30 December 2005

COMMENT: On 2006, and Some Greatest Hits

Personally, 2005 has been a pretty damn good year, from a comics perspective. CBC's barely a year old, quickly evolving from being a total lark to something central to reformatting my writing chops post-poetry slam era. (Not surprisingly, the activist angle of my work has transitioned intact.) Plus, I went from contributing reviews and the occasional feature at Buzzscope, to taking over as their Senior Comics Editor and spearheading the upcoming relaunch. As a result, my pull list has expanded from primarily Marvel and DC offerings and the random indie-published license, to a pretty diverse range of material that's introduced me not just to some great work, but as importantly, to a great community of ambitious creators.

The Buzzscope Drink-up on Wednesday was a lot of fun, finally putting some faces to names, but there were two moments in particular that summed up the year for me. The first came near the end of the night, standing outside talking to Jason Rodriguez, Rich Watson and Jim Salicrup. Each is, or is about to become, a Buzzsco--ah, I mean, PopCultureShock columnist, and the energy between us as we talked about the site and the industry and where we saw things potentially going in 2006 was absolutely electric. The second came a little while later, while talking with Jenny Gonzalez (another new columnist) about how she got into comics, and a specific story about her work with an Aspie, translating his Yu-Gi-Oh!-influenced stories into comic book form. It reinforced my sense that there's way more to the big picture than the Diamond Top 300 and ill-conceived cutoff benchmarks.

I left Botanica at the end of the night with a similar buzz to what I'd felt nearly 8 years ago to the day, in that very same bar, when a bunch of poets from diverse backgrounds and styles bonded over drinks and debate and formed the foundation of what would later become a little bit louder, the poetry series I founded and ran from 1998-2001, before turning it over to the collective of artists who'd made it their home and have kept it running strong, on the verge of celebrating its 8th anniversary next Spring.

I have a pretty clear vision for where I want PopCultureShock: Comics to go and, similar to how I built a little bit louder (aka louderARTS) over the first two years, it hinges on bringing together a diverse mix of talent and giving them a personal stake in its success, instilling a sense of ownership over both their own contributions as well as the larger umbrella they share, while keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel myself and not losing sight of where I'm trying to go. The proverbial winds of change are blowing through the industry right now, and I think there's two potential directions things can go: a variation on the boom-and-bust 90s, led by Marvel & DC's increasing reliance on big events and sales-boosting gimmicks; or, a relative leveling of the playing field, as indies shift their focus from the direct market, developing new audiences and distribution models. The latter direction is as likely to be driven by Marvel & DC's recruiting of mainstream writers like King, Huston, Dickey and Meltzer as it is by the defection of Craig Thompson and FLIGHT to higher-profile mainstream publishers. The opportunities are there; the question is, which ones will people take advantage of?

One of the most encouraging signs is the burgeoning comics blogiverse, an extremely vocal minority with more potential power to influence the industry than it seemingly realizes. (Not coincidentally, it's where I've recruited the majority of PopCultureShock's new columnists!) There seems to be a generational shift out there, with many from the original wave of comics bloggers either "retired" or bemoaning the passing of the good old days. As a member of the new generation of bloggers, I roll my eyes at the sentiment and point to some of the great blogs I have listed in the left column here, as well as a few that I'm tracking in Bloglines but haven't yet made the jump. Fossen, Cunard, Donelson, Rodriguez, Addams, Overaker, Carter, Watson, Shrew, Zilla, Neilalien, Hibbs/Lester/McMillan...and several others, new and old, make me believe that there's something brewing out there that simply needs to be tapped into, molded and properly channeled in order to have a real impact on the industry.

And that's what I'm ultimately looking to do -- help bring about a change in the industry. Ambitious, yes, but you can't hit what you don't aim at.

PS: Get a jump on things and update your Buzzscope links to http://www.popcultureshock.com/comics ;-)

2005 Greatest Hits

November 2004: COMMENT: On Reloads and Relaunches
My first industry commentary.

December 2004: Review: Worldwatch #3
My first really negative review, which led to my first contact with the larger comicsverse, meeting Erech and Dabb, and soliciting my first interview for CBC.

January 2005: Indie Spotlight: January 2005
The beginnings of my expanded pull list, including my first review of Skyscrapers of the Midwest.

February 2005: Comment: Being Black in a Four-Color World
Still one of my favorite posts here, and one of the most-linked to as well. Overall, February was one of the best months here, with several interviews, my reintroduction to Image, and the most posts ever from my co-bloggers.

March 2005: Adopt a Comic: Win Elk's Run #1
The snarky pick would have been my negative DEMO review that led to an entertaing little blog tête-à-tête with its publisher, Larry Young, but instead it's this bit of early activism, as I held a contest to give away a couple of copies of Elk's Run #1. I later added copies of Fade From Grace #1 to the pot, because sharing is caring.

April 2005: CBC Team-Up: Countdown to Power Pack's Sea of Red
This was a fun IM back-and-forth between myself and former CBC contributor, Stephen Maher, discussing a handful of comics we'd bought that week. It was an experiment that we never followed up on, but the concept is still alive in the back of my mind and may be revived soon as a podcast.

May 2005: CBC INFO: Ch-ch-ch-changes...
May was a tricky month as I'd started contributing to Buzzscope and CBC suffered greatly for it. Most interesting was this seemingly prophetic statement: "My goal is to take advantage of their larger audience to continue to spotlight good comics, particularly the underappreciated indies and underdogs of the Big Two, as well as the creators busting their asses to make those comics good." Who knew?

June 2005: Comment: Handicapping Batman Begins
Once again, most of my posting was Buzzscope-related, but this one I like because of how close I came to nailing Batman's box office, and how off I was in assessing Fantastic Four's prospects. There's predictions for Ghost Rider, Superman Returns and X-Men 3 there, too, which I'll stand by for now, until I see some more traliers for each.

July 2005: Indie Hype: Bumperboy
Because I never miss an opportunity to show some Bumperboy love!

August 2005: INFO: CBC Update
I'd put the blog on hiatus for about a month, returning with this philosophical brain-dump that suggested an upcoming zig instead of the zag that resulted. Life's funny that way, yes?

September 2005: On the Shelves: 9/8/05
A relatively unremarkable month, highlighted by this shift from listing everything coming out the week to commenting on select comics. I'd actually started doing it the week before, in August, but the name of the column changed here.

October 2005: Buzzscope: What's a Nubian? #1
Another month of mostly linking to Buzzscope material - I officially took over as Senior Comics Editor on October 1st - and this was the first time I offered a bit of DVD commentary, something I started doing more of in the following weeks.

November 2005: COMMENT: The Clone Saga & The Other - Part 1
This one actually isn't mine, but rather the first of a three-part essay from our resident fanboy, Dan, breaking down the Clone Saga and offering his guess on how it might tie in to The Other. Best thing he's done on the blog - except, perhaps, for introducing me to Vs.? - and hopefully we'll be seeing more from him down the line. Like maybe in a podcast...?

December 2005: COMMENT: Who Cares About Journalism?
December's been a good month - both traffic and content-wise - as I've finally found some balance between Buzzscope and CBC, and this particular bit of DVD commentary on my Speakeasy article is definitely one of my favorites, and hopefully a sign of what's to come for 2006.

Happy New Year everybody!


James Meeley said...


Changing the industry through blogging? A very lofty goal, to be sure.

My take on it, is to change people's veiws of comics through my blog. Once that is done, the changes to the industry itself will happen on their own. I think blogs should find ways to reach out to non-reraders and show them there's more to comics than Batman and Spider-Man. That there is a left of artistry and craft to it, that no video game or DVD can match.

It's overcoming those things, which bloggers like us should focus on, I think.

Still, congrats on a great year here. My blogs had a great year, too. Maybe next year I'll even make it to your list of blogs on the left. We all need to have goals, right. ;)

Continued success, both here and at Buzzscope.

Erech said...

You just completely insulted all those other wonderful sites by including my dick and ball joke mess in that list. For shame.

Also, if I were to have had drinks with Jim Salicrup the other night, I would have been starstruck too - the man is an institution.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

James: "Change" won't come through blogging, per se, but through the potential critical mass it offers to drive said change. Already, many of the second generation of bloggers have come together, finding strength in numbers, trading links and recommendations, effectively building the chassis, if you will. A crowd attracts a crowd, and by pooling together some of the best voices from that crowd, you build the engine. Then, to stretch this metaphor to its breaking point, you need a map and passengers. The map, IMO, is where similar efforts have gone awry, charting too-narrow a path to have any real impact.

PS: As for the list on the left, I only just discovered your blog last week and am tracking it via Bloglines. From what I've seen so far, you'll be over there the next time I update it.

Eric: What is a comprehensive community without dick and ball jokes? As for Salicrup, it was cool hanging out with him, and he's definitely "starstruck" material. It was fun to see Watson's eyes light up when he realized who he was! I'm really looking forward to the relaunch of his column because he's got such a wealth of knowledge to impart to these young whippersnappers partying all over my lawn!