Smorgasborg - Random Objects

January 25th, 2010

The Comics Journal: Online & Off

For some cultural things I much prefer the journalism about a thing more than the thing itself. Sports is one area, for example, I really enjoy the reporting of Bob Costas and HBO’s Real Sports show. Another area where the reportage gets more attention than the thing itself is in comics.

You may or may not know that in November I sold all my comics, cheap. Leah and I sold most everything, really. It was a relief to get rid of 200 pounds of paper I seldom ever read. As I regarded those comics one thing I noticed pained me slightly more was the comics journalism: particularly The Comics Journal. I had read TCJ for decades. It’s an erudite magazine pointed at an often juvenile artform.

Recently, TCJ has increased their online presence. In particular I have enjoyed articles like: Brighter in Hindsight: Black Humor by Charles R. Johnson. It covers a comics artist, gag cartoonist really, who worked for black adult men’s magazines in the 1970s. I had never heard of him or his work, but it sounds thoughtful, uncomfortable, and funny. Twilight is Manga made me chuckle at the fact that there was an antecedent for the “boyfriend falls in love with the offspring of would-be-girlfriend” aspect of the final Twilight book.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed detailed analyses and criticisms and highlights of great comics work. It pointed me to things I would not have purchased otherwise. I don’t always agree with it, but it’s a magazine that always made me think. I never subscribed, but I always enjoyed dropping into a comic book shop and seeing there were some interesting back issues, whether a month old or 2 years old, with interviews with artists and writers, creators and editors.

Online, it’s worth checking out: http://www.tcj.com/.

Back in October Publishers Weekly’s The Beat Blog wrote about TCJ’s changes in format. That article is great because it highlights a very interesting change in strategy for TCJ. It will beef up the quality, size and format of the print issues, that is, more value for the dollar, but make fewer of them. Meanwhile, it’s beefing up its online presence with more multimedia and articles online. It’s remarkable because it seems so obvious — play to the strengths of the medium you’re working in. If you’re in both, change it up and serve both, and better. I with other print publications were so smart.

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