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A contrarian’s contrarian known for writing pieces like an Art Spiegelman takedown titled “In the Shadow of No Talent,” Noah Berlatsky is the sort of writer whom people who’ve never read The Comics Journal but know of its fearsome reputation might conjure up as the notoriously cranky comics mag’s critical platonic ideal. In that light, the longtime Journal contributor and current Journal blogger’s essay on everything that’s wrong with the Journal‘s new web presence might be the Comics Journaliest thing ever written.
Writing at his usual blog platform The Hooded Utilitarian — which is now hosted at the Journal‘s site, TCJ.com — Berlatsky rattles off a laundry list of problems with the recently relaunched site. Gaudy ads, WordPress clutter, an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to organizing its bloggers and their very different approaches and beats, “read more” jump-cuts that interrupt every single post mid-sentence, launching in beta, lack of promotion, frequent outages, and the already-infamous posting and yanking of TCJ #300’s content are among the many targets that draw Berlatsky’s fire.
More Journal and TCJ.com contributors chime in in the comment thread,
such as as well as blogger Derik Badman, who notes the site’s user-unfriendly headline-only RSS feed, which is undetectable to some browsers.
Though Journal publisher and guiding light Gary Groth continues to dismiss the comics blogosphere even as he admits he doesn’t follow it all that closely, the problems with his publication’s entry into the digital era make me wonder if we’ve reached a “physician, heal thyself” moment.
What the heck happened to The Comics Journal #300? Stuffed to the gills with a murderers’ row of comics creators in cross-generational conversation (from Matt Fraction & Denny O’Neil to Art Spiegelman & Kevin Huizenga), this anniversary spectacular became a swan song of sorts when a letter to subscribers revealed that it would be the venerable comics-criticism publication’s final journal-format issue — henceforth switching to a more online-focused model with semiannual book-format print editions.
So the the news that the whole thing had been posted online was met with much rejoicing… but the subsequent news that the whole thing had been yanked back behind the subscriber wall per the orders of co-publisher and editor Gary Groth was met with much head-scratching. Was this the result of an internal debate over the utility of free-content-as-marketing-device, as web editor and Journalista! blogger Dirk Deppey seemed to imply the next day? Was it a really lousy way to debut the Journal‘s impending web-based iteration, as frequent Journal contributor and future Journal blogger Noah Berlatsky lamented? Or was it a reaction to retailers upset that the product they’d shortly be trying to sell had been made available for free with no advance warning, as Johanna Draper Carlson surmised?
Well, if you had Carlson in your office pool, get ready to collect: Today on Journalista!, Deppey revealed that retailer complaints were indeed the reason for the issue’s Internet vanishing act.
“We pulled TCJ #300 offline largely due to retailer concerns over not having been given adequate warning about said plans before ordering the issue,” Deppey writes. “It was a fair point, and one that we hadn’t properly considered.” Deppey goes on to say that the issue will be back online for all in December after retailers have a proper chance to sell the print version, and that all future issues will be available online for free as planned.
So yeah, rough start for the Journal‘s bold new era. Still, it’s clear a lot of people really want to read the issue — not the worst problem in the world to have, no?
Kiss your productivity goodbye, comics fans: Every last page of the 300th issue of The Comics Journal has been posted online.
The Journal team had already pulled all the stops to make this anniversary issue something special even before it was announced that this would be the venerable comics-criticism publication’s final quasi-magazine-format installment. The result is a killer collection of cross-generational interviews between Art Spiegelman and Kevin Huizenga, Jean-Christophe Menu and Sammy Harkham, Frank Quitely and Dave Gibbons, David Mazzucchelli and Dash Shaw, Alison Bechdel and Danica Novgorodoff, Howard Chaykin and Ho Che Anderson, Denny O’Neil and Matt Fraction, Jaime Hernandez and Zak Sally, Ted Rall and Matt Bors, Jim Borgman and Keith Knight, and Stan Sakai and Chris Schweizer. There’s also a comics-format interview with Gary Groth by Noah Van Sciver, reviews of some of the past year or so’s most momentous comics — including Breakdowns, Acme Novelty Library #19 and Asterios Polyp — and retrospectives galore. Long story short, there’s so much stuff in there you’re probably best off calling out sick from work. Oh yeah, the print version hits stores soon. (Via Dirk Deppey)
In front of a packed house at September’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, a group of critics from around the comics Internet and beyond talked shop at the annual Critics Roundtable panel. Moderated by Bill Kartalopolous, the panel featured Comics Journal founder Gary Groth, New York Times critic Douglas Wolk, bloggers Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Tucker Stone, and Rob Clough, and a pair of Robot 6ers, Chris Mautner and myself. I’m happy to present a transcript of the panel below.
Sure, I’m a little biased, but I think it’s a fascinating discussion. The topics include the differences between print and online criticism, the notion of “the critical discourse,” negative critiques and much more. For some panelists, things have already changed since the panel took place: Groth, who gets quizzed on why he isn’t a bigger contributor to the comics Internet, is getting ready to jump in with both feet with the relaunched Comics Journal, of which Clough is going to be a part; while my membership in Robot 6 wasn’t even a glimmer in JK Parkin’s eye yet. And with a good deal of familiarity between the critics — I believe seven out of eight have written for the Journal and half write for The Savage Critic(s) — the back-and-forth was fluid.
If you’d like to listen along, you can download this mp3 recording of the panel. It’s worth it just to hear the chaos surrounding Tucker’s bathroom break.
Click the jump to read the transcript. Now, without further ado…
Business | Marvel Entertainment’s third-quarter profits plunged 60 percent because of a steep decline in film revenue and licensing sales for the period. The publishing division declined 6 percent, or $2 million, compared to the third quarter of 2008, which the company attributes to a drop in custom publishing offset by an increase in book-market revenue. [Bloomberg, Marvel.com]
Publishing | The list of nominees for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens is, as usual, diverse, with titles ranging from R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated and Jamaica Dyer’s Weird Fishes to Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto and Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards’ 1985.
The nominations, divided into categories for fiction and nonfiction, are led by Marvel with 15 titles, DC Comics and its imprints with 13, Viz Media with 12 (but for 18 volumes), Dark Horse with eight and Del Rey and Yen Press with six each.
The final selections, chosen by an 11-person committee, will be presented in mid-January at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston. [YALSA]
Tom Spurgeon followed up his initial breaking news yesterday with a quick Q&A with publisher Gary Groth about the proposed changes to the venerable magazine. Among the revelations: The new site should launch next month, the magazine’s staff will stay the same and no changes will be made to the daily Journalista feature or the message board.
Oh, and there will be more Kenneth Smith. Here’s Groth speculating on some of the details:
I suspect that little of the material on the website will be reprinted in the print edition; rather, I’m anticipating that short pieces that appeared on the website may be expanded for the print edition — or the reverse, an excerpt of something we plan for the print edition may be previewed on the website. But there’s going to be a learning curve while we figure out the different editorial requirements for both the website and the print edition. My main goal is to maintain the editorial impetus of the magazine on the website, making it an intelligent and sometimes provocative source criticism and commentary.
The mood on the Internet regarding the planned changes seems tentatively positive, although a certain amount of nostalgia for the magazine as it was once still lingers, judging by the reactions from folks like Alan David Doane, Johnny Bacardi, Heidi MacDonald and folks on the TCJ message board.
UPDATE: Steven Grant considers the Journal’s legacy in his latest column.
Tom Spurgeon broke the news yesterday that The Comics Journal, Fantagraphics’ long-standing magazine of comics news and criticism, will be altering their coverage and format following the release of their 300th issue.
The announcement came via a letter sent to subscribers that Spurgeon posted online. In it, the staff unveiled a two-fold plan which entailed enhancing the magazine’s Web site considerably and turning the print publication into an elaborate, twice-yearly affair.
Acknowledging the changing role the Internet has played in comics coverage, the letter states the current TCJ site will become “full-service,” with daily updates, and deliver “everything you love about the magazine,” including the interviews, news and “real journalism” the magazine has become known for. The site is currently best known as the home of Online Editor Dirk Deppey’s daily Journalista column.
As for the print magazine, it will become “considerably larger and more elaborate” than the current iteration, and will only come out semi-annually. While the price of the new magazine is still up in the air, individual issues will cost more than they do now, though the letter promises that a single issue will never cost more than $19.99.
At Comixology, Shaenon K. Garrity presents her “Half-Assed Guide to Comic Book Message Boards,” where she painfully, but hilariously and rather accurately breaks down the various places one can go to gripe about ‘One More Day’ or how they don’t ‘get’ manga. Here’s her take on the Comics Journal’s board:
The most necrotic section of the board is the “Comics Journal” section itself, where people only post to bitch that their subscription copies are late. Many TCJ subscribers seem to be under the impression that Gary Groth runs not just Fantagraphics but the U.S. Postal Service from his basement. They get really pissed. No one ever posts about the content of the magazine itself, proving that not even the most hardcore fans of The Comics Journal read The Comics Journal.
Ouch. She also demolishes Comicon, Newsarama and, of course, Byrne Robotics, though, oddly enough, CBR seems to stay out her sights. Perhaps a sequel is in order.
Welcome to What Are You Reading, where we tell you what’s currently in rotation in our homes, book-wise that is.
Our special guest this week is Jeff Lester, best known for his reviews and insightful comments over at The Savage Critics, though he’s also made a name for himself as a writer on games like the recent Sam and Max series.
More on what Jeff and the rest of us are reading after the link …