B&N Week 78: Community

| June 19, 2012

It’s another glorious Tuesday! Really, I just want to walk around, take in the cool-ish breezes, and see what’s going on in the community. [I’m even working on this outside, so I can at least get some fresh air.]

This week, I want to talk about another topic that should be near and dear to all of your hearts.

I want to talk about Community. (Hey! I liked that show!) I’m not talking about the show. I’m talking about the community that is comics.

The comics community is a two-headed beast. One head are the readers, and the other head are the creators. They’re both branching off from a single neck that is connected to the body that is comics. I know that it sounds strange, but follow me.

Starting with the body that is comics, let’s go to the neck. It’s a thick neck, because it has to separate and support two heads. At the base of the neck, we’ll call that youngish readers. They haven’t decided if they are going to continue to be readers, if they’re going to drop comics due to interests in other things, or if they’re going to become creators. The part of the neck closest to the body has to support all of that. Moving up the neck, it starts to fork and thin out a bit. The forks are readers and creators. Both are necessary not just for comics, but for the modern era of the comic book community.

Despite the calls proclaiming the death of comics, or the evolution of comics from print to digital, or the analysis of data that shows a dwindling market, comics are thriving. There has never been a time where comics were so easy to do, read by so many people, or the community that has grown up around it been tighter. The tightness of the current community is largely due to the internet.

Let’s look at it: you have social media such as Twitter and Facebook that makes the barriers between creators and audience extremely thin. You can follow anyone on Twitter, and they can’t do anything about it. There’s a bit more control on Facebook, however, most creators don’t lock their profiles down because they don’t want to alienate their audience. Two very easy, extremely personal ways to get in contact with creators. Especially Twitter. It’s almost a real-time conversation, 140 characters at a time.

Then there are conventions. These are best for putting a name with a face, hearing a voice, and getting a real sense of a person you may have been conversing with for years over the internet. Quality time with professionals and creative heroes of your childhood. The drawback to conventions, though, is that you could become lost in the crowd; one amongst a sea of faces, each one trying their damnedest to make a lasting impression.

However, step back and actually take a look at a convention. What do you see? Let’s take the renowned, expensive, and extremely well attended San Diego Comic-Con International. Five nights and four days of people getting their chance to play dress-up, do meet and greets, see old friends, do some business, and look for work. You also have people generally getting along as they express their love for the medium in the best way they know how.

If you step back and look at it, a convention is nothing more than a community coming together for a while, doing all the things a community does, but in a short, intense amount of time.

However, a convention is no way to build or sustain a community. Don’t get me wrong: it definitely helps to strengthen bonds, but those bonds are being forged in the best way to build a community we have. Those bonds are being forged in forums.

I believe that a forum is the best, most efficient way to build a community. A good forum will cater to the community it serves, giving it not just what it wants—or says it wants—but also giving it what it needs. Those are two very different concepts.

What a forum does is it archives conversations, while also allowing members to chime in about a particular topic whenever they want. You lose that ability in social media. [Well, not really lose it. It just becomes exponentially more difficult as time goes on. So difficult, in fact, that most of the time, most people won’t go back to see what they’ve missed. Forums are much easier to manage in that sense.]

Know what else a forum does? It allows for greater expression, be it of ideas or just one’s true self, all in a very contained place. You don’t get that with either Twitter or Facebook—both will have you hunting hither and yon on people’s personal pages and feeds. A forum alleviates that.

What a forum lacks, though, are realtime conversations. Those are hard to come by in that type of setup. Facebook gives you a chat option, but it’s difficult to strike up a conversation with a working pro. [I know that I generally disable my chat on the rare occasions that I’m on Facebook now. I’m much easier to reach through Gmail’s client.]

Communities are important. Without the comics community—both readers and creators—we wouldn’t have things like the Hero Initiative, or the coming together to help out other legendary creators who have fallen on hard times that have been in the comics media so much over the past couple of years. Our heroes are aging, and with no health insurance, they need to work to pay bills. But when you’re too sick to work, someone ends up asking for help.

They ask help of the community, and we generally come through. That’s what a community does.

ComixTribe is building a community, but we’re going about it the more difficult way. We’re requiring the use of real/professional names. If it’s your real name, or the name that appears in the credits box, that’s the name we want to see in our forums. Why is this more difficult? Because it discourages people from signing up. However, at the same time, it helps to ensure the quality of posts that are made, so it kind of balances out.

We want to build a community. Really put the tribe in ComixTribe. A support system for those who are serious about this thing of ours. [Now I wanna watch The Godfather again.] A place to go for the knowledge and help, and stay for the camaraderie. That’s what we’re all about.

Homework: Lurk no more! Go to your favorite forum, sign up if you haven’t already, and start interacting! It couldn’t be simpler.

Please make leave comments in the forums.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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