Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Way of the Geek #4 – Adam Barnett!

Adam Barnett is the blogger behind “Comics Make No Sense”, where he pokes fun at a variety of comic books, usually one issue at a time! Check it out!

Adam is the distant middle child, with three sisters and no brothers. Adam said, “That had certain challenges all its own, like never having access to a bathroom or telephone until I was out of the house.” Adam has been married for about 19 years to “someone who obviously has a lot of patience and low expectations.” He has no children, but three dogs he said are every bit as demanding. He's been an attorney for almost 17 years.

Adam's geekery is pretty much limited to comic books. “I don't like most science fiction or magic and prefer mainstream comics to indie ones for the most part,” he explained. “I don't have the patience or the intelligence to be a gamer. The only animated shows that appeal to me are the ones based in the DC Universe. I *do* have a slew of DC Direct Action Figures in one room, but I find that the older I get, the less interest I have in collecting things. I'm at the point in life now where I'm looking to get rid of clutter."

Adam's geekery began over 35 years ago. “In March of 1974, I saw my first comic book in the magazine rack of a grocery store,” he recalled. “It was Shazam! #11, where Captain Marvel had to stop
cherry gelatin from swallowing the city. I had no idea storytelling could be so awesome. From there, I seem to recall my father getting me an issue of Batman, which I thought was even cooler.  I didn't
really take an interest in Marvel until the Electric Company had those live-action Spidey Super-Stories. So, I'm living proof that cross-promotion works, especially on impressionable children."

His siblings seemed to have little interest in comic books, so Adam turned to his friends. “I generally found friends who had at least a passing familiarity with comics, but I was the one who they turned to for information. This was before the Internet, kids."

As he grew older, Adam's father thought he should've outgrown comic books (I think we've all been there at some point or another), so Adam had to keep his geekdom under wraps. He explained, “I still bought comics, but I hid them as if they were crack cocaine." Adam didn't retain many of his comics from his childhood, however, buying most of his current collection in the last 20 years. Among the items he's purchased as an adult are Shazam! #11 (“I think I've bought it a few times.”) and the Batman: From the 30s to the 70s hardcover. Adam's had pretty good luck re-purchasing the lost gems of his childhood, thanks to the internet. “It was much different back when you were limited to the local flea markets!"

Adam said that keeping his geekery confined to one room, with a perpetually-closed door, has been the way he's stayed married all this time. Within that room is Adam's most prized geek possession, a copy of “The Doonesbury Chronicles.” This book “was autographed by Garry Trudeau's Yale room-mate, who was the inspiration for the title character. Sadly, he has passed on, but he told me at the time that
he couldn't recall anyone ever asking him to autograph anything, so I think I've got a one-of-a-kind item there,” he explains.

For someone who's as much a comic geek as Adam, one would think he's attended many a comics convention, but so far, he hasn't! “I'd like to go someday, though, just to see what it's like." You'll be amazed, Adam! "When I retire, I dream of planning trips around conventions. You can imagine how much my wife would be looking forward to *that*."

Of course, having missed out on comics conventions, Adam hasn't had a chance to meet any creators in person, although he does note “"I've had some e-mail exchanges with some writers - Tony Isabella,
Chris Gage, Priest, etc. It was me being a total fanboy and either lavishing praise upon them for something I really enjoyed, or posing a question about some behind-the-scenes thing that would explain the direction something took. They have all been very nice and gracious. Gail Simone is one of my favorite writers and a friend on Facebook, but she isn't a fan of CMNS as near as I can tell. Most people in comics justifiably give me a wide berth."

Adam hoped to work in comics some day. He recalled, “When I was 12, I sent a plot synopsis to Jim Shooter, who was editing Marvel Comics at the time. He sent back a form letter that *said* it
was a form letter, but that they had two different kinds of form letters, and I was getting the one that they sent people whose work showed promise but just wasn't ready for the big leagues. As I went
through adolescence, I thought I wanted to do something more 'relevant' and 'artistic.' Of course, now I'm a blogger of a humor site, so I guess *that'll* teach me." I know I have a similar story myself.

Adam's day is pretty well-balanced between work, his wife and dogs, and his geekery. "It has been jusitifiably remarked that I am rather stingy with my time, and that's probably true. I spend an hour in the morning with the dogs, another hour in the morning playing video games before going to work, then about an hour average finding material for the blog and getting it online. Every other non-working second is generally spent with my bride."

Adam knew that he'd start a blog someday, having the need for a forum, but decided his own life wasn't that interesting to share, holding off until he could “find something that wasn't too self-indulgent.” The sites he found on the 'net seemed to be mostly about the current happenings in comics “...and took themselves and the hobby very seriously.” The pivotal point became when he happened upon Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin. “I enjoyed it because he's living my dream of running a comic book shop, and I appreciated his ability to look at the hobby and find some of the less-proud moments. I admired the way he mixed elements of his life and the subject of comics into a very accessable saga of his life. It occurred to me that I didn't have his "comics industry insider" perspective, but I *did* have the voice of every middle-aged comic reader who shared the last 40 years of comics with me and might enjoy laughing with me about it."

Unlike some bloggers, Adam didn't begin Comics Make No Sense with an introductory post, he just jumped right in with a joke. “I remember I had just finished reading 'Villains United,' and I came
upon an old Hostess house ad where Catman was thwarted by his love for fruit pies. It occured to me that if the Society had simply done their research, they could have used that strategy in Villains United
and there might have been a completely different outcome,” he joked.

Originally, he'd just post a single panel with a funny title, rarely adding a blurb below it, but the blog (as all blogs tend to do) evolved. “Over the years, I've grown much more verbose and comfortable adding my own editorial slant. I got into the habit of titling each post 'Such and Such Monday! This and That Tuesday!,' etc. because it helped me keep track of what post I was to put up and when."

Adam also has some recurring features, such as “Fun With Out of Context Dialogue,” the Costume and Character “Hall of Fame” and “Hall of Shame,” “Great Moments in Comics,” and whatever else occurs to him. It should be noted that Adam adds a trademark symbol after each of these “because these are obviously stupid things that are hardly worth stealing."

What keeps Adam going is knowing he has an audience. “I would have kept the blog going if ten
people read it. Last year, I was averaging over 67,000 visitors annually and it's still growing. And that's strictly from word-of-mouth. The non-comic blogger community thinks comics are for nerds, and the serious comic sites generally ignore me for insulting the medium. This site should have died a long time ago from lack of interest, but it thrives, and has even inspired some other bloggers to find and share those comics than many folks were hoping would be buried forever." Along with Progressive Ruin, Adam also regularly reads Comics Ought to be Fun, What Were They Thinking? And Comics Should Be Good.

Adam's wife is a “good sport” about his love for comics. He says she won't read them, but encourages him to indulge himself. “She'll watch the movies with me as long as I don't drown her in trivia."

Adam does some purchasing on eBay, and has this advice for people considering doing the same: "Pay attention to feedback and try with a small order first to see how things go. There are two types of sellers - those that will screw you over, and those that will not. It doesn't take long to figure out who
is who if you don't ignore the warning signs because you want what they're selling." If you're considering selling, Adam says, “The main thing is to realize that it's a buyer's market and most of us should consider ourselves lucky if we break even. Keep in good communication, treat the buyer how you would want a seller to treat you, and always use online package tracking options."

It may be surprising, given how Adam makes fun of comics on his blog, how passionate he is about the medium. "When we talk about comics, we're talking about a world that had thirty years of storylines behind it before I was even born. As with most of us, people have come and gone in my life, but these characters have always been a part of it. More importantly, they have been and remain a harmless escape from reality when I need it. I think the blog works because while there's a lot of teasing going on, it comes from a place of genuine affection. It's like that one person in your life who can tell you anything no matter how much you don't want to hear it because you know that, when the dust settles, they're your support. And that's what I am. I'll make fun of comics, but I also have a deep appreciation for what they've contributed to the lives of their readers."

In conclusion, Adam has this to say to his fellow geeks: "Embrace who you are. Be comfortable in your own skin. But remember, not everyone (particularly women) is going to think having a Wolverine haircut is cool. Enjoy the hobby as that - a hobby. But give yourself plenty of other interests and don't substitute being a fly on the wall at the JLA Watchtower for relationships with real human beings. Moderation in all things. Most of us have to have a day job, so make it a good one!"

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