A joke…

Hehehe, you want to know how Imagine Magazine started way back then? It was really a bit of an inside joke between the members of our vast online community many years ago, where we were known to tease one another and share as many laughs as we possibly could on a daily basis. Every single day, we’d post on the forum and give each other shit, and it was SO much fun! Things, pretty much, escalated from there. The Shackers that were around back then will remember where it all began, but I doubt they’d believe how far it has come since then! Hehehe! If they were to peek back in today, they might be shocked at what Imagine Magazine has turned into…ESPECIALLY since its 2018 reboot!!!

So let’s start off with a bit of a history lesson…

I know that it might be hard to believe for many of our teen readers now, but there was actual ‘life’ online before social media! ::Gasp:: That’s crazy, right??? No Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook, no Youtube channels, no ‘like/dislike’ buttons…none of that. Hehehe! (Raise your hands if you remember guestbooks!!!) Maybe it sounds primitive to many of you, but I personally think that the internet community was much stronger and more ‘connected’ back then. This was when the Shack Forum was thriving and many people had never experienced anything like it before. A bunch of people from all over the world, gay and straight, male and female, ages 15 to 50, were all coming together to just talk openly about whatever was on their minds whenever they felt like it? They finally got a chance to speak out loud about the feelings that they had been holding inside for so long. The Shack was a virtual Utopia for a lot of people, and it used to move so fast that I could hardly keep up with what was going on in that place on any given day. It was a place where I could be myself, without any excuses, and I could talk to people who felt just like me and wanted to make friends. It was SO awesome!!!

A bunch of us came together and laughed together, shared our life experiences, our likes, our dislikes, our personal struggles…we were able to lean on one another whenever we just needed an escape from the world. And it felt good. Just building something positive and being a part of a ‘family’, you know? And…of course, constantly talking about really CUTE BOYS!!!

And with that close bond that we all shared with one another…came a LOT of inside jokes! LOL! Jokes that I still remember and think fondly of to this day. From the ‘Boy Farm’ to the ‘Erickoey Virus’, to having pickles in the fridge, to ‘TurtleBoy’s basement’, to a bunch of other stuff that I probably couldn’t explain to you, even if I wanted to. Hehehe! I guess you had to be there! 😛 But that was our online paradise, and we enjoyed it like you wouldn’t believe.

Then one night, (Back in 2009 or 2010), I made a big post called “The Shack Enquirer” on the Shack Forum, which was meant to look like one of those cheesy tabloid mags that you might see at the grocery store. It was all done for fun, taking some of our inside jokes and putting them out there for everybody to laugh at and have fun with. It was full of ‘news articles’ about what we were doing outside ‘away from keyboard’, or how one of our friends was caught with a harem of boy prostitutes, or the ‘Vampire Comicality’ being investigated by “The Long Dark Foundation”…which I actually added to the “Gone From Daylight” mythology by the way! It was a really good time, for sure, but the forum rotated quite often back then, so the fun only lasted for a few days before it ended up in an archive somewhere, and people would have to actively go searching for it to find it. And a lot of them were new to the family, so they probably had NO idea what kind of silliness we were talking about. It must have been doubly as confusing for them.

Not only that, but we also had a lot of deep conversations on the forum about current issues, about sexuality, about LGBTQ issues, Speak Week topics…we talked about a lot of really personal feelings in that place, and yet we still made plenty of time to share a lot of laughs and welcome new members on an almost weekly basis. I was suggesting movies and sharing music and posting cute boys for the ‘Wet Dream Of The Week’ every Monday…it was FUN! But, again…those messages only lasted so long, and then they’d be gone forever. And that kind of sucked, to be honest.

It was actually TurtleBoy’s idea to create a space to savor those memories and those discussions in one place for us to go back to and remember those laughs and conversations as they were. And he’s the one that came up with the idea of Imagine Magazine! An archive for all of our good times, as well as a few more stories and articles to keep the momentum going. I was so blown away and happy about the idea that I immediately got all hyper and excited about it, and wanted to see if I could add to it somehow. But the first issue went out as a surprise to me, pretty much! LOL! And this was on August 1st, 2011. A haven for new stories, an online tabloid full of inside jokes and Shacker involvement, and an archive of the things that we truly enjoyed and wanted to share with one another as a family.

It was truly something special. And I will always have a nostalgic collection of memories to the earliest issues of Imagine Magazine as everybody jumped in to be a part of something truly unique as a community. To express their love for one another as a real family, you know? That will always hold a special place in my heart. So HUGE thanks to the original Imagine family and all the hard work they put in to supporting the site and making a true effort to give something back to the site that had given us all so much, just by bringing us together. Thanks to Turtleboy, and to Pete, and to Cirrus, and to Erick, and Lemonfresh, and VampireMystic, and Mike, and Binneyan Smith, and Chad Blackman…and to soooo many others who were down for the cause! Hehehe, you guys are the reason that I’m even here to write this right now! And I miss you so much, I really do…but just know that you guys will always be the foundation that this hugely successful effort was built upon. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the time you put in.

Moving forward a few years…

Imagine Magazine was being posted on the first of every other month at the time. So, six times a year. I definitely try to do what I can to offer some stories or a few tips on how to write stories of your own, and we try to get more people involved by asking questions on the board, trying to inspire some more conversations, having a few writing contests…and this, I think, is when things began to slide downhill. I mean, times change, and I get that…but as social media became more popular, people started working that like a second or third job on a daily basis. “Why post on Comsie’s stupid message board when I could be promoting myself to 150 strangers a day?” Hehehe, sad, but true. Everybody wanted to GET attention for themselves, but stopped wanting to give attention to anybody else. Which creates an imbalance that leaves everybody starving for any attention at all. Emails were a hassle now. People began thinking, “I want to text and get a message back within the first 90 seconds of me saying hello. I want to chat in the chatroom in real time. I don’t have anything important to say this month. See you in June, maybe. And, the most popular…”

…”I JUST want to talk to YOU, Comsie! Nobody else!”

And that quickly became the new normal. It was a bit shocking, and a little disappointing, to be honest. I missed the social atmosphere of everybody being able to exchange ideas and talk to one another. You have no idea how many people made some of the best friends of their lives on the Shack, or found the love of their lives. I miss that. But times change, and the online communities weren’t what they used to be. Since Imagine Magazine was a community based project…it was definitely affected by the lack of people gathering the way we used to. Adjustments had to be made. Because I really did believe in the project as a whole and wanted it to succeed, but without the proper support from the fans…everything falls apart. I mean, I can’t BEG people to give a fuck, but…hehehe, they’ll be the first ones to complain if we fail to deliver on our end of the bargain, even if they don’t deliver on theirs. So…how do we fix this? How do we make things right?

A serious reboot was needed. And, strangely enough…that reboot began for the August issue of Imagine! Right on the anniversary of the first issue! And this was going to be a revolution in everything that we had done previously, and everything that I ever wanted it to be once I saw the potential in what we were creating here.

The first thing to fix was the bi-monthly release schedule. One issue every 60 days simply wasn’t going to really keep readers in the ‘habit’ of looking for new releases when they were ready. Turtleboy was the one that pointed that out to me when I added “Shelter” to the magazine, and he let me know that it wasn’t enough to post one new chapter every other month. Made sense, once I sat down and thought about it. So, it was going to be a chore to work faster to get things done, but having a monthly release was going to be essential if we were going to get any momentum going with this thing.

Another problem? Getting Shackers to write material for us. You guys know that I love you with my whole heart, I really do! Hehehe! But getting you to do ANYTHING for me or the site is next to impossible! No more empty promises, no more writing contests, no more begging and scraping for quality content. The practice of depending on reader involvement had to go. For the magazine, leaving a comment, posting on the message boards…even clicking a ‘like’ button is like…a HUGE chore for a majority of readers in the social media age, free entertainment or not. And that simply couldn’t be a part of our ‘business model’ anymore.

Hehehe, I love you guys to death! I really do! But you seriously SUCK at giving anything back to the rest of us! LOL! You have no idea how much 30 seconds of your attention and participation could mean to other people for hours/days/weeks worth of their hard work and free entertainment. Many of you are ‘D’ students in that area. Just saying. Click a ‘like’ button once in a while for Christ sake!

But, that’s cool. I get it. I know I’m not paying you guys anything to be a part of this project. People have lives outside of their online pursuits. Everybody is busy, everybody is tired, everybody is shy or has nothing to say publicly…I get it. No harm, no foul. But as far as trying to put a magazine together with a variety of new material every month…we needed people with an actual passion for writing stories and a dedication to the positive effort and who would help us out. No more thinking, “Our online family will be there for us, just for fun”. No…they won’t. The show must go on.

The third thing? I really had a desire to bring something new to the table as far as Imagine was concerned. Because, while the inside jokes and winks and tongue in cheek humor was still awesome and fun to be around…the thing that really made it special was the community involvement. It was the family aspect that made it unique. And that element wasn’t around anymore, so I wanted to make the content more universal. More articles on writing, more original and exclusive stories for Imagine, of course…many MANY cute boys thrown in for good measure…hehehe! Because cute boys are awesome! They make everything better! And, at the end of the day…it’s MY magazine, so I can do whatever I want with it. Deal with it! ::Giggles::

I was thinking, like, let’s trade in some of our private inside jokes for something that brand new readers and visitors can enjoy for themselves. And let’s promote some new up and coming writers who are doing awesome things with their stories, and get them the attention they deserve. And what about adding more detailed writing tips and the music that I’ve posted on the boards, and maybe include some of the gaming stuff that we talked about, and see if we can get other people involved in future issues. This is where the brand new Imagine Magazine reboot began to take shape.

A combination of the fun and silly tabloid, the archive of our community conversations on the board, and an exposure to new stories and articles that new readers might enjoy. And, once I got my ideas and notes together, I told Turtleboy that I was going to dig my heels in and said, “Let’s make the magazine every month. Let’s go for it.” But, instead of the first of the month, the date was changed to the 15th instead. Mostly because of the holiday season. Nobody wants to spend Halloween night putting a magazine issue together for November first, or sacrifice Thanksgiving with their family at the end of November. And putting up an issue on New Year’s day??? Are you kidding me? Hehehe! So the 15th of every month was a much better choice for our monthly releases. We get to avoid Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, New Years, St. Patrick’s Day…almost every holiday of the year.

Again, I’m not paying anybody any money for this. I wish I could! I’d make them super RICH for the amount of work they put in if I could. But, for now, all I can do is make it a relaxed hobby for the folks who make all of this possible, who are passionate about what they do and dedicated to making a difference in the world, and I hope that they still love me when it’s all over from month to month. ::Fingers Crossed::

That…and lots and LOTS of really cute boys!!! Hehehe!

Now, make no mistake…putting out a magazine full of brand new material online every few weeks is a TAXING pursuit, to say the least! And despite our best efforts, it was extremely difficult to transfer over to a monthly schedule and get enough material to fill an issue without other people helping us out. And for a while there, it seemed like it wasn’t worth the amount of stress it took to put it all together. Even though I really REALLY wanted to fix things instead of just turning my back on the whole project. Because some people really did enjoy the magazine, it just wasn’t growing the way we wanted it to.

I know that I was swamped with putting out new chapters of the ongoing stories on the site, and I couldn’t really demand that anybody participate in the Imagine Magazine project when I had nothing to offer them other than my sincere thanks and a little promotion. So things were kind of dangling by a thread for a while there while I was trying to figure out if I was going to be able to keep up the pace after the first few months. But I put forth an extra effort to churn out new material and so did some of our other readers whenever they got a chance. The ‘Wet Dream Of The Week’ became articles in the magazine, the ‘Music Mash Ups’ were added, “Shelter” became a monthly exclusive, and more ideas for regular additions got added to my little notebook to see if I could keep things going by frequently posting some of the material that people were constantly looking for. I just wanted to see if we could rebuild and capture their attention again.

That’s when things changed.

I think we finally found the right balance and the formula that were looking for, but didn’t realize that it was right in front of us the whole time. And that’s when the big ‘reboot’ happened! It was August of 2018…exactly seven years from the premier of the very first issue. It was a big deal to me at the time, and everybody came together to help out and make it work, instead of giving up and letting it die. Now in the hands of Jeffsfort and other close online friends, who swooped in like a bunch of savior angels and worked their ASSES off to fight for Imagine Magazine’s true potential, and worked with me to tell me how much they believed in the concept and wanted to see it succeed as much as I did…we relaunched it with a brand new monthly schedule and a whole new outlook on what could be done with this new platform away from the stories that I was still writing on a daily basis. And on the cover…the simple words…”Guess Who’s Back”.

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The ideas for future issues began to grow. I campaigned to get more fans and readers to add something of their own to the magazine, but I learned my lesson when it came to depending on them for new material. It’s difficult for anyone to keep that going, and if we wanted this to work, we were going to have to set this online ‘party’ up ourselves, and just invite other people to stop by whenever they had the opportunity or the desire to do so. And if they were too busy to jump in? The party continues without them. Way it goes.

The thing with Imagine, in my mind…as with all the parts of my website…I didn’t just want a ‘pinpoint’ interest in what was going on there. Call me ambitious, but I didn’t want a typical ‘gay’ haven online. Sure, that’s a part of it, and I wanted people to enjoy that part of themselves in the company of like-minded people…but I didn’t want that to be all of it. I wanted Disney World! I wanted erotic stories, I wanted cute boys, I wanted music, I wanted video games, I wanted writing tips, I wanted fun and humorous videos and inside jokes and tabloid teases at one another. I wanted it all. Because…why not? You know? There’s something there for everybody! Being gay doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING you read or look at has to be gay. You’re a person just like everybody else. Why box readers and fans into this tight little space when they have other interests too?

So, with a brand new crew and loyal people willing to help us out, we pulled together and tried to kickstart the Imagine Magazine project all over again…practically starting from scratch.

And with more really…REALLY…cute boys!!! LOL!

For the first ‘official’ reboot, issue #39, I worked extra hard to concentrate on what I really wanted the magazine to be, and had a ton of other talented writers and contributors helping to make it one of the biggest and most anticipated releases in the project’s history up to that point. Everybody wanted to jump in and see what had changed, and if the magazine could be revived after some of the pitfalls that had been dragging it down in the past. This one had new exclusive stories to send us off on the beginning of our journey, more articles, and featured author interviews for them to discuss their writing process and including their own series in every issue. I’ve read some REALLY cool gay fiction online, and whenever I found something that I was really enjoying for its style and characters and plot…I decided to reach out to them to ask if they’d be willing to join us in the pages of Imagine for some extra promotion, and to entertain our audience with new material. The stories that feature themes of abuse, or romance, or fantasy, and many other themes. I’m always on the lookout for something different. Something well written and unique. New talent that should be recognized by a wider audience. And then I try to spread the word so that they can get the love and support and respect that they deserve as writers. If it wasn’t for places like Nifty, GayAuthors, or Jeffsfort, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They made that happen for me. So I want to use whatever clout I might have gained over the years to put the word out there to alert new readers to the next generation of writers that I feel are really making an impact with what they’re doing right now. And that became the core value of the new Imagine Magazine reboot over the last two years. At least for me, it has.

That…and LOTS of really cute boys! Hehehe!

It’s all about positive exposure. It’s all about giving people a glimpse into something that they might not have seen before. Like, “Hey! Here’s an author with an awesome story that you might not know about! Check them out!” Or, “Hey, here’s a new song, or an artist, or a movie, that you should give a shot!” And then you guys can follow them on from there on your own, if it’s something that you like and want to support. If you go back and look at all of the older issues of Imagine, or at my message boards, or my stories, whatever…you’ll see that being a consistent theme that I’ve been trying to push from the very beginning. Give this a look, give it a try, and support what you love in order to get more! That won’t change. Promise. If you love something, feed it positive energy, and you can only benefit from it. It’s hardly rocket science to figure that out. 🙂

Sometimes, I get on the internet, and all people want to do is rant and rave and make negative comments about everything. I don’t get it. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. There are thousands of videos on Youtube right now about why “Star Wars” sucks, why “Marvel” sucks, why “Rap Music” sucks, why your favorite TV show sucks, why your clothes suck, why the city you live in sucks, why….UGH! What the FUCK? Seriously!

There’s so much negativity online that it can be overwhelming sometimes. But I didn’t want to add to that chaos. I brought my attitude from the message boards to Imagine Magazine, and decided to share the stuff that I DO like with my readers and the fans of the monthly updates. I share my music, my Youtube faves, my sense of humor, my love for horror movies, my favorite authors, and CUTE BOYS hehehe…I want to give people something to LOVE for once, instead of having them sit back and waiting for everybody ELSE to do all the hard work to create something original and having them complain about how they could have done it better. Easy to say when they haven’t done anything of your own.

When people go off on their comical rants about how much something sucks, I always ask, “Ok…well, why don’t you tell us what YOU like, then? What makes YOU happy? What brings YOU joy in your life?” And you know what? Most times, those people can’t answer you. They only get enjoyment out of complaining about what somebody else likes. And that’s the beginning and the end of it. Well, with the reboot of Imagine Magazine, I wanted to change that. I wanted to give people something to maybe like and latch on to. Here’s some music, here’s a story, here’s a beautiful boy that might make you sigh out loud. Hehehe! Have FUN with your life! What are you doing? Seriously. I wanted people to read Imagine and leave feeling better than they did before they clicked the link. That was the goal. Learn something, love something, find some light and some happiness in the world. That’s what I wanted, and I’m happy to say that Imagine Magazine is now everything that I ever wanted it to be.

Also, the super CUTE boys that I add to every issue are definitely fun to gaze at, hehehe, but their beauty isn’t just skin deep. I do a bit of research on each and every single one of them, and I try to let readers know who they are with every article. They’re models, sports talents, professional chefs, dancers, actors, activists, singers, musicians, skateboarders…they have something else going on there despite being ‘pretty to look at’. These beautiful young teens are actually doing amazing things right now that I never would have thought possible when I was their age. I make it a point to always highlight that. And with so many teens reading my work, I hope that it inspires them to pursue their own dreams and desires with the same level of tenacity that these youngsters do. I think that’s a good thing.

Besides…for my teen audience…nothing gets your attention more than a really cute boy! Hehehe! So…yeah! 😛

Other articles that I’ve added include the slightly tabloid ‘Com-Doms’ advertisements, which catches the eye with a new cute celebrity boy every month…but was really my way of using some humor to promote safe sex to our teen audience. Use condoms, kids! Always. Also, the writing tips continue in the ‘Comsie Talks’ sections of the magazine, as I would love to inspire more people to get started on writing stories of their own. And the “Q & A” section still appears on the Shack board on the first of every month, and I would love to get more replies and more community involvement on each question (About love, masturbation, infatuation, abuse, heartbreak, etc) as I think it could really help other people who are reading…but, like I said, times have changed. And that’s not a ‘thing’ anymore, I guess. I’ll keep trying though. If I can get five replies, that’s a major accomplishment. And then, hehehe…there’s my boy model gallery of the month! That’s just my random ‘eye candy’ moment that I wanted to enjoy and share with you all. I always try to put it in the middle of every issue, because after years of stealing my dad’s Playboys when I was little and looking at teen magazines when I got a bit older…I just thought it would be good to have a cute boy ‘centerfold’ in every issue, with a mini gallery of sexy pics for folks who might be feeling a bit frisky while reading. Hehehe, don’t worry! You’re just reading the magazine for the articles! That’s what folks always say, isn’t it?

The Music Mash Ups were added from the weekly forum posts on the Shack, and sections like this one (The House That Comsie Built) is just meant to give you all a bit of an inside look as to how I turned something that could be so simple and text based, into a vast amusement park for all of you guys to play in, no matter WHAT you’re into! Stories, chat, message board, music, movies, video games, humor, or just a few pretty faces to sigh over while staring at their collection of pics on a computer screen…there will always be something here for everybody. And the more you enjoy yourself, the more you let me KNOW that you’re enjoying yourself…the harder I’ll work to make sure that you get the ‘Disney World’ experience you’re expecting to get when you get here.

Happy anniversary, Imagine Magazine! Huge thanks to everyone who has submitted their creative endeavors, and everyone behind the scenes to keep this thing running as smoothly as it does. And to everyone who was there in the very beginning and kicked this whole thing into gear! None of this would be possible without you! So, just know that you’re a part of something incredible! And I’ll always keep you in my heart because of it! K?

There are many people that thought it couldn’t be done! Thanks for helping me prove them wrong! It’s been two consecutive years of monthly updates now, and we don’t plan to slow down any time soon! Let’s keep going and growing, and I’ll see you next year for our THIRD anniversary! Let’s make this into the best miracle project that we can!

Thank you sooooo much for the love, feedback, and support, that you guys have given us! Thanks to all of the authors who have submitted material and stories to keep us alive! And if any of you guys are interested in contributing to this rapidly growing online project…feel free to write to me at Comicality@shackoutback.net and let me know! We’ll talk, and I’ll see if I can save you a spot! Cool? Have fun! And always remember, I love you too!”

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