Friday, May 18, 2007

Galvanized content

-Uncharacteristic positivity dept: Mark Engblom's ongoing Worst Cover Ever feature is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy, partly because he's skewering Silver and Golden Age covers alongside more recent targets. I love the Silver Age (and I'm pretty sure Mr. Engblom does as well) and I'm always annoyed that it's predominately treated as a wacky, whimsical era. There is a lot of whimsy and wackiness in SA comics, but we're doing them and their creators a disservice by limiting our appreciation to "Look how crazy/naive this shit is!" Mark is evaluating these covers on their own merits, and I greatly appreciate it. He's also pretty funny, which also helps.

-Tom Spurgeon interviews Tim Leong, who gives a more detailed explanation of what he's trying to do with a print Comic Foundry:

"...really it's taking a lifestyle approach to comics. Covering lifestyle and culture. Which I don't think anyone is doing in print. Some people say they are, by covering more pop culture things, but that doesn't equate to me as lifestyle. I don't think anyone has covered culture and lifestyle before. I don't think it was really possible to do so. It's only in that comics has become more mainstream, and has enjoyed widespread acceptance, that it's possible to cover culture and lifestyle in comics. That's our main focus, approaching content that way. It is kind of positioning ourselves between Wizard and The Comics Journal, trying to cover superheroes, indy, manga -- a little bit of everything in that regard."

There's an accompanying sample page which suggests content about cocktails and picking up people in bars. I'm honestly not sure what that has to do with comics culture. Actually, I'm not really sure what "comics culture" is supposed to be. Those two words make me think about sweaty guys playing Heroclix or maybe that oft-discussed Mary Jane statue. Maybe he means comics creator culture, but that makes me think of, I don't know, people staring at a monitor/drawing table and trying to decide if a few minutes of Gears of War (or, if you want a more sentimental scene, a few minutes of playing with their children) would eliminate all hope of beating the deadline. Honestly, the only aspect of comics culture I would associate with this cocktails and alcohol-fueled hookups is maybe a signing at some hip store in NYC or California, or maybe the kind of heroically drunken convention escapades to which Heidi MACDonald often alludes.

So if that's it, then, uh, I'm probably not interested at all. Which is no big deal, cause I'm just one person, and kind of a tightwad at that. But I'm really unsold on the mass appeal of this periodical. When I think "lifestyle magazine," I think either "magazine intended to help get you laid" or "magazine intended to make your home nicer, including the meals you eat in your home." From the look of the sample page, I'm guessing this veers closer to the former. Leong apparently is looking more toward Wired, a magazine I've never bought because (a) I don't think it's geared towards people like me, and (b) Thomas Frank eviscerated it too thoroughly in the pages of The Baffler for me to actually take it seriously (these two points are probably related). I can understand how Wired manages to exist as a lifestyle magazine which isn't about finding new sexual partners or what to do with your life after you've settled on a single sexual partner. Extreme technophilia clearly is a lifestyle, and I guess the people who live that kind of life read Wired.

But how on earth does that appeal transfer to reading comics? I could get my head around it much easier if Leong was trying to launch something more ambitious, like a lifestyle magazine appealing to people who read comics, play video games, watch cartoons, listen to punk rock, etc., long after they were supposed to have given up all these trivial pursuits. Something which can cover ground in between kitsch and genuine, unironic enthusiasm for these types of juvenilia--that's a magazine which I could probably convince my friends to buy, or which I might read while drinking coffee in a chain bookstore. But a magazine about comics culture, a term which I've never heard anyone else use? I just don't see it happening.

I could be completely wrong about all this stuff, since (as I have previously mentioned) I never read Comic Foundry in its online incarnation. I'd go back and check, but I'm having a hell of a time navigating their site. In fact, the only article I could access was one about the question of environmentalism in a (for now) inherently paper-based industry. It's an interesting angle, but I cannot fathom the long term success of a magazine devoted to these types of articles.


Katherine said...

It sounds like it would be a more specialised version of Geek magazine. And Geek magazine is... well, it's all right, but it's nothing I can't get for free on Livejournal. And it's in full colour.

What I like about the online version of CF is the interviews -- they had Doug Moench talking to Charlie Huston about Moon Knight, for instance, and that was really interesting: the creator of the character and the guy who's holding the reins at the moment. More of that kind of exclusive content would be great, because that I can't get on Livejournal.

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I actually think I did read some of the Huston-Monech interview. It's a good idea for an article, even though I'm not so interested in either writer. The CF site is at least somewhat accessible now, BTW, and I did some reading. The interview with K. Thor Jensen was nice, but not something I'd pay for necessarily. I'll try to read some more when I get the time.

Anonymous: leave your name if you want to leave a comment of that nature again. I suspect ulterior motives.

Steve Flanagan said...

But a magazine about comics culture, a term which I've never heard anyone else use?

Er, how about in the subheading of The Beat: "The News Blog of Comics Culture"? It's also a regular section heading at Journalista, lately full of MJ statuette guff.

Indeed, the blog at Comics Foundry seems to be all about movies and merchandise - the stuff I always regret finding on comics blogs. It's just not what I'm interested in.

As for "comics lifestyle", I think I am equally baffled and repulsed.

So I'm probably not a potential customer. But Im not a potential customer for Wizardeither, and Diamond stocks that.

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I really should have emphasized that my reluctance to buy a "comics lifestyle" magazine was not an argument that Diamond shouldn't carry it--and fortunately for them, it sounds like they'll end up in the catalogue one way or another.

I'm kind of hoping that the recent negative turn in coverage of this story (which I guess I helped bring about, sort of) will prompt Tim Leong to rethink the way he's going to pitch the print version to prospective readers. There's a lot of "WTF" type reaction to Leong's current description. Maybe he'll be able to reformulate his sales pitch so that it sounds more enticing to people not already predisposed to buying it.

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