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Comics Z-To-A

Well, that’s that! A month of daily content at Longbox Graveyard.

Comics A-To-Z was half-gimmick/half-sincere attempt to jumpstart this blog (and my blogging habits). I rate it … a half-success!

WHAT WORKED

Views!

Daily content goosed my views here at Longbox Graveyard. Even with a short month, February 2018 is tracking to be my best month since November of 2016. Traffic is up 70% from January, when I didn’t post any new content at all.

So, new content = increased views.

(In other news, water is wet).

tell me something I didn’t know

Engagement!

I positioned this blog series as a conversation prompt, and it worked — pretty much every post drew reader comments, here and on Twitter, and it was a joy to correspond with readers old and new over the comic of the day. It was especially good to see some old names pop up. With such low-stakes subject matter the conversation is about what I was hoping for, too — just well-intentioned fans sharing their own favorite comics series, or reminiscing about what made a day’s entry resonate with them. Good stuff.

nice to see you

Twitter!

Like this blog, my Twitter channel has been neglected as of late, and Comics A-To-Z helped bring it back a bit. My analytics show the usual slow decay of Followers but anecdotally I know I’ve been on that service a lot more in the past month, and I discussed comics to a decent degree over there. There’s a lot of overlap between this blog and my Twitter presence but it isn’t 100%, so it is nice to reach people that might not otherwise comment at Longbox Graveyard.

I will also be memorializing this month’s project with my first “Twitter Moment,” so we will see how that goes.

always happy to hear from readers

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

Daily Blogging!

Setting aside that I may have lost people by blowing up their In-Box, or that this past month’s articles at Longbox Graveyard were even more ephemeral than usual, blogging every day might not have been the brightest idea because it didn’t quite do the job of rebuilding my blogging habit. And that’s largely because this daily blog was anything but daily for me.

The series was front-loaded — pretty much the entire thing was written over a long weekend a month ago, then scheduled for daily publication. This isn’t a bad thing — I’ve run the blog like this for years — but it didn’t do much to exercise my blogging muscles.

Mostly this was down to necessity. February was a month of upheaval for my secret identity. While Comics A-To-Z rolled out each day on Longbox Graveyard, in the background I was flying back and forth between Vancouver and California, quitting my job, packing my apartment into the back of my car, and then driving 1300 miles south from British Columbia and back to my old place in Southern California. Mix in some job interviews and a new job starting next week and you can see it was an eventful month. (And if you were wondering why my comment replies came in big waves, rather than day-by-day, now you know).

Anyway, I come out of the last month resolved to keep blogging at Longbox Graveyard, but whether I set my frequency at “Every Damn Day” or “Whenever The Infrequent Whim Strikes” remains to be seen.

I will get things dialed in eventually (or maybe I won’t)

WHAT’S NEXT?

I dunno. I have some ideas. I’ll be back in March! (But not every day).

Thanks for reading and commenting!

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?

MORE LONGBOX GRAVEYARD SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDES

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

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

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