FULL BLEED 2000-2010 – 5
PART 5: NERVOUS MESSED-UP MARIONETTE
2000 started and I wasn’t writing comics or writing about comics or blogging about them. I didn’t know what a blog was, nor did most other people and if you did you’re lying.
There were discussion groups on Genie (where I hung around the Neil Gaiman forum for a time) and Compuserve and AOL (where Andy Helfer was kind enough to point out that one of his JUDGE DREDD storylines more or less unfolded as his unfinished SHADOW storyline would’ve), oh an USEnet (where I got into a fight with DG Chichester over the silliness of bringing Elektra back into the DAREDEVIL monthly, even if Frank Miller himself literally resurrected her, which I maintain he didn’t do in anything but a purely spiritual form). But I’d been out of those for a long time as I’d been out of comics themselves. Though I’m pretty sure that if you google for it, you can find a SDCC report from me from the year 1993 (much, much more brief than the kinds of titanic monstrosities I spew forth now).
As one of the first comics I began reading again was THE RED STAR, I ended up on their forum, having been led there by a URL in the back of the collected editions. A friendly enough place, ended up posting there semi-regularly for a little while. Kinda stumbled along to the DC boards (mostly the Vertigo side of things) where I got to read the musings of AZZ and pulphope, maybe even get some ideas on good stuff that I’d missed in my wanderings away from comics (some panned out, some were merely panned.)
At that time, instead of a mighty Blogosphere, thrumming with a will and power all of its own, there were only islets, archipelagoes of message boards that often didn’t have contact with one another. Not unlike it is now, though I’ll say that the addition of common watering holes like The Beat, Journalista, The Comics Reporter and newer additions like Robot 6 and Newsarama and Comics Alliance do lend themselves to grounding a more common consensus (though I wouldn’t be fool enough to say that there’s a lockstep in the Blogosphere much less the Comics Internet).
There was a time when messageboards came close to filling that void, though. Granted, most of them were fairly narrow in focus, but there were boards that set their sights fairly widely like Comicon.com, Millarworld (even though it was ostensibly aimed at one particular creator) and even Newsarama could find discussion on outré titles and creators. I suppose I should honor the Comics Journal as well and the Image boards (though I didn’t frequent any of them).
Honestly, though, who has time to keep up on all these? Maybe if you’re at an office job with an internet connection you can (as I had through the early part of the 90s when there was just rec.arts.comics (before the Sundering that broke it into a handful of USEnet groups, before the dark days, before the Empire). Me? I was a new father and had stuff to write. But still, I made time to keep up with a couple of these places, notably Millarworld (oddly enough, given that I’m not overly a fan of Mr. Millar’s work, but the first six issues of THE ULTIMATES wasn’t bad, as was RED SON, parts of it anyways).
This would be 2003 or so, into 2005. Ran into an interesting guy there, one of a handful of folks from the UK (though he was an expat in the States as he is now). Since he was a native speaker, I asked him to read over some dialogue that I’d written for my Epic Comics pitch. Oh, surely you remember Epic Comics, not the good Epic Comics that was a subset of Marvel through the 80s and into the 90s, but the not-great Epic Comics that published MARVILLE and did a talent trawl by asking people to submit pitches for discarded and disused Marvel characters. Yeah, that one. Oh, don’t worry, I’ve torn up that pitch, since the character is basically toast now (though he’s being written by one of my favorite Marvel writers now—let’s see if you can guess who he is, eh?)
Anyways, that Millarworld member was Graeme MacMillan, before Fanboy Rampage or Io9, and just at the onset of his column for Broken Frontier, Grim Tidings. We more or less struck up an online friendship (I never know how to frame these things). I continued posting at Millarworld, working the outside seams of things, trying to get people to look at books that I’d really enjoyed (most of them ancient by any measurement, having come out in the 80s). I guess I’d impressed Graeme with my writing (Cthulhu only knows how) and he asked me to write a fill-in installment of his weekly column.
Who knows why I agreed to. Well, I did, since I was working on the first draft of MURDER MOON at the time and figured I should do whatever I could to get me some attention. Frankly, I don’t remember what I wrote about. Oh wait, I do, since it’s still on the old hard disc. Oddly enough, it’s about self-publishing. And remarkably naïve. Huh. Though I’ll stand behind the “create your own characters instead of lusting after someone else’s” sentiment that it espoused.
After that, I was offered a weekly column there, whatever subject I wanted. And by weekly column that’s, “write two single spaced pages for free or for whatever links you can get on Journalista.” Anyways, it was called Full Bleed, a name I’ve kept to this day. I ran it from 2003-2004, not for a lack of things to say, but because I got tired of a lot of the behind the scenes bullcrap.
Though I’ll say that between Graeme, Shawn Hoke and I, we pulled in a bunch of pings from Journalista (The Beat as we knew it, as well as the Comics Reporter, didn’t exist at the point, and this was Journalista 1.0) and triple-handedly pulled Broken Frontier out of Dirk’s “Danger Room”. It’s a miniscule accomplishment, but one that keeps me warm at night when I wake up at 3am in a puddle of my own sweat. Personally, I think I had a pretty decent run on Full Bleed 1.0. Got to interview one of my favorite writers at the time (Ed Brubaker, in something like the third installment of the column), and it opened doors for me.
Like the opportunity to cover eight panels at SDCC 2003 for two different websites for the pay of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (not to mention writing up my first epic con report). Yeah, I was a rube. But I did get four Newsarama bylines and four Beat bylines (back when the Beat was part of Comicon Pulse, that was). So I had that going for me, right?
Oh, I completely forgot. I never touched on the Delphi forums that were a big part of what was interesting online in the pre-blogosphere. The Grotesque Anatomy forum (started by John Jakala, but frequented by a bunch of my Broken Frontier peers, as well as guest visits from the likes of Cameron Stewart and a great “what the hell is horror” back and forth between myself and Ken “Ringwood comics and FakeAPStyle” Lowery, that ended in neither blood nor tears). But there was also the Andy Diggle forum and the pre-Vhive, the name of which I’m not remembering, and not the Warren Ellis forum, either, which shut down very nearly the time I heard of it.
Perhaps the most influential on me, though, was the Isotope forum, started by James Sime, founder and owner of Isotope Comics in San Francisco (again, friend to this day). It was there I met Larry Young (of AiT/PlanetLar, which had a huge influence on how I approached publishing STRANGEWAYS) and figured how to publish my first project.
By the time I’d wrapped up Full Bleed at Broken Frontier, Graeme had Fanboy Rampage well underway, though it was not close to the juggernaut that it would eventually become. I was always torn about that place, because it did turn into a lot of fanboy baiting wrapped in commentary. Granted, they usually set themselves up, but still…
This, of course, didn’t stop me from being a daily reader or commenter there. So I guess I didn’t feel that bad about it. But then I had my own thing going on over at blogspot, entitled Highway 62, to keep brand recognition floating along. Blogspot was big then, and it was just ahead of the big blogsplosion, which predated the myspacesplosion and twittersplosion of last year.
A lot of great blogs started around then. Mine wasn’t necessarily one of them, since I ran hot and cold with blogging and bouts of “why the fuck am I doing this anyways” (oh, those don’t go away, don’t fool yourself). Jog the Blog, Progressive Ruin, Postmodern Barney, BeaucoupKevin (maybe a touch after this, though), ADD’s blog (older than this) and Neilalien of course (older than dirt). Actually, didn’t Comic Book Galaxy start up around this time? I remember the arctic shit-knife sticking in my brain (oh, and how I loathed THE DEATH RAY after critics saying loudly how it was the comic of the year, even with some of the neat formalist tricks going on within it, which I’ll nick at some future time).
Odd now that I think of most of these people as online friends and colleagues rather than actively reading their blogs on a daily basis. But time will do that to you. I don’t know that I did any of my best writing on the blog as opposed to the column, either. Had some good bits here and there, like my NEW FRONTIER review and…uh…I’ll get back to you on the others.
Things blur out a bit here, because there very quickly was such a population explosion of blogs that it became impossible to keep up with them. Though there are a few others that stick in my mind. Eat More People was one (hosted by Rick Geerling, who went on to be my editor at the second incarnation of Dark, But Shining, which was a semi-legendary horror/fantasy weblog that was home to Kevin Melrose and…oh the name is escaping me.) I went on to write Conversation, Fear there for about half a year before it finally stumbled into unconsciousness, as many volunteer efforts often do. I was also following Sean T. Collins’ blog/novel OUTBREAK, which was kind of a zombie movie turned inside-out, where the protagonist struggles to have something resembling a normal relationship with his girlfriend in a partial and incomplete zombie apocalypse (a scenario which was compelling and fresh then as now, since zombie authors prefer that everything run as quickly as it can towards LORD OF THE FLIES predictability-territory.) Sean’s ADDTF is one of the few blogs that I hit every day still, something that I can’t say a lot of (and it helps that he’s a contributor over at Robot6 where STRANGEWAYS is hosted for the now.)
Not necessarily coterminous with this, but close, came a great consolidation in blogging. The Great Curve, one of the earlier big blogs, became the BLOG@NEWSARAMA (and picked up a few new members along the way). The Beat had been rolling as part of PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY since before that, and Tom Spurgeon started up THE COMICS REPORTER. Again, all several years ago, I’m sure the particulars can give you exact dates.
I suppose this demonstrates my lack of daily participation, of consuming enthusiasm with the comics blogosphere, my inability to nail down exact dates and events. Perhaps. Perhaps I started looking at a lot of this as I do much of the criticism and thoughpieces I consume: as entertainment. Just because someone can say something provocative about a piece of work doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy it any more (or less.) So I suppose that’s my dirty blogger’s secret. Just as it was for my columns. I read what entertains me, as I write what I’m entertained by. Sure, there’s blogs that I hit daily to keep up with “news” (and sometimes it’s even news), but just as often, it’s to have something witty to read while I sip my coffee.
Of course, I resurrected Full Bleed for a time, over at THE COMICS WAITING ROOM (which itself was hosted for a time over at Kevin Smith’s MOVIE POOP SHOOT: ah, Kevin Smith, you never go changing, okay?) Think I actually managed to run it for two years before I’d run out of stuff to say. I mean, there’s only so much energy one can garner up for the daily outrage over what basically boils down to likes and dislikes. Sure, there’s long, eloquent defenses of things one likes (or begrudgingly respects) just as there’s screeds against the subject of today’s Two Minute Hate (Grant Morrison knows nothing about superheroes! His books make my head hurt! Boobsocks! Codpieces!). I suppose both have their place, but if I’m not entertained while I read either, I won’t.
So, just as in webcomics in particular, but comics as a whole, the Comics Internet offers more content than you can handle. And, as I suspected when I first saw the Internet gearing up years and years ago (like 1991), it’s a matter of having the right filters up. But even then, your RSS feeds (which I don’t use though I should) can quickly become utterly overwhelming.
Shields up, Captain! Sensors on full sweep! Seek out the good stuff and don’t sweat the bad (because someone else loves it with every fiber of their being and will fight you to prove it).
So here we are, with titans of the Blogosphere and teeming millions of other voices (some even with something meaningful to say—others eating up column inches between adclicks). The trick is finding out what tickles you.
Which is sometimes a neat trick.
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