Years ago, I started a Birds of Prey fansite on geocities.com. It wasn’t called Birdwatching yet (that came later), but It did really well and was popular and a hub of at-the-time otherwise unavailable nitty-gritty information about not only the Birds of Prey comic but its starring characters: Black Canary and Oracle. I spent a lot of time researching, collecting comics, and writing about the comics and characters, and loved it very much. Fandoms, especially when you’re in an active period of creativity about the thing you are a fan of, are so much fun. I got to interview cool people, met some people I’m still good friends with, and switched careers all thanks to a little comic book fan blog.
In those days I read so many comics. Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League, related titles, one-shots, special mini-series, tie-ins, everything Super-family except Superman, Vertigo comics, random indies like Strangers in Paradise. I preordered a couple dozen titles a month, easy, and also bought tie-in stuff like statues and posters and magazines. I was In. It. Fully.
At some point in there, I think around 2000, I bought a domain so I could host my own site, figure out all the things I could do with HTML, and control my own content. CanaryNoir.com has existed primarily as the host for my Birds of Prey fansite content ever since. So many of my graphics are so low-rez and so small in part because of the geocities origins — there were filesize upload limits and you wanted your page to load super-fast so the images had to be mashed down into the mashiest compressions you could make them. The amount of work it would take to go back and recreate things later was too much! So old mashed graphics just kept on keeping on.
I stuck with the fandom for several years, reviewing every issue and many related comics titles throughout the initial 10 years (the first one-shot came out in 1996; Issue #99 of the first run of Birds of Prey was published in December of 2006). Issue #99 saw Black Canary leaving the team, and at that point I pretty much stopped maintaining the site.
Gail Simone left the title a short time later and Birds of Prey v.1 was cancelled in 2008. Since then, comics in general haven’t been the kind of ongoing consistent story factory they were when I first got into the Birds of Prey fandom. In the late 90s/early 2000s, crossovers and reboots weren’t constantly blowing up continuity. The same writers and even artists might work on the same books for years and be able to develop characters and casts over the course of several story arcs. Crossovers didn’t always blow up the whole continuity but would expand on it, and they were usually easy to skip without missing anything within the title or titles you were reading regularly. That does still happen occasionally (G. Willow Wilson’s long, mostly uninterrupted original run on Ms. Marvel is one such example), but not often.
I burned out on comics over the next few years. The inability to follow a cast and creator over time by just reading their home book (as well as the frequent creative team shakeups) and the built-in cyclical nature of comics storytelling lost its appeal for me for most mainstream titles. For a time, I found that satisfaction in manga titles, but the ones I most loved (Fullmetal Alchemist primarily) wrapped their runs and ended. DC also cancelled its manga imprint which had been responsible for bringing a lot of the new-to-me and shorter-run manga titles that appealed to me best to the English-language market and the work involved in finding new titles on my own got a lot more difficult as the manga boom died down.
So I found myself just a few short years ago just reading Ms. Marvel and the brilliant indy comic Giant Days which wrapped its epic run in September 2019. I stopped reading Ms. Marvel when G. Willow Wilson wrapped up her tenure and left the book in January 2019. I also read and adored Rainbow Rowell & company’s Runaways continuation which I read until it, too, sadly ended in 2021.
That was the last ongoing comic I bought: Runaways #38 (legacy #100).
I still love comics in a sort of general way, but comics at a macro level are made for a very specific and narrow group of people. You can onramp into the fandom at a time when what is appealing to that target audience also appeals to you, or when the companies are trying new things to attract readers like you, but when tastes change or you turn out to be part of a too-small demographic actually buying the experiments, the things that you loved that made you a comics-buyer just go away.
Which is fine. That’s how all Intellectual Property works in our late-stage capitalist nightmare. I love the Marvel Disney+ shows and that’s where I mostly get my serialized comics fix these days.
I’ve poked at the Birdwatching site a bit here and there over the years, trying to figure out what to do with all the now seriously out of date content from the dawn of the 21st century and finally decided to just archive it permanently. I’ve reposted all the Birds of Prey reviews to this blog and also the interviews and the reviews of a few of the related titles.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with this going forward. I was thinking of blogging more generally about pop culture and fandom, so we’ll see if I end up doing that. I have another project I’ve been working on for a couple of years that I feel is not exactly coming to a conclusion but is reaching a point at which I’ll likely just let it settle into something I dabble in, so I am open to some new fandom passion.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you were a Birdwatching visitor, thanks for being there in that crazy, wonderful time.
Bird is the word,