End of Summer
 
THOUGHTS AT THREE A.M.
by editor I forgot my name

DISCUSSED HERE: About us not publishing next month … A funny story about my fiancee … Ruminations about modern comic book collecting … Last Month's Quizlet … The Superboy site being the first of a DC crackdown on fan sites or not? … Babylon 5 news! … Fanzing's month of celebrations … and a final plea.

Sorry there wasn't a column last month, but I was really late in publishing that issue and I'm trying to get these issues out on time. The reason is that I have to get these out on schedule (or as closely as possible) so that the way is clear for my wedding on May 15.

My wedding will have several effects on the future of Fanzing.

First of all, Fanzing will not be published in June. The plans, wedding, honeymoon and moving into an apartment together will consume most of May and part of June! Thus I've made this issue extra big (more features, more fiction) to hold you over. I know that missing an issue is still going to be a frustration. But before you protest, let me point out many of the good things that will come out of the delay:

  1. Fanzing's staff and contributors have this opportunity to get everything in early for the July issue, so I've finally had a chance to set an earlier due date. From now on, the due date will always be the 20th of each month. That way, I'll always have at least ten days to get the magazine assembled and published.
  2. The art contest (the swimsuit competition) is running for three months! That means that the July issue will be overflowing with swimsuit contest entries! In fact, I've already received as many entries as last month's contest did in total!
  3. Same goes for the new writing challenge (be sure to check it out!). Writers will have a month to write without having to juggle other Fanzing projects.
  4. You have a chance to get caught up on previous issues of Fanzing. All of Fanzing's contributors have been eager for more feedback. Why not write into us with your thoughts on whatever you've just read?!
Of course, the best thing about this "marriage thing" is that I'll be married from now on! That means that for my monthly "Fanzing week" I can get to work on the mag without losing an hour or two to making dinner and dealing with dishes. And before you charge me with blatant sexism, I should make it clear that this is an arrangement and I'll be cooking plenty of meals for Melinda the rest of the month!


Ah yes, Melinda. I need to tell you a little story about her. See, Melinda isn't an avid comic reader, but she's been very supportive of my hobby. She's even read a few of my Trade Paperbacks…and she STARTED with Kingdom Come, if you can believe that!

I put her to the test in late April when I attended "MicroCon" in Bloomington (a northeastern suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul). She came with me and I was wondering how long it would take before she was bored out of her mind and begging to go home. To my surprise, she snatched my "Wants List" of the few remaining Elongated Man appearances I didn't have in my collection yet and proceeded to track them down at table after table!

We walked past the guest tables. By now (my third con), I've seen Dan Jurgens and Gordon Purcell and Gene Ha. I think they must be Minneapolis natives (actually, I know the first two certainly are) because they're always at every con here. I didn't have anything new to say, although I was amazed as always at Gene's talent. Melinda and I saw him doing some awesome artwork as he sat at the table. It was odd to see that Gene didn't have fans waiting at the moment; don't these people know how talented this guy is? I should have told him how good his guest artwork in "Starman" was, but I didn't. I'll have to remember at FallCon.

Melinda noticed that Purcell had some X-Files illustrations on his table. She LOVES X-Files, so she bought a couple X-Files comics from a nearby vendor and had him sign them.

Melinda and I are looking into getting a table at FallCon. I'm not sure how much it costs or if it would be worth it, but we're going to try. I could use the opportunity to hand out Fanzing fliers, too!


Flier #2 Speaking of Fanzing Fliers, Bill Wiist has designed this new flier for Fanzing. It's simple but makes its point well. You'll always be able to find it on our "Promote Fanzing" link.

If you'd like to design a flier for Fanzing, feel free to contact me and I'll give you the specifics of what we need.


Looking at the comics at MicroCon brought some surprises. Silver Age values appear to be rising again, which is good. What is disappointing is seeing that most comics published in the last decade are in long boxes, unbagged and sold at less than cover price.

I don't think we'll really see another era where comics are worth a lot simply because of their age. Up until the 1980s, most comics were aimed at kids. Thus, the majority ended up stomped on bedroom floors, sliced apart for X-Ray Specs order forms, folded, bent, ripped, etc. Only a small percentage of the comics were well cared for and an even smaller percentage were intentionally preserved by collectors.

In the 80s, when comics matured and the audience became young adults (who, collectors or not, are less abusive) a much larger percentage of comics sold ended up in Good or better condition. And in these days of the collectors' economy, the percentage of comics sold which DON'T immediately go into a polybag is minimal.

Is it possible to undo this? Not really. MAYBE if comics were still newsprint and thus could be treated like a newspaper. But we're past the age where comic books are comparable to penny candy. At $1.95-$2.50+ per comic, that's an investment. As a fraction of a kid's allowance, that's three candy bars and a soda you have to sacrifice in order to afford it.

Now, I'm not saying that Ron Marz's latest issue of Green Lantern doesn't deserve to be bent, dogeared and stomped on…it's just not likely to happen.

The few comics which generate a high demand now get reprinted or collected into a Trade Paperback. And the TPBs are often cheaper than buying the original book! What's the point of owning the original Kingdom Come Prestige Format books when the TPB has an epilogue, bonus art and a "behind the scenes" section for $5+ LESS than the original comic books cost?

Collecting as we know it is becoming a dead hobby. Many back issues fetch less than the cover price. There are some new comics which are in high demand, but most of these are artificial demands created by the companies and the comic shops (we've all heard the stories of the comic shop with hundreds of copies of X-whatever in the back). Silver Age and Golden Age comics will still be valuable, but buying comics today will mainly be for entertainment value.


LAST MONTH'S QUIZLET RESULTS:

Q: Which character deserves a 12-issue Prestige maxi-series? (of 500 respondents)
24% Ultra the Multi-Alien
5% Egg Fu
29% Mogo the planet Green Lantern
14% Mr. Tawky Tawny
20% Big Sir and Major Disaster
8% Reverb (Vibe's brother)


April was a frantic month for people with fan sites on the Web. A Superboy web page received a legal notice from the Warner Brothers legal department about copyright infringement and this person and his friends have made a huge stink about a sudden wave of Warner Brothers cracking down on fan sites. Of course, Fanzing and numerous other web sites then received panicky letters wondering if we'd be shut down too.

To date, Fanzing has received nothing but support from people affiliated with DC. They certainly know of our existence, so we're hardly flying under the radar. Fanzing was founded by DC's current webmaster, for one thing. Of course, that would mean zilch if DC's Legal Eagles do indeed start cracking down, but Marc Campbell would at least let us know about such a change in policy.

I think the webmaster for the Superboy site panicked. While a legal notice is never written in friendly terms, it was not a harassing note, either (the text is on the web). There were some legitimate legal concerns which the Superboy site had failed to meet. Had he fixed the things that need fixing and questioned a few of the legal department's other concerns, the site could most likely have stayed up.

One of the concerns was that there was a disclaimer on the main page but that it needed to be on every page. You'll notice that Fanzing has numerous copyrights and disclaimers throughout the mag. In June, after I get settled in, I'm going to do a sweep through the site and see where else some stronger disclaimers may be needed.

Another concern was that the Daily Planet logo was used on the site. I can tell you from the experience of Ed Dillon that DC Legal has always been protective of this particular trademark. It seems to send up a red flag for them; I'm not sure, but I think they may be planning to put up a Daily Planet web site and that would necessitate stamping out pretenders to the throne. Ed Dillon's "DC HQ" used to be called "The Daily Planet". He received a Legal Notice worded the same as the one the Superboy site received, and he promptly renamed the site. Situation resolved, DC was happy and they let him keep the site up.

The above two concerns lead me to believe that there is no new "DC Crackdown"; this is simply a case of a site which had not drawn their attention before. When it did, DC raised two standard objections of minimum requirements which they have maintained for a long time for all fan sites. The Superboy Site, while it has my sympathies and I encourage it to try complying with the rules, is only hurting things for everyone by spreading fears that DC is abolishing fan sites. DC may only crack down on offenders in spurts, but they are not enforcing any rules that weren't there before. DC's very lenient standards continue. (The Daily Planet logo may be out, but Superman and Batman symbols are abundant, for example.)

The third issue was rather mystifying. They objected to the Superboy site's newsroom, which gave tidbits of info on upcoming DC events. I don't see how this is any different than what Wizard and ComicBookResources and hundreds of other sites do. I think this one needs to be questioned; perhaps DC Legal could have elucidated about how this is a problem for them.

HOWEVER, there is one worrisome element to the fourth issue. Advertising. DC Legal objects to advertising on the site. According to the Superboy site, this was in reference to the Geocities symbols and/or pop-up banners.

This either demonstrates a remarkable lack of knowledge on the part of DC Legal about how the Web works, or they have changed the way they interpret the "not for profit" clause. If they don't re-think this, there isn't a single web site which could meet their standards. In order to use any free (Geocities, Xoom, etc) or discounted (such as Fanzing's server, Easyspace) web space, a credit must be given to the server which has been generous enough to share that space with you. I'm happy to put a small banner on every page in exchange for getting 100 megs of space for only $99/year. But if even that advertising is pooh-poohed by DC Legal, we're all in trouble.

Server links/banners aside, we all swap links and use Link Exchange banners. These would also be verboten if such a rule is applied. I'm really wondering how strict they are going to be about this.

I'm going to make a bold statement here. "Not for Profit" should mean just that. Server space needs to be paid for and any advertising needed to pay for space is justified. How is it different from putting "Thanks to Kinko's for the free paper and copying service" or "Thanks to Mikey's House of Comics for handing out our fanzine. Stop in sometime!" on your paper fanzine that you distribute for free. Until you can show that you spent $10 and made $11, you aren't profiting.

Fanzing operates at a loss. We spend $99/year on server space and $35/year on the domain name…and if you want to get technical, it's another $20/month for my internet connection and e-mail, which are essential to run it. The domain/server come out of my pocket (and the pockets of a few of Fanzing's biggest staff members, who were kind enough to help out with a monetary gift). A few months ago we started an Amazon bookstore linking to all of the dozens of DC Comics paperbacks and hardcovers, which has earned DC lots of profit and has made about $15 in referral fees for Fanzing. I'd say that's well into the "not for profit" category! While it does highlight a single bookstore (Amazon, as opposed to Barnes and Noble and numerous others), it helps DC to make money and all it does for us is a drop in the bucket of our Internet expenses. If there ever came a time where thousands of people read Fanzing and many more people bought things from Amazon to the point that we reaped over $134/year, then we'd need to think about what we could do to remain firmly non-profit (Perhaps buying DC Comic books to donate to childrens' hospitals?)…but until then, DC probably won't rock a boat which is earning them revenues.

In contrast, I've decided to remove the link to "Cellar of Comics" and any others which might be advertising a for-profit company which doesn't benefit DC. Better safe than sorry! We never got a penny from them anyway.

If you see a DC Trade Paperback on Amazon and would like to add it to our bookstore so that other DC fans can buy it from there, please e-mail us so that we can add it to the list. In this current comics market, it's important for us to support both the industry and our favority comic book company, DC Comics!


From http://babylon5.acmecity.com/lurker/2/news.shtml:

"TNT has scheduled encore showings of the Babylon 5 TNT Originals. Please note the times and dates and be sure to check the TNT schedule prior to the actual airdates."

In the Beginning airs on Wednesday, June 9 at 4 am ET/PT
Crusade premieres on Wednesday, June 9 at 10 pm ET/PT
A Call to Arms airs on Wednesday, June 9 at 11 pm ET/PT
Thirdspace airs on Thursday, June 10 at 1 am ET/PT
River of Souls airs on Thursday, June 10 at 3 am ET/PT

Michael again! Just thought you should know that "A Call To Arms" is the preview movie for the new "Crusade" series which has already been canceled by TNT (before the show even begins, due to creative differences). If the new Crusade series does very well in the ratings, there's a chance TNT will change its mind or another outlet (Sci-Fi?) may pick it up. For this same reason, it's important that viewership for all four of these movies be surprisingly high! Even if you've seen them, watch them again!

"Thirdspace", in which a gargantuan evil artifact is recovered and brought to Babylon 5, is really cool. "River of Souls" is interesting, although surprisingly frivolous; worth watching for Martin Sheen, though. "In the Beginning" is absolutely fantastic; I think even non-B5 fans would like it. It has some of the best space battles in Babylon 5 history.


What an amazing four weeks it's been! I'm getting married. Louise Freeman Davis just announced that she's expecting a second child a few weeks before the year 2000! Chaim Mattis Keller was one day late in getting in his stuff; then he explained that he was witnessing the birth of his new little girl earlier that Sunday! (I can't believe he came home from one of the greatest events of his life and then worked on his articles; I don't think I'm that devoted to it!) And Mark Gillins just got made an Eagle Scout.


One final thing. As I mentioned earlier, ALL of Fanzing's contributors are eager for attention. While occasional fiction stories or interviews with pros will generate letters, comments about our regular columns (the DCU Digest newspaper, Comics Cabana, JLA Casebook, Hall of Justice, DCU 101, Brainstorm's Corner…) have gotten almost NO response in the last 16 issues!

I'm hoping that you might use this short hiatus to respond to some of those columns. It's very frustrating to work all month on something and then not get ANY feedback! I know what that's like; I've had several major Fanzing projects that gobble up all my free time and when they're posted hundreds of people see them…and none of them comment! The same frustrations are being felt by a lot of our loyal contributors who have turned in enjoyable columns month after month and never hear from you guys. Many fanzines and fan fiction sites have lost disheartened contributors who left never knowing if their work was being enjoyed by a single person!

This magazine is free; the only reward is knowing that one's work is appreciated. So after you read a column or a feature, click on that picture of the Flash to send us an e-mail or swing by the forum and discuss your impressions with the columnist!

Same goes for the artwork. Commentary on art submissions has been skimpy, despite the fact that we have several artists who are on the verge of breaking into professional comic artistry. We don't even get comments on the art contest results! Artists are humans too, so I'm told. I'm sure they like a bit of praise too, now and again.

Jeremy Greene has designed new headers for Hall of Justice and the Letters Page, which you'll see in a minute. Be sure to send in comments and suggestions on that, too!

Okay, that's enough pestering, I guess.

This column is © 1999 Michael Hutchison.
 
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