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.