Caught In The Nexus: Ben & Daron 08.09.04

Daron Kappauff and Ben Morse are the Editors-in-Chief of The Nexus, formerly known as www.411mania.com/comics. Together they have developed a site that offers a range of reviews, columns and general commentary unrivalled in the Internet Comic Community. In addition both are gifted and popular writers in their own right; Ben’s The Watchtower is a must see feature every week and he provided amazing coverage of the 2004 San Diego International Comic Con whilst Daron writes the fantastic online comic strip 144Anima.com and his former columns Missing the Boat and the Overlord’s Corner are dearly missed. They took time out of their busy schedules to speak to their favourite writer (what!?!) about what the future holds”¦

The Nexus: Thanks for agreeing to the interview guys in what must be the most stressful week of your Internet career. This week sees the launch of The Nexus, the new home of all the writers, columns and features that used to reside at 411mania.com/comics. How surprised and pleased are you that we’ve managed to keep the whole team together?

Ben Morse: Surprised? Not at all”¦from the minute we knew about the switch, I was totally confident we would not leave a man behind. Having worked on other parts of 411 in the past, I can say without a doubt the Comics staff is the closest knit group to ever emerge from the site. We’re not just co-workers, we’re friends; Tim Stevens is a close friend from college I brought on when we had an opening, I speak to Daron on IM and the phone about everything from the site to our jobs to our relationships to just comics and I had a blast drinking and chatting with Jamie Hatton in San Diego. I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know most members of the staff over IM and they’re great guys; I know Daron has similar stories. Point being, it’s corny, but we’re not just staff, we’re family; the unique synergy between the twenty plus members of this site is what has made it come together as nicely as it has. So getting back to your original question”¦due to loyalty and friendship I was not at all surprised everybody came with us, but I was certainly pleased.

Daron Kappauff: Me”¦I was surprised as hell. I thought it was going to end up being just Ben and me starting over and having to hire a completely new staff. I mean 411 offered our guys our jobs when it was announced that we were leaving”¦I’m still shocked none of them jumped at it.

Seriously though, I have to say I’m not too surprised about it either. A lot has been said about the former 411comics crew being a family, and as corny as it may sound it really is the truth. Besides the individual friendships that have been forged (as Ben mentioned), the group as a whole has really become a great support structure (especially with all the events of this past week). It’s not uncommon for a staff email to quickly break off from it’s original intent and head down all kinds of different avenues (and often times very strange ones), of course not before or not without dealing with whatever was at the heart of the email in the first place. If we’ve made a big deal about the Nexus’ family of writers this past week it’s because the bond we’ve created means a lot to us. We really couldn’t do all of this without each other.

The Nexus: This week has been extremely stressful for everyone involved on the site but I feel that we have a team have grew even closer together and have been supportive of each other. What’s your opinion of our team of writers?

Daron Kappauff: Well since we’ve already sort of touched on the first part of that question, I’ll take just a quick second to talk about our writers. Let me say this”¦if it weren’t for our writers we wouldn’t be here. Now besides the literal translation to that (the fact that we literally wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have our writers), I’m referring to the fact that we most likely wouldn’t be where we are today if not for the tremendous talent of our writing staff. There are a lot of comics news sites out there”¦we know this. It’s because of this that we set out to create the “comics news site” with the best commentary on the industry. We know we can’t really compete with Newsarama of The Pulse when it comes to news (especially breaking news – though there was the one time”¦) so are best chance of survival was to create a site that offered something that none of the others did. A whole LOT of opinion on a whole LOT of topics. This I think is something we’ve accomplished”¦in spades.

Ben Morse: What my esteemed colleague said. We asked a lot of our writers because we knew we wouldn’t be the first to get the news we were reporting on, so we wanted to have something unique to say. Sure sometimes there are tangents, and yes some our jokes are a lot funnier in our heads, but at the end of the day I’ll say we’ve got one of the most dedicated and talented staffs out there who make a lot out of a little and crack me up on a consistent basis.

The Nexus: Fans of the old site have been extremely supportive of The Nexus yet some have expressed a desire to maintain 411mania.com/comics. What would you say to those fans of 411mania.com/comics that are unhappy with recent events?

Ben Morse: That it’s a lot more complicated at the top than a lot of people realize and that in a perfect world I know most if not all of us would have liked to see things stay the same, but of course this change allows for exciting new things as well. I would hope that everybody who enjoyed us at 411 will be following us to The Nexus where we’ll have everything you love and even more. Just because 411 will no longer have a Comics section is no reason fans can’t keep visiting 411 for other stuff and visit us at The Nexus for their comics fix.

Daron Kappauff: There’s not much more to it than that. If you haven’t read my last Overlord’s Corner yet, I try and explain the situation on a broad level. But past that and what Ben said it comes down to this. Did you enjoy reading 411mania’s Comic section? If you did, then you should enjoy reading The Nexus. Except for a name change (and some new stuff coming in the near future) everything is the same. You know what they say, “don’t judge a website by it’s domain name.”

The Nexus: The move to The Nexus will mean the severing of your ties with 411mania after a long and happy association. What did 411mania mean to you and what would you like to say to your former colleagues?

Ben Morse: I worked for 411 for four years, the entirety of my college career and I made many friends during my time there. A lot of those friends will be moving to the new site with me and I’m glad. Widro, the man who gave me my first real opportunities and always supported me at the site, is the founder of the new site, so obviously I’m happy about that. Still, I was a 411 fan before I was a writer so I respect and appreciate what Ashish Pabari has created and will continue to visit the site even after I no longer work there; I wish them the best of luck.

Daron Kappauff: What does 411 mean to me? Man, where do I start? 411 has been a MAJOR part of my life for the better part of two years now. Besides being responsible for creating some wonderful new friendships I’d have never found without it, it has let me become a part of an industry I really love. The joy I (and I’m sure most of the staff) have for bringing other fans news & views on the entertainment industry we all enjoy is almost incomparable to anything else I’ve ever done. It’s an opportunity I never expected to have, and am often still surprised at the series of events leading up to this very day. But to sum up what 411 has meant to me”¦it’s meant the world.

The Nexus: 411mania.com/comics was a highly successful and respected site with a fast growing reputation. How will the move to The Nexus build on that reputation?

Daron Kappauff: Well obviously, the first step is making sure people know that we’ve made this change so that we don’t have to literally “start over.” Past that, we’re going to keep heading in the same direction we’ve been moving in. The main focus of the site has always been opinions/views/reviews. We’re planning on building on that even more with some new columns in that vein (though they will be quite different from what we have now). Plus we’re going to keep trying to build a name for ourselves as a site to go to for interviews. We’ve invested a lot of time into making contacts in the industry and following through by getting in touch with creators to try and bring our readers information on their favourite comics that they won’t find anywhere else. I think we’ve been fairly successful in that regard, and our list of interviewees grows more impressive each week.

Ben Morse: It still floors me when industry folks tell us they read our site, so I hope we can continue to live up to expectations.

The Nexus: What features and columns do have planned for the future?

Ben Morse: Right now we’re mostly focused on just getting the thing up and running again, but once things have settled down, I’m sure we’ll be brainstorming new stuff, we’re just crazy like that. I can say we’ve got interviews coming up with Garth Ennis, Todd Nauck and Allan Jacobsen and that Jamie will be launching a very unique new column that I think everybody will enjoy.

Daron Kappauff: We’re also hoping to cover the forthcoming Wizard World Chicago. I don’t know if it’ll be as good as Ben, Tim, & Jamie’s spectacular coverage of the SDCC or not, but dammit we’re going to try.

The Nexus: You’ve been running the site for over a year now, how much time do you devote a week to running it?

Daron Kappauff: Wow, I can’t say I’ve really gauged it, but it also depends on what you mean by running it. If you just mean editing and posting various columns, top stories and the like, then probably not as long as you might think. Two or three hours a week maybe? Now, when there’s writing involved it obviously takes a bit more time. Of course, if you want to get into all the back ground stuff well”¦that can get a bit crazy. There’s the infinite amount of emails to sift through and reply to each week (I had 42 after only being gone for like 36 hours this weekend from just the staff alone.) There’s all the promotion that we do; keeping the site’s name fresh in people’s minds. Not to mention keeping up contacts with industry pros. There’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and I’d honestly have to say that any time I’m at home I’m most likely doing something related to the site.

Ben Morse: My girlfriend gets excited when she has like five new e-mails and I just laugh, because I always have at least thirty (and most of them are just Manolis talking about soccer). Like Daron, if I’m at my computer, I’m at least checking on, if not working on, 411; it’s our baby (and I’m the daddy).

The Nexus: What motivates you to devote such time and energy to it?

Ben Morse: Love of comics, pure and simple. I got burnt out on the Wrestling zone after awhile, but I don’t think that will ever happen here just because of the strong emotional ties I feel to the comic book medium. I believe it is one of the most powerful story-telling mediums we have available to us, that is has produced beautiful and inspiring work and that it’s just plain fun. I love comics and this site has been a labor of that love.

Daron Kappauff: As Ben said the love of the industry is the driving force that keeps all of going, but past that (for me at least), I really just enjoy what we do. I graduated from college with an English/writing degree, and working on this site allows me to put all those skills to use. A lot of the time it’s really hard to get myself motivated to write something (especially with a full time job, a social life, and what have you), so having the responsibility I have to the site forces me to sit down and do something (even if I’m not currently writing anything regularly at the moment”¦unless you count 144Anima.com of course.)

The Nexus: What is and has been your vision for the site and how close are we to achieving it?

Ben Morse: When I conceived the site back in 2002, I just wanted a place where I could write my opinion on comics and others could do the same. As we grew and Daron came onboard, our vision became a comics site that provided something different from the ones already out there; we knew we couldn’t compete with the bigger news sites, so we concentrated on becoming the best editorial site on the web, providing opinions to go with the news we get from other sites. I’m very happy with where we’re at, but I’m a perfectionist and I know there’s always room for us to do more.

Daron Kappauff: I’d have to say that we’ve hit every goal we’ve set for ourselves. With that said, I think we’re continuing to set new goals for ourselves all the time. I’m under the impression that if we simply set A goal for ourselves one of two things would happen. 1) The goal would be so lofty that we’d never achieve it and thereby bring everyone down. 2) We’d hit our goal and then become complacent because it was such a lofty goal. Like Ben, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I always think there’s room for improvement. Every goal achieved is a stepping-stone and I’m very proud of the staircase we’re building.

The Nexus: Looking back over what you’ve achieved with the site so far what are you most proud of?

Ben Morse: The recognition we’ve gotten from members of the industry. I remember how cool it was the first time I was flipping through comics in the store and saw a 411mania review quote on the cover. Many of us have also forged close ties with some of our heroes in the industry and it’s been a dream come true. San Diego was such a pleasure because so many guys I respect and admire were so nice and complimentary towards me and the site. For any negative feedback we get, stuff like that validates the work.

Daron Kappauff: Is there an echo in here? Oh, no that’s just me repeating everything Ben says. The respect we’ve gained from the industry really has been the coolest thing that’s come about since we launched less than two years ago. The first time an industry writer told me that his editor told him to come to our site to get reviews on his work, I just about lost it.

The Nexus: Is there anything else you want to tell your and the site’s fans before we finish?

Ben Morse: Thanks for your support, and I’m not just saying that because it’s “the thing you’re supposed to say.” We do this site for the fans because we are fans, so we love getting feedback and love that you enjoy what we do.

Daron Kappauff: I want to say thanks also for taking a chance on the little guy. There are a lot of comics news sites out there so we realize that you have a lot of choices, and we really do appreciate every reader we have. Your support has been invaluable and you all really are the reason we’re all here.

The Nexus: Lastly, can I ask the question that I’m sure everyone wants to ask but won’t- what the hell is a “nexus” anyway?

Ben Morse: Honestly, it’s just a place where many people or things meet”¦but it sounds much cooler as just a vague scientific term that could mean anything.

Daron Kappauff: That’s it exactly; it’s the confluence of many things into a specific point. In reference to the site, it basically solidifies the idea that you don’t have to go anywhere else to get all the comics news & views you’ll need to stay up to date with what’s going on in the industry.

The Nexus: Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Daron Kappauff: It was our pleasure.

Ben Morse: What he said”¦it’s kinda his job to say stuff so I don’t have to.

You can read the continuing adventure of The Dark Overlord at www.144anima.com.You can read Ben’s work at www.comicsnexus.com …oh yeah, Daron will be there as well.