I noted in the message which kicked it off that my comics service would never have survived this long (coming up on 29 years next month!) without the word-of-mouth support from members of the old Comics & Animation Forum, nor would I have had an almost decade-long writing career in the comics industry trade press and for the promotions department at DC Comics. My thanks for those two gigs to Pat O’Neill, who shows up here now and again, and Jeff Lang, wherever you are. Comes to that, special thanks to Doug Pratt, the forum sysop.
As the obit linked notes, many of the things we take for granted on the web these days were part of the CIS experience way back in the day. As a “social network” sort of thing, it was, and remains, unparalleled in terms of ease of use and threaded message capabilities. And, under wise sysops, it was relatively free-form and encouraged participation beyond the restrictions of the main topic. In the comics forum, for example, a special section set aside for never-ending and oft-time bitter exchanges over politics and other controversial issues. It was, as you might expect, my favorite place to hang out.
I made some great friends in the forum, many who remain part of my life today (and some of whom I’ve never seen in person), along with a few enemies. Most of the latter relationships were passing things, wiped away when we met in person, but one guy was a committed wingnut (before the term existed) and outright racist with whom personal accommodation would have been impossible. He sent me an off-forum email at one point with such a vicious anti-semitic attack on another forum member that I actually sat stunned and stared at it for a good ten minutes.
Even that connection was informative, however. A comics anthology, never published, was planned by one forum participant to raise funds for abused children and I signed on to write one of the stories. When it was done, the artist assigned to it was the bad character just described. What I learned was that, despite personal differences, it was possible to work together professionally and creatively. Indeed, one or two changes he suggested to the script were major improvements.
All that, and much more, died with CIS, although a mailing list was created a while back among several old members following the death of one of our best known and liked fellow CIS-ers. It died out rather quickly, though, aside from the occasional post which turns up in my mailbox, a lonely cry from a time forever gone.