THE KILPATRICK FILES
Conor Kilpatrick, along with Ron Richards and Josh Flanagan, is the cleanest-shaved of the three headed monster that operates the comic book website iFanboy.com. The three friends started iFanboy a decade ago as an e-mail list, where each week one of them would pick what they thought was the best comic book to be released that Wednesday, and send out an e-mail to their dozen or so readers. Now, armed with a fully functioning website, connections all over the comic book world, and a whole staff of writers, they inform the small but fierce comic book world with all of the news and reviews their thousands of dozens of readers can handle. Five years ago, Conor was able to quit his job and work for his own website full time, a dream that the writers here at PopFilter Studios can only giggle about as they empty their bowels into their diapers made of newspaper. That “Pick of the Week” email list became the hugely popular “Pick of the Week” podcast, and in 2010 iFanboy was purchased by Graphic.ly, a digital comic book platform.
I caught up with Conor poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where his bodyguard allowed me to scream questions at him from only 50 feet away.
Ryan Haley: I want to start with ifanboy.com, its current iteration, and how the website was before. How many hours a week were you logging say five years ago or so, before this version of the website launched? How many hours a week is it now? Can you take us through an example of your current day-to-day?
Conor Kilpatrick: Five years ago was right around the time that I went full time on iFanboy. And right at the beginning I went way too hard with the website–I was working 12-14 hours a day–that I almost burnt myself out. The reason being was that I had just left my “real” job and I was the first one of us to go full-time with iFanboy and I didn’t want to the other guys to think I was slacking, sitting at home watching movies, so I went too far in the other direction.
I’ve learned since then, so these days I mostly work a regular work day. I’m up around 8am and working at 9am and I work until about 5 or 6pm. But because I work from home, and because iFanboy.com is a 24 hour operation, I’ve always got my laptop open and I’m always keeping an eye on things, if I’m near it. Working on the weekends happens on occasion, but it’s fairly minimal.
As for day-to-day, like I said, I’m up by 8am and since I’m in Los Angeles, I check in to see what’s been going on in the world of comics and iFanboy in the few hours since things kicked off for the day back east. I look over the website, I read all the other news sites, I check twitter. And then the rest of the day goes depending on what day it is. Monday is all about getting the Comics page up and running. Wednesday is all about reading the new book and writing the Pick of the Week if it’s my turn. On Fridays we usually record the podcast. And interspersed with all that I’m also doing work directly for our parent company, Graphicly.
RH: Do you still get to do as much writing as you’d like to do, or is there just too much “other stuff”?
CK: There’s just too much other stuff do deal with, unfortunately.
RH: I was listening to an old podcast the other day, and you guys were doing a Book of the Week segment. You turned the book around and saw that there was a blurb written by you on the back of the book. Have all of these connections to the comic industry sunk in? Does it still mess you up when you see things like that? When fans at cons come up and recognize you, just as they would their favorite creators?
CK: You know, it still hasn’t totally sunk in, even after all these years. Last night I was reading the new BLACKSAD and we had a blurb on the back and it still makes me go, “Oh!” when I see it.
I can vividly remember the first time I got a blurb. At that point, only Ron had gotten one on the back of DYNAMO 5. I was still at my old day job and had picked up my new comics that day and had read some during lunch. A user on the website congratulated me for my blurb on the back of CRIMINAL #10, which I had already read and had no idea was even there (who looks at the back cover?). I’ve got that hanging on the wall of my apartment.
I don’t know if “mess me up” is the right descriptor, but because I work from home, and because it’s a fairly solitary existence, I sometimes do forget that, “Oh yeah, people are reading this stuff, and the companies are reading this stuff.”
The fan interactions at conventions, where people ask for photos and autographs and the like, certainly does blow my mind sometimes. More so when I’m talking to someone on the floor like, say, Jason Aaron. A fan will often come up and ask to take a picture and I’m like, “Wouldn’t you rather a picture with him?”
RH: I think they just assume Jason Aaron will kick the shit out of them if they ask him. One more hacky question, and then we’ll get into the comics industry: how similar are you, Ron, and Josh when you hang out in person, as opposed to “hanging out” on the podcast? How much does the dynamic of the podcast shift when you’re all recording in person, as opposed to three different places?
CK: Great question about the dynamic of recording in person. It’s certainly different. The very first time we ever recorded in person we were at Ron’s parents’ house in Long Island. We had just recorded an all viewer mail episode of the video show that we did next to a pool, which was entirely just an excuse to go swimming in their pool in the summer time. So we did the show in Ron’s old bedroom and it was so uncomfortable that we couldn’t look each other in the eye while we did it. I remember talking and staring at the floor. I think that, in theory, the shows are better when we’re in person. Back when all three of us lived in the same general area and we did the shows in person on a semi-regular basis, I think the energy was a little better. It was a little looser. But then when we get together in person now–which is pretty much only at cons now–I think the energy is weird because we’re not used to doing it in person. We’ll sometimes refer to things that the audience can’t see, like, “In this panel here.” Forgetting that we’re not just hanging out, but that we’re doing a show.
As for how we are in person? It’s pretty much what you hear on the show. I think it’s one of the reasons we have been successful, we’ve always had a good, natural chemistry, going back to college. We might be a little dirtier in person without the microphones.
RH: Really? You guys aren’t explicit on the show, but you aren’t G-Rated either. Are you specifically toning it down because you might to a younger audience? Or is a dirtier show just not the kind of show you’re looking to do? I can’t imagine your moms are still listening at this point.
CK: I don’t believe our moms have ever listened. I have no idea why it’s so dirty off show now. It started a few years ago at Comic-Con and has just snow-balled. You ever hear stories about that Hollywood star who has just slept with so many co-stars and groupies and such that normal sex just don’t do it for them anymore? So they have to get kinkier and weirder? It’s kind of like that, maybe. I don’t know, I try not to analyze it too much.
As for the show, we’ve never been shy that it’s an show by adults for adults, but we try not to go too overboard. A well-placed “fuck” is far more effective than an endless stream of them.
RH: I totally agree, I just wish I could adhere to that. If I get passionate about something on my podcast, I sound like a guy with turret’s syndrome that just stubbed his toe. Alright, here’s the million dollar question: will you be able to one day hand your ten year old son or daughter a floppy?
CK: I don’t know. I doubt it. But then, that’s at least 10 years away. Josh’s son is 2 now and it’s possible he’ll never see a single issue at 10 either. The industry is changing fast. Faster, I think, than most people realize. Think about where things were 10 years ago vs. where things are now. Cover price, digital distribution, audience contraction, store contraction, rising costs, parent companies of the Big Two taking a much heavier hand in the publishing side. The landscape was completely different in 2002. In 2022? Who knows?
RH: OK, let’s focus more on the right now then. It’s been a year since DC’s reboot, or whatever you’d like to call it. One year later, do you think DC achieved everything they needed to? Do they regret it? As the resident DC guy on the show, do you think they were successful, just from a critical standpoint?
CK: Even having stabilized since the immediate, post-reboot spike, sales for DC comics are still way up from pre-reboot, so I don’t think they regret it. Their hits are more than enough to make up for their misses. BATMAN selling what it does pays for a lot of mistakes.
I think that from a critical standpoint they were mostly successful. There are still way more good books now than there were before. But like most things with DC, they didn’t go far enough. They tried to have their cake and eat it too by rebooting but not fully rebooting, which causes a lot of muddled storytelling that tries to play off a clean slate but still shoehorns in things from the past.
But for all the muddled storytelling, I can’t argue with books like BATMAN and WONDER WOMAN and DEMON KNIGHTS and AQUAMAN, etc. One of the things that I am really surprised that they did and have mostly stuck with is that there has been some commitment to diversifying the line with books like I, VAMPIRE and DEMON KNIGHTS and G.I. COMBAT. The fact that they’re experimenting with the non-traditional superhero fare is great.
So they reclaimed their market share, increased sales, anecdotally they seem to have brought back some percentage of lapsed readers, forced Marvel into this hackneyed Marvel NOW! non-reboot, and they seem to have a commitment to digital, so I think that DC probably achieved what they wanted to achieve. Even if most of the costume redesigns are garbage.
RH: So you would have wanted more of a complete, almost Ultimate-style reboot?
CK: I think if you’re going to do it, then DO IT, you know? If you want your heroes to be younger then go for it. Make Dick Grayson Robin again, have Wally West be Kid Flash. Start at the beginning and tell great stories of all these people starting out and meeting each other for the first time.