Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Vault's First Anniversay Flashback

Just one short year ago, your lives, and the lives of everyone you know, have known or will ever know, changed in an instant when The Vault went live. Yes, it's true: a year ago today, August 8, 2009, The Vault premiered with an introduction and three brief articles highlighting new comics, old comics and one of the worst summer blockbusters of the year, G. I. Joe (which was still better than anything Transformers has yet put on celluloid).

That means that today, of course, is The Vault's first anniversary, so in order to celebrate one year of comics, movies, random opinions and internet meltdowns (for a fairly impressive total of 203 posts), we're going to have a collective Flashback where we look back at some of the highlights and lowlights of The Vault's first year, while also peeking into the future to see what might be coming up on the horizon.

If that sentence was too long for you to navigate, don't worry: the juice is about to flow, so sit back and take a trip down memory lane with The Vault.

Special Features
While I've tried to provide some interesting recurring features for people to get invested in and look forward to (with varying degrees of success, as we shall see momentarily), most of my most popular posts have been special features, either one-shot essays or week-long events. Not all of these have been massive successes -- I was expecting a lot more interest in my groundbreaking essay Hawkeye Is Not A Whore, for example, and my In Defense of Fanboys rant fell on deaf ears, while I mangled the execution of my planned series on Comic Book Weddings -- but for the most part, the special features I've highlighted from time to time have been the most popular and debated content on The Vault.

With that in mind, here's a look at some of the most popular Special Features of the last year, with commentary where applicable.

6) Quest for the FFF -- This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I had originally hoped to turn this into a long-running, ongoing series, where I would hopefully be tasked by Marvel with missions in order to achieve the title of Fearless Front Facer; I thought this would be a fun way to incorporate some video onto my site and build up a bit of an audience as well. I got a ton of hits the first couple days, but Stan Lee doesn't mess around; he ended up giving me the title after about two days, putting the kibosh on my grand plans. Still, getting an email from Stan Lee was pretty awesome.

5) Marvel's Great Licensing Experiment -- This was the first weeklong feature I did; focusing on Marvel's licensed properties like Rom, I explored how they interacted with the Marvel Universe as a whole for better or for worse. I still get readers occasionally who found the site looking for information on Rom.

4) Presidents in Comics One of my more esoteric efforts, this overview of presidential appearances in comics books. There are really too many to give as much details as I would have liked, but I'm pretty happy with the results. I also got a massive boost in hits because of this, when some Tea Party crackhead decided to attack Captain America #602; in the resulting debate, someone linked to the section about Ronald Reagan in comics, and I received nearly a thousand visitors in one day.

3) The Greatest Avengers Stories Ever Told -- A subject near and dear to my heart, this was undoubtedly the easiest special feature I have written as I know most of these stories backwards and forwards. It's also proven to be one of the most popular features on the site, thanks in part to the fact that the Avengers are Marvel's most popular characters these days.

2) The Real Top 70 Covers in Marvel History -- Nothing drives traffic for my site, though, as much as this rundown of the Top 70 covers in Marvel history. I started this because I wanted to provide an antidote to the craptastic "official" list Marvel had posted; I'm not even sure that's still available, and I probably would rank my own list slightly differently if I had to do it over, but this is one of the most fun things I've done and certainly the most popular.

1) Women in Spandex -- This essay, which was a commentary about the way female characters (and by extension, female fans to a degree) are treated both within comics and within the comics community. It still holds the mark for most comments on my actual comment page with nine (as opposed to my facebook page, where a lot of people comment instead). The article was picked up by several interested fan sites and communities online, but it's at number one on my list mainly because since this was published last October, I've literally gotten hits every single day from people googling the phrase "women in spandex." That was certainly an unintended side effect, and I should note that many of them have weird qualifiers on their search parameters, like "fat women in spandex" or "old women in spandex." Just why they want to find these things is something you can decide for yourselves, but if you want to read the essay that kicked it off, now's your chance.

Ongoing Features
Over the last year, I've launched a number of ongoing features. Of course, the problem with ongoing features is that they're ongoing, something that I haven't always quite been able to pull off (more on this later). But I have managed to keep somewhat up to date with a few regular and semi-regular features, so here's a look at some of them, along with commentary on how (un)effective they have have been so far.

Breaking the Fourth Wall -- This series chronicling my efforts to break into the comics business was actually supposed to be the heart of The Vault when I launched the website. However, once I got hired by the folks over at Moviefone, I kind of ran out of free time to put towards working on comics projects. Hopefully at some point those efforts -- and this feature -- will resume, but for now it's more or less dormant (with one small exception that you will see in the near future).

New Comic Cavalcade -- The only problem with this series of new comics reviews that that I really only read a few titles, so it doesn't have the scope I'd like. Of course, now that Marvel is pushing out upwards to three trillion Avengers books every month there's a bit more variety. But I would like to find a way to get a better selection in the future.

Tales From the Vault -- This is the feature that has the most entries, at 21, and correspondingly the fewest readers. I'm not sure if anyone actually cares to read back issues along with me, but it's kind of fun, so as long as I can find interesting old comics to feature, I'll continue to make fun of them.

Seven Questions -- This is probably my favorite feature, because I get to pick the brains of comics pros about their creative process. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to land many interviews recently -- a couple folks I thought would sign on declined for whatever reason -- but hopefully sometime soon I'll have more interviews to bring you.

Voices From Artists Alley -- This is kind of a cool idea; basically I go to comic shows and interview all the independent guys and gals about the small press stuff they are publishing. Strange but true: I recently went on a blind date with someone who turned out to be a close friend of a horror writer who I interviewed for this feature. So don't be surprised if my severed head ends up in the next issue of that indie comic you're checking out.

Ask the Vault -- You ask me questions, I provide answers. This is kind of random, because I can't control how many questions I get asked, but it's fun to do. If I thought I could get more questions I'd run this feature more often, but some times I really have to scrape and beg just to get three, so for now it will have to just be every two or three months. So stop sucking, readers!

Great Moments in Comics -- Sometimes, stuff happens in comics that I just have to tell you all about. But since these often are just a scene or two rather than an entire comic, I came up with Great Moments for stuff too short to fit into Tales From the Vault. My favorite is undoubtedly still the Boy Comics Amputation Scheme, but I suspect that most of my readers prefer the Jon Sable Dance-Off. You'll be seeing a new entry in this feature soon; I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say it involves Captain Savage and a slew of women's clothing.

Holiday Specials -- When a holiday rolls around, assuming I have the time I like to highlight it with a look at covers or stories detailing that holiday. People seem to enjoy this one, but I think it's mainly because they aren't at work; the retrospective of Santa-themed covers seems to have been the most popular.

Lettercolumn Classics -- I just started this latest feature, about some of the crazy nonsense and intense arguments that have taken place in lettercolumns of the past. The feature spotlighting the Sgt. Fury letter page brawl over the treatment of Nazis in comics is probably the highlight to date.

Okay, so not every ongoing feature I've come up with has turned out to be a winner. Here are three that didn't go quite as well as I had planned.

Zuda -- Zuda, of course, is an online comics site owned by DC which gives creators a forum to debut new titles, which are then voted on by readers for a chance to get an ongoing deal. It seemed like a great idea to review these, but there were two problems: a) the comics weren't very interesting and b) nobody gives a crap. I gave up after a couple months.

Warlord Reviews -- I vowed to review every single issue of Warlord until people started buying it, yet I haven't posted any Warlord reviews since #11 came out months ago. Why? Well, it's because Warlord has been canceled, that's why; in fact, I just piked up the final issue, #16, last week. Have no fear, though: I'm still going to review the last five issues even though it's very clear that nobody else give a flying monkey about it.

Decade in Review -- At the beginning of the year, I ambitiously set out to write a series of essays about the state of comics over the decade that has just ended, the trends, the ups, the downs, the whatevers. Turns out these are really long and hard to write, so I kind of never got around to writing more than just the first three essays (about speculators, movies and event books). Who knows, maybe you'll still see more of these at some point; in fact, here's the list of topics I was going to write about -- Rise of the Writer; Decline in Sales; Return of Self-Publishing; Old Favorites Become New Powerhouses; The Future of Comics -- so if you want to see one of these, let me know which one I should write first and I'll be sure to procrastinate on that one specifically.

So that's it: the first year of The Vault. And, of course, I couldn't have done it without you guys, the readers. Actually, I could have, it just would have been as pointless as everyone else's blog. So before you sign off from today's epic waste of energy, take a few moments to vote in these polls I've attempted to set up and let me know what your favorite Vault features to date have been and what you'd like to see me do in the future.

And keep reading those comics, folks.

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I have really enjoyed your blog. You certainly bring a unique perspective to the table.

I hope that you'll have many more years of The Vault, with the readership climbing to match the quality of your work!

Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate the feedback.