Thursday, December 4, 2008

Because Tucker demanded it

-You ever have one of those sinus headaches that's so bad that you almost understand those people who drill into their own head to relieve the pressure? That hurt, but it's not as bad as what my father is going through. The day after Thanksgiving he had emergency surgery to remove part of his colon, which had become perforated due to diverticulitis, or something (I'm on the other side of the country, and haven't quite figured it all out yet). Dad's never read this blog, and I think he's only got a vague sense of what it is that I do here (he seems to think there's money to be made in reviewing comics graphic novels on the internet). But I thought I'd wish him well here anyway.

-And speaking of family, that new logo was drawn by my brother, who was eager to find a project which would allow him to avoid real, paying work for a couple of hours. Thanks, bro.

-The new Blogorama has been up for a few days, and the new crew certainly hasn't been shy about posting frequently. The core of the group, as I understand it, comes from the Shotgun Reviews site/Best Shots review feature from the main Newsarama site. There are a bunch of other people writing for the blog as well, including some people from the main Newsarama site and a few complete unknowns (at least to me). Among the main site contributors is Vaneta Rogers, whose interviews I've criticized before. I don't think she's actually contributed anything to the blog yet, though.

The main contributors so far are J. Caleb Mozzocco, arguably the most well-established blogger of the group; Michael Lorah, the "indie guy;" Sarah Jaffe, the "Verti-girl;" Troy Brownfield, who is, if I understand all this correctly, the editor of the new Blogorama; and David Pepose, who I had never heard of before.

Pepose has turned out to be the main workhorse for the blog, making multiple posts every day. A lot of his posts focus on the Hollywood stuff which I don't have any interest in (I still haven't seen Dark Knight). Brownfield has also written a lot of movie/TV articles, many of which frankly don't seem to have a lot to do with comics. They probably would be of interest to a certain segment of the comics-reading public, admittedly, but I'm not particularly interested in Samuel L. Jackson as a concept at this point in my life. So that's a step in the wrong direction, given my preferences.

Pepose is also covering a lot of superhero news, with maybe a slight focus on blog/message board discourse. Burlingame is covering similar ground, like the recent slate of canceled DC/Marvel comics. He's also prone to editorializing, which I don't mind all that much in theory.

Sarah Jaffe's Vertigo-centric articles aren't going to be of much interest to me. I'll probably skip them unless she's writing about canceled titles (and this being Vertigo we're talking about, she probably will be inside of three months).

Mozzocco is, for my money, providing the most useful content right now. His link roundups and Wednesday shopping lists are the closest thing to continuity with the old Blogorama. The former have been pretty good, covering a nice swath of comics-related news. The latter...well, I'm not much in the market for Wednesday shopping lists anymore, and even if I was, I'm not sure how much overlap there would be between what Caleb advocates and what I would buy. But I would imagine that it's a feature that other Blogorama readers will be happy to see return.

Michael Lorah has a good Previews shopping list feature--not unlike the one Greg Burgas does at Comics Should Be Good, but I think Lorah's tastes might be in greater alignment to my own. Maybe. I'm not sure how much Lorah is writing this for his audience, and how much it reflects his own tastes. The front-of-the-catalogue stuff actually comes last on his list, which is sort of refreshing. On the other hand, there's an awful lot of attention paid to James Robinson and Warren Ellis, and not much about the non-Fantagraphics art/literary publishers. Granted, D&Q, Picturebox, et. al., might simply not have much in the February Previews, or possibly Lorah isn't interested in what they are soliciting for that month. I haven't seen the February Previews yet; I might not have recommended anything from these publishers either. But all personal bias aside, a Previews rundown seems like a good feature, especially since not many other sites are doing something like that.

As for the other contributors, I haven't quite got a handle on what they'll be bringing to the table. Dirk Manning has some Bruce Lee related item--again, not sure what it has to do with comics, though many readers will doubtlessly get a kick out of it. Barbara Hallock has a...well, it's not really a review...let's say an endorsement of Knights of the Dinner Table. Lucas Siegel was the first person I read to post the news that Comic Foundry was shutting down, but he also links to an article about the downturn in the horror industry (BTW, the "horror industry"? Not the "horror movie industry?" Does the horror industry include manufacturers of fake blood?), but doesn't really try to tie in to, you know, comics. Cory Henson gnashes his teeth about the upcoming Watchmen movie (and let me point out once again, Watchmen is absolutely not the greatest graphic novel ever), and also posts a satirical piece about how different comic strips will end.

I have no idea what any of these people will focus on, because their posts seem to be all over the place. In his introductory post, Siegel claims he will be writing about video games, but that doesn't seem to be what he's posting about yet (with the exception of a post criticizing parental watchdog groups). Hallock suggests that her focus might be on "the various roles that women fill in comics." Again, I'm not sure if I'm seeing that yet.

The result, at least for me, is an absolute cacophony of opinions, newsy tidbits, and review-like articles; it's hard to focus on each individual voice when they all seem to be covering the same thing, or they're covering a bunch of different things. I don't necessarily expect everyone to carve out a niche and never venture beyond it, but it might help in the short term if everyone established their areas of expertise/interest, and then branched out from there. Some of the new posters have done so: I more or less know what Lorah, Pepose, Brownfield, Jaffe, Burlingame, Mozzocco and the returning Jeff Trexler are covering. But the other contributors seem to be drowning each other out. It doesn't help that there are about a dozen people posting right now, with apparently more to come. I'm much more open to reading somebody grouse about whatever the hell people are grousing about at the moment if I know who they are and where they're coming from. Right now, most of the new Blogorama crew have the credibility of a bunch of anonymous message board posters.

My other major complaint--and probably the more serious one, in the long run--is how much fucking Hollywood stuff gets covered. The new focus is kind of reminding me of the old Comics Scene magazine of the late 80s/early 90s. Anyone remember it? It was published by Starlog, and the ratio was usually half-comics, half-movies/TV. Lots of articles on Disney animation mixed in with interviews with comics creators. The new Blog@Newsarama is approaching that ratio, with lots of articles on genre movies, or movies related to nerd culture (like this article about The Wrestler, which sounds like an interesting movie, but only has a tenuous link to comic books).

I don't want to read too much into this--the contributors mostly seem to be writing about whatever they want to write about--but one wonders about the ongoing changes to Newsarama since the Imaginova buyout. The focus seems to be widening to include various aspect of nerd culture in general, while retaining a strong comics focus. There's no direct acknowledgment of a change in focus in Troy Brownfield's mission statement, but my rough estimate is that about 1/3 of the articles published since the relaunch have been about TV shows or movies; take away the various welcomes and introductions, and it's more like 2/5 of the posts.*

That's certainly all good and well; blogs and their parent website change, and their readers will just have to deal with it. But really, there's a reason I don't read i09, despite the presence of Graeme McMillan; I don't want to slog through a million billion posts about vampires and Fraggle Rock and whatever the fuck they cover over there to get to one post semi-related to my current comics interests. The new Blogorama is much, much, much, much more focused on comics than i09, so I'm not going to drop the RSS feed or anything.

But it's pretty clear that a lot of Newsarama readers haven't been happy since the Imaginova buyout, and there seems to have been some worry that the new Blogorama would become a general nerd culture blog (for multiple expressions of these fears, see the comments thread to JK Parkin's farewell post). Some similar comments are being made on the new posts, but Matt Brady (Newsarama version) is out there to defend his new crew. So far it's still a comics blog, and there's some worthwhile content. The blog will inevitably look different six months from now; hopefully it will cohere into a useful source for comics news along the same lines as the old Blogorama. But I wouldn't be all that surprised if some readers' fears of a more generalist Newsarama come to pass, either. Those movie and TV posts seem to be generating a respectable number of comments; maybe that's what the people really want.

*And geez, how many of the posts are about Heroes? I thought nobody watched that show anymore or something.


Tucker Stone said...

ah. Didn't see that title coming.

Marc Burkhardt said...

The people who do watch Heroes love to defend it, while the people who don't like to post how much they liked the show in the first season but hate it now.

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I couldn't think of another title. I guess I've got an aversion to straightforward titles to these posts. I don't know--"Review: The New Blog@Newsarama" seemed kind of confrontational.