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In part two of our interview with the lovely chaps over at Funnybook Babylon (part 1 here) we find out who the slackers are, fantasise about monetization, consider Jason Todd’s ethnic origins, and ask the question: what would you do if you were the fucking Beyonder!

ZOM: Onwards! You guys have been going for quite a while now, how do you think it’s going. What do you think you don’t do enough of? What works and what doesn’t? Who’s not pulling their fucking weight?

DAVID U: Man, you know what we don’t do enough of? Update. As for what works and what doesn’t, though, I think we sort of discovered that commenting on the current fad of the blogosphere or the state of the blogosphere or who’s lying about what is pretty much largely not germane to a good time when you put that stuff up in public. I should probably write more about creators who aren’t Grant Morrison, personally, but nothing else just seems to inform that desperate need to communicate my thoughts.

(Zom: Amy Poodle has the same problem!)

JOSEPH: Frankly, I’d like more listeners, more readers, and some way to turn that into enough cash to finance trips to a few conventions each year. Unfortunately monetization is something that I don’t have much experience with, and I don’t think we quite have enough listeners to go after ad money yet.

JAMAAL: Chris’ columns work. So do Dave’s, even though annotations aren’t my cup of tea. We need to develop a more predictable publishing schedule. Joe and I need to write more articles. As far as the podcast goes… I won’t say anything else, otherwise Pedro will sic his cats on me.

CHRIS: I think we’re still growing into a model for the podcast that is tight and informative without being stiff and joyless. That’s a continuing struggle and none of us went to Podcasting School so it’s been a series of experiments. On the blogging side, I think our desire to put out writing on some level of consideration/constructiveness has led to talking ourselves out of productivity; while I think having a sort of peer-review stage before posting is useful in many cases, it also leads to a sort of paralysis. I still don’t want to sacrifice content in the name of daily snarkblogging, but everything doesn’t need to be some sort of white paper on the industry.

MATT: More content would be nice, but I’m the poster boy for not pulling your weight and yet somehow I’ve managed to get a blurb on the editor’s page (which is gone now, sadly). I don’t think we do enough long or short-form reviews on the blog, although Chris has been knocking out some really good Pull List Analysis articles lately, and the great reviews on the podcast more than make up for any perceived slack. Basically everything I think we should be doing is stuff that I should get off my ass and do, so I can’t complain too much.

PEDRO:
I think we need to be okay with shorter form things that don’t run forever. We spend more than enough time talking about comics in short bursts which never really get shared outside of this circle. It’s great stuff that I feel people would connect to. The podcast is a place for some of those things, but some weeks, I feel the conversations Jamaal and I have on aim absolutely kill some of our better episodes. We need to translate that in between shows.

Zom: Yeah, we’ve mooted posting our email exchanges in an effort to capture something similar. I’ve always worried that they’re too messy, but the idea does appeal.

We’ve never adopted any sort of post vetting policy. As one of our pseudo-editors (Bobsy being the other) I would probably step in if I thought someone was drafting a post that would damage the blog, but frankly I just don’t see that happening. We know each other too well. As it stands I do a teeny, teeny, tiny bit of copy-editing, and we all comment on each other’s drafts when the mood takes us, but other than that we just leave people to get on with it. Mindless Ones simply wouldn’t work if we took a stronger line.

Next up: the comics blogosphere, do you see it as a community or group of communities? I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but I certainly consider a number of blogs (yours, TFO, Andrew Hickey’s, Supervillain, A Trout in the Milk to name a few) as friendly spaces, staffed by the kind of people I wouldn’t having a beer or ten with IRL. Folks who I think I could disagree respectfully with and not want to slap upside the head. Discuss.

DAVID U: It’s definitely a group of communities, as a lot of people seem to want different things out of it – I largely just want to talk about the industry and the comics in ways that foster greater appreciation, but I find some people seem to enjoy particularly well-written or funny reviews, some people want to look at funny silver age panels out of context and laugh at them and some people pretty much just want to bitch about stuff they haven’t read. I get bothered a lot of the time by the reductionist arguments, the sacrificing of intellectual honesty for the sake of a funny joke, but it’s really a wasted effort to try to halt it since it’s just the atmosphere of the Internet, no matter what the topic of conversation is.

CHRIS: I think there’s a cycle in any sort of ‘subculture’/community: the exhilaration of finding like-minded souls and the slow realization that just because your interests intersect in some way, that doesn’t mean you’re all best of friends. The “community” of comics bloggers is deep and wide, and I don’t expect to agree or even like reading every single one, any more than I would expect to like all music blogs, political blogs, novels or video games. I think a lot of members of the comics blogalaxy are still having a hard time coping with this, and disagreements erupt into perceived personal affronts.

There’s a guy I used to flat-out fight with on an Invisibles mailing list about ten years ago, and I found out other list members were surprised to learn that he and I had met up for drinks and were quite chummy. We just disagreed and both liked to argue. To use a more contemporary example, I often flat out hate some of Tucker’s posts, but I’m glad he’s blogging and would buy him a proverbial drink at a proverbial bar were the opportunity to present itself. There’s a danger of reacting too strongly to the dissonant voices in the “community” and retreating into a happy little echo chamber. There’s also a danger to spending all your time getting het up at people posting things you find ridiculous. It’s a balance everyone in the “community” has to find for themselves, but I like to argue and probably end up erring on the side of the latter. I’m not even sure if this constitutes an answer to your question, but I will fight like the dickens over that.

JOSEPH: I’m pretty much the outsider on the show, and I don’t follow the blogosphere as much as the other guys. I ended up meeting a few cool people through the blog though, and it definitely makes the con experience more fun.

MATT: I definitely see it as a group of communities, if the ties are even that strong. I don’t follow much of the blogosphere outside of the drama, but that drama seems to indicate that the different blogosphere cliques operate in totally different circles until some story brings them together temporarily. I also seem to see a ton of negativity in the blogosphere, with a lot of bloggers trying to prove that *they’re* the smart people whose opinion you should follow, and heaping snark and disdain on people that disagree. I definitely think we need more “safe spaces” where people can actually feel free to disagree with others and be disagreed with without getting all defensive about it.

PEDRO: Jamaal, Chris and I spend a good chunk of time diving into the blogosphere for news articles and topics for the podcasts. You can tell that people out there are loosely connected in one way or another, but it still feels, I guess, like freshman year at college. There are groups of people who are into similar things and they kind of stick to their own circles because no one really considers themselves peers to anyone else out there. It makes it hard to interact on some levels but it is what it is. I do wish more people were okay with thinking of others as someone they could have a drink with. They would consider you less of a joyless fuck.

Zom: You’re the fucking Beyonder, you can do anything you like but today you want to improve comic books, what do you do?

DAVID U: Kill the Direct Market. Pop a cap right in its ass and move us to a digital distribution system, but also establishing some industry or market that will allow all comics retailers to stay open and continue to apply the exact same skill set to keep making an equally happy and rewarding living. (You said I was the fucking Beyonder!)

This would move us to simultaneous worldwide release and greater accessibility, exponentially increasing the market for superhero books, since so many people just pirate them these days anyway. I’d also introduce a sort of “universe pass” payment structure where, for way less than buying all the titles, you get to read everything in the DC or Marvel Universe. Then, rather than using pure sales to determine a book’s popularity, a one-vote-per-account (these are paid accounts, so voter fraud would be an expensive pain in the ass) rating system could be used to completely eliminate the question of sell-through and whether the 100,000 people or whoever that supposedly bought Ultimates 3 actually liked it. Hopefully this would largely solve Tucker Stone’s problem regarding what he sees as the low quality of the Standard Superhero Funnybook.

Real mainstream comics, like Vertigo collections and Acme Novelty Library and Optic Nerve, get sold through Baker & Taylor and other book distributors to Barnes & Nobles and Beguilings everywhere, since they aren’t really standard periodicals anyway and, as far as I can tell from Hibbs’s columns, get them first as it is.

JOSEPH: Right now, I want full reprints & translations of everything Moebius has ever done, in nice editions that keep the original colors and lettering style.

I would also like to see what would happen if monthlies disappeared and everything moved to a trade format.

JAMAAL: If I had the infinite power to improve the industry, I would create a non-profit financed by angel investors and all relevant stakeholders (publishers, Diamond, wealthy creators) to provide improved health coverage and retirement benefits for creators, low cost legal representation for creators negotiating with publishers (especially the young ones). I know that services like this exist to some degree, but they would not be funded by my infinite power.

CHRIS: If I’m the Beyonder I would retcon my involvement with Steve Englehart’s “Secret Wars III” in Fantastic Four so that dear ol’ Molecule Man and Volcana can have a happy suburban life and not have their world torn apart by some Cosmic Cube nonsense. Then I’d get Evan Dorkin to finish/continue Hectic Planet. Then I’d sit back and be a Watchmaker Beyonder.

MATT: The others can speak to comics as an industry better than I can. I’d just like to see people stop buying bad comics and start buying good comics, so that the industry will have more of a reason to publish comics that are good on their own merits, and not just because they star whatever franchise property. Good and bad comics would be judged by my opinion alone, of course.

PEDRO: Jamaal and David already took one of my ideas, and, like Joe, I would like the idea of comics happening monthly to disappear but not get rid of the idea of floppies. I kind of hate this question a bit. I don’t know if I’m the right dude to be putting my ideas about what comics should be about. I really think the biggest problem is everyone on every end is stuck in a particular view that helps them out the most. I would therefore make every person tangentially associated with comics get a moment just like Luthor does in All Star Superman. People who don’t get creator rights, fan reactions, super hero love, racism and sexism in comics, will get it for a few moments. Hopefully, after that it may be easier to get an idea of what comics should be.

Zom: Finally, there’s a question that I haven’t asked but should have. What is it and how would you respond?

DAVID U: “Was Jason Todd a good Robin or the BEST Robin?” and my answer
would be “da best.”

JAMAAL: I like to pretend that Jason Todd was never Robin.

MATT: “Do you think what you do is important, and should it matter?”

Yes and hell yes.

PEDRO: You know, I just always read Jason Todd as a black kid. This
clearly makes him “da best”.

CHRIS: Q: What makes Turner D. Century such a great character, ripe for revamping and exploration?

A: [NINETY-SIX PAGE TREATISE REDACTED FOR SPACE]

Zom: Thanks a lot, guys, that was bloody excellent.

Now, who would win in an interblog, bareknuckle, knockdown, winner takes all fist fight..?

5 Responses to “Interblog circle jerk: the Funnybook Babylon interview part 2”

  1. pillock Says:

    Wow, I can’t believe no one’s commented on this yet…

    Great interview, very enjoyable. A couple of things caught me in particular here, one the idea of how far-flung the comics blogging world is…I guess it’s far-flung enough that I rarely chance on what “most people” are talking about, and when I do it’s because I foolishly click over to a popular site that doesn’t interest me, where they’re usually responding to some “controversy” that I had no idea existed. And here I am thinking I’ve got a decent grasp on what’s going on out there because, you know, I read [email protected], I look at the Comics Update, I check out Neilalien, CSBG, TCJ…but no, there are BIG conversations going on out there that I never encounter except at the fringes, and then when I do encounter them I recoil in horror. Big conversations that never come up at all on [email protected]! And that’s not even counting LJ stuff…which come to think of it does come up on [email protected]…seems to mostly be about Wonder Woman…

    Oh well, I suppose it could be worse, I could be like Dick Hyacinth and scan the five biggest blogs once every two months, and think I’ve tapped the zeitgeist…seriously, worst replacement imaginable for Fanboy Rampage…there are no Coles Notes for the Internet…

    But it really is quite a weird hyperextended hodgepodge, and it’s annoying/delightful that it’s just too big to see all at once. I mean I sometimes wish it were more cohesive, because I believe a more cohesive fan community is more conducive to the production of good comics, but what we have here is a divide-and-conquer thing…

    And then I remember that I’m happier just talking to people who’re interested in stuff I care about, and not having to wade through the folks, God bless ‘em, who make me feel like a Martian.

    But on the subject of being the Beyonder, of What To Do About Comics…the thing is, I figure that the idea of voting with your dollar is a myth, really. (Was going to write a whole post about this, but it turned out way too vituperative!) When Marvel and DC (for example) lose like ninety percent of their readership or whatever it is over the course of twenty-odd years, and don’t do anything to get ‘em back…I mean I left in the Nineties, and they responded by getting even Nineties-er, you know? Take away one piece of driftwood, they just cling harder to whatever driftwood is left. Stop buying bad stuff and start buying good stuff, and the only thing that happens is you spare yourself the trouble of reading crap you don’t like. But then the good books still get cancelled, and the bad books still proliferate, and the market still gets smaller. Not that I don’t believe you can’t encourage the production of good books, but I don’t think you can do it simply by changing your buying practices. I think the only way you can do it is by supporting better treatment for artists, while simultaneously producing better criticism of any lackluster work they do, and one of the ways to do both those things is to have better fan communities. Which means you have to be vicious with troglodytic fans, I guess…I mean how else would you even begin, with a project like that?

    Or opt out of reading any Big Two stuff altogether and just stop caring, which is pretty much what I’ve done — anything I need to know about Spider-Man I can get from well-written reviews of it, I figure. And I’m a better market for other stuff now because of that, so…

    Sorry, long comment! But yeah, it’s not the existence of crap that’s the problem, it’s the lack of a solid tradition of criticism that makes it possible for companies and creators to say that the crap is actually perfectly fine…I mean I don’t even care if it’s crap, I just care that it’s craftsmanlike crap, ye gods when you think of what Kirby or Ditko managed to produce in a world completely focussed on crap-making, you really have to cringe when you see creators with far greater licence and freedom pretty much hacking it out a hundred times more lazily and then whining about how hard it is to meet deadlines and how fans can be so mean

    Um. See why I didn’t write that post? Anyway, thank God for the friendly spaces! Maybe one of these days we’ll take it all over.

  2. pillock Says:

    Also, “the fucking beyonder” is the best tag ever.

  3. Zom Says:

    I’ll respond later. Bit busy now…

  4. Jamaal Says:

    Damn. I have a lot to say about Pillock’s response, but I must wait until Friday. There is much cooking to do. And I will reference the Beyonder in my next FBB post (coming in the hidden month between November and December) just to have that ‘fucking Beyonder’ tag.

  5. And You’re Somebody’s Girlfriend Too « A Trout In The Milk Says:

    [...] fiction movies. This is about what canon is. My friends the Mindless Ones recently interviewed a fella about how he thought the comics blogosphere broke down, in terms of structure and [...]

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