My Top Comic Websites and Critics of 2013

While everyone else is busy focusing on these ‘comics’ things, I’m going to instead look at a more important and significantly far less paid element of the comics industry – the sites and reporters who have been having the best year, and doing the most things. BEAR IN MIND I do work for some of these people, so obviously you’re going to get to enjoy a wild bias here. I won’t mention The Beat or CBR specifically cos of that – but I do like both, OBVIOUSLY.

Firstly, this was the year when comics criticism took eight or nine shots to the belly, with Comics Alliance, iFanboy, MTV Geek, SFX, Q Magazine, Blog@Newsarama and several other websites and publications all going under in 2013. Comics Alliance returned, and iFanboy have continued on as a podcast – but this was a year when half of all the paid jobs in comics criticism got cancelled. Luckily some people have managed to find new work, which is great news. But, still…

There was quite a bit of shuffling. Graeme McMillan left Blog@Newsarama – which has just now, on checking, been wiped from the site – this year, and moved across to Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision. Albert Ching also moved from Newsarama, to ComicBookResources; and Hannah Means-Shannon went to Bleeding Cool from The Beat, and has just this week been promoted into their third paid role, as Editor in Chief! Awesome. Paul Montgomery headed to Marvel.com from iFanboy, and was joined by others like Brett White and Andrew Wheeler.

Janelle Asselin has taken up a prominent residence at Comics Alliance, along with Kate Leth, whilst Henry Barajas left The Beat to join The Tucson Weekly. Zainab Akhtar finished her role at Forbidden Planet (although still pitches up at The Beat) in order to work on her own blog Comics & Cola. The New York Times set up a comics section called Parallel Worlds, which lasted not too long before being shuffled away. David Brothers and Ron Richards joined Image Comics, and Tucker Stone joined NoBrow.

There was, basically, a lot of moving. Jonah Weiland and Heidi MacDonald and Tom Spurgeon and Lucas Siegel and Joe Hughes and Johanna Draper Carlson are all basically still the main folks of comics, and everyone else has been wandering around underneath their umbrellas.

Where was the best coverage this year? Here’s my list:

Multiversity
I only caught onto Multiversity this year, but this seemed to be the year in which the site really grabbed attention and held onto it. With a friendly, fun approach to comics and a daily reporting schedule AND reviews list, it’s a site which welcomes every kind of comics, is approachable, and has great interviews and features. Theirs was the best mainstream comics coverage of the year.

Jim Zub
Writer Jim Zub started doing comics tutorials last year, which stretched across into 2013. Taking each aspect of making comics and breaking it down into easy pieces, his writing explained breaking in, hiring people, contracts, marketing, pacing – just about anything you need to know about making comics. It was essential.

Robot6
Every year, it’s the most important blog for comics. Every. Single. Year. Brigid Alverson’s posts on the blog are especially essential reading.

Andrew Wheeler
Comics Alliance has managed to establish their writers in a way no other group-written site have been able to. They’ve got a number of notable writers, and Andrew Wheeler first came through into massive prominence, for me, with his Avengers Vs X-Men recaps. This year he also handled snoozefest Infinity for the site, and wrote a number of really strong and insightful editorial pieces for the site.

Andy Oliver
Utterly tireless, Andy Oliver’s column Small Pressganged over at Broken Frontier has been a keen advocate for creator made and small press comics, and this year celebrated a second anniversary. He’s been thoroughly relevant as a journalist, a constant presence for the British comics industry, and a great writer.

The Outhousers
It’s been a big year for The Outhousers website. The most obvious thing this year was their squabbling at DC Comics, which led to them setting up a ‘How long has it been since DC did something stupid?’ ticker which got a lot of attention. And the rest of their site has been fun. I still find it a little irritating that there’s nothing marking out their Onion-style parody pieces aside from their reports and interviews – but the site has had a banner year. I know they catch a lot of flack from people online, and they don’t deserve it. The Outhousers is an authentic independent voice for comics, and one which we need. I think they’re great.

Matt Wilson
Also at Comics Alliance. Matt doesn’t get the attention, perhaps, that some of the other writers do, but his articles are some of the best that site has offered. He’s an extremely sharp and thorough reporter, first and foremost. Sometimes Comics Alliance hires people who coast on their voice and don’t have much substance or range to them, but this year that’s been shut down rather noticeably – the result being that the last few months have seen their best work, with Matt writing a number of op-ed pieces which offered a challenging, thoroughly interesting look at the industry.

Forbidden Planet
Led by Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet is possibly the best written and busiest comics blog around. Always offering new stories on interesting and entertaining comics, the site looks at stories and creators first, and ignores all the politics and nonsense which characterises some of the other websites. I’m, personally, in awe of everything that writers like Richard Bruton do, and they’re admired and respected by EVERYBODY. There isn’t a person in comics who doesn’t admire Forbidden Planet’s blog.

Zainab Akhtar
Don’t tell her this, because she’ll be unbearably bouncy and never stop telling me about it – but Zainab was the comics critic of the year – she had an incredible rise, marked by her own hard work, fun writing, and great curation. She moved from her own blog to Forbidden Planet, and then The Beat, and ultimately went back to her own blog, which has maintained a sense of prominence which sits it alongside 4thletter, The Comics Journal, and Comics Reporter. She’s become a presence in comics criticism, and I get the sense that creators and other critics all really support and trust her judgements.

I asked Twitter for their responses, as part of an informal poll:

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Who would your answers be? Have I forgotten people and places? Almost certainly. Cheer on your favourites in the comments! Comics reporting and writing is a thankless, unpaid, unending job, taken on by people who are clearly suffering from some kind of brain injury. Comments and thumbs up are their only source of nourishment – please provide them whenever you see something you love!
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