From Spitting Cobras to 5G – Which Comic Book Private Members Group Are You Part Of?

In Warren Ellis' daily-ish blog at, he talked about his brain thwarting his plans by coming up with new comic book ideas he had no use for. He wrote,

This amused the handful of writers I share a private Slack channel with. "I love it when Warren's angry with himself."

I moved some work around so I could take a couple of days just to think. I didn't write a Cosmic Ordering list or anything, but I could have used a solid idea for a book, or some solutions on a job that's fighting me a bit right now, or, you know, I'd like to write a spec screenplay soon, just for the hell of it… any of these things would have been good and useful products of a couple of days just kicking back and listening to music and thinking.

Instead, I have the guts of two new comics series, for which I have no artists, no time and no resources and also the built-in audience for one of them is about eight people.

So I've been walking around furious with my own brain for betraying me in such a malicious evil manner. And everyone's having a good laugh. Go on. Laugh. F-ckers.

When comic book creators first got online, in the days of Usenet's rec-arts-comics-misc message boards or Compuserve's Comics Forum, before anyone had come up with the idea of web pages, the community was a small one, A handful of fans, a handful of professionals and it muddled along. Comic book creators could say what they wanted with limited effect. Even if a few of John Byrne's comments have been collated and compiled since. You should see what some professionals said on Usenet's boards about Mark Millar back in the nineties, safe in the knowledge that he would a) never amount to anything b) never get online and c) these would certainly never be searchable almost twenty years later when they were being considered as a writer for Kick-Ass.

Graeme McMillan, now of respectable publications such as The Hollywood Reporter, used to run his Fanboy Rampage columns consisting of comic creators behaving online in public as if they were in private. And so, as such things were likely to be reported and re-reported by the likes of, well, me, folks found new ways of keeping it just between them. Publicly, people behaved in a more circumspect fashion. Privately though…

Mailing lists became more common – though even they could leak, as Kurt Busiek discovered when Bryan Talbot leaked some unflattering comments he'd made to a private group about Jonathan Hickman's writing. Bryan tried to hide Kurt's identity, without much luck.

From Spitting Cobras to 5G - Which Comic Book Private Members Group Are You Part Of?Then there were the Panic Room discussions which would later be revealed to be the people behind the Before Watchmen comic books – that saw Jim Lee hide their name in plain sight in his Justice League comic books for the New 52.

But these are the exceptions. The likes of What's App, Slack, Facebook groups and even a couple of private Delphi forums, revived for the old schoolers have provided more scope for such private conversations. And mostly, privacy has been maintained with threats of omerta to those who leak.

There's one board called Spitting Cobras or similar – known as 'the snake board' for good reason – made up of a bunch of published comic book writers who pour scorn upon their bosses and those who have gained more elevated status within the comics industry hierarchy. Judging by some of the BC links we see coming here from there, they have quite a few things to say about this website. I'm sure it's all nice.

There are the retailer Facebook groups, the ones for Marvel and for DC Comics are the busiest, and where people get the most rankled. Occasionally bits leak, such as John Cunningham's comments about Batman #50, which ended up getting leaked and then surreptitiously on the back of a DC retailer variant cover.

There are private creator groups of the highest echelons, accessible to those who move in certain creator circles and owe their fealty to one creator or another, where certain DC people have started to recently discuss something called 5G. Aside from the mobile phone network specification, I don't know what that is. Yet.

This is just the latest way of doing things. for some, it's utilitarian, for others, it's recreating a Bullpen feel, for others there's the thrill in membership of a club that others are denied.

Every now and then, Bleeding Cool will get a crumb. And we'll do our level best to make it look like we have the whole loaf…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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