Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Someone you know will like this, part 1

My signature possession is a large ring, worn on my right hand, that features the Green Lantern symbol (Hal Jordan variety). It was purchased quite a while ago at a branch of the first generation of brick-and-mortar Warner Bros. stores.

The ring -- I'll have more to say about it, plus photos, in a future post -- provides extraordinary weekly confirmation of how important comic books are in this society. The GL symbol is hardly on the order of, say, the American bald eagle or the Nike swoosh, just to cite two other wildly disparate emblems. Or at least you wouldn't think so. And yet, the number of people who recognize it (and smile) is astounding -- bank tellers, waiters, checkout clerks and attentive women (I might be exaggerating about one of those categories). If you know someone who's really into superheroes from the classic DC lineup, I've been checking out something they'll probably be interested in:

Hit this link and you'll visit the ArrobaSilver jewelry store on eBay, a DC product licensee (I confirmed that with a DC spokesperson). Products include an assortment of intriguing Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Flash rings. When I relaunched this blog, I said I was doing some shopping that would allow me to offer useful consumer advice. Based on the years of reaction to my current GL ring, I have to think there's huge potential interest in similar merchandise. If you check out the eBay store as a first step, the review I'm planning will be more relevant.

And that's why I'm holding off on the actual review for now. But I will say that my initial purchase arrived, the buying experience was good and my first impressions about what I received are quite favorable. There's more to recount, however, and I also think I want to interview somebody at ArrobaSilver. If you're wondering, I have no business association (and no family or friend connection) with ArrobaSilver, and I made my purchase just like any other customer. In the course of asking some pre-purchase questions, I did tell an ArrobaSilver representative that I might be interested in interviewing someone for my blog, but I can't detect any sign of getting the slightest special treatment (c'mon, this blog is far from wielding that kind of clout).

So check out the store, shoot me any questions or comments you have, and sometime soon, I'll have a review.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This blogging thing, part 2

No one wants to blog in vacuum, right? But I haven't figured out how I'll feel if, after a number of months, I've only got a small and extremely casual readership.

I do know that I don't need dozens of comments per week for a sense of validation. Comments will flow in more or less naturally, or they won't. I'm not going to twist myself out of shape about it.

That said, I'm going to briefly react to the fact that I got one stray, sniping comment this week (hey, a grassroots reader!). I think I also got one (two?) last year when the blog was starting to gain a little momentum and attracted some flattering and/or thoughtful feedback. So, I've decided to turn on comment moderation.

Yes, it feels a little silly, given the exceptionally niche status I have so far. But I don't want to open up this space for the kind of nonsense bedeviling so many sites -- namely, a stream of ad hominem attacks and general craziness. Some bloggers agonize about acting like censors, even when all they're doing is cutting off the nut jobs and haters. Not me. I came to peace with this when I tried to keep my portion of a newspaper blog as unrestricted as possible. All it did was encourage the type of behavior that should always be blocked.

Comment space here is limited to civil discourse. Strenuous civil discourse, fine. Vileness, no. My call.

Oh, and I'm also past caring if the comments don't land here when I tease to a post through Facebook. The pattern is that some folks hit the link, read here, but react on Facebook. Glad they're reading, glad they're commenting in any way. As time goes on, I think a fair amount of you will find me useful or diverting. That certainly would be validation if it's really measurable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kirby or Lee?

The New York Times ran an excellent, comprehensive story Sunday on the legal battle between the heirs of the late comic book artist Jack Kirby and Marvel Entertainment. The issues are complicated, but the heart of the wham-pow-smack attorney-powered slugfest is copyright ownership -- and all the related monies -- involving iconic characters that Kirby helped create (the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and more).

The article, by Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, is intriguing for a variety of reasons, including the way it seeks to get a handle on the tactics of the lawyer for the Kirby family, Marc Toberoff. But what I liked best were the insights about the nature of the overall comic book industry. And the most resonant part of all was the observation that the legal dueling would reignite a huge discussion about the relative importance of Kirby's contributions compared to those of co-creator Stan Lee, writer and editor.

No kind of mystery interests me more than sorting out the credit for collaborative genius. I think that's because I'm so dubious about the notion of anything with real creative energy being even a roughly 50-50 effort. My guess is that it's more like 70-30 every time, and in the case of Kirby-Lee, my curiosity is persistent, given the cultural power of their work.

It's trendy to lean toward Kirby as the bigger influence. I lean toward Lee, perhaps because a good deal of the material Kirby did without Lee leaves me completely indifferent. But it has been a long time since I heard any minutia obsessed fanatics debate the topic intensely enough to do real honor to comic book geekdom. I'm going to be delighted if it actually ends up chronicled in the Times.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This blogging thing

I had this blog in mind for quite a while before I launched it. I didn't want to start anything that wouldn't get fed seriously, at least a few times a week if not daily. So, when I finally did get it going, I was confident I was going to keep up a reliable flow of meaningful posts.

Then life happened. I haven't posted since June. The little bit of momentum I created -- some regular readers, a spritz of attention from some newsworthy companies and a smattering of good feedback -- has evaporated. The personal distractions, which made 2009 so "interesting," have subsided, but I have a heightened awareness of how fragile this blogging thing is.

Indeed, everything about blogging is in better focus for me. In trying to decide how best to revitalize this effort, I've spent a lot of time pondering what blogs can do best and what will never really work very well. When I pick a topic, I'm now likely to emphasize why my commentary or reporting can do justice to it in this format.

Let's begin here: I particularly value good consumer-oriented advice. We live in a world where everyone can be an online reviewer, and a lot of savvy amateurs are supplementing the work of professional experts/writers. So, I read and I read and I read. Yet I still end up spending way too much money on entertainment -- and by that I mean everything from comic books and sneakers to music and laptops -- that disappoints. I think I can step in, as crowded as the field is, and provide some especially helpful guidance.

In preparation for this relaunch, I've been doing some shopping. Analysis to come.