Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God Rest Ye, Arthur and Wizard

By way of Disinformation comes this story:

After years of service, Arthur departed the material plane today.

He died as he lived — free, high and a-dreaming of love, ‘neath vultures’ terrible gaze.

Thank you, and love to all.

Arthur Magazine was distributed at indie records across the United States, at places like Seattle's Sonic Boom Records or the Bay Area's Rasputin Records. In other words, places that are already on life support and mostly kept around due to larger community solidarity.

Wikipedia has a pretty good run down of the magazine's coverage:

Arthur magazine, a free bi-monthly 50,000-copy periodical, was founded in October, 2002 by publisher Laris Kreslins and editor Jay Babcock. It has received favorable attention from other periodicals such as L.A. Weekly, Print, Punk Planet and Rolling Stone. Arthur features photography and artwork from Spike Jonze, Art Spiegelman, Susannah Breslin, Gary Panter and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Arthur's regular columnists include Byron Coley, Thurston Moore, Daniel Pinchbeck, Paul Cullum, Douglas Rushkoff, and T-Model Ford.

Arthur magazine is particularly drawn to noise music, stoner metal, folk and other types of psychedelia. The first issue of Arthur featured an interview with journalist and author Daniel Pinchbeck (author of Breaking Open the Head); artwork by Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen); and an interview with Arthur C. Clarke.

As great as Alan Moore and T-Model Ford are, that is a pretty good lack of mainstream. Here at Blood Is One, we're smart enough to know that things are changing dramatically, especially in the music world. The snooty divide between "underground" and "mainstream" was really propelled by the big record label's monopoly on the business. The internet is fracturing that monopoly and in the process also fracturing the need for an "underground" or "counterculture." With Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud and blogs, artists can now push their albums, videos and promotion straight to the audience in order to build buzz for concerts, media contracts, merchandising and other money makers.

The writers I've got here are similar, though different. Will is a big fan of roots music and old blues, but seems perfectly willing to bump Lil Wayne any time. Aneesah gets the world of the web pretty tenaciously as well, and maintains a dating website that has alot of promise to it.

Arthurt Magazine was pretty cool, but with its limited, free print distribution and niche alliance to the avante garde, it was doomed to fail. The few times I picked it up, it provided a nostalgic feeling of being back in the 1990s to read an interview with Sonic Youth about the making of their first album, but that's not enough to bring in new people. It's amazing it lasted as long as it did.

In the world of comic books, an industry with differing dynamics than music but many that are similar, Wizard Magazine was finally forced to close its doors earlier this year:

Now this is an end of an era.

I am receiving multiple confirmations from across the industry, through none yet from Wizard’s higher ups and PR people yet, that Wizard: The Guide To Comics, the magazine that covered the mainstream comics industry for twenty years and created all manner of careers in the process has closed, effective immediately. Or at least the print version has.

Almost all Wizard magazine staff have been laid off, and all freelance engagements cancelled.

Sister magazine Toyfare, covering the toy market, has not been affected, nor have the Wizard comic conventions.

Created by Gareb Shamus and Stephen Shamus in 1991, the magazine carved a niche for itself covering the most commercial comics in the most aggressive fashion. At one point it regularly sold more than the comics it covered. But sales have declined of late, as the internet has grown in prominence and favour for this kind of news. For many Wizard is no longer the news breaker and agenda setter of the comics industry it once was. And people still have issues with the tone it has taken over the years. Even though it’s arguable that the last couple of years have seen some of the best Wizard content since it started.

The Shamus brothers are not really spoken of fondly in comic book circles. I've heard of them being slick and creepy, which must hold water considering that most people in the comic book world have negative social traits. In retrospect, Wizard was a conglomeration of everything that is bad for the comic book industry. It had significant links with Top Cow and many writers that worked there and preferred to push misogynist creations like Witchblade and Magdalena over the works of Oni Press or Dark Horse.

Like Arthur, Wizard was emblematic of a false divide that was probably bad for the comic book industry. Comic book conventions like Emerald City Comic Con are now overpacked, while they were seedy places in the 1990s when Wizard was at its prime.

Just like humanity has since its infancy, we still seek to be entertained and enjoy music, but the means by which we do that have changed dramatically and for the better.

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