23rd Sep2010

Dear DC Comics: You’re Doing It Wrong

by Will

This week, DC Entertainment, announced a bold new organizational structure, deemed as a “bicoastal realignment”. The problem, however, is that there’s nothing bold about this whatsoever. When Marvel rocks the boat, you may not like it, but you’d better believe it gets people talking. DC, however, doesn’t seem to know how to make a splash – in the same pool in which they’ve been swimming for 75 years! Marvel has trounced DC in publishing, movies, and video games. By this point, DC’s got to be tired of losing, but they still aren’t taking many chances. With them, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking at Marvel and DC together, you start to see a clearer picture as to why Marvel shines, while DC rusts. Let’s take a look at what DC’s doing wrong.

1) Social Media: Marvel has readily embraced every technology, realizing the impact of what’s NOW. DC, seeing itself as some sort of “legacy publisher”, doesn’t readily embrace anything modern, so as not to date their product. The problem with that idea is that the product is already dated, simply through how it’s being mishandled. Sure, you may end up with a Marvel comic with a dated MySpace reference, but at least Marvel TOOK THE CHANCE.

This idea carries over into reality, where Marvel.com’s Editor, Ryan Penagos, was one of the first twitter users to cross 1M followers. Say what you will about twitter, but that’s quite a big deal, especially since it occurred in the age before many celebrities had embraced the medium. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not doing anything special. The first, and most important step, was that he simply showed up for the party – which is more than could be said for DC at the time. Tweeting as @Agent_M, he’s engaging, and he’s a steadfast cheerleader for the Marvel brand, in the tradition of The Man himself.

Now, let’s look at DC: They don’t really have much of a twitter presence. There’s a @DC_NATION account, but it really just serves to tweet links to the DC site. After they realized how successful Marvel’s social outreach had been, DC decided to follow suit, creating their own blog, The Source. Manning the blog is Alex Segura, DC’s Publicity Manager. This is where the “small world” nature of the industry really hits home, as Alex is also the roommate of Marvel’s Penagos. Both guys came up through the ranks of Wizard Entertainment, so they’ve certainly got industry experience. The difference between how they embrace the power of social media, however, is the night and day. You’d think something would rub off on Alex when he and Ryan bump into each other in the kitchen, but he isn’t “bringing it”. Maybe he’s not to blame. Looking at how DC handles everything else, it’s possible that Alex is FULL of ideas, and he’s just being stifled from above. Either way, DC’s doing social media wrong.

2) Publicity: Following up on the social media differences, both companies are also VERY different in how they handle their big announcements. Marvel seems to have a pretty good relationship with mass media. Based on its success with movies, as well as the clout of their new owner, Disney, Marvel has no problem getting mass media exposure for its big events, both behind and in front of the scenes. DC, however, does everything in secret, and once things get out, the announcements don’t hold the level of “oomph” that you know the Warner Brothers executives had expected them to have.

Let’s look at this bicoastal realignment. For the past year, most people have expected Warner Bros to decide to move DC out west, so that they could synergize new ways to monetize the catalog. Fanboys and comic journos have been awaiting that announcement with bated breath, and the rumblings indicated that there would be an announcement this week. Well, the rumors were true, but the announcement was the bicoastal realignment. So, as if they feared rocking the boat, WB decided to move the core moneymakers (movies, multimedia, etc) out west, while leaving the comic arm in NYC. All that fervor and leaked info for such a dud of an announcement.

Further, it was announced that certain subsidiaries of DC, such as the Zuda webcomic site and the Wildstorm imprint, would be shuttered as a result of the restructuring. Now, this information almost got lost, as people were spending more time trying to understand how the bicoastal thing would be any different from how things already were. The thing that hit home for me, however, was that the demise of Wildstorm was ANNOUNCED. This is a 20 year old imprint that has resided at two different publishers, launched a few notable careers, and was still successful at publishing licensed comics. We weren’t talking about a relaunch or a move to a new publisher – it was CLOSING. Sure, the core Wildstorm Universe books had been rudderless for some time, but this still wasn’t the way to handle it. At least, wait a day or two to put it in a follow-up announcement. I know that Warner Bros is the parent company, but they do everything in a very formal, let’s not scare the shareholders, kind of way. That’s not how Marvel rolls.

When Marvel was purchased by Disney, there were no rumblings. We woke up one day to the announcement, and many of us had to check our calendars to make sure that it wasn’t April 1st. Marvel doesn’t let anything get out that they don’t want out. When they do announce something, they make it worthwhile. Here’s how Marvel would’ve handled the Wildstorm situation in which DC found itself: Instead of announcing via press release, Joe Quesada would’ve “let it slip” during one of his weekly “Cup ‘o Joe” columns. In the next issue of Previews, you’d see a surprise solicitation for Wildstorm Finale, 48-page special written by Brian Bendis, with art by Bryan Hitch, Frank Cho, Steve McNiven, and whichever Kubert answers his phone first. Sure, in execution, the book will end up being a piece of crap, but leading up to its release, you better believe that Marvel would do its best to convince you that this thing is gonna be on the level of The Bible II: Jesus Strikes Back. And you know what? That book would be the #1 book of the month! All of a sudden, people would be looking back fondly on Wildstorm, making up stories about how they learned to read from Gen13. The way Marvel works, they have a knack for making you care about things you really don’t care about. That’s how Moon Knight has been given more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. DC simply lacks Marvel’s “Huckster Pizazz”, which is why everything they do reeks of buzzwords like “synergy” and “value-added”.

Remember how I mentioned the build-up to the hypothetical Marvel release? Well, at least Marvel understands the need for HYPE. DC takes a different approach. Instead of telling you that something big is coming up, they wait and see if you’re already planning to buy it anyway. Then, as if to punish you, Alex routinely spoils big events on The Source, sometimes as early as Wednesday afternoon. DC’s feeling seems to be “We’re here, making these quality books, and it’s your own fault if you haven’t made it a priority to buy them on your lunch break”. Some character dies, and The Source is sure gonna let you know about it by midday Thursday. YOU’RE DUMB, DC, ’cause now you just lost a sale! Who thought that was smart? Sure, they tack on a line about how the book is “In Stores NOW!” but you already told me what happens.

3) Leadership: There’s a different organizational structure at each company, but both are controlled by larger, corporate entities: Marvel by Disney, and DC by Warner Bros. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel is still fairly recent, but there haven’t been many signs of editorial pressure handed down by Disney. If anything, that acquisition has opened doors, as Marvel products are now sold in the Disney Store, while Marvel has ramped up production of programming for Disney’s XD channel. If only the same could be said for DC.

DC Comics has always been seen as the redheaded stepchild of the Warner Bros portfolio. There were halcyon days in the mid ’90s, when you saw DC crossing into other media, mainly Batman-related. After that movie franchise went on hiatus, and the animated series moved off network television, things seemed to dry up. The Warner Bros Studio Stores closed, so they lost another outlet to sell product. For years, it seemed that Warner Bros was searching for a way to make some serious money off DC, but the comic arm just wouldn’t play ball. A lot of their efforts seemed to have been thwarted by former DC President/Publisher, Paul Levitz. While he could be blamed for keeping the characters in a vacuum, he did it for the best of interests. Like an overprotective parent, he didn’t want anything bad to happen to his properties. As a result, however, he also prevented them from being able to grow. The-Powers- That-Be tired of this, and he was replaced by media wunderkind, Diane Nelson.

For the past year, many have wondered what the Nelson Era would mean for DC Comics. At the outset, the whole division was renamed DC Entertainment, with DC Comics falling under that umbrella. This was to signal that they had set their sights outside of simply publishing comics – they were now aiming for the “real money”. It’s no secret that DC hasn’t come close to meeting Marvel’s success at the box office, as they don’t have anything other than the Batman franchise to fall back on. Even when people discuss the upcoming Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie, the discussion always ends up revolving around Deadpool – the Marvel comic movie with Reynolds attached. In the meantime, Marvel’s been building a movie universe with each film, opening the door for the next feature as they go along. So, DC wanted to be like Marvel.

Nelson was brought in, supposedly, due to her success with the Harry Potter franchise. That’s all well and good, but that’s also a franchise that didn’t exist 12 years ago. Nelson basically had to find ways to monetize a franchise that was spawned from 7 books. Enter DC – now, she has to figure out what to do with a catalog of characters, many of whom have been around for more than 50 years. It’s the equivalent of setting out to clean your grandparents’ attack, and not knowing what to keep, while knowing that your only cleaning experience is that you once did a really kickass job mopping a kitchen. Plainly put, these are 2 different worlds, but her approach has been “media is media”. Whenever people focus on the fact that she knows nothing about comics, she hems and haws, and says things akin to “I know what I need to know, and what I know is that comics aren’t making us money”. We’re supposed to hear the statements, and think “She’s got some brass ones!” Sorry, but I’m not buying it. For over a year, every decision has been a non-decision. Who’s going to be the new publisher of DC Comics? “Um…let’s go with Co-Publishers!” Clearly, Ms. Nelson hasn’t watched the most recent season of The Office. Is DC moving to the West Coast? “We’re going with a…hmm…’bicoastal realignment’. Yeah…” Everything she has decided hasn’t been an actual decision. Her newly-named executives were guys who had already been doing the work, so it was just a title change. The bicoastal thing really did more as giving an “official” reason to kill Wildstorm and Zuda, than anything else. It could be seen as “streamlining the brand”, but it was believed that DC had been looking for an exit strategy for both for some time. As far as leadership goes, DC’s doing it wrong.

Sadly, it seems that things are going to get worse before they get better. DCE wants to make money, and they want to find the best way to do that. Batman’s already on Underoos, but he might start selling you car insurance. There’s an anecdote traveling the ‘net about a recent WB corporate meeting. Supposedly, someone in that meeting was chastised for saying, “But Batman wouldn’t say that.” Apparently, in the immediate future of DCE, it doesn’t matter what Batman would say (that has more emphasis if you read it in the voice of The Rock). Hell, Batman will probably start endorsing live ammunition and clown college. It doesn’t seem to matter in the future of DC. It’s just another in a long line of things they’re doing wrong….

03rd Aug2010

THIS Is Why I’m Unemployed…

by Will

So, if you follow me on twitter, you tend to get real-time updates on my job search progress. A few weird things have occurred during this whole ordeal. For one job, I was rejected before I even completed the application. I had saved it on the website, and hadn’t gotten around to submitting it with a cover letter. I guess they put a time limit on those things, and just flushed the system, leaving me with a rejection e-mail. For another job, however, I was rejected TWICE. I’m not sure if it was oversight, or the result of a changing of the guard at the organization, but I just wasn’t going to let go without being acknowledged. Here’s what transpired (names have been changed to protect my ass in this litigious society in which we live!):

Dear William West,

Thank you for taking the time to submit your qualifications for the Project Coordinator position at FUNCO, LLC.

We were fortunate to have several qualified candidates apply for the Project Coordinator position. After careful consideration we have determined the qualifications of another candidate are a closer fit to the needs of the position.

We would like to keep your résumé on file for future reference. We wish you every success with your career plans. Thank you for your time and your interest in our company.
Sincerely,

Jane Smith

Recruiter

FUNCO, LLC

Yeah, I figured it was only right that I write back and thank her for considering me. Or at least, one might construe my response as such. You decide:

Hello Ms. Smith,
Thank you for getting back to me. I actually received a rejection
letter a few weeks back from your organization, regarding this same
position, from a Rick Davis. To be rejected twice, I guess you
*really* don’t want me! In any case, thank you for your time,

Sincerely,
William West

That is something that happened. I figured I’d blog it as a preemptive strike, before it turns up on Monster or Careerbuilder as an example of how NOT to act when applying for jobs. Yeah, I did it. I’ll own it. I doubt I’ll end up blacklisted for it, and the world will keep on spinning. I guess my only justification is “rejection hurts”. It’s hard being out there, wearing your heart and credentials on your sleeve, only to be told time and again that you’re not good enough. Was my response in poor taste? Sure, but I had just hit my limit. Hopefully, she read it in the tongue-in-cheek tone in which it was meant, but it seems that people don’t realize jokes in electronic correspondence these days unless you end with “jk” or “lol”. So, if you’re reading this “Ms. Smith”, jk!

23rd Jul2010

All Up In Pandora’s Box

by Will

So, it may come as a surprise that I’m no fan of the convenience of technology. Sure, I love my twitter and my facebook, but I don’t use technology for anything practical. Paying bills? Hand me my checkbook. Yeah, I blog, but I’d rather write a letter and send it to all of you if I could. I’m an old soul. That’s just how I roll. One convenience I’m just now giving in to is Pandora. I’m the guy who’d lug his CDs from place to place, but that got cumbersome once I passed CD #500. Sure, there’s the radio, but there are only so many times one can listen to “California Gurls” before they want to kill Katy Perry for melting all the popsicles. So, with that in mind, and a laptop at my disposal, I ventured into the world of Pandora.

First impression? I am SO proud of my Shiny Toy Guns station and it’s not like I really had anything to do with it. I mean, I chose a band, and Skynet did the rest. That said, it really does evoke a mood. If I could rename it, it would be my “Trying to Seduce That Hot Artsy Barista” station. Remember Shannyn Sossamon in 40 Days and 40 Nights?

ShannynSossamon

Yeah, this shit’s for her. Sneaker Pimps, Massive Attack, Zero 7, Imogen Heap. Seriously, this is everything that quirky chick would love to hear. They even threw in some Simon & Garfunkel, to remind her of the good times she had with her dad growing up – ya know, before he hit the point where he “just doesn’t understand anymore!”

Sure, she’s not gonna end up being The One, but you’ll have a really torrid and emotional relationship that’ll define your mid 20s and maybe fuck you up for the rest of your life. Breathe it all in, my friend – once that chick moves away to art school/leaves you for her psych professor, you’re never gonna want to hear Sia again. That’s when this becomes the “That Fucking Bitch (Please Come Back – I’ll Change!) Station”. Or so I’ve been told. Stop looking at me like that!

To Be Continued…

16th Jul2010

Who are YOU on Twitter?

by Will

 

twitter

So, I’ve written about this before, but it bears saying again: I’m pretty much obsessed with twitter. I’m so obsessed that I feel I waste most of my creative juices over there instead of here. I’ve got Ubertwitter on the old Blackberry Tour (neither of them are paying me for that plug, but they oughta be!), and I find myself checking the thing every 5 minutes or so. What’s great about Ubertwitter is a feature called “Everyone Near You”, which uses your phone’s GPS to find all unprotected tweets in your vicinity. This little feature has led to HOURS of entertainment. It’s like slowly driving down a street where everyone has left their door open. Yeah, that might sound creepy to some, but I’ve always been nosy, and if they wanted their stuff to be private, they’d protect their tweets! Anyway, this feature has revealed a lot of new interesting people worth following, but it has also served to bring to light certain traits and patterns I’ve noticed. Whenever I’m in a new area, I fire up the old “Everyone Near You” to get a lay of the land; it’s an anthropological study akin to visiting shopping malls to see the latest youth trends. I thought I’d share some of  these observations, so that you can use this info to figure out how you might appear to others on twitter.

Avatars are KEY. You can learn a LOT about a tweeter based on the image that they post to represent themselves. Your parents and elementary school teachers like to tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but they’re dumb liars. If that little adage were true, there’d be no comic book industry! In any case, I’ve been temping in DC lately, and midday tweeters have been a GOLDMINE for entertainment. Here are a few things that stand out in the DC area:

-If she’s a young, attractive blond girl (the blond is KEY) wearing pearls, she’s tweeting about GOP issues. I guess it’s the influx of interns, but every Southern Chi Omega girl seems to be tweeting the virtues of the Republican party, or trying to defend the Tea Partiers.  Well, they’ve got their looks…

-If she’s a young, attractive girl, sans pearls, she works in sales/marketing or public relations. Most of her timeline consists of her @replying to some company, asking “How do I reach corporate relations?” She’s trying to establish what’s known as a “business relationship” – kinda like when you leave your business card in that fishbowl at Applebee’s. Hope she meets them quotas!

-If she’s in her mid 30s, and still attractive but not quite MILF material, she’s tweeting for an association. Sure, she tries to trick you by mixing in tweets about her dog or the cupcake she’s about to scarf, but the majority of her tweets are about some upcoming conference. They’re full of hashtags like #ANCC10 or #SWAYDC. My favorite part of these tweeters is that they usually have the following message in their twitter bios: “Views expressed are mine and not those of my employer”. I guess that’s a mandatory requirement of the social networking policy of many employers, but the recent CNN incident with Octavia Nasr pretty much goes to show that little blurb won’t save your job. Also, the placement of that disclaimer is moot due to the fact that most of these tweeters shy away from anything interesting. At most, they might upset the Froyo Lobby by saying Tangysweet is better than Greenberry.

A distant relative of the Association Tweeter is the Informed Retweeter. These are usually middle aged men, who either work for an association, or they’ve published some study that no one outside their field has ever read. It’s funny – association women seem to be on conference hype patrol, while the men spend most of the day retweeting shit from NPR. We’ve clearly come so far in our gender roles. If I’m already following NPR, why do I need to follow YOU? Step up your game, George! Anyway, most of their timelines are comprised of retweets from respected news and literary sources, without any real commentary. It’s the equivalent of that guy who subscribes to the New Yorker, just so it’s on the coffee table if company drops by.

It’s also fun to stumble upon celebrities. Since this is the DC/Metro area, most of our “celebrities” tend to be of the political variety. Still, it’s kinda funny to see a John McCain tweet or some local newscaster come up in your feed. The interesting thing, however, is linked to how Ubertwitter was designed. You see, the location of tweets are based on the point of origin. Since there are a lot of organizations in DC, with LA/celebrity supporters, you’ll sometimes get those tweets, since they’re retweeting something that originated from one of those DC orgs. For example, the other day, I found myself muttering, “When the Hell did Brooke Hogan move to DC? I wonder if Hulk came with her!” Sadly, I realized that tweet only came up because she had retweeted something from the National Wildlife Federation.

The stuff I see isn’t isolated to just the DC area. Of course, you’ve still got all of your usual suspects. For example, you’ve got the Justin Bieber fanatics. Keep in mind, school’s out and these girls don’t have anything better to do. They all have names like “JennyBieber” or “KristyBelieber”, and their avatars are that pic of him – you know, the one where he’s wearing that hat.

Another usual suspect is the Foursquare Tweeter, whose timeline is comprised mainly of foursquare check-ins. I don’t know why anyone follows these people. Seriously, I could give a fuck that you just went to Washington Sports Club. Check in somewhere interesting. If I saw “@scratchnsniff just unlocked the antibiotic badge at Dr. Kelly’s”, THAT would be some informative and entertaining shit. Otherwise, I think Foursquare is only interesting to people who want to be murdered in horrible ways – and their stalkers. Foursquare would be better if you were required to check in from unique places, like “@JohnnyDC just unlocked the “Employees Only Badge” in the Frederick Walmart Stockroom”. Any motherfucker can walk into a CVS, so why do you expect me to be impressed by you tweeting it?

You also have the people who may be using twitter for more than entertainment. It’s almost like they use it for affirmation. I know I tend to value my worth some days based on retweets. Hell, I think of twitter as a virtual stand-up act, but that’s about it. I don’t really feel like I have a captive audience. On the other hand, you’ve got the people who say “Good morning” to their followers, and then sign off when they’re about to go to sleep. Really? That’s like people who talk to their plants. I’ve got some good e-pals on this thing, but I think it’s understood that I’m online when I can be, and I’m not when I can’t. I don’t need to signal it with a greeting. The people who open and close the day on twitter, to me, are like that public speaker who says “Good morning”, and then repeats it when the response “good morning” from the crowd is lackluster. We know you’re there ’cause you’re tweeting; it’s unnecessary to announce your arrival/departure. I know somebody reading this right now is one of those people, so tell me – do people “good morning” tweet you back? I’m curious.

Something to keep in mind is “what does my twitter screenname say about me?” When I worked in college admissions, we’d always laugh at the email addresses of the applicants. You’re applying to an Ivy League institution, and you put DragonLord666@hotmail.com on your application? Your parents didn’t proofread this for you, did they? The same could be said about twitter. If your screenname is @HusseinDaAssasin, I think it’s safe to say that you’re on a list somewhere. You may not know it, but you are.

So, these have been my experiences with twitter. What have been some of yours?

28th Jun2010

It’s Been A While But We’re Back With Style…

by Will

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We’re coming up on the 7th anniversary of my entry into the world of blogging. Seven years ago, I was 2 months out of college, looking for something to pass the time during my temporary data entry job. Fast forward 7 years, and it’s now something to pass the time during my unemployment. Hmm…As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been gone a while in order to work out some kinks behind the scenes.

Ya see, It all started when I found out I had to move platforms. I’d been using Blogger since the beginning, but they no longer want to waste time on anyone publishing via FTP. So, we had to move on over to WordPress (hence the new look and features). After migration, I realized that the site really wasn’t that searchable. There were things I’d think about writing, but I would find myself wondering if I’d actually already written it and just plain forgot. So, I took a LOOONG stroll down memory lane, and reread each post, adding searchable tags to everything.

Over the course of this project, certain things stood out to me. For example, I apologize a LOT. Whether it was apologizing for not writing enough, for writing too much, or just for having a public pity party, it was all pretty pathetic. So, going forward, I’m going to make a conscious effort not to do that. I don’t owe y’all nothin’.

I also deleted some posts, be it they contained dead links or they were just unnecessary. There was a time when I adopted a “write like no one’s reading” mentality because, well, no one was reading. At that point, the site devolved into a bit of a livejournal clone. A lot of “Why doesn’t she notice me?” or “Happy first day at work, baby” posts. I had honestly forgotten how some of the stuff read, but I would have people say, “So, I was reading some of your old posts…” Those relationships ended, the world kept on spinning, no need of leaving all that up there. I’ve got NOTHING against self-deprecating humor, but a lot of those posts didn’t accomplish anything. They weren’t funny, and they were usually written in response to a “Why don’t you ever write about me on your site?” conversation. So, most of those are gone, but I doubt you’ll even miss them.

I also used to make a lot of promises: “The San Diego posts are coming soon” or “I’ll get to that story later”. I haven’t gotten to my Toy Fair experience YET, and that was in 2008! If I don’t feel like writing it then, I probably won’t feel like it later. I shouldn’t tease posts, as I can only write when I *feel* like writing about something. I can’t force it. So, certain “teased posts” tend to come out 6 months later or, in many cases, never at all.

Even worse are all of the promises of an upcoming redesign or renewal of interest in the blog. I don’t do the design stuff, so I’m at the mercy of my friend, Jenn. Most of the times I posted those promises of a new layout, they happened to coincide with times when she had absolutely no time to even care about this site. The site has really only had about 3 different incarnations, yet I promised redesigns like they were annual treats. So, I made a lot of empty promises, and ended up looking like more of a huckster than a poor man’s Stan Lee.

What really stuck out to me were all of the things I’ve actually *never* written about. For example, I thought I’d written more about my time at Diamond, but I guess I didn’t want it to become fodder for comic gossip sites, so I kept a lot of it to myself. Now that I’m pretty much never working in that industry again, maybe there are some good post ideas there.

Anyway, I also notice that I do a lot of these introspective posts, like the one you’re reading now, usually on a “milestone”. As narcissistic as I may be, I really don’t like these kinds of posts. You don’t wanna read this kind of shit! In the words of Depeche Mode, “Though things like this make me sick, in a case like this I’ll get away with it”. Now that it’s all out of my system, I know why you’re here: you want to read about my love for TNBC, comics and boybands. That’s the stuff I love to write about, and if this ain’t your first time here, then you already know it’s the kind of stuff you came here to see. I just needed to get this out as a bit of a “state of the union”. To steal from a played out United Negro College Fund commercial, “We can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been.” So, on with the show. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

02nd May2010

DC Comic-Con: Well, There’s Always Next Year…

by Will

So, today marked the 1st (annual?) DC Comic-Con. However, in this case, “DC” meant “Northern Virginia”, and “Comic-Con” meant “church bazaar”. I really had high hopes for this show. Established as a joint effort between Baltimore Comic-Con creator Marc Nathan, and the Laughing Ogre chain of stores, the show was poised to give the DC-Metro Area its first taste of a somewhat “official” comic book convention. Considering how great the Baltimore show has become over the years, this venture held a lot of promise. Unfortunately, something went wrong between idea and execution.

Now, I was actually supposed to volunteer for the show, as I first learned about it when I was in Marc’s store a few months back. He had a really good idea: he was already hosting a Free Comic Book Day signing in his store, so he figured he would just offer those guests an extra night’s hotel stay, and have them as his guests for the show. On top of that, he was going to make sure that all of the local shops had flyers available on FCBD, so that he could take advantage of the newcomers who might be flocking to stores. Considering his guest list was going to include Frank Cho (Ultimate Avengers 2, Liberty Meadows), JG Jones (52, Marvel Boy), Jo Chen (Buffy Season 8 covers), and others, it sounded like it couldn’t fail. Of course I wanted to be on board with that! He told me to show up early, and he’d put me to work. Well, fast forward to this morning, as I didn’t get to sleep until 7 AM because I’d been up working on restoring older entries to the site (I’ll explain that situation in another post). So, considering I wasn’t getting to sleep until about 3 hours before the show started, I simply muttered “Fuck that noise”, and went to sleep.

Over the past few days, I guess I lost most of my interest in the show when it didn’t seem like anyone really knew about the thing. I was in a comic shop yesterday, where I overheard someone talking about it, but their account of the thing was riddled with misinformation. On top of it, these were the retailers, themselves, and not just some fanboys standing around. So, it was becoming apparent that those flyers hadn’t made the rounds as planned. Also, the website was only updated intermittently. By Thursday, in total, there had only been about 5 update posts – none of which contained any major information, outside of the list of creators who’d be present. The only show-exclusive item was a variant cover of Witchblade, which would benefit the Hero Initiative. That’s good for the Hero Initiative, but the whole “Show Exclusives” part of the site looked pretty sad, as nothing else was being listed alongside it. It’s almost like, “Why bother?”

The worst crime of the site, however, was that it didn’t even list information pertaining to the price of regular admission. It stated that tickets would be available at the door, and not in advance (unlike the Baltimore show). Also, admission would be $5 IF you signed up for the e-mail newsletter. What if I don’t want to sign up? Well, there’s no information for that scenario. Guess I would just have to find out at the door…

So, I woke up around 11:30, and really debated whether or not I wanted to even bother with it. I had told Marc I’d volunteer, but it’s not like he really cared. He’d be OK. The main thing, though, was that I didn’t really know how to get to George Mason University. Sure, there’s Mapquest, GPS, and all that, but I hate the thought of trying to navigate a college campus. Cornell was basically the entire town of Ithaca. I knew GMU wasn’t that big, but I didn’t want to waste most of the day wandering around aimlessly. I checked the con’s site, only to see that they had uploaded a map of the campus, showing the location of the show, as well as the lot (Lot A) which was the only one open to con guests. Nice of them to post this…on May 1st. Yeah, they did it yesterday. The day before the show.

Honestly, though, I really just wanted to go so that I could finally meet one of my twitter pals. He’s one of the few people I can actually have a tweetversation with, and I think he’d be a cool “real life” friend. I knew he was making the trip from Baltimore, so if he could do that, then I could suck it up and drive to VA.

I headed down to GMU, but I was looking at the map on my phone, as I didn’t have the chance to print it. The Zoom option didn’t want to work, so I was flying blind. Once on campus, I couldn’t, for the life of me, find Lot A. Driving around Patriot Circle, the signs about the show/lot simply ran out. I ended up parking in the lot for a shopping center across the street from the campus. I didn’t want to risk tickets/towing by parking in the wrong campus lot, and I don’t mind walking. If I had found Lot A, it would’ve been a “5-10 minute walk” to the show. I’m not sure if that estimate was for the “normal” person, or for us geek types, who don’t have much in the way of cardio training.

I wandered through campus a bit, and actually walked past Lot A. It wasn’t much closer than the shopping center, so I didn’t feel too bad about my choice. Since the main campus seems to be configured in the middle of a circle, it wasn’t too hard to figure out the general direction of central campus. That said, all of the buildings, while nice and new, all pretty much look the same. Every now and then, I’d see a fat kid carrying a bag of comics, coming from the general direction in which I was headed, so that was an encouraging sign. Eventually, I just had to suck it up, and ask some kid where the Student Union was. Luckily, it was right around the corner from where I was. Keep in mind, this whole walk, which was in the CORRECT direction, contained NO signage to imply that I was headed in the right direction. I couldn’t have been the only one to experience this. Sadly, I arrived just in time to receive a tweet saying that my twitter pal had just left.

Anyway, once at the student union, there was nothing outside to indicate what was going on inside. No “DC Comic-Con Here!” sign. The only clue was that there were more slovenly kids with bags of comics, and a line at the ATM. Once inside, I realized that it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Admission turned out to be $5, so I guess the newsletter tactic was a bust. The problem was that, after I paid the money, the guy manning the table was more concerned with me filling out a raffle ticket than with giving me my wristband. People were bunching up around me, so once I was done, his partner tried to charge me another $5 before he’d give me the wristband. I told him I’d already paid, and the 1st guy co-signed it, so I got my wristband. That’s when I entered the “ballroom” where the show was being held…

You know your grandma’s church? The one that’s old and drab ’cause only old people attend? The one where they hold bazaars in the drab auditorium? The same auditorium which has a stage up front, as they sometimes use it to present the Christmas Cantata? Well, that’s exactly what this venue was like. It had a very “flea market” vibe to it. The entire room was filled with vendor tables, while something seemed to be happening onstage. I started to make the loop, but people were just in the way. This is a common problem with conventions, as everybody wants to bodyblock the longboxes until they’re done looking through them – very territorial.

As I’m walking through, I realize I recognize a lot of the vendors. After all, I used to frequent those little comic shows they hold at the Crowne Plaza in Tysons. Yup, there was the guy with one arm. There was the jerk from Columbia. There was the dude who always gives me the stink eye. The gang was all there. As I continued around, something became VERY apparent to me: the vendors had only brought their older comics OR their junk. So, if you were new to comics, your only options were overpriced yellowed books from the ’70s or a bunch of $1 bin books from the mid ’90s. I was kind of offended by this, as it implied that none of the vendors had taken the show seriously. Just as the place looked like a church bazaar, they were treating it as one. As I walked around, I overheard a lot of grumbling amongst the vendors, as the show clearly hadn’t met their expectations. Now, I’m not sure if they were unhappy with the turnout, or the lack of sales, but I have to lay some of the blame on the vendors themselves. Outside of the shitload of unnecessary Deadpool variant covers released over the last few months, the vast majority of vendors didn’t have any books published within the last five years. On top of that, it was a great show for anyone looking for cheap trade paperback collections, but the single comic offerings were piss poor. One guy was selling “new comics”, one of which was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that came out six months ago. Now, considering that series comes out thrice-monthly, that book is basically a year and a half old, when compared to other comics. That’s not NEW.

I made about 5 loops around the room, and couldn’t find ANYTHING on which I wanted to spend money. It was all junk. Hell, I was so disgusted that I passed up the FCBD books that some guy had leftover from yesterday. I bought the DC Comic-Con exclusive Witchblade because it was the show’s ONLY exclusive, and I wanted to have proof of the show’s existence in case it’s never held again. It helped out the Hero Initiative, though I’ve never exactly been sold on that organization (look up its guidelines some time – there’s a a VERY narrow pool of creators who even qualify for its assistance).

The saddest part of the convention was the lone Joker who was skulking around the show floor. This dude looked terrible! I mean, his costume was good, but he just looked depressed, and I’m not sure if it was part of his cosplay. I think he just felt out of place, as he was the ONLY one in cosplay that I saw. They were granting free admission to anyone who showed up in full costume, but he’s the only one who looked like he may have taken advantage of that offer. In any case, I eventually saw him hiding behind a pillar, fervently texting someone. Maybe he was asking Batman to come and take him back to Arkham. After all, that HAD to be a better option than where he was at the moment!

Oh, remember the commotion onstage? Well, that’s where those big name creators were set up. It was so awkward, however, as they were elevated over the rest of the show floor. To add to that, any fans wishing to get signatures & sketches had to wait off to the side of the stage. When it was their turn, they went up, as if they were about to receive a diploma. I’m being overly dramatic, but it really looked like an elitist setup, as we were all waiting to “pay tribute”. I already had signatures from all of them, so I didn’t even give it a second thought.

While on Loop #5, I noticed one vendor, who also happened to be the only vendor who was even remotely friendly to me, had a bunch of old toys for sale. Really old toys. That’s when I saw them: the Hasbro figures from the Stargate movie. Kurt Russell as Jack O’Neill, James Spader as Daniel Jackson, and nary a trace of likeness rights between them. Despite looking nothing like the actors, I LOVE Stargate, and I couldn’t shake a stick at the price tag of $3 each. As I took Daniel and O’Neill to the vendor, he laughed and told me he would cut me a deal for all of them. There were 6 figures, and he said he’d give them to me for half price. Now, I’m normally a sucker for a deal, but I really had no use for Lt. Kawalsky and Horus figures. I mean, Kawalsky looked just like O’Neill, but had a different color shirt, and I don’t care about grunt soldiers from a defunct toy line. I could’ve had them all for about $3 more than I spent, but I just didn’t want more junk in my apartment. I’m gonna hang Daniel and Jack on the wall, like the kitsch that they are. I simply had no use for the others.

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The very second after I completed that transaction, I headed for the door.  I didn’t care about the raffle, or the door prizes, or spending another second in that place. I walked out the door, and didn’t look back.

While I had major problems with the venue, I think my main disappointment came from the fact that I had held such high expectations. It’s really a matter of semantics: this was not a convention, but a show. A comic convention is an experience. There are vendors, panel discussions, and it provides fans with the chance to meet their favorite creators. A comic show, however, is simply about selling. Vendors bring their backstock inventory, and hope to unload some of it to people who are trying to fill holes in their collections. Shows don’t always have guests, and when they do, they don’t tend to be “marquee”. This show definitely fit the latter definition. It was geared toward the collector, and the older collector at that. It didn’t serve as a proper introduction for the new fan, nor as encouragement to the casual fan. I’m a collector, and it didn’t even fit my needs, so I’m left to wonder what was the target audience for this show. It’s got some reputable names behind it, so maybe this was a case of “1st year mistakes”. I didn’t exactly have an amazing time, but fanboys are gluttons for punishment, so I’m not giving up on it completely. After all, there’s always next year…

14th Sep2009

How I Tried To Stop Worrying And Love The Tweet

by Will

“How could you be so heartless?”

Since the theme of my recent posts has been my e-identity crisis, I thought I’d also bring up an issue I’ve been having with Twitter. Ultimately, I’d really love to find like-minded people with whom I can have a fun “back & forth” about shared interests. My problem, though, is that I’m not really gaining any new, real followers, as most of the “people” that I’ve attracted have turned out to be spam porn. Twitter’s like a party: its fun depends on who shows up. If you’re following somebody who’s not following you back, don’t expect them to reply to anything you tweet. It sucks, as it’s like being ignored at the grown-ups table.

I thought Twitter might serve the same function as facebook, in that it would be a great way to keep in contact with old friends. I was wrong. None of my friends are on Twitter. No, scratch that. The people I wish were on Twitter feel they’re too cool for it, while the people I’m finding make me scared to let them know that I’m on there.

If you read my last post, you know that I’ve experienced a bit of a problem…connecting with people on these social networks as of late. I’m finding that most of the people from my life that are on Twitter are sweet, innocent girls from the Cornell a cappella community. Most of their tweets say things like “Ramping up for Fall” or “Had a great workout at the gym today”. Basically, they’re using their tweets in the same way that they’d use their facebook status (in fact, many of them have linked profiles so that their tweets ARE their facebook statuses). That’s all well and good, but here’s how I regard Twitter: they are the statuses I’d use if facebook were on HBO. I’m not too keen on having these ladies read my tweets about pussy and Taco Bell. This leads me to the debate of To Follow or Not To Follow? Just because I’m following them doesn’t mean they’ll reciprocate, but if they do, they’ll more than likely drop me unless they turn out to have a freaky side that gets hot at the thought of Taco Bell.

Really, on Twitter I’m all over the place. I go from chastising the decisions of comic companies to liveblogging Style Network shows. Ideally, my followbase should be comprised of metrosexual geeks with an insecure form of narcissism. Does that exist? I doubt it, which leaves me wondering how to properly use the site…

Anyway, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, and you’re not trying to get me to register to see your pics, as Diddy would say, “hit me up on my Twitter”: @williambwest

07th Sep2009

How Was I Supposed To Know She Was A Minor?

by Will

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for life. Give an octopus nunchucks, and no-one’s eating fish ever again.” – @FunnyJoker

So, I’m finding that I’m having a hard time getting back into the whole “web” thing. It’s not a matter of material, but rather “netiquette”, so to speak. Case in point: As I said last post, I took a cybbatical from social networking. Well, upon my return, I found that I had several new friend requests on facebook. One of those that I accepted was a friend from high school. In this situation, “friend” is defined as someone I knew in drama productions and at one point we were both really close to members of a particular family. In any case, this was someone that I knew, so I had no issue accepting the request.

OK, fast forward about 2 weeks. Her status update read “I made a 13 yr old girl scream today and it was AWESOME!” OK, if you’ve ever read anything on this site, you know I have a dark sense of humor. So, I commented on this status update, something along the lines of “I had a friend who did that. You might’ve seen it on Dateline. He’s in jail now.” OK, anyone who has seen Dateline in the past 4 years understands that reference. Keep in mind there’s no context given for her update. Here was my thought process: I’m not sure if I wrote about it, but my cousin had a neighborhood moon bounce party for her birthday. There was this little asshole who forced me to shoot him in the eye with a Super Soaker. Yes, he was 7, but trust me – he had it coming. And he cried. And it was glorious. So, when I read the status, I kinda imagined some scenario like that, assuming that the girl deserved it. Little did I know what was to come.

About 2 days later, I wake up to this manifesto that the person had sent me, telling me that she couldn’t believe I would joke about such a thing, and about how they’ve worked with abused kids for the past 3 years, and my remark was like I was shitting all over everything they’d been doing. Apparently, she’s a leader at some kind of camp and this was a therapy thing. Then, there was some more about how the high school version of me would never have said such a thing (yeah, he would have – he just didn’t have his own website then, natch!). That Will was someone that she thought was caring and compassionate, but I no longer appeared to be that person, so she couldn’t continue a friendship, “even one as superficial as facebook”. Well, damn. Hold. The. Phone. There was NO context! How was I to know? This is someone I hadn’t heard from/spoken to in about 8 years. Last I heard, she was dumpster diving & squatting in abandoned buildings ’cause it was the thing all the cool edgy kids did in college! I didn’t know they were out saving abused teens. It’s not like it’s something you put in your “Interests” column! Let’s see : “Puppies, laughing, The Office, Daily Show, helping young girls overcome sexual abuse through some weird form out shout therapy”. Nope, sorry. Didn’t see that. So, I’m the asshole. Yup. She made good on her promise, and that facebook friendship was voided. Hell, she may have even blocked me. I sent an apology, explaining my stance, and the fact that I certainly wasn’t meaning to trivialize the good work that she had been doing. Regardless, she wasn’t having it. Oh well, I guess I gave her something to scream about!

So, what did I learn from this? Basically, the fact that just because you “know” someone on facebook, Twitter, etc, it doesn’t mean that you know them. A lot of people look to these sites as tools to reconnect with people with whom you’ve lost touch, but it’s also a good way to find out that some people clearly don’t need to be in each others’ lives. And that’s one to grow on.

31st Aug2009

End of Cyberbattical: Looking Ahead

by Will

“The penis is the navigator!”

Welcome to the season premiere of williambrucewest.com. I know it’s been awhile, but Leon’s people came after me for that last post. Here I was thinking he should be grateful for the attention, but I guess I thought wrong. I can’t really get into details, but the whole ordeal ended with me being thrown from a speeding limo.

Actually, the real reason I was gone was because I took a bit of what I like to call a “cyberbattical” (or cybattical – we’re open to either term). Between the site, facebook, Twitter, and everything else, I was just too connected. I had a ton of information being dumped on me, yet none of it really held any value. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a streak. I wanted to see if I could go a week without all of those sites, and that eventually turned into 1.5 months. I chose a good time, however, as I missed the overload of info regarding MJ’s death, Jon & Kate, and countless other “media frenzies”. In terms of the blog, however, I guess the break can’t fully explain why I’ve been gone, as I haven’t posted since April.

In any case, I’ve stayed away because I really didn’t have an angle. Didn’t know what to write. At times, I feel I’m too mean. It’s easy to harp on celebrities and whatnot from the anonymity of a blog (or, as anonymous as one can be when the URL is his full name). As we’ve seen in recent press, those uppity mofos have lawyers and they will come after you!

Taking my focus away from celebrities, I thought I could get back into anecdotal mode, sharing some stories from the life of “The Real Will”. Sadly, I’ve got a bit of a hater streak going on right now, so that wasn’t gonna turn out well. For example, I toyed around with the idea of a “Match the hygiene difficiency to the correct girl I dated” article. Or my post about how Fox Reality Channel should launch a show called “Pregnant, Or Just Fat?”. Or my critique of facebook wedding pictures. Yeah, like I said, wasn’t gonna turn out well.

So, in this, our “pick up where we left off” post, I figure I should just give a bullet point summary of the things you didn’t hear about on CNN.com

– Back in July, I saw Tiger Woods at the AT&T National. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but I really saw the guy. I mean, I was about 20 feet from him. Could’ve pantsed him, and I seriously considered it. The thing is, Tiger’s a lot more cut than he looks on TV. I think I got disillusioned by all those Chappelle Show parodies, ’cause the dude is built. So, I just did my golf clap and sat my ass down.

– I also quit Toys “R” Us. Yes, again. It occurs to me that I never actually posted that I even went back. That was one of those “I’ll fill you in later” promises, where I never revisited the story – there are a lot of those. Anyway, I went back to TRU for part time work back in November 2006. After they closed down my Wheaton store, I found myself in Columbia because it was on the way home from Diamond. In any case, the money always sucked ’cause they usually only gave me about 7 hrs a week, but I always said that I was working there for the people. They were cool. They were into the geeky stuff that I liked. I felt that, basically, I was being paid to hang out with my friends one day a week. Lindsay, of course, hated it because it was time that we could be hanging out, plus I was losing my mind trying to get by on a one-day weekend. All of this changed when I got an erroneous review, and they didn’t want to give me my raise. My TEN CENT RAISE. So, I quit and never looked back. Well, I looked back, ’cause I still went for toys (it is a toy store), but I don’t miss the work. I guess the sad thing is that those friends broke into thirds: when I left, a third of them had quit/been fired, a third of them still keep in contact via facebook, and the other third forgot me quicker than Peter forgot about Jesus. Guess I didn’t mean as much to them as I thought.

HOLY SHIT! Breaking News: Disney’s going to buy Marvel?!!! OK, looks like I’ve finally got my inspiration back. Looks like I chose a good day to come back!

Before closing, I’d also like to highlight some positive things, seeing as how schaedenfraude’s only going to get me so far.

– James and Jenn celebrated their 10 year anniversary. 10 years since I first met them on the steps of Arts Quad, the 2nd day of orientation. Yup, those orientation hook-ups can last! Congrats, guys. Also, Jenn, PLEASE redesign my site. You know, when you’re not held up with pesky grad school stuff. Love ya!

– My bestest friend, Tarek Sultani, got engaged a few weeks ago. In a whirlwind, romantic courtship, he found the woman of his dreams and sealed the deal with a helicopter ride and a proposal. Way to set the bar high for the rest of us 😛 In any case, I know he’s happy, and I wish him and Miss Hanna the best!

OK, that’s enough rambling. I’ll be back for more later…

01st Feb2009

So I’m Trying This Whole Twitter Thing…

by Will

“All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus.”

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So, Marcus tells me I’m a shitty blogger these days, as love has kept me from the keyboard. If only the explanation were that simple. No, I’ve been away due to a cruel whore named Twitter.

I joined Twitter about 2 weeks ago, and I thought was awesome. Micro-blogging from anywhere, to my legion of followers. Problem is that I don’t exactly have a “legion” of fans. If ComScore monitored this site, I’m pretty sure that they’d find I have about 12 unique visitors. So, maybe Twitter wasn’t the best idea for me.

Also, I’m a note taker in terms of blogging. Ideas come to me, I write them on the back of a random receipt, I flesh them out, and then write full-blown posts. Well, Twitter became my random receipt, so I wasted a lot of good ideas on a nonexistent audience, bringing me to my next point: being on Twitter is like being in a conversation where nobody is listening to you.

When you really break it down, Twitter is what you would have if you just built a website based on facebook statuses. As much as I love the facebook status experience, I don’t like to think that I’m wasting my A material in the world of Twitter. For Twitter to be an engaging experience, it’s only as enjoyable as your followers/followees.

The most prolific person I follow spends most of his time posting about a hipster scene that I don’t understand, while I don’t really have any fans. I’m starting to use Twitter to “test out material” for the general public. Plainly put, an attention whore like myself is presently getting nothing out of Twitter, and it’s adversely affecting this blog.

Am I using Twitter effectively? Do I need more structure for this site? Maybe I do. I’ve been doing this for 5 years, and I never wanted to become one of those sites that does Album Review Tuesday. Then again, maybe that’s what I have to do in order to be a “destination website”. I just renewed this thing for another year, so maybe it’s time for a new direction. I guess time will tell.

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