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Longbox Soapbox (Summer 2013)

Longbox Graveyard #104

And just like that six months have got behind me and it’s time for another Longbox Soapbox!

Twice a year I take stock of where I am with Longbox Graveyard, solicit feedback in the form of a poll, reveal some numbers behind the blog, and take a formal vow to continue Longbox Graveyard for another six months (or not).

the infinitely-renewing contract

Those interested in blogging minutia can review my past Longbox Soapbox columns:

This 104th “issue” of Longbox Graveyard is a big one for me, as it marks two years of continuous Wednesday publication for the blog. Starting as a means of keeping myself on-track in reducing and organizing my comics Accumulation (a job I have yet to complete), Longbox Graveyard has taken on a life of its own as a Bronze Age comic book nostalgia blog. A few recent guest blogs notwithstanding, Longbox Graveyard remains a one-man effort done out of love of comics, as well as a desire to communicate with my fellow hobbyists. Every half-hearted attempt I’ve made to monetize the blog has been met with indifference or disaster. Like Reed Richards, I’m a lunkhead when it comes to making money!

lunkhead!

let’s not talk about money

From the start I’ve kept this blog going by signing six-month contracts with myself. Once I’ve commenced on a six-month hitch of Longbox Graveyard I make myself see it through. When those six months are up, I either sign up for another six months, or put the blog to bed.

the Devil is in the details

do you recognize this devilish contract from the 1970s?

Will Longbox Graveyard continue, or will I shut it down? The answer is … both! (Sort of). More details in a moment, but before looking at where I am going, a brief survey of where I have been.

Statistics & Hits

Hits of course are the lifeblood of any blog. Traffic drives dollars if you are doing this for a living — which I am not — but even with a free blog, hits are your scoreboard, and it is hard to ignore them. I check my traffic several times each day, and if I am not so obsessed with these numbers as in months past, I would be lying if I said my traffic numbers were unimportant to me.

What is not a lie is to say my numbers are less important to me than the last time I did a Longbox Soapbox. After the crazy growth in the second six months of Longbox Graveyard’s life, my readership has plateaued a little, but I am still seeing decent growth. My monthly average readership in December 2012-May 2013 was up about 13% from the preceding six months. January 2013 saw the blog go above 10K views in a month for the first time, but the average for this period has been a more modest 8321 views/month.

LBG Tale of the Tape!

That will seem like a lot to a few of you, and nothing at all to more of you. For me, the numbers are what they are. I really have nothing to compare against. How many hits should I draw for a once-weekly, wordy, idiosyncratic blog about comics that are decades old?

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know. I can think of only a few comparable blogs (The Peerless Power of Comics seems closest, it is also a very good blog), but absent a dozen or so similar blogs, comparisons aren’t going to count for much. I have resolved that my numbers will be what they will be. I will continue to track them, but I won’t obsess over them, and I will put my effort into content rather than search engine optimization.

LBG traffic sources

Comparing these referrals to the last time I checked, we see that Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook have been stepping up as traffic sources. Most traffic continues to come from search (of course), and I would expect this to grow as more and more content and images are added to the blog. Pinterest appears to have leveled off. Reddit’s comic books subdomain remains useful for driving spikes (giving my Darkseid poll a record-breaking day, and also pushing my silly Pepper Potts Pin-Up strongly over Iron Man 3’s opening weekend), but I have no evidence Reddit views convert to readers. Sneaking in at the end of my Top 10 are Stash My Comics & the Chasing Amazing blog, and speaking of Stash My Comics

Superduperman

not even a Superduperman can do it all … reducing outside commitments!

Stash My Comics & The Longbox Graveyard Podcast

Last month I concluded my Dollar Box column for Stash My Comics after twelve monthly columns. “Twelve” seemed like a good number for a mini-series, and as I have been feeling spread a little thin, it only made sense to wrap up Dollar Box. That content was so similar to what I do here that Dollar Box effectively meant that I was publishing Longbox Graveyard five times a month, and that was starting to take a toll. It was fun to write for Stash My Comics, and we drove a few hits for each other, but I’ve decided to suspend outside commitments to concentrate on Longbox Graveyard. I assume my articles will stay up at SMC for awhile. Going forward, I will be republishing my Dollar Box columns here at Longbox Graveyard after the one year anniversary of each article’s original posting (starting with last week’s Nick Fury post).

I’ve also ended my Longbox Graveyard Podcast after twelve installments, for many of the same reasons I ended Dollar Box. The Longbox Graveyard Podcast was showing strong numbers and building an audience, but my passion is with blogging, and not podcasting. It was a tough call to walk away, as Mo Kristiansen was a great partner and made it very easy to do the podcast. It was fun to experiment with that form — and I may return to it at some point — but in the interest of sticking with my core interest, I have retired from podcasting and will be giving this blog my full geek attention.

FacebookMan!

Social Media

I remain active on social media. Pinterest doesn’t drive a lot of traffic but my boards are easy to maintain, and they do provide a worthy visual supplement for activities here at Longbox Graveyard. Instagram is closely tied to Pinterest, and again it is no big deal to post an image every day. It may not drive traffic to the blog, but my Instagram images do generate comment on Instagram itself, and also help stimulate conversation on Twitter, which remains a vibrant channel for me. I maintain an information presence on Facebook and Google+ to provide updates for the smaller community of followers that keep track of me on those services.

I think that’s about all the social media I can handle! I do push image and blog updates to Flickr and Tumblr but that’s automatically handled when the blog publishes and I don’t otherwise do much on those channels. I tried Quora for a little while but ran afoul of their naming policy. They put me in the penalty box until I would identify myself as someone other than “Longbox Graveyard” — I decided I couldn’t be bothered and deleted my account.

It will be interesting to see what happens with readership with the pending demise of Google Reader. Will the death of the leading RSS platform stimulate on-site views and email subscriptions? Being insufficiently competent to back out my email and RSS numbers from the stats dashboard, I guess I will never know!

Bat Cave Man Cave!

The Accumulation

Continuing work on The Accumulation has stalled out a little as I’ve gotten hip-deep in the remodeling project described in my Mancave Monday posts. I regard this a good thing. My manic desire to recklessly reduce the piles of comics out in the garage veered into extreme territory at times, and if I am suddenly more comfortable with where things are in that regard … well, that’s progress. Also, by shifting my energy towards building out a space where I can better enjoy my comics, I’m demonstrating a kind of accommodation, acceptance, and capacity for joy in the hobby that I did not anticipate when I started this project.

peace

I am … at peace … with my choices

My pace of buying books has slowed down, as well. I’ve filled in nearly all the back issues on my list, and there are relatively few trade paperbacks on my shopping list. For the most part I am reading what I’ve got. I am still enjoying my Marvel Unlimited digital subscription, especially now that it is available in an iPad-friendly form. A similar, all-you-can-eat subscription service from DC would be welcome (and would substantially increase the number of DC books examined by this blog!)

Reading

Comic books continue to dominate my reading, split about 50/50 between books I blog about, and books I read for the heck of it. Sometimes I surprise myself — I didn’t expect to like Sgt. Rock as much as I did, and never intended to cover it here at Longbox Graveyard, but these unexpected discoveries are one of the real joys of writing this blog. Other times, long-gestating ideas will reach the blog in unexpected forms, like all the Superman reading that wound up in my comparative essay on the death of that character, or my Brian Michael Bendis article that began as a Daredevil review.

Hawkeye

impressive visual storytelling characterizes the latest incarnation of Hawkeye, by Fraction and Aja

I’ve been reading the latest issues of Hawkeye, Daredevil, Saga, Criminal, and Guardians of the Galaxy — which likely won’t end up on the blog — while vintage Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, and Tomb of Dracula likely will. It isn’t that I dislike the newer books or lack opinions on them, but there are plenty of places for new comics reviews, and I also feel I can’t really appraise a comics run until it has been complete for months (or years!). For this reason, my reviews will for the most part continue to be confined to comics of decades past.

But … I suppose this is as good a subject as any for my bi-annual poll! Please vote, below!

Community Community Community!

What I’ve found most flattering about Longbox Graveyard is that it has developed a genuine community over the years. Even the least of my posts will earn a comment from my dedicated group of correspondents, and some comment threads have been better than the posts themselves. It is a special joy to see an older post earn a new comment, because that lets me know that the blog continues to find new readers, and that my legacy material (even some of the stuff that is now out of date) remains of value.

I can’t say it enough — I deeply value the Longbox Graveyard community. I am immensely proud and flattered to have developed a cadre of discerning and insightful readers, and I always look forward to your comments. Thank you for following my blog, and keep those (virtual) cards and letters coming in!

Community!

The Future!

First, the good news. Longbox Graveyard will continue! I am signing another six month contract with myself and plan to continue the blog through December of 2013.

However … I will be reducing the frequency with which I publish major content. After some soul-searching I’ve decided to downshift from publishing every Wednesday to every odd-numbered Wednesday, effective immediately. I suppose this is the blogging equivalent of “going bi-monthly,” which was usually the kiss of death for Bronze Age comics, but I hope a reduced publication schedule will allow me to keep Longbox Graveyard going indefinitely. I might even go back to weekly publication in the future. But for now … tune in every odd-numbered Wednesday for a new Longbox Graveyard article (if this is too confusing you can always see what is coming up and when with a glance at my Checklist).

There will also be some content changes here at the blog. I’ve already run several guest blogs these past few months (mostly by the talented Mark Ginocchio of Chasing Amazing Blog — thanks, Mark!), and this is a trend I would like to see continue. I think Longbox Graveyard benefits from other voices every now and then. Mark will be providing next week’s blog on the peculiar history of Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and I know he has at least one other idea on the boil for us. If you would like to guest blog for Longbox Graveyard, drop me a line (LongboxGraveyard (at) gmail (dot) com) — I’m looking for material that falls into the general purview of Bronze and Silver Age superhero stories evaluated from a personal point-of-view. There’s no pay, but you can’t put a price on comics blogging glory!

We Want YOU To Blog For Longbox Graveyard

In addition to guest blogs, I will be running some reprint material here at Longbox Graveyard. There will be the aforementioned Dollar Box reprints, and I also plan to start spotlighting my Pinterest boards with twice-weekly posts pointing toward the collection of images I’ve assembled over at that site, along with the original Longbox Graveyard articles that inspired them. On off weeks, even if I am not publishing a full article, I will sometimes jump in with a pinup or a plug for another site, so in some ways the blog will be publishing more often than ever before — I just won’t be running my more in-depth articles as frequently as in the past two years. I also have a scratch plan in place to put of digital scans of a select few comics that I wrote back in the day.

Thanks in advance for your patience as Longbox Graveyard evolves!

please leave a comment!

That concludes this edition of the Longbox Soapbox! Thanks for reading this column and for your support of the blog these past two years. I do very much want to hear from you, so please vote in my poll, and leave me a comment below. If you comment on only one Longbox Graveyard column each year, let this be the one! Let me know you are out there, and tell me what you think of the blog.

Thanks again for reading! Here’s hoping for another six strong months of Longbox Graveyard!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #105 Best Frenemies Forever

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Man Cave Monday: Resolution Resolution

The thing about New Years’ resolutions is that they don’t often survive the new year. Everyone makes them, and most people don’t follow-through with them, so it’s easy to forget your January courage, abandon your plan, and just blend in with the crowd.

I made a New Years’ resolution last month here at Longbox Graveyard. I am far from done with the job, but I haven’t given up, so I suppose is it still a resolution, though no longer a part of the New Year. Call it a “resolution resolution.”

the oath of oathes!

my oath renewed!

You may recall my previous Man Cave Monday entry, where I pledged to organize and remodel my garage to better accommodate my hobbies.

A little over a month later, there has been some progress, though it takes a trained eye to spot it.

I noted before that “The first step will be clearing out the existing space, installing closing cabinets, applying some fresh paint, and doing something about the floor.” That was putting the cart way before the horse. The first step had to be getting a handle on all the stuff that was crammed into every corner of the garage.

I thought on this for awhile and decided the job was just too big to take on all at once. Instead, I decided to chip away at it, one weekend at a time. I determined my first step should be to pack as if I were moving. After everything is packed away in boxes, we can move the contents of the garage into a temporary storage space and begin on the remodel in earnest.

This stack of boxes proves that I have made some small progress toward that goal.

pack as if to move!

So far I’ve cleaned out my hobby desk and boxed up most of the contents of my dysfunctional wire shelves.

(obligatory “before” shot so I can feel better about myself)

ugly game shelves

(and my nicer “after” photo, to prove I’ve made some progress)

empty wire shelves!

Most of my boxed games have gotten packed away. Here is the “before.”

back side of game divider shelves

And here the “after.”

empty shelves fill me with joy

I’ve also managed to pack up the old bookcase that contained volume after volume of old role playing games. I don’t have a “before” shot for this one, but trust me, it was a mess.

shelf

That wooden bookshelf and everything on it is eventually bound for eBay or the charity pile. I’ve secured a commitment from my oldest son to rip all those CDs to iTunes before we bid them goodbye.

Also in that shot above you can see most of the eponymous Longbox Graveyard, which will continue to be the center of this project, but it has (almost) gotten to the point where I can live with it. The garage organization, more and more, is pushing into the frontiers of other hobbies, most notably my gaming and miniatures hobby. I keep a hand in those hobbies but not nearly like I used to, and I hope to cull and sell off a bunch of that stuff as I get deeper into this garage remodel.

One thing that struck me in going through my gaming stuff is that it reflected endless hours of preparation, but significantly fewer hours of actual execution. I have box after box of carefully-painted miniatures but only a fraction of them have ever hit the tabletop. There are lots of role playing games and adventures I’ve created that received only limited outings (if at all). There’s even a massive collection of hand-crafted dungeon stone that I couldn’t be bothered to deploy during my last Dungeons & Dragons campaign, mostly because I lacked the organization and will to transport and set it up.

While I did get some joy out of crafting all these preparations, it gives me pause when I wonder why I spend so much more time planning than doing.

But that’s a pathology to unpack another day. In the meantime, the packing continues!

Man Cave!

Man Cave Monday: New Year’s Resolution

One of the reasons I founded this Longbox Graveyard blog was to keep myself on track as I sorted through my vast comics Accumulation. The idea was to hold myself accountable to the continuing job of shedding old books and organizing what I elected to keep.

As the Longbox Graveyard continues well into its second year this mission hasn’t stalled out, exactly, but it has changed a bit. Attempts to sell my comics haven’t been greatly successful (though you can help me out by checking out my bulk comics deals, or buying a select single issue). eBay has been a continual disappointment and I’m just about ready to grant a general amnesty to about half of my remaining comics (and trash the rest).

Either way, the “organizing the collection” phase of the Longbox Graveyard experiment is moving towards its end game. So what’s next?

I’m thinking about substantially remodeling my section of the garage to better house my comics, and to create a living space where I can better appreciate and enjoy what I’ve got.

the sad state of the Longbox Graveyard

The current space is just short of a disaster. My books are better organized but you’d never mistake my garage space for someplace where you’d like to crack out a book, sit down, and read.

ugly game shelves

I have a vision for the way I’d like things to look, but I will keep that to myself for now. This post is all about the “before” — a shameful exposé of how far I’ve let things go. As my Longbox Graveyard posts helped keep me focused on curating my comics, I hope these occasional Man Cave Mondays will keep me on track in the year ahead as I face the very big job of transforming the garage.

The first step will be clearing out the existing space, installing closing cabinets, applying some fresh paint, and doing something about the floor. I may also be putting in a wall …

back side of game divider shelves

would like to replace this shelf space with an actual wall

Wish me luck!

Longbox Graveyard Podcast: “Form Follows Function”

The Fifth Longbox Graveyard Podcast Is Here!

This month’s podcast is a history lesson and editorial all in one (be still my beating heart), looking at how there is really no sacred, artistically pure form of comics storytelling … that everything about our beloved comic books has been driven by technology, convenience, and commerce.

it does NOT get more exciting than the Yellow Kid!

I return to my thirty-minute form after last-month’s epic so it should be that much easier to give it a listen!

Thanks, as always to Mo Kristiansen at the We Talk Podcasts network for hosting the Longbox Graveyard Podcast. You can find all of my past podcasts and appearances on my podcast page.

Longbox Graveyard Podcast at iTunes

Longbox Graveyard Podcast at We Talk Podcasts

Glorious Bastards

Longbox Graveyard #22

Five whole boxes in the Longbox Graveyard contain cherished books that have been separated, indexed, bagged, and boarded.

Another two or three boxes contain books waiting in line at Ellis Island.

Ten boxes are full of dross.

And then there are the five boxes full of my own stuff. “My own” meaning books that I wrote.

These boxes are freighted with old memories, but I’ve done little besides take quick little Pandora peaks at them these past twenty years.

nice ink job on this cover by future Marvel Comics bigwig Jimmy Palmiotti

I worked for about four years to break into the mainstream comics business by writing black & white comic books for Malibu Comics and it’s various imprints. At first I did series of my own creation, then later wrote scripts for properties Malibu owned. I learned a lot about myself as a writer, but like a lot of comics from this era, few of my books got much traction. For the most part, I’ve locked the books away as a means of keeping those ghosts buried. Most of the reasons why I got out of comics entirely, both as a pro and a fan, stem from those hard days working flinty soil as a comics writer in the early 1990s.

But something about working through other parts of the Accumulation gave me the courage to tackle my own books. It wasn’t even a gradual coming to terms — it just sprung on me in the middle of the night, a sudden and nearly irresistible urge to organize and catalog just the books that I had personally written during my brief career as a comic book writer. It was like bagging and boarding five hundred books from other creators made me want to see my own work afforded similar ceremonial respect.

I restricted myself to organizing and indexing books in this pass — I’m not ready to read them just yet. But this is a huge step for me. It’s like acknowledging a pack of bastard children, and if it is too late to actually tend to their rearing, at least I can start to form relationships with them now that they’re grown.

Here’s an alphabetical and incomplete list of what I wrote, based on what I’ve been able to find and enter into my database.

BadAxe #1-3: My original sword and sorcery epic, and a love-note to Joseph Campbell. I have fond memories of this but I haven’t tested them by reading the books.

Bones #1-4: First comics I ever wrote. Light, goofball fantasy. I remember it as uneven, but heartfelt.

Empire #1-3: An original space opera that I deeply loved, but poor inks trumped good pencils in the first issue, and the book met with untimely cancellation.

Ex-Mutants Winter Special #1: I turned in my scripts every thirty days, and sometimes we’d get way ahead of schedule and end up printing a book or two as a special edition, or an annual, or a double issue. I think that’s what happened here.

Ex-Mutants: The Shattered Earth Chronicles #1-15: Grind-it-out work-for-hire. The check I got for issue #1 was the most I was ever paid to write a comic. For most books I never got paid beyond my advance-against-royalties (because most Malibu/Eternity books never generated royalties!). For that first Ex-Mutants I probably made six or seven hundred dollars, which was two or three times what I made on any other book.


Heavy Metal #645: An outlier from 2005 — everything else here is from the early 1990s. A promotional story I helped create to launch Darkwatch, a video game I co-created for High Moon Studios.

Interactive Comics: Dudley Serious & The Dungeon of Doom #1: Our splicing of comic books and “pick a path” adventure books. We also did Dudley Serious & The Space Patrol and Dudley Serious Saves The World (a superhero spoof that you can read online HERE).

Lensman #1-6: I thought some Lensman would be better than no Lensmen at all, but I ended up underserving a great genre tradition. I loved space opera and leaped at the chance to do this series, but it had to be based on a pretty crappy Japanese animation series (rather than the original books). Not great.

Lensman War of the Galaxies #1-2: Really just a continuation of Lensman, but we started a new series to juice sales numbers owing to a new #1.

The Liberator #1-6: Along with Bones, the first series I ever wrote. My homage to Captain America, by way of Alan Moore. I’m afraid to read it! Pencils by my old pal Jim Chadwick, who is an editorial wheel over at DC Comics now.

Monster Frat House #1: I remember writing a dynamite series bible for this, and then just having nothing left when it came time to write the issue itself. This was a naked IP pitch for animation, or something. Fizzled.

New Humans Annual #1: See comments above for that Ex-Mutants special.

New Humans, Volume 2 #4-15: Another long run that I can scarcely remember. This was more work-for-hire in the Ex-Mutants universe.

Paranoia #1-6: Certainly the best art I ever had on a book, and a rare color book for me (pretty much everything else here is black & white). This was based on the role playing game license, and I initially wrote it as a “straight” Paranoia story, but then we scared up a wild-ass South American artist who went completely off the rails with his own look and feel, and I gleefully followed him. We might have done a disservice to the license and its fans but I liked what we did. There are scans of a couple issues over at Mars Will Send No More. I recently re-read the series and quite enjoyed it. My last copies of this series are being offered in lots over at eBay — order one and I’ll sign it for you!

Roger Wilco #3: Comic book version of the old Space Quest computer game. Pretty sure I wrote #2 as well, but I can’t find it.

The Three Musketeers #1-3: I loved Dumas. I probably loved Dumas too much, because I tried to put too much of him into the three issues of this book. I nearly killed my poor letterer (the good-natured and very professional Clem Robins) — these books were a wall of words! I failed to understand the difference between adaptation and transcription. But I loved Dumas so much that I couldn’t cut a word …

Tiger-X Book II #1-4: I got to play with Ben Dunn’s giant robot property for a couple issues.

Ultra Monthly #1-6: A promotional rag I wrote to support the Ultraverse line. It was a clever idea — a newspaper from inside the Ultraverse — and an idea that might still work for marketing superhero comics.

And I know I’m missing some of the kids, too, probably all lurking in the same box someplace. There was a “Shattered Earth” anthology series I remember, another Roger Wilco book, and a couple fill-in issues of Rune that I wrote during the last gasp of the Ultraverse (which I already covered in detail).

I’ve always had this vague idea that I’d written around a hundred books for Malibu, but there are only sixty-odd here, so either my memory is faulty or I’m missing a box, or both. There were also several unpublished books (some of which I was paid for), including a multi-part history of baseball; an undead pirate epic called The Black Joke; a fill-in issue of Sludge where the deeply-missed Steve Gerber put me through the wringer (and did me a great service); an extensive pitch for Ultraforce that didn’t get picked up; two or three long-gestating original superhero stories that I still remember fondly; even a translation of a French pornographic comic that I wrote under the name of “Armand Jean du Plessis” (all the more amusing because I don’t speak French). I’ve found a few of these lost scripts and put them up for your examination on my Comics Scripts page.

Sorry this is only a survey, but just writing fifteen hundred words about my comics oeuvre is a big, big step for me. It’s the most I’ve thought about my comics in twenty years. I’ll dig deeper in a future post. For now I’m going to do some deep breathing and maybe read BadAxe.

Maybe.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #23 Queen of the Black Coast

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