I was going to do a post on the Lovecraftian hype engine that runs Newsarama like the hidden wheels and treadmills of Yuggoth, but decided, what's the point? The hype is all-pervasive; it would be like writing about the Sahara and complaining about the sand. Like Darkseid, the hype simply is. So, instead, let us draw things to a close and take a look back on what we've learned.
We haven't learned Newsarama sucks. We already knew that. But we have learned, I hope, that Newsarama sucking is a bad thing. Because what really gets me, what truly and consistently pisses me off, is the attitude surrounding Newsarama. For a person like me, who puts such truck in standards and potential, it's bleak and interminable as a Thomas Hardy countryside.
The attitude can be summed up thus: "So what? It's only a website."
My reaction to this gravitates between a heavy sigh and a heavy sledgehammer to the speaker's skull. "It's only" statements bug the hell out of me, especially coming from fans of a genre founded on the superlative. (And let's all be honest, it's the superhero fans who drive Newsarama, for good or ill, and it's they who are the first to rise to its so-called defense. Show me a Fantagraphics buyer who wants me to ease up on Newsarama, and I'll show you a guy with a closet full of Eros back issues who thinks Jaime Hernandez was in Menudo.) Excusing faults by minimizing the faulty has always struck me as faulty logic. It presupposes that standards (there's that word again) need only be applied to a few, important things, while everything else can just get by however it feels. The problem comes when you step back and realize that, sooner or later, everything is one of the important things.
Take the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Banks and other lenders relaxed their standards for home loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings or income potential. This was bad enough, but then various investment funds started buying up interest in these relaxed-standard loans, the rationale being, "So what? It's only home loans. Everybody has one, and they always get paid off one way or another." Then the market got hit by the one-two punch of the housing-bubble bursting and a rapid increase in defaults on sub-prime loans, and subprime lenders, and the funds investing in their loans, started going bankrupt by the dozen. All of a sudden, stringent loan standards started looking like a pretty damn good idea.
Now. I'm well aware that crappy comics news sites won't send the American and global economies into a tizzy that wipes out my savings, meager as they are. But there's a ripple effect all the same, and in some ways, it's even more dangerous than having to go back to under-the-mattress savings accounts.
Imagine a comics world where it's universally acknowledged that Newsarama is the best we should hope for from comics journalism. Actually, you don't have to imagine it; it's depressingly close to reality. The Internet is a daily source for information that monthly or weekly trade mags cannot hope to stand up against. And the signal-to-noise ratio we have right now scares the living hell out of me. For all the blogosphere pats itself on the back, their penetration is on a level with NPR and Air America: only the faithful are listening. Ask the average comics shop patron what the biggest story in comics last week was, and they'll likely say it was the death of Heath Ledger. Which, you'll note, is technically not a story about comics at all.
Really? I mean, it's sad the guy died and all, and I feel awful for his kid (and disturbingly mortal, given there was an age difference of less than three years between us), but other stuff happened. And I'm not talking about Countdown or Ultimates 2. It may have escaped your notice, but Quebecor World, the biggest printer of comics on Earth, filed for bankruptcy last week. That's kind of a thing. It's the sort of story you'd expect a trade journalism outlet to go into in some depth, perhaps taking up more space than anticipated, pushing back a more frivolous piece like, say, "Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash Commentary." But maybe that's just me.
No, scratch that, it's not just me. This sucks, people. This is not OK. If we learn anything from my past week of literary masochism, let it be that. Comics journalism, online or otherwise, ought to be better than Newsarama. Hell, Newsarama ought to be better than Newsarama. Is there no impulse among any of these writers, or Grand Poohbah Brady himself, to improve, to put in a better day's work than the day before? Is there no furtive, blinking impulse in the mammalian forebrain of the readers to expect a little more than daily page scans and press releases? Is there no joy left for Mudville today?
I think there is. I wouldn't have written these posts if I didn't. I believe in the reality of better options as wholeheartedly as someone in their twenties can believe in anything. I have to, to keep myself going. After all, I have to have my standards.