Today is the fifteenth anniversary of ComicBookBin, a site I created originally to list my huge collection of comics and get rid of it instead of using eBay. Of course, as I’ve written many times since, my comic collection has only increased since and most of the floppies that I wanted to get rid of were washed away in the Calgary flood of 2013. I’ve still got a good collection but it is nowhere what I used to have.
Quickly ComicBookBin morphed into a news and review site and took off and has remained so since, thanks to the addition of countless writers and editors sharing their passion about comics, movies, action figures, games, fan films and more. We’ve covered conventions, film festivals, interviewed hundreds and mostly provided smart and deep criticisms about comics.
The last time that I was as celebratory about ComicBookBin, it was at our tenth anniversary when I was about to start my PhD at the University of Toronto. My tenure at ComicBookBin has lessened and the strong editorial stance that we had melted. We used to be opinion leaders and take stark positions in the comic universe. We still do but we don’t stand out as much.
A big change that affected us has been the increase of social media and the changing Internet landscape. In 2010, I predicted that comics news sites would have to be reinvented with the turn to mobile and ubiquitous computing. That year I created three ComicBookBin apps for three mobile platforms to go where I felt our readership was going. It was a grand experiment that I wish to update once the PhD allows me to relax a bit. I will defend in the fall and then will have to return to the active workforce.
The landscape has changed for comics. As I told my team in 2009, webcomics have taken off. They are big and the biggest source of innovation in comics. Digital comics are also big. But printed comics have not died and will not. They have settled in a new niche which is still more rewarding financially than any other, except the children’s market, bookstores, and libraries.
How people cover news has also changed. Google continues to wage war on small website publishers and social media is where much of the discourse on comics takes place. But as someone who studies social media scholarly and how people interact with technology, I have resisted attempts to use a plethora of solutions for publishing news online offered by Facebook, Google, and all their competitors. I’ve also left ComicBookBin as one of the cleanest website around. We don’t track our visitors. This is heresy in 2017.
There are trackers at the Bin like every other site but I do not get gain any data from them and have eliminated analytics and social media trackers that I control. The trackers at ComicBookBin are for the advertisements which a significant proportion of you block. It's pointless to beg you to enable advertisements to allow us to pay for the hosting and our other expenses. Large Internet companies have trained users to get things for free, or for cheap. They can sustain this as they are billions of you.
Not a billion people visit the Bin daily. Monetization has been an issue since day one. On that front, as a businessman, I have been a utter failure to the frustration of many at the Bin. Perhaps that explains why I am an academic today.
Enterprising people with less skill, less talent, energy, visitors, or articles would have turned things around and made this place profitable, somehow, even if that includes fake gaming articles promoting online casinos or top ten Hulk villains lists.
I chose neither of these routes nor have I exploited the incredible Rolodex at my disposal after fifteen years. I'm not always sure if we are as relevant but the fact that we exist and persist where most people would have given up means that we matter just because we are still around.
Many times, I have wanted to fold or sell. Only two offers came in fifteen years. Both were bad for what has been built here. The last five years have been tough at the Bin because I have not been active in recruiting new writers. I am too busy with research. Our expenses are the same but advertising revenues keep diminishing. It takes four months to earn what we use to make in one month in 2003.
When the first Spider-man movie came out I struggled with whether it was relevant to review it at the Bin or not. The latest Spider-man movie came out with full backing from Marvel, a month ago. Not only have I not reviewed it for the Bin, I haven't even seen it in theatre. Only last week did I manage to watch both the Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad films for the first time.
Comic book movies have taken over Hollywood and a new generation of critics who have not reviewed one tenth of the Spider-man comics that I have reviewed here, are now the king makers of good taste. I'm not about to blame millennials for yet again another wrong. I really cannot not keep up.
San Diego Comic Con parallels the segregation of comics again in an age where they feed popular culture as never before. When invited to local comic conventions such as FanExpo, my experience and credentials are not even enough to obtain a press pass. I used to send a simple email the night before to the organizers and got my press passes automatically.
Comics are a big business but not for what they are but more for how they can enrich other people who draw from them. I am too much of a comic purist, hence the most eclectic comic that I could create when I finally mustered the courage to not worry about imperfect art and plots is Johnny Bullet.
Comic strips are dying, finding it difficult to transition to the information economy. Black and white comics are disliked by readers used to having amateur and professional creators slave over brilliant colours just to attract a potential reader's attention for a few seconds. What do I do? I create a black and white comic strip about a 1970s street racer.
Half of the readers do not understand why the freaking Johnny Bullet logo occupies one sixth of the page. They find it distracting and redundant! I am cheap on words in that comic. It is something that does not go well with readers used to abundant first-person narration and world building. There is no word building in Johnny Bullet. No aliens, no wizards, no mutants, and no grandiose spy agencies.
I have no need to build a world which is so well documented and part of our everyday lives but just a few decades in the past. Guess what? I am having the time of my life working on Johnny Bullet and am glad that ComicBookBin is its natural home in both English and French. I know most of you do not visit to read Johnny Bullet yet, it has probably extended ComicBookBin's existence for me. Why would I promote Johnny Bullet elsewhere?
ComicBookBin has always been infused with my personal energy. With Johnny Bullet all over the place here, there is no question about why ComicBookBin exists.
Comics have changed since 2002 and so has the industry that supports them. It may appear that I am doing the old uncle thing but not really. The focus at ComicBookBin is still comics. That we know of better than most. Each of us currently writing here has reviewed hundreds of comics at the minimum. The writers at the Bin know comics like few others who review them elsewhere.
We know our DC and Marvel comics histories. But we are also well-versed in manga, European comics, comic strips (my favourite), independent comics, and more. We loved comics before it was cool to be a geek, read them, or wear a Green Lantern T-shirt.
I do not know what our future holds for us, but I do not foresee any dramatic changes with ComicBookBin. I want us to be better at reaching out to you and want you to continue to visit. But I also want you to invest in us, in the Johnny Bullet Patreon which directly sustains the Bin.
Comics are a thing for us. I've read them since I was five and have drawn them since I was six. Come back and help us be ComicBookBin.