For several years, I ran TheOuthousers.com together with Christian Hoffer, until he abruptly left me to write Pokemon articles at ComicBook.com for more money in a month than I make in a year. I was so jealous, I spent the next several years angrily sharpening large knives around my apartment until I finally got a job at Bleeding Cool, where I can annoy its readers on a daily basis with my nonsense, and also get paaaaaaaaaiiiiiiid.
But now that we're back on even footing, the son of a ***** has gone and started up a punk as **** newsletter without me, leaving me in the dust once more.
Despite this affront, I've agreed to interview Christian about The MNT, his new newsletter with Megan Purdy and Steve Morris, the first issue of which is debuting for free tomorrow. You can get it and subscribe to future issues on Patreon! It only costs a dollar a month, which even you can afford, cheapskates.
*Note: Bleeding Cool regrets that we did not fact-check whether or not "Comics Journalism" ever had an "MNT" in it in the first place before writing this headline.
What does MNT stand for? Is it one of those anagrams that doesn't actually stand for anything, like CBR?
It stands for "Monthly Newsletter Thing". Steve Morris came up with the name as a bit of a stand-in/goofy name, but it's easy to brand. Besides, publications about comics love their acronyms. CBR, BC, TCJ, CB, CA. Lots of Cs in there, not quite sure why….
Can you give us a brief overview of who you are and what each of you are contributing to MNT?
As the name suggests, the MNT is a monthly newsletter/publication about comics. It's co-run by Steve Morris, Megan Purdy, and myself. Steve is a freelance journalist whose work can be found mainly at CBR and Comics Alliance, Megan Purdy is the siterunner of Women Write about Comics, and I mainly hang out at ComicBook.com writing about general pop culture and entertainment topics.
At least initially, I'll be handling the news, Steve will be handling interviews, and Megan will be handling reviews. We'll also be bringing in guest essayists to talk about various topics of their choosing.
The three of you are kind of like a supergroup of comics journalists. Would you say you're more like the Asia of comics journalism, or the Traveling Wilburys of comics journalism?
Traveling Wilburys was definitely the bigger supergroup, so I'll say we're more like Asia.
It was a trick question. The correct answer is actually The Breeders.
How did you come up with the idea to take comics journalism – a thing people normally do on daily blogs or clickbait websites – and make it into a monthly digital zine distributed via PDF and sold on Patreon? Do you hate making money?
As you and most of your readership is probably aware, there are a lot of complaints about "comics journalism", ranging from the lack of actual journalism done in the field to the fact that sites are moving to models that leverage quality content with… fluffier articles in order to pay the bills. Personally, I think about 75% of the complaints about what we do is more related to the demands of trying to keep a site alive and its staff paid.
Running a website isn't cheap and once you hit a certain traffic level, the costs of running a website go up exponentially even if you're only paying your staff a portion of ad revenue instead of the per article rate they probably deserve. And if you want to actually generate revenue, you need content (like clickbait) that drives hits. People whine and moan about listicles and slideshows, but those products are necessary evils for bigger sites.
One of the things that Steve, Megan, and I all have in common is that we all either ran or assisted in running comic websites in the past. And I think all three of us understand the time and work that comes into carving out a small niche in what's already a crowded field. We were all looking for something "different" to do, but a website and all the work that entails wasn't it. So, we decided to try a different format.
By using a monthly subscription model, we're basically letting the size of the readership determine how and when we grow. We're perfectly content to remain at our current size, but if the demand for what we're doing grows, we can expand in a lot of cool and interesting ways.
How do you choose the topics, stories, and comics you cover in a monthly newsletter with the sheer volume of comics news out there? Will it be comprehensive, or selective?
Since I'm handling the news, at least at first, I'm trying to stick to stories that are either important to the industry or interesting to me. The first issue covers the "big" stories like Trump's unexpected impact on comics, DC and Marvel shifting their respective digital strategies, the death of John Watkiss, and Gerard Jones's arrest, plus a few smaller items that other websites might have missed. It's definitely selective, but at the same time there are only a few truly important and impactful stories that come out each month.
For the interviews and reviews, I think a common theme will be talking about interesting people and comics who might not get as big of a spotlight from traditional news sources. In our first issue, we have a longform interviewwith Ariell Johnson, who's an amazing retailer based out of Philadelphia. She has really interesting and important thoughts about the industry and her business and we're glad to be a platform that gives her the emphasis and focus she deserves.
Are there any regular topics or themes readers can expect?
It's probably a bit early to say definitively, but our first issue definitely has some focus on retail. That's the front lines of the industry and it gets brushed aside because the fans are more interested in news from the publishers. We'll be cognizant of what our readership wants moving forward and balance that with our own interests.
Will there be a printed version of MNT in the future?
We talked about doing a print version, or at least offering it, but ultimately we decided not to go that route at first. Designing a PDF or HTML layout is a lot different than designing with print in mind, and we didn't want to half ass it. Also, we didn't want to charge $5 for a copy and then have all the costs go towards printing and mailing it out to someone. We're not looking to make a profit off this thing, but you don't make a product and not think about the cost margins.
Is MNT like a trade magazine, targeting an audience of other comics journalists, bloggers, and industry insiders, or are you looking for a more mainstream audience? If the latter, how do you plan to reach them?
It's a bit of both, to be honest. We're hoping our readership will be pretty diverse and we want to have topics that reflect that. This probably isn't going to be the next Wizard Magazine, but it's also not going to be the next Wrestling Observer (a wrestling newsletter that's largely an inside peak into that industry) either.
Be honest – is this just a thinly veiled bid for an Eisner?
You got me. My goal is to use the MNT to one day win an Eisner Award and give a longwinded speech about how Tom Spurgeon can suck it.
In all honesty, there's a lot of great journalism out there already. We're not trying to compete or prove we're better, we're just looking to do something different and compliment an already well-written and underappreciated body of work by our peers.
Punching Nazis – for or against? Why?
My stance on punching things is this: Never punch anyone in the face, but if you do, make sure it's a Nazi.
When do I get to do a guest editorial? Hello? Are you still there?
I think we have plans to eventually make a call for pitches, so I'll be happy to take yours and put it right in my trash can shaped file cabinet.