*** Issue 2 – March 2022 ***
Hello and welcome to the second newsletter for the WCBR.
The first irregular newsletter, written 13 months ago, sits below this one. I did promise it would be irregular.
Given everything that is happening in the world today, maintaining a site like this seems on the one hand insignificant, and on the other hand a respite from the storm. The horrible images and stories from what Pope Frances I calls the “martyred city” of Mariupol haunt me.
Let’s press on.
New Critics, Fresh Axes
Since I last wrote, we have had some new talent join us in writing critiques:
- Terry Hammond is a prolific writer, based in Oregon in the US. Through our email exchanges it has become clear that Terry is a thoughtful, likeable person, and you can see that in his reviews. Often, Terry’s reviews are quietly meandering monologues, of the type you have when you sitting down with an old friend on the steps of the house, watching the traffic go by. I enjoy reading every one of them.
- Guido Negretti, our polylingual critic in Italy, who is fortunate enough to study the medium at university. Guido brings with him a decidedly European insight: many of the titles Guido has ever-skilfully reviewed would not be familiar to English speakers. We’re lucky to have Guido.
Both Roque Briones and Neil Raymundo continue their fine work, and we even had a special guest visit from Greggory Basore recently (Greggory was once a consistent contributor to the site, and he was missed).
Creators wield hammers and build. But critics wield the axe. Our critics have been deliberately sparing as they swing. As ever, we do not assault indie creators. Public humiliation is cruel to those who create as a labour of love.
Such restraints however do not apply to mainstream publishers. For them, the cut is often unkind. All I can meaningfully say on that is, if we have written a bad review about your work, and you did not like to read that review, and you are employed by a mainstream publisher, then either talk to your editor about minimising interference in your output. Or, with respect, remember what your profession is and lift your game.
In the past two weeks, I have received no less than 20 requests for reviews from independent comic book creative teams. That’s a lot. We cannot keep up. I’m sorry. This is not a new development- see issue 1 of the irregular newsletter, below.
I’d nonetheless especially like to thank Matt Ligeti of the Comic Book Yeti site http://www.comicbookyeti.com for directing creators our way. I e-met Matt via the talented Australian writer Christian Carnouche. Matt is a huge supporter of indie comics, and the quality of the reviews of his site runs rings around the clickbait of CBR or Comicbooks.com. He is also quite – not enormously, but quite – funny on Twitter.
And, if you fancy yourself a critic and would like to review any indie comics, please let me know – [email protected] .
This site is housed by WordPress. WordPress gives us some interesting backend statistics about this site, which I always find curious and thought I might share.
This is a list of the top articles we have published, ranked by total impressions (there is a very, very long tail, and I spare you that detail):
How to explain these rankings?
a. First, my article on the “superhero” trademark might be a surprising inclusion on this list. But it garners traffic from the Wikipedia entry for “superhero”, in which this article is linked as a reference. Ownership of this term is a source of controversy.
b. Second, the ever-present-on-the-internet listicles: articles entitled “The Eight Most”, “the Eleven Most” and so on tend to gather eyeballs for reasons I do not really understand.
c. Third, Neil Raymundo has written various articles about comic books in the Philippines. It evolves there isn’t a lot of online content about the Filipino comic book industry, yet there is significant appetite – the Philippines accounts for the third largest source of our readership. And the single most views for a single article we have had on any given day was this:
d. And finally, sex sells: Sweet Guy is an extremely popular Korean porn manhua and Kengan Ashura has some racy images too, and it evolves that, strangely, readers who want to read sex comics first want to know if the story is good (for Sweet Guy, it really is).
Next, a list of referrers:
Back in the day I used to pay for ads on Facebook (mostly because it didn’t cost much, and despite this site not having any profit-making inclination). Those ads generated a lot of traffic. But I eventually worked out that to even put an article in front of the 4000 or so people who followed the WBCR, I would have to pay Facebook. And I don’t like Facebook’s cavalier attitude towards its effect on human society. So, my days of advertising on Facebook eventually stopped.
Otherwise, poor StumbleUpon is long gone, and otherwise, but the message boards at the Straightdope forum, a antiquated relic of an earlier age of the internet, still generate traffic to this site.
Despite the odd black-out – most recently in February when I was being steamrollered by my real life job – I have no inclination at all to stop doing what we are doing on this site. What I am planning to do, though, is better support my fellow Australians.
Australian culture famously suffers from the tall poppy syndrome, and, often, the only success achieved by Australians which Australians will properly recognise is overseas success (could Simon Hanselmann have ever achieved what he has done but for publication out of Seattle?). The Australian creative scene is not just about Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott, as talented as both of them are. I’ve started casting our very small and humble spotlight on Australian publications, and I’ll continue to do that, with greater frequency, over the next years. There are reviews in the works of Mirranda Burton’s Underground, Dale Forward’s Warlock, Curtin Illustration Club’s Myth anthology series, Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Black Magick, Justin Randall’s Changing Ways, Simon Hanselmann’s remarkably groteseque and cringe-hilarious Crisis Zone, and Sorab Del Rio and Emerson DiMaya’s Bazza the Bogan Barbarian (never has there been a more Australian title for a comic). (And thanks to Wolf Bylsma for reigniting my interest in this task.)
You made it to the end. Well done. Hope you enjoyed the newsletter.
Perth, 26 March 2022
- Mobius, concept art for Alien 2
- J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman
- Nicola Scott, Black Magick #1.
*** Issue 1 – February 2021 ***
Hi, and welcome to the first newsletter for the WCBR.
If you’re reading this, either you stumbled across it in the same way as you might mistake the broom closet for the toilet after a couple of vodkas. Or perhaps you followed the bread crumbs on some social media site, or perhaps you received an email from me with a link. If you received an email from me, it is because you’ve either, first, had a comic reviewed on this site; or second, you’ve submitted a comic for review and you are patiently or impatiently waiting for that review to manifest; or third, because you have been a reviewer on this site.
Nice to be in touch again.
We Outlived Rats
The WCBR has been going for over five years now, the average lifespan of a rodent. I always intended the WCBR to have a long life, but I certainly did not expect it to be of assistance to independent comic book creators. We have done at least 103 reviews of indie comics in that five years (some of them have been miscategorised on the site, so the figure is probably a lot bigger). Quotations from WCBR reviews have appeared on the covers of indie comics, on websites promoting indie comics, and in Kickstarter project launch pages.
Some mainstream creators have liked the reviews. Gail Simone tweeted early on that she liked our approach in our review of her title Clean Room. Ann Nocenti recently thanked reviewer Roque Briones for his critique of The Seeds https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/author/roque2/ KISS bass guitarist Gene Simmons liked our review of Dominatrix: Hellbent in Hells https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2017/10/30/dominatrix-hellbent-heels-1-3-review/ (possibly because he was its financial backer). He’s not Umberto Eco, but we take our kudos when we find them.
(We have never had a quote from a WCBR critique appear in a mainstream superhero comic, probably because we only sometimes have anything kind to say about the powdered scrambled eggs dished up by mainstream superhero comics. Having said that, what Jim Lee did to raise money during the pandemic shutdown, auctioning original art and gifting the proceeds to comic shop owners, was a gracious act of charity by a senior executive of a mainstream publisher: we should forgive them for their flaws, perhaps.)
But as to indie creators… It has been a privilege to help. I nod in respect to anyone who can take that step of publishing their own comic book. You jump out of the aircraft hoping to the Almighty that the chute opens, that the chute doesn’t get sucked into the propeller, and that you don’t shit your pants while strangers are watching your every move with binoculars. You are prepared to back yourself and your idea.
Sincerely, thanks for being awesome and I hope our assistance has been of use.
But for some people it has not. We have a pretty big backlog of indie titles to review. I think I’ve chiselled away at the backlog down to around maybe 50? I feel I have a social contract-type commitment to get through them, though, but I regret that my reviews will be far too late for some of you in respect of your efforts to promote your books through crowd-funding sites.
Zen and the Art of Comic Book Critiquing
The reasons for that ongoing slouch in productivity are typical. I’m a dad of four kids, with a busy and stressful career. Some people play piano as a form of meditation, and for me instead, writing these critiques is an odd form of thoughtful daydreaming. I fit it in when I can.
The site attracts around 2000 readers a week. But it makes no money from advertising. I do not have a Patreon account. We do not accept money from creators, and see here https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2017/03/16/the-curious-case-of-batman-66/ what happens when someone offers us sweet cash for SEO placement.
When you’re not on a financial leash, you can piss on any tree you like.
There is therefore no commercial driver to push out content onto the WCBR site and thereby attract visitors. I do nonetheless feel bad when I’ve let an enthusiastic comics creator down through a lack of timeliness.
Even though this is a smallish site which makes no revenue, I also offer to pay for any contribution to the site. It seems unfair to take someone’s content and not pay for it. “Raising profile” as consideration for content is a crappy parlour trick. For a while there when the site went into hiatus in the first half of 2020, I did not want third party content because I did not see the point in sinking more money into a hobby site. Now, I don’t pay much at all, but I do pay.
Highlights for Lowlives
Highlights over the past year have included:
- really annoying Neil Gaiman with this article https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2020/08/11/an-update-on-the-netflix-adaption-of-neil-gaimans-sandman/ but mostly because I think he followed the internal link to this article https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2015/06/09/gaimans-sandman-overture-and-the-elves-that-come-in-the-night-why-comic-books-release-dates-matter/ His tweet sounded very narky and insinuated that I was a click-baiter. I removed my tweet promoting the article since he disputed the facts in it, but I wish I hadn’t;
- Welcoming Roque Briones from Spain and Christian Carnouche, an expatriate Australian in Belgium, as contributors, and always welcoming back Neil Raymundo, “the most influential man in Filipino comics” (he hates it when I say that, but readers in the Philippines flock to his reviews of local comics. We receive a disproportionate number of visitors to the site from the Philippines);
- Starting a category of reviews called “Politics”. Initially I was hesitant about expressing a view on politics in comics, out of apprehension that it would be perceived as an erosion of objectivity. As time has progressed I have come to realise that literary critiques are necessarily political. A good critique offers an insight from a position. That may be as extreme as Marxist-Leninist (I will have to try my hand at that one day), or it can be feminist, or it can be GenX libertarian, or something else. More importantly, a good critique is intended to provoke a dialogue, in which the person can civilly disagree with a perspective. That sounds positively antiquarian in this age of social media shrieking: perhaps my bowler hat is on too tight.
Where the bloody hell are you?
I’d like to hear from you. If you have any new titles in the works, let me know – but be conscious of my backlog. (I am especially keen to hear from fellow Australians.) If you are a WordPress blogger, start a discussion in respect of the reviews on the WCBR site. If you would like to review a comic and have that published on the site, let me know and we’ll haggle a fee (payable from me to you). If you have a letter to the editor, send it to me and I’ll post it here with a response.
You made it to the end. Well done. Hope you enjoyed the newsletter.
Perth, 4 February 2021.
- Frank Cho on Instagram
- Jim Lee on Instagram
- I think https://www.reddit.com/r/furry_irl/comments/jte1xx/caw_irl/. Happy to be corrected.
- Mike del Mundo, Elektra (Marvel Comics, 2014)
- Moebius, Maxwell House advertisement, 1989