MangaBlog Anniversary Features: 2nd Anniversary
It has been a little over a year since Brigid Alversion's Manga4Kids/MangaBlog became Backstage's first featured site. Since then, there have been some big changes within the online community, and many old blogs are no longer around. However, Brigid's MangaBlog is still going strong, and Brigid now finds herself more involved with the community than ever, writing articles for sites like Comixpedia, PWCW and Digital Strips.
On March 4th, MangaBlog celebrated its 2nd anniversary. Backstage caught up with Brigid and asked her a few questions about the state of MangaBlog for the past year.
*All drawings of Brigid in this interview are by the very talented Jason Sigler, who blogs at Digital Strips under the name The Midnight Cartooner.
Backstage: It's been a year since we last talked, and MangaBlog recently celebrated its 2nd anniversary. Over the year, how have things changed for MangaBlog?
Brigid: Many things changed. Now I'm used to doing these morning link posts, with links to major manga reviews on the web so people can see them, know what others are reading, and what people are talking about. I've also worked on more reviews and interviews.
Backstage: Yes, there have been more interviews appearing on MangaBlog lately, like the one with Fanfare/Ponent Mon. How were your experiences doing interviews with the "big players"? What is your advice to those who are trying to start their own news site?
Brigid: I have a journalism background. Being a reporter for a newspaper since 2000, I'm not afraid to pick up the phone. The comic industry is a small world, and people are happy to talk to you.
I usually would use email first. For example, with the Fanfare/Ponent Mon interview, everybody was talking about the Fanfare title The Building Opposite, but nobody could find it, since it was available in comic stores but not bookstores. I looked at the website email info of Fanfare, I didn't know who was on the other side of the email. My first email went to the wrong person, who then forwarded me to Stephen Robson, we talked back and forth through email, then I asked him if he wanted to do an interview... in the comics world, most people are very receptive.
Backstage: You had a great time at this year's NYCC, care to share with us some stories of your adventures there?
Brigid: It was a great experience; I got to meet with a lot of people there, bloggers, journalists, editors and creators.
When I was standing in line waiting for my press badge, someone behind me asked: "What time is it Brigid?" I turned around and exclaimed: "Are you Ed Chavez?" I have my picture on my website so Ed knew how I looked, but I didn't know him. I thought Ed would look like his avatar, which he kind of does. Later at the ICv2 Graphic Novel conference we formed a bloggers row, where Heidi MacDonald, Ed, Erin F. and I all sat in a row.
Also, one night when I was done with NYCC, it was pretty late and I couldn't get a cab. Since I was in NY, I didn't want to go back alone, so I attached myself to a group of people. I asked the last guy in the group if he'd mind walking with me for a couple minutes. We had a conversation, and I noticed that he was carrying a portfolio, so I asked: "Are you an artist?" He replied: "Yes." I asked: "What are your jobs?" He said: "Superman." It turned out he was a free lancer on Superman. It's great being at Cons and see people coming up to you and say "Wow I know who you are!"
Backstage: In the past year, you changed MangaBlog's domain name from www.manga4kids.com/wordpress to www.mangablog.net, what's the reason behind that?
Brigid: Manga4Kids started out as a parent's site, when I started MangaBlog, I just wanted to talk about shojo manga and considered my audience to be girls around 14. Over the years I've started to talk about manga in general. For example I've never talked about yaoi before.
MangaBlog has become a general manga blog, and its scope has been widened by a lot. When I link to Simon Jones' blog, I know it's not something kids would want to read. I would say the content now is more PG-13, more general, and there would be different types of content, like reviews and interviews.
I also enjoy reading other blogs. When I see a new blog, I would add it to MangaBlog's links list. Sometimes if people don't update their blog very often, I would ask myself: "What blog is that?" Then I would have to go and look up their posts to remember.
Backstage: Today MangaBlog is one of the forerunners of manga blogosphere. However, back in the days, Love Manga and Irresponsible Pictures were the two most well-known manga blog. How has those two blogs influenced and inspired you?
Brigid: They inspired me a lot. When I first started, David Taylor's Love Manga was already well-established. I was in awe of David's ability to analyze the market. He would look at the sales numbers, and really see the trend. Just from reading David's blog, I learned a lot not just about what's going on in the manga scene, but "how to do it."I've always followed Pata's Irresponsible Pictures; he brought in more of the cultural aspect of the manga world. Pata would talk about anime, film, and a variety of other things, which help put things into perspective. He's also a good writer; I enjoy reading his reviews on ANN.
As for MangaBlog being popular, I never thought this would happen. It kind of just happened; I never had a five-point plan. Although I'd like to mention that Love Manga were one of the first blogs to link to me, David commented on MangaBlog when I would only get 20 hits a day, and that was a huge incentive for me to post more. When I realized there were people reading, it makes me want to write more.
It was scary when I would make an error on MangaBlog posts. For 4 years I wrote for a local newspaper, so if I mispelled someone's name, I would hear about it the next time I went to the supermarket, you just can't escape the readers and have to be accurate. For Mangablog, in the beginning when I didn't know a lot about manga, I would make mistakes and people would say something like: "Oh! How could you say something so stupid?" Sometimes I almost didn't want to blog again, but there are people who encouraged me, and I learned a lot as well.
Backstage: Yes, it's great when you know people are reading your blog, and leaving their feedbacks.
Brigid: What's great about blogs is that people often have conversation in the comments, and they usually turn into some very interesting discussions.
I used to never post press release, but then companies start sending press releases to me. When I posted one, everyone started commenting on it, and there were wonderful discussions, so I started doing it more often. I like the way people come and discuss. I only post press releases when I think people are going to come and talk.
Recently Matt Thorn came to my blog and left some comments on my old posts, and I was psyched when I looked at my wWordPress Dashboard. I thought those comments were too good to skip, so I emailed Matt and asked if I could post them on the frontpage, and he replied: "No problem."
Backstage: You were featured on Digital Strip's comic strip, how did that happen?
Brigid: The comic strip is drawn by bloggers on Digital Strip. Digital Strip is a group blog, and I'm a member of it. Back in November I got an email from Daku the Rogue, the person who runs the site. He asked if I wanted to join, and I though: "Hmm this is something different." It's a group blog, and also a webcomics podcast blog. We made a banner, and I'm on the right hand side - the grey-haired lady. Digital Strip has had a webcomic for a long time, and it's a parody of which I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read. Tania Del Rio, who draws Sabrina for Archie Comics, was kind enough to make an avatar for me.
Backstage: Please tell us how have you been managing MangaBlog recently, what's going on behind the scene at MangaBlog?
Brigid: Every morning I kind of browse the web for news, looking through Google Alarts and whatnot. Two days a week I actually work at an office, so on those days morning posts are a bit rarer. I have more time to look through and cover things in the later part of a week.
A while ago we had to upgrade our server, and since then I've been more business-like/regular about MangaBlog, posting everyday and whatnot. I started getting review copies of manga from publishers, and I enjoy reading and reviewing the books, which is something I like to do more of. I could do nothing but write about comics...except for my family of course! I could just pick up a manga and go to Starbucks, and read through everything in one sitting. I can be very productive that way.
Backstage: What about your experience using WordPress as a blogging platform?
Brigid: I've been very happy with WordPress 2.0 (and later 2.1). I use Safari as my browser, before 2.0, I had to type up the HTML by hand, and if I made an typo, it would end up as a broken link.
While moving our server, we also upgraded WordPress at the same time, as a result the posts briefly "disappeared." The site wasn't exactly down, and later everything turned out okay, but it was a frightening moment when all the contents disappeared.
I give my husband a lot of credit. He's been really supportive, and gave me a lot of ideas. He was the one who told me: "You could do a blog. Look, it's easy." It turned out WordPress was a lot easier to use than Dreamweaver, which was used to make Manga4Kids. It was so easy, I'd ask my husband: "Can't I do Manga4Kids as a blog?" And he would reply: "No you can't!" (laughs) I had thoughts about taking down what's there on Manga4Kids and replace it with something simpler. At the moment MangaBlog is taking up most of my time.
Backstage: Thanks for your time! Any last words before we finish?
Brigid: It's been a really great experience having readers come and comment on the blog. They're wonderfully reinforcing, and would turn into wonderful conversations. I really enjoyed seeing people at NYCC, seeing virtual folks turning into real people were really cool, it was just a lot of fun. I really appreciate all the support from people, I don't want to make money with MangaBlog - there are no ads on the blog, it's one of those things you do for love. As a writer, it's been a good experience to get up every day and write about manga.