I actually don’t remember the day I started this blog—it was June or July somethingth 2004- so I’ve arbitrarily decided today will henceforth be The Beat’s anniversary. Ten long years of late nights, sleeping five hours, web crashes, Vietnamese Instant Coffee, Amon Tobin, Luke Vibert, Vitalic, Tipsy, Mahler, Stravinsky and Amy Winehouse. Ten years of stopping whatever else I was doing at some point to say “I gotta do The Beat now.” Ten years of watching the graphic novel industry grow, 10 years of a new golden age of comics, the rise and fall of manga, the rise and rise of comic book movies and TV shows, firings, hirings, 10 days that shook the world. Ten years of the internet changing every week or minute. When I began there was no Tumblr, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Youtube, no smart phones. People were so starved for entertainment that they actually read websites run by one person in their pajamas.
This is the third and final home for The Beat. Originally it was party of the Pulse, which was part of comicon.com, a site now little spoken of, but in its day it was an exemplar of the kind of smart, current writing about comics that only the internet could provide. IN honor of its origins, I’ve changed the background color to the original Beat background, JUST FOR THIS ANNIVERSARY WEEK THOUGH, so please enjoy it, take snapshots, and so on. The Beat was a persona I developed at The Pulse, first for a weekly column, and eventually a blog. It was the early days of blogging and everyone thought it was the future of journalism. In reality, it wasn’t even the future of writing about what you had for lunch.
The Beat is actually more like 12 years old, if you go by the column that started it, but I forgot to celebrate two years ago, so here we are. I did dig up two pieces about San Diego from The Pulse days that kind of observed and classified a lot of how the rest of the decade would go. Part one here and part two, with my favorite headline of all times, “The Cromlech’s Secret.” What did a cromlech have to go with Comic-Con? I’m not sure any more, but back then you got to be really self indulgent.
In 2006 the Beat left Comicon for Publishers Weekly, where despite having the highest traffic it ever achieved, I couldn’t get a single person in the IT department to lift a finger to fix the many issues that had come up with the database. I wrote all about that here. (I didn’t write the postcript though, which was that after fighting tooth and nail with one particularly annoying web person at Reed who said she didn’t support WordPress sites, she ended up getting a new job where she converted a website to a ton of blogs using the very same template I used for The Beat. Why am I always right about these things?)
Both of the previous iterations of The Beat had been done in by web admins who just didn’t take or didn’t have the time to fix things when they went wrong. When I took the site back myself, I resolved to learn how to do basic maintenance myself (with the help of Media Temple’s always polite techs and my developer Ryan Dickey and his partner Ron Croudy.) And thus I’ve entered the door to a happy world where just this weekend I updated WordPress, made a sitewide backup, crashed my server entirely for about an hour, discovered the error log was getting out of control, and repaired a broken table in mySQL to stop the error messages. I’m lovin’ it.
In this day and age it’s pretty crazy for one person to try and run a news site all by her or himself. It’s still only a part time job for me, but one that takes up a lot of my waking time, and has given me more satisfaction and amusement and opportunities than any other job I’ve had. I’ve had some other great writers and columnists who have added immeasurably to The Beat Experience, and more to come, but it’s still mostly my site. Despite the absurdity of a one-woman shop, The Beat is still in the top 10 comics news sites, and to be honest that still boggles my mind. That there are more than ten comics news sites, that is.
It takes an insane amount of work to keep going, though. Luckily I like to stay busy.
The other day at HeroesCon I was on a panel with Tom Spurgeon (who started Comics Reporter a few months after The Beat started), Chris Sims and Tom Heintjes talking about “comics journalism” or whatever. I said that in todays climate, in a time of increased competition, I had to be less self-indulgent, which sort of surprised Tom, I think. But it’s true. I wish I could just post nonsense about Clive Owen and dear, dear Gerard Butler all day (two early fixations of the site, the Hiddleston/Cumberbatch of their day, a personal touch that no one would go for today) but there are a dozen tumblrs and TMZ/Buzzfeed rip-offs to do that. You know how at the end of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lo says “I wish that we’ll be in the desert together again”? Sometimes I wish I could just be in the cloud with Old Yeller dog food again.
Everything changes. I think it’s more important than ever to be a source for accurate information about the industry and exposure for new comics projects, because tehre’s more meaningless crap out there, too. People complain when I cover non comics stuff, but when I started the site I covered every comic book movie WAY more than I do now. (I was digging through the 2004 pictures archives and there were hardly any comics — just endless photos of weird comics related things and movie stuff.) It’s less fun, and yet more rewarding, doing the site now because more people depend on it. With great power comes great hosting bills.
Running this site hasn’t gotten any easier since I started. The main reason is that there is so much more news of comics and comics culture to cover! Sales are up, outlets are up, schools are up, awards are up, women are up, kids are up, webcomics are up, countries that were just mucking around when I started now have actual comics cultures. Conventions have gone from 200 to 2000*. We have transmedia and motion comics now, although those can usually be ignored. We have comics on the web evolving into a new artform, tablets giving readers a new experiences, and the cloud changing the idea of ownership entirely. And Disney bought Marvel and Amazon bought Comixology. And still every day, men and increasingly women are slaving over a table with ink stained fingers, hoping to pay the rent and touch a heart or two. They don’t want to be forgotten. That’s one of the reasons I’ve fought tooth and nail to keep most of the beat archives up all these years. Other websites are lost to the sands of time, but I’ll keep this site up as long as I can physically do it. No one wants to be forgotten.
When I started this, I believed that comics were not only a “legitimate artform” but an artform of the future. Given their growth in the last ten years, I think I was right about that, too. And the best is yet to come.
Even though I sometimes wish I was back in the desert with Old Yeller**, there’s no turning back. There’s a new icon here around Stately Beat Manor.
When there’s a job to be done, it gets done.
There are hundreds of people I need to thank for helping me over the years, and I would sit here for another decade trying to think of them all. So I’ll just thank the basics: Rick Veitch and Steve Conley at The Pulse for getting me into this web thing; Calvin Reid for his unstinting support; my parents, Suzu and Philip, for all they have done for me; and Ben McCool for making me laugh. And Todd Allen, Todd Alcott, Torsten Adair, Steve Morris, Mark Coale, Bruce Lidl, Maggie Siegel-Berele, Jessica Lee, Cindy arias, Shannon O’Leary, MK Reed, Kate Fitzsimons, Zainab Akhtar, Michel Fiffe, Marc-Oliver Frisch, Rich Johnson, Paul O’Brien, Padraig O Mealoid, Henry Barajas, Matt O’Keefe, Jeffrey Gustafson, Jason Enright, David Carter, Chris Rice, Jeff Trexler, Aaron Humphrey, Amy Chu, Laura Sneddon, Serhend Siricioglu, Brett Schenker, Brandon Schatz, Joshua Rivera, Nicholas Eskey, Kate Willaert and the rest for their great writing and insights. And all my awesome advertisers, who make this possible.
And always you, dear reader. As long as they have wifi in the desert, I’ll be here.
** god that sounds horrible
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.