See, here’s the deal: I love comics. I got into comics when I was 14-relatively late for most people my age, I know; but it ended up to be perfect timing-Miller’s DKR was mere months away, Crisis On Infinite Earths was just wrapping up, and both OHOTMU Deluxe and Marvel Saga had just kicked off, with DC Who’s Who running. Those two right there were so valuable in learning about the comics world of late 1985. I couldn’t, honestly, have understood a goddamned thing about comics without those. In younger years, I knew super heroes existed; there was The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Batman and Wonder-Woman all on tv, live action, with corresponding cartoons all over the place. But you all know this.
What I never dreamed in 1985 was that I’d find comics not a crutch for life, not straight up escapism, (and yo, hand to god, I hate that fucking phrase) but a part of my entertainment taste I’d keep (so far) the rest of my life. We didn’t have a lot of outlets for comics in 1985 Connecticut. There was literally the General Store, Kenny’s, which had a lot, and 35 years later I’m no longer scared to admit-I stole a lot of issues from; there was the Madison bookstore, it’s proper name lost to the mists of time, (and yeah, it was probably Madison Bookstore) and, if we were really adventurous or a mother was particularly gracious with her time and gas, Arrow’s Attic in Essex-a good 22 mile round trip on bicycles. So anyway, all through high school I was able to indulge myself on Claremont, Byrne, Miller, Romitas, Zeck, Maguire, Simonson, Colan, oh god, so many amazing artists and writers because of my job at the restaurant, and under the table pay, and incredibly unethical time-keeping practices kept me in comics-dough.
Invariably I amassed probably 6 long boxes in those years; 1/4 of what I have now, but it was only 4 years, what can I say. Also invariably, I started learning about the industry-through the amazing resource that was Comics Buyer’s Guide. For years before Hero and Wizard, long, long before internet, this was the single reliable, frequent way to get the inside shit to comics. And here’s the kicker about that-it was honest and they considered themselves the old school version of journalists. None of this Bleeding Cool crap. But that’s for another time.
What I’m trying to get across is that I’ve been involved for a very long time and I’ve indulged differing levels of involvement. After a more than 8 year forced-financial hiatus from comics, 2007 came, and I heard there was a new comic shop just a couple miles away-and it all re-ignited. I couldn’t get enough. The ridiculousness and over the top horseshit from the 90s was gone-there was Bendis and Brubaker and Phillips and Maleev; and honestly, comics in the last ten years are better than any I’ve ever read. Spidey is kicking so much ass, Captain America has proven a viable property again, Ms Marvel is the goddamned Arkenstone-and the Image books-my god, if you told us in 1996 that we’d be buying almost as many Image books as Marvel, we’d have laughed you out of the room. So comics…goddamn, I love them.
But here’s the real point. Eventually at cons like NYCC, I noticed another outlet for comics opinion, news and analysis-podcasts. For a long time I had heard about the existence of podcasts, but I frankly wrote them off as…I don’t even know what I wrote them off as, ’cause I thought they were for Ipod owners, and I thought those guys were pretentious jerks. I didn’t that know anyone could produce or listen to a podcast just because they were mp3s. Had no idea. I talked to podcasts like Ian Levenstein and the guys from Raging Bullets; wonderful guys, listen to their shows, seriously. So since my best friend is too goddamned lazy to help a guy out with his vision of a Star Wars fan film, I pressed him into service as the *ahem* “talent” of a podcast. Podcasting is funny. Making a show seems easy, and all the people claiming to know how to promote one all say the same stuff-but I’m here to tell you, you also have to have pretty amazing content, and you have to have such insane luck. So that right there is the crux. There’s a prevailing attitude that all you have to do is “put yourself out there” and you’ll get the attention you “deserve”. When we started, the consensus was that there were probably around 200 comics podcasts. Easy to make a mark. Now, there’s almost that just as a part of Comics Podcast Network. It’s nearly uncountable. After seven full years releasing podcasts, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve hit just that-the attention we deserve.
I’ve come across a piece of log-reading software that finally gives me a proper view of our download activity, page visits, and bot activity, and boy howdy, we must suck! In previous years I was misled as to downloads by poor charting and logging presentation-and simple arithmetic to divide total bandwidth by size of latest episode. That gave me a rosier and more positive view than could reasonably be expected of our popularity.
I loved podcasting. I loved getting together as often as possible with my best pal and talking about comics in “real” ways-complaining. Now, I was a soldier and generally my attitude was one of “it’s a soldiers’ God-given right to complain”. So that’s what I did on my podcast. People don’t want that shit, no matter how funny you make it, or what bits of ethical and moral hoo-ha and comics history you intersperse with it. And after a while, realizing who the most probable listeners to our bitching were-man, I don’t want to appeal to those people anymore. We started as The Mean Geek-which we ourselves perceived more as Howard Stern than random assholes. Our marketing guy suggested, rightly, that modifying the name would help-and it sorta did, as we became TMG_Cast. But on an absolute level, the bump in listenership did not equate to bumps in feedback. And that bump turned out to be transient at best. We straight up don’t know if more than eight people like anything we have to say. And that’s not even exaggerating. Regular feedback for us is right about eight people. We can’t even generate enough ire to get a hearty “go fuck yourself, Brett Blevins is the greatest artist going!”
There’s a tremendous amount of effort to be placed in the creation, distribution, and promotion of a podcast. You can just sit around a shitty mic at the kitchen table, with some ridiculous echo overriding anything you say, have some half assed cousin of the guy that only shows up every twelve episodes make you music, and you can only set yourself up on Libsyn and hope. You can do all that-but you’re never going to be noticed.
So you end up spending all kinds of money on websites; on lots of different microphones; on mixing equipment; on software; on Skype numbers. You spend a lot of money on website memberships; on promotional materials; on gigantic vinyl signs; on scaffolding to support those signs; on booths at cons, on flights to get to those cons, on promotional materials to show people at those cons. You talk to a lot of people you’ll never see again, you talk till you’re blue in the face. You’ll interview and interview and interview. You’ll buy stuff you don’t want anything to do with so you can make the appearance that you don’t *just* want filler time for your con episode. You’ll spend postage sending out hundreds of (albeit bad) comics from your own collection because you know someone wants to read those and will love them.
And you know what happens after that?
Podcasting and the promotion of podcasting has taken up so much time that now reading comics is a chore. Literally. Reading the comics I love is now an actual job task in the service of the show. It’s secondary, even tertiary, to getting people to notice what you’re fucking saying about those books. I get a shipment of 50-60 books the last week of the month. Under optimal circumstances, it might take 2-3 days to read them. But notes and analyses and opinions have to be written and formed on each and every one of them; drawing things out to a week or more. It’s work. And I don’t want reading comics to be fucking work. The practical solution to that is to cut back books, or to cut back the books we talk about. Which seems the right way to go, but listening to other shows go through one book an episode, sometimes page by page and panel by panel is annoying and ridiculous and stupid. So the shotgun/machine gun approach suited us. But I’ve come to dread the summaries; come to dread the writing. Come to dread the interminable process. Merely knocking it down in scale would no longer be sufficient.
I’ve had to learn Apache, php, and WordPress. I’ve had to buy storage and bandwidth. I’ve had to learn Skype, Sandra, and xml. I’ve paid for avatars to put on websites and badges; we’ve stood in front of, after all these cons, probably 150,000 people. Not once in seven years has anyone come up to us and said “oh, yeah, I heard of you guys!” Not once have I handed out a card and gotten an email or tweet back. Not once.
We appreciate you eight. We really do. It’s a bit of a thrill to have someone come back and say “that was some funny shit about Power Girl 12”. It opened up some connectivity and Chris, Jon, Mike, Josh, James, John, Spacechief, Dani-we consider you pals. Honestly. But I have to weigh all the effort above versus all the other things there is to be done in life. I want to make more Trooper Johnson. I want to read novels again. I want to build Lego and play Arkham Origins and I want to build fucking Macross VF-1S models. I want to up my investing. Also, and this is really the single biggest goddamned thing-I want to spend time with my best friend talking about SOMETHING BESIDES COMICS AND A SHOW FOR ONCE, GODDAMMIT.
I could say a lot more, and I have, actually-I’ve deleted 3 paragraphs devolving into whiney assed lists of things I do to no point to get the show out. But nah, there’s no purpose to that either. The final point is that getting recognized in podcasting has taken up so much time that it’s now an overriding concern for my whole life-and I don’t want that. I’m going back to just reading comics. Maybe making some. At least when I put out a page of Trooper Johnson on Instagram, someone has something to say about it. I actually got a “goddamn that’s cool!” this week.
So goodbye, kids. It’s been fun. It’s been a pretty amazing experience, but it’s time has come and gone. We will finish out episodes for books released through 2016, hopefully with all eps published no later than 5 March 2017-our eighth anniversary.
Bless you, Fuckers….and Away!
Adrian TechJedi Hunter
With Bill Reverend Mad Duck McGuinness