Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Exuma ain't got no leg, he walk with a wooden peg

-Guy LeCharles Gonzalez appears to be the only dissenting voice in the recent Diamond-rejects-Comic Foundry kerfuffle. I'm not quite sure what point Guy is making, other than it's hard to launch a magazine; towards the end he seems to be implying that the hypothetical failure of a print Comics Foundry could poison the well for a better magazine shooting for the same (possibly nonexistent) demographic in the future. I've never read Comic Foundry, aside from maybe that "What comics should you force upon your girlfriend?" article (or maybe it was a response to those kinds of articles; I can't remember and their website isn't letting me access articles right now). I always questioned Tim Leong's plan to take his magazine to print form, but other than that I don't really have too many thoughts about the issue. The question of finding a middle ground between Wizard and The Comics Journal, however, has made me think a little about the role of the former in the current comics journalism landscape.

Newsarama is clearly the industry leader among websites covering Marvel/DC, with CBR in a pretty strong second place. Newsarama offers few feature columns, often addressing points of continuity murkiness or ground-level independent comics. Thus the site's blog was a very welcome addition when it launched, as it added some much needed personality to the site. CBR has historically had a much stronger roster of respected and influential columnists, but hasn't been quite as strong in breaking news. The official site blog, the transplanted Comics Should Be Good, is similar to Blogorama in that it helps put a human face on the site, though I always feel like there's a wider gulf at CBR between main site and blog than at Newsarama. (I suppose there's also Comicon. I just visited the Pulse for the first time in ages, and it looks like there's more content than the last time I checked. The loss of Heidi MACDonald's The Beat certainly hurt Comicon; there's still a link to it on the main site, giving it a bit of an unkempt, derelict quality.)

By comparison, Wizard's newly-redesigned site every bit as ugly as everyone says. It looks to have the same number of articles as its competitors, at least one of which is written from the POV of a fictional character. So that's at least one distinguishing feature. At one time the site also featured roundtable discussions of comics and news (I'm not sure if they're still around or not). These discussions have the potential of selling the contributors' personalities to the reader, but I have no idea if they're effective in doing this for most visitors to the site. In fact, I have no idea if Wizard even wants such a thing; I'd assume Gareb Shamus, et. al., want to promote the Wizard brand more than any of the writers. Strangely, though, I don't see as many of the characteristics I identify as classically Wizardian on the website. There are occasional references to the physical features of female characters, but a lot less of the "10 most killer supervillain henchmen costumes" type material that I associate with the magazine. In reality, I have no idea if that's what's actually in the magazines anymore. The website sure isn't telling me.

That's what strikes me as most unusual about Wizardworld.com--hype for the magazine is almost conspicuous by its absence (especially given the amount of hype for Shamus' IFL stockholder boondoggle). It seems like Wizard is trying to provide a website that's more than just a promotional vehicle for the magazine--it's just doing a half-assed job. There's little to differentiate the site from c. 2004 Newsarama, CBR, or Comicon (two of which are much more attractive than Wizard due to the addition of blogs). I think Wizard is trying to follow the model of sites like Sports Illustrated, which emphasize original content rather than hyping the magazine. There's a clear division of content at those sites--news and time-sensitive analysis goes on the web; investigative journalism and interviews are the domain of the magazine. Wizard hasn't quite perfected this yet, it seems--the website offers long interviews, and Wizard has never, ever pretended to be a venue for genuine journalism. Wizard's identity is much more linked to heavily-illustrated "best ever" lists, discussion of which superhero beats which in a hypothetical fight, cheesecake pictoral reviews, and fantasy movie casting. This means that Wizard is effectively competing against blogs, which is probably where this wacky stuff belongs. Or it would be, if we weren't such a cynical, Silver Age-obsessed lot. (To their credit, Your Mom's Basement occasionally features material like this, only much funnier than I remember anything in Wizard ever being.)

So Wizard the magazine might be filling that particular niche. But is it enough for people to pay for it? There are probably a few people still relying on Wizard for industry news, but the majority of its audience have to be buying it for other reasons. A blog replicating Wizard's brand of of drooling fanboy idiocy seems like an ideal addition to their website, but such an addition would surely harm sales of the print version. And yet Wizard's frequently anemic web presence suggests irrelevance in the face of sites like Newsarama, which offer instant gratification in terms of news and analysis (all the more enticing thanks to the long feedback sections for every article). It's hard to imagine Wizard lasting in its current form for another 20 years; its current readership will surely grow tired of its adolescent hijinks, while newer readers will gravitate towards the internet (especially blogs, I would think--we're going to have some exceptionally jaded youngsters on our hands in a few years). In the end, I wonder if Wizard itself will have to relocate to a middle ground between its current format and that of The Comics Journal in order to survive.

-Controversial, potentially anger-inducing* musical thought of the day: Is it time to rehabilitate the later work of Marc Bolan? Did this already happen and I missed it? I've been listening to one of those T. Rex boxed sets, and I actually like a lot of the later period stuff. Yeah, I realize that these songs have been cherry picked, but I've always been the kind of person who'd rather have an album with one or two great tracks and a bunch of dreck than an album full of inoffensive but forgettable junk. I think listening to the Descendents conditioned this behavior.

*I really don't expect any well-balanced individuals to react that way.

-Since I've gotten good video game information here in the past, I thought I'd pose the question to you folks: what's a good news-oriented blog for video games? I've been meaning to find a better news source for that stuff.

-Short Trader Joe's review: I don't think I'd ever had a proper tamale before today. Bear in mind I'm a vegetarian (I think I might have mentioned it a few dozen times in the past), and that the vast majority of Mexican restaurants do not offer tamales stuffed with substances other than cow meat. Also remember that I grew up in the rural South, where Mexican restaurants (especially ones making any pretense of authenticity) were still a bit of a novelty prior to my vegetarian awakening (or V-Day, as I call it) waaaay back in 1996.

So anyway, I bought Trader Joe's frozen cheese and green chilies tamales today, and I'm sad that I've missed out on these tasty things for all these years. I'm really starting to develop a taste for roasted corn, and these tamales are loaded with that flavor. I actually enjoyed the corn casing more than the cheese filling. No, I didn't eat the corn husk wrapping--the package warned me not to. My wife, whose Coloradan upbringing and omnivorous eating habits have granted her a greater familiarity with tamales, had the beef filled versions. She said they were good "for a microwave meal." She was also baffled by the presence of a solitary piece of carrot in one of the tamales. Take that for what it's worth (probably more than the words of a tamale neophyte like myself).

10 comments:

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

...other than it's hard to launch a magazine

Pretty much that. I wasn't going to comment at all until I saw the number of bloggers jumping on the "CF would be good for the industry" bandwagon, ignoring the fact that publishers with viable business plans and sufficient financial backing are what's actually good for the industry. I hadn't actually watched Leong's video before I posted, though, or else I'd have been a lot harsher.

Johnny B said...

Now, Guy, it just sounds like you're being contrary for contrary's sake. Doesn't it seem like Leong is offering product that at least deserves the chance to sink or swim on its own merits in its chosen marketplace, regardless of what kind of financial backing and/or business plan he has?

I don't care if it's good for the "Industry" or not; the Industry has worse problems, and one more comics-related publication on the rack won't solve its ills. Besides, it's not like Leong is asking you to foot the bill- so what the heck is the harm in having it come out?

And Dick- you know you can't mention Bolan without me chiming in. I love a lot of Marc's later stuff, a lot more than the casual listener I suppose. But I'm a fan. On the rare occasions I've listened objectively to efforts like the ehh Zinc Alloy or Dandy in the Underworld, a lot of it sounds really slight and underwhelming. But each album, even Bolan's Zip-Gun, sport a handful of good-to-great cuts even though sometimes the music suffers from the Visconti-less thin sounding production. I think part of the problem with the latter T.Rex canon and public perception of same is that there were no new T.Rex releases in the U.S. after 1974, hard to believe, I know- Casablance issued Light of Love, which was a mix of Zip Gun and Zinc Alloy tracks, then that was all until well after he had his fatal car crash. Hell, I didn't even hear Zinc Alloy in its entirety myself, as big a Bolan fan as I am, until 1989! So a lot of that music went unheard until well after any sort of deep impression could have been made, except among those inclined to revere glam rockers from the 70s.

There's still room for a damn good cover or two of "Jupiter Liar" or "Think Zinc", if you ask me...!

Chris Mautner said...

Both Kotaku and/or Joystiq would be my video game news blogs of choice, the former more so than the latter. Wired also has a pretty decent news blog, and 1up seems to be well done, though I don't frequent there very often. I'm not sure why.

Anonymous said...

"Now, Guy, it just sounds like you're being contrary for contrary's sake."

What!?!?

Guy being a contrarian just to get attention!

Shock Horror!

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

@Anonymous: Ooo, look, an anonymous poster lacking the courage to publicly identify themselves! Shock horror, indeed.

@JB: I think I stated my opinion pretty clearly in the post, not to be contrary but to be informative, as opposed to simply jumping on Leong's bandwagon and denouncing Diamond for their oppressive ways. I don't think CF is a bad idea -- I've said a million times in the past that comics needs a representative in the underserved space between Wizard and TCJ -- but I do think it's not ready for prime time.

The whole thing is reflective of that annoying sense of entitlement that's so prevalent in comics, that so may people seem to think Diamond is obligated to distribute every publication submitted to them. I wonder if one of the mainstream distributors had rejected CF instead of Diamond, would people have been less surprised?

Shane said...

I know Mark Fossen of the late Focused Totality writes for 5WG.

http://www.5w-g.com/

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