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:
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.”