Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

Why there is no such thing as comics journalism

I am someone who likes comic books. I also like to read news about my hobby. I like to know how my favorite books are doing sales-wise because I know that sales are how they determine if that book gets to continue. I like interviews with comics creators to learn more about their upcoming projects or their creative process. I like to know what’s coming because comics are a medium where you have to order things in advance to make sure you receive them and to support the stuff you like.

Much like a sports fan, I like to discuss comics with fellow fans, listen to opinions and hear from other people who enjoy the hobby and art form.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I started getting serious about the hobby of comics, there was The Comics Journal. They had major flaws, but the one thing that they had going for them was that they did actual reporting and actual journalism in the comics field. They reported on sales figures, the decline of the newsstand market, issues with the direct distribution market, publisher’s internal workings and the hotly contested issue of creator’s rights. As the internet grew, they faded away as people could get information quicker, the interviews they had were overtaken by audio interviews, and their news felt old by the time it hit the stands.

So, who rose to take their place? No one. I have given up on getting actual journalism about my hobby and the field. There are some good industry sites like ICV2.com and The Beat, and Rich Johnson’s Bleeding Cool is a gossip site that reads like the comics industry’s snarky little tabloid that may or may not have insider information.

The rest? The Big Players just print press releases, throw in reviews and opinion columns and call it a day. Then there are the News with a Z sites (as they call similar wrestling sites at PWInsider.com, because they will say Wrestling NewZ in order to be hip, cool and extreme). They are usually hobbyists who think they have some inside scoop because they read it on-line, make inferences, think their opinions are facts, and call it news, like this bozo:

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/06/marvel-backtracks-on-captain-america-revelation-af.html

Let’s take this apart to show why newZ isn’t journalism.

  • The writer did no actual research. He read some on-line interviews which he links to, but hasn’t even read the actual comic he is reporting on.
  • The writer has no proof for his assertion that Marvel changed a comic they published because of fan reaction. Let me repeat that. The writer says the following:

“After one issue, Captain America is no longer a Nazi. The only surprising thing here is how quickly Marvel backtracked on their initial choice, though it was clear Captain America would not actually be a Hydra agent forever”

  • He states that Marvel backtracked. He didn’t contact anyone at Marvel to get a comment on his supposition. He doesn’t offer any proof of his supposition. He just states it as if it’s fact. Kittens and kaboodles, there is no way on the planet Marvel saw the reaction to a comic, scrapped an issue that had been in production for at least 3 months, had a new issue written, penciled, inked, colored, lettered, put through production and shipped to the printer in time to be on the stands one month after the previous issue.
  • The writer shows a limited understanding of the Marvel continuity. The cosmic cube doesn’t brainwash, it actually rewrites reality and implants new memories. I know, nerd points, but still, if you’re going to go into a fit of nerd rage, get it right.

So, there you have it. A fact free “news” story where the writer puts out an uninformed opinion and it’s called a news story.

I didn’t go into journalism in college, much to the dismay of the faculty advisor, and while I am by no means an expert, I know that you need to give the Who, What, When, Where and Why, you need to give facts and you write in a specific style with the first paragraph given WHY the story matters and the rest of the story giving the facts and details behind that first paragraph. You call the people involved and get their side of the story if possible, and if they deny the facts you have, you state that.

Let’s say I am a journalist and I am going to write this story, just for an example:

I start by reading the press release that states all will be explained in issue #2. I then contact Marvel’s PR department and ask, “Did you change the story due to fan outrage?” and get their response, which would be no. I would talk to some creators and production folks to ask if it is possible to scrap a comic in production and change it in the time period allotted. They would also say no. I would then research the story itself and find out that the seeds for the story were planted first in Uncanny Avengers, and then even more so in the Pleasant Hill crossover. Then, my story would be about the fan outrage and how Marvel planned this all along (since that’s what they said) and give information on how the story was put together, how long it’s been planned and how it played in the industry. You could even do a story about how Marvel and DC need to do shocking events that get attention in order to draw readers and get some pull quote from creators about how stories for mainstream comics have changed and they need to make them events rather than the kind of standard “hero fights villain” stories of the 70’s and 80’s.

Instead we get “Marvel Backtracks”

Now you know why people laugh when someone says, “I know it’s true. I read it on the internet.”

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Today’s political thought

If you had Bernie Sanders in your Presidential Deadpool, it’s time to head to the pay window.  He stated today that he does not believe he will be the nominee, he’s laid off over half of his staff and others are taking jobs with Hillary’s campaign.  Take the L out of LOVER and it’s OVER.

As proof that none of these have been malicious, I supported Sanders.  To a point.  I agreed with his platform, I loved how he ran.  Up to a point.  Which I will discuss later.

Sanders was an unlikely candidate.  A 74 year old Jewish socialist who has been a strong left leaning voice in Congress, but has little to show as being accomplished there.  He would have been this year’s Dennis Kucinich except for the fact that the Democrats really didn’t have a solid left candidate (no matter what the media tells you, Clinton has always been a centrist) in a national climate that discourages the left.  A person on the right who is as extreme as Sanders is on the left is thought of as mainstream, which shows just how far the country has been pulled to the right side of the equation.

Sanders would have been mainstream in 1976, but now, he is as close as we get to a true Liberal candidate, and he inspired fervor among his followers, but he was never quite mainstream enough.  He won in low turnout caucuses and smaller states, but no matter what the mainstream narrative is, there is a large, solid group of Democratic Party loyalists, and Hillary has spent 25 years working that base.  In the end, it was that older party base that put her over the top in California, as well as Black and Latino voters, who will be critical in the fall.

Sanders also alienated that base by going into Conspiracyland, claiming that the media was out to get him, that the system was rigged and other statements that made your mainstream Democratic Party loyalists sour on him.  I was turned off after the New York primary when he guaranteed he would win, despite the polls all showing an easy victory for Hillary, then blaming the media and “a corrupt system” for his loss.  The same thing is now coming forward from his supporters, even though Hillary was a lock according to poll after poll after poll…the only thing the poll didn’t catch is how wide Hillary’s victory would be.

The number of votes for her vs him is a higher percentage than the 1988 Bush over Dukakis election.

He also was hurt by years of right wing media telling us how the budget worked and why we can’t have nice things that don’t blow up brown people.  I personally knew that Sanders was done when my Father (who is a moderate with some left leaning tendencies) told me about how there was no way to pay for Sanders’s plans.

And no matter how many position papers you put out, no matter how workable your plan is, if you can’t convince people your plan works, they aren’t going to vote for you.

His ideas will be put in the Democratic Platform, and if his supporters don’t pull the “I’ll just stay home” that they claim to do, he can be a Goldwater type figure, where he loses, but his ideas eventually win by his supporters staying and working the party.  Or, he can be like Dennis Kucinich, giving up after his run and taking the easy media gigs.   I am hoping for the former.

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How I Fund The Things I Do

Before I write this, I want to say that I am writing for ME only. I have no problem with anyone doing whatever they want on their shows.

OK?

Are we cool?

I was sent an e-mail a week or so ago asking if I would be setting up a Patreon for my podcasts. I have also been asked if I will be selling merchandise. My answer to both is no, and I want to explain why.

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A LOT. And there are some I used to listen to that I don’t listen to any longer because they became more about making money than entertaining people. I don’t have a problem with anyone wanting to make money. Hell, I want my podcasts to make money. But the reason I don’t listen to NPR or watch PBC during Pledge Month (they say it’s a week, but….) is because they may pull out the big guns entertainment-wise, but the endless begging for money and going on and on about how “We Need Your Help To Bring You This Fine Programming” chaps my hide and makes me want to quit listening.

I DIDN’T ASK YOU TO BRING ME THIS FINE PROGRAMMING!

I tune in because it’s there, but I didn’t call you up and say to do this. I take advantage of it when it is there and I listen through the “This program is brought to you by” ads. Yes, they are ads. But when you say that without my help you may go off the air…well, that’s not a threat to me.

Especially with a podcast. Trust me, if you go off the air, I’ll find something else to listen to. Even if I love your show, all things must pass. Just ask Infected with Martin Sargent.

So, I get very tired very rapidly when a podcast starts constantly pushing their donation button or their Patreon or they fundraising drive, etc… There are a few that do it discreetly or don’t hammer you with it, but when you have a nearly five minute pitch at the beginning of the show and also bring it up again during the show, then forget it. I’m done.  I don’t want to pay for your equipment, your travel, you convention tickets, your whatever.  I want to listen to the show.

I don’t want to do that. It doesn’t fit what I do and the vision I have in my head of what a good interwebz radio show should be.

There are also people who go the Rush Limabugh route and have TONS of Merch. Mugs and shirts and necklaces and on and on and on…gotta be blunt, not only will I never buy the merch for a podcast, I will never SELL merch for my podcast. If you want to buy a piece of a show and your life is made better with a Bill O’Reilly inflatable chair, have at it.

I am old school.

I like ads.

I only have ads for things I use. I try to make the ads fun and short (on Kray Z, you get 90 minutes of podcast with 90 second of ads, sometimes shorter). You can buy the stuff or not. I also know not to overdo it with ads. When I listen to some of the bigger podcasts, I get tired of wading through the long ad copy, the barrage of ads and there was one interview podcast I listened to when I clocked that 1/3rd of the show were ads and plugs. I removed it from my feed and wished them well in what they are doing.

Less is more, in my opinion.

Why do I like ads? Because it means I am not asking the listener for money. I ask the advertiser for money, and that pays for the show. Just like network TV and over-the-air radio. I don’t ever want to ask the listeners directly for money unless it is for some sort of artistic thing where I would be buying an ad from myself. AND I put it in the ads, which was clearly labeled.  We may have fun with them, but I will never do the Paul Harvey thing where I tell a story that turns out to be an ad.  Ick.

When I interview peop0le, I tell them to plug their work.  Why?  Because I am having them on to promote what they are doing.  Much like how Tom Hanks shows up on a talk show to tell people about his new project, and it’s part of the give and take of things.  If I get interviewed on a podcast, I am doing to have a fun conversation and to let people know about what I am doing (by the way, want to have me show up on your podcast?  solitairerosenetwork@gmail.com.  I’ll talk your damn ear off about things).  It’s a funny line when I try to explain it, but it’s clear and stark in my head.

When I have novels available, I will have ads for them. That’s me selling entertainment, and I will also make sure not to have them be any longer than an ad for Dreamhost or Bombas socks.

A lot of great people are using Patreon. They offer up art they wouldn’t have created otherwise, can fund on-going projects, and I am more than happy to support them. But for ME, I don’t want to do it.

Are we cool?

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It’s a matter of focus

I just read a blog post from someone stating that they have given up on being creative. They basically stated that:

-They started a family and it’s SO HARD they have no time to create, especially with a job, keeping up on the news, etc…

-In your 30’s you can’t keep up with the latest trends. Things are moving too fast. The example given was that they have a GREAT idea for an app, but by the time her was able to put it together, someone else had gotten one out (damn millennials and their endless free time)

-There’s too much product out there, so you’ll just get lost in the masses

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Reading between the lines, it’s all of the standard excuses people use to give up on things they aren’t really passionate about.

When I was newly single, I tried my hand at Stand Up comedy. I went to open mike nights, I crafted current events jokes and was starting to get some headway, but there were guys who did 5 or 6 open mike nights every Monday night. They hustled for gigs, played for $25 at nursing homes, took every booking they could get their hands on. Me? I wasn’t that driven, and I gave up on it after about 6 months. It was a hobby, not a passion. So, I keep up the hobby with my Weekly News Update podcast.

Writing, on the other hand, I always found time for. When I was raising my son, I read (to him or when he was playing), I wrote once he was in bed, when he was watching TV, when he was outside playing, etc… I wrote during slow times at my job. I carried a notebook with me everywhere I went. I read in order to be a better writer.

Now, I work two jobs and I am creating. I create at a level that is pretty astounding to other people, but it is all a matter of focus. I don’t watch football, because that’s three and a half hours I am not creating. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and what I do watch is mostly stuff to feed me information or learn storytelling. I also watch when I am at the gym (one of the few time I allow myself to multitask). I’m not a real social person and it takes someone incredibly special to get me to give up a night of mixing, recording, writing or planning to go out and spend time with them. Not because I hate people, but because I have shit to DO!

It’s not age. It’s not competition. It’s focus. What is important to you. Are you willing to give up sitting on the deck with a beer and chatting with the neighbors to have something completed?

There’s nothing wrong with not having that focus. Some people have other priorities, and that’s fine, we are all very different people. Some people care more about hunting down their next relationship that creating things. Some people care more about football than telling a story or making a painting. Some people would rather travel or be social or party or whatever.

Prince had a vault full of songs, movies and other things because he was driven to create. There aren’t a lot of stories about Prince hitting the clubs to party all night unless he was performing.

Don’t blame your age, your family or anything else.

The reason you aren’t creating is because you aren’t sitting your ass in the chair, focusing, and doing the work. That’s it.

“Someone already did it.”

Fine, do it better. Do it differently. Find a new method. People have been writing three chord songs about a girl they love for a hell of a long time, they still have new ones come out every week.

“I can’t find an audience.”

So? Keep plugging away. If you are doing it for fame or popularity, you have no control over that other than putting out the best work you can and finding ways to get it to people.

“I don’t have time.”

You have as much time as everyone else. Stephen King was a broke dad working as a teacher when he wrote Carrie and all of those short stories that were collected in Night Shift. Turn off the TV, quit hanging out at the club and work.

“I’m too old.”

Yeah. Right. And Tom Wolfe’s novels after he turned 30 were all crap, right? Age isn’t the issue. Attention is the issue.

Do.

The.

Work.

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How it got away from me and what I will do about it

I am a content provider. I don’t have an editor, a business partner or anyone else looking over my shoulder to make sure I hit deadlines. I set my own deadlines and have to count on myself to hit them. While I do have other people who work with me, they just show up, hit their marks and go on their merry way.

While a lot of my friends don’t seem to understand why I get so upset when I blow deadlines, I am of the firm belief that the way to grow is two-fold:

  • Give entertaining content
  • Give that content on time

I can’t tell you how many podcasts, novels, comics, etc… I have dropped simply because they come out at random intervals. I won’t even read continued fantasy novels because they tend to be 3 or more books that seem to come out whenever the writer gets around to it. It’s not because I feel they OWE me, it’s because I don’t want to have to wait years between installments of a story if I have no idea when (or if) the next installment comes.

When I started up Kray Z Comics and Stories we were just doing it for fun. We got together, acted like it was college radio and generally goofed around for the first year or two and put it out whenever we got it recorded. When I decided to take it more seriously, we decided to drop a new episode every Monday, and for the past few years we have, with very few exceptions, and usually with advance warning.

Because of that, the audience has grown. Usually about 20 – 30% annually. Because of that growth, I added an infrequent solo podcast, but last year when I did a new episode of the solo podcast every week, the audience started growing on THAT, to the point where people were commenting on it almost as much as Kray Z.

Last Fall, I added the Novelcast which is me taking my novels and turning them into audiobooks. And, knowing I didn’t want to overload myself, I made it bi-weekly. I was disappointed in the speed of the growth until I measured it against Kray Z, and it is actually growing FASTER that Kray Z did for its first three years.

At the beginning of the year, I restarted my Weekly News Update. I haven’t added it to iTunes or Stitcher yet due to wanting to work out some bugs and figuring out exactly what I am doing…it’s taking longer than I thought, but once I have that in place, it’ll be on iTunes and I will stick to the Every Tuesday schedule.

However.

Leading up the MSP ComiCon and Kray Z’s 250th Episode, we had a lot of things converge that threw me off schedule. We had last minute guests who needed to do publicity for the Con, and they were such great “gets” that I couldn’t turn them down. So, in the two weeks leading up to 250 AND MPS ComiCon, we put out 5 episodes. All of which were damn good if I say so myself. I also released the regular Novelcast episode and two Weekly News Updates.

At the convention we did 15 hours of live podcasting.

And then the merry-go-round fell down.

I had to follow up with people I had networked with at the convention, deal with the aspects of my personal life I had put on hold for the month before, maintain personal connections with people (which is increasingly hard for me) and both of my jobs ramped up the hours I would work.

So, I didn’t to record the written stuff.

Recording the Weekly News Update and Novelcast is harder than just podcasting because it is both reading AND acting. Varying tone, deciding how to emphasize things, and the actual copyediting takes a LOT of time.

That’s not counting the writing.

So I blew deadlines.

And I feel like an utter failure for doing so.

When that happens, the dominos begin to fall and by this week, I was trying to get the train back on track, get ahead on things, and try to do a better job than before to make up for my failure.

So, here’s the schedule for the summer:

Monday: Kray Z Comics and Stories

Tuesday: The Weekly News Update

Wednesday: Solitaire Rose Radio (yep, every week. I have interviews and history episodes as well as some experimental stuff I want to record)

Thursday: Editing, promoting, business stuff – No new podcast that day.

Friday every other week: Novelcast

Weekend: Putting things up on YouTube, editing, writing, creating the eBooks from Novelcast and recording.

I am also starting to look into more convention appearances, more ideas to shake things up and more networking.

So, there’s that. But I still feel like I let people down for blowing deadlines because, in the end, it all falls on me. And for that, I am so, so sorry.

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