What Is a Pubwatch, Even?

Blank Pubwatch banner by Corinne McCreery

Long ago, in the mysterious and misty past of 2017, WWAC began offering regular, coherent roundups of industry news and mini-reviews of recent publications from a variety of publishers and called them Pubwatches. Since then, our list of Pubwatches has grown drastically. In my exalted capacity as Pubwatch Editor (please note: capacity not actually exalted), I asked our erstwhile former Editor-in-Chief Claire Napier some questions about how she came up with the idea for Pubwatches, and what makes them such a boon to the reader.

In our monthly newsletter, I introduce our Pubwatch sections by saying:

Welcome to the wonderful world of Pubwatches! Throughout the month, WWAC helps you keep up with the industry by offering columns devoted to various publishers in the field. By reporting on individual publishers’ news and releases each month, our dedicated experts help you spot not only exciting issues to look out for, but also how shifts in management affect the industry overall. Read all of our Pubwatches and, well, you’ll probably know everything you need to know about comics.

The concept of Pubwatches seems pretty solid now, but I imagine it evolved over time. How did you first get the idea for Pubwatches?

I was the EiC of a comics website, getting a billion press releases in my inbox every day, and I was still regularly hearing people say things about publisher trends and creators that I had no idea about. I felt like a chump, but there was so much information floating around that it was unmanageable. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who felt that “comics” was hard to navigate, and I also figured from experience that finding a scene or industry’s output hard to navigate easily dissuades people from entering the arena. If you don’t have an impression of an entity to grapple with, you just skirt past it and feel ignorant, picking up dropped details here and there.

So I thought about the best way to create nodes of information that a reader can draw their own links between and I landed on “every publisher needs its own watchtower.”

So I thought about the best way to create nodes of information that a reader can draw their own links between and I landed on “every publisher needs its own watchtower.” Reading press releases helps, but reading scattered press releases from everyone all at once doesn’t—if someone is reading all the press, and as many of the actual books, as possible, then they’ll be building up a picture of some relevance. WWAC is a group of writers whose purpose is to engage, to create criticism, so one of those writing and criticising that built-up picture of one publisher’s output should be a pretty useful resource. The more we have, the better overview of the whole there is available. Readers can either read’em all, or just the ones that interest them, but either way it should increase accessibility and confidence.

How did the project get started? What were the first Pubwatches that WWAC published?

I remember I started trying to get Pubwatches going in August [of 2017], the month that I took over as Editor-in-Chief from Megan Purdy. Looks like I managed, too—the inaugural Pubwatch was Laura Bishop’s Lion Forge roundup. It began, “For marginalized people, my queer enby self included, it is a constant struggle to see oneself in the massive sea of heteronormative bleached media. Today, when the world seems to actively rally against us, Lion Forge is here to shine a mirror on those who need it most and walk the walk of diversity,” immediately proving the value of the enterprise. People need to know where to go to get what they want!

After that, September saw one column, my BOOM! Spotlight. I chose to do those weekly (when I could) because BOOM!’s output is just so high. Then in October, Rosie began her Dynamite column and Azha started watching Oni. November added a Vault column and a Viz column—none of these were steady yet, as it’s hard to go from nothing straight into an organised formation. For example, February 2018 had no Pubwatch releases at all.

People need to know where to go to get what they want!

There’s a lot to wrangle, making sure all of one publisher’s material is getting to its columnist, making sure that columnist has the time to read and reflect on it all, making sure they’re happy with the demands of a pubwatch, making sure they’re catching the details, making sure there’s room in the schedule for it when it’s finished. There are a LOT of publishers out there, and some put out a huge volume of material! As the Editor-in-Chief as well as features and Pubwatch Editor, I didn’t have the focus to make sure everything was running smoothly, even with Zainabb Hull administering the editors’ inbox for me, but luckily now that I’ve retired from editorial at WWAC, Emily Lauer has taken over as Pubwatch Editor and she’s perfectly suited for the job. Pubwatches are on regular schedules, and are really bulking up their number! It’s becoming the resource that I hoped it could be.

Yes, thank you, I do indeed enjoy compliments. You mentioned that you personally provided the BOOM! Pubwatch, which you did for a very long time, and recently you switched to writing a Valiant Pubwatch. How has Pubwatching BOOM! and Valiant influenced how you think about those publishers and the books they put out?

Doing the work I was asking for by taking a Pubwatch myself was really important, because it made it clear that my idea was good. Once I knew that, I could push for every one else to do the work that I was confident was worthwhile. It would help the readers get a handle on things, and it would help my writers build up the sense of confidence that comes with expertise. Concentrating on BOOM! (which I did, I should say, because their attitude to press copies is the best of all publishers’. They have a website with a password that updates every week, it’s clean-looking and attractive, it has creator info to copy and paste, it’s so simple. Bless you, BOOM!) let me comprehend BOOM! as an entity. Having all of their preview copies land in my lap week by week gave me a sense of their editorial direction, their common aesthetic, the things I could probably recommend their books on sight-unseen (rainbow-colourful queer-friendly content for all ages) and the things I couldn’t rely on from a BOOM! title (plot writing for serial, especially in teen-focus books). Knowing I “had to” pay attention to BOOM! news made it easier for me to notice BOOM! news, because it had a personal relevance peg.

Covering Valiant has made it clear to me how few books they put out every month. They rarely release four books a week, and that’s all output—single issues, collections, hardbacks, anything. Sometimes they have a week with no releases. This might sound like an oblique burn but I actually think it’s a strength of the publisher: they truly are a manageable superhero universe. Someone on a regular salary really might be able to buy every Valiant book released every week all year.

It’s also become very clear to me that Valiant have been letting normative masculinity drive the bulk of their creation since their revival, and that it’s a huge bummer. BUT having said that, I know that their newer additions to their editorial team seem to be aware of it and doing something to throw that balance off.

Thank you! To close out, what is the plug for readers? Why would someone want to read our Pubwatches?

Well, we’re pretty honest. Beyond that though, I don’t know. Who doesn’t like information?

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter and dog. She teaches writing and literature at Suffolk County Community College where she studies comics, kids' books, adaptations and visual culture. She is a former Pubwatch Editor for WWAC, and frankly, there is a lot more gray in her hair than there was when this profile picture was taken.