The Continuous Convention: WikiProject Comics
This week, we turned our attention to WikiProject Comics. Started in December 2004 by Phthoggos, the Project aims to increase, expand, improve, and better organize articles related to comics in Wikipedia. The Project is home to more than 37,800 articles, with 22 Featured articles, 2 Featured lists, and 102 Good articles. It currently has 307 participants. The Signpost interviewed Project members Tenebrae, J Greb, and Fram.
Tenebrae is a Master Editor and has been a Wikipedian since 2005. He became involved with WikiProject Comics "When I noted that some of the greats in this field, such as Joe Maneely, George Tuska and Gary Friedrich, had no articles, I felt, as a journalist and someone in the rare position of being both old enough to know their work and long-familiar with writing for the web, that if I didn't give them their due on this often younger-skewing Project, who would? I've since created 94 comics-creator bios plus a slew of related articles". J Greb is an administrator and has been on Wikipedia since 2006, and joined the WikiProject Comics because "Initially it was a desire to add information on topics related to my hobby. More and more, it has become trying to balance a belief that at least basic information about most aspects and elements of comics, should be present with respect for and use of, community derived policies and guidelines on content." Fram has been a Wikipedian since 2005 and is also an administrator: "I'm a Belgian editor, interested in (mainly European) comics, and I wanted a place to get feedback on what I was doing, and to discuss some standards, naming conventions, [etc.]".
Your Project has over 37,800 articles associated with it. How does the Project keep all these up to standard, and what are its biggest challenges?
- Tenebrae: This is our biggest challenge. Well-meaning fans, whose intimate knowledge of certain subjects are critically important and welcome, tend to treat Wikipedia articles as fan sites, filling them with minutiae and fictography of interest only to hardcore fans and not the general public. We need to better institute in them the notion that this is an academic encyclopedia, and that 10,000-word articles with issue-by-issue details like "Spider-Man knocked out Electro and then found Mary Jane behind the door" are not really helpful in that regard.
- J Greb: Right now, there are a number of editors that work through articles trying to bring a degree of consistency based on the Project's Manual of Style pages. But the biggest challenge we have is two fold. The first is for editors, new and old, to set aside a fan's desire to be overly detailed. Go in with a desire to see a writer, artist, series or character treated right, but remember that articles are for general use. The second is skewing in favor of either the new or the old. Most of us have our favorite series or version of something, but we have to remember that a topic needs to be treated as a whole, not just what we tend to gravitate to, or what is immediately available on the web or today's store shelves.
- Fram: Articles on comics from non-English speaking countries are often the work of one or two editors, and the quality of those articles varies wildly. Information about the author, the publisher, etc. may be lacking, while all characters are described in loving detail. Like with most pop culture areas, comics articles are often written from a fan's point of view, rather than from a neutral point of view.
WikiProject Comics has 22 FA-class articles, 2 FLs, and 102 GA-class articles. How did your Project achieve this and how can other Projects work toward this?
- Tenebrae: We have a nucleus of veteran editors who communicate well with each other, do a good job of soliciting Project-wide input, and try to bring along new editors who learn and respect the Five Pillars. Sadly, some of the founding fathers of the Project, who helped move articles along with this goal in mind, have understandably reached a point of fatigue. If we can reduce the fan-site mentality, that will help reduce fatigue in current editors.
- J Greb: In most cases, these are the result of a handful of editors working very had on very important topics to take what other editors have provided, and polish and complete them to either "Good" or "Featured" status. The biggest thing is that all editors need to look at what they have done and strive for that type of work, either in maintaining those articles or improving others. It is also worth noting that a number of those articles are in the hands of multiple Projects, showing a good degree of cooperation.
- Fram: To be fair, a significant number of these are more the work of the WikiProject Film than of the WikiProject Comics. We have some very good editors who have created very fine articles, but in general, we don't have a dedicated drive towards GA and FA articles. Many comics-related subjects have less high-quality, independent sources to be used in upgrading articles than more "serious" topics.
Does WP:COMIC collaborate with other WikiProjects?
- Tenebrae: Yes, WP:FILM. Unfortunately, there appears to be no overall "WikiProject Fiction" that might help us educate editors and enforce Wikipedia:Manual of Style (writing about fiction), and postings at that talk page had generated little interest or help.
- J Greb: Yes, there are a number of Projects we overlap content with: WP:FILM, which has produced a joint work group, WikiProject Television, WikiProject Anime, WikiProject Animation, WikiProject Biography, WikiProject Fictional characters, and WikiProject Video Games are the biggest ones. And a number of editors are active in one or more of these as well as Comics.
What are the most pressing needs for WikiProject Comics? How can a new contributor help today?
- Tenebrae: The former: to reduce fancruft. The latter: to learn the Five Pillars before contributing.
- J Greb: The most pressing need in my mind would be the ability to set the fan aside and reduce the minutia and hype. As for how new contributors can help, come into the editing with a willingness to learn and work with others. Also, come with a desire to work with the material.
- Fram: Apart from the responses above, the most pressing need is something that many other Projects struggle with as well: the underrepresentation of many countries on Wikipedia. We do not have enough information on comics from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and other parts of the world.
Anything else to add?
- Tenebrae: This wonderful, Utopian idea of a free encyclopedia covering topics both traditional and nontraditional, can be one of the most important contributions the web has ever given. I hope that our small portion of it continues to strive toward that ideal.
- J Greb: One thing I think is important is that we remember that articles are going to exists that can be justified, but will not reach the level of "Good". While the GA and FA articles are desirable, all articles deserves an honest look and honest work to make them the best they can be.
We'll be playing "Stars and Stripes Forever" next Monday. You'll be able to see the fireworks from the archive.
Check back for the next Signpost on October 30.