Saturday, December 16, 2017


From time to time, I’ll be devoting a bloggy thing to talking about various comics industry issues. I’m starting off with my thoughts on the state of online comics news sites. For the most part, I am not a huge fan of these sites.

There are four comics news sites I visit every day, though I will probably be cutting at least two of those down to once every other day or less. One used to be my favorite and I even donated to it on a regular basis. However, its actual comics coverage has become spotty. It devotes considerable attention to wrestling and video games and such while ignoring actual comics stories. Often, when I look at its feed for the day, I’m thinking there’s no real process in place.

Another comics and media news site once did important work exposing scam artists and, to be fair, still does manage that from time to time. These days, its priority seems to be gossip and what I call  “Let’s you and he fight” stories. There is a pervasive pettiness, a dedicated dickish-ness to much of its writing. Their coverage of news has become so biased and questionable that whatever usefulness it once held is largely gone.

A third comics and media news site relishes click-bait stories. I don’t deny these stories can be fun - I just did one myself a few days ago - but the site does way too many of them. Since its feed pushes back older stories, more important items are pushed off the “front page” by the click-bait stuff.

A fourth comics site might be more properly considered a blog. Of the four, it’s the one I enjoy the most. It concentrates mostly on alternative and independent comics, often to exclusion of anything of note from the major comics publishers. But, since I’m not going there to read about Superman or Spider-Man, I accept it for what it is. It does earn points for running birthday greetings every day, but not many points since it omits many important creators in its  greetings.

NOTE. I have a bigger birthday/historical notes/remembrances list than almost anyone other than the Grand Comics Database and I beat them in several areas. I offered that database to anyone who wants it. Only one person ever requested it from me.

One of the biggest bones I have to pick with comics news sites is their disrespect by omission of comics creators. If comics news sites are writing about a movie or TV show that’s based on a comics series, they should include the one additional sentence it would take to mention the creators. I understand that can be clumsy when dealing with a movie or show that has multiple comics characters. I have never called a comics news site out for not listing, for example, the creator of every character who appears in Legends of Tomorrow or Guardians of the Galaxy. But, for many others, it really would take just one more sentence.

Arrow: Green Arrow was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.

Iron Fist: Iron Fist was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

Black Lightning: Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden.

The Black Lightning credit is the official one used by DC Comics. The difference between “and” and “with” might not seem like a big deal to many, but there are reasons why that’s the official credit line. Yet there are sites who don’t use the official credit line. Some get it wrong, though their mistake becomes less forgivable when they’ve been corrected time and time again and refuse to get it right. One site’s top guy flat out told me he wouldn’t use the official DC credit line because it was the official DC credit line. When did accuracy or lack thereof become some sort of journalistic virtue?

I don’t expect an abundance of respect for comics creators from the mainstream media news sites, though many of them have shown respect to creators. But I hold firm to my position that comics news sites should get it right. It only takes one more sentence.

What would my nigh-perfect comics news site have? What would get me to come back daily or even multiple times during a day?

Comics news. News about super-hero comics, alternative/independent  comics, manga, European graphic novels, comic strips, collections of classic and not-so-classic comics, all kinds of comics. When was the last time you saw an article on the terrific European material published by NBM? Or the oddball comics reprinted by PS Artbooks or Craig Yoe? Or the British comics scene? Or the comic-book artists taking over newspaper comic strips? Or manga? Or the comics history offered by magazines like Alter Ego?

I read all kinds of comics. I want to see news on all those kinds of comics.

Comics media news. Obviously, the movies and TV shows and cartoons are an important part of today’s comics industry. I don’t think I have ever seen an article on the Marvel cartoons that run on Disney XD. The new Duck Tales series barely rated a mention anywhere. Did the new series Happy! now running on Syfy and based on a graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson get any real coverage? This comics media news would also include video games and anything else actually based on comic books.

Creator profiles. One of the sites I visit does present lengthy interviews with creators, but only alternative/independent creators. Creators doing mainstream comic books have just as much to say about craft and personal expression. It's artsy-fartsy arrogance to believe otherwise.

Creator birthdays and remembrances. Historical notes about comics-related stuff. I still have a list of these that can be theirs for the asking. With maybe one exception.

Convention coverage...and not just of the conventions with lots of cool cosplay and media guests...and not just of conventions devoted to indy creators. One of the most vital conventions in the United States is the ECBACC (East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention). If comics news sites mentions ECBACC, it’s generally only to list  the winners of the annual Glyph Awards.

Clarification. I love cosplay photos. I just think there should be coverage of conventions beyond those great costumes.

Comic shop news. The comics shops remain our first line of access for comics readers. Most of them struggle month in and month out. Tell me about these shops and especially what they do that others don’t do.

I’d also like to see articles on when and where the outside world crosses paths with our comic-book world. Policies being enacted by our government affect the lives of comics industry professionals. Industry organizations like the Hero Initiative and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are often on the front lines when comics people need help dealing with real-world issues.

I would like to see articles on fun stuff like when a Gail Simone or a Marv Wolfman are guests at an overseas convention. Or when comics folk share their other travels.

Case in point. I’ll be a guest of a professional Cleveland sports team later this month when they run a comic-book-themed promotion in conjunction with Marvel Comics. They plan to print posters of the covers from two of my 1970s comics, which will be given out to the fans and which I will sign on request.That’s not something I ever expected to do and I’m sure I’ll be able to write an amusing bloggy thing about the evening.

Tease. I’ll be writing about an even more unexpected honor that’s coming my way this month. Even if these two things were happening to someone other than Tony Isabella, I’d still consider them worth being covered by comics news sites. At least you’ll be able to read about it here.

Comics industry professionals lecture and teach comics all over the world. Why aren’t the news sites writing about the global travels of Alex Simmons as he teaches kids how to make comics in Russia and elsewhere?

Every year, I give a couple talks at colleges and libraries on comics history, diversity in comics and other subjects. Sometime in 2018, I hope to partner with someone to put these talks on DVDs for use by libraries and schools, albeit narrated by someone who sounds much more impressive than I do. I’d love to be able to get quality DVDs of talks by other industry historians and professionals.

Many comics professionals have interesting blogs. My dream comics news site would alert their readers to these great destinations on the Internet.

In summation...

I’m a dreamer, but I’m a dreamer who lives in the real world. I’m very aware that the expense in time and money of creating a comics news site like the one I’ve been describing would be prohibitive if not impossible.

But I also believe that comics news sites can start doing some of what I’ve described above. No one, especially me, is expecting them to go from where they are now to the ideal comics news site overnight. But “better” is possible. So let’s start with “better” and see where that takes us.

Thanks for stopping by today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a bunch of comics reviews. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Happy got more coverage in the mainstream press than the comics press. Grant Morrison was even on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and none of the sites I follow picked that up.