Russ Anderson Interview
Originally published in November of 2003. Sequential Swap was a nifty idea that I very much liked when it first came out. It was a website where people would post the Graphic Novels they had that they were willing to trade for another book. People would only need to pay for shipping. I utilized it myself and was happy with the results so I wanted to promote it. Eventually I had read everybody’s trade list and didn’t see anything I wanted and I suspect the same was true for others too. The site required a steady stream of new people with new interesting books they were willing to trade and that didn’t happen. The site is now dead.
Interview with Russ Anderson
Ever buy a TPB and didn’t like it? Are there books you want but can’t afford them right now?
Then you may want to head over to http://www.sequentialswap.com/. It’s a new website that’s getting peoples attention. Among the members are writer Andy Diggle (Writer – The Losers from DC/Vertigo), Johanna Draper Carlson (ComicsWorthReading reviewer), Alan David Doane (former webzine owner), and many more. The website is set up and run by Russ Anderson. This month I pick his brain about his contribution to comic fandom and his opinions on the comic industry.
Jamie: So, tell us about yourself. Where were you born, where did you grow up?
Russ Anderson: Born in Davenport, Iowa . . . but please don’t hold that against me. I consider my hometown to be Phoenix, Arizona, where I went to high school, but I’m currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m very well-rounded, geographically.
Jamie: What’s your day job?
Russ Anderson: I’m a technical writer for the government. This means, if you’ve ever read anything that was even remotely interesting, chances are it wasn’t me that wrote it.
Jamie: How did you get your start in reading comics?
Russ Anderson: Might as well ask me how I got my start blinking, because I sure don’t remember that far back. I’ve been reading comics since *before* I could read. Comics are the reason, in fact, that I was reading on a third grade level before I ever set foot in kindergarten.
Jamie: What convinced you to switch to trades?
Russ Anderson: Mostly practical considerations… namely, space. Like I said, I’ve been reading these things since I was a sparkle in daddy’s eyes, so my personal collection includes thousands and thousands of comics. They’ve pretty much taken over my basement.
Also, with the rise in popularity of decompressed storytelling, trades are just more practical for some titles. There are titles that I love — like DAREDEVIL or 100 BULLETS — that I simply can’t follow on a month-to-month basis, because so little happens in a given issue. Better to wait and get the stories in a chunk.
(Actually, now that I think about it, the problem with 100 BULLETS isn’t so much that it’s decompressed but that the story is so complex and there are so many characters running around. I literally didn’t understand large portions of that book until I went back and read it in trade. Same with Jason Lutes’ BERLIN.)
All of this isn’t to say, of course, that I’ve forsaken the monthlies altogether. I’ve bought AMAZING SPIDER-MAN every single month since 1984, and I’m not going to stop now. And there are some books that I either want to support or just don’t want to wait for. Still, I probably only buy 10 or 11 monthlies these days, and that includes mini-series.
Jamie: Do you have any particular favorite writers or artists?
Russ Anderson: Not one favorite, no. Currently I’m following Brian Azzarrello around wherever he may lead me, and I’ll at least check out anything Brian Michael Bendis or George Perez do. I’m really impressed with Steve Epting, Butch Guice, and Bart Sears’ work on their various and former books at Crossgen. As for indies, I adore Jason Lutes, Rob G and Rick Spears of TEENAGERS FROM MARS, Jay Hosler of THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES, and I wish to god Alex Robinson would hurry up and give us his follow-up to BOX OFFICE POISON.
There’s lots of good stuff out there. I like to think I’m too widely read to settle on just one guy or gal. Or maybe I just have a problem with commitment…
Jamie: How many unique vistors does the site get?
Russ Anderson: Somewhere between 60 and 90 a day, with individual page hits numbering in the 200’s to 300’s. Generally 3 to 5 of those visitors are first-timers.
Jamie: You very quickly got yourself a domain name. Why did you move so quickly on that?
Russ Anderson: Mostly because Adrian Watts — who saved us from the evil, evil clutches of Geocities and graciously gave us a home on his Particlesurge server — was having problems with his provider and I didn’t want the site to be dead for too long. I always intended to move the site to its own domain eventually, Adrian’s problems just accelerated things.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, Adrian, by the way. He really went out of his way to provide the site with a home back at the beginning. He gets a big thumbs-up in my book… even though he’s Australian. 🙂
Jamie: Your website really goes against the collector mentality of the comic fanbase. Are you surprised it’s taken off as well as it has?
Russ Anderson: Nah, not at all. I think things like the Small Press Expo and the takeoff of the trade and GN market in general are pretty strong indicators that there are plenty of people out there that are more interested in reading than in hermetically sealing the first appearance of the latest big Batman foe. If nothing else, comics — and by extension, trades and OGNs — are so expensive now, that most people simply can’t afford everything they’d like to read. Sequential Swap is a great opportunity for those people.
And understand . . . I’m not against the collector mentality. I consider myself a collector, and I have lots and lots of long boxes filled with bagged and boarded comics to back that up. I like to pull open a box and admire my copy of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32 or some old, worthless DEFENDERS comic that I’ve been hanging onto since I was 10 years old solely for its nostalgia value. In excess, that mindset can be damaging to the industry, as played out in the early 90’s, but the collector market was a strong part of the comic book business for many, many years before it got out of hand. As long as it’s not the only reason you’re here, we can all — readers, collectors, and everyone in-between — get along just fine, I think.
Jamie: You do all the updating by hand, how much time a week does it take to keep it running?
Russ Anderson: Five to seven hours, depending on how many new people sign up that week. Basic swapping traffic is easy to keep up with, and doesn’t take long at all, but adding a new name and a new collection to the site takes more time. Obviously I need to automate the system a little, but my web-fu isn’t currently up to par. Hopefully by the end of the year…
Jamie: Roughly how many of the swaps going on are between members versus members and vistors to the site?
Russ Anderson: With the exception of Andy Diggle (public service announcement: READ LOSERS!), who’s got a well-trafficked Delphi Forum to peddle his swaps on, probably 98% of the swaps are between members. I think people feel safer that way. We don’t have any way to punish someone who doesn’t live up to their side of the swap, but there is still some level of answerability, being part of a community like that. Fortunately we haven’t had any problems yet.
Jamie: Has there been any infighting about how books are being shipped or anything?
Russ Anderson: Nah, none at all that I know of. Everybody’s pretty laid back at Sequential Swap, and so far, entirely reliable. Some people like to ship media rate and some like to ship Priority, but if they can’t agree for some reason, they just wouldn’t swap.
Jamie: Do you plan on getting banner ads on Sequential Swap?
Russ Anderson: Eventually. Probably. But it’s nothing like a priority right now. First of all I need to stay on top of the day-to-day swaps. Second, I need to get the site automated. Once all that’s taken care of, THEN I can worry about advertising.