Interviews
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This category is for Q+A with the website administrators, interviews with creators, and any other chatty back and forth.

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By | Friday, May 28, 2010 | 12:30 am | 2 Comments | Blog > Interviews

This is getting to be a regular feature!

In the past installments (here and here) Alex and I mostly chatted about continuity and the contents of the booklists.

In this one, Alex starts it off with some questions about the site structure itself.

Alex J: Hey, Ian, I find myself often wishing that, by searching a particular title, I would know where it is set in the recommended reading order. While it is useful that you give us the name of the previous and proceeding issue, it would be nice to know which page it appears on in your master list of 39 pages. Is this at all possible?

TPBro: I know. This is a major pain. I haven’t yet figured out how to do it. It’s why I really want the whole list to be an infinite scroll, meaning it loads as you scroll down, and to couple it with a hot search that would just scroll you down to the book in the order.

It’s relatively intense programming stuff though and I’m not sure how to do it yet.

I’ll see if there’s some way I can get it to show the page or something in the meantime. The trouble is, I’m not sure how it would chose which order page to show, since a book might be on page 3 of the recommended reading order and page 1 of the superman order and so on.

Alex J: Since the RRO is basically the main purpose of the site, I’d think that would be first priority.

TPBro: Yeah, I agree – though all the books are loaded in the same database, just displayed by their category. So any change I make has to work for say, Buffyverse, somehow. I’ll try to do some research on it and see what I can do next day off I have.

Another alternative would be, instead of isolating the book via search, having the search somehow take you to the page of the reading order that the book is on, and just highlight that title – showing you it in context. I can’t figure how that would work, though, since it would break down if there were multiple results on multiple pages.

I’m not really a programmer, honestly, so this kind of thing befuddles me at the moment. I may be able to find a solution, though. You’ve definitely run into one of the major limitations of the site as it is right now.

Alex J: Based on the frequent descriptions of your updates, the entire website is formatted based on your well-informed opinion. In a similar vein, in your opinion, what are some of the best TPBs ever written? And, a slightly different question: which TPBs are essential for every comic book collector to own?

TPBro: haha, I’m much better at figuring out where something goes versus how good it is. I have a tendency to like almost everything, which is great for a completest because I rarely feel cheated of my money (because dc knows I’m gonna buy their crap anyway) but isn’t really as useful for all purpose recommendations, haha.

I’m working on honing my judgment skills, though (part of why I’ve started writing reviews).

I might not be able to tell you what the best ones are (I haven’t read EVERYTHING) but I can tell you some of my all time favorites.

League of The Extraordinary Gentlemen was what got me back into comics as an adult. I was already/still a huge literature fiend and that book just dragged me back in. They were some of the first trades I purchased since I was a teenager.

Swamp Thing is my absolute favorite. It’s raw and immature for Alan Moore and basically shaped the start of Vertigo, but I love it more than anything else since. It may not technically be as good (it’s hard for me to tell) as some other titles since it, but it is the title that took me back into the DCU for another look and lead me to my current passion. The crossover with CoIE is probably the best thing to come of that whole era.

There are obvious answers to the every collector should own question – Batman: Year One, Sandman (both titles, actually), Preacher or Transmet (maybe you only need one?) and so on, but I have a few lesser used answers. I think everyone should own the Howard The Duck Omnibus, the Deadman Collection, Crisis on Multiple Earths, and Wolverine Classic. Just from a historical perspective and my own nostalgia.

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t said much about modern (last ten years) dc much, this is mainly because I’ve read only bits and pieces of it, and just done a lot of skimming and research – I’m waiting until I finish getting through the silver and bronze age in my backlog and then I’m starting again at 1996, which is where I left off. This is really why I made the whole list myself, originally, so I could read the modern age DC straight through and finally know what was happening in the past 15 years!

This is too hard a question. I like a lot of comics, haha. Probably all of the books on the Self Contained list I would recommend, since those are all books that are currently in my collection (I just imported my own organizing excel document for those ones).

But really, I’d recommend different things for different people. I knew my lady would love Batgirl: Year One, for example, and I just handed my roommate Preacher. It’s just based on their interests, though.

Alex J: I just read Preacher and Transmetropolitan. The writer for Preacher even recommended Transmet in one letters column. “Let’s just say that if I’m going to hell for writing Preacher, I’m going to have some company.”

Self-contained stories like that can be a lot of fun, and I love that the list you have for them is alphabetical. Would there be any way to include an option on the site sorting all the other categories alphabetically, as opposed to chronologically, so a particular book can be easily found?

TPBro: Yeah, it can be done. That, actually, might be easier than anything else. I’ll look into adding it this weekend. [a note, the weekend for me is actually going to be tuesday and wednesday next week.]

Back on that original topic, right now, technically, there isn’t a search function on the site. There is only the Filter function, which creates a new list based on your filter terms. I’m going to see if maybe I can use a google based search to be able to find books within their various reading orders. Since you can currently find them ON google, I feel like it should work.

Theoretically, something like this embedded into my site, with my theme, would be able to link to the pages the book is featurd on.

I’m not sure why the recommended reading order isn’t on the first page of results – and it seems like they might be a little out of date.

This (“Batman: Year One” versus without quotes) gets a little more targeted, since it’s not grabbing just “batman” from the sidebar.

Here, it doesn’t really seem like the whole site is indexed. I’m not sure how to make it so everything shows up directly. Maybe if I am embedding the search in my site, though, it will have an easier time of it. It’s possible it is breaking down because there are so many different tags and categories.

I’ll have to play around with it.

Alex J: Sounds like a plan. Have you linked your website to any of the major comic websites and blogs out there? I’m sure they’d be interested in this project.

TPBro: I’ve got the link in my signature when I post on forums, but I haven’t really sent it out, no. It doesn’t feel finished enough to me, honestly. Maybe I shouldn’t be so skittish, though, haha.

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By | Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | 3:03 am | 0 Comments | Blog > Interviews

This project wouldn’t be possible without constant discussion between myself and other fans. There are links to many of the resources I frequent on my Links page, but remember, you can always leave comments right on any TRO page and I’ll get right back to you there. Or email me!

On that note, thanks to David B. for his comment on the Feedback page. Made my day!

Following up on the last Reading Order Interview culled from emails from Alex, here’s another Q+A set:

Alex J: Would you ever consider integrating Marvel and DC into the same reading list, based on publication dates and the crossovers? For that matter, so long as you plan to organize the TPB lists by publication, would there be any way to see all of the comics on the site on the same organized list?

TPBro: At some point I could add an “all books” list that’s sorted by the publication date of the content. all I’d have to do is tag it on every book and they’d fall in line automatically (assuming I’d already finished adding all of their end dates – right now only about 100 of them have that set. I have to put it in manually as 1960.12, or 1999.03, etc).

The beauty of it being a dynamic database is that stuff like that is possible without too much work, once all the data is in (this is a relative “too much work” obviously). The only problem is that I haven’t finished inputting the data yet, haha. This first year (possibly) is probably just going to be data entry.

Even with the limited data, though, there’s still a lot of cool stuff that can be done with it.

Already, the creator lists are going to be for any universe, because I figure people would want to see what that person has been up to over their career, not just for one employer.

There will be separate sets of character tags for each universe, though, and separate event/series tags for DC and Marvel, etc.

Alex J: I love that each of the articles links right to their Amazon page. Would it be possible down the line to connect to other comic book retailers for comparison shopping?

TPBro: Possibly – Amazon has a pretty stable page system and I actually link to them more for reviews and information (though I already have the page count and isbn numbers in my database, often they have other editions on there as well whereas I don’t really list multiple publications of the same book, just list by the first collected publication date). The also list multiple sellers from different sources, which gives you a good cross-section for estimating price range.

When I was laying out the site, I tried to think of what I’d want if I was looking for TPBs myself. I buy through a huge variety of sellers, but I always keep my recommendations up to date at Amazon (by marking things as purchased there) so I get told when new releases are coming out, etc.

I’ll probably link to another retailer at some point, but chances are it will be through some kind of sponsorship thing. So I don’t know who that would end up being. I can’t list every store out there, and if I’m going to be supporting a company it would be nice to get supported a little back. I’d like to chose a store I enjoy and actually use a fair amount (like instock trades). We’ll see where it goes, I guess. I might also look into doing some kind of automatic “search for this on eBay” link, though you often have to tweak your terms to really find what you want on there – sellers don’t list books in any dependable way.

For now, the Amazon links are also referrer links, so ideally I’d get a little change back to help pay my hosting fees (it’s only like 40 cents per book someone buys, but every little bit helps.) Otherwise I’d feel a little weird linking to amazon too – it’s not like they need my help to make money on book sales, haha.

On a side note, I admit to being a little uncomfortable about how much of the market share they control, but I haven’t found any reliable alternative for used books – they simply offer an amazing service. Whenever I’ve ordered from a seller on Amazon and there is a screw up, I’ve always been able to get my money back right away. Amazon covers it. There doesn’t seem to be any buyer friendly service like that out there anywhere else – getting money back from crappy eBay sellers can be a total pain.

Alex J: Focusing back on the possibility of non-TPB items on the site: what about integrating DVDs of the television shows and films, anywhere from the 1960s Batman to Batman: The Animated Series to Batman Begins?

TPBro: It’s possible. The database system could work for almost any type of media. I’ve already got novels well in the works (though you won’t see it online for some time).

Like, what we were talking about before – you see the way the DC Comics category splits into the different sub-lists like Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis?

That category will probably be under “Comics” or “Collected Editions” or something like that. The next category down will be “Novels” and there will probably be some genres under there… like “fantasy” and then under that could be “Magic: The Gathering” – the next category could be science fiction, and under that could be star wars books.

And so on. These lists can be cross populated with tags, so “Star Wars Characters” tags could generate lists that include TV Shows, Books, Comics, and Movies, all on the same list. This is a long term thing, since I’m mainly focusing on putting the infrastructure in place right now and getting the comics list to be useful.

So in the long run, it could list all kinds of things that are hard to keep track of or that people like to read/watch/consume in a particular order. And that could totally include comics related stuff in other media.

It’s been something I put together instinctively anyway (I’ve got viewing order txt files, excel files for sorting book shelves, etc. I like to think I’m not OCD or something, but I seem to have a pretty serious database habit.)

Alex J: Speaking of which, how do you decide where to place the Elseworlds titles? Is it purely based on publication date? Surely there must be other factors to keep in mind.

TPBro: Mainly by publication date, that way they shouldn’t reference anything that the reader hasn’t come across yet. But I tend to group them at the end of the year for a little “Elseworlds interlude”. I kind have to do that anyway because it’s hard to find exact month publication data for a lot of the prestige formats. When going through and reading, I like to read a little pile of Elseworlds. Instead of having them constantly interrupting storylines, they become a nice set break that sums up the year in a lot of ways.

Some I hold on to until later to put them with a sequel or right before they intersect with the main DCU. But the majority of them can be read independently, so its fine to put them where they were published.

Honestly, like everything else, this is pretty subjective and you could easily keep all your Elseworlds books on a separate shelf if you really wanted.

Alex J: Some fantastic updates lately. This site is becoming more amazing every day. Have you come up with a solution to your Western and WWII problems yet?

TPBro: I started adding the westerns in (right after the Viking Glory trade). I’m happy with how it worked out for now, though I may have to tweak as I read through them myself.

The WWII stuff is dated by events in the books and mixed in with the Golden Age material going on at those same dates. Some of it is Bronze and Modern Age stuff that’s pushed up in the reading order and some of it actually came out in the Golden Age.

It’s mainly in two chunks – the start of America’s involvement in the war and the end of the war. It’s  squished to America’s time in it, since even though some events are outside of that period, the bulk of the content in the collected editions take place while America is in the war.

I’m looking forward to getting some feedback about that once its up and viewable.

Alex J: Aren’t there any TPBs about Anthro which should go before the vikings, though?

TPBro: As far as I know, while Anthro shows up here and there, his ongoing has never been collected. But yeah, if it was it would probably go before viking prince (at least before he gets frozen in ice or whatever haha).

And that’s it for this round! Hopefully I’ll be getting grilled more in the future, so you can probably expect a third round sometime soon. As I said before, feel free to send your own questions – I like talking about comics!

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By | Sunday, May 9, 2010 | 11:30 pm | 2 Comments | Blog > Interviews

Alex J. has been grilling me with some tough questions by email. It’s pretty great, because typing answers helps me organize my thoughts.

Figured I’d share them here as well.

Alex J: Will you add the Jonah Hex titles to the Trade Reading Order? And if you do, where will you place them?

TPBro: I’ve been thinking about that – that and the WWII titles. I feel like I might add them in where they would have taken place in the sort of timeline? I’m not really sure.

I haven’t read them myself yet, so I don’t know how much they crossover with the main DCU (The modern ones anyway, I know that the “present” DC characters travel into the past or meet characters like Jonah, Tomahawk, Bat Lash, Haunted Tank and so on, but I’m not sure if that happens in their own books as well.)

I’ve got the Showcase ones in the database, but unplaced, but haven’t put any of the Modern Age trades in yet.

Honestly, it might wait until I get my hands on them and can make a decision based on reading them (like I did with Madame Xanadu).

Do you have any advice on the westerns? I think I’d like to place them PreCoIE, since the characters do show up from time to time in a lot of the other Pre-Crisis books and events, but I’m not sure if I should place them near when their Showcase books were placed or before the Golden Age stuff.

It’s tough, cause I really like starting the reading order with Superman and Batman – but it feels weird to dip into westerns right after that.

Alex J: Personally, I’d place the TPBs in accordance with their placement on the DCU timeline, the best iteration of which can be found here: http://dcu.smartmemes.com/

I’ve spoken to the webmaster of that site, and it’s true that he hasn’t updated since last December, but he’s working on a major overhaul. Until then, though, the data is still good. So, I’d place them before the Superman Chronicles, personally. Hell, I’d put the Superman Chronicles after Superman For All Seasons, but that’s just me.

Yeah, it’s a pickle. Here’s another suggestion: find the first place in continuity before Jonah Hex, for example, crosses over with the main timeline, and dump them all right before that point. Ultimately it’s your call though.

TPBro: I kinda consider Superman Chronicles to be premier of Golden Age Supes and then all the other stuff to be Modern/Silver Age Supes – since it feels like Silver/Bronze Age Superman turns into Modern Age during CoIE. that’s why I kinda have them separate. It also gives me a place to put all the Golden Age stuff which really doesn’t fit with the other character stuff and seems to be separate according to the story in Multiple Earths, etc.

Finding the first place before crossover isn’t a bad idea either, and I’ve done that before. But yeah, that will be once I’ve had a chance to look at em, I think.

I’m really trying to concentrate on getting the data up for all the books currently in there and once I’ve got that it will be mostly adding new books.

Eventually I have to think about tackling Marvel, but I’ve already decided I’m just doing that one chronologically by release date of the issues, haha. It’s too much of a mess otherwise.

Alex J: Pfft, Marvel. Whatever. But, if there’s anything I can do to help with DC, let me know.

TPBro: Haha, that’s kind of how I feel (right now, since I’m so deep into the dcu while working on this), but there’s a demand for it and I try to be helpful. Just chatting with me about this stuff is helpful, it lets me organize my thoughts.

Alex J: I’ll keep up the chatter then. So, now that we’re clear more or less on WWII and Westerns, what about stuff like the Legion of Superheroes, and Kamandi?

TPBro: Legion of Super-Heroes I’ve been placing from the perspective of their 20th/21st century members/observers. Which sort of means when it came out chronologically (Silver Age near Silver Age, Modern Age near Modern Age) but I’ve moved them around a little bit when I could condense (like near Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes).

For Kamandi, I’m not sure – I’ve been holding up on that one until I started putting more hardcovers in. I haven’t hit any of the Archives, for example. Unless there was a softcover somewhere there that I missed!

Alex J: I don’t know that much about Kamandi, but I do know that Crisis on Infinite Earths set it between now and the Legion Era. That’s not true anymore, at least I don’t think so, but putting it before your first Legion placement might be as good a place as any to put it. Just an idea.

TPBro: Yeah, it was supposedly somewhere between us and Legion, but I’m just going to put it where it came out Pre-Crisis, probably. It does interact a bit with Superman and some other titles, so it makes sense to keep it near the ongoings it was crossing over with.

—- a little later, after some unrelated discussion, wherein Alex gets credit for the TPBRO acronym, which is technically correct and also sounds like “bro” as in “Yo, bro, what’s up dude?” which I like. —

Alex J: By the way, glad you included Watchmen on the reading list.

TPBro: I felt Watchmen was essential – it shows up literally in a couple solo series later on, and it’s pretty much an Elseworlds for the Blue Beetle and The Question, etc. Also, sets the mood for the following era.

Alex J: Why do you place the first Superman stories (after the Chronicles) after the first Batman stories (after the Chronicles)? By all accounts, Superman was active a full year before Batman.

TPBro: Mainly cause Batman shows up in the Man of Steel trade. There’s a weird section where there’s room for a lot of Superman stories, but they don’t seem to have been published the way the Batman year one stuff has. At least collected (I have no idea about the floppies.) There’s just a TON of Batman stuff that takes place specifically before he meets Superman. So even though Supes is active, I have to place the trade where he meets Batman after those books.

Alex J: When the inevitable TPB of Superman: Secret Origin is released, where will you place it on the list, relative to the current Superman Origin TPBs?

TPBro: Not sure. For any retcon or retelling of origin book, I usually wait till I’ve read it to place it firmly. I’ve read all the modern ones on that list and had to do about a slow years worth a tweaking, haha. they don’t fit perfectly with the silver age stuff (and some of it is so out there it will never fit perfectly with anything) but I’m pretty happy with it as a whole.

Superman: Secret Origin will probably be read as soon as I get my hands on it, and then placed.

Same with JSA: Strange Adventures. I’m still not sure where that goes cause I haven’t had a chance to read it.

And there you go! I’m sure we’ll have more back and forth later. Hope this is useful to anyone who has similar questions. Feel free to send em in or leave a comment, as always!

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