doublearticulation

On Comic Book Blog Names: Notes on a Subgenre

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2006 at 8:14 am

I was cleaning up my link list this evening and got to thinking about what makes for a good comic blog name. Aside from good old-fashioned geek wit, I mean.

Naming anything is difficult, but naming a living document like a newspaper, a magazine, or a blog is especially tricky. The function of a name is to individualize, yet, for documents whose content is constantly changing and evolving, the best names, perhaps, are those that paradoxically “individualize” in the most general, most inclusive way possible. Mark Fossen’s brilliantly named Focused Totality is the epitome of this individualizing-yet-inclusive paradox.

The implicit model upon which this and many other such blog names rely is the proper name. Billy, Sarah, Geordie, Ahmed, Frances: these names may have some cultural meanings, some vague connotations, even a specific tone, but they remain, in every way that matters, empty signifiers. Blog names modeled on the proper name may convey a kind of attitude or sensibility, but they can still be “filled” with any content whatsoever and will come, retrospectively, to stand for whatever fills them, no matter how contradictory or complex that content might become. Moreover, it is no doubt precisely the diaristic, open-ended quality of blog composition—the fact that, like the diary, it is a record of the unfolding of a life—that leads Blogger to have a registration field for “blog name” rather than “blog title.”

Of course, because we are talking about a specific subgenre of blogs, the titles frequently (though certainly not inevitably) allude in some way to comic books or to fan culture more generally. Sometimes the “allusions” are very direct, other times they are subtle to the point of imperceptibility, and together these types form two ends of a spectrum upon which most comic book blog names can be found. Running parallel to this spectrum is an array of names that make no allusion to comics—a fact which produces a curiously pleasing effect of displacement when you begin reading them.

Naming one’s blog is obviously a very personal thing because it amounts, in a strange way, to an extension of its author’s proper name, regardless of whether they use a pseudonym or not. I am therefore hesitant to offer any opinions at all about what others named their blogs (an presumption which feels a little like complimenting people on having chosen a nice name for their child, as if that was any of one’s business anyway). Nonetheless, here I go… I hope that no one will be offended if I at least offer up a few of my favorites. My bias in favor of blog names that reflect the “half empty-half full” principle of the proper name and make some sort of reference to comic book culture at some point on the scale of allusion mentioned above will be evident in what follows.

Dave’s Long Box – The name of David Campbell’s blog is my favorite example of the proper name/metablog hybrid. The individualizing function of the proper name is obvious, but what I especially like is the elegant triple-threat of “long box,” which simultaneously suggests comics, the blog itself (which functions as a sort of second-order electronic comic long box; hence, “metablog”), and (?) a crude pun that perfectly captures the swagger of Dave’s sharp and wickedly funny take-downs of his favorite “bad” comics.

Shane Bailey’s Near-Mint Heroes has a name as good as that of any comics magazine on the stands. I love the modesty of “Near,” even as I enjoy the crispness of “Mint”—a combination which perfectly describes Shane’s site. A great balance of individualization and generality, set within a specific allusion to comic collecting.

Dial B for Blog – Robby Reed’s masterful blog also has one of the most impressive examples of a name that seamlessly merges its two media: comics and internet. It does so, moreover, with extra panache because the Dial H for Hero concept upon which it plays was itself a book that broke the barrier between comics and their readership (readers wrote in with character ideas that then appeared in the comic) just as Robby’s site does. It’s a meta-metablog. Wait, I’m getting dizzy…

When Fangirls Attack! – in the grand tradition of other great “attack” titles like Howling Curmudgeons, Ragnell and kalinara come up with a name that makes me happy every time I read it. At once playful and serious in its feminism, it is ingeniously meta and yet, at the same time, brilliant in its simplicity.

Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge – this one almost goes too far, but I really do love it. I want to say that it’s because the weird overlay of a new technology with archaism actually captures something very clever about the “global village” nature of ye blogosphere, but I think that, deep down, it’s just that all those extra “Olde Englishe” letters are really funny.

Tales to Mildly Astonish – like “Near” Mint Heroes, this blog’s name is a nice blend of self-deprecating irony and confidence, expressed within a comic book allusion. I like this kind of name, I think, because it pin-points the duality of comic blogs in general—that “who, me?”/“wait, listen to this!” quality of a public journal.

Although my favorites are all names that sit somewhere on the more obvious side of the continuum of comic book allusions, and since my own blog name falls largely outside this spectrum, here are a few honorable mentions of the more subtle sort that I admire for a variety of different reasons: Progressive Ruin (a fitting tribute to all of our addictions to seriality), Written World (possibly the best example of a sophisticated and resonant use of plain style), Pretty Fakes (this one needs a whole essay to explain its nuances; in fact, I think Prof. Fury may have written one!), A Trout in the Milk (Thoreau!), and last but not least, Crisis/Boring Change (possibly the most evocative of this type, and a Pavement lyric, if memory serves).

A number of this latter group are not exclusively comic book blogs, so the more general name choice no doubt follows directly from the broadness of the subject matter they treat. But the especially nice thing about these kinds of more general names is that when the blogs in question do write about comics, the names begin to acquire connotations and a richness they wouldn’t otherwise have. The restraint, even austerity, of some of these names, is pleasing in itself. But it’s that resonance—between the name and the content—that sticks in memory and makes the name hum.

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