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Monday, January 08, 2007 

Comics Buyer's Guide, vehicle for lip service

An interesting comment by a visitor at The Beat blog about the state of Comics Buyer's Guide magazine:
CBG used to be a very important publication, but in the early 1990s it clearly made a conscious descision to minimize coverage of “bad news” about comics. As ad sales dwindled it played to the publishers more and more until it largely became a product placement vehicle and an uncritical cheerleader for the comics industry. CBG used to be a forum where industry professionals would argue about current issues affecting the industry. Today it is silent on such issues. When publishers screw writers and artists, no word of it appears in CBG. When Crossgen began its slow yearlong death rattle and slide towards ultimate bankruptcy, all CBG printed about Crossgen were press releases about the wonderful things Crossgen had in the works. Everywhere except in CBG you could learn the latest Crossgen gissip (which unlike some gossip, was actually true). Even after Crossgen collapsed there was no article examining what had gone wrong with the company, just a little squib about how Crossgen had closed its doors. Instead we get things like an entire issue of CBG extolling the virtues of CGC (one of its advertisers). Back in the 1980s The Comics Journal used to criticize CBG for being a shill for Marvel and DC. I felt that at the time this was an unfair exaggeration. But lo and behold, little by little it came true until today CBG is really no different from WIZARD (which is frequently criticized for doing the same things CBG routinely does). It is impossible to get a true overview of the comic book industry today by reading CBG. Twenty years ago it was one of the only places to get the unvarnished news about the comics industry. The publication is as different now as night is from day even though it has the same publisher and editor. What happened to CBG didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen and its toothless reporting marginalizes it completely from the industry as it exists today. If it wasn’t for the internet and the news sites found here, the emptiness that CBG has become wouldn’t be so paintfully obvious, but this change began before the Internet became the source for breaking news. CBG abandoned their responsibikity in this area long before it was exclipsed by the Internet.
Speaking as someone who's only read a small portion of CBG myself, at least in print (while Previews is sold at the two stores I've bought comics from in Tel Aviv, CBG is not), if that's so, then I obviously didn't miss much. This sums up many of the problems with today's printed coverage of comics - it's not telling anything from a critical, objective perspective about comic books today, in contrast to most movie, television and music coverage. A few years ago, I was in Jim Hanley's Universe store, which is located right across from the Empire State Building in NYC, where I found one of the few opportunities I've had to read their magazine, and I guess the above explains why whatever I did find in the pile of issues they had there has pretty much left my memory by now.

If magazines like these were to be genuinely objective in their approach, regardless of what their own ad sales were like, maybe people outside of comics would take the whole medium more seriously. CBG's (and Wizard's) non-critical approach could explain why they don't. And that's the problem with whatever coverage comes out of the mainstream press about comics today - it's half-hearted, and the deeper facts and problems, which could be or are similar to other entertainment venues, remain all but invisible to the wider public.

Just a few years ago, CBG went from weekly to monthly, but beyond that, I doubt that they're any different from Wizard.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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