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Neilalien, the pseudonymous/palindromic blogger behind the Doctor Strange-centric site of the same name, celebrated his eleventh anniversary of blogging on Friday. He did so by announcing he wouldn’t be blogging anymore, at least not for the immediate future and not with anywhere near the regularity and intensity he’d previously maintained if and when he returns.
To call this the end of an era would be a considerable understatement. Neilalien was the very first comics blogger, launching his blog on the unthinkable date of February 25, 2000 — long before most of us had even heard of blogging, much less started doing it ourselves. It was roughly another three years before enough comics readers started blogging about the medium and the industry, and engaging one another in the process, that the “comics blogosphere” could even be said to exist. Neilalien became a vital part of that community largely through remaining partially apart from it — quick to swipe at perceived groupthink, content to go his own way in terms of what he was reading and writing and why. While the heterodox linkblogging and no-holds-barred industry commentary of Dirk Deppey’s early ¡Journalista¡ blog for The Comics Journal helped link comics blogs to one another and make the existing comics-internet infrastructure of major news sites and message boards aware of the blogosphere as a source of news and commentary, Neilalien’s more personal approach led by example, if you will. Here was a guy who didn’t work in the biz and had no aspirations of doing so, a guy who just really liked Doctor Strange and wanted to get his thoughts on and discoveries about the character and his goings-on out there, a guy who in the process would champion worthwhile non-Doc comics everywhere from the Big Two to the tables at MoCCA, a guy whose blog was nothing more or less than what interested him and what he felt like saying about it. The model blogger, basically. And his carefully maintained anonymity — I’ve had lunch with the man and still don’t know his real name — lent him an aura of mystery in this put-it-all-out-there-for-all-to-see medium.
With Deppey (who incidentally was sort of Neilalien’s Baron Mordo) already gone and many other figures in the early comics blogosphere either dormant or enmeshed in other fields, Neilalien’s retirement leaves the scene nearly unrecognizable from what it once was. Major comics news sites, even corporately owned offshoots of major media conglomerates, have adopted the blog model (you’re looking at one such effort right now). And in today’s hit-obsessed climate, the idea that a site like Neilalien’s, blissfully unconcerned with anything that didn’t concern its creator, could have played a central role in the comics blogosphere is difficult to comprehend. That’s what makes his departure such a loss. And if nothing else, his passionately and frequently articulated conviction that there’s nothing wrong with Doctor Strange that smarter, better, more imaginative writing on the part of Marvel’s creators couldn’t cure will remain advice worth heeding, even if he’s no longer around to dole it out with the conclusion of each fresh Bendis New Avengers arc.
Vaya con Agamotto, my friend. I’ll miss you.