Bill Bickel and the history of CIDU

William "Bill" Bickel
Bill Bickel

William “Bill” Bickel had many talents. He was a writer, journalist, and editor. Eventually, he moved into new media. One of his creations was the enduring Crimeweek, which chronicled true-crime news. Probably his most popular project was a blog, Comics I Don’t Understand. CIDU (as it became known) let Bill combine his love of comics with his talent for light-hearted, yet pointed writing, and attracted a devoted following.

One hallmark of the site was the conversations among Bill and all those fans. The discussion below the articles became as great an attraction as the actual comics and commentary. Through the history of CIDU, it became increasingly clear that Bill’s moderating style and leadership were as critical to its popularity as his writing. He made it a place people felt comfortable being. He built a real community.

Characteristically, he used CIDU to support a good cause, the March of Dimes.

CIDU has changed over the years. The cast of commenters certainly changed, and Bill’s writing and focus definitely shifted. At least one of the Editorial Committee still misses Billo the Clown, who retired a decade ago. Bill fought epic wars against recalcitrant software and semicompetent hosting services, the details of which will never be understood, and may not be understandable. The fact that the “home” address of this site is is an artifact of Bill’s … let’s say “disagreement” … with a former hosting service, which lost the accumulated CIDU posts and comments of two decades and was, as Bill explained, not at all helpful when he tried to recover them. The squirrel didn’t damage the site, it just annoyed the owner.

The CIDU community was devastated to read that Bill had suddenly passed away in September, 2020. The comments sections of the last few posts just wouldn’t end, running to hundreds of articles.

Fans of “Comics I Don’t Understand” were looking for a way to keep the conversation going. No one was willing to end the lively crosstalk and infamous “thread drift” we had all come to love. We knew that nobody could step into Bill’s shoes–they only really fit one person. A group of regulars formed a voluntary committee to set up some kind of successor site.

We were both surprised and very grateful when Aaron Bickel, Bill’s son, told us that the family supported us in our desire to continue Bill’s creation, and handed control of the site to our ad hoc group.

All of us, and we think all fans of the site, would like to thank Aaron Bickel and the rest of Bill’s family for their amazing generosity and consideration in thinking about us, total strangers, in the time of their grief.

We will miss you, Bill. We can’t be you, but we’ll try to live up to your example.