Now that it’s almost over, it feels fair to say that 2022 has been a strange, and at times nearly overwhelmingly difficult, year. It’s different in that from last year, which felt shockingly, breathtakingly oppressive in its determination to remove things — jobs and income, in particular — and see how I’d fare; this year has seen a lot of good mixed in with the bad, adding up to a dizzying, confusing experience where I’ve found myself uncertain about how I was feeling in any given moment, and whether I was unhappy, or simply overworked and exhausted and just ungrateful for things I should really appreciate given my experience in 2021.
There’s been much I purposefully haven’t written about here, for an army of reasons: it’s felt too personal to share, or too fresh to re-examine, or not-just-my-story-to-share. Almost all of that has been, if not negative, then at least Not Really Good, and the kind of thing that leaves me contemplative and a little unsteady. There was one week at the start of the summer in particular that feels fictional to recount, now, filled with things piling on top of each other that simply shouldn’t occur next to each other, yet did. 2022 has felt, at times, like a lesson in extremes and how much we can bear at any given time.
As I look ahead to the next twelve months, I find myself unable to imagine what lies in wait in a way that feels different than usual. My tradition at this time of year, even in the shittiest years, has been to imagine the last year as something I was leaving behind and starting fresh with something new. 2022 refuses to go out the way, I feel. There’s a sense inside me that the flux and uncertainty about the world is going to continue into 2023, as if the story of the year isn’t finished with me yet. When midnight rolls around on December 31, it feels as if the message is less Happy New Year and more To Be Continued…
This is a weird one, but in keeping with my original plan for this site being a repository for things I didn’t put elsewhere. Below is the written-but-never-sent-for-technical-reasons (no, really; the site was down on the day it was supposed to go out) final edition of the Comics, FYI newsletter, from July of this year. Preserved for historical purposes, and a fun look back (for me, at least) about where my head was at in the summer before I started at Popverse full-time.
To a certain generation of British comic book readers, the phrase “Exciting News For Our Readers” (or variations on the same; sometimes it would “Great News”) had a chilling effect whenever it appeared on the cover of one of their favorite titles, because it was generally understood to be a coded way of announcing that the comic in question had been canceled.
Okay, that’s perhaps a little reductive; British comics of the late 20th century were rarely outright canceled, after all. Instead, the practice was to take two or three of the most popular strips from the title – almost every UK comic was an anthology, filled with multiple strips and characters running anywhere from one to eight pages per issue – and place them in another comic, which would add the canceled title’s logo to its cover for a brief period in an attempt to lure in some new readers who’d been following along with the now-gone comic. The “Exciting News” for readers was that two of their favorite comics were now teaming up to become one all-killer, no-filler title, in theory.
To be fair, it was this practice – referred to by those in the industry as “Hatch, Match, and Dispatch,” for reasonably obvious reasons* – that resulted in the addition of Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters to 2000 AD back in the day, both of which now considered essential parts of the beloved anthology’s DNA even though they originated in the short lived title Star Lord, so it’s clearly something that did what it was supposed to. Similarly, other classics like The Thirteenth Floor** long outlived their original homes thanks to this strategy, finding new fandoms in the process.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I, too, have some Exciting News For My Readers: this is the last edition of the newsletter for the foreseeable future. Sorry, all. (Especially those who just signed up in the last few days, which turns out to be a surprisingly high number for some reason. Read the archives, at least?) Here’s the “exciting” part of things, though: as of next week, I’m going to be a staff writer for ReedPop’s Popverse site, where I’ll be doing more of the kinds of things I’ve been doing here, and more besides.
As I said back in the first newsletter in January, I started this as much as anything for a chance to do the type of writing that I didn’t feel I had the opportunity to do anymore after leaving THR’s Heat Vision blog as a regular contributor***. What I didn’t expect to happen at the time was that a number of different things would happen very quickly after that email went out, including the first in a number of calls with Popverse editor Chris Arrant where we talked about what comics journalism could be, what it used to be – look, we’re both old – and the potential for what at the time was a secret, mystery thing that Chris was planning that turned out to be Popverse. (He really kept things under wraps for an impressively long time.)
While all that was happening, the newsletter quickly grew into something I enjoyed doing – and something that felt as if it could actually provide some kind of service to readers, at least to the extent that anything in comics journalism is necessarily capable of. (I’m old enough to be simultaneously cynical and optimistic about such things, I confess.) I say that as much as anything to let you know that deciding to put this newsletter on indefinite hiatus isn’t something I took lightly, nor something that I haven’t gone back and forth about a bunch of time in the last week or so as the Popverse gig came together. (It’s still coming together; I have a bunch of paperwork to fill in after I send this out. As someone who’s been freelance for more than a decade, I’d forgotten quite how much paperwork was required for such things.)
There are a number of stories I’d planned for future newsletters – a number that I’d started to report and even write up, only to put aside while waiting on more information or final quotes or whatever – that will, I suspect, end up as stories on Popverse****; there are a number of developing and/or unfinished stories to follow up on that I’m sure I’ll be pursuing there, as well. Basically, while this newsletter is taking a nap, almost everything that you would find here, you’ll find there, and more.
I still have a lot of love for the newsletter format, and think there’s a lot of potential to be unlocked in news delivery this way; I’m purposefully looking at this as an “indefinite hiatus,” if only because I reserve the right to resurrect this at a later date, dammit (or else use this for sneaky mailings when everyone least expects it; don’t be that surprised if it happens). For now, though – well, as of Monday – anyone looking for me should be taking a look over at Popverse.
* The hatching was the creation of new titles in the first place, in case you’re wondering.
** The Thirteenth Floor is a British horror strip that should be far better known than it is; created by Judge Dredd’s John Wagner and Alan Grant, and featuring stunning art from Jose Ortiz, it’s essentially the 1970s Wrath of the Spectre concept with a twist, as a sentient (and sentimental, albeit also sociopathic) computer called Max protects working class folk from bullies of all sorts via a supernatural floor that can bring people’s nightmares to life. It’s genuinely amazing stuff.
*** I also said in that first newsletter that I was planning on this eventually turned into a paid newsletter, which clearly didn’t happen; I think that was for the best, in the end.
**** I’d planned on doing a lot more interviews and profiles for the newsletter that just didn’t happen for all kinds of reasons. Expect more of that on Popverse too.
Meanwhile, panels for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con have started to be rolled out – both on Comic-Con’s own website, and via promotional emails from those organizing said panels – and not only am I at the show, I’m on no less than three panels this year:
Comics Journalism: Newsletters and TikTok and Blogs, Oh My! Thursday July 21 at 5:00pm, Room 23ABC
The world of writing about comics is changing yet again, with new ventures appearing, old formats arising again, and all new ones finding innovative ways to talk about comics, from Substack to TikTok and back. Heidi MacDonald (The Beat) joins Chris Arrant (PopVerse), Graeme McMillan (Comics, FYI), Joelle Monique (IHeartRadio), Barbra Dillon (Fanbase Press), and others for their annual discussion of the state of comics journalism.
Adapting the World of Blade Runner for Comics Friday July 22 at 2:00pm, Room 29AB
Titan’s critically acclaimed and beloved Blade Runner comics series returns! Blade Runner Origins co-writer K. Perkins (Paper Girls, Batwoman) and Blade Runner 2029 writer Mike Johnson discuss with journalist Graeme McMillan adapting and expanding the classic neo-noir world for comics.
Image Comics: The Secrets Behind Captivating Comics Storytelling Sunday July 24 at 11:30am, Room 10
A freewheeling conversation between Marcia Chen (Lady Mechanika), Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika), Erica Schultz (The Deadliest Bouquet), Tina Horn (SFSX), and Wyatt Kennedy (Bolero). Moderated by Graeme McMillan.
The first Comic-Con I ever did was to do the Comics Journalism panel, back when I was doing Fanboy Rampage!!! (That was… maybe 18 or 19 years ago at this point?) Time is a flat circle, I guess…? Anyway: I’ll bet at Comic-Con! Come see my panels but keep your distance because Covid.
Well,the holidays weren’t what we expected.
To be fair, as you’re reading this, we’re still in the middle of the holidays — it’s Boxing Day, although the rest of the world doesn’t really follow that British tradition, in my experience — and I’m writing this even earlier, on December 23rd. (Secrets behind the blog!) But, already I can tell: this is very much not going to be the Christmas we were hoping for.
This became obvious yesterday, as I write, when we found out that Chloe’s grandparents, who were going to be visiting for the week, were stranded in Chicago after flights were grounded because of weather. That was the start of the day, literally a message Chloe got as soon as she woke up, and before too long it was followed by the news that they wouldn’t be able to get here at all for Christmas, with the airline refusing to rebook flights until after the holiday. In fact, they were almost stranded in Chicago for a few days, with no chance to return home until the very end of the day (9pm their time; they’d been there something like 13 or 14 hours by that point) and every piece of news unclear or quickly contradicted to that point.
As our plans imploded due to weather in Chicago — really, what were we going to do, now that all the, “we can do this with Grammy and Grandad” ideas were suddenly out the window? — the weather in Portland decided that there was no point going above freezing at all, which is a problem in a house with heating and insulation as bad as this one. Blankets, layers, and hot water bottles became a must as it quickly became clear that going outside to do groceries might be a significant undertaking, while last-minute gift shopping could be a luxury we couldn’t afford.
It’s been, as I’ve said before, an odd year and an odd December to date. Perhaps a strange, weird Christmas is what comes of all of this. Tis the season.
I said in the last post that I drew the Christmas Card we were planning to send out this year, only to not get it printed in time because of reasons — which is to say, I’d end up doing something else and forget — so: here it is, for all to see.
Here’s the actual drawing, sans color:
Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate! And to those who don’t, I hope you have a lovely weekend, anyway.
Yeah, I’ve been more quiet than I’d have liked over the last month again, and at a time of the year when I’m usually much more vocal about the joys of the season. In my slight defense, a significant reason for that has been my undertaking a daily Advent Calendar series for Popverse that ate up a really sizable portion of my time for the first two or so weeks of the month, so… maybe I’ve actually been as verbose as usual, just elsewhere…?
That said, I’ve struggled to be as festive as I’d want to be this year for all manner of reasons, both real and imaginary. The month has sped past far quicker than I would’ve wanted, and I feel as if I haven’t really had the time to indulge in the usual festivities (pun maybe intended): I’ve barely listened to Christmas music, and I feel like I came to the traditional playlist of holiday movies a week or so later than usual. I didn’t even manage to get Christmas Cards printed to send out in time, despite drawing the card for the first time in years before the end of November. What was I doing with all that time? (Working, for much of it, is an answer.)
In a way, this feels entirely appropriate for the 2022 holiday season. It’s been an odd year, that has at times felt overwhelming with things happening and at others, as if time itself was getting distorted by outside events and expectations from external forces. This past month has felt like all of that on a loop, for reasons I couldn’t fully comprehend, but the upshot of that is that I’ve been ignoring this site, again, in order to focus on the important things like “my loved ones” and “staying employed.”
It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, I promise; and, as I head into some time off — my first Christmas vacation time that isn’t just “not getting paid and I’m a freelancer oh no” in more than a decade! — I’m going to try to find some time to say it. For real, this time.