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Monday, June 06, 2005

Why is this kid in the corner?The Monday Briefing Special Edition: The New Comic Book Galaxy -- I have never been anyone's idea of a gifted webmaster. I have always been resistant to new developments, nervous about the future of web design, and firm in my conviction that if it wasn't in Liz Castro's book on HTML 4, I didn't need to know it. Frankly, given that our mission here has always been one of quality content over flashy dazzle, I don't think it's often hurt us, and occasionally perhaps it's been a benefit.

Just a little over a year ago, COMIC BOOK GALAXY returned to the internet after a hiatus in which I created the separate, standalone ADD BLOG.

When we came back last May, it was pretty much me and longtime buddy Chris Allen, both of us wanting to return to our CBG roots, but definitely tentative in our initial offerings. Chris didn't want to call his column BREAKDOWNS anymore, and I was afraid to commit to a column, too, instead offering up "ADD Notes," a blog-like column, before I resumed regular blogging. I might not want to do nothing but a blog, but I do enjoy having one.

A few weeks ago, things started to change in my life, so quickly I could barely keep up. There were a number of positive changes in my personal life after a pretty crappy cycle from last fall through the entire winter. If it wasn't the Winter of Our Discontent, it damn sure was The Winter of Mine. I might even tell you about it sometime. But as things started turning around, weird little changes started happening. Chris Allen decided BREAKDOWNS was back and should be called just that, sending me an e-mail that was one of the most exciting things ever to pop up in my inbox. It was a holographic moment -- mapped into the quantum particles of the fact that Chris was calling it BREAKDOWNS again was a whole implicit set of assumptions about his renewed interest, energy and excitement for his critical writing. My two favourite comics critics are Chris Allen and Tom Spurgeon, so when one of them tells me in this way that he is gearing up for a new era on the website we've shared for a half-decade now, I get a little tingly. I make no apologies for this: This was one of the most exciting moments for me in years.

My car was destroyed in a Sunday afternoon accident in mid-May that already seems like fate: For six years I had run the thankless hamster treadmill of endless car loans, paying a criminally indulgent 600 dollars a month for the "privilege" of having two cars in our family. I was injured in the accident, and am still recovering from that to some degree, but I have discovered that not having the albatross of two cars and two car loans around my neck is very exciting. I feel like it's bringing my personal life closer in line with True-Cost Economics, a saner way to live. I am no longer a slave to my red car. I wrote about that car and the accident on my blog not very long after the crash. I miss the car in a mildly nostalgic way -- it was very good to me and a lot of comics celebrities rode in it in its time -- but that time is over, and in a very real way I feel like the depressed, miserable person I was for much of the past year was killed in the crash. I feel energized, alive and excited. Both about life, and about THE NEW COMIC BOOK GALAXY.

See, I began to feel some weeks ago that Comic Book Galaxy was losing the plot somewhat. That in my depression, and with a number of personal problems, I had not provided the editorial hand needed to keep the site on-mission and on-target. I had a gifted group of writers, but was failing to give them much guidance or feedback. And while it's hard not to talk about this without seeming arrogant, I know that they appreciate feedback, criticism and praise whenever any of those are merited. I know because they tell me. In a very real way, and both my wife and Chris Allen initially laughed at this analogy, but I increasingly see CBG as the teaching hospital of comic book websites. Look where folks have gone from here: An Eisner nominated comics writer; a successful editor-in-chief at a popular and growing comic book publisher; many writers have come through the doors of the Comic Book Galaxy Virtual Lounge and gone on to do great things in this industry. Many now write for other sites or have created their own weblogs. And to me, those accomplishments are as great as getting nominated for an Eisner or running a comic book company. Because when you leave here, I think if nothing else, you take with you the idea that if comics is to grow, to be pushed forward into its own bright future, it takes active participation, communication and engagement. Like selling Rio Rancho Estates, it takes brass balls, the supreme hubris to say that comics -- as an industry, and as an artform -- can be better, to explain some of the ways that can actually happen, and to point the way to comics that are already well along that road while the corporate comics publishers in large part continue the destructive, backward-looking editorial and business policies that have so marginalized them in the eyes of the public while Manga, non-superhero fiction and artcomix are clearly ascendant in the mainstream media, in bookstores all over the country, and in the minds of people ranging from young girls and boys buying Manga to the library director who contacted me a few months ago looking for help in creating a new graphic novel category for a regional eductional system. Good comics are everywhere right now, even, surprisingly, in some comic book stores. The Beguiling in Toronto. Earthworld in Albany. Million Year Picnic in Cambridge. Atomik Pop in Norman, Oklahoma. Modern Myths in Northampton. And they're exploding in the media, in large chain bookstores, and in independent bookstores that are discovering that graphic novels have a place on their shelves, often an increasingly expanding one.

So, I began to feel some weeks back that it was time for a change. Chris had signaled that he was entering a different headspace vis a vis CBG, and between my car accident and other changes, so was I. I began to envision a NEW Comic Book Galaxy. Eventually I even started thinking of it as THE NEW COMIC BOOK GALAXY, and began asking around to see if there were any good writers I admired who maybe were simpatico with the evolution I was picturing for the site. Check the staff page a week from today, and you'll see that there were more than a few. I am profoundly grateful for the leap of faith everyone has made in either sticking with this site, or in signing on for this first day in its newest and most exciting phase ever.

Working on Comic Book Galaxy has, for five years, been a joy and delight from the angle of getting to work with writers, colleagues and friends that I respect, admire, and enjoy reading. I've always said the biggest perk has been getting to read, say, the new BREAKDOWNS column before anyone else gets to. But the flipside of that has always been that I am a victim of my own bad webmastering -- I barely know what I am doing outside the simplest HTML 4 stuff, and have probably made my own life harder by my staunch (and continued) distrust and distaste for automatic code-generating software programs.

Now, I get all the pleasure mentioned above, with the ease of use of my new Pentium 4 machine and Brian's unbelievable improvements to the creation and maintenance of the site, and Devin (the guy who answered my computer genius call for help) has made bringing all the archives up to spec in time for the rollout a breeze.

One week to go. Technical coordination between parties working on this in two separate countries requires that there will be no updates to the site for a week, except here, on the CBG blog. I wanted to warn you about that ahead of time, and to let you know what is coming.

This is my Joe DiMaggio moment, because between working with this staff of writers and having gifted, generous folks like Brian, Devin, Neil and Anthony providing behind-the-scenes support, I really feel like I am the luckiest guy on the planet right now. THE NEW COMIC BOOK GALAXY is a dream come true for me, a chance to refine and distill our best efforts and strike out in new directions to better cover an artform and industry that I have loved since I was six years old, when my mom brought me three funnybooks to read while I recovered from having my tonsils out.

That was 1972. In many ways, it feels like it was just yesterday. THE NEW COMIC BOOK GALAXY feels like tomorrow. Come back in one week and see if you don't agree.

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