Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Year in Review, Part One – Performance Evaluation

My first comic review! Is it any good?
I don't know. I don't have the
courage to read it!
I’ve very surprised I’ve blogged consistently for more than an entire year. I say more than a year because while my first post only went up late last January, I started working on blog content back in December of 2012. I didn’t think I would have the personal discipline nor the proper skills required for reviewing comics and novels on a regular basis. I went a bit nuts right out of the gate and I had what I now consider a rather high output. I’ve toned things down about one third through the year with the intent of keeping my life balanced. I don’t want blogging to take over my world. Sometimes it’s nice to read something knowing you’re not going to write something about it. Other times, I read something and a post immediately forms in my mind. At the end of everyday though, I don’t want to pressure myself to write about everything I read or watch.

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to since last January has been my Best of the Year list. I really like reading Best of Year lists. They never completely satisfy but the nice thing about lists is that they’re very personal. You can take a group of people who’ve all read the same comics all year long and you’ll end up with different lists. The problem is that I’ve stopped buying single issues since around the same time I started writing Shared Universe Reviews. My reading habits have been greatly affected by this change. I have not read nearly as many superhero comics this year and I’ve also read a lot less titles that I used to. On top of that, while I was transitioning from single issues to trades, I stopped reading series I really liked which I’m sure had I continued reading them in single issues I would be including them on my list of best comics of 2013. I’m thinking specifically of Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang and Conan the Barbarian by Brian Wood and a rotating group of artists.

By choosing to stop buying single
issues, I had to stop reading such excellent
comics as Wonder Woman. One of these
days i'll have to pick up the trades and
continue where I left off.
Not only has my change in the comic format I buy affected my readings habits but it will also have an impact on my Best of the Year list. The biggest difference from what I intended a year ago is the inclusion of novels. I’ve read approximately the same number of novels I usually do but I’ve blogged about them just as much or slightly more than I’ve blogged about comics. I’ve got to take stock of that. Some of the best end of year lists take stock of the different types of entertainment. You can’t easily compare television series to movies; likewise I don’t think you can easily compare ongoing series, mini-series, original graphic novels and novels. I’m going to break down my list based on collections of comics, OGNs and novels. I’ll also break down the novels by science fiction and fantasy. As an added bonus, I’ll provide a similar list of the worst things I’ve read this year. I want to take the time to note that only comics and novels I’ve read this year are on the list. Some things I’ve blogged about last winter won’t apply because I read them last December (specifically Saga of the Swamp Thing and Darwyn Cooke’s comic book adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels (I didn’t get a chance to buy Parker: Slayground which came out this year). Comics include collections of comics that were originally published monthly prior to 2013 or collections that were released in 2013.

Before I get to my lists, I want to take the time to review the work I intended to do based on my initial Mission Statement and what kind of reviews actually popped up on the blog. Simply looking at the content of the blog as is, there aren’t as many comics as I wanted. I really wanted to focus on comics and I didn’t stick to that at all. There are as many non-comic book related post as there are comic book posts and . . . that’s ok. It’s more closely representative of who I am. I don’t exclusively read comics. I read all sorts of things and Shared Universe Reviews, as it is today, shows that.

Likewise, I intended to reread some of my comic book collection and I didn’t do a whole lot of that. It’s not all bad, I did some but not a whole lot. Times where I did reread something was because a new volume of something was published. I didn’t focus on it but it was there. I’m currently rereading Mouse Guard because I’ve acquired the last volume of the series proper and the second volume of the Legends of the Guard series. I’m also been working with my sister on a rather large reread project which will hopefully make an appearance on SUR by the summer but that remains to be seen. I’m a rather distracted reader and I find it difficult to focus on one series from start to finish without taking a break.

There are two areas that I find I succeeded quite well in. One of them had to do with writing blog content I would like to read. Most comics blog focus on the most recent single issues of the most bland and generic comics out on the stands, superheroes. I love superheroes but they’re rarely well written or as engaging as people pretend they are. I like to read things with strong storytelling skills on display or creators doing what they do best, which is creating new comics. Comics need more creators like Fred Chao, David Petersen, Brandon Graham and Paul Pope. Different styles and different genres are all enjoyable in their own right, but what makes a really good comic is something that challenges the writers and artists as well as the reader. There are definitively always be superhero comics on SUR, but I’m glad to see I didn’t automatically focus on them.

Where it all started! The first Star Trek
novel is as good a place as any to
star reading Star Trek books!
The other area I find I did well in was the variety of the blog content. I started more blog projects that I can realistically handle. Projects might not be the best word for it. It’s more of a category or groupings of blog post. One of them I seem to have more or less abandoned, the PokéJournal. I’m not done with it. I want to get back to it but they’re very time consuming, more so than a regular review. Another one that seems to have lost steam is the Kung Fu Corner, a page where I review kung fu movies. I’ve stopped blogging about kung fu movies because my DVD collection was nearly inaccessible to me but I’ve received quite a nice gift from my fiancé and my parents which has helped me organize my collection. I’m hoping to get back on track with those in the New Year. I’ve also got the Blog Fantastic project which is more of a publicized version of a self-motivational tool to explore more series and writers from a genre I loved as a teenager but lost touch once I went off to post-secondary. I’ve had some pleasant surprised and great disappointments this year but I’ll write more on that later. My output of BF blogs this year was focused on revisiting series and writers I know I liked. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series was the only writer and series that were completely new to me. I plan on maybe finishing the Earthsea series next year and continuing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time despite my disappointment on the first novel in the series. As I mentioned above, I have a secret project I’m working on with my sister and on top of all that I keep ploughing ahead with regular reviews of comics and novels. I’ve had a busy year and I’m proud of the output. This might sound like a lot of self-congratulatory back patting but I need it. My first lesson in blog writing was that it’s kind of like work and because my blog is young and I’m still trying to build a regular readership, it all seems to go unappreciated.

I want to take the time to talk about the biggest surprise I had while blogging in the last year: Star Trek. Where the heck did that come from? Actually, the question is more for your benefit, I know exactly how that came to be. The primary reason I changed my comics buying habits is financial. It’s affected how I read comics and it’s also made me think more about the price to hours of enjoyment ratio of a comic. I would said that generally the ratio is higher with novels and so I started to pick up more novels that I usually do in order to get a higher ratio with my monthly book purchase. In addition to this, I moved at the end of March and I discovered a used book store near where I work. A third elements comes into play which are the blogs that I read. One of my favourite blogs is They have a wide variety of content and some of their regular bloggers consistently post very enjoyable reviews and articles. Some of these focused on Star Trek. I didn’t take much time for me to discover that the used book store had hundreds of science fiction and fantasy titles for cheap. I started to mine that book store for all it’s worth. Inexpensive books that also happen to be entertaining reads that are more on the lighter side. Star Trek novels are ideal for the casual reader and great for blogging because, so far, they’re filled with interesting ideas and character moments which in turn become content for reviews.

Part of this year-end review is to help me reassess my goals for 2014. My goals are as followed:

1-Stay the course. I’ve spread out my interested nicely but I need to maintain the variety of the content on SUR.

2-Bring back some of the focus on comics while maintaining the variety of genres and creators.

3-Give Star Wars novels and The Wheel of Time another chance. That’s something I’ve already started. One of my friends gave me books he no longer wanted with the suggestion I bring them to the used book store for in store credits. I did just that during the holidays and I came back with another the third volume of The Wheel of Time, a Redwall novel, two Star Trek movie novelizations and a little stack of Star Wars. I did some research and I came up with a list of Star Wars novels that I think I will enjoy. If it doesn’t work now, it might be the end of my flirtation with the Expanded Universe and I’ll stick to the movies (well, the first six episodes anyway).

4-Complete and post the Secret Sibling blog project.

5-Get guest contributors to the blog. I have nerdy friends but I need to convince them to contribute to SUR. Guys, all I need is one post and it can be on nearly anything. You know you want to do it.

In a few days, I share my Best of the Year list!

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