about using skills that were nurtured in school. “After Apple-picking” isn’t so different from Seaguy or DKSA, I don’t think, you know? They all use references and metaphor to illustrate a point, and sometimes that point is open to interpretation. I think I’m pretty good at that critical analysis thing, taking one specific aspect of a book and talking about what works about it. It’s a little different from annotations, which are David Uzumeri’s trade, or the way that Jog puts everything he talks about into their exact historical and artistic context, but no less valuable.

Approaching comics like real books with meaningful content and all gives me a kick. I feel like you and I have similar approaches, though you’re better at reviews than I am. Your Splash Pages with Tim Callahan feel a lot like what I’m talking about, two guys dismantling things to see how they work. Does that sound right to you? How’d you end up hooking up with Tim? Was it a case of like minds seeking each other out?

CN: I found about Tim through his book on Morrison’s early work. That got a lot of buzz when it came out, including an interview on CBR, I believe, so I ordered and read it (aside from the Doom Patrol chapter since I hadn’t read that run completely at the time). Around that time, I decided to write a big post on Morrison’s first year on Batman and wound up referencing him and Geoff Klock a little bit. He somehow came across the post and left a comment about how it was good or something and I geeked out a little since here was this guy who wrote a book about Morrison and he liked what I wrote about Morrison. After that, I read his blog, he read my blog, we left favourable comments back and forth, and in early 2008, he asked if I wanted to do the Splash Page with him for Sequart’s website. It began with us just picking a book each week and discussing it, and people apparently like it, and it’s gone through a variety of formats since Sequart had site problems, including a lovely stay at CBR. I’ve never quite understood why it works since Tim and I are pretty similar in our tastes and approach to comics that you wouldn’t necessarily think it would be interesting to read. Usually, when you have two people talking about anything, the appeal is that they approach things from different perspectives like you and Esther in the Fourcast, but Tim and I… I don’t know how that works, but it seems to be the work people like best from both of us — which is gratifying and a little frustrating since I’m sure we’d both rather be liked for our own work more than the discussions we dash off in spare five minutes here and there.

The thing I actually like best about the Splash Page is just having a chance to discuss comics with someone. I gave up message boards years ago for a variety of reasons and the blogosphere has filled that gap a bit, but talking with Tim is also good for getting that need to discuss things out of my system. (Though, twitter is filling that gap pretty well, too.) Is that why you began the Fourcast with Esther? And why podcasting instead of something like the Splash Page that’s text-based? How do you find discussing comics for a podcast compared to writing about them? One of the things I worry about when it comes to doing a podcast is that I’ll sound a lot worse than I present myself since, with words, you can delete and rewrite until it says what you want it to say. Going from that much control to just hoping you don’t say stupid things is a little scary.

Part four is up!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 01

March 24th, 2010 Posted by david brothers


Chad Nevett had the good idea to do some kind of team-up for our fifth blogging anniversaries. We ended up doing an informal chat, going over our respective histories, approaches, and various things related to blogging. I think we both like to talk, because it ended up being pretty huge. Hopefully it’s interesting, too, in that “two guys talking about each other and themselves” sort of way. I liked doing it, hopefully you like reading it.

The image up top comes from Jordan T Neves, a reader who shot that over to me on Twitter a couple weeks ago. Thanks Jordan! Check out his site (with sketchaday) or his twitter.

On with the bloggers talking about blogging! There are going to be several parts spread between 4l! and Chad’s site over the next few days, each in relatively easy to manage chunks. I’ll update this with links as we go along. Chad’s piece should be up later today.


Chad Nevett: I guess we should begin at the beginning… February and March 2005. Where were you at the time, what were you doing, and why did you begin a blog?

David Brothers: I’d have to push back to January 2005, when I started Guerilla Grodd. Or actually, a few months prior is the true secret origin of 4thletter!. I’d spent the past couple years making side money reviewing video games for a fistful of websites while sleeping my way through state school. I noticed that a comics site had an open call for reviewers. I figured, hey- I can do this for video games, why not comics? I picked JLA Classified #1 (a Grant Morrison and Ed McGuinness piece), wrote a review, and mailed it off. I never heard back, or maybe I didn’t wait to hear back, and posted it on a brand new Livejournal account.

Basically, I began a blog just because I could. Why not, right? After a couple months and 54 posts doing brief reviews, a couple of analytical pieces on the first two Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s Seaguy (which remain unfinished, but are still online), and some pretty basic and personality-less linkblogging, I bought a domain, moved the site over to Blogspot, and christened it 4thletter! because I’m an unbelievable narcissist. I drafted Gavin “Gavok” Jasper and Thomas “Wanderer” Wilde, old e-friends of mine, to help out and we took off running.

Kinda. We made 50-some posts between March and late September, mostly courtesy of me and Gav, before petering out. But, it was enough to build a small fanbase as a foundation and kind of get our legs under us, comics blogging-wise. I put down some money on a server in November and launched all over again.

What about you? I feel like I was a Millarworld poster/reader/lurker (now reformed) back when Graphicontent first launched. I know that I was aware of it back when I started writing about comics. Did I imagine the Millarworld connection?

CN: Nope, I am a Millarworld alum… if you can call it that. GraphiContent began with myself and another Millarworld poster, vacuumboy aka Steve Higgins. We, in our naive way, were bemoaning the lack of intelligent blogs about comics and decided to start our own. If you read the GraphiContent missions statement that I wrote for the blog’s launch, you can cringe with me. Some big goals and high ideals brought about by not knowing what else was out there (though, there was a lot less then, I believe). At the time, I was in my third year of my undergrad at the University of Western Ontario, earning a combined honors BA in English and political science, and, oddly, looking for anything to do outside of school. I was also writing for the school paper and felt pretty confident that I had something to say. Which I did for a couple of posts on Marvel Boy and Codeflesh with the odd ‘snippet’ thrown in. Sometime near the beginning, Steve and I recruited a few others to join, but that didn’t really increase our output and the blog remained pretty unused for a couple of years as my life got a little busier with school and being an editor at the school paper.

Things didn’t really pick up again until the fall of 2006 when I moved out of my parents’ house and a couple of hours away to Windsor to get my master’s. Being in a strange city resulted in me needing to fill time a bit more, so I began writing about the trades and random issues I got at the school’s bookstore, which slowly became writing about all of the comics I bought and my opinions on various developments in the industry. And slowly building back a readership after so much time giving them no reason to visit us. Around this time, I officially made the blog just Steve and myself with me doing the bulk of the posts. I don’t know how, but people slowly noticed that I was alive and I began making nice with others like Tim Callahan… the rest, as they say, is history.

I find it funny that both of us went the groupblog route and maintain that mentality now. Why did you get others to join you? Why not just go it alone? And when did Esther join?

Continued over at Chad’s spot!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Fourcast! 29: Talking About Comics Internet

January 18th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Ooh, welcome to Name Drop City, where the comics are good and the girls are pretty!

-Noted comics critic David Uzumeri of Funky Babylon gives us an intro
-Theme music: 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-What’re we talking about? Comics internet! Who we read, what we like, what we dislike, and so on.
-Twitter is David‘s favorite comics site, and at recording time, David Uzumeri‘s open letter to DC Comics was the big thing.
-Peter David and Gail Simone: sometimes they get into heated arguments with people on the internet. Here is Jim Halpert from The Office doing an impression of what Esther does when things like that happen:
Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

I Used to Love H.E.R.

December 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

In the end, 2009 is going to be the year that I stopped caring about superheroes.

As a kid, I loved them. Then I hit my teens and realized how bad they were and quit them. Then I came back to the US after high school, discovered Frank Miller’s Daredevil for the first time, and got back into them in a big way. Gimme everything you got about Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the X-Men. Add in some Flash, too. And now? Now, I’m bored and tired of them.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Dwayne McDuffie was fired off JLA after being hired, hamstrung, and toyed around with. Hiring McDuffie seemed like a no-brainer. He did a stellar job writing and managing an entire DC Universe, one that’s almost universally loved, and there’s no reason to expect that he wouldn’t bring that same magic to the comic series. Except he was hampered right out of the gate, forced to tie in with the wedding of two C-list characters, and then with every other DC event after that, including such unreadable crap as Tangent, Salvation Run, and Countdown. Then they started picking off team members. The most famous characters? Gone. Flash? Gone. Anyone you’d actually expect to see in a book called JLA? Gone. I’d mention Ed Benes’s art, but I think I’ve talked about him enough recently.

And then there’s the bit where DC made a big deal out of bringing Milestone into the DCU, only to flip the script and stick Static into a book that hasn’t been good in three (or more) years, shuffle the characters off into Brave & the Bold, and then step back like “Oh, we only wanted Static, anyway, you keep all them others.” In other words, “This guy made some other people a fat stack of cash, now we want that stack of cash.”

The thing about the JLA, DC, and McDuffie situation is that it is what is wrong with mainstream comics in miniature. It was an eye opener for me. What is important is not the stories, not growth or evolution, but the trademarks. The characters are what matter. As long as Hal Jordan makes a giant boxing glove and is the manliest man ever, as long as Superman has a spit curl, as long as Wonder Woman is in that stupid looking costume, things are okay. What is important is that books with these characters are on the shelves, because if they are on the shelves, they might get noticed, and if they get noticed, we get a movie or money or a game or something.

This year has seen Geoff Johns repeatedly trying to bring childhood nostalgia in line with adult sensibilities and cranking out books that explain why superheroes wear bowties or that feature dudes having sex with corpses. It’s scare quotes edgy, the sort of thing a teenager draws on a binder when he wants to rebel but isn’t sure how. Of course the love army are a bunch of shrill, possessive, needy women who don’t wear clothes. Of course these anger dudes just vomit blood uncontrollably. Doesn’t all this gore and sexiness makes these books grown up, instead of barely adolescent? Look at it, they’re drowning in it.

(Blackest Night is fundamentally stunted from a storytelling, emotional, and craft perspective.)

Brian Bendis and a few other Marvel writers spent a decent chunk of time this year hammering home the childishly binary view of “Villains kill, heroes don’t.” Meanwhile, their top villain was shooting passenger planes out of the sky, having government employees back handtrucks full of gold bars to known mass murderers and antisocial types, ordering assassinations of American and foreign citizens, and stocking the roster of a government agency with criminals who have pretended to reform. But hey, heroes don’t kill. They just kinda sit around and beat people up a little and sleep the sleep of the just. And in the opening pages of Marvel’s Siege, the newest big ticket crossover, Norman Osborn orchestrates the murder of sixty thousand people at a football game. But hey, in Siege #4, Spider-Man will punch him in the jaw, throw him in jail, and feel good about being a hero.

Have you ever seen the cover to Amazing Adult Fantasy #9, the series that eventually gave birth to Spider-Man? It’s a Steve Ditko joint, apparently. It’s got this giant monster with underpants, a helmet, and boots on, and the cover copy says “Ever since the dawn of time, nothing can match ‘THE TERROR of TIM BOO BA!'” Below that, the copy declares “The magazine that respects your intelligence!”

The Avengers books don’t respect your intelligence. It’s another entry in this absurd game of “Can you top this?” where the villains are getting exponentially more vile (Dr. Light goes from goof-off idiot to stone cold rapist to rape addict to a guy who is doing something vile off-screen to a recently murdered young girl’s skull, the villain of Blackest Night literally has sex with dead bodies because he’s ka-razy go coconuts, even though before he just kinda shot laser beams at people, Moonstone suddenly wants to put it on anything with a third leg when before she was just a scheming psychologist-type) and the heroes are… stuck in 1961.

Put plainer: Spider-Man could pull Norman Osborn’s whole head off at this point and it would be much, much better than watching him and his buddies circle jerk about how “heroes don’t kill.” Man up, you child.

Marvel and DC’s books, with a few notable exceptions, are ugly, stupid, cruel train wrecks that are busy trying to recapture past glories. I love Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner’s Power Girl, but for every one of those, you get a Ms. Marvel, a Mighty Avengers, and a JSA. For every New Mutants, you have to wade through Uncanny X-Men, Dark Avengers, and Flash Rebirth.

And I’m bored. I don’t care why Barry Allen wears a bowtie. That is the exact opposite of what I want to see in a comic book called Flash. I don’t want to see a villain who gropes corpses and has all the depth of the worst of a high schooler’s dirty drawings. I don’t want the fifth version of Superman’s origin to be told in ten years because who cares? Who wants to read this?

I’m bored to death. My pull list for singles is Amazing Spider-Man, Criminal: The Sinners, Hellblazer, King City, and Unknown Soldier. Everything else I either cop off the racks or follow in trade because it just isn’t worth picking up monthly.

I was thinking about this post while I was at work and went poking around for something. The last time I felt invested enough to write something positive about a Marvel or DC tights & fights book released this year, outside of linkblogging-related material, was September, when Black Cat returned to Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve made five negative posts about 2009-era superheroes since, and a whole bunch of posts about old superheroes or books from Viz, Boom! Studios, Image, Dark Horse, and other companies.

There are Marvel and DC cape books that I enjoy and purchase regularly. Spider-Man Noir was a great read and well worth the 15 bucks I spent on it. I like Eric Trautmann’s The Shield, Charlie Huston and Lan Medina’s Deathlok, the Fraction/Larocca Invincible Iron Man is aight, Rucka/JHW3 on Detective Comics is okay, Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin is hilariously uneven… but by and large, I’m bored. I’m reading most of these in trades and I’m not reading B&R at all right now because Philip Tan is terrible.

Marvel and DC did a pretty good job of chasing me out of their universes. I didn’t even really notice it happening until it was done. They don’t want my money, and I’m not in their target audience, and I recognize that now. They’ve built a world that doesn’t interest me at all, and I’d be a fool to keep trying to force myself to care and be a part of that. Talking and blogging about it kept me in the world longer than I probably should’ve been, but I’ve finally learned.

So, like Tim and Chad and Geoff and Cheryl, I’m off that and looking for the next one. I’ll catch the good capery when it hits the trade, read books only when it’s clear the company cares as much about it as the creators do (i.e., no Peter David, Greg Land, Ed Benes, Tony Daniel, army of pencillers/inkers, crossover tie-ins, and so on), and keep on reading comics like I been doing.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

h1

Klock On the Lameness of the Mainstream

December 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Geoff Klock has a bit on the Callahan/Nevett Splash Page I mentioned and briefly remarked on yesterday.

Between the ages of 15 and 20 I read all the X-Men books for five years — right after Claremont left: Age of Apocalypse, and Generation X and Onslaught, and Stryfe. Then I matured by moving beyond the brand and to the writers. I was in a new decade and the shift made sense. Suddenly I did not care who the hero was: I wanted Morrison's JLA, Miller's Batman and anything by Alan Moore. And I just couldn't invest in the X-Men like I used to.

Good reading. I’m going to have to move my response up a bit, I think, because suddenly it is relevant!

Related: Tucker and Jog totally made out on top of a pile of comic books.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon