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Top Ten Instagram Superheroes!

Longbox Graveyard #84

I’ve already enthused about Instagram as a social media channel for superheroes, and since July of 2012 I’ve been posting images daily. I’ve worked my way up to 800+ followers on Instagram, and have begun to develop a little community over there … I’ve found that comments are more likely to break out on Instagram than on Tumblr or even Twitter, where my Instagram image feed is echoed. I don’t think Instagram drives a lot of traffic back here to Longbox Graveyard, but it is proving to be a surprisingly strong and vibrant superhero community.

Longbox Graveyard on Instagram!

I thought it would be interesting to see which images I’ve posted to Instagram these past six-odd months have been the most popular, ranked by “likes.” Of course it helps to keep these things in perspective. When I say “popular,” I mean “popular by Silver Age superhero standards” … my top image has scored only a fraction of the top images on the service, where pouting self-shots by celebrity narcissists ring up 5000 Likes or more.

The success of my images is also closely linked to the size of my network, and as my Followers have grown, so too have my Likes. Even though I’ve been posting since July, the oldest image on this list only dates back to November 2012. As the list will show, having my Followers experience significant growth during the Christmas season also attracted a lot of eyeballs for holiday-themed images.

Anyway, here are the ten eleven most popular images I’ve posted to Instagram, ranked by Likes!

10) (tie) Old School Avengers by Jack Kirby, and …

Old School Avengers by Jack Kirby

… Hebrew Hulk by Jack Kirby!

Hebrew Hulk by Jack Kirby

Silver Age images from masters like Jack Kirby have proven popular on Instagram. The Avengers have been a strong draw, I think owing largely to their movie success, and this cover image of a Hulk comic localized in Hebrew benefitted from being posted as a holiday greeting on the first night of Hanukkah.

9) (tie) Hulk vs. Batman, and …

Screen shot 2012-12-29 at 11.04.31 PM

… Surfing Super-Friends!

Surfing Super-Friends

Batman is solid gold for Instagram “likes,” and this surfing Super-Friends hits the hipster Instagram demographic head-on.

The Hulk/Batman cover from DC Special Series #27 by José Luis García-López shows one of the last and least-likely of the inter-publisher superhero crossovers of the 1970s and 80s, and to judge by comments, many current fans didn’t know this book even existed! These kinds of images also help spur conversation by posting them with messages like “Batman vs. Hulk — who wins?”

7) Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag 1974 by John Buscema

Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag 1974

The covers of Marvel’s holiday editions were often the best part of the package. My Instagram followers took a big jump toward the end of 2012 and these holiday-themed images proved especially popular over the Christmas break.

6) The Bat-Man by Bob Kane

Detective Comics #31 by Bob Kane

Batman makes the list again (and not for the last time) with this classic image from the cover of Detective Comics #31.

5) (tie) Hulk vs. Thor from Defenders #10 by John Romita, and …

Defenders #10 by John Romita

… Japanese Batman!

Japanese Batman!

I can’t account for Japanese Batman … I don’t even know where I found the image … but like those surfing Super-Friends, Japanese Batman is a shaped-charge designed to penetrate Instagram sensibilities.

The Hulk vs. Thor image also helped stimulate a “who would win” conversation (which leaned toward the Hulk) and reminded me that I’d never read the famed Avengers vs. Defenders War, of which this issue was a part. (An omission I will remedy shortly!)

3) Batman by Melissa Smith

Batman by Melissa Smith

Batman strikes again! I saw Melissa Smith’s artistic impression of several superheroes over at Robot 6 and her Batman image proved especially popular on Instagram. The formula of popular hero + a humorous or artistic take seems to yield dividends.

2) Santa Thing!

Santa Thing

Not sure who drew this image, which originally appeared in a Marvel Comics holiday house ad. Longbox Graveyard readers may remember this image headlined my Holiday Gift Guide. This image also benefited from a holiday period bounce, along with …

1) Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag 1975 by John Romita

Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag 1975

The most popular image I’ve posted to Instagram was another classic Marvel Christmas cover … and for a full review of the issue behind that cover (which sadly does not live up to Luke Cage trimming a Christmas tree with his belt chain), be sure to read my column here.

Feel free to comment if you have art credits that I’ve missed or mis-attributed above, and I’d especially like to hear from you if you’ve found your way to this Longbox Graveyard blog from Instagram. Remember that you can find me on Instagram as longbox_graveyard, and you can also take a web-based peak at my latest images here.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #85 The Defenders: Who Remembers Scorpio?



Guide To Comic Books On Instagram

Longbox Graveyard #71

Instagram isn’t the exclusive domain of hipsters who want to share digital photos that look like they were snapped in 1967.

OK, that’s exactly what it is.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve found Instagram to be an effective platform for sharing comic book images, too, and here’s your guide to how I do it!

Instagram is a legitimate success story — an thirteen-person operation that sold to Facebook for a billion dollars, which means it’s more than a way for young people to lean into frame, glue their heads to each other, and make the duck face.

Duck Face (Common Version)

Instagram grew like crazy owing to its interface and ease of use, allowing anyone with a mobile connection to snap a photo, apply a nostalgic filter, and then share it to a stream of friends and semi-stranger internet acquaintances, who can then like it or comment on it as we have come to expect in this age of social media public posturing. With built-in connections to Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr, it’s small wonder the service quickly spread its tendrils into every corner of the social graph.

At it’s heart, Instragram is about snapping pictures of people and things and sharing them with friends, which means it works just fine if you want to send out photos of your latest visit to your friendly local comic shop with your pals. Cosplayers and comic bookish in-store displays are also perfect fodder for this service.

It’s when you want to share images from inside comic books themselves that the system gets a little tricky … and guess how I best like to use it?

That’s right, I most like using Instagram to share individual comic book panels and excerpted images of comic book covers.

And here is where you start to bump up against the limitations of Instagram. To be fair, these aren’t limitations so much as they are focus — remember, the success of Instagram is largely down to doing a few things, and doing them well. Their system doesn’t pretend to be an image excerpting or editing platform, so unless you just want to snap photos of comic book covers or page interiors, you will be working uphill against the system trying to frame images just the way you want.

This is because Instagram is a mobile service (although they have recently rolled out a website). I can’t edit or upload images directly to Instagram — it requires that I take a photo, or select something from my camera roll. Even though I’ve got a big collection of comic book screen shots on my computer, I can’t upload them directly to Instagram. So, how have I managed to share such precise comic book images via Instagram?

Step 1: Screen Shots!

Using the screen shot functionality on my iPhone, any image can be shared to the camera roll. Once there, it can be accessed by Instagram like any other image. Of course, this doesn’t solve the issue of finding images themselves, which brings us to …

Step 2: Google Image Search!

Online image searching will turn up a wealth of Instagram-worthy images, though it can be a bit of a crap shoot if you are looking for a specific subject. Broad terms like “Kirby Captain America” will yield good results but more specific searches — like “Kirby Cat Headed Dudes From Kamandi” — may not net so great a bounty.

For more precise images, there’s …

Step 3: Pinterest!

A couple weeks ago I extolled the virtues of Pinterest for comic book images, and thanks to the Pinterest iOS app, this service has become a way station for images bound for Instagram. I warehouse my images as pins over at Pinterest, and then repurpose them on Instagram. Browsing a comprehensive Pinterest gallery — such as good ol’ Longbox Graveyard’s boards — will turn up Instagram gold. Just find the image you like, and use the in-app option to save it to your camera roll.

Step 4: Editing in Instagram

Instagram is designed to make everything look like a Polaroid. That means it is always going to grab a square image, so right away, it is going to be the enemy of rectangular comic book covers (but more about that in a moment). It’s quite good for most comic book panels, though, and you can use the zoom and position controls to get slide things around and get those parts of a panel that you like. This might include word balloons, like with cranky Gwen Stacy …

… or maybe you’ll choose to cut out the word balloons entirely, as I did on Instagram with sinister Gwen Stacy.

Step 5: Excerpting

And now we get to the most interesting part of using Instagram for comic book images — excerpting.

Given the limited view space, Instagram isn’t an ideal form for sharing covers or full-page images. It is very good, however, at grabbing parts of a comic book page or a cover.

(And now a philosophical digression)

One of the things I haven’t done very often with Instagram is share complete images, such as portraiture or pin-ups. An Alex Ross portrait of Superman is already more perfect than I can make it — the artist has already selected his subject, his composition, and the color he wants in the completed image.

It doesn’t seem right for me to slap a Polaroid frame around an otherwise finished image, throw a filter on it, and claim it as my own expression. To me, the creativity of using Instagram for comic book images is all about finding an individual element of a larger work and affording it an altered meaning or focused attention by looking at the item outside the context of the original page.

This is similar to what I’ve been doing here at Longbox Graveyard with my Panel Galleries — tracking a comic book visual cliche from book to book, or focusing on the genius of someone like Steve Ditko in rendering faces and expressions. Excerpting images in this way is every bit as much an unauthorized repurposing of the original art, so in terms of retaining the original intent of the artist, it isn’t much of an improvement over framing a complete work and pushing it out via Instagram. But in excerpting only a portion of the work, you are exercising a kind of editorial control over what you are framing, and are hopefully making an intellectual, artistic, or emotional point by showing just that image.

Instagram’s filters also let you warm up the image, cool it down, or convert it to black and white, and here we have another interesting philosophical issue. What is the true color of a comic book image? Nearly all comic book art is created in black and white, and colored by a separate artist, of varying degrees of skill, who may or may not pay attention to the desires of the pencil and ink team. Those colors are then reproduced with varying degrees of fidelity, depending on whether the image is being reproduced on newsprint, glossy paper, digitally, or otherwise.

When I reviewed Barry Windsor-Smith’s run on Conan, I felt I was seeing his artwork for the very first time, because the original run of the art in Conan didn’t permit clear reproduction of Windsor-Smith’s maniacally detailed work. It was only thanks to the better paper and more sophisticated printing processes of the Dark Horse reprints that I was able to fully appreciate Windsor-Smith’s genius … but was I really seeing the art as the artist intended? These books were digitally recolored, and in a sense they aren’t the same as the work they reprinted … but I love them, and appreciate them more than I do the same stories in their original printing.

So which is the real work?

I don’t know … but I find it interesting how this question interfaces with Instagram, which invites users to alter the look, feel, and even the intent of source art by changing the composition and coloring or original images. I prefer to think of this as practicing my editorial eye to create a not quite derivative work — a new way of looking at something that celebrates and reengages us with the original.

In this way, Instagramers aren’t so far removed from Andy Warhol …

… or more to the point, Roy Lichenstein, who was doing this kind of thing generations before we had Instagram, the internet, Longbox Graveyard, or running water!

All of which was a deeper dive than I intended, so back to the duck faces.

Duck Face (Longbox Graveyard Version)

Obviously I’m overthinking this stuff … but if I didn’t overthink stuff, there wouldn’t be a Longbox Graveyard!

But for all my overthinking, this exhausts my knowledge of using Instagram for comic book images. Except for one thing.

Step 6: Focus

This isn’t a step so much as a raison d’être. If Instagram is designed to help people share moments in their lives, then what am I sharing by pushing out hipster polaroids of Thanos?

Well … I am sharing moments in my life! Not everything on my Instagram feed is a repurposed screenshot of a comic book image. That image above of Mr. and Mrs. Thanos was snapped at my desk, after positioning my new-to-me Thanos action figure with his lady love. I don’t know about you, but it cracks me up. Look at them — so happy! She can’t stop grinning!

Or here’s a snap of my visit to my favorite comics shop, the House of Secrets in Burbank, CA.

And here’s a shot of Tom Mason, Chris Ulm, Dave Olbrich, and Scott Rosenberg just before I moderated their Malibu Comics Retrospective panel at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.

Instagram does share the moments of my life, but I’ve chosen to focus it on the Longbox Graveyard moments of my life, like the time Batman and Batwoman got married …

… or the time I found Batman, Spock, and the Alien, together again for the first time at Phat Collectables in Anaheim.

As such, the focus of my Longbox Graveyard Instagram feed dovetails with the focus of this blog — looking at those things about comic books that continue to intrigue and delight me. Coupled with the geolocation of select images I’m also using Instagram to chronicle my travels through the (real) comic book world, when visiting shops or midnight movie debuts. I could clog it up with pictures of my family or roadside attractions or headless strippers but that would be sharing too much!

And so you’ll continue to get a lot of Spider-Man, and Master of Kung Fu, and Tomb of Dracula, and whatever else strikes my fancy, within the domain of artistic expression as I’ve set out at Longbox Graveyard!

I invite you to follow my images on Instagram by searching for Longbox_Graveyard, and let me know your own feeds in the comments, below!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #72 The Walking Dead

Other Longbox Graveyard Comic Book Social Media Guides

Guide To Comic Books On Pinterest

Longbox Graveyard #67

Three weeks ago I offered my guide to finding comics bargains on one of the internet’s oldest and most-visited sites: eBay. This week my “Guides” series continues with a look at one of the newest site on the web with my Guide To Comic Books on Pinterest!

Pinterest is a free site that allows users to upload, arrange, view, and share images in virtual scrap books or “pinboards” organized in whatever categories users desire. Users can upload original images (as I did for my Appy Entertainment Pinterest account), or they can snag images from the web, facilitated by a “pinning” applet added to your browser’s toolbar.

The easiest way to understand the site is to describe how it works. Let’s say you’re reading one of my “Panel Galleries” here on Longbox Graveyard, such as the “Made It!” gallery from earlier this month. You see an image you like — maybe that big Gene Colan panel of an acrobatic Daredevil flinging his billy club in a desperate bid to avoid becoming a red stain on the sidewalk.

You like that image enough that you’d like to save it to one of your Pinterest pin boards, so you tap your “Pin It” toolbar applet, and a pop-up window will show you all the images on the current page that are eligible for pinning.

After clicking on the thumbnail for the image you want, select the board where you want pin your image, and give it a caption.

The image appears as a new pin.

And then you can look at that image in its category …

… as well as every other category you’ve created for displaying your images.

It’s easier than it sounds, and with Pinterest’s pinning applet it’s simple to quickly snag and categorize images that you find in your daily web travels for your Pinterest collection.

As you can see from that screen shot above, I have over a thousand images archived at my Pinterest site. Originally I intended Pinterest to be a second site for images I’ve excerpted for articles here at Longbox Graveyard, and readers of this blog will recognize many of the images on my pinboards. But I’ve also come to enjoy pinning select images as I encounter them during my rounds on the web, such as those Neal Adams X-Men covers you see above, or this Ms. Marvel close-up from artist Mike Deodato Jr.

I like that Pinterest lets me continue adding images to my collections even after I’ve published an associated blog. My Ms. Marvel review was published here at Longbox Graveyard in December of 2011, and the foundation of the images on my Ms. Marvel Pinterest board are from that column. But in the months that followed I’ve expanded by Ms. Marvel image library with a dozen more recent images, helping me keep my interest in the character alive, and also providing a gallery of Ms. Marvel images that can lead Pinterest browsers back to my blog’s review.

This might seem like hijacking content … but a nice feature of Pinterest is that clicking on an image while in Pinterest will take you back to the image’s original site. A caption field is also available to reference the original site, although I more commonly use this space to credit the original artist of that particular image. While you will find that while many of my Pinterest images link back to Longbox Graveyard, plenty of others connect to sites like Diversions of the Groovy Kind, The Marvel Age of Comics, Mars Will Send No More, the Tumblr page of artist Mike Deodato Jr., and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe REDUX, all of which have proven fertile sources for images I like to collect and share.

Jack Kirby Hulk image from my Pinterest Hulk gallery, where I link back to where I found it at James Halperin’s page

Pinterest went live in 2010, and spiked in December 2011, when it was recognized as one of the fastest-growing sites on the web, entering the top ten ranks of social network services. Since that time, Pinterest has released mobile apps and moved from public beta to a freely-available open service, and while Pinterest may no longer be the new hotness in the superheated world of social networking, it remains a vibrant network for sharing and exploring images.

Actually, to be honest, it’s a vibrant network for sharing and exploring images of handbags and hairstyles more than anything else. The fashion demographic was the first to adopt Pinterest in meaningful numbers, and pictures of dresses and endless pages of shoes continue to form the bulk of Pinterest’s content.

But all is not lost! A few intrepid geeks wage four-color guerrilla war to bring comic books to Pinterest!

The first boards I recommend you visit at Pinterest are my own, of course, the aforementioned Longbox Graveyard collection. Here you will find pretty nearly all the images that have appeared on this blog, organized by character or theme. They’re all available for online browsing, and if you sign up for a free Pinterest account, then you can “repin” images you like best to your own boards. You can also follow my whole collection or individual boards to keep with with new images as they are added.

Melissa Smith’s Black Widow, which you’ll find at my Avengers board

There are more than a few other users worth following, too. The subtleties of search continue to elude me on Pinterest (it doesn’t help that pretty much everything I like is lumped into a single “Geek” category), and most of the interesting boards I’ve found by brute force or dumb luck. It’s possible there are major caches of images on the site that I have yet to locate, but after spending most of the year hunting this stuff down, I suspect I’ve triangulated the major pockets of good stuff. Filtering out the users who drop an image or two on their “Geek” board, the tiresome meme slaves, the Lords of Cheesecake, and the women (and a few men) obsessing over Tom Hiddleston (and there are more than you’d imagine) … here are several Pinterest users I follow, in no particular order, offering cool comic book stuff of likely interest to Longbox Graveyard readers:

  • Jose A Matos, for his comic boards, as well as collections of Frazetta, Star Wars, and Simon Bisley.
  • Jake Johnston, who has a nice comic book cover gallery and some action figures and cos-play photos, too.
  • Thomas Perkins, for his own original art, fantasy art, comics, and Kaiju.
  • Mark20067, who I think I recognize from Twitter, with a whack of classic comic book art.
  • Ben Cohen, for his spectacular visual lexicon.
  • And I Am Not Lying, for … all sorts of stuff.
  • Jeff Viaud, for classic comic book images.
  • Aki Spicer, for comics and retro-advertising images.
  • Troy Chavis, with thousands of comics, movies, and toy images to explore.
  • Cody Pierce, with lots of comics stuff, including boards dedicated to Neal Adams and Bill Sienkiewicz.
  • Dizzy Femme, devoted follower of this blog and an active pinner with eclectic tastes.
  • Scott Kinney, comics, robots, toys, monsters, Doc Savage (all stuff I love!)
  • Ezra Jones, specializing in Green Lantern.
  • Louche Belasco, for colorful and lurid pulps and movie posters.
  • Tyler Aames, for some great covers.
  • Clive Richards, with some classy comic art.
  • Andrew Christianson, Cosmic Heroes and more.
  • Rod Keck, for comics and his lizard-headed avatar.
  • Jim Reid, covers, Kirby, and Steranko.
  • Hannibal Swift, thousands of images and he’ll actually trade messages with you, too.
  • Stephen Walker, nicely curated collection from a comics blogger.
  • Jim Lind, more than just Batgirl (but Batgirl would be enough).
  • The Parks Department, with vintage comics and pages …

… and literally too many more worthy names to mention. If those aren’t enough for you, check out other names that I am following, or just enter some search terms and go down the Pinterest rabbit hole on your own. Good luck!

a John Buscema Conan, from my board honoring the Cimmerian

So where is this all going? Heck if I know. If all that Pinterest provided was a massive, free, visual archive for my comic book images, that would be good enough for me. There’s obviously a social network here, but I haven’t given it a lot of attention (and I welcome advice on how to better leverage the social side of Pinterest). I have taken some joy in just building and curating a comic book image collection via Pinterest — it has become a valuable adjunct to Longbox Graveyard, and along with my Twitter feed and my podcasts, I consider it a vital portion of my online presence.

My primary use for Pinterest, however, ended up being something entirely unexpected — thanks to the Pinterest mobile app on my iPhone, Pinterest has become the pivot man in the double-play combination for sharing comic book images via Instagram … but that is another subject entirely, and something I will examine in my Guide To Comic Books On Instagram, which I will publish here at Longbox Graveyard next month!

In the meantime, please visit me on Pinterest, offer your own insights on Pinterest in the comments section below, and let me know your Pinterest identities so I can follow your boards!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #68 Master of Kung Fu: Snowbuster!

Other Longbox Graveyard Comic Book Social Media Guides

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