I recently got to thinking… Isn’t it about time I talked more about this blog?

So, today that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to draw back the curtain and reveal some of the inner workings of this blog.

By the end of this (lengthy) post, you should know more about It’s A Stampede!; more about me; and more about the magic and mystique that goes into putting out regular content. For starters, here’s a short info blast about me.

  • Name: Alexander Wiggan
  • Age: Old enough
  • Married: Yes 
  • Location: Manchester (UK)
  • Occupation: Writer/blogger
  • Interests: Comics, movies, toys
  • Favourite food: Chinese
  • Favourite movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Favourite day of the week: Saturday

In addition to this, I’ve been writing both professionally and non-professionally for over a decade; I have a degree in film & television studies and a certificate in journalism; and… this blog isn’t my first rodeo!

Prior to setting up It’s A Stampede!, I used to run The Comics Code (which is sadly now defunct) and I spent four years as the main writer of the Honcho-SFX blog. I have also got years of experience as a magazine editor and copywriter, and I have written and contributed to a number of publications.

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The blog

OK, so that’s a little about me, but what about the blog and where exactly do I fit into all this?

Well, It’s A Stampede! is my blog. It has been in existence since February 1st 2018 and in essence it’s a pop culture blog covering movies, TV shows, comics and toys.

Why these subjects? Because these are all subjects I’m very interested in.

I figure, if I’m going to write about something on a regular basis then it really should be something that I like. You should always write about what you know and what you enjoy (or what pays you a decent wage).

Writing is my way of being creative, while at the same time releasing everything that’s in my brain. Sometimes my mind becomes like a sponge, soaking up news stories, opinion pieces and general thoughts, so having a blog is a great way of wringing out the ol’ grey matter.

I guess that’s why It’s A Stampede! is an eclectic blog. It is essentially what you get when I empty the contents of my head onto a page.

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If you’re new to this blog then you may not have picked up on this yet, but the subject matter can vary considerably depending on what I’m thinking about at any one time. Sometimes I might post a scathing review of Cats (2019), other times I might post about vintage toys.

You see, as much as I want this blog to adhere to some kind of remit (geek/sci-fi etc) there will be times where I mix things around a bit. Again, this is due to the brain-dump nature I like to follow when being creative.

The important thing for me is to remain as consistent as possible, but to be informative too. If I come across a story or a subject that I know I’d like to read about, then I’m pretty certain I’d like to write about it too – and I will.

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What’s in a name?

Image: ©TriStar Pictures

So, how did It’s A Stampede! come to be?

Well, at the end of 2017/the beginning of 2018 I was juggling a number of projects but none of them were specifically my own. I didn’t necessarily want to add to my workload, but at the same time I knew in order to be completely happy on a creative level I needed something that was mine.

A blog seemed the most obvious option, as I had plenty of experience in this field and it would be fairly manageable. Of course, I realised I’d need to spend sometime getting it off the ground developing content, but hey, who needs sleep?

As movies would fill up a large chunk of this blog, I also figured that a film reference or a movie quote should provide the inspiration for its name. Nothing too wordy – who has time for that?

After some consideration, the 1995 Robin Williams family film, Jumanji provided me with a line that could sum up the blog. It’s A Stampede! would be various stories of all shapes and sizes, coming along in quick succession, just like a stampede!

And that’s how It’s A Stampede! started and has pretty much operated since Day One. Sometimes I flung stories up on here with such a quick pace, I barely had time to think about them, but that is the way things go.

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Back to the future

Over time I have developed and refined the blog, and I will continue tweaking it a little here and there whenever necessary. Oh there will still be an eclectic feel to the blog, but things may change from time-to-time.

I don’t always want It’s A Stampede! to be a faceless collection of words on a page. So to that end I do share convention/event/geek photos, so you can see what I get up to when I’m not blogging (see below), and I always encourage social engagement through the comments section.

From the moment I envisioned It’s A Stampede!, I wanted it to feel like a club or a community hub, where like-minded people could drift to if they needed some light relief or escapism. My posts detailing the order of the Halloween movies or a viewing of BMX Bandits might not be the most important topics of the day, but to some people they might make a small difference.

And ultimately that’s what It’s A Stampede! is here for – to make a difference. It might not be life changing, but if this blog offers five minutes of entertainment (or distraction) for you or me, then it’s achieved it’s goal.

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Getting to know It’s A Stampede! – Part 2

To understand the inner workings of this blog, you kind of need to understand me.

This is me (at around the age of 3 years’ old). At the time this picture was taken (the 1980s) I was a big super hero fan. I’m still a big super hero fan now, but sadly that homemade Bat-suit doesn’t fit me.

I’ve put this image here to provide some context about who I am and what I like.

I am a proud geek.

On a daily basis I think about geek things on the hour, every hour. From movies and TV shows to comics, toys, conventions and more, I love the world of geekdom!

It’s not that I have issues with the real world (well, maybe sometimes), but let’s be honest the make believe universes and multiverses created by Marvel, DC, Disney and many others are just so damn appealing!

On a weekly basis I watch and read lots of geek content and I regularly visit comic book stores, toy shops, cinemas and conventions/events, because I LOVE being immersed in geek culture.

Sometimes I watch old episodes of Saturday morning fave, What’s Up Doc?; other times I will go on a toy hunt around Manchester (my home city). This is something I tend to do on a regular basis, often when I’m on the look-out for something new (or old).

Toy hunts are fun. I’ve never lost my interest in plastic playthings, plus looking at all these beauties reminds me of my youth.

And that’s another thing you should know – I am a nostalgia junkie. BIG TIME NOSTALGIA JUNKIE.

Honestly, I love looking back at the ’80s & ’90s and these two decades form the backbone of this blog. Not everything I write about comes from these decades, but I do gravitate back to this era quite often.

The shows, the comics and the movies that tend to feature on It’s A Stampede! often link back to my childhood and the imaginative characters I grew up on. I feel fortunate that a great deal of these characters are still in existence today, inspiring the next generation, and while they’re still around doing their thing, I’m over here doing mine.

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A hub for ideas

As previously discussed, I see this blog as a great way to unload all my thoughts. So the blog is effectively a daily(ish) mind dump of all the things I’ve read about or thought about.

Sometimes those thoughts will transform into a lengthy discussion about movies or comic book characters, other times I may share something which has caught my eye. If there’s a topic I really want to talk about, or a subject I want to get off my chest then I will use this blog as a space to do that.

I don’t expect everyone to share the same opinions as me – where’s the fun in that? What I’d like to do is simply provide my viewpoint and allow for others to provide theirs via the comments section of each post.

Discussion is a great thing. Through discussion, new ideas can be formed and opinions can be considered. And here’s the important thing to note: I want to share what I like with like minded people.

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Getting to know It’s A Stampede! – Part 3

Why do I write? 

I write because I’m a writer.

There’s a quote in the book, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Wilke, which reads: “If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you are a writer.”

These are wise words, but sometimes it takes a while to accept them.

Back when I started writing, I would send countless emails to magazines offering my services for free. In order to get paid gigs I needed experience, but it was difficult to get experience unless I was given the opportunity to show people what I could do.

You’d think that by offering to work for free I would have been inundated with offers, wouldn’t you? Well sadly I wasn’t and it took a lot of emails to get anyone to respond.

When I did get a response, I was so happy to get some experience under my belt, I continued to write for free for sometime. In fact, I wrote for free for far too long and this had an effect on how I viewed my own abilities.

I had a strong desire to write, but because I wasn’t getting paid I felt like I couldn’t really class myself as a writer. This train of thought stuck with me for quite some time until paid gigs started happening.

Then one day, I realised that from the moment I’d sent the first email until the day I got my first pay cheque, I was writing. Early mornings, late nights, weekends – these were all times when I’d sit and type out words.

Often I was writing not because I was being asked to, but because I had a genuine desire to do it. And that’s when it finally hit me – if I was spending the majority of my free time writing, then I was a writer. Paid or unpaid, published or unpublished, pen or keyboard, I was a writer. 

This was an important lesson to learn. It took me too long to learn it, but I got there in the end.

It’s also a lesson that I could have applied to anything that I had felt passionate about. It’s a lesson everyone should understand.

To paraphrase Sister Mary Clarence in the movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), “If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing first, then you’re supposed to be a singer, girl.”

Remember this lesson.

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What should you consider when writing?

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For me, there are two very important things to consider when writing.

  • Is the subject matter something I’m familiar with?
  • Is the subject matter something I’m interested in?

If you’re interested in the subject and you know it inside out, then you will write about it with passion. If you’re not familiar with the subject and you have zero interest in it, then you’d best do some research to make sure you know what you’re talking about!

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What makes a good story?

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People. People make great stories.

Find the person in the story and give them the opportunity to connect with the reader.

If you’re writing about the construction of a new building, tell the story of the people who constructed it or the people it is being built for. If you’re writing about the closure of a local cinema, talk about how this affects local people.

Boring subjects can be made interesting if you find someone to talk about. Plus, people are interesting.

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Who is the best person to write for?

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Who is the best person to write for?

YOU!

As much as I’d like to say I write content for everyone in the world, the truth is I write content mostly for myself. If I’m not interested in it, then it’s unlikely that I’ll be writing about it – unless I’m getting paid.

If I’m getting paid, then I’ll write about whatever I’m being asked to write about (within reason). I don’t have to be interested in it, I just need to find an angle that makes it interesting for me.

Of course, if I’m writing something I’m not so interested in then I also consider who it is I’m writing for and address the tone and content accordingly. I always try to break down jargon and terminology so that the information is understandable for everyone.

If I’m not being paid to write something then I write about what I want to write about. No one pays me to write It’s A Stampede!, so I write what I want, when I want.

The point of all this is that the best person to write for, whether you’re being paid or not, is YOU! If you write something that you know you could read and understand, then it’s something worth writing!

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Getting to know It’s A Stampede! – Part 4

Whether this is your first visit to the blog or you’re a seasoned reader, chances are you’ve not read everything that is on offer on It’s A Stampede!. At last count there are over 2,000 posts on this blog, which is a heck of a lot of content to get through, so I don’t expect everyone to have read everything.

In fact, I never expect everyone to have read everything I’ve written. I understand that when people come to my blog it could be their first time here.

The ‘new reader’ element is something I’m always mindful of, so I always try to make my posts as clear as possible so we are all on the same track. Occasionally this means repeating myself, or putting SPOILER WARNINGS in block lettering at the top of posts to make everyone aware of potential hazards, but that’s fine, I want everyone to have an equal footing.

I believe it’s always important to speak to everyone in the room. Never presume that we’re all on the same page because quite often we’re not. But we can be.

Anyway, back to my original point – there is a lot of content on It’s A Stampede!. Back when I launched this blog I said:

“Over the coming days/weeks/years* (*please delete as applicable) I aim to fill it with various news pieces, stories and features from the world of pop culture/entertainment. This blog will have a pretty informal style, but rest assured that doesn’t mean I’ll only be updating it when I’m at a loose end – far from it, I plan to update frequently.”

And I have updated this blog frequently. During the first year (Feb 2018-Feb 2019), I updated It’s A Stampede! on a daily basis – twice a day, actually.

As the blog has evolved I’ve purposefully slowed down the output. I have also branched off to create sister blogs: I’ll Get Drive-Thru and Don’t Tell Harry. You can’t read posts all the time and I can’t write them all the time either – but I hope we both get enjoyment when we do.

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What makes great content?

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What I’ve found from blogging is that my most popular content tends to be the posts which really engage with the material. Something with a bit of meat to the bone.

Early doors, when I first started blogging, I would post short pieces, mostly news items which would hit as soon as a story broke. I don’t do this so much now – too many entertainment sites do it and I don’t enjoy writing this type of conent.

I also used to post a lot of movie trailers. Again, this is something which I stopped doing as it took far too much time to compile a post about a trailer, when I could simply share it on social media with one click.

The important thing to remember is to update your content. Keep it fresh, keep it interesting and stick to the golden rule of talking about things you enjoy.

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Getting to know It’s A Stampede! – Part 5

In terms of formal qualifications, believe it or not, I actually have some! No, seriously.

Thanks to college, I have a certificate in journalism. Three years of university has also given me a degree in film and television studies.

So, yeah, chuck those qualifications into a mixing bowl with some GCSEs and an A-Level and I have a few bits of paper that prove I’ve studied.

Go me!

But qualifications aren’t the be all and end all. I genuinely believe experience is often just as important than what is on paper (if not more so).

So what experience am I taking about? 

A great deal of what I write about is movies and television. As I’ve just mentioned, I’ve got a degree in studying these mediums, but my experience goes much deeper.

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He works hard for the money

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When I left school (many moons ago) I spent three years working in a video rental store. Not only did this job give me access to pretty much unlimited rentals (whoop whoop), it also gave me a great deal of time to talk to people who also enjoyed movies!

People of all ages would pop into the store to rent a VHS tape and this often led to conversions and observations about who rented what and why? Films that I’d sometimes dismiss would turn out to be popular choices amongst renters and movies that seemed surefire hits would languish on the shelves.

Basically, there wasn’t always a hard and fast rule about what was popular and what wasn’t. People liked what they liked.

I learnt a lot working at the video store. I learnt that my opinion of a movie wasn’t the only opinion and this is something that remains with me to this day.

Film is subjective, so when I write about movies I understand that not everyone will agree with me. My opinion is MY opinion, and just that. Everyone has an opinion and it is equally as valid and should never be dismissed.

Outside of working at the video store I’ve had a number of jobs over the years, from sales and barista positions to working in an amusement arcade, and much, much more. None of these jobs were long-term, but they were positions I took to get me from A to B.

It took me a while to reach ‘writer’ stage, so in between I did what I could to pay the bills. It was frustrating at times, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Sometimes going forward seems impossible, but it’s not, you just have to persevere until you reach the correct path. And if you find yourself travelling along the wrong path, then simply get off the road and try out a new route – even when it gets difficult.

OK enough with work related info (a subject I could waffle on about all day), what other experience do I have?

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100% geek

Well, I’ve been a comic book reader since the age of nine; I’ve been attending conventions since I was 16; and I’ve been interested in toys since longer than I can remember. I try to visit the cinema two-to-three times a month (pandemics aside); and I keep abreast of many of the leading TV shows that keep cropping up, even if I don’t watch them all.

I dip in and out of podcasts, to see what people are talking about; I read a lot of geek news; and I try to visit comic stores on a regular basis to see what’s new, even though I now only read digital comics.

In addition to this, I attend events; I follow fellow geeks on social media; and I even try to see what’s going on in the world of cosplay. I’m not a cosplayer myself, but I appreciate the work that goes into each costume and I do like getting into costume for Halloween (I’m on the left).

All of these things are ‘experience’ and are important for shaping this blog. Having qualifications is great, but knowing a thing or two about the flicks, attending conventions, or living through the 8-Bit era, means I actually have something to talk about.

The point of all this is to explain that both qualifications and experience are what have shaped me and what continue to shape this blog.

It’s A Stampede! isn’t the result of one thing, it’s a combination of multiple factors over the years. It’s months spent in jobs that I didn’t really enjoy; it’s hours spent reading Empire and ToyFare magazine; it’s stolen moments where I get to geek out with friends; and it’s a genuine interest for fantastical fiction that makes each day more fulfilling.

From B.A. Baracus to a BA in film & TV studies and from watching Lois & Clark breaking stories at the Daily Planet to actually studying journalism, everything I’ve done is all part of one big journey. It’s A Stampede! is very much a part of this same expedition and it is far from over.

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Getting to know It’s A Stampede! – Part 6

Over the years I’ve written content on a variety of subjects, from construction and hospitality, to social care and engineering. I’ve produced blog posts on clothing and apparel, I’ve written profiles on interior designers, and I’ve even compiled articles on the subject of burlesque (the artform, not the movie).

I’ve put together text for posters, I’ve written copy for brochures, and I’ve created content for websites. In addition, I’ve edited magazines, overseen the production of electronic newsletters, and have provided product descriptions for e-commerce sites.

As a writer/blogger/content provider, I write about anything. Sometimes it can be lengthy copy for magazines, other times it can be short pieces of text for leaflets – it really depends what is required.

Surprised? I bet you thought I simply spent my time talking about Avengers: Endgame! Yeah, well I do that too. 

So how does writing for It’s A Stampede! differ from writing for other platforms or clients?

Well first and foremost, whether I’m writing for this blog or for a client I always take what I do seriously. It doesn’t matter if I’m being paid or if I’m doing something for myself, I maintain the same work ethic of doing a job properly.

But of course, there are differences.

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The end result 

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If I’m writing for a client then I will work towards a specific goal or outcome that they have set. This can be a word count they wish me to achieve or maybe an objective.

In the case of a client who is trying to sell a product, they may wish me to discuss the benefits of their item – what it does, what it’s made from, etc. Alternatively, if it is a magazine article they wish me to write, the objective maybe to tell a story across a couple of pages.

When I worked on electronic newsletters, the aim was to circulate news stories and updates about that specific company. This ranged from fundraising pieces to health and safety information.

The objective here was to keep employees informed about all company activities. The goal was to ensure everyone was on the same page, so to speak.

When I edited magazines, the objective was to produce monthly content to fit a desired readership. The goal was to publish the magazine on time.

With all of theses examples I worked to a brief set out by the client/employer, but when it comes to It’s A Stampede! I write my own briefs. Er… which is to say, I don’t actually have a brief.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but the content I produce for this blog is primarily motivated by my daily thoughts. If I wake up tomorrow and all I can think about is Captain Planet, then I’ll write a post related to the eco-friendly super hero.

Heck, if the mood takes me then I could write 50 posts on Captain Planet. It’s doubtful, but you never know.

On other occasions I might write posts that are specifically timed around a certain event. For example, I might write numerous posts about the X-Men if a new X-Men movie is looming.

I won’t write posts just because an X-Men movie is released, but as an X-Men fan it’s likely I’ll write some related content. The hype for the movie, plus my general interest in the subject, will likely be the inspiration for the post(s).

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The write stuff 

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Whatever I write, the subjects and reasoning behind my posts will (and often do) change. When compared to freelance work, I’d say the content on It’s A Stampede! is a lot more reactionary and I have a lot of freedom to blog about whatever tickles my pickle.

The other big difference is that there is no word count on my own blog posts. I don’t even give word count a thought! 

If I’m pressed for time or I don’t have a lot to say then my posts will be shorter. If it’s a subject I’m itching to talk about in detail, then I will write and write until I’m done.

You know, if I was of the mind to do so, I could simply end this discussion he…

*Pauses for dramatic tension*

Just joking!

Compiling copy for It’s A Stampede! is about working to my own objectives. I manage my own time and I write as much or as little as I want.

There’s no specific agenda for this blog, but there is a goal. There’s a plan (of sorts) that I work towards.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again), I set up It’s A Stampede! to create a club or a community hub, where like-minded people could drift to if they needed some light relief or escapism. That’s remains my objective, my goal, and my continuing plan.

So long as people are willing to read what I write, I’m willing to keep going! Oh who am I trying to kid? I’d write this stuff even if no one was reading!*

*Although it’s nice to know that someone is.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say. Thank you for taking the time to read this post – I know it was a long one, so I hope you made it through to the end.

Until next time, take care.

Alex

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Support It’s A Stampede!

Running It’s A Stampede! is a labour of love, and I truly hope you all find this blog fun and useful. I spend a great deal of time researching and compiling content, to ensure I can offer an informative experience for all.

If you would like to support It’s A Stampede! you can share my posts with friends or on social media, or simply remember to drop in every once in a while to see how things are going. You also have the option to chuck a one-off donation (no more than the price of a comic) at the blog.

This donation could help towards running costs, or may just buy me a coffee – either way, it all helps keep It’s A Stampede! ticking along. But whether it is a couple of quid, or a simple share on Facebook, all your support is truly appreciated.

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