Just the other day on Twitter, I was comparing notes with Tom Spurgeon and Johanna Draper Carlson as members of a very selective club of the long running comics bloggers. AND NOW Johanna has announced that she’s starting her site from scratch because of technical difficulties::
After 10 years and well over 7,000 posts, my WordPress database has become corrupt. I’ve been trying to fix it off and on for the last three weeks, but it’s time to cut my losses and start fresh. The posts are still there, somewhere, so I’ll be slowly revisiting and reimporting the ones I found interesting — but really, who needs to read my thoughts from 2006 linking to a blog that’s no longer there? (They used to say comic readers, by which they meant kids who read superhero comics, turned over every four years or so, so you could tell the same or similar stories again for a fresh audience. In my experience, the life of a blog is similarly about five years. After that, the links go dead.) This fresh start should mean better organization for the site, a modern theme, and faster performance.
While it’s Johanna’s site to do with as she pleases, I couldn’t help but be dismayed by this. Johanna has been one of the sharpest and most observant comics commentators over the last (ulp) decade, as testified to the scores of now dead links from this very site. I have no doubt that she’ll bring some of it back but…there goes the archives. There goes the history. Historians who fret about the impermanence of the record in a world that communicates via ephemeral electronic packets are right to be alarmed and we’re not just talking about Hilary Clinton.
I’m sort of a fanatic about keeping the entire Beat archive online. (A few years of it are gone and that bothers me just about every day.) It’s led to a lot of logistical problems (there are nearly 20,000 posts on this blog, and it’s quite unwieldy to move around.) but I can’t think of doing it any other way. There are several reasons for that.
#1 — this is me, baby. Once it’s gone, I’m gone. I have my writing backed up in various spots, but it’s so much easier to just google yourself.
#2 — not that I’m the blog of record, or this is genius, lasting writing, but The Beat is *a* historical chronicle of contemporary and soon outdated views and news. I’ve had a front seat for a lot of comics history while writing about it, and it may be worthless…or it may provide some insights to smarter people than me down the line. I don’t know exactly, but as long as I have two cents to rub together I’m going to keep the Beat online. It may sound egotistical, but I really believe these contemporary records are important in some way.
I’ve seen a lot of history vanish from the internet (or be only partially available in the Wayback Machine) and have learned firsthand the value of “Command-S, yes yes yes”. I’m sure the smart folks at the Library of Congress or somewhere have downloaded all one trillion pages of the internet, but it’s easier to find right here in WordPress. I’ll stick around.
Anyway, good luck to Johanna on figuring things out, and moving forward. Hers is an important voice and I hope she keeps at it with whatever time she can give.
(Art from Love and Rockets by Jaime Hernandez.)
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.