Comics is a social industry, more social than any other I can think of. Ever since I’ve been in the industry, writers, artists, editors, and fans have interacted on message boards, forums, blogs, and now Facebook and Twitter. The co-mingling of creators and consumers is unique in creative industries, and it is one of the aspects of the comics world that makes it so much fun to work in. It’s also frequently a source of major dramaz, as the kids say.
When I started working in comics in 2001, message boards, especially The Comics Journal board, were where most of the conversations -- and arguments -- took place. I frequented the boards on Sequential Tart to discuss comics from a female point of view and Delphi Forums were all the rage for a little while for some reason, but activity on those diminished at as the blog format and the news aggregator came into maturity.
Now, there are new places for comics professionals and readers to interact -- Facebook and Twitter. The most striking aspect of these sites is the commingling of the professional and the personal. Tweets about inking techniques, slushpiles, deadlines, and the latest Wednesday acquisitions are found amidst 140-character updates about meals, TV shows, concerts, pets, and children. On Facebook, links to reviews and comments about the industry are on walls along with family photos.
Some people have devoted their Twitter or Facebook pages solely to their professional lives or have locked down their personal feeds, but more often than not the separation between work life and “life” has been narrowed drastically, if not obliterated. On the upside, when readers get a more personal connection to comics professionals, it strengthens the already strong connection readers have with their hobby. Also, since conversations take place in a more personal place, without anonymity, disagreements tend to be less ugly and don’t as often devolve into “flame wars.” (I mean, really, when was the last time you even heard that term?) On the downside, when professionals’ don’t have separate places for their public and private selves, there is no separation between work life and life.
This can get ugly once in a while. A while ago, I tweeted what a normal workday gripe toward the end of a busy day, something about being tired of doing book production and wishing for a break from it. One of my followers replied sarcastically, “That really makes me want to read and SLG book!” -- whereupon I kind of lost my temper. “I’m not some kind of spokesmodel for SLG, okay?! I’m a real person who sometimes gets tired during a work day!” I ranted in my allotted characters, adding a few choice expletives. (One of the artists I’ve worked with replied with, “Whoa, Jennifer!”)
But I realized that the there’s no dividing professional and personal once that wall has been broken down, and in comics, that wall is nothing but drywall to begin with. Once your life is in comics, it’s in comics.