For some reason, recently I thought about when I started writing for Comics Should Be Good. It turned out my first real blog post was 23 March 2005, after I wrote an introductory post on the 22nd. (I wrote about how comics are mainstream, which has become increasingly correct in the intervening years, even though I shouldn’t have written “comics” but “comic characters.”) I had started blogging in September 2004, and I wrote a little about comics at my personal blog, but somehow Brian found my work (I assume it was because I commented on CSBG, but why he would read my blog I don’t know) and asked me to join his blog when some of the original contributors (Joe Rice most notably, but not solely) didn’t really want to contribute anymore. So Brian added new people (including our own Greg Hatcher) and we were off. A little over a year later, we moved to Comic Book Resources, and that was that.
It got me thinking about this somewhat weird exercise we engage in, and how comics blogging, in particular, has seen its ups and downs. The first comics blogger, almost everyone agrees, was Neilalien, who began blogging early in 2000. But that was a blog, a proper blog, and Greg Hatcher will tell you stories about the CBR boards (blog precursors) during the 1990s that are ridiculously fun (fun to listen to, that is; it gets him really mad, which is part of the fun, because apparently not everyone – shocking! – was on their best behavior on the boards). I was never on Usenet boards back in the Nineties, so I missed a lot of that (I spent some time on my computer, but I had a full-time job, so I had less time, and I didn’t know about too much of the internet back then). I’m not sure how I discovered blogging, but by 2003-2004 I was reading some blogs, both comics-related and otherwise, so I started my own (which is still there, 11 years after I stopped writing it, if you’re at all interested what I was thinking from 2004 to 2009). As I noted above, at some point Brian noticed me and asked me to contribute to CSBG, at which point I embarked on my career of pissing off comics creators. Fun times!
I still think of those early years – from about 2000 to 2006 or so – as the “Wild West” period of blogging, before the “Golden Age” began. “Johnny Bacardi” began blogging back in October 2002, as did Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, who’s still blogging, but less about comics. Mike Sterling began his in December 2003, and he’s still going strong. Dorian began Postmodern Barney during this time, but I don’t know when because his blog doesn’t have an archive list and I don’t feel like scrolling backward through his entries for an hour. Dave Lartigue began blogging during this time, and so, I believe, did Kevin Church. It was a bit weird, as these guys (and yes, they were mostly guys, although not exclusively – as we see from Laura) tried to figure out what they were going to blog about, how they were going to do it, and how to find their voice. But it was fun, as it felt like a community was being built. Comments sections began to thrive and, generally, stayed civil (not completely, of course, people being people), and blogs began to get more popular.
For me, as for (I think) others (if they think about this stuff, which they probably don’t), the “Golden Age” of comics blogging began around 2006 and lasted maybe 5-6 years or so. Blogs were springing up everywhere or the older ones were getting more popular, and there was a fairly strong community of bloggers who might never have met in person but communicated on the internet and had spirited discussions about many topics. The Golden Age, I would argue, began when the big news sites decided to get their own blogs, beginning (I think?) with Comic Book Resources folding Comics Should Be Good into their fiefdom. Jonah Weiland, the Grand Poobah of CBR, pretty much left us alone, simply giving us a bigger platform from which to blather on about our favorite topics, which for Brian meant his Comic Book Legends, for Greg Hatcher it meant his love of pulpy comics (he tried to stick to comics, God bless ‘im, while we were there, even though, as you can see, he loves writing about a lot more than comics), and for me it meant liking comics that all the other comics critics hated. Good times! CBR also picked up Robot 6, which focused more on current comics news (we were always more about simply reviewing things that were new and writing odes to things that were older). Newsarama scooped up The Great Curve, which was nice for them. The list of comics blogs that exploded during these years is long and illustrious. We at Comics Should Be Good began to gain a much wider audience, not surprisingly, given we were linked to the biggest comics web site, and that meant we had more weird people commenting and we attracted the attention of comic book creators, too. The comics community remains fairly small, so creators aren’t so separated from the audience as are television and movie actors, for instance, so it’s perfectly plausible that they would engage on blogs far more than bigger celebrities would. Brian recruited some excellent people to write for the blog, as well. We had Greg Hatcher, of course, and Pol Rua showed up every once in a while to post (as he has here). Bill Reed was always fun to read, and Chad Nevett contributed his random thoughts, which usually sparked a good discussion. MarkAndrew didn’t post too often, but he was a very good writer, Brad Curran had a great sense of humor, and we had writers about manga such as Danielle Leigh, who was quite good. Alex Cox and Joe Rice showed up every once in a while to write cranky posts. Kelly Thompson started writing for the blog in 2009, and she brought a really good perspective to the site, as well as pissing off so many people who didn’t like being told that maybe women in comics weren’t portrayed in the most positive light (I know, shocking). Kelly was also an early podcaster, giving us 3 Chicks Review Comics, which was always fun to listen to. Later, Sonia Harris joined our little team, and Sonia is awesome, so that was pretty cool.
We had a pretty decent-sized readership – a good part of that was due to Brian, who posted and still posts like a machine, and his columns were quite popular. Kelly was popular, too, because she was so focused on her topics and was so unconcerned about poking the bear. Occasionally one of our posts would end up on the front page of CBR, and then we’d really see a flood of comments, many fairly unkind. Greg, Kelly, and I used to joke about whose turn it was to set the internet on fire, because Jonah (and Brian) usually wouldn’t put something on the front page unless it was at least mildly controversial, and the crazies would pounce. I saw some of the comments that Kelly, specifically, got before Brian could delete them, and he said there were far worse that never made it past the filter, and let me tell you, they were awful. It was too bad, because one thing I really liked about the “regular” readers was how cool they were and how great the comments section of the blog usually was. But when some “outsiders” came in, they felt they could just really let loose with the misogyny, and it was disgusting. Our readership expanded in more positive ways, of course. As I mentioned, we often had comics creators stopping by, and usually it was cool. I managed to piss off Tom Beland once, mainly because I didn’t love the first Image issue of True Story Swear to God and I kind of ripped it. Beland actually tried to go over my head and get Jonah to “fire” me, but Jonah, to his eternal credit, told Beland to pound sand (in the nicest way possible, of course). Beland’s wife told him he was being an idiot, and he apologized to me at San Diego later that year, and I actually like some of Beland’s work – it wasn’t him I was objecting to, just the autobiography he was doing (one reason why I hate autobiographies – it’s tough to criticize them without the creators thinking you hate them). I pissed off Gabriel Hardman because I posted some of his art from the mid-1990s, when he was drawing under a pseudonym – a pseudonym, I should point out, that he never denied using. I don’t know why he didn’t like it – he drew a story in Batman Chronicles and he drew several issues of War Machine, not exactly obscure comics, and I assumed he cashed the checks, but maybe he thought it was too rudimentary – but he didn’t. I pissed of Joe Keatinge because I didn’t like Emi Lenox’s autobiographical comic, and Keatinge sees himself as her “big brother,” so he had to defend her honor, or something. People get weird when you criticize work, people! Lots of good things, for me, came out of writing for CSBG, though. I got to go to several San Diego Comic-Cons on Jonah’s dime (and I got to hang out on the yacht a few times, woo-hoo!), because he got passes for anyone who wanted them, and only in the final year that I could go (2015, maybe?) did I actually have to do work for it – I had to cover a few panels and write them up for the main site. In the other years, I just wrote up a con report on the blog, and I guess he was cool with that. I also got to go to Emerald City Comic Con several times, applying for a press pass each time, so that was neat. I’ve gotten to meet many excellent comics creators over the years, and I’m friends with several of them on Facebook. I’ve met some of the bloggers that wrote during this “Golden Age,” too, so that’s been neat. I had dinner with Ian Brill and Tom Collins in San Diego in 2007, as I mentioned recently. I also met Chris Sims there briefly another year, when we both stopped by to talk to Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I also met Tim Callahan in San Diego one year, as well. I visited the comic book store Mike Sterling worked at in Ventura (before he opened his own). David Brothers worked for Image for a while, and I met him a few times in Seattle – he did panels with Jeff Parker where they would just chat, which were lots of fun. I found Sonia in San Diego one year, had lunch with her, and have met up with her both there and in Seattle since. Of course, whenever I go to Seattle I have to hang out with Greg and Julie, because they’re awesome.
This Golden Age began to wane, I think, around 2012 or so. People began to move on with their lives, either getting jobs that meant they had no time to blog or they just had more things going on that meant that had no time to blog. I know that my kids starting getting older, so I was more involved with their schooling and such. I still had time, but not as much as I used to. Some people just felt they had nothing more to say about comics – I know Tim Callahan started concentrating more on Dungeons and Dragons rather than comics. It was just a feeling, that things weren’t quite as high-spirited as they used to be. Some bloggers – Kevin Church, Chris Sims, Kelly – became professional writers, which was great for them but bad for their blogs. Comics Should Be Good stayed strong for a while, but even that changed. Jonah sold CBR in 2016, and while Valnet kept the format of the blog for a few months, they eventually folded everything into the “front page,” with shorter posts, more focus on “events” and comic book movies, and a great deal of churn so that new articles (which were usually listicles) were being thrown up seemingly constantly. Editorial became a bigger thing – they didn’t like when I rather gently poked fun at Brian Michael Bendis in a column – and the new format was anathema to people like me and Greg H., who think nothing of writing 5000-10,000 words in a post about obscure indie comics or, in Greg’s case, 50-year-old detective fiction, so we left and Atomic Junk Shop was born. And so we come full circle. We try to keep the old blogging tradition alive here, along with several outposts. But it’s no longer the Golden Age. I’m not even sure if it’s the Silver Age. But we’ll keep on keeping on!
I mentioned the list of blogs that began during the “Wild West” period and launched the “Golden Age.” Part of the fun of comics blogging then was that everyone had time to read them all, so there was a lot of cross-pollination. Today, I don’t have time to read as many, although I still keep up with some. Here’s just a list of some of the blogs I used to read, and when they began (and, in some cases, ended):
The Hurting (January 2004 – December 2019), along with Mike Sterling, Dorian, and Johnny B., was an early blog that I never read much, but when I did, it was impressive (I hate the format, which is why I didn’t read it more often). More impressive was when Tegan O’Neil began blogging about her transition from male to female. Excellent writing.
I Am Not the Beastmaster (March 2004 – June 2016), another early blog, where Marc Singer (hence the name) wrote very intelligently about comics.
Jog Likes Comics (July 2004 – October 2012), which was one of the more erudite blogs out there. Joe McCulloch knows a thing or two!
Yet Another Comics Blog (August 2004) is just what it says it is, but there was usually something interesting going on over there. It’s still going, but I haven’t been over there in years.
Filing Cabinet of the Damned (January 2005 – December 2006), which was Harvey Jerkwater’s blog. He wrote a few things for CSBG, too. Funny writer.
The Invincible Super-Blog (January 2005 – February 2016), where Chris Sims blogged about all sorts of extremely funny things. His reviews of Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose are brilliant, with this post probably being his masterpiece. Sims got into a bit of trouble later on his blogging life, as he was accused of cyber-bullying (for which he apologized profusely), but it doesn’t change the fact that the dude was a funny writer.
GraphiContent (February 2005 – January 2013, basically) was Chad Nevett’s blog, which he kept going intermittently when he started writing for CSBG. He stopped, then started it again briefly, and it seems he still posts fairly regularly on Tumblr.
The Absorbascon (March 2005), a blog I didn’t read too often but which is still trucking along.
Dave’s Long Box (March 2005 – April 2008) might be the funniest blog I’ve ever read. Dave Campbell (from whom I stole the use of the adjective “Airwolf,” but he stole it from Ernest Cline, so I don’t feel too bad) wrote really long reviews of comics, and they were hilarious every time. He went off to write for ABC, I think, but I don’t know what he’s doing now.
Listen to Us, We’re Right (March 2005 – February 2007) was the blog Joe and Alex started after they left Comics Should Be Good. They’re both very good writers, but they were snobs, too. One reason Joe didn’t want to write for CSBG anymore was because he thought I liked crappy comics with popular characters, which became symbolized by my enjoyment of Moon Knight, which made me think a few things – one, Joe didn’t read a lot of Moon Knight, and two, huh? Moon Knight, too popular? I mean, if it had been Cable in the 1990s, I could see his point, but when has Moon Knight ever been really that popular?
Comics Oughta Be Fun! (May 2005), where Bully the stuffed bull started posting goofy stuff and has never stopped.
Tom Collins’s blog (June 2005 – June 2009), which I liked reading a lot. He just had a good tone, and he wrote about interesting stuff. Nice guy, too.
4th Letter (November 2005 – November 2014), where David Brothers, among others, blogged. David was one of the few black dudes blogging about comics, and I really liked his writing. He’s a cool guy, as well.
Armagideon Time (May 2006), which has since moved here, is a blog I didn’t visit that often, but Andrew had a feature called “Nobody’s Favorite,” where he would write about obscure characters. It was fun, but once he dared suggest Looker was “nobody’s favorite.” The nerve!
Every Day Is Like Wednesday (May 2006), which Caleb is still writing, 14 years later. Good for him! He’s an interesting writer, even though he’s not quite as prolific as he used to be (he makes up for it with really long posts when he does publish something).
Dick Hyacinth’s blog (February 2007 – March 2009), which for a time was must-reading, as he scorched any- and everyone, including yours truly more than once. Dick loved picking on CSBG, but he had other targets, too. I loved when he took me to task for trying to explain why everyone loved Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. That was not my finest moment!
MightyGodKing (July 2007) was a very good blog by several contributors. They did comics with “new” dialogue in the word balloons that were hilarious. It’s still going, but very infrequently.
Too Busy Thinking About My Comics (February 2010 – October 2015) was a late addition to the bunch, but Colin’s work is stellar. He writes extremely long essays (you thought I could go on!) about all sorts of comics, with extremely intelligent insights and excellent points about both the work and its place in comics history. He stopped writing there, but has started up another blog here. He doesn’t post that often, but it’s always worth a read.
Anyway, 15 years of comics blogging for sites with many contributors. Kind of a weird anniversary to celebrate, but it’s been a lot of fun. I hope I and the rest of us can still entertain you guys, and we always hope to build our readership here, even if we might never come close to the audience we had during the Golden Age. But we’re doing our thing, because I know I love thinking about comics and pop culture, and think everyone who reads this blog does too!