THE KILPATRICK FILES
When last we left our Dynamic Duo, Conor was telling us that both iFanboy and the DC reboot could be considered a success, even though the costumes of both endeavors are typically pretty stupid. Let’s pick up the conversation mid-action. There will be no further interruptions.
Ryan Haley: How much better would the industry be doing if torrents somehow ceased to exist? Is it almost solely responsible for the state of comic sales today? How do you handle someone when you find out they unabashedly steal everything they read?
Conor Kilpatrick: Torrenting is tricky. Sales would certainly increase if torrenting went away, but by how much is the question. I’m not convinced that all of those people would flock to the stores. Maybe a 10% increase? Maybe 5%? But then, even an increase that low would be a tremendous boon for a niche industry like comics. As for torrenters themselves, if someone tells me–and they usually do it quite proudly–that they torrent their books every week I immediately write them off. I always challenge them on the website, even though I know they won’t change their minds, but I file them away into a “not good people” category.
RH: It’s the pride I don’t get. You’re helping to crush an industry that needs all of its niche demographic, and you’re slightly driving up the odds that it disappears. If Marvel and DC were to elect you as the Chairman of Saving the Industry’s Ass, what would your plan be? Have you ever thought about what you would do, and what they’re currently doing that is shooting themselves in the foot?
CK: I have some insight into the business side of comics and the challenges that the big companies face, but I certainly don’t know the full picture. But just sticking with publishing decision, oh man, I would still probably drive the industry into ruin. I would turn back the clock on superheroes and start all the books over at the beginning. Wipe the previous continuity away completely and start over. I’d do away with numbering on the books as they stand now, and publish in the Hellboy model of a series of mini-series that stand alone but also tell an overall story when put together. I’d give my comic industry a year before it completely collapsed.
RH: I love the Hellboy style. I think that all books should advertise which part of the particular story this issue is, as opposed to the issue number. Treat it like the issue number of a Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly. It’s just a stupid number. That “part 4 of 4″ issue might adhere to the law of diminishing returns, but the next issue, “Part 1 of 4″, will see a huge boost, a boost that doesn’t rely on constant new number ones. Due to the nature of your job, at least as a podcaster, you’ve had to train yourself on how to be a critic. How much thought have you put into becoming a better critic? How long have you been consuming things, not just comics, but movies, music, etc, with a critical eye? Do you remember doing it even as a kid?
CK: A lot of our comic book criticism was learned just by doing. We toiled for five years on iFanboy.com with no one visiting it. If you look at those old Pick of the Week reviews they are terrible. Two paragraphs, nothing of substance, they’re a joke. They were even kind of that way once we started podcasting and the audience started coming to the website. But I think that one we realized that we had this “thing” of all of sudden and we had an audience, we really put our all into making sure the reviews were good. That’s on the written side. On the podcast side, we just try to be fair. Even if we don’t like something, we try at least to be fair about it. Have we flown off the handle at times for comedic effect? Sure, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
It helps that all three of us studied media in school so we got a lot of basic training there. I come from a family of reporters so I think I’ve got some of that critical eye in my DNA. I’ve always watched a ton of movies and TV shows looking for quality entertainment and trying to figure out why some things are better than others.
RH: I think fair is important. Also, what happened to the good old-fashioned “It was okay and here’s why” review? Why is it that everything needs to be the single greatest or single worst thing of all time? When you disagree with the masses, does it make you rethink anything, like you should go back and re-consume it to see if you were right, or do you typically just trust your initial opinion?
CK: I usually trust my opinion. I’ve been doing this a long time and in that time I’ve come to understand that there are some things–probably more than some–that I like that not a lot of other people do. And conversely, there are some really popular things that I don’t care for. That’s just the way it goes. When it’s my turn to choose the Pick of the Week I don’t even look at the community numbers on the website until after I’ve made my selection, and usually until after I’ve written the review. It’s usually really interesting to see where the zeitgeist is that week versus what I liked (or didn’t).
RH: You spend eight hours a day working, in one manner or another, with pop culture. What does this do to your off-time? You have an article on your website called Stack Week, where each of the writers show the daunting pile of books on their nightstand, never believing they will be able to tackle it. I’m not even asking how you balance comics with the rest of your life. I’m asking how you balance it with all other forms of pop culture. Can you do a “Stack Week” with your Netflix queue or your DVR? Do you feel that same pressure, that feeling of never being able to catch up? It can start to lose its designation as entertainment, and almost become more of a responsibility.
CK: Since I’m home all day I’m usually pretty on top of my DVR queue. That’s not a problem. My Netflix queue probably has around 100 films on it, but I don’t look at it as something I have to conquer. They’re just… there. I’ll get to them eventually. Or I won’t, you know? I’m definitely okay with allowing my entertainment to be my entertainment. Especially as I get older and into my mid-30s I’ve become much more zen about that kind of thing.
RH: Are there some mediums or forms of pop culture that just had to go, or you had to cut back on, or do you try to maintain a balanced level of all media?
CK: I try to maintain a balance between films, TV, comics, and prose. I’ve never been a huge music person so that’s not a problem. If anything has suffered lately it’s been my baseball watching, and I’m actually really bummed about that.
But when I’m not doing iFanboy I’m usually not reading comics, I’m doing other stuff.
RH: What about balancing things like pop culture and relationships? Do you think it’s important to find someone who shares the same interests as you, or are you usually looking for someone who doesn’t care about any of this shit, so you can get a break from it?
CK: I’m tempted to say that I don’t take someone’s pop culture interests into account when I’m looking for someone, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. It’s not unimportant to want to be with someone with similar interests. I mean, this is the person I’m going to be going to the movies with and watching TV with, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into in that regard. But I don’t think it’s critical that you like the exact same things. My girlfriend now likes comics, but much more casually. On Wednesday, I’ll pick up 2-3 books for her as opposed to my 18-20. My last girlfriend liked comics as well (this is what happens when you work in comics, it’s who you tend to meet), but before that I had a few in a row that didn’t read comics at all. And that was fine too, we had other things in common.
It’s important to know what’s important, I guess. If you’re the kind of person who loves going to the movies then you’ll probably want to be with someone who wants to go with you every week. If you love watching television you might not want to date someone who owns a “Kill Your TV” shirt. Otherwise that’s really awkward. Like the time I, as a Yankees fan, tried dating a Red Sox fan.
RH: I’m a liberal that could date a conservative. I’m an atheist that could date someone who was religious. I’m an Angels fan, who would tell Mila Kunis to fuck off if I found out she was a Dodgers fan. Last question, and then I’ll let you get out of here. When something goes from a time consuming hobby to a career, how does that effect your long term plans? I know it’s impossible to answer, but do you see this as the last job you’re ever going to have, in one form or another? How much more pressure is there on your daily activities when the mindset goes from “I hope we have readers someday” to “I hope I get to pay my bills this month”, much less “I hope to one day own a boat” or “I hope to one day retire?”
CK: It certainly makes long term plans difficult, but then that’s common in comic books in general. What happens to artists and writers, the guys and girls not in the upper echelon who are making a good salary, when they become passe and the work stops coming, you know? It’s a rough industry.
And it’s no different for us. Josh, Ron, and I, we all know that this won’t go on forever. When that time comes and what happens after it’s over is anyone’s guess.