The devourer of worlds has finally arrived… and fortunately for us all, he still hasn’t noticed the Ultimate Nullifier I’m hiding behind my back.
In Ambidextrous’ first interview, I pose a handful of questions to Silver Bullet Comics’ editor-in-chief Jason Brice, who reveals the true reason Galactus serves as his message board avatar, what it takes to run a fully dedicated comics website, and why SBC is the total package.
It’s self-aggrandizing and opportunistic, but you can’t resist its allure. Get comfortable and prepare to be enlightened.
Thomas: SBC message board posters are dying to know boss…why Galactus?
Brice: Choose from:
- I have an overinflated ego.
- I yearn to be the devourer of worlds.
- I like to be the center of attention.
- All of the above.
Thomas: I can relate. One thing I’ve always wondered in regards to comic websites… what kind of behind-the-scenes work is occurring without our knowledge? Explain to the readers what a day in the life of Jason Brice entails.
Brice: Here is how most weekdays go at the moment… I’m not an early riser, but getting up mid-morning and braving the 15 foot commute from my bedroom to my office (aka the spare room), the first thing I do is check my e-mail and load SBC to see what updates I need to do. Usually I’ll work for two hours or so, writing e-mails, uploading news stories, writing code and scripts for the site, before taking a break to go to the local bakery for lunch. The young women that work there know what I order… it’s familiar and reassuring, just like Cheers, but with baked goods instead of suds.
After lunch I’ll do more of the same, e-mails, coding, stories, but I’ll switch on my Instant Messaging programs so I can talk to my friends and contacts in the comics business, and shoot the breeze as needs be. In the late afternoon. My evenings are like most other folks, I guess… dinner, TV, reading, with a touch of mild sado-masochism, until about 11 PM when my better half retires to bed. From 11 PM to about 3 AM I’ll put in another shift working on the site or other projects. Then I sleep.
I keep pretty weird hours because I am in New Zealand and need to be online at times that’ll coincide with normal working hours in the US. I don’t mind, though, it’s nice and quiet at night and I can get a lot of work done.
Thomas: Sounds like you get to sit around and chill all day. Cool.
Brice: Well, the reason it sounds like I sit on my ass all day is because it is the middle of the summer break here, and my usual occupation is that of a student. I have just enrolled in courses for 2002 that will start me on my path towards a PhD.
I first studied at the University of Canterbury in the early nineties with majors in Economics and Political Science. After a year I figured out that they weren’t the disciplines I really wanted to study long term, so I switched to American Studies. Like a lot of folks in their early years, though, I guess I didn’t have the discipline to make studying my top priority…
Thomas: Hell, I don’t.
Brice: …and so I got distracted by various jobs I had. I wound up being a mail sorter for 3 years. After that I worked in a comics shop and then a cinema until I decided that I’d better go and do something vocational so I could get a decent job.
My second attempt at education garnered better results, and I got good marks in a Business Computing degree, but essentially that didn’t click either. So I went back to American Studies at Canterbury. In the middle of all of this I started up SBC, got married, and broke my back. You know… the typical stuff you do in your twenties!
My field of research is literature and phenomenological philosophy.
Thomas: I sense hard work. Speaking of, what qualities does one need in order to be an effective webmaster/editor-in-chief of a site like SBC?
Brice: A cunning mix of science and extreme violence. Seriously, the three most important skills are technical literacy, written literacy, and delegation. And schmoozing. The four most important aspects are technical literacy, written literacy, delegation, and schmoozing. And a sense of humor…
The FIVE most important aspects are technical literacy, written literacy, delegation, schmoozing, and a sense of humor… oh, you know, just about everything.
Thomas: I’m sure you’ll agree, but that sounds a lot like what’s necessary to survive college. Though I’m sure running SBC is much cooler. Something about term papers ruins the college experience for me. With that in mind, what’s the most frustrating aspect of running SBC and how does one deal with over-active columnists that live to antagonize the public?
Brice: Technical problems are the thing that make me pull out my hair the most, especially when it isn’t something I can personally fix. If the server crashes I’d like to be in the network operations center that houses it to give it a swift kick… or at least a gentle reboot.
The daily grind and the sometimes repetitive nature of the work can be a chore sometimes, but that said work is always what you make of it. It’s my job to make SBC something I enjoy doing and others enjoy reading. Even if that includes over-active columnists…
Thomas: Alternatively, what’s the coolest part of this gig?
Brice: Free stuff, and the time I was issued with a cease and desist order by Marvel Comics. That was cool. I knew people were really paying attention when that happened. Seeing the website quoted on the back of TPBs is very satisfying. I also really enjoy spending time on the message boards. The people that make SBC a community are terrific and I really appreciate their input and good humor.
Thomas: Marvel issued you what? Spill it Brice.
Brice: It’s kinda funny, really.
A few months back Rich suggested All The Rage readers follow a link that filtered a page at Marvel.Com through Pornalize.Com, a service which turns the text of any site into pretty explicit stuff. The gentleman who wrote the item that we pornalized thought it was pretty hilarious, but Marvel’s lawyers didn’t.
I got an e-mail from someone who’s @marvel.com e-mail address I didn’t recognize requesting my postal address and fax number. I asked a few people online if they knew who the e-mail address belonged to, but nobody knew. I responded to the request for my personal details saying that I’d like to know what it was regarding before disclosing that sort of information.
The person responded saying she was legal counsel at Marvel, and that they wanted to serve me with a cease and desist order for All The Rage. However, if I removed the content they wouldn’t have to…
Duh? Isn’t that the effect of a cease and desist, anyhow? So, I took it down, actually pretty pleased that we’d managed to fly onto Marvel’s radar at a corporate level, rather than just with isolated individuals.
Thomas: Yeah, maybe they’ll be so impressed with our sense of humor that they’ll begin sponsoring the site. Until then, who foots the bill for all of this cool stuff?
Brice: Gotham Comics sponsors the message boards, which is a great asset to SBC not only for their patronage, but it means that we are making an impact by drawing people here in New Zealand into the international comics community. The readers help pay for the site by clicking on the banners everyday. You do click on them, don’t you?
Thomas: Yeah, yeah, of course we click on the banners. What type of ingrates do you take us for?
Brice: Anything else comes out of my pocket, but luckily that is becoming less of a frequent occurrence.
Thomas: That’s good to know. I’ve found universities are very serious about collecting their tuition. When not setting the academic world afire or lighting one underneath Marvel’s legal team…what is Jason Brice doing? What products of multimedia are making your head spin right now?
Brice: Well, I never used to watch much TV as a kid, but right now I am watching heaps! When the shows are in season I watch: West Wing, Sopranos, Third Watch, The Practice, ER, Boston Public, Survivor (yes, I’m addicted), and a slew of others. I watch Discovery a lot, too. I’ll watch Enterprise when it comes on here in New Zealand.
Novels… well, I’m kinda in the position where I avoid genre fiction mostly. I’ve never been much into science fiction or fantasy, despite the feeling that geek in me (there’s a lot of him in there) ought to be reading that stuff. Dorky as it sounds, I like reading the stuff that is set for my course work. DeLillo, Pynchon, and Auster are all on my schedule for this year. For pleasure I’ll read Vonnegut (no, he’s not really just a SF writer), Coupland, and just basically whatever they put into the “Contemporary Fiction” shelves at your local book store.
My secret shame is that I read just about the entire Stephen King catalog up until Talisman (which he co-wrote with Peter Straub) as a teenager. I guess that definitely counts as genre fiction…
Movies are a tricky thing, really. While I was working for the cinema company I saw just about everything that came into general release, but in the 2 years since I quit that gig I could count the number of times I have been to the films on one hand. I’ve become pretty jaded with movies, though I do really enjoy some of my old favorites still, like Chinatown.
As for comics, my tastes are pretty much catholic – in the original sense of the word; I’ll read anything. I am enjoying Axel Alonso’s edited books for Marvel… Moore’s ABC books… lots of Marvel and DC superhero books, CrossGen titles, Dark Horse indy and manga titles, Oni Press stuff. Everything.
Thomas: Get back out to the movies and see Lord of the Rings Jason. It’s an experience not to be missed, even by those partly jaded with films, but before you head out for your ticket, tell the people who don’t know…what makes Silver Bullet Comics the place to consult for all their comic needs? What does your site offer that the pretenders can’t touch?
Brice: Diversity, diversity, diversity.
And the diversity is manifested in lots of different ways. Not only do we cover the large volume publishers like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and CrossGen, but SBC also addresses the needs and interests of readers that enjoy Oni, Fantagraphics, NMB, Slave Labor, Viz, Chaos!, Humanoids, Claypool, Drawn and Quarterly, and Top Shelf. We also like to highlight the guys and gals that are doing it for themselves and breaking into the mainstream with projects like 7 Guys Of Justice, The Watch, Rex Mundi, Two Over Ten, Samurai Guard, and about a thousand others that have appeared in Silver Bulletins. This commitment extends to the Small Press area, a feature that no other large scale comics website can boast, for the fans that are down at Kinko’s pouring blood, sweat, and tears into their mini and short run comics. Big or small, short or tall, we love comics.
Our diversity is represented in our contributors from locales north and south, east and west. I’m in New Zealand, and I don’t think there are two SBCers that live in the same city anywhere on the globe. In the last two years we have had contributors from the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
And, oh boy, there are differences in politics, religion, philosophy, and sexual orientation, all manifested on the message boards.
Thomas: I can attest to that. I’m a college student from the midwest United States, about three hours out of Chicago, hanging with guys from New Zealand and Australia on a regular basis. The wonders of modern technology…
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jason Brice for answering my questions, and invite all those unregistered to join the SBC community through the message boards to speak their minds. Few subjects are disallowed, and when not waxing philosophical about the comic industry, we talk about life and stuff. Join the party, you’ll feel good about it later.
And raid the Ambidextrous index, there’s some good stuff in there.
And go see Lord of the Rings.
Next time: Twenty some installments of Ambidextrous and I’m still here. Come back next week and learn the train of events that led to this weekly deliverance of two-fisted justice and answer the most troubling of questions: am I any closer to breaking into the industry than I was six months ago? The answer can only be found in Reflection Eternal…