Who's Who - Eli Green
By Hervé St-Louis
August 5, 2012 - 11:09
Just like I had done before, I left free reign of the entire section to the writer who wanted to do something with it. Quickly Eli suggested some improvements and if memory serves me right, by the end of the summer 2006, Eli had been promoted to editor of the video game section. Eli was invited to make suggestions to the video game review part of the infamous ComicBookBin Writing Guide. I don’t believe I’ve discussed our writing guide in this series of articles, yet, indulge me.
The ComicBookBin Writing Guide is extensive at over 30 pages. Back then, I was very adamant about the writers following it. For example, it strongly discouraged using the word “comics” and always use the word “comic book” instead. We are not supposed to use DC or Marvel. Nope, we are to write DC Comics and Marvel Comics. For me these elements of news and review writing are important. You will notice that no one in the comic book industry pays attention to such details. Not even award winning reporters are careful about proper term usage in their articles.
The ComicBookBin Writing Guide is one of those elements about the site that I’m very proud of although in recent years I’ve relaxed a bit. I never used to write the word "comics." I do now. I never used to write fan. I do now. Still, I don’t and never will budge on some elements. I still write Image Comics instead of “Image.” If you’re a ComicBookBin writer reading this, pay attention. It is an important stylistic element and part of what makes ComicBookBin, ComicBookBin. Let the other guys and the bloggers use DC and Marvel. At ComicBookBin, we write DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Image Comics. I’m serious. If you’re a reporter, or anyone with some training in communications or writing, you probably understand why I’m so anal about this. If you’re not, you may see me as an uptight elitist and out of touch with the world. I don’t care. ComicBookBin is different. And part of that difference is that we write properly as much as we can and pay attention to proper editing, the same way any other news media in any other field would. Just because we deal with comics, doesn’t mean we have to lower our standards.
Moreover, "DC" speaks to an insider crowd. Hardcore comic book fans know what DC stands for. Anyone reading one of our articles stumbling on "DC" for the first time, will wonder a bit what it stands for and that gets in the way of them understanding our articles. We write for everybody, not just insiders in the comic book industry. Rant over.
Eli shared many of my views on proper editing and to some extent was more adamant. I’m a fast writer and I don’t review my articles extensively before posting them. Often, I let my Frenchness slip in and don’t notice it until later. Eli did all the time and would fix my articles quietly. He did that for everybody. He really was an editor and was consistent. Our writing was much better when Eli paid attention to our work.
Eli’s greatest strength was his networking skills. While I had a core base of video game industry contacts to hand to him when he started, he built much of his network of connection on his own, tirelessly approaching video game studios, publishers and equipment makers. Few writers are willing to do that.
There are a few things I’ve learned since that I should have been more careful when letting Eli take over the video game section. I should have worried more about Jonathan Mills feeling upstaged. There’s this thing called change management that I’ve studied a lot the last few years that explains how to deal with organizational change. But back then, I had no clue about such concerns. That Jonathan would not welcome competition never occurred to me. I figured Jonathan and Eli would just handle it and all would be fine. As an editor in chief or a publisher, this is not how to manage personnel, even volunteers. People have egos.
Soon that would blow over in my face and I must say that at the time, I did not handle it well, and it may have led Jonathan to leave ComicBookBin. I was approached by a video game publisher to review several titles. We got six games for review. Being clueless about platforms and games, I just asked the guys what they wanted. Number one rule – assign review material yourself once you’ve figured out and paid attention to platform availability of the reviewers and interests. Don’t let the guys fight over the material. Be a leader. Let’s just say there were a lot of acrimony and that some of the games were never reviewed. Oh, I did send them, but Jonathan was probably pissed. He would leave shortly thereafter.
Another concern of Eli was advertising revenue. He wanted to get more of that for ComicBookBin to allow us to be more autonomous. People saying sites make tons of money with online advertising live in lala land. But there is a way to cut out some piece of the pie and make a living – provided one is willing to do the work. That has always been one of my weaknesses at ComicBookBin where I focus on contents and architecture and mostly just ignore the bottom line. Eli wanted to change that and must have pulled his hair several times in frustration with my laisser-faire attitude towards revenues and advertising.
But he soldiered on. Contents-wise I didn’t favour the video game section of ComicBookBin being a junior IGN. Eli worked so hard that it really was that. It was complete with tons of articles, reviews and previews on video games. My contention had always been that gamers would go straight to IGN and other large video game portals first. Why bother with a comic book site to get your gaming news? We had to offer something else that mattered. I had a clear idea of what that was, but it was my failure as the site’s publisher and editor in chief to not effectively sell my vision to Eli, one of my most steady editors and contributors. He really wanted to built and IGN-like site, even design-wise. I wanted to stay as far away from the generic comic book/video game Web site look. To this day, if you look around, you’ll see a large comic book news portal that looks nothing like the other guys. It’s done on purpose.
In parts, I did sell my vision of what made ComicBookBin different to Eli. He liked the revamped tricolour logo introduced in 2008 and liked the vision of independence we had. He liked it so much that he wanted to own parts of ComicBookBin. He had a plan for me. I encouraged him to submit it to me. We discussed a lot. Part of the problems was untangling the ownership issue. ComicBookBin belongs 100% to Toon Doctor Inc. But Toon Doctor is more than ComicBookBin and I wasn’t willing to sell the non ComicBookBin parts of Toon Doctor. As I told Eli, it would have warranted a lot of legal and accounting work to clear up everything. I wasn’t against it, but was he willing to go through this with his backers? Was it worth it for them?
Over the years many people have expressed interest in taking over ComicBookBin. Many have also hinted that I may not know what I’m doing with ComicBookBin or even understand its potential. People have a tendency to underestimate me when they meet me. I don’t sound as sharp as I should because I’m very friendly and laid back in talks, when I'm not being too introverted. People often stumble on my French Canadian accent, thinking I don’t have a good mastery of English and that I don’t get it. Eli knew better than that though. He knew me very well, but he probably didn’t suspect that I knew how dire the situation would be for ComicBooKBin if I didn't do anything bold. While he was suggesting something akin to what Comic Book Resources is doing right now with its video contents, after Eli left, because of his disappointment of having to do much more leg work with lawyers and accountants to be involved in ComicBookBin, I went for a totally different direction. I went after mobile, really hard. I would not focus on video contents, like Comic Book Resources and others. I would focus on mobile access and technology instead and skip the whole video-based contents phase of product development many large sites go through. It paid off. Unfortunately for Eli, he left just before I would make the mobile turn. He created his own games and film review Website LazyReviews.com
Finally Eli had the control he sought with his own property. He established it as best as he could and with as much insight as he could have glanced while being with ComicBookBin. He’s a tough guy and he will stick there where others would have given up. Creating a major review site in 2002 was not easy. It’s was worse in 2009. Imagine today. When Eli left, he was the last one of the 2006 generation of ComicBookBin writers to leave. All of them had probably seen the limits of where my leadership could take them at the time. I’m an architect. A product person. I excel at creating new technology and systems from scratch. But as a leader or men, I have a lot more to learn, although today, I am fully aware of where I need to grow next as a person. I failed to inspire or properly manage the human expectations of the 2006 generation and thus they all left. They had different needs than the 2003 generation of ComicBookBin writers that stayed.
To some extent, Eli’s departure was my lack of leadership and maybe openness. While, I was able to provide a lot of space for an individual writer-editor to enhance an entire struggling section, I was not able to curate talents and offer them the opportunities they wanted once they had reached a certain point. That’s one thing I still have not improved. I really wish Eli had been here when I rolled out the mobile site and our mobile apps. He would have been amazed to be part of the team and to witness such groundbreaking work and finally the kind of vision he had pressured me for years to deliver. He didn’t mainly because of me. I didn’t give him the transition period he wanted to step out of ComicBookBin when he announced he wanted to leave. Had I allowed him to remain part time for a few months as he wanted, he might have seen where I was going next and reconsidered. But perhaps, he would have felt it was too late. In any case, I’m proud that Eli had his first real post school news gig though ComicBookBin and I’m happy that he is finding his own voice today. I saw him recently in Toronto. All I can say is watch the kid. He’ll go far.
Who's Who @ComicBookBin is a feature celebrating the 10th anniversary of ComicBookBin where publisher Hervé St-Louis features writers past and present that have contributed to ComicBookBin over the years.
Who's Who - Eli Green
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