Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where's the beef?

If you watched television at all in the mid 1980's, you heard the phrase, "Where's the beef?" That was the catchphrase for Wendy's TV commercials which starred Clara Peller as a little old lady who couldn't find beef in the other fast food burgers. It was meant as a dig against those other places who advertised big, beefy burgers but delivered flat, tasteless patties. It went on to become a phenomenon and you could hear "Where's the beef?" pretty much everywhere. Heck, even Walter Mondale used it in his 1984 campaign against Gary Hart. I'm sure that Donna Rice could have told Mondale 'where the beef' was.

Anyway, it's become known as a way of questioning a statement that, for the most part, is just full of hot air. Statements could be from politicians, government agencies, entertainers, newscasters and, especially, those numb nuts on cable TV who want everyone to think they way they do.

My question this morning, to comics reporting, is "where's the beef?"

Where is the 'tell it like it is', 'balls to the wall', consumer reports type of comics reporting? Where's the investigative journalism, laying bare the backroom deals and dirty secrets of the comics industry past and present? Why, when I log into comic news sites, am I flooded with nothing but press releases and advertising all gussied up to look like news? Here's a newsflash: advertisements are not NEWS, they are ads! No matter how you dress up the pig, in the end, it's still just a pig in a dress.

Look at the two biggest and most well known comics news website: NEWSARAMA and COMIC BOOK RESOURCES. This morning, NEWSARAMA's big headlines are about Barak Obama's appearance in an upcoming SAVAGE DRAGON comic; Cartoon Network announcing the date CLONE WARS will premiere on TV; and an announcement about novelist Brad Meltzer's campaign to restore the original house of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. That's pretty much just three press releases right there. I'm surprised that they actually put by-lines on these.

And what does CBR have this morning? The crack team at CBR offer; the same news about Siegel's house; updates on comic to film projects; and a fluff piece on Meltzer's new book which has comic book connections. Wow, CBR, way to bring me info I can't get in any of a HUNDRED OTHER BLOGS OR NEWS SITES!

Print is no better with the only two regular comic magazines still being published being WIZARD and COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE. I'm not even going to consider COMIC FOUNDRY as that is about as hard hitting in the news department as the latest issue of MAXIM. CBG has seen its core purpose vanish over the years as most people buy their old comics online at either store sites or through that big virtual yard sale, eBay. Still, CBG does have it's uses in the columns they include as well as some usually interesting articles about older comics. Most of those articles are about as hard hitting as the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man in the Sahara desert but at least they remember that there were comics before 1980. As for WIZARD... well, I'd best describe them as a word that rhymes with "bore" and leave it at that. In fact, I blame WIZARD for the trend of empty comics news. Their initial success led others to just go with flashy press releases and previews of 'hot comics.

So I'm asking you, dear reader, "Where's the beef?" Where is a source for good, hard-hitting comics news? A place that doesn't cater or kow tow to the big companies and is used as a ventriloquist's dummy to sprout the latest company rhetoric about how STUPENDOUS the next SUPER SECRET CRISIS is going to be. One that says that the Emperor has no clothes and points how out how stupid the Emperor was to think we wouldn't notice that in the first place! A place that isn't dependent upon advertising revenue from the big companies and isn't afraid to ask the tough questions in the interviews. And don't say COMICS JOURNAL because, as better as their reporting often is, their bias against mainstream comics and shilling for their own publications cancels that out.

What this industry needs is a good gadfly. It's too bad that Harlan Ellison isn't available.


Anonymous said...

Your the man for the job, Sam. Become the reporter who tells it like it is!

Anonymous said...

For two reasons, Sam.

First, the mainstream news media cares nothing about comics, so you aren't going to get investigative reporting on the industry.

Secondly, an insider in comics would eventually be discovered, and his career in comics destroyed, if he reported on what he knew was going on.

This is true for most businessess, not just comics.

Michael Vance

Ricko said...

Hey, Sam, if you're going to fully discount The Comics Journal then you're going to be out of luck as that's your best option. But since you're aware of their alleged bias then it should be simple to read between the lines for the kind of information you're after.

1. The reason outlets such as Newsarama and CBR (et cetera) are the most popular is BECAUSE they don't hit hard.

2. Providing real news and investigative journalism about such a relatively small industry means a severe decrease in potential ad revenue. Outside of TCJ, a "place that isn't dependent upon advertising revenue from the big companies" doesn't exist.

3. Harlan Ellison has no bias?

LordShazam said...

Michael, you hit upon probably the biggest reason there is no real reporting in comics: fear.

Fear from the reporter of repercussions from individuals and/or companies but, more importantly, the fear of the informants. Comics is such an insulated place that anyone who talked about something against star creators or company policy would likely never work in comics again.

That's how the flow of information is stopped. Cut it out right at the source with the ever popular financial blackmail.

LordShazam said...


It would be nice to have an outlet for comics news that didn't have ANY sort of a bias but I guess that'll never happen. And, sure, Harlan's biased but at least he'd be pretty entertaining! lol

I wonder if other industries have similar problems? We need a CONFIDENTIAL for the comics industry! lol

Glenn Walker said...

Are you forgetting about Rich Johnston, Sam? He may be the only one of note out there, but he's doing a hell of a job.

Jeff P. said...

The hard part is keeping hard news entertaining. That may not seem important but if you can't keep the reader then it doesn't matter what you print. I think most of the comic news outlets have fallent into the rut of how can we keep our readers. That ultimately effects what is considered news. Jeff