Frustration With The News

By | Tuesday, July 03, 2007 Leave a Comment
First, a quick note of thanks to Mark Evanier who pointed out on his blog the relatively recent publication of Wally's World: The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Wally Wood. It was evidently published back last November, but this is the first I've heard of it.

So, my first question is: am I just totally oblivious or was there really no mention of this book's release anywhere? The answer is the latter. Mostly.

Extensive online searching turned up what I would consider the major comic news outlets (and, admittedly, that's a subjective phrase) making no mention of it whatsoever, other than posting the initial press release for the 2007 Eisners, which only notes one of the nominees as being something called simply Wally's World with no mention of who or what it's about. I did some more digging to find the book mentioned on a couple of blogs, but not ones that I read with any regularity. It should come as no surprise that I missed it.

This frustrates me to no end. I really bust my hump to stay relatively in-the-know about comic book related news. I've got feeds pouring in from all sorts of sources: news sites, creator sites, publisher sites, blogs... Any sites that don't have feeds, I go to on regular basis. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about comics, but I'll be damned if I don't make an active effort on a daily -- sometimes hourly -- basis to learn more about comics and/or the comics industry.

Now it doesn't surprise me that some things escape my notice. The industry is pretty large, and there's only so much information one man can absorb. But when things that I would have an active interest in completely fly under my radar despite my best efforts... well, I think there's something wrong.

Your Wizard Magazines and Newsaramas are going to, for the most part, cater to their largest audience. Namely, the superhero fanboy type. You're going to get more than a fair share of news about Marvel and DC; that's a given. You're also likely to get news on whoever the "hot" creator of the week is. Part of the problem, though, is that type of news is TOO easy to come by. Regardless of who reports on it first, it gets propagated throughout the Internet in mere minutes. I don't read or care about any of the Spider-Man titles any more, for example, but I'm pretty aware of the move to have the three titles consolodated to do an almost-weekly.

For everything else, it's pretty much a crapshoot.

Now, certainly, I can't expect the Heidi MacDonalds and Jen Continos to deliver all the news that I am personally interested in. Just like I can't expect my local newspaper to deliver all the world news that I might find useful and/or interesting. Indeed the inherent flaw of "traditional" media outlets is precisely that they're broadcasting general information to a very wide and diverse market. Specialty information requires something of a more narrowcast approach.

But comics information -- real comics information, not the faux-comics news that revolves around Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba and Robert Downey Jr. -- is already a fairly niche market as it is. Getting a hold of comics info that isn't "mainstream" is a niche within a niche, meaning that even trying to keep up is a difficult task. Never mind trying to actually be fore-armed with any knoweldge.

The world is, in many respects, a smaller one than it used to be just as Marshall McLuhan predicted. I am absolutely not limited by my physical location, and I'm currently (and regularly) reading comics created in Findland, England, the Netherlands, Korea and all over the United States and Canada. But only after I had found them on my own. What McLuhan did not elaborate on -- at least in what I've come across in my readings -- is that while the global village is now available, no one will provide you with a street map.

You know what comics need? They need Tivo. I want to be able to make my comic book selections and then have an automated service spit back recommendations based on my reading habits. I want to be able to select comic book news articles that I'm interested in and also spit back other news and reading recommendations. I want to put in some key words and have the computer automatically scrub all the comic sites for me to alert me when the names pop up in blogs and news outlets.

"But, Sean," you protest, "what about...?"

Yeah, I know there are some fledgling ideas like that out there. Amazon has their "You Might Also Like" lists and Google can do specialized "News Alerts" and the like, but neither of those really work very well once you get past some of the highest level info. Also, neither of which have the capability to filter out stuff you've already seen. "No, I've already got a copy of Men of Tomorrow; please don't show me this again." "Yes, I've already seen this exact same press release on half a dozen sites; please don't show it to me again."

Because it should not be this hard for someone who's actively looking for interesting comic book news to find out about the release of a new biography about Wally Wood. I should not have just learned today, in researching this entry, that Mantlo: A Life In Comics came out last month. I shouldn't have to be the one informing my father, one of the few magicians who likes comic books, about Jason Lutes' and Nick Bertozzi's Houdini: The Handcuff King. It simply should NOT be this difficult to navigate the comic news of the day, and I think any real progress to the comic industry on the whole will be hindered until such time as fans can readily get the news they want on a timely basis.
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