17 December 2006

Time's Person of the Year: Me!

Well, okay, all of us, actually, and I couldn't agree more.

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

...look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
While Time obviously wasn't thinking about the comics blogiverse, the truth of the matter is that even in our little world the balance of power has shifted a bit, as the myriad blogs and alternative sources of news and information springing forth over the past few years has helped to expand the scope of comics discussion. The exponential growth in new and varied voices has carved out brand new niches where creators, publishers and even genres that didn't have a shot at getting any attention from the likes of Wizard, Newsarama or the average comics retailer can now have some realistic hope of attracting an audience for themselves.

For me, these 5 web sites and blogs particularly stood out in 2006 for adding something important and useful to the bigger picture:

Blog@Newsarama: Newsarama has come a long way from when I first hit the comics internerd back in 2003 to find, effectively, an online version of Wizard magazine, with an almost identical myopic viewpoint of the comics industry that left me cold more often than not. 2006 saw Matt Brady and company make some laudable attempts to expand their coverage, and the addition of the blog formerly known as The Great Curve under their umbrella was as smart a move as any made by the major players on the comics scene. It's a several-times-a-day stop in my online travels, and one which has kept the main site on my radar when it might otherwise have fallen off.

Glyphs: The Language of the Black Comics Community: Even before I took over as senior comics editor for Buzzscope back in the late summer of 2005, Rich Watson was #1 on my list of bloggers to bring into the fold. His Glyphs blog had quickly become essential reading and I wanted a larger audience to see it, so I asked him to do a monthly column for us and he agreed. Fast forward to today and his blog has moved over to the recently relaunched and redesigned PopCultureShock and, in my opinion, represents a cornerstone for the site as it repositions itself as the online destination for pop culture fans who have a mature, adult life beyond their geek passions.

Occasional Superheroine: I first came across Valerie D'Orazio's now infamous blog earlier this year and found her to be an engaging comics blogger who happened to be female. At the time, I was looking for potential contributors for PopCultureShock and put her on my watch list for future reference. The summer came and went and PopCultureShock, blogs, and comics in general fell victim to my lack of free time, so when I started to get back into the loop a month or so ago, I was startled to discover her entire blog had been deleted and replaced by her harrowing "Goodbye To Comics" series of posts that served as "a 'theoretical' memoir of what *might* have happened in the life of a woman in the field and fandom of comics. You know, just like how OJ's 'How I Might Have Done It' is theoretical." Having personally witnessed what one young woman who dared to come forth with her story about harrassment in the industry was put through -- the ringer doesn't even come close -- I was inspired by Valerie's determination to tell her very thinly veiled account of her own experiences in the industry and heartened by the relatively positive response she received from across the comics blogiverse.

First Second Books: Doodles and Dailies: Some publishers get it, and some really get it, and in only their first year of publishing, First Second really seems to get it. From an excellent and eclectic lineup of graphic novels that have garnered both critical acclaim and mainstream attention, to a regularly updated online presence that perfectly communicates Mark Siegel and company's mission to publish graphic novels that "build bridges". (A new feature called "Who Reads First Second Books?" could (and should) double as a marketing campaign.) If you haven't picked up a First Second title yet, I dare you to poke around their web site for 10 minutes and not find something that tickles your fancy. If more publishers in the industry mimicked First Second's approach to comics, we'd all be a lot better off because of it.

ComicSpace: More potential than anything else right now, the fact that in slightly less than two weeks this laser-targeted version of MySpace has managed to bring together more than 6,300 comics creators, pundits and fans under one roof is impressive, especially considering the site has very little functionality at this point. Owner/creator Josh Roberts' remarkable side project is poised to be the industry's killer app if he can quickly integrate some of his proposed options (like hosting comics and offering RSS feeds) and creators and publishers can figure out how to properly leverage their usage. It will be interesting to watch how things play out over the next few months.

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