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Talk Back

Yesterday we published the latest in Ryan Holmberg’s consistently excellent series of columns exploring under-known aspects of manga. This week, he delves into the pop-music manga of Hayashi Seiichi:

One finds an entirely different way of exploiting female tears, and an entirely different kind of gender-crossing, in Hayashi’s work of the late 60s. The work cannot be classified as shōjo manga, published as it was in the male-dominated and male-targeted Garo, and treating as it does women’s emotions and experiences, not young girls’. Furthermore, while heartbreak and depression and crying recur, one cannot exactly describe his stories in the terms of psychological depth and intensity used in manga for female teens and young women especially after the emergence of the Shōwa 24 Group in the early 70s. Emotion is strong in Hayashi’s work, but it is almost always expressed, and self-consciously so, through popular culture clichés, whether they stem from woodblock prints, folktales, children’s literature, film, or music. In the case of “Flowering Harbour” (“Hanasaku minato”) — the focus of this essay — first published in the May 1969 issue of Garo, the primary such medium is enka, a genre of music that is sometimes referred to in English as Japan’s “country music,” sometimes as “Japanese blues.” There are numerous rock and roll manga from the late 60s and early 70s, and later decades would bring manga about enka stars, real and fictional. But Hayashi appears to have been the first and one of the very few to try and embody the aesthetics of the music in comics form. In the 70s and 80s, he also designed not a few enka record covers.

And then this morning, we have the latest column from Joe McCulloch, who not only recommends the best-sounding comics newly available in stores this week, but first goes deeper than anyone else would think to go into the obscure Jademan line of comics from Hong Kong:

I’ve written about this before, but not in detail. From 1988 to 1993, the monolithic Hong Kong comics publishing entity Jademan (Holdings) Limited, which once claimed to control 80% of its domestic comics market, released 300 individual publications to North American comic book stores. Many of them were 64 pages in length, to account for the huge amount of translatable material at hand; it was by far the largest English translation effort undertaken for manhua at that time, and the thousands upon thousands of resultant pages of art still command fascination from back-issue specialists and Asian comics aficionados.

But where there is fascination, there is also intimidation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews. Chris Mautner talks at length with the Barnaby reprint co-editors Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel. Tim O’Shea, on the other hand, talks to Eleanor Davis. Chris Roberson talks to Allison Baker about her new position as director of operations for IDW.

—Misc. A Portuguese beverage company seems to have shamelessly plagiarized its package design from Charles Burns. The new issue of Artforum looks like it is worth picking up. Tom Spurgeon reports from HeroesCon.

—Spending Opportunities. This is the last day to participate in Zak Sally’s Kickstarter for his Schoolhaus project, which is just about $1000 away from being funded as of this writing.

—Funnies. As I’m hardly objective, I try not to link to my wife Lauren Weinstein’s comics projects, but since Robert Krulwich at NPR is writing about it, I guess it’s safe for me to do too.

—No More Comments? We are strongly considering shutting down the comments section on this site. Reader response and back and forth are obviously very important to this publication’s history, but we are thinking that we might get a higher signal-to-noise ratio by publishing letters to the editor instead. If you have an opinion on this you’d like to share, pro or con, please take this opportunity. And feel free to send us e-mail on this topic if you’d prefer not to say anything publicly.


127 Responses to Talk Back

  1. Mark Mayerson says:

    The print version of The Comics Journal as we knew it is dead because it was no longer viable. Now you want to take the online version of The Comics Journal and make it more like the print version? What’s next? Only being able to access the online version inside comics shops on Wednesdays once a month? Sorry that you feel that your readership isn’t worthy of you, but retreating from a shrinking audience is one hell of a strategy.

  2. Paul Slade says:

    If you could create an online letters page half as good as the old print mag’s Blood & Thunder – complete with long, argumentative replies from the various TCJ writers being addressed – then that would be wonderful.

    But is there any reason why we can’t have a letters page and the comments section as well? They do different jobs in a way – the first serving longer, more detailed discussion and the second for brief off-the-cuff remarks. The TCJ comments section as it stands is far more thoughtful and intelligent than most you’ll find, and I’d be sorry to see it lost altogether.

  3. patrick ford says:

    The editors deciding which comments to publish is an excellent idea. The current free-for-all encourages a lot of nonsense, and also creates a situation where on the odd chance some person might contribute a really worthwhile letter and then have it quickly drop off the page because it’s been buried under a pile of more recent posts.

  4. Tim Hodler says:

    This is nothing to do with the readership, or even the commenters, the bulk of whom are thoughtful and civil. There’s something about comments sections in and of themselves that sometimes seems like an unwelcome distraction. I wouldn’t have mentioned it here with the comments open if we didn’t care about our readers’ opinions. If we do close down comments, our goal is to make a letters section strong enough that the comments aren’t even missed.

  5. Andrew White says:

    Some of the most interesting comments are ones that I’m not sure would appear if responses were limited to a letters section – a surprise appearance by someone who might not be aware that writing in was an option, for instance, or a few sentences which the writer might not feel merit a formal letter. Sadly, Kim Thompson’s often brief but always edifying comments are the first example that come to mind. This: http://www.tcj.com/one-man-anthology-comics/ is another example of a healthy discussion that might be difficult to replicate without comments, though maybe it’s a telling example in that there is some shit in there too.

    Maybe a reasonable compromise, or at least a place to start, would be to turn off comments only for those articles that are most likely to devolve into a shouting match? It’s usually pretty easy to guess which ones they’ll be.

    I’m probably biased because commenting on here and Comics Comics, or even just reading along, was among my earliest experiences in trying to think critically and write articulately about comics.

  6. I’d like to second Andrew’s reflection here. Commenting here, on Comics Comics, on HU, were personally my first forays into critical engagement. I’d be sad to see this space go.

  7. Tom Spurgeon says:

    make blood & thunder your tumblr

  8. Sarah Horrocks says:

    You could keep comments, and then highlight particular comments more visibly through some kind of upvoting system. That would allow you to keep comments, and increase the visibility of the best comments.

    I come from the internet.

  9. Chris Mautner says:

    No no no no no no no.

  10. inkstuds says:

    comments can be horrible, but you also have some amazing valuable resources in some of the comment sections, like Kim’s Roger Brand article. http://www.tcj.com/a-lousy-week-for-woods-remembering-roger-brand/

  11. Tim Hodler says:

    Where’s that? (Thanks.)

  12. Tim Hodler says:

    Is that possible?

  13. Tom Spurgeon says:

    why not?

  14. Tim Hodler says:

    Because we don’t understand Tumblr very well? I guess we could learn…

  15. Oliver_C says:

    Don’t ditch comments. Moderate, limit and up/down-vote them.

  16. Tim Hodler says:

    We actually had upvoting in comments when we first relaunched the site, and it was wildly unpopular with readers. I wonder if things would be different now.

  17. Just cut the comments for any article mentioning ‘Kirby’. That should solve the problem. Could probably automate the shutdown, too …

  18. Cut the comments, please. They’re argumentative and solipsistic as a rule. There’s a reason everyone’s citing Kim-related counterexamples — there aren’t many others.

    A recent example: On my review of Katrina Silander Clark’s comic about their father’s death — a mini Clark’s not even offering for sale — a bunch of random indy comics were cited as evidence that the warning about the book’s themes of family loss that Clark placed on the reading copy at their table at CAKE was a sensationalistic ploy to goose sales. It wasn’t an engagement with the text of either the comic or the review — just a bunch of dudes listening to themselves talk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily! But there are plenty of other venues at this point. No one’s relying on a letter column or its equivalent to get their point across anymore.

    For the comments to be tightly moderated enough to be valuable, you’d basically have to be willing to say “this kind of comment, though not offensive or otherwise obviously out-of-bounds, is not valuable, so it’s being cut, but this other kind is fine.” That’s what I’d do. But I’m just some guy. The Journal as an institution would obviously have a much harder time making those kinds of calls. Best to cut them altogether.

  19. R. Fiore says:

    Or run the last “Kirby” article’s comments over again . . .

  20. Tim Schmitt says:

    i’m mostly just reading here instead of participating in debates but to me the comments often are as interesting as the article itself and this website would lose at least 50% of its appeal if you got rid of them really. Also don’t have much sympathy for voting comments up and down because it usually makes a debate too difficult to follow if they’re not ordered chronologically. I’m also surprised you’re even considering this because by internet standards the comments on here seem pretty decent most of the time. Maybe you’re deleting a lot already, don’t know but please keep TCJ as it is, it’s fine.

  21. Matt Seneca says:

    no more comments ever, anywhere

  22. patrick ford says:

    I’d think all the useful comments attached to the Roger Brand article would make the cut.

  23. patrick ford says:

    Sean pointing out the comments attached to his own article makes for a great example. And there are dozens of others.
    It’s extremely rare that the comments are of any use, and any that are could be published.

  24. chuck says:

    Keep them. I don’t come to the site nearly as much as I used to but when I do, I feel like it is because a discussion is happening. and please add a voting system. I think it works to weed out the idiots but also it is so damned satisfying to click that upvote/downvote button.

  25. I’d argue that comments actually close the community even further/make it more insular. Other social media can serve the same role better in terms of generating a breadth of discussion, and I don’t really find the comments here substantial at all (standards vary toward lower bars—but I’m not wrong). If you have a factual correction, you can email Tim or Dan. If you want to promote a piece, you can share it or link to it (which actually has an effect). If you want to tell the writer things about it, email them or contact them through other means

    If you ask the question “is this quibbling” of any of the comments on here, it becomes very apparent that virtually all of them are chaff.

  26. Caleb Orecchio says:

    I’d say disable an article’s comment section after 24 or 48 hours of the article’s post and call the conversation done. No more week-long Kirby bitching.

    But only if you must put limits on the comments. I’d like to see the comments stay personally.

  27. Frank Santoro says:

    What’s funny to me is that most of the folks here saying “keep them” hardly ever comment!

  28. Frank Santoro says:

    I usually turn the comments off. That’s another option. But honestly, I HATE the comments section here. It makes me NOT want to write for TCJ.

  29. At least the way it is now people are initially commenting on things they actually read as opposed to the message board where half the posts were just people looking for an audience for their quips that had nothing to do with comics.

  30. Patrick Allaby says:

    I think having a better curated comment section on this site, like a letters to the editor page would help it considerably. I think reader feedback, and discussion is important, but there’s probably a more civil way to do it than what currently exists.

  31. Oliver East says:

    One vote here for doing away with comments, for what it’s worth.

    Never read ‘em as they usually end in name calling and dick swinging.

    Don’t read below the line.

  32. Phil Dokes says:

    Not a big fan of the comments section, that type of energy/back & forth is better left to a message board or something. A TCJ message board…hurmmm…that might work. (but then who’s gonna have the thankless task of managing it cause ya know how those always end up!)

    Some thoughtful commentary would be nice to have attached to said piece(s) tho’. But, that rarely applies sadly.

  33. Bill Hall says:

    I usually don’t read the articles. Just the comments. It is fascinating to observe how the many different fandom thought filters alter reality.

  34. Tim Hodler says:

    !?!

  35. Scott Ashworth says:

    I would ditch the comments. They are far and away the worst part of the site.

  36. Frank Santoro says:

    Alot of people tell me this – that they don’t read the article – they just scroll down to the comments and then maybe read the article or review.

  37. Mike Hunter says:

    ———————-
    Sean T. Collins says:

    …On my review of Katrina Silander Clark’s comic about their father’s death — a mini Clark’s not even offering for sale — a bunch of random indy comics were cited as evidence that the warning about the book’s themes of family loss that Clark placed on the reading copy at their table at CAKE was a sensationalistic ploy to goose sales. It wasn’t an engagement with the text of either the comic or the review — just a bunch of dudes listening to themselves talk.
    ————————

    Uh, gee, it was a woman who sneeringly made the utterly spurious, easily-disproved argument that others were saying the “minicomic included a trigger warning as a cynical appeal to the masses clamoring for dead dad comics.”

    (See for yourself: http://www.tcj.com/reviews/sorry-kid/ )

    And , since any commentary by those nasty, dick-swinging, fanboy males can be dismissed as “a bunch of dudes listening to themselves talk,” (try proving it isn’t) why not ban anything said by them? Make it an only-women-can-comment deal…

    And in what way is spending time crafting a letter, sending it off, and likely never hearing anything back — supposedly a vastly-better alternative — so different from “listening to yourself talk,” when usually there’s no feedback whatsoever? It’s making a comment, and getting feedback, when you know others have heard you talk.

  38. Ian Harker says:

    I insist on having the last comment.

  39. Tim Hodler says:

    Anyone who does that deserves what they gets! That’s bizarre behavior if you don’t like comments.

  40. Frank Santoro says:

    Thanks for helping to make the argument to get rid of comments

  41. Ian Harker says:

    OK, here’s what i’m getting from this conversation:

    1. Everyone is sick of Jack Kirby discussions, period.

    2. A lot of people like the comments because they’re ephemeral and informal.

    3. Everyone who acts like they don’t like a good periodic bloodletting in the comics community is a straight-up liar or doesn’t know how to have a good time.

  42. Boing Boing moved their comments to separate pages, and I think that helped a bit. You have to actively click on the bbs.boingboing.net link to view the comments. There’s no confusion between the Boing Boing content and the comments any more.

    I think the comments on tcj.com are sometimes valuable. However, some of the most active commentators are really tedious. Perhaps you could just ask them to stop posting instead, and carry on as before? It would be a somewhat unpleasant task (unless you’re rude enough), though, and just dropping all the comments may be less stressful.

  43. Daniel T says:

    I guess I’ve been very, very lucky because whenever I’ve read the comments sections, 90+% of the time I’ve found them innocuous or (more often) informative. So my vote is to keep them. Separating them from the articles is an okay idea.

  44. In the interest of furthering comity, I agree with Frank 100%

  45. I like your idea of banning all comments by men, by the way; it would eliminate this thread entirely, and like 99.5% of all other threads. Adopt it immediately!

  46. Damn, replied in the wrong place–this is to mike hunter below.

  47. Charlie says:

    I’d like the comments to remain and yet I think this is only the second post I’ve made here. I just like the option to read them sometimes is all, often it makes an enjoyable follow-up… When I really think about it, I guess I wouldn’t care if they turned off the comments on posts like this but to me it seems it would be a real shame to turn off comments on interviews and maybe book reviews too.

  48. Isn’t that what happens anyway?

  49. James Van Hise says:

    Ending the comments section will just kill the internet traffic to your site even more that killing the message boards did. The message boards were divided up by subject and it was easy to avoid the sections which were probably useless. I used to visit this site and the message boards every day. Now I visit only every couple weeks, so I guess Fantagraphics isn’t interested in attracting people to notice their products. I’m sorry to hear that TCJ is finally dead, but print is only dead if you go out of your way to kill it. Twomorrows has the opposite view and still finds that magazines are more than viable.

  50. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    Comments are barely ordered chronologically (or logically) as it is because of the weird “reply” method here that often misplaces them, the inability to quote text, and so on.

  51. Dan Nadel says:

    TCJ isn’t dead at all. The print edition is now semi-annual and this web site is updated five days a week with new writing.

  52. Why not just not read the comments? Or is that an unrealistic suggestion? (Not being facetious)

  53. tucker stone says:

    Tim & D already know how I feel, but one more time: get rid of the comments. A Blood & Thunder style round-up once a week would be hugely popular for the site, and it would demand better, more cogent arguments out of those that want to make them, as opposed to potshot versus potshot. Guys like Mike Hunter, John Stanley Martin–we all know the core squad–would be better served by writing one shot essays of instead of these microcosmic back-and-forths that very few people (I’m sorry guys) are paying serious attention to after the second round. I think a lot of the people on here who have opposing viewpoints to the various types of articles published here would be well served by getting a chance to respond in a more respectable and storied format, like Blood and Thunder, as opposed to the current format, where the same guys argue the same points for an audience that respects neither side. Hire somebody with a high tolerance for Stan Lee arguments, have that person pick the best pieces, and get that sucker up there on Friday for a weekend dose of venom. Rinse, repeat, whatever.

    That shorthand, “oh I like this too”, “this is great” as well as the “this guy’s an idiot”, or “i’ve also taken pictures of old, stupid shit” belongs on twitter. It’s already on there anyway!

    Losing the message boards was a great first step. This would be an excellent follow-up. And while I agree with Jones in principle–just don’t read them!–I think ultimately it would be a sign of respect towards the writer, their writing and the Journal overall to make a definitive statement that the attraction here is the work being published, not some juvenile bullshit called “the conversation” that always seems to be blinkered, whiny, and male.

  54. Hard to believe I’m saying this, but I like having comments on TCJ articles. Considering the occasionally incendiary nature of Journal writers, not having a place to be called on the carpet seems somehow out of line with what TCJ is. I like Dan quite a lot, but I’m glad there was a place for a furor to be housed after his “SELL YOUR BOOTS!” rant. Likewise R. Fiore’s crazy “Sometimes A Watermelon Is Just A Watermelon” essay–I’m glad there was a place for a discussion to occur after that post, and a place to see a group as diverse as David Brothers, Jeet Heer, and Sarah Horrocks — literally the first three comments — begin that discussion. Yes that discussion ended up getting wild, as many do, but that’s a challenge that could be addressed through moderation, an end to anonymity, and aggressive banning or censuring of “problem” commenters.

    I also like Frank’s style — maybe it should be up to the writer to decide whether or not he or she wants to deal with comments under a post. Maybe some posts need to simply end without numerous add-ons. But for that wants to feature incisive, opinionated, and often divisive writing, having a no-comments policy across the board feels out of step with how communication between an online magazine and its readership is generally conducted these days. Maybe some hybrid can work here, somewhere between “no comments” and “if you’d like to be heard simply write us a letter and perhaps we’ll post it.” That may work for print magazines, but print magazines aren’t exactly the state of the art these days.

  55. tucker stone says:

    If you’re going to quit reading the Bob Levin and Ryan Holmbergs of the world simply because you’ve been deprived of the imagined right to post a comment after a Jack Kirby article or to tell Dan Nadel he hurt a giant corporation’s feelings, then you were going to quit reading TCJ for another equally stupid reason within a weeks time.

  56. I think having the comments is important. Not so much currently but I think comments sections need to go through this painful shitty period of evolving. People who run sites are going to gradually figure out the best balance between policing and avoidance. Posts and attendant internet comments are already part of our media consumption culture, I think in a decade or so they will be a much more viable means of discourse. Comment mods will become a job. Commentors will have learned behaviors that trollish behaviour will be taken down and mostly glossed over by a culture that no longer notices them, they will be the new billboards. But the comments need to exist.

  57. patrick ford says:

    If you notice several people have said they don’t read the articles.
    The problem is there are a very large number of people who see TCJ as the enemy and have never gotten over the fact the magazine said mean things about John Byrne and Batman.

  58. Peter Sattler says:

    First of all, it’s hard to see what you are hoping to achieve by eliminating comments — or what you fear losing by keeping them. Tim, you say, for example, that “there’s something about comments sections in and of themselves that sometimes seems like an unwelcome distraction.” Aside from the non-committal nature of the claim (“something” “sometimes” “seems” bad about them), even its core assertion is unclear.

    From what and to whom are they a “distraction”? Is this a matter of time spent moderating the posts? Or does a long comments section literally distract people from the post itself or other posts on the site? Is there really a downside here, or does comments’ “sometimes unwelcome” nature mean that you just don’t like how they sound? Are you hoping for a most positive, polished publication? I would appreciate it if you made your case directly.

    That said, I agree with those who say that TCJ should keep its comments section, albeit with some type of rating or reporting system. Right now, the Comics Journal reviews and essays seem almost uniformly celebratory in nature, with each book presented as yet another blossom in the continue flowering of Comics. I appreciate that there is a spot for dissent, discussion, and even argument.

  59. Ryan Cecil says:

    Ah… “A Blood & Thunder style round-up once a week” really sounds compelling, actually.

  60. This is a comment telling you to keep the comments. Duh.

  61. Also, for those that don’t like comments, not reading them is the easiest thing in the world. I literally did not read any of the comments in this thread and I’m fine and or dandy with that. Totally A-Okay. Won’t lose a wink of sleep. Nope. All good.

  62. zack soto says:

    Tom is trolling you, Tim.

  63. I vote for keeping comments. Emails are another beast entirely, more formal than comment sections, and losing the community here—the good parts, the parts where people casually drop knowledge gems so I can learn about new stuff—would be a real loss for the site. The draw for me are the writers and what they have to say, but the comments have their appeal, too. I read Joe’s column every week to see what I need to be looking for and what ridiculous old comic he’s gonna write about so I can order it off the internet. But I also read Joe’s column because I knew a few folks are likely to talk in-depth about the reprint projects or recent releases, whether as clarification or just adding to the conversation. Switching to letters to the editor would spike that entirely, which sucks.

  64. I hit send too soon while writing a comment about comments.

    The caveat for my position is that to have a good comments section, you have to have a good moderation system. The same way you wouldn’t run posts from just any writer off the street due to requiring a certain level of quality, crappy commenters should be stepped on and then ejected. A heated argument is one thing, and that can be eased with a time-out or a stern word, but consistently bringing garbage to the table means you get banned.

    Without real moderation, the garbage comments win through sheer perseverance, basically.

  65. zack soto says:

    This is more or less what I was coming here to write, but Tucker said it better on every count than I probably could have. so: “this is great”

  66. sammy says:

    I don’t see how getting rid of the comments section and replacing it with a letters column would hurt the site or people’s urge to chime in. What is the difference except that people would (hopefully) be a little more considerate and thoughtful when giving their two cents? And it would probably be more entertaining to read for those of us on the sidelines. People seem to really like the idea that their comments on an article can be viewed as equal to the article itself, and that’s whack. If someone wants to go toe to toe with a contributing writer, let them put in the work and do it properly in a letter.
    Maybe the only casualty will be Tony’s comments on the weekly comics release column where he consistently provides useful links to euro comics info pertinent to the week’s column.
    If comments are here to stay, then I second the suggestion of a comments section like the one on Boing Boing, where you have to click a link at the bottom of an article to go to a whole new page to see comments. That seems like a good plan B.

    And by the way, if you come here to read the comments and not the articles, your day is fucked up.

  67. Sean Ford says:

    http://www.npr.org/2014/04/01/297690717/why-doesnt-america-read-anymore?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=npr&utm_campaign=nprnews&utm_content=04012014

    People like to read comments and interact because we are all deeply lonely and the internet fixes that.

  68. Adrian Hill says:

    I agree with Tim Schmitt. I like the comments, and personally have no use for voting. Every once in a while someone throws a really interesting link in the Comments section, or shares a personal anecdote that might not fit the description of what I’m imagining a Letters to the Editor page might look like.

    Without knowing the extent to which moderators already spend time filtering comments, my fear is that with editorial gatekeeping in the interests of even further quality control, you might also lose some of the humour and spontaneity that I I enjoy in the current Comments section.

  69. Adrian Hill says:

    I like having the comments on the same page as the article, because then you can read them in context, and scroll back up to the content that’s being commented on as required.

  70. Tiptoe Thru the Solips says:

    Some people think that some of the comments sometimes make this site seem insular and solipsistic.

    I think deleting the option because a subset of comments is considered a “distraction” by a subset of TCJ contributors and readers is a much better example of insularity and solipsism.

    Please feel free to erase this comment from existence.

  71. Jeet Heer says:

    Tucker Stone is actually making a lot of sense. A weekly edited “letters” section, open to a diversity of views but not redundant arguments, is the way to go. I think it would be quite popular, actually.

  72. Tim Hodler says:

    I refuse to believe that.

  73. patrick ford says:

    There is no reason letters could not be published every day the way a newspaper does.
    The important thing is getting the comments off the front page and in being selective about what is published.
    Recall Tucker Stone’s columns where he’d ridicule mainstream crap? The comments section would be tied up for days with comments from people calling themselves things like “The Wolverine.”
    If there were no comments section then the Wolverine would get incredibly frustrated and go away.

  74. Kit says:

    These discussions/fights could happen in comments under the daily blog post that linked the article in question.

  75. Daniel T says:

    Instead of completing eliminating comments, why not ask the writers if they want a comments section to their article? Or would that be too cumbersome from a time/technology standpoint?

  76. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    No offense, but I think you’ve got it ass backwards: If the internet’s current structure is any indication – with clickbait headlines, liking & disliking & upvoting & downvoting and general gang mentality thuggery/cowardice buthurtism (trigger warnings? seriously?) – there will be nothing BUT comments online, in support of no articles or content of any kind, and trollish behavior (in 140 characters or less) will be the essence.

    Also, in ten years, computers will be either purely cellular/biological rather than silicon based, or at the very least integrated as a part of our body, and so ingrained that our every thought will be broadcast regardless of their intention or meaning or value. It’s gonna be a mess.

  77. Ramon De Los Flores says:

    “there are a very large number of people who see TCJ as the enemy and have never gotten over the fact the magazine said mean things about John Byrne and Batman.”

    Actually I bet there is a large percentage of TCJ readers who have never had any interest in Byrne or the mainstream but who still disagree vehemently and often with Nadel, et al regarding approaches to art/auteur comics. No one here who cares about comics seriously misses or cares about the superhero/underground/whatever divide any more, and it’s fairly reductionist and simplistic to suggest that has anything to do with the comments problems. I’d say disagreements about what constitutes good art comics – and believe it or not there ISN’T (or shouldn’t be) a consensus – is the more likely culprit. I might also suggest a certain amount of favoritism and bias in some of the editor’s choices, but whatever.

  78. Paul Slade says:

    Another vote for the weekly B&T round-up. Sounds like the answer to me.

  79. Mário Rui Filipe says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    Despite never having commented before I do enjoy following some of the discussion in the comments section—and yes, I do read the article beforehand—and I guess that makes me feel entitled to add my two cents. You did ask.

    It may very well be true that shutting down the comments and moving to a “Dear Editor …” model may increase the signal-to-noise ratio and, maybe, elevate the discussion but it might do so at the cost of signal level and discourage participation. Placing an extra layer between the article and the feedback adds an hurdle to immediate engagement and would lead to the loss of the spontaneous comment, the extemporaneous quip, the odd curiosity that may not justify writing a letter to the editor, and the back and forth between commenters. These things might be trivial but can also enrich the article.
    With the good also comes the bad and so there is the issue of the inflammatory responses, the fallacies and extraneous discussions that pollute some of the comments sections. I’m of the opinion that firm, but sensible, moderation of comments by editors or designated moderators (not the authors), for a limited period of time (after which the thread would be closed to avoid belated littering) would contribute to weed out the more toxic and impertinent posts, but I also have no idea idea how much of a strain this would exert over the TCJ staff.
    Regarding some of the suggestions made, I’m not a fan of up/downvoting comments (leave that for Hot or Not) and don’t much care for segregating the comments to a separate page (it’s not like the comments are so inconspicuous one cannot avoid them, this would be more of a nuisance with questionable efficacy in dissuading trolls). Maybe some kind of self-moderating personalized comments thread, where each one could mute the more irksome commenters, if such a thing is technically possible or viable.

    I’ll finish with the remark that asking the opinion of the community in this case feels peculiar and somewhat ill-advised. Regardless of the propensity of the feedback and its weight in TCJ’s decision, you run the risk of disgruntling a portion of your community, who might feel jilted over the result. In the end keeping the comments section will be an entirely editorial decision.

  80. Tim Schmitt says:

    I don’t think a letters column is going to be very interesting – making the effort to write when I can’t even be sure anyone will ever see it or the text might be edited? Also no discussion will really evolve from that if people can only respond to each other once a week (if they’re lucky enough to be published). This is just not how the internet works, guys.

    Since so many TCJ authors seem to really hate the comments though, maybe it would be a compromise to move the discussions to another page? I don’t think tumblr or facebook are ideal places, but what about an open forum with mods?

  81. Oliver_C says:

    Rude commentators? The people arguing *against* comments are the ones being the rudest and most presumptuous in this thread.

  82. jameswheeler says:

    This is great

  83. jameswheeler says:

    This is great also

  84. James says:

    Poisonally, I like the technique of just cutting off comments at a certain, perhaps arbitrary point, leaving the last commentor unsure whether A. they in their genius dropped the final, most cogent word or B. they were the beyond-annoying straw that cracked the beast’s back

  85. Paul Slade says:

    The old Blood & Thunder pages in the print magazine certainly weren’t boring. Whether that would remain true with an online B&T is a different question, but the lively, informed and very disputatious print version does at least argue that TCJ readers can do it when they try.

    Someone above suggested a daily letters page, but I doubt you’d get enough first-rate contributions to justify that. A weekly or (more likely) a fortnightly schedule sounds far more sensible to me.

    For all that some internet users distrust central editorial control, it remains the best way to weed out the spiteful, brain-dead rubbish which will inevitably make up part of any comments section. As Tim was saying, what we want is more signal and less noise, and I’d argue that central editorial control is the only way to achieve that.

    If comments do survive (in whatever form) I would urge you to sort out that confusing “reply” function. As it stands, you often can’t reply to the point that interested you without your reply appearing in the wrong place and thus seeming to address a different point altogether. It also makes it impossible as a reader to follow the discussion in any logical way, or to easily pick up on a discussion where you left off the previous day.

  86. Pingback: Tell us what you think: Should The COmics JOurnal ditch its comments section? — The Beat

  87. Tim Schmitt says:

    Sure, Blood & Thunder in print was great, but that’s before people got used to much more efficient ways to communicate. I just don’t think there’s a way to turn back the time.

    Again, please don’t kill this whiny juvenile bullshit called “the conversation” : )

  88. steven samuels says:

    I disagree. If someone doesn’t have anything to say, then it’s probably a good sign that he/she doesn’t waste time posting. Unless you want to see more inane comments?

  89. Nicole Rudick says:

    I imagine this will get lost in all the comments about comments, but the comics section in the Summer issue of Artforum is pretty terrible. If you’re interested in reading about a specific strain of comicsmaking positioned as the history of all comics, then you’ll love it. It’s absurd to try to describe the history of a medium in a few pages, with a handful of representative examples. Would they have taken the same tack with, say, the history of literature, or the history of art?

  90. Dan Nadel says:

    Yep, that issue is an epic disaster. I was fascinated by how aesthetically conservative it is and how blinkered in its scope. That issue could have been published in 1990 or 2000 and not changed much at all. Ah well. It’s not as though the recent book length overviews of the medium are much better.

  91. steven samuels says:

    Judging from Joe’s latest comment in his “Jademan” article, I guess shutting off the comments is already a foregone conclusion?

    “A Blood & Thunder style round-up once a week would be hugely popular for the site”

    Perhaps. But given that most articles here seem to get few if any comments, I think Tucker’s making a huge assumption. There’s a few specific articles on this site that once in a while spark discussion. Cutting off the comments would decrease the likelihood of a thriving “weekly roundup” and would lessen interest in the site at least one or two degrees. Like a few others have said above, why not have both? Mário Rui Filipe’s post is spot-on.

  92. Tim Hodler says:

    There’s no foregone conclusion. We’re genuinely curious what readers (especially those who don’t normally comment) think. We’ve already learned a lot from this response, and have gotten many interesting emails as well as comments.

  93. steven samuels says:

    “I wonder if things would be different now.”

    I think so. Back then the strong reaction was against a few commenters who were well-known trolls from the TCJ Mess Board days. And I should say, justifiably disliked trolls at that. Obviously, that’s passed now.

  94. T Alixopulos says:

    Nicole and Dan, maybe tcj.com could run a review of said issue? Or is it not worth it.

    I think TCJ shouldn’t have comments and should have an established “comment time” when you can enter your letter of comment, and then they are all published at once in a roundup.

  95. Brady says:

    I am okay with this as long as the letters section contains the same proportion of stupid, worthless, or angry reader commentary as the comments section did. In other words please do not filter out bad comments but instead call them letters and feature them prominently in their own section, devoting actual publication space to responding to them.

    And please don’t publish good letters, those people should instead be guest writing for TCJ to provoke more bad letters. Also please put Nadel exclusively in charge of answering bad letters for maximum invective potential. Thank you.

  96. Joe McCulloch says:

    That was just me making a tongue-in-cheek remark based on how I’m using the comments to solicit information; I am not privy to any editorial or administrative discussions.

  97. Nick Mullins says:

    Compared to the old TCJ board, the comments here are mild. There have been some insightful comment discussions here that I’ve learned a lot from reading. Still, moderating may be too much of a time drain.

  98. Hy Resolution says:

    Jack Kirby’s art and the stories it served is not at all my cup of tea. He didn’t interest me a couple of years ago. But I’m coming around to the view that whatever can be said of the genre(s) or of Marvel’s editors, Kirby is a Hieronymus Bosch-level visionary. The “did Kirby get a fair deal or not” threads here are fascinating and educational, with much arcane information, and have done a lot to stimulate my interest. Long threads with obsessive but knowledgeable commentators, and the occasional archive interview, are my main reason for visiting TCJ.com regularly. Shutting down comments (or threads, for no more reason than that the moderator feels that their length skews the website) is an odd editorial decision. If comments bore me, I don’t read them and continue to visit TCJ. If I do like the comments and they disappear, so will I.

  99. Robert Boyd says:

    And just to make sure everyone who writes is seriously committed, the weekly Blood & Thunder should consist solely of scanned in hand-written letters.

  100. Chris Duffy says:

    I like the comments okay, but I think you should try out this new Blood and Thunder idea.

  101. Michael Grabowski says:

    The comments on Jog’s weekly bulletins are usually additionally informative about the stuff he lists. Otherwise I tend to ignore the comments sections unless Fiore has made one–then it’s sometimes fun to back up the thread and see what he’s responding to. But mostly I ignore them, which is easy enough to do.

    Way back when the site relaunched I suggested a Blood & Thunder collected comments, though, so I’m glad to see that as a possibility.

  102. Scott Grammel says:

    If I’m quick I’ll be the hundredth commenter.

    First, and many have mentioned it, but from the outside looking in the big question seems to be how much work moderating the comments entails. An answer of some kind would be swell.

    Second, and it may seem a small point, but this very thread argues for the removal of the reply to individual posts option. It just makes the longer and more vigorous threads a pain to keep up with.

    Third, I’m with those in favor of keeping the comments, and frankly suspect that the long and pretty obvious preference for good “productive” posts versus bad “blatant trolling” has already pretty well neutered what ideally should be a far more contentious arena. Yes, the rarer mainstream titles reviewed do tend to get fairly pointed examinations, but the far more frequent alt/art/indy offerings are almost always handled with appreciation bordering on boosterism. I suspect that some of this is the nature of the beast. As in the mirror universes of CBR and Newsarama, anyone immersed enough in, say, the ins and outs over recent years of midlist DC or Marvel titles to discuss them with any knowledge has obviously revealed themselves to have a pretty low threshold for quality, so, unsurprisingly, on those sites, there seem to be an awful lot of thumbs up all around. Do I think it possible that anyone coming out of a CAKE or an APE with a backpack stuff full of mini’s and comics may not be the most circumspect of possible reviewers? I do, I do.

    It was called “Blood and Thunder” for a reason.

    If anything, I already censor myself way too much on this site to be spared the infrequent but irritating deleted comments. The cartoonist who… [ED NOTE: An over-the-line personal criticism was deleted here from the original comment.] I’m not touching it. The poster who normally hides behind a first name who adds his last just once solely to complain about an anonymous critic? Mums the word. The well-known comics reporter who, when fairly criticized on a practice, erupts in an obscenity-laden response? I just walk away.

    And I shouldn’t have to.

  103. SamC says:

    Huh, TCJ print edition is “semi-annual”, two issues a year? I think you mean “bi-annual”, an issue every other year. You had an issue in 2009, 2011 and 2013, and it doesn’t look like you’re likely to have one in 2014 (nothing solicited or listed on retailer sites yet).

  104. Dan Nadel says:

    Good point! I guess I mean biannual.

  105. steven samuels says:

    “Second, and it may seem a small point, but this very thread argues for the removal of the reply to individual posts option.”

    Yes. If someone needs to reply to a comment just do what I did above this sentence. That would keep the latest comments right near where they need to be. Another option would be to add a “oldest/newest” sorting button above each comments section.

    “If you’re going to quit reading the Bob Levin and Ryan Holmbergs of the world simply because you’ve been deprived of the imagined right to post a comment after a Jack Kirby article or to tell Dan Nadel he hurt a giant corporation’s feelings, then you were going to quit reading TCJ for another equally stupid reason within a weeks time.”

    I don’t know about that. So Tucker’s referring to comments from Marvel/DC fanboys? It seems to me that type of reader sticks mainly to articles about Marvel/DC. Which have been relatively few in comparison to the articles covering the smaller indie press. I don’t see how one can extrapolate one from the other and generalize like that.

  106. We all have to wait 20 years for them to do another terrible article.

  107. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Comics reporters are the WORST!

  108. Mike Farrow says:

    As far as traffic to TCJ goes, I stopped coming here regularly when you stopped writing your column, Tucker. I didn’t even agree with a lot of what you had to say. It just seemed like there was something a little more fun going on there. I would come to read you make a bunch of sarcastic comments and then check out the other articles of interest.

  109. Mike Farrow says:

    “The old Blood & Thunder pages in the print magazine certainly weren’t boring.”

    The reason they weren’t was because there were smart, first class jerks like Gary and Kim shooting down angry letters from angry comic book professionals that we the readers were familiar with and interested in hearing from (or see get taken down a peg by the TCJ jerk squad). At least those are the letters I remember fondly. I don’t remember any of the letters from everyday comic book readers who wrote in, and I don’t remember any of the civil conversations on hermeneutics between the erudite and genteel comic book critics of the sort that write for TCJ these days. The fun part was seeing people I was familiar with fight each other viciously over issues of aesthetics and ethics. Don’t really think that can be recreated without people like Gary and Kim dishing out pain to comic book professionals who actually care passionately about what TCJ says about them — a vital and passionate antagonistic relationship between the publication and the industry I don’t get the sense of happening now.

  110. James Romberger says:

    I guess I assumed the use of my first name indicated me clearly, particularly when I was writing to respond to comments on an article that I wrote, as is the case in the instance that the “hundredth commentor” cites. I include my email address when I comment, I again assumed that that address made a link visible to readers, as it is when the same thing is done on HU. I see it doesn’t, though. So in the future, if these comments still stand, if and when I respond, I shall write my entire name.

  111. D.D. says:

    Are the comments driving away contributors or readers?

    If so, cut them.

    If not, keep them.

  112. D.D. says:

    For what it’s worth, I think the best sites have a place or board for immediate and anonymous comments, but one that is only linked from the story and doesn’t display on the same page. (Some pretty bad sites with pretty bad comments also have this feature, and it does nothing but improve them.)

    I think there’s a benefit to allowing immediate reaction, but I also think there’s a benefit to letting a writer’s work stand on its own without effort-free “critics” hacking away at ankles right below it. And I think there’s a huge benefit to letting readers know that if they want to comment just to get attention, the only attention they’ll get is from other readers who specifically opt in to reading their comments, rather than the readership at large.

    Did TCJ have this setup previously? I’m not familiar with the old board at all.

  113. D.D. says:

    The problem I see with keeping comments but banning anonymous comments is the same that appears for any number of popular political blog writers who suggest the same: if anonymous comments are banned, the only people who will be likely to weigh in on topics of any political or social controversy whatsoever are 1) comics professionals, 2) the unemployed and 3) self-destructive people who don’t know or care if they make themselves fire-able or unhire-able via Google search.

  114. D.D. says:

    I think it’s all or nothing here – Matt’s suggestion or, at the very least, removing the comments entirely from the same page that displays the article. Unless you can pay for 24-hour monitoring that you trust implicitly, attempts at moderation on a forum this wide-ranging (and this tempting to neurotic loners) will lead to the most disruptive members working obsessively to circumvent moderation, making the comments substantially worse rather than better. I’ve watched it happen.

  115. Paul Slade says:

    Rubbish. If you’re not prepared to put your real name to a comment and stand behind it, chances are it’s stupid, pointlessly spiteful or infantile. Perhaps all three.

    The whole point of the changes being suggested here is to minimise comments like that. In a free society, we should all be prepared to take responsibility for what we say, and ending anonymity could only help that. Why should I take anything you say seriously if you haven’t even got the balls to sign your real name to it?

  116. Paul Tumey says:

    Speaking as a TCJ writer, the comments on my work mean a lot to me. They’ve provided important encouragement and helped me spot and correct errors. In addition, they’ve allowed me to connect with others out there who have furthered my research and critical work. While I can see that sometimes comments get out of hand, I would be sad to have this aspect, so valuable to me and my efforts, removed.

  117. BVS says:

    I especially agree about those 3 points. I’ve read a lot of great, informative and thoughtful comments on here. my problem is with that little box on the front page. it’s like the 1st think you see, and it that pulls in the trolls and fans flame wars. I’ll admit that it was helpful in the past. if i saw that Kim Thompson was commenting on something I’d usually read it, even when it was a subject I’d otherwise skip. but these days I don’t see the point. maybe there is some way to slow the comments down? often I’ll read a really great article, and I’ll be thinking of something I want to comment on it later, but by the time I get home from work. often the comment section is a million posts deep in an argument between 5 people who have way to much free time on their hands. plus the conversation will have moved far from whatever point I wanted to make, and I just think why bother?

  118. mateor says:

    I scanned and read a few responses…I vote keep the comments. Literally 99% of the issue is the Kirby/Lee crap. Cut the comments on those. Everything else should stay.

    Sarah has the most informed response, if your issue is the signal to noise, institute upvotes and flags. But the last thing this site needs is reputation points. Tucker, I love you. But this site doesn’t need to reenforce the egos of the contributors. They mostly seem okay with themselves.

  119. Layne says:

    It was called “Blood and Thunder” for a reason.

    Because “Bunfight: No Rolls Barred” was exclusionary to the gluten-sensitive?

    Upvoting is a stupid gimmick. Flags can be useful, but there needs to be a committed human with a brain and good judgement there to interpret the flags, identify the problem, and implement a solution. You can’t tech your way out of a people problem. If individual contributors want comments enabled on their pieces then I would give them the option to do so, but otherwise implement a default no comments site policy. If someone really needs to share their trenchant bon mots, they can take the time to write and submit an email, which may or may not be included in a weekly roundup of responses. Possibly the weekly roundup post could have comments enabled, so there would be just one big pile of jibber-jabber that needs to be babysat each week.

  120. Mário Rui Filipe says:

    Upvoting is better suited to popularity contests than to discussion threads. I’d much rather have moderation weed out the abusive and off-topic conversations, and let me sift through the comments to discern relevancy than having it crowdsourced for me. Let’s leave the filter bubbles and echo chambers to the comfort zones of our social networks.

  121. Ryan Holmberg says:

    This is late in the coming, but as someone who writes for this site, I think it would be a damned shame if you got rid of the comments. A large number of worthwhile ideas and corrections have appeared in even the long-winded threads: I certainly have learned a lot from them, not just about the specific topics at hand, but also in how people talk and think about comics.

    Personally, over the couple of years I have written for TCJ, I have been generally disappointed with the substance of responses to my own essays. But I also know that has more than half to do with lack of knowledge in the English-speaking world on the topics I write about. Those substantive comments I have received, however, have been a godsend, whether they identify the specific Tom and Jerry comic on which that obscure Mickey akahon is based, or point out a careless factual error, or remind me of the wider influence of Douglas Fairbanks, or call me to task for being a bit breezy about my thinking about art vs. comics issues. I have access to no other community with TCJ’s database of knowledge. The chance that I might learn something useful from the TCJ community is one of the reasons I keep writing for TCJ.

    I vote keep the comments, with a more vigorous exercise of weeding out not only the negative nonsense, but also the well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful “Good job” kind of things. If you like something, say why in a concrete way, and not just with a list of exuberant adjectives. As a writer, it’s helpful to get a sense of how people actually read your work, what catches their eye.

  122. Jesse Post says:

    I rarely comment myself, but I do read others’, and TCJ comments are a lot more insightful than any other site. Only here can you bet on getting a comment from Jeet Heer or Eddie Campbell or Frank Santoro. I’m surprised there’s any concern about signal to noise in TCJ comments, where it has to be 90% signal at least.

    I would recommend (and appreciate) a comments system like the NY Times has. It’s moderated for abuse and whatnot, of course (you already do that here), but more importantly they have an Editor’s Choice tab so you can read only the good comments if you want. This is essential at the Times, where each article has 800 comments by the time you get to it, most of it arguing over whether or not Obama is a Muslim. If the Editor’s Choice tab wasn’t there I wouldn’t know where to begin.

    I can take or leave reader voting on comments. It has utility at the NY Times (making a second curated comments tab) but it didn’t do anything for me at the old Comics Alliance. No matter how highly rated a comment might be you still have to read the whole thing to get the context.

  123. mateor says:

    If it can work at Hacker News, it can work here. The proportion of pedantic blowhards is basically identical.

  124. Tim Schmitt says:

    Sorry Tim and Dan, it’s me again but I just wanna say having an editor’s choice tab for comments actually sounds like a pretty good idea. TCJ wouldn’t have to suspend anyone from the conversation (except trolls) and people could have their Kirby debate and whatnot without bothering those who don’t care about it. Genius!

    Thanks again for listening, always your fellow traveller & loyal reader
    Tim Schmitt

  125. Dave Knott says:

    Okay, I know I’m coming into this discussion reeealllly late (by internet standards), but I figured I would throw in a suggestion.

    Maybe you could leave it up to individual authors to decide whether or not to allow comments on their articles? There have already been a few instances where authors (eg. Frank Santoro and Tucker Stone) have chosen to disable comments for their pieces on this site.

    I guess it would sort of be the flip of the current comments policy. Whereas now comments are enabled by default but authors can turn them off, you could change it so that comments are disallowed by default but authors can enable them if they so choose.

  126. Paul Slade says:

    Yes, I like the idea of an editor’s choice tab too.

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