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Baker's Dozen
Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.

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BAKER'S DOZEN for 08/01/2007
The Shape of Things Begun... and Hints of What's to Come

Mike Gold on the recent past, the present state and the possible futures of www.ComicMix.com

Mike Gold has been involved in the business of entertaining and informing readers for a good three decades now. Whether it was serving as a founder and editorial director for the nigh-legendary First Comics, working as an editor and editorial director at DC Comics, or overseeing Classic Illustrated line as Publisher, this award-winning editor and writer has been involved with an astonishing number of critically acclaimed and ground breaking comic book projects over the years, including Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Grimjack, Jon Sable Freelance and American Flagg!

More recently he's begun applying his formidable talents as an editor and writer in a new online venture, www.ComicMix.com, with quite satisfying results. Still, as Mike explains below, as impressive and interesting as ComicMix's offerings might have been to date, we've only begun to see the fruits of his and his compatriots labors.

ComicMix.com

Bill Baker: Let's start with basic questions. What is ComicMix.com, and what are you folks trying to accomplish?

Mike Gold: Lots of people have brought the Internet to comics, and many have done an inspiring job. Our objective is a little more consuming and takes a lot more resources: we are trying to bring the entire world of comics to the Internet, to help the medium expand and reach out to its fullest potential [audience] and, ultimately, to bring the art of graphic storytelling to all demographics. They've got comics for 84 year old widowed grandmothers in Japan, classic erotica in Europe, sports comics in Britain... there's this whole world beyond capes and costumes and as an American I'm jealous as all get out. Not to say ComicMix will turn its back on superheroes; that's part of the medium. But I want people to know that movies like Road To Perdition were based upon comics, too, and then I want them to find that sort of stuff with ease. They'll be able to do all of that -- the news, opinion, information and data, and comics -- at ComicMix.com.

BB: Who are some of the people behind the scenes helping to make all that a reality?

MG: We've got a fantastic staff and talent pool; really, some of the best around. But when it comes to making ComicMix a reality, the list starts and stops with my partners. Brian Alvey, until recently a vice-president at AOL and co-founder of the Weblogs Inc. network, heads up our tech side. He's amazing; I don't think I've learned more from one single individual in three decades. Glenn Hauman and I have been working together since before they invented water. He's run the production on my own company's projects, he runs comics creators' websites, he writes Star Trek and X-Men prose, he's a breath mint, he's a floor-wax, and he's the bon vivant of New Jersey.

BB: So how did you, personally, get you get involved, why did you decide to join the ComicMix.com team, and what are some of the different tasks you do for the site?

MG: Well, this started off as a coincidence. I was getting tired of packaging comics for sundry publishers and since my political commitments and my work in the youth social services field was winding up, I was looking for a more creative and energizing way to spend the next chunk of my life. I had been developing some ideas on how to merge the comics field with the Internet since about 1998, and the whole broadband thing had finally grown to the point where it made some of those ideas possible. So I turned to Glenn and said the most dangerous words that one can utter: "You know, I've been thinking" and I outlined my ideas. Glenn responded "funny you should mention" and he had detailed his thoughts on the same subject. Our concepts dovetailed perfectly.

My job title is editor-in-chief, and in addition to being part of the ruling triumvirate I oversee all things editorial. We run cooperatively with as little bureaucracy as possible -- otherwise, Brian, Glenn and I would have stayed in Corporate America. But when it comes to all content issues, the buck stops at my desk. Then I pick it up and spend it.

BB: How does this compare with some of your past positions? Is it all pretty much the same kind of work for you, or are you using some new muscles, so to speak, in this new project?

MG: I'm learning a lot about the Internet. I mean, I thought I knew quite a lot, but damn, I'm a babe in the woods. The editorial muscles have always been there; I've been editing since the Middle Ages and I know the first trick to being a good editor is to bring in really, really great talent so they can make me look good. There's a lot of risk-taking in the position, but it's a hell of a lot easier to take those risks on the Internet with its global reach than it is in print, where without the proper promotion, marketing and distribution support you're totally screwed.

BB: What skills from those old jobs have served you best in this new endeavor? Any surprises on that front?

MG: I'm doing a lot more writing than I had been for a while; particularly news writing. The opinion stuff comes to me like spit from Daffy Duck's beak, but the news writing is a throwback to my early days in both journalism and broadcasting. It took a few months for me to find that space between Journalism 101 style and blogging, and that's been a fun ride.

BB: So who is ComicMix's immediate target audience, and what does the site have to offer them at present?

MG: At the risk of sounding like Joseph Goebbels, today the fan base, tomorrow the world. In our few short months, we've focused on developing the media alongside that of comics: first movies and television, then we specialized a bit by adding Doctor Who coverage, now science fiction and fantasy and Asian cinema and so on. We've also gone topical by incorporating an awareness of our surroundings: we have adopted a very strong first amendment point of view -- with Glenn, Martha Thomases, Elayne Riggs, Denny O'Neil, John Ostrander, Michael Davis and me on board, that would be unavoidable -- we have reached out to writers who can speak to feminist and to gay and to other minority issues... all as they involve, either directly or indirectly, the comics art medium.

BB: I've noticed a lot of science fiction and fantasy-related links and info on the site of late. Is this a sign of things to come?

MG: There's a pun there somewhere. No, it's just ComicMix doing our outreach work. It looks like a lot right now, but that's partially because we're constantly reaching out to incorporate other media sub-groups and it's partially because our F&SF reporter, Andrew Wheeler, is so damn prolific.

BB: Will having those kinds of features have any impact on the comic-centric content of the site, or do you think that these seemingly-different topics work together synergistically?

MG: When I got active in the comics fan scene back in the 1960s, the guys who were a bit older than me grew up with a knowledge of American illustration, pulps, movie serials, newspaper comic strips, science fiction -- comics fandom was really an offshoot of science fiction fandom; ask Maggie Thompson [of Comic Buyers' Guide fame] -- mystery fiction, old time radio shows... our entire popular culture. As fandom became more important to the established publishers, fandom itself became more insular. A lot more insular. Not only did we turn our backs on our roots, but we cut ourselves off from the rest of the populace. In this sense, ComicMix is a culturally conservative force: we're bringing it all back home as we move forward using our deep high-tech abilities as a force for good. I don't know if I can actually cram any more clichés into that sentence, but I'd like to.

Also, we're going to make creators and intellectual property holders a lot of money.

BB: With that last bit of information in mind, I've been hearing rumblings and rumors that ComicMix will soon be offering some new and original webcomics. What new features and content will you be rolling out in the future that you can talk about now?

MG: I can neither confirm nor deny anything at this time.

BB: Well, if any of the above happens, are there any plans to move some of that work into print formats, or are you concerning yourselves strictly with online delivery of content to readers?

MG: We grew up with print, and we have no intention of abandoning it yet.

BB: What about a ComicMix magazine? Is that a possibility if things go according to plan?

MG: I'm not sure what the content would be, or how that content could add anything to what we're already doing online. I love magazine publishing; I've written for a bunch of them, I've edited more than a few. But the periodical doesn't have as much to offer the popular culture that can't be done faster and in more depth -- and more profitably -- online. I'd love to see some relevancy here, and I have always kept an open mind to new media. But as it applies to what we're doing, the magazine field needs to reinvent itself.

BB: What do you hope people get from the site? Is it all about entertainment, or are you hoping to accomplish some other things along with giving readers a fun way to pass some time?

MG: Our columnists have worked their point of view onto the site, and I think we've done some very thoughtful and provocative stuff. We're going to continue to expand upon this. There are no restrictions at Comic other than minimizing posting huge pictures of stuff that can get people fired. Then again, people aren't supposed to be goofing off at work. I'm always looking to expand our worldview. Just as I've worked with comics creators on projects that represent views different from mine, I would hope we will continue to allow columnists to address the entire spectrum of philosophy.

And, mostly, our readers should have a good time. That makes it a lot easier to make the world safe for comics art.

BB: What do you hope your contributors get from having their work on ComicMix, aside from having their work seen and read by a potentially larger audience than they might now be reaching?

MG: Rich. I want our contributors to get rich. And to produce stuff they've always wanted to do, and that they didn't even know they always wanted to do, and have it enjoyed by an audience that didn't know they always wanted to read it.

BB: How about you? What do you get from your work with the ComicMix.com crowd?

MG: Now that you mention it... I've got the ability to work with a lot of friends and make new friends. I work with truly superior people, when it comes to their craft. As editor-in-chief I'm like a kid at a candy store: there's so much great stuff, so many great people. I go back to the Gelasian Age with some of these folks -- I met John Ostrander at a party back in 1971. So I'm having a great time.

BB: Anything else you'd like to add before I let you get back to it?

MG: You ain't seen nuthin' yet. I think Warner Bros. has the trademark on that one...

******

If you've not yet availed yourself of the diverse offerings of www.Comicmix.com, do yourself a favor and check it out. Otherwise, you'll be depriving yourself of one of the more interesting and expansive online experiences available today. And, as Mike suggests in our talk above, there's a lot more coming sooner than later. It promises to be a wild and invigorating ride, folks -- and considering that its free, more than worth the price of admission.

<< 07/25/2007 | 08/01/2007 | 08/15/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me in World Famous Comics' General Forum.
Read my weekly blog, Speculative Friction, on my website BloodintheGutters.com.


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