By Dustin "King Bastard" Cabeal
Long ago when I was starting this site with my good friend Kevin Beckham, we were trying to come up with names. I was drawing a blank and figured something would come to me eventually. While standing in our kitchen in North Hollywood, Kevin came up with Comic Bastards. A name I instantly hated because I knew that anyone reading it would instantly hate us. And don’t get me started on ads! Even though I hated the name, I also fucking loved it. Because it’s fun to say. It is in my opinion, the best name for any comic book website and yes, I am horribly biased.
Seven years ago, almost to the date, Kevin and I started Comic Bastards on Blogger. A mistake I still regret for two reasons. The first is that it made us look shitty and was a horrible format for what we were doing, news and reviews, and I could have used that time to figure out this whole website business a lot sooner. The second reason is that I was blocked for life from ever monetizing with Google because of one review. A review that was re-tweeted by an internationally loved Japanese musician that sent a flood of new readers to the site. At the time, that was great, but what I didn’t know and what took years of back and forth with Google to discover was that they felt we bought those hits in order to inflate our ad revenue. Oh, if they only knew how little money I had to my name, what with just getting married and all. They have never wanted or tried to listen to me and so I’ve sworn off a lot of Google platforms in which ads are involved. I won’t even click the “ad” link on a google search, even if its exactly what I was looking for, because fuck them.
Eventually, we moved to Squarespace version 5.0. I believe they’re on 6 or 7 now or have just stopped revealing the version people are using. We saw tremendous growth on the platform, but I wanted more control over how the site looked and functioned which eventually lead us to WordPress. Fuck me; I wish I had started there because then maybe the first two years could have been used to figure out how insanely expensive servers are and how annoying self-hosting a site can be. Instead, it was like starting over. Traffic went way back down and had never really recovered since our first stint on SquareSpace. WordPress was fun, but eventually, it was just too much for a website with zero ad revenue to keep afloat, and so I moved it back to Squarespace, where we are today. All in all, that was the cost of making a professional website run by one guy. That’s right; I’ve been doing all this behind the scenes stuff by myself the entire seven years.
This little walk down memory lane isn’t over quite yet. You see Kevin, and I planned on doing this alone. We weren’t looking to be some big ass site, but instead, write our reviews and do this little audio project called Comic Bastards Mother Fucking Podcast or CBMFP for short. Eventually, though, we had people approach us, wanting to write for the site. I had had other friends write for the site, but never someone I didn’t know in real life or IRL for you kids that I’m unable to relate to because of my age. I’m glad that Carl reached out to me and wanted to work on the site, and even happier that I said yes… to the dress, but also Carl. Since then I have worked with some of the best comic reviewers in the industry and seen them move on to do other work. Almost all over them have moved on to do something creative rather critical. Because, if you don’t know, damn near every comic reviewer would rather be making comics or art of some kind, than reviewing it. That’s true of this site, and that is true of any other comic book site as well. That’s not a bad thing either. That’s not a slam against the comic reviewing industry, but it does make for some interesting conflicts of interest. Conflicts that I have largely avoided because my motto for the site has always been let the work speak for itself. That means the comic needs to speak for itself and the review needs to as well.
Which is why collectively as a site I’m sure we have the largest number of low scoring reviews for comics on the internet. I’m not going to search Comic Book Roundup to find out for sure, but I’m 90% sure on my own that it’s the case. Our reviews here were always meant to be honest, be it anger or anguish at what we just read or joy and happiness. Our honest to god opinion, not the end all be all of opinions, but our opinion. Hell, as someone that’s edited more reviews than he can remember, I have disagreed with a lot of the reviews I have posted on this site from other writers. I have never edited or changed their review because I wanted their true opinion to come through on its own. The great thing about comic books and any entertainment medium is that we don’t all have to agree. We bring our tastes and life experiences to entertainment experience and so that makes it unique to each person. It why I loved our group reviews because even if everyone gave a book the same score, we’d all list completely different reasons for the score.
All this, of course, is leading up to some bad news for those of you that love and support Comic Bastards. Maybe, like most comic readers, you’re a lapsed reader. Maybe we lost you in one of those transitions I spoke of, and that’s fair. I regret those transition because of that. And if you find what I’m about to say good news, then you’ve never really gotten the site, and so I’ll explain a little more.
Yes, I hated the name Bastards because I knew it would be the instant thing people said about us and they have, be it positive or negative. I have lost count of how many times someone has said, “Wow, you really are bastards” or “You’re playing to the bastards part a bit much.” I have also heard, “Despite the name, they’re not really bastards!” and exhausting amount.
At the time the name worked because so much of the industry refused to grow or change. Everyone had this, “we need to protect comics for extinction” mentality. No one could say anything bad because if you did, the bubble would burst and suddenly we wouldn’t have five variant covers for that big event book because there wouldn’t be a big event book! Now, honestly, the name doesn’t work. Before, we were bastards because we didn’t fit the norm of the industry. Now though, there’s this new shitty reason that “comics are going extinct,” but only according to some fringe alt-right dingbats. Comics will always exist. There are two corporations that rely on them and the extended revenue they produce. Comics are just fine people. It’s weird to say and realize that maybe the industry caught up to being bastards themselves and all those people that just wanted to read the same story over and over are now the truly offended ones.
Unfortunately, I just don’t have the steam to keep going, and it has nothing to do with the politics of the world or the internal politics of comics.
Kevin stayed with the podcast for a long time, but when we brought other people on that became my area. I dealt with the day to day, the behind the scenes and the financial requirements to run the site and after seven amazing years, I’m calling it a day. That doesn’t mean that the site won’t be here. I’ll keep i,t up and running as long as I can/want to, and just in case my jaded heart changes back to something pure and full of love. More than likely I’ll get the itch to review something and so there will be a small trickle of reviews that continue the site after a much-needed break.
The weekly stuff, the reviews and press releases that no one cares about (I can see the clicks), those will stop updating. And it’s not financial, though money certainly would make this shit a lot easier to do, rather I’ve reached a point that doing this job week in and week out without a break has stopped being fun. Comics should be fun, good comics, bad comics, they’re entertainment and should be enjoyed and right now, they’re not for me. And you know what? That’s okay. We get lost in this sense of our hobbies being our identities. People know I read comics and therefore I must always read comics. I took a long break from video games. There was nothing I wanted to play or cared about, but now, I’m back to playing games and finding titles I love to play. I need to do the same for comics, and again, that’s the healthy thing to do. Why keep at something until you’re jaded and burnt out? Just because you’ve always done it? That’s like never trying pineapple on pizza and fuck you, pineapple on pizza is great, and I eat a lot of pizza thanks to the Ninja Turtles. Which, by the way, I don’t enjoy or partake in anything TMNT related. It’s not for me anymore. It’s for my kid, and maybe it’s not even for him. And you know what, that’s okay too. You don’t have to like something just because you previously loved it, but you also don’t need to attack it because it’s changed. It’s art, but it’s money and corporations want to find their audience. If you’re going to keep spending money like you did when you were a kid, by all means, they’ll make it how you want, but parents buy socks, backpack, pencil set, action figures, dolls, mystery toy, cup, hat and tie-in sunscreen for their diehard kid, not someone in their fucking 30’s living on a budget and spending 50 bucks a week on comic books.
I digress, but before I continue if you are a member of the comic press, contribute to a blog or news site and are thinking of running a story about all this... please don't. I have never liked reading those stories and will totally admit that a small part of me kept this all going in order to avoid being a story on another site. Consider how difficult this is for me and please don't pad your article count for the day with a story that should be read and discovered here. It's not news in the sense that it needs to be common knowledge so please let this rest here and not elsewhere.
Aside from keeping the site open for my own personal reviews, I’m going to move on to create. Comics? Maybe. Let’s be real though; I’m going to have ten strikes against me just because of this site and my name. People have long memories, and while I’d hope they’d give me a fair shot, I know that some still won’t, and that’s okay. I knew the deal going in, and I’ve made my peace with that, but I’m still going to create even if it’s not comic books. It’ll probably just be a lot of shitty gifs, and I’ll add a “bastards” in there somewhere just to piss people off.
Seriously though, I’m sad as hell to write this. I wish I could go on because I think that even if we don’t get as much traffic as other comic book sites, we play an important role in comics. We give people looking for different review voices a place to go. We may not always agree with each other, but that’s what makes comic books better than any other medium. There are so many different opinions for these short monthly stories, more than any other medium. I’ll miss that.
To everyone that supported the site or worked for the site, you are amazing, and it wouldn’t have been an amazing seven years without you all. If you’re still happy to see the site go, then hey, that’s okay too, but then who’s the real bastard? Nah, I know we’ve never been for everyone, but just know that I have no malice towards you and still thank you for giving us a chance. Giving us even a little of your brain space. I wish you got the jokes and understood the humor (which I probably just failed at again when I called you a bastard) we went for at times or the point of view we had for a comic.
And if I owed you a review... sorry. I hate disappointing people, you can ask my friends, but I just didn't have enough time to get everything done and time is a huge factor behind ending the site. I don't have as much work time and free time as I once did because I'm also a stay at home dad. A huge sorry to all the indie creators that I didn't get back to with a review.
To Kevin and Erin who put rode this journey with me and pumped out the best comic book podcast ever to exist, thank you. The podcast will always be my favorite part of this website, and I wish we had found our audience or I had been better at selling this product.
Lastly, here’s my last attempt at marketing myself. The thing I’m really bad at. I’m still here. I still care about comics, just not the reviewing part currently. I would love to work with a publisher or help edit your indie comic. My track record shows I can spot talent; I can find great comics for damn near every genre and so reach out to me. Take a chance on me because obviously I’ve never reached out and attempted this on my own. Hell, I feel desperate just writing this, but how could I not at least attempt to find some gainful employment from all this experience that I have? That and the sheer amount of ideas I have for the industry hasn’t even been revealed. If you already have my email, then cool, but if you don’t, I’ll put it at the bottom. That and I’ll still be on twitter. But don’t ask me for reviews, that email will be deleted instantly. Seriously though, I’m reading for the next step of my comic life and if you’ve worked with me, read my reviews then reach out and get me on your team.
With that, I’m out. COMIC BASTARDS 4 LYFE!
You can find Dustin on Twitter @EnterTheHero, he’s now really, really available for paid work of any kind as it relates to writing, editing and creating in general. Reach him @ Dustin.Cabeal@gmail.com. Serious inquiries only.