Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On The Record: The Pages of The Comics Journal

To the right is a nice sketch by artist John Byrne of Sasquatch, member of Alpha Flight, published in a 1980 issue of The Comics Journal that I was thumbing through recently. The Journal was, for those of us in the pre-Internet world of the 1980s, a fascinating source for information on the comics industry, as well as an unedited pipeline of communication with many industry pros contributing both articles as well as responses thereto. You could also find more information on Marvel's current and upcoming projects than could be crammed into a Bullpen Bulletins page, while leaving out the Marvel sales pitches you could find yourself tripping over between the lines.

It was a frank and comprehensive outlet for comics news, and the interviews and commentary were riveting reading. The copy I was looking at had, among other amazing material, twenty pages--twenty pages--of letters responding to a Harlan Ellison interview published in an earlier issue, with Ellison himself giving rebuttal to many of them. With letter writers such as Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Steve Gerber, et al. taking issue with Ellison's comments in his interview, the whole thing read much like a forum comment thread, though with the obvious limitations that a print publication would have in that regard. On the other hand, in print you didn't have to worry about a harsh back-and-forth that would spin out of control and lose its focus, as well as its civility.

I haven't read a copy of The Journal in many years, but I can only wonder if it remains as controversial a publication as it was. With the Internet now firmly in place and as sprawling as it is with comics-related commentary and sites, much of the "hub" feeling you got while reading The Journal has been lost, or at least diluted. Even The Journal seems to acknowledge that in some sense, with its formerly monthly print publication reduced to twice a year and its content more timely updated on its own website.

But with that said, The Journal site deserves a look from any reader who has a voracious appetite for the wealth of interesting content it offers, both contemporary and archival. If I ever have enough time to kill, I'd like to take such a look myself, though I suspect I'd find exploring the site more rewarding if I finally broke down and used a tablet to do so--at least to give myself the illusion of still holding a magazine on my lap, turning pages and thumbing through irreplaceable insight from the professionals who had found a place in print to go on the record and tell it like it was.

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