This has been a rough week for the internet. The news that Comics Alliance was to be shut down, thus removing us all from our right to read daily articles from Andy Khouri, Joe Hughes, David Brothers, Andrew Wheeler and many others, was a blow to the head. This followed on only a day after finding out that the AV Club had lost five of their top writers in an exodus which hasn’t quite been explained. A small army of wonderful writers have suddenly vanished from our day-to-day lives.
And it’s alarming, more than anything else. If Comics Alliance was known for anything – aside from the much-needed essays on prejudice and progression, aside from discussion of Batman punching people with car parts, aside from advice on how to make and celebrate your favourite characters via cosplay – it was for being a website where people enjoyed being immersed in their favourite culture. There’s a tendency, especially as you find yourself growing older than your childhood heroes, for people to turn cynical and dismissive, to take joy in hating things and seeking out misery. It’s prevalent all across the internet. No matter what your passion is, people online want to tell you you’re stupid for having it. Comics Alliance, to me, was a site which refused to fall into that pit.*
I got into comics about five years ago, maybe, back in the halcyon days of Joss Whedon writing Astonishing X-Men. And, as I did whenever I watched new episodes of Lost or heard new albums by Rilo Kiley, I turned on the computer to see what other people were saying about this new thing I loved. Not good things! People weren’t keen on it, for reasons which have grown on me over the years. But that wasn’t what I wanted to hear about at the time, being a new comics fan who didn’t know anything about the medium I’d tried out on a lark. I wanted to hear instead about the theories and history behind the comics, to see people pick apart Grant Morrison’s run for secrets, and to get an idea of the scope behind Chris Claremont’s original vision for the characters. I wanted to see reasons why comics were the best thing.
Comics Alliance was the site which provided that. Rather than robotic, lifeless pieces that told the news and left things there, I got to read essays about characters and culture – and find out about the writers too. And the artists. It slowly helped me develop an interest which moved from solely Joss Whedon to then the X-Men, and from the X-Men to Marvel, then to DC, then Image, and onwards. Now I’m here, writing about all kinds of things. The site felt fresh and the writing spoke to me – somebody who hadn’t spent thirty years getting progressively more and more worn out by a comics industry which may or may not care for its fanbase. Alongside websites like The AV Club, Comics Alliance started to push the idea on me that mainstream comics were something worth writing about and dissecting.
It was funny, and the writing spoke to me – even if for some reason Chris Sims insisted on being wrong about EVERYTHING. It pushed me to try new comics and find new places, and made it clear that comics were a medium I could pursue and write about myself. Comics criticism doesn’t always have to be snobby essays about stuffy independent cartoonists from the 1970s who wrote 18000 page comics about door handles – it could be about comics people actually read! If there’s a reason I’m here right now – apart from Heidi’s personal desire to torture the internet via giving me a platform – it’s that there were websites like Comics Alliance which pushed me to think about comics in more detail.
So I personally owe Comics Alliance my thanks. They took the piss, had a laugh, and more importantly – at their finest, they were the best advert for comics that you could find. They made it fun, rather than stuffy. Fresh, rather than stale. And hopefully the writers will all continue to do that for years to come – Matt Wilson, Lauren Davis, Bethany Fong and David Uzumeri are all still out there, guys! All the writers are still out there, and still writing about comics. It’s our duty to track them down and continue to follow them on whatever new projects they get up to.
Thanks for getting me interested in comics, guys! I hope I can be even one fifth as boundlessly excited about comics as you’ve been over the years.