Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comics Journalism Redux

Sequential Tart's Katherine Keller has wrote an interesting editorial regarding the "comics journalism" debate. She feels that too much emphasis in that discussion is placed on investigative journalism as opposed to journalism in general. Basically, that investigative journalism does not automatically = Journalism; it's just one facet of it. Moreover:

Right now, based on "partying with the stars" (sheah, right) I've heard some very interesting things about the day-to-day workings of things at DC, Dark Horse, and Marvel. I've also sat in while one up-and-coming creator vented about about his dealings with one of Comics' most famous creators regarding how things were swiftly going down the toilet regarding a jointly owned and created character, as well as what really happened to spur his departure from a top 30 book. Juicy stuff indeed. And I could write all that up and send Sequential Tart's hits sky high and fly the "Investigative Journalism" flag, but in the end, who benefits?

I've just burnt bridges before me.

I've just cost several people their jobs.

And the fanbois and fangurls will find something else to read tomorrow.

True. But.

I think there is a place for investigative journalism -- or, as Keller jokes (I think), "Investigative Muckraking."

One can argue, for example, that the pundits who rather loudly and frankly complain about Dan DeCarlo not getting his due credit for the Archie Comics properties he created are "muckraking." Such complaints stir up bad feelings. Archie Comics are made for smiles and cheers. Why cause trouble?

But the story of Dan DeCarlo is an important one. I like reading Archie Comics AND I care about the story of Dan DeCarlo. What do I do? Do I "make nice" or do I ask hard questions or do I try to balance it?

And would it be better or worse to have serious investigative journalists hired to gather information & interviews about that and other topics than to have to rely solely on a multitude of bloggers who might or might not have the facts?

I have a business card with my cute picture on it (coincidently drawn by an "Archie" artist) and it lists me as a Writer, Editor, and Journalist.

But am I really a journalist?

I took one Journalism course in college. Wrote obituaries for 1/4 of the course. My teacher was the guy who wrote the book the movie "Blow" is based on.

I got an A. I struggled. Real journalism is a lot of work.

Has anything I've written been "real journalism?" Was "Goodbye To Comics" "investigative journalism?"

Maybe. "Goodbye To Comics" was memoir and drama. It was something heartfelt and spontaneous. Can that be considered journalism?

Before I wrote those posts, I had approached a few comic book media types for their advice about my personal story. And while they were all very nice to me, and I appreciated their time and their candor, it was not something they wanted to report on.

And, seeing the vacuum -- sitting on the story, ready to explode -- I stepped in and did it myself.

I did it myself because it was either me doing it or nothing.

Maybe blogs are the alternative journalism.

Maybe they are journalism.

What is journalism?

And is that sort of "investigative journalism" -- or memoir or whatever the hell you call it -- referred to in the Sequential Tart article worth the price you pay for it?

Was it worth it for me?

It was totally worth it.

You have one life to live. Be real. Be yourself. Talk about things that matter. Make life better for the people around you. Speak up. Share.



    Illuminati #5 who is the Skrull?

    My guess, Reed Richards... it would explain so much...

  2. You raise a VERY interesting idea. I myself am a journalist...or a "journalist," depending on what officially qualifies you.

    I currently write articles for a small regional newspaper a little bit upstate from your neck of the woods on a regular basis, covering politics, arts, the Ulster County SPCA, things like that. I ALSO have written two articles for Geek Monthly Magazine that are of very little consequence and importance. But in doing these projects I make lots and lots of phone calls, sometimes pissing people off in the process, but always making sure I stay fair.

    But I have taken exactly 0 courses in Journalism, discounting the two in high school, which were basically extended sessions of teenage babysitting.

    When it comes to comics, an area I'd love to break into as a creative writer OR journalist, I don't think it's necessarily too small like you've's certainly a lot bigger than the community I write for at the newspaper. But I think the comics companies have this draconian way of conducting their internal affairs, that, once leaked, lead to blackballing, firings, and basically things that gum up their works.

    I think that there's a confusion about what "news" in comics is not the new Captain America costume, despite the fact that lots and lots of people are going to be interested in it. I mean, news would be numbers regarding sales, inflations of prices, hirings and firings, unjust policies...things like that.

    My editor told us that journalists ought to follow the maxim, "Afflict the comforted and comfort the afflicted." So does Cap's new costume fall under that idea? Not so much.

    But it is shiny.

    Is what I'm saying making any sense at all? Muckracking is one thing...but the best example of such a type of journalism in comics that I can see is Rich Johnston, but that doesn't really work because good actually comes from his column (people getting paid when they weren't, etc.). I think people who call that kind of stuff muckracking or non-journalistic are the ones who are on the receiving end of the flashlight being shined on their dirty business dealings.

    I'll be quiet now.

  3. rich johnston.

    probably ONLY comics column I look forward to... cept this week it was kind of bland... nothing going on I guess.

  4. i totally thing blogging counts as real journalism- & superior to major sanitized outlets.

  5. I agree...for the most part, when it comes to "niche" journalism, what I think comics journalism could be thought of, blogging is going to be a great source for this kind of interesting and diverse coverage. Part of the problem is that with journalism, very often the expense of funding journalistic endeavors isn't met with financial reciprocation, leading to non-existent substantial news coverage.

    The "problem," of course, with blog-centric journalism is that there's no real oversight, so people can write whatever they want with little to know regard for whether or not the facts are straight. Now, of course, since we all know this, it almost cancels the problem out, and furthermore, this web-site has been free of that problem entirely, with our lovely OS stating whatever biases she thinks she may have and covering her bases.

    I think until people show that they are willing to pay for substantial comics journalism, it will stay in the realm of glorified press releases, rumor-centric LITG, and blogs. Someone ought to come up with a publication with specific beats to cover that do so without a bias, but with an eye for presenting both sides of every story. The problem with the CBR puff pieces is that they make those in power at the companies sound like big, cuddly teddy bears. The problem with the unregulated blog stuff is that they make those in power sound like powermad bastards who eat babies and swim in the blood of work-for-hires.

    This would be a great comics-journalism publication: there are specific beats each week that cover news, which ranges from editor/creator disputes or deals, creative team shifts, new projects, canceled projects, etc, which tries to get info from both parties involved (assuming, of course, both parties offer their info). Then there could be a finance section regarding sales, licensing, all that stuff. Then you could run down the gamut: creator spotlights, character summaries and updates, and, hey, maybe some reviews. The X-Axis is consistently one of my favorite review sites on the web, because it actually REVIEWS comics. The Buy Pile isn't bad, but it's pretty skimpy on content. And I find I don't often agree with Augie enough to read his stuff, but aside from those three outlets and the one I'm posting on, I find that there's a remarkable dearth of actual, readable, credible reviews available, and I think someone should try to capitalize on that hole in comics journalism. This is an entertainment why isn't there more discussion on what's entertaining? That would probably keep crap like Countdown from persisting.

    And by the way, as a total aside, what the hell is with those two guys talking about how great Countdown is every week on CBR? Are they not reading the same thing as me?

    I guess I had a lot more to say than I thought. Sorry.

  6. The fact that Bloggers report directly with their own opinions is why I trust them over the mainstream media. I'll trust someone who admits they're biased over someone who claims to not let their opinions and biases affect their reporting of a story (it's not likely this could ever happen).

  7. I think that comics journalism is definitely something that is needed and always has been. Without this type of reporting, we would never have known about DC's shameful treatment of Siegel & Shuster or the truth behind the creation of Batman. What would have happened to Jack Kirby's battle to get his art back from Marvel if there had been no hard reporting? The comics community desperately needs someone who will follow the tough stories and ferret out the truth both past and present. Someone without an axe to grind and no allegiance to a particular company or sales revenue. Sadly, in today's world where press releases pass as news, this is less and less likely to happen.

  8. You could have approached me... I'd have run it in a second. Just ask Joe Illidge...