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Entries in Comics (16)

Tuesday
May132008

On live comics journalism.

As press, conventions usually suck hard. You’ve got so many places to be, so many people to talk to and so much information to write down and get published as quickly as possible, the event becomes a kind of extended cacophonous remix of a regular work day, stretched out over sixty hours or so, and almost nothing you write is any good.

I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but one day some asshole came up with the bright idea of reporting live from discussion panels. The basic idea is that you as the reporter sit there and listen to what people on the dais are saying and what questions the attendees are asking, type as much of it as you can on your laptop, then publish it all to your website via wifi. You repeat this again and again every few minutes until the panel concludes. The whole thing is predicated on the notion that there are loads of people at home reading your website and clicking Refresh again and again to get up-to-the-minute latest news on whatever it is you happen to be covering, right fucking now.

Naturally — and I am speaking for everybody, here — the quality of these live reports tends to be very poor if not altogether unreadable. Some panels aren’t even structured at all, with whole hours being dedicated to lively back-and-forths between professionals and fans; really long conversations, as opposed to orchestrated announcements or presentations, making your report that much harder to write and concurrently that much harder to read.

But you have to do it, because everyone else does it, and you can’t afford to have the same news published any later than the other guy, readable or not. The one saving grace, from the reporter’s point of view, is that there’s usually some poor bastard off-site whose job it is to go in and clean up the grotesque nonsense you’ve left him with, officially making it Somebody Else’s Problem and giving you enough time to get to your next panel and play out the dreadful thing all over again.

It’s unknown to me whether or not these “live readers” exist in numbers large enough to justify this desperate practice. The whole thing assumes these people would rather be doing it this way than just reading the same news all at once in a properly written and easily digestible form about an hour or so after the fact, and I just don’t know if that’s true. But it doesn’t matter because it’s too late to go back. If Dan DiDio or Jim McCann is on a panel, you can bet some underpaid hack (or not paid at all, if he writes for Wizard) is in the crowd typing furiously into a MacBook, trying to get all the pertinent details about the latest Secret Invasion tie-in or asking the guy next to him if he understood whatever the fuck Grant Morrison just said, all so some people on the internet can know that information at that precise goddamn moment

That is, unless you’re sitting on a pre-arranged and “embargoed” feature or interview that contains more or less the same news that’s meat to be announced at the event. More on that later.

Monday
Mar032008

On Wizard's alleged slave labor practices.

In the latest edition of his LYING IN THE GUTTERS, Rich Johnston detailed some of the alleged goings on at Wizard’s website as they relate to writers.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Wizard, it’s a print magazine and webzine that specializes in comic book news and other related nerd media, similar to CBR and Newsarama).

Just in case it’s useful to anybody who may be “working” there, aspiring to work in comics hype/journalism, or just following this Wizard Business bid’ness, I thought I’d share some thoughts. The following is just my take on what Rich has reported — I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of anything going on at Wizard.

There has been some debate internally at the website as to whether readers should be able to comment directly on articles, threaded underneath. Scott Gramling, the Editor-in-Chief, put the kibosh on that, telling people he did not want someone at Marvel to be able to print out one of the Wizard stories about their products and point to some text at the bottom that says “Joe Quesada’s an idiot for that Spider-Man story!”

While some negative comments that appear directly below an article might look bad in the scenario described above, placing such comments in another area of the site doesn’t really matter, as publishers already have people reading the comments and message boards of CBR, Newsarama and Wizard as well as other notable comics sites and message boards around the ‘net.

There are a lot of Wizard writers, past and present, annoyed that all the content before the Wizard website revamp has been deleted. A number of writers had written for Wizard for free with the express understanding that they’d be able to use that published work as reference for future work at other companies, and editors were given this justification as an express recruiting tool for young, unpublished writers to write for low or no pay.

And suddenly a lot of resumes have a lot of broken links.

Not only is this tragic for those writers, it’s highly n00bious of Wizard. I don’t think it needs to be explained why suddenly making years of content unavailable is bad for business. And what of all the creators and publishers whose websites link to those deleted articles? Repurposing content is a time-honored tactic in the publishing business, and a lot of content will continue to be read months and even years beyond original publication, which means more page views, which means more money.

As to the new volunteer class of Wizard writers, recruited from their message boards, I understand a number are writing three or four columns a week for no pay. The justification is that there is no money in online only articles, but if they keep writing they might have the chance to get something in print. Cue a couple of minor sidebars in feature articles in the print magazine to keep them sweet.

Who on Earth is going to believe that in 2008, the only thing that makes money is the print magazine? If that justification was actually put to the new writers, they are being lied to. Either that, or Wizard just handles their Web business so badly they don’t make any money on that website, which I find very unlikely given the success of the whole Wizard enterprise.

Writers - and this applies to all Web writing, journalism, entertainment writing, corporate copywriting etc. — you don’t have to write one word for free — ever. Unless all you want is to just go on a piece of shit press junket and ask Kirsten Dunst what kind of dog she walks or something, this poaching from the message boards thing is a bad idea. Nobody will take you seriously if you’re this sort of writer. It’s already hard enough to take the professionals seriously. If you work for free, you’re “fan press.” Don’t do it.

Now, as a freelancer, you’re probably not going to make a living on the money you get, at least not writing for the comics press, but you will get some money, and you will be a professional.

If you want to get your foot in the door and you’re willing to do the work for free, start your own site or blog or try to get hooked up with an existing fan-run operation. If you’re good and you get yourself out there, you’ll be in a better position to ask for money if and when you want to write for a commercial site, and you may even be courted directly. You will build your own resume, and guess what?

It won’t get fucking deleted!

Tuesday
Jul312007

The best comic book letter column name of all time.

Tuesday
Feb272007

New York Comic Con 2007.

In case you were unaware, I’m in New York and have been since last Friday. They’ve got a pretty big Comic Con out here, so here I am. This has been my first trip to NYC during which I did not become violently ill. Previous visits occurred at times when I was violently ill in general; deeply depressed and vulnerable to psychic attacks. None of that this time.

I spent minimal time at the Comic Con and most of it hanging out with my oldest friend Kendall, who I’ve known since we were 6th grade Boy Scouts at the Singapore American School (or SAS, as it is known). Kendall’s lived out here for a few years, working for a highly dubious “import/export” company, one that doesn’t actually have internet access at the office. Also, it is run by Germans, and overtly racist ones at that. Today is Kendall’s last at the company, and when he’s done drinking all the beer in the city tonight he is becoming a partner in a film/post-production company and continuing his sketch-writing work at Upright Citizens Brigade, something I am hugely envious of. Kendall’s always been one of if not the funniest and most talented people I’ve ever known, so that he was spending any amount of time at all in an internetless office facilitating god knows what for racist Germans is basically a crime against nature.

In addition to seeing Kendall , I finally got to hang out with Brendan on his home turf and meet some of the NYC Delphi crowd. Brendan, J-Love, Sam, McCardle and I bounced from joint to joint in truly heroic fashion, stunning everybody with our enormous hyphocity levels. We landed for a moment at a club called Stereo, one of those shiny, snobby places you see in films and TV shows about New York. Brendan’s Uncle Joe is an investor in the place, affording him the right to get in anyone the hell he wants. Still, we were met with tremendous static from the doorman, the most odious little fuckbitch I’ve encountered in years.

This guy looked like an Edward Gorey drawing. Short, fluffy black coat, scruffy beard, bowler hat with a fucking playing cardstuck in it. Are you fucking kidding me? He’d ignore us for several minutes at a time, but even when he would talk to Brendan, he wouldn’t look him in the eye. After about twenty minutes of this guy’s flak, denying there was a list, refusing to check with anyone about Brendan’s uncle, Brendan rightly decided that we were getting into this club no matter how bad it sucked or who we’d have to bother.

Unfortunately, the person we had to bother was Brendan’s 91 year old grandmother. Uncle Joe was visiting her, you see, and his cellphone was off. We stood out there in the cold, called Grandma McFeely, got Joe on the phone, and within a couple of minutes someone came out and cut us in front of the few dozen people in line — which I have no problem admitting always make me feel something like .05% of an orgasm. Gorey Lookin’ Fucktard tried to stop us, saying, “You can’t come in.”

The other much taller club guy put his hand on Gorey Bitch’s feathery chest and said, “Yes they can.”

PWN3D.

Gorey Bitch had to give each of us a little blue ticket before we could go in, but as he still wasn’t making any eye contact whatsoever, I refused to take the ticket when he handed it to me. I stood right in front of him and stared down into his shitty little eyes for — I swear to god — fifteen seconds before he finally stopped moving his head around and LOOKED AT ME. Then I took the ticket. 

Naturally, the club sucked and we bolted for parts unknown to me, losing Sam and McCardle somewhere along the way, and ending up finally in the Meatpacking District, in a sub-level stairwell illuminated by a blood-red light. Walking passed us on that stairwell were some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, too bad their attitudes were so nauseating. It was around 4:30am by that point and my bones were starting to liquify, so I said goodnight to Brendan and J-Love and ascended to street level. There I ran into Alana, with whom I’d been playing phone-tag most of the night. 

Alana and I met up on another night, in the Hudson Hotel’s beautiful bar, which is decorated in a bizarre collection of styles. The spacious bar is lit from beneath, the chairs are either plastic or cushioned, there is even a very large log to sit on, and the ceiling features some kind of hand-painted masterpiece. I don’t know that it’s actually a masterpiece, but I liked it. The drinks were inexpensive, the staff hot and the music good. Brendan, Kendall and Alana’s friend Meghan joined us, and from there we went to Decibel, a tiny, dark basement sake bar in what I think is the East Village. There we stayed for hours, killing numerous and freakishly large bottles of sake while telling stories about my ridiculous father.

Those in school or employed with proper jobs retired for the night, while Sam, his friends Corey and Marlo, and I hiked to a nearby sports bar to drink more booze and talk more shit. I can’t remember exactly why, but the focus of much of the conversation was on pubic hair maintenance, particularly the LA variety. There’s a phenomenon in Los Angeles, you see, of being able to go years in the city without ever seeing any pubic hair at all on a woman. 

I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’.

Last night was a marvelous get-together with a lot of the SAS survivors. Kendall, his girlfriend Camille, John, Ryan andPriya met me at dive bar Blue & Gold for a long night of remenicing, laughing, and — you guessed it — drinking! Talking points included superhero movies, arranged marriages, the kama sutra, the hormones in meat, psychopaths and zombies. I put four dollars into the jukebox — 12 songs — only one of which actually played (“River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner [or by Ike & Tina Turner if you want to be an pedantic prick about it]). I didn’t notice the jukebox controls were sticky, and I was entering the wrong numbers without realizing it. I recognized little of what did play, so I put another dollar in and predictably selected New Order’s “Temptation,” Underworld’s “Born Slippy NUXX” and Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.” 

It’s always good to hang out with SAS kids. That we all live in the US now after spending formative years in a foreign country nobody else really understands creates in us a kind of bond, I think. Even though I hadn’t seen some of those people in four or five years, we still got along as well as we did then. It’s a shared experience thing. You know, like the holocaust survivors. 

New York wasn’t all pizza and booze, though. I had to write a few CBR articles during Comic Con, and during the weekdays I was hard at work just like everyone else. The sweet hotel suite Sam hooked us up with has a separate room with a desk and sofa, which became my de facto office for the week. With a great view of Times Square in front of me, I got a lot of work done for my various clients, which now include Helio. No, I did not write the “Don’t call it a phone” slogan. If any of you do use a Helio, though, I’d appreciate you letting me know so I can scan your brain about it. 

This whole transcontinental, mobile office, clients callin’, wifi stealin’ world is making me feel like a real grown-up, and I’m not sure I like it. I have to talk on the phone a lot, I have to get up early, I have to go to meetings, and the parking is enormously expensive. Not to mention airfare. I missed my plane again in LA last week, thanks to a fatal accident on the 405 that closed all lanes. Los Angeles was so sad to see me leave for any amount of time, it was literally killing itself. 

I managed to get a later flight, but it meant sitting in LAX for four hours. During that time I decided to apply for a job withAnticlown Media, the company behind sites like The Superficial. They required that I make up something on the spot, as if I were blogging for them and not just submitting something I’d written somewhere else. This is what I came up with:

Understanding the History of the Bush Administration Through the Prism of Britney Spears’ Baby Rat, part XLII in a Series.

Britney Spears exists; mostly harmless = Texas governorship.

Britney marries K-Fed, nauseates planet = 2000 election scandal.

“Fuck a wife”; planet <3 Britney = 9/11.

Britney <3 Paris; planet ablaze = Iraq.

Rehab-o-rama = World War III?

We Talk Shit — You Decide.

Well, I thought it was funny after four hours alone in the airport.

I was fortunate enough to upgrade to First Class at no additional cost, but that baseless feeling of superiority didn’t last long. “Passenger Amin,” I heard some woman squaking over the PA. I went up to see what the hell she wanted and it was to ask me if I’d mind giving up my First Class seat to an elderly peasant woman with diabetes, so that she and her similarly ancient husband could sit together. 

While I knew it’d make such a great story if I told that woman to take a long walk off a short pier (you have to speak to them in “lingo” they can understand), I agreed to let her take the seat. Luckily there was another seat for me, although a really shitty one way in the back. I felt I’d done the right thing, but decided to consult the various oracles in my life; my collective moral compas, just to make sure.

Monday
Jul182005

Nerd Prom + PQ Inferno 2005.

Got back from Nerd Prom early yesterday evening. I’d planned on leaving the con Sunday afternoon and being back in LA sometime later that night, but the Ladies’ Inferno turned out to be considerably more fun than I expected. Which is to say, some amount of fun at all. As part of one relay event, I had to smoke an entire cigarette as quickly as I could, put on a skirt, cover my face in acne cream, eat a small bag of Cheetos® and reach into a dirty toilet in the middle of a field and pull out condoms. All of those acts were on the list of things I felt were least likely to occur when I woke up that morning (except maybe the condom bit), but I’m the sort of person who enjoys it when my day turns out like that. 

The rest of the afternoon was similarly deranged. Some insolent child stole my handle of Absolut®, forcing L. Clyne and myself to take a trip to Vons for new supplies. Lauren talked incessantly for the duration of our mission, and I can only infer from this that she is so attracted to me that our being alone made her nervous, or she thinks I am so attracted to her that she needs to talk so as to preclude any opportunities for me to ask her out, or that she’s just a huge tweaker. But I suppose each possibility has been true at one time or another.

And speaking of huge tweakers, [info]6satanic6ninja6 created this elaborate contest that necessitated her getting on my shoulders just so she could have my hands on her bare thighs. It was very cute.

There was also a math contest that I apparently would have come very close to winning if only I’d realized there was a second page. I still would have lost to Mairead because she is some measurable amount of genius when it comes to maths (and handjobs), but because my name isn’t “Mairead,” I’d still win, really.

After the games concluded (my team lost — pathetic, bitches), the party went to Lauren Behrle’s house and everybody got funky in the hot tub, and by everybody I mean me and Alana Massey, and by getting funky I mean her totally striking out with me. 

I woke up Monday morning in North Park with this psychic e-mail from the Devil telling me that I had to call [info]nicklocking and[info]plug_in_babe to see if they needed a ride back to LA. They said no, but the Devil also told me to see if [info]6satanic6ninja6 wanted to get breakfast. She agreed, and three seconds later the Brits called back and said they did need that ride after all. I met Sunny and [info]call_me_stepho back in the PQ and we went somewhere awful called Poway where we had awful food and awful service. I totally undertipped our whore waitress. Take that, peasant! 

I got back to LA in time to read a bunch of hate mail I received from fanboys unsatisfied with my convention coverage at CBR.. In all honesty, I tend to agree. I found it very difficult to write about the panels I was assigned. Basically, the publishers and/or talent have these panels which are ostensibly for discussion but are usually just slideshows to promote upcoming books. This is not to say they aren’t any fun, but my job was to absorb the information and present it to the awaiting public in the most timely fashion I could. Well, as anyone who knows me knows, I do things very, very slowly, especially when it is very simple like regurgitating a press release. The more complicated a task is, the easier a time I seem to have performing it. The Grant Morrison article, for example. I’m not saying it’s any good, mind you, but it obviously reads better than any of the Con coverage I did, and I clearly had more fun doing it. 

[info]benjamintrotter and I worked [info]chadmichaelward’s Artist Alley table while he was off being a rock star at the NBMbooth. She was a very excellent smut peddler, engaging just about every single person who walked by. Also she was really cold, so I loaned her my shirt which pushed her huge… nevermind. Anyway, depending on the hotness of the girl, I claimed to actually be Chad and signed boobs and stuff. One lady came up and scolded Stacy and I for leaving the portfolio open to a supposedly explicit image that children could see. I hope they did see it. Maybe they’ll be scarred by it to such a degree that they’ll be completely asexual and stop filling this planet with raging assholes like the Con employee who insinuated that I was a “squatter,” as in someone who sets up unauthorized shop somewhere on the con floor. This sniveling, bespectacled weasel of a man leaned in really close to read my name tag and check it against his Clipboard Of Crime, but before he could get his dick out I explained to him that I was Chad’s assistant and that if he has a problem with me, he can take it up with my friend Jeremy Love

As if ruining my brief comics journalism career wasn’t enough, I’m fairly certain that I won’t get very far in the industry in a creative capacity either, as quite a few major players witnessed me hanging halfway out a taxi’s window, drunk and screaming at Dan Evans to “GET THE FUCK IN THE CAB RIGHT NOW!!” 

It was after that incident that [info]samhumphries, [info]nicklocking, Brendan McFeely and I went to downtown San Diego’s Tequila Bar and ordered an obscene number of shots and cocktails which we had to drink in just about half an hour. It was a glorious thirty minutes of true male-bonding, and is really the highlight of the entire convention weekend as far as I’m concerned. Naturally, I fell in love with our waitress and we totally did it, I don’t care what any of those guys tells you. After the bar we tried to catch a cab back downtown, but it was very difficult because of all the “drunk ass bitches” in the street. I personally rescued at least one poor woman from what would certainly have been a near-lethal ankle-twisting.

It was only back at the Hyatt that darkness descended across my buzz. Travis Johnson obliterated my state of hyphocity so utterly, I don’t think I can ever completely forgive him. You see, Travis had this swank Hyatt suite all to himself for the con and, after a prompting from Da’Har Master Jason Cornett, agreed to have a Saturday night afterparty. I get a text message from McFeely saying “Travis is going to buy a whole mess of alcohol.” I think, “station.” But what do I find when I arrive? Indeed, all my friends are chillaxin’ in Travis’ party pad, but all there is to drink is ONE SIX-PACK! OF NEWCASTLE! I’m not saying that’s all that was left, I’m saying that’s all that was bought!

I wasn’t really disappointed, though, because I was already so drizzzz, and the company was really good. I got to see Han Q. Duong all faded, which is kind of like seeing Han Q. Duong asleep with his eyes open. I went to the bathroom and used those bottle openers they have attached to the sinks and took a quick tour of the suite and discovered a laptop with the iTunes® player displayed. I distinctly remember saying “Oooh shit, time to get hyphy!” just before Travis yelled “Andy, no!” 

Long story short, Travis was very tired and not really pleased that anyone was there at all. He was concerned about complaints from other guests and was no doubt consumed with a nameless dread when drunx0rz McFeely and I showed up banging on his door yelling “POLICE HERE!” Travis kicked out all our drunk asses pretty quickly. 

My disappointment was profound. I just don’t understand getting a great suite, having all your buddies from around the world whom you never get to see hanging out and just talking, and not getting anything more than six pack of beer and not playing any tunes and constantly telling everyone to keep it down and then leave. What is the hotel going to do? Tell you to shut up! It’s the last night! The bedroom was partitioned, too, so he could go to bed if he wanted. The Party is bigger than just one man, I say. It is a living, beautiful thing and Travis aborted it with a wire hanger the way I wish to god my mother had.

I took what was left of the beer down to a lounge elsewhere in the hotel, but was promptly descended upon by a fat concierge type who proclaimed this ultimatum: hand him the bottle or chug it all right now. So, here’s a guy who knows how to party. I chugged the rest of my Newcastle and went outside but oh wait, the Hyatt staff was ready for us. [info]samhumphries and I had no choice but to go home and finish the booze off with some Tokyopop guys we met in the elevator. Station.

Last night we said goodbye to [info]nicklocking, [info]plug_in_babe, Jamie McKelvie and girlfriend Flur (Fluour? Flehr?). They’re all lovely people and I really loved showing Los Angeles to them and hanging out and getting up to all the mischief and just having a lot of great laughs in general. But I also got drunk every night in a row for something like ten nights, so good riddance to those bastards. It’s not like I could understand a fucking word they said all week anyway, shit.