Thursday, January 12, 2006

Guest Entry - “Comic Fans Should Be Good”

Greetings. Mordechai Luchins of “What WERE They Thinking?” here with a guest entry. Let me begin by thanking the folks here for lending me their soap-box. Mine’s in the shop.

I’d like to talk to you about that age old question – “what’s wrong with comics?” Now, aside from the fact that comics are a medium and not a genre so the whole argument is silly, I’d like to suggest a unique answer...

The problem with comic books is the fans.

Before you tar and feather me, hear me out. I’ve come to this hypothesis due to my own reading for my blog and other readings of comic book history.

Comic books, the super-hero type in particular, began as a form of children’s entertainment. Oh yes, adults read them too, but the main demographic was youngsters. Not only that, but they were meant to be disposable entertainment. Little Tommy was supposed to go to the dime store, grab this week’s ACTION COMICS, roll it up in his back pocket for later, read it, and throw it out. As such, it didn’t matter if Atlanteans had fish tails in Superman stories or legs in Aquaman’s because, well, kids don’t really think about stuff like that. No one was going to complain that the “Superman splits from Clark Kent” story was done multiple times because you didn’t think like that.

Except for one small portion of random. The really devoted types. You know the ones. The ones who saved their comics. The ones who kept reading them even when they were in college. The ones who got into heated debates about Superman’s powers, the kind of thing that most of us grow out of when we graduate grade school.

These guys grew up to write comic books. So all of the sudden, the entire industry was shifted to this sort of fan. Comics were no longer disposable. You’d see all kinds of references to old stories. Shared Universes were taken as a serious thing instead of a cool concept to use when it suited the story. This wasn’t bad, but it was different.

Except, just like with the first “sort” of comics fan, we end up with a more intense kind. Ones who, for whatever reason, make amazingly strong attachments to these characters. Couple that with rising prices, the death of the drugstore/newsstand market, and television and video games competing for the reader’s dollar, and we end up with modern comics, where all the fans are pretty dedicated and tend to be much older than the original target demographic. This affects content, which in turn turns off the few remaining younger readers (or their parents). So we end up with a limited and rapidly shrinking pool of readers.

You know what happens with a small genepool right?

And I’m seeing it too. In the last year I’ve seen:

1) A fan borderline stalking a professional for not handling his favorite character well. The fan should know, after all, he wrote a fanfic featuring said character being raped by her cousin, becoming transgender and getting a “revenge” rape, while another character watched and pleasured herself (she gets raped in chapter two, of course) as her brother watched, harboring sexual fantasies.

2) Another fan complaining that the writer and creator of an underage female character was sexualizing her based on one panel (wherein the character is expressing disgust on online fan behavior), when said fan had an entire web gallery of commissions of said underage character in bondage scenes : The same fan then claimed that the character was discracing the memory of the writer's loved one on which she was based.

3) More recently, someone took offence at my blog’s pointing out the silliness of a certain character as they initially appeared. A little clicking revealed that this person had not only commissioned hundreds of pieces of original artwork of this character (nothing wrong with that in itself), but that he had created photomanipulations of himself as her brother and had gone so far as to imagine an entire family tree for them and post it online. He refers to this character as his “sister”.

4) People have been asking if the recent Captain Carrot insert in Teen Titans is “canon”.

I’m sorry folks, I know the first three are rather extreme examples, but the last is more common and only a step less extreme.

Comic books are escapist literature. To deny that is to deny the core of what they are. All good entertainment is escapist. It’s what entertainment does. By all means, get lost in the latest issue of whatever you collect… but for goodness sake, find yourself when you finish, close the book, and get back to Real Life.

At the end of the day, they’re just fiction. Love your comics, just don’t love your comics.

Read More

48 Comments:

Blogger markus said...

Argument has been made countless times, only unique thing are the examples. I wasn't aware of them, but remain uncertain whether they're more than individual aberrations. They might be aberrations more in line with current comic fandom, (though "Rom and me" seems quite dated) but that might be because aberrations of the past have become normal (cosplay) or it might be a general trend of the times, i.e. these days it takes more extreme acts to get noticed.

1/12/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Eli said...

I'm not a big fan of using coded referencesof the "a certain fan" and "a certain creator" variety. Can you give any more specifics?

1/12/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Axel M. Gruner said...

Is it too late to remind of the old saying "F*** em if they can't take a joke"?

1/12/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Axel M. Gruner said...

Sorry 4 coming again...
The most perfect word verification YET

"mnmmn"
Is something better than "mnmmn"?
No, I think "mnmmn" is tops.

1/12/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

It's not really the fans that are the problem my friend. After all the vast majority of hardcore fanboy types really aren’t that different then you, me or anyone else that posts on message boards.

Oh sure some of us can get really intense about who can win in a fight between Superman and Thor, but really when you get down to it, most of us are pretty much together.

What you are actually talking about as a problem is people with a tendency toward obsession.

There are people out there, not many, but some, who get obsessed, and normally it’s a sexual obsession, about a person and it makes them get all weird and that’s when we end up hearing about some chick trying to pretend that she’s David Letterman’s wife.

I will certainly say that it is a bit more twisted because these folks are sexually obsessed with a fictional character, but still it’s an individual psychosis and not a signal of problems with fanboys in general.

Now I will also say that not everyone who gets obsessed with some subject is automatically dangerous or creepy. In some cases they are just kind of silly.

Which is of course the vast majority of us comic guys.

With the low key obsessions, such as Captain Carrot being in continuity or not, sure the intensity of the reactions some fans have is irritating and the like, but come on, arguing about dumb continuity stuff is our one great constitutionally enumerated right as comic geeks.

I’m pretty sure it was the amendment between giving the 18 year olds the right to vote, and the one that reset the tax code.

- rick

1/12/2006 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"but come on, arguing about dumb continuity stuff is our one great constitutionally enumerated right as comic geeks."

I don't know. Talking about continuity stuff? Sure. Laughing about it? Great. Arguing about it? That seems like a huge waste of brainpower to me.

1/12/2006 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

This is more or less a variation on the "comics should be more accessible to kids" argument, which is a good argument. In general comics should be more accessible to kids, as well as more accessible to women, and non-superhero readers, etc. They should also be able to be found outside of a specialty shop, which really is the biggest killer: when they have to go out of their way to find the damn things, the people who buy your product are going to mostly be the devoted, aging fans, and the market will be tailored to them.

So no, the onus isn't on the fans to change. The publishers and the books have to change to encourage the creation of new and different kinds of fans.

This is always discussed as though it were an "either/or" situation: you either make books for the aging fanboys, or you make them for the theoretical kids. This is silly: make books which appeal to kids and books which appeal to older readers. Make books which are continuity-driven and books which are character- or idea-driven. Market to girls and boys and women. Cast a wide net and you'll bring in a wide audience - provided they can find where you are first.

1/12/2006 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

I have to agree with Iron Lungfish--if there is anything obsessive fans do "wrong," it's thinking that the entire medium should reflect their tastes:

• Fans who think all superheroes should be "dark and gritty" or whatever the buzzword is for the more "mature" superhero material out today, and that anything else is wrong because it doesn't fit their idea of comics

• Fans who think all superheroes should be light and fluffy like they remember them being because anything else doesn't fit their idea of comics

• Fans who think superhero comics--escapist fantasy or darker fare--should just stop because all comics should be art, man, art because anything else doesn't fit their idea of comics

• Fans who think that if a comic is serious, developed and of a more literary bent than the characters they grew up with, that they aren't comics because they don't fit their idea of comics

• Fans who dismiss manga as a fad rather than a form with rich cultural history and blessed with diverse subject matter, target audiences and styles just because it doesn't fit their idea of comics

Me? As "elitist" as I can be, as much as I don't fathom the appeal of Infinite Crisis or Wolverine, I'd hate to see an entire industry wholly around my tastes, because that'd just be stagnant and boring.

However, going back to something Mordechai wrote...

Comic books are escapist literature. To deny that is to deny the core of what they are. All good entertainment is escapist.

With that, I completely disagree--if only because not all comics (or prose, or film, etc.) rest their laurels solely on an intention to entertain. Comics, as you said, is a medium--there's room for pure escapism; there's room for engaging works that make you lose yourself for a moment; there's room for things that beg, cajole and force the reader into introspection; there's room for smut (although that's a different escape mechanism, or a different release mechanism); there's room for didactism, for pedagogery, for instruction...

There's room for anything in a medium that promises endless possibility--the only hindrances are market factors, talent, drive, and spunk.

(Still love you though, Morts)

1/12/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I agree to a limited degree. Some Superhero comic book fans, which the mass majority of the Direct Market depends on, are like the Quakers. They don't breed and repopulate well enough.
But I also see a new sort of comic reader, ones that don't need the Direct Market model. They are growing, they are not boxed into a certain class of racial or gender based models of "fandom". A good lot of them will never think to go to a Convention. I hope the kids I see at a bookstores these days buying manga and graphic novels will make this a better world than the one we "fanboys" left them.

1/12/2006 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

"The problem with comics is the fans"

If this line of thinking actually worked, Warren Ellis wouldn't be reviving the New Universe.

1/12/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

i see the problem lies more with the editorial board thinking they know what the readership wants to see happen with their comic books, than with the readership (or fandom) itself. it's the editors that keep the characters and the stories in a constant state of arrested development.

see, i think when the creators are given leeway with the books, like say, Grant Morrison (Pete Milligan, et al) with the XMEN books, they actually come up with stuff that make the story progress (like GM abandoning the Jean-Logan-Scott triangle for the Jean-Emma-Scott one, and actually even taking it up one level higher with giving Scott the chance to "grow-up" out of what could've been another narrative stalemate), only to be hijacked a few months later by the editorial team (and/or another creative heavyweight, like with Chris Claremont announcing that GM's Magneto was a changeling or such, or with XFORCE being renamed X-STATIX, out of a Liefeld project with the same name).

i remember reading Alan Moore explaining why his early Image stuff were crap, saying that it was him as a writer second-guessing what the readers (the sort he wasn't too familiar with, coming from his hiatus from mainstream comics) would want/like to see, more than him just trying to tell a good story. he later caught on that it wasn't working out, so he shifted gears and just started writing what he wanted to write, and so came a pretty decent run of WILDCATS (two years worth, i think?).

another story came from Kurt Busiek's interview in COMICS JOURNAL, him relating a story about a SPIDER-MAN editor shooting down several things from MARVELS, as "Spider-Man wouldn't do that", to which Busiek responded "but i based that on what Stan and Steve did on page XX in issue XX!" also, the editor (Busiek didn't name the guy, but i guess it was Ralph Macchio or Tom De Falco, as i tend to associate them with the late 80s early 90s SPIDER-MAN) got pissed with Busiek using J Jonah Jameson in the first book as a young guy (although not naming him, just giving him that wild-eyed look and the cigar), out of territorial reasons.

so i think it's more the editors that are to blame, the "powers-that-be", the "continuity cops" or whatever, whoever they may be, that dictate what ultimately should come out from the presses. they're to blame for whatever state mainstream comic books are in.

i mean, passing the blame on to the fans is a bit of an easy cop-out. and well, with that argument, how could you explain the more rabid otakus of manga? i've seen them to be more obsessed with their culture than the average american comic book geek (or STAR WARS/STAR TREK geek, for that matter), and (i'm from the philippines, by the way, and we have people here who sing anime theme songs in their original japanese, not to mention all the cosplay and fanfic and just the general cultural infiltration of anime and manga all around) that doesn't seem to be harming their industry any.

and, outside the guy who made the EVANGELION series, i haven't heard any bad whiplashes from japanese creators against their respective fandom.

wow. what a long entry. hi, i'm new here! i read the blog everyday. i have no life.

1/13/2006 03:31:00 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

oh, and i forgot to mention that i agree with you blaming the rocketing prices of comic books. personally, that's exactly what turned me off of comics, at least with the monthlies, and made me prioritize with the trades and books that i semi-regularly buy.

i started buying american comics fifteen years ago, back when it was just sixty pesos here (um, back then it was probably... a dollar fifty?), including tax, which meant i could buy a lot of them each week. i then stopped when my interest waned and came back, thanks to PREACHER, which cost me... a hundred and twenty pesos each issue, which was still pretty cheap, and i even managed to buy HELLBLAZER and BOOKS OF MAGIC with PREACHER.

and then i stopped for a long while and just started buying the trades. with each single at an average of two-hundred pesos a copy, it just wasn't worth it (not to mention the "narrative decompression" phenomenon that utterly killed the singles format for me). the trades started becoming more and more attractive, and with them slightly cheaper now than before, and packing more narrative punch, well, it was an easy choice. but that meant i could only buy an average of two or four trades per quarter, and that's if it was a good three months for me and my freelancing hullabaloo (although i am reconsidering the singles for TESTAMENT).

my most recent buys from the bookstores are MARVEL ESSENTIAL HULK VOL. 1, david b's EPILEPTIC, daniel clowes' ICE HAVEN. before that, a six-month drought after selling my DKR and WATCHMEN so i could complete my ALEC books, mark beyer's AMY & JORDAN, and a couple of books from david eggers and jonathan safran foer. before that, as it was a bountiful year for me, the oversized hardcovers of the morrison NEWXMEN, the milligan-allred XFORCE, and the miller-sienkiewicz ELEKTRA.

and i bought them because a) they were great great books, b) they were cheap, and c) they were way way more satisfying reads than singles that you have to buy month-in and month-out.

the eggers book alone (HOW WE ARE HUNGRY) was economically worth two issues of PLANETARY, and i didn't have to wait years to know what happened after the australian giant trampled across the outback (PLANETARY 14, i think?).

and the MARVEL ESSENTIAL HULK VOL. 1 had three years worth of story in it, and was a strange revelation as it was a surprisingly fun and coherent read, and with me not even a HULK fan, hadn't read more than two issues of it before buying the trade, but i found it was money spent extremely well, economically worth two copies of the TIMEMACHINEGO 4-issue INVISIBLES compilation.

although, i am a bad example, seeing as i'm actually one of the economically disenfranchised twenty-something of the philippines, plying my trade here and there (digital artist and recording studio technician), and for peanuts, dammit.

to wrap it up, i guess i'm putting the blame more on a) the "powers-that-be" that refuse to let its readership grow up, b) the rocketing prices, and c) narrative decompression, rather than with the fandom that grew around the culture of comics.

1/13/2006 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Marionette said...

The problem with comic books is the fans.

Okay, I've heard you out and considered what you said and I disagree. While I would agree that a problem with comic books is the fans, but to suggest it is the main one is like saying the biggest problem with a musician is their audience.

And your initial premise is faulty. Comics were not originally the exclusive province of children. In America they grew out of reprint collections of newspaper strips. Newspaper strips have always been intended for a wide audience, but their primary target was not children.

And the initial boom in the comics industry? The millions of comics sold to the armed forces during World War 2; not many children there. Many comics of the 1940's are a continuation of the pulp style of the previous decade. Look at the stuff coming out of Fiction House and EC. The quality might be poor in both writing and art, but I do not believe that the target audience is kids.

I'm not even going to address lurid stories of "When Fans go Bad" when you fail to include any specifics or cite sources. Come back when you have some actual facts.

At the end of the day, they’re just fiction

Bull. Shit.

Belittling something by sticking "just" in front of it is cheap and unfair. I see the same attitude in online games when someone behaves badly and then defends themselves by saying "It's only a game."

If something is important to someone then it is important to them, whether it be a band, a TV show, gourmet food, travel, shoes, a celebrity, foreign movies, an online game, stamp collecting, DIY, historical re-enactment, or comic books.

1/13/2006 07:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but equating the first 3 extreme examples to the "is captain carrot in TT canon?" question is ridiculous. Only a step less extreme? Please. Anyhow, the question of canon is not something exclusive to comics. Any fictional series where a "universe" is created tends to head towards these sorts of discussions. Hell, I even stumbled across a huge discussion on which books in the Wizard of Oz series were canon. I have seen it with TV series. Is this a problem? I don't think so. In some cases its these "rabid fans" who save the thing they love, like Firefly (well more a reincarnation for that example).

Anyhow, the shared universe concept was really cemented by Stan Lee. He certainly does not meet your profile of extreme comic fan grown up. There is something to your argument, but ultimately, what's your point?

Derek

1/13/2006 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

Before I respond to any one comment, I just need to point out that I was silly to say it is "the" problem. I should have said "a". A big problem, from where I sit, but no, it's not *the* problem. I apologize for the binary thinking on my part.

Eli:
"I'm not a big fan of using coded references of the "a certain fan" and "a certain creator" variety. Can you give any more specifics?"

No. Those involved know who they are. Naming names only creates embarassment for those involved.

Rick:
Good to see you man.
“With the low key obsessions, such as Captain Carrot being in continuity or not, sure the intensity of the reactions some fans have is.”

I just don’t see why we can’t enjoy a story (or not, for that matter) without over-analyzing it. Watchmen was a wonderful deconstructionist work… but is that all that we should aspire to?

Iron Lungfish:
I believe I mentioned the death of the drugstore/newsstand market, no? And I’m not trying to present an either/or scenario. I try to avoid those. Obviously I’m not doing as well as I thought. It’s not that I think comics should be for kids, it’s that I think they should appeal to everyone – not just a small hardcore pool of fans.

Ed:
Sorry, but superhero comics are escapist literature. Can they be used for other things? Sure. But that’s the core as I see it.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

thekamisama:
Wonderful points. Bookstores and trades are helping save us from “the comic ghetto”.

Dan coyle:
I don’t follow you. Please explain?

Adam:
But the Powers That Be are just fans that grew up.

Marionette:

“While I would agree that a problem with comic books is the fans, but to suggest it is the main one is like saying the biggest problem with a musician is their audience.”
Firstly, thank you for pointing out my misuse of the word “the”. However, I would point out that the problem with musicians can be their fans – How many Weezer fans suddenly accused them of selling out when their last album got heavy radio play? I know lots of Dar Williams fans who are “disaffected” because her latest album gets play at coffee chains and Barnes and Nobles. Too mainstream for them. They want to hold onto their musicians for themselves.

To take the analogy further, the 40 year old Metal lover complaining about Avril Lavigne being music for teenage girls is missing the point that teenage girls need music too. That’s what some comic fans remind me of.

“I'm not even going to address lurid stories of "When Fans go Bad" when you fail to include any specifics or cite sources. Come back when you have some actual facts.”

I fail to see how naming those involved does anything but embarrass both the creators involved (particularly the one who had a dead loved one’s reputation dragged through the mud) and the fans. That’s not my goal. In fact, naming names is basically against my religion, so don’t expect me to crack on this one.

And I’m sorry you don’t like the word “just”. As someone who’s been paid to write comics, I have no problem with it. “Just” is a wonderful word. You know what it means?

It means that at the end of the day, if the thing vanished, I’d find something else to do.

I love comics dearly. I would not write them if I did not. Nor would I spend hours reading old comics looking for moments for my blog. However, at the end of the day, I can put them away and spend quality time with my friends and family. I understand that comics may be “important” to you, but when you start obsessing, it’s time to seek help.

1/13/2006 08:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

Derek:

“Sorry, but equating the first 3 extreme examples to the "is captain carrot in TT canon?" question is ridiculous. Only a step less extreme?”

Well, I was going to use “Sins Past” as an example, but frankly, I think talking about that story is all played out.

“ Anyhow, the question of canon is not something exclusive to comics.
Any fictional series where a "universe" is created tends to head towards these sorts of discussions. Hell, I even stumbled across a huge discussion on which books in the Wizard of Oz series were canon. I have seen it with TV series. Is this a problem? I don't think so. In some cases its these "rabid fans" who save the thing they love, like Firefly (well more a reincarnation for that example).”

Speaking as someone who signed a “Save Farscape” Petition, I hear you there. However, yes, I do think worrying about canon to the extent where it takes away from your enjoyment of a story is a bad thing. My personal philosophy is “if I don’t like what I read, I can ignore it.” That way, if I’m unhappy with, to use a much harped on example, Identity Crisis well, I can just not buy the rest of the mini and spend my time reading comics I enjoy. Instead of, you know, going on internet forums and complaining that Brad Meltzer raped my childhood.

”Anyhow, the shared universe concept was really cemented by Stan Lee. He certainly does not meet your profile of extreme comic fan grown up.”

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that “World’s Finest Comics” debuted before Mr. Lee’s first “Shared Universe” stories. For that matter, I’m fairly sure he never worked on the old Human Tourch vs Submariner stories.

“There is something to your argument, but ultimately, what's your point?”

“Ultimately, what’s your point?” – that actually is my argument to an extent. What’s everyone getting so worked up about, really. I mean, let’s say one creator doesn’t like people referring to characters by nicknames. That’s his choice, right? Do we really all need to run to web forums and snark about it? Okay, so Spider-Man’s getting a new costume. Can we at least wait until we see something more than a sketch before we deride it?

I just think we all need to unclench and enjoy our comics for what they are, rather than what we want them to be.

1/13/2006 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

Mordechai Luchins,

I agree with the idea that comic book diversity needs to increase, and fans can be too obsessive.

Speaking as a comic book fan who has a family and friends, however, I can put away my comics and interact with the real world. So can the guy who runs the local comic shop. So can other fans I've talked to in the local comic shop...

But that's only people I know. You may only (or mostly) know or experience the hardcore fans who fret over every change to a favorite character. I can see how the internet would give you that impression. Please don't lump us all together.

As an anti-continuity guy, I can see your point about getting upset over continuity glitches or changes ruining a reading experience, and how ridiculous that can be. I, for one, avoid comics I don't like. As much as I like Nightcrawler, for example, I dropped his solo book because I didn't enjoy it.

Still, I can understand getting upset about the changes made to a favorite character. In the abyssmal "Draco" storyline, Nightcrawler got a new origin. Maybe then, a bunch of "Draco"-related stiories will appear. I want to read the continuing adventures of my favorite character. The stories told about him are stupid. That does not ruin my whole life, my whole day, or even my whole half-hour. As a consumer and reader, however, I have a right to expect quality, and I have a right to express dissatisfaction. I do it with my wallet first, but why is it wrong to write about it as well?

There are degrees, and some take it too far. It seems you feel the line stops at complaining over continuity, while I feel it stops when fans let that kind of complaint interfere with their enjoyment of life. Still, you can apply the same logic to fandom that you do to buying comics- if you don't like a certain contingent of fandom, ignore it and don't worry about it.

1/13/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Sorry, but superhero comics are escapist literature. Can they be used for other things? Sure. But that’s the core as I see it.

I know you said "superhero comics, in particular" earlier on, but by the time you got to that part I quoted, it seemed like you were talking about the medium, and not that genre.

I agree with a lot of your other points, and may respond further, but you hit one of my pet peeves (comic books = superhero genre), so that's what I responded to.

1/13/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

Mike Loughlin,

It was not my intent to lump you with these gentlemen. I was trying to show a "worst case" scenario. Please accept my apologies.

I very much like your idea of applying a “Don’t like those fans? Ignore ‘em!” idea.

Oh and on the Nightcrawler thing, I feel for you. I enjoyed Nightwing and now find it unreadable. However, I’ve taken the attitude that eventually a writer will come to the book with a take I like and then I can spend my money. It helps.

Ed,

I was unclear. Good point.

Maybe I need to issue a follow up…

1/13/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Owen Hargreaves said...

Was example 1's plot ever printed and if so where, this guy had some good ideas.

1/13/2006 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger MacQuarrie said...

I saw the word "blame" come up a couple of times, as in "blame the editors" or "blame the fans". It may just be that Mordechai is saying a lot of stuff that I argee with, but I don't see him blaming anybody for anything. I see this article as more of a call to action than an exercise in blame.

I've seen plenty of examples of people like the fans Mordechai described. Heck, VH-1 did a whole series about such people ("Totally Obsessed"; you can read my comments about that here). The thing is, the extreme cases in comics are far closer to the surface than in some other fields. There also seem to be a somehat higher ratio of them, to the extent that the stereotype ("Comic Book Guy") is far more accurate than it ought to be. Admitting that fact is not blaming anybody. It's calling for us to take a good hard look at our selves and question whether this is the guy we want to be.

For me, the question of whether or not Captain Carrot is "canon" is not as disturbing as the use of the word "canon" itself. To me that indicates taking the subject far too seriously. "Canon" is holy scripture. When the Baker Street Irregulars first used the term, they intended it ironically and in a self-mocking way, acknowledging the silliness of the very conversation they were having. There is very little irony in the comics fandom world these days.

As I said a while back in another discussion elsewhere, "There is no 'canon.' Every single jot and tittle of continuity is subject to change without notice, and we'd all be a lot happier if we stopped pretending it isn't."

1/13/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

You know, it occurs to me, that Ed's pet peeve about how "comics" does NOT automatically mean "superhero comics," damn it, actually in large part is the result of Mordechai's complaint. We've seen that argument a million times and I'm not going to recap it all here, but I don't know anyone who reads current DC or Marvel output who thinks a professional letting the fannish continuity geek part of his personality drive the story is a GOOD thing. Or, at least, will admit to it. On the other hand, the second a creator at the mainstream book just jettisons something because it's in the way, there is a wave of ourrage sweeping across the internet.

Continuity geeks have been wrangling back and forth about what counts and what doesn't since the Baker Street Irregulars have been having their annual dinners. That's just recreational. What superhero fans bring to it that no one else does is the irrational, obsessive rage. I think that's the part that creeps out a lot of people. And the internet has allowed them to find each other and wind their anger up to truly demented levels. Instead of defending yourself as not being one of those people, you guys reading this, stop and ask yourselves: when was the last time you saw some guy on a message board A) complain that a creator of a book or a cartoon he didn't like should be shot, raped, or crucified; B) accused a comics creator or -- even better -- a comics PUBLISHER of 'conspiring' against them; C) monomaniacally harassing the people who liked something he didn't... I mean, come on, we've all SEEN this, any of us who've been to a show or read a super-hero comic message board. The ugly truth is, there's a significant percentage of comics fans that ARE unhealthily obsessive. It's the elephant in the room no one wants to mention. I like a cheerful wrangle about Earth-1 and Earth-2 as much as anybody who reads superhero stories, and for that matter I love a lot of the Baker Street Irregular essays about Holmesian continuity. But I don't think that's what Morts is talking about, and I don't think it's a fallacy to conflate the kind of guy that screams on a message board about how the architects of Infinite Crisis "should be raped to death" with the guys in his other extreme examples. There IS something weirdly scary about them.

1/13/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ed Cunard said...

MacQ:

"Canon" is holy scripture. When the Baker Street Irregulars first used the term, they intended it ironically and in a self-mocking way, acknowledging the silliness of the very conversation they were having. There is very little irony in the comics fandom world these days.

Canon is holy scripture, true, and I don't necessarily hold to the idea of continuity = canon, but that's not the only valid usage of the term. If someone wants to refer to the canon of comic books, or what have you, and wanted to list Maus, Watchmen, Love and Rockets, The Spirit, Jack Cole's Plastic Man stories and Buddha, I wouldn't have a problem with that--the term canon can also apply to influential works shaping a medium and/or a culture. Now, debating the need for that kind of listmaking is certainly a valid discussion topic, but that's probably for another post/time/whatever. I just wanted to throw that out there as well.

1/13/2006 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

But the Powers That Be are just fans that grew up.

ah, but the thing is, from my experience working as part of creative teams for various projects (print, web, audio, film, etc), the Powers-That-Be are never fans of whatever it is they're in charge of. they've always been narrow-minded suits who always choose the utterly shittiest idea or design or proposal you could come up with. i was even part of a local major comic book project with a national printing press, and my friend and i ended up knowing more about comic book production than the two editors who were in charge of the project, who were never really fans of comic books as comic books, more the potential of comic books as literary products. their intentions were great, but they just couldn't wrap their heads around it, as they could only see as far as the money (and the "literariness" of the project) let them.

i guess maybe it might've helped your case if you didn't resort to generalizations for some shock value, as i read on through the responses, it seemed to me that you were already preaching to the choir, seeing as to how pretty much all of us have the "ignore 'em if you don't like 'em" philosophy down pat.

To take the analogy further, the 40 year old Metal lover complaining about Avril Lavigne being music for teenage girls is missing the point that teenage girls need music too. That’s what some comic fans remind me of.

but that sort of attitude (and i assume that there are lots and lots of people with the same mindset, me included) didn't stop avril lavigne from climbing up the charts, it didn't stop the teenaged girls from buying the albums, in the same way that the Captain Carrot guy wondering if the guest spots in i've-forgotten-what-comic-book was part of continuity (i remember reading that it was, indeed, part of CC continuity) didn't stop me from reading and enjoying, say, tintin.

ultimately, what spoiled comic books for me were other things, other factors affecting me directly as a reader, not some guy i found annoying in the comic book store or internet or blogger or wherever. it was economics, inflation, the occassional unemployment, deciding between hunger or entertainment.

"ignore 'em if you don't like 'em". you don't even have to do it consciously.

oh, and about weezer: i spent a good amount of my teenage years listening to them, and i even sang and played guitar in a band whose line-up encompassed the entire PINKERTON album, and i found their past three albums to be sub par compared to their two earlier efforts, but i still listen to the other three albums. just not that regularly, and i don't really enjoy them as much as how i enjoy BLUE ALBUM and PINKERTON. what i do is, i just don't listen to them that much. it doesn't spoil the band to me. they're still WEEZER, and they still sound great. they're not writing for me anymore, but it's okay, they're still a good band. again, "ignore 'em if you don't like 'em", the same with the fans as well as with the band.

coming back to comics, do people here still honestly think that comic books are still in pop culture ghetto? 'cause, speaking as a foreigner, whenever "america" is always mentioned here (in the cultural context), it's always followed by an image of a) lady liberty, or b) superman, or c) coca cola. "smallville" is pretty big here, especially on pirated DVDs. local channels have soaps and adventure shows based on long-running comic books from the 70s. references to batman and superman and spider-man abound, in print or TV or simply on the lips of the people out in the streets. what WIRED once called "culture jamming" has always been prevalent here, and comic books are almost always "culture jammed" in every aspect of filipino culture, from jeepney designs to local movies to books and soap operas.

neil gaiman famously declared that the filipino crowd was the loudest he had ever encountered. we even have a "neil gaiman writing contest" here, sponsored by a local bookstore and by a local literary great, literary great on the level of your raymond carver. i wasn't able to attend the book signing, but apparently one of my literature teachers was there, a leading expert on feminism and poetry in the philippines, and was even a political prisoner back in the 70s when we had martial law. she's about 60, and she had her copy of STARDUST with her, and she got it signed.

i've personally never encountered anyone deriding me because i was reading SLEEPWALKER #24 in public. i never was ashamed to admit to a girl i liked that i read comic books, and that someday i hope i could come ot with one myself. and they never did dump me because of that ("it's not you, it's me").

that's why i always find it weird when people proclaim that comic books aren't getting any respect from mainstream culture, as to me it always did get its own space and time in the cultural map.

or maybe it's only in pop culture ghetto there in america? maybe the real problem is because not enough people are reading, period? movies and music and TV shows are more successful because they require less concentration to take in, compared to reading prose or poetry or comics?

don't get me wrong, though, it's not the most successful thing in the philippines. but i'm just saying that it's not getting ignored here, not like how most people say it's like. it could be better, but it could be worse.

Maybe I need to issue a follow up…

maybe you do!

damn. sorry. another longish comment. apologies if a bit off-topic. just started wondering who to blame about the supposedly downward spiral comic books are in right now.

1/13/2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Wow. I was gonna make this week's "Understanding Fanboys" about fans and female characters, but now I have a whole new topic.

Oh, and I can personally vouch for Example #2, as I was privy to that discussion as well.

1/13/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Marionette said...

I fail to see how naming those involved does anything but embarrass both the creators involved (particularly the one who had a dead loved one’s reputation dragged through the mud) and the fans. That’s not my goal. In fact, naming names is basically against my religion, so don’t expect me to crack on this one.

If you are not prepared to cite verifiable facts then you should not have included them as examples. As it stands they have as much value as anything found at snopes.com, which is full of similar stories.

And I’m sorry you don’t like the word “just”. As someone who’s been paid to write comics, I have no problem with it. “Just” is a wonderful word. You know what it means?

As someone who's been paid to draw comics (not that I see the relevence) I have a problem when it is used to with the meaning ,"Merely; only: just a scratch." as you used it.

It means that at the end of the day, if the thing vanished, I’d find something else to do.

Jolly good for you. I'm sure you have a rich and fulfilling life. Plenty of other people don't, and the only thing they have is their comics. I'm not saying this is good or healthy, it's just true.

I understand that comics may be “important” to you, but when you start obsessing, it’s time to seek help.

Okay, not only are you making assumptions about my life here but you have gone into binary mode again. You don't go from reading comics to being unhealthily obsessed with them by the flick of a switch, and the vast majority of comics readers, comics fans even, are not and never will be in the remotest danger of becoming freaky stalkers.

Obsession is all in the viewpoint. Me, I consider it absurdly obsessive to travel to a foreign country to watch your local football team, but most people seem to think this is perfectly reasonable behaviour.

1/13/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

What superhero fans bring to it that no one else does is the irrational, obsessive rage.

You should see Doctor Who fans in action.

No, comics fans are not special or unique in this regard. Anything that generates fan interest is subject to it to a degree, and some are worse than others. Until Marvel fans break out in gang warfare against DC fans, I wouldn't rate it very high on the scale.

1/13/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Eli said...

"No. Those involved know who they are. Naming names only creates embarassment for those involved."

See, I was thinking more along the lines of "pointing us in the right direction means we don't have to just take your word for it." If these people did these things publicly, they've already opened themselves up to whatever embarrassment comes of it. I already found the most obvious one, which started in the comments section of your site, and I appreciated the opportunity to see the other side of the story.

1/13/2006 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

Marionette:

“If you are not prepared to cite verifiable facts then you should not have included them as examples. As it stands they have as much value as anything found at snopes.com, which I
is full of similar stories.”

Aside from not enjoying being called a liar, the commenter above you verified #2. You can verify #3 if you check my blog, but that’s as much information as I am giving. If you do not like that, that is quite simply, your issue. I am not naming names. Period.

“As someone who's been paid to draw comics (not that I see the relevence) I have a problem when it is used to with the meaning ,"Merely; only: just a scratch." as you used it.”

I brought it up because I wanted to be clear that I was not being dismissive of them as having no worth, for if I did surely I would not be writing them. You’re reading far more into my “just” than I intended.

“Jolly good for you. I'm sure you have a rich and fulfilling life. Plenty of other people don't, and the only thing they have is their comics. I'm not saying this is good or healthy, it's just true.”

I do believe that was my point, except that yes, I was making the judgment call and saying that no, it is *not* healthy. Which is, of cours,e just my opinion.

“Okay, not only are you making assumptions about my life here”

It was a general “You” not a “You, over there. Yes you.” This is perhaps indicitive that you may be taking all this a tad too personally/

“ but you have gone into binary mode again. You don't go from reading comics to being unhealthily obsessed with them by the flick of a switch, and the vast majority of comics readers, comics fans even, are not and never will be in the remotest danger of becoming freaky stalkers.”

I fail to see where I said that. I said “When you start obsessing”, not “when you start reading comics”. I’m specifically addressing the issue of obsessive fans. If that doesn’t apply to you then kudos to you.

“I consider it absurdly obsessive to travel to a foreign country to watch your local football team”

Hey, something we can agree on.

1/13/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

Eli -

The creator involved in example 1 prefers it not be discussed. In example 2 I see no reason to further to open the comic book creator involved to more pain regarding his loved one.

I'm afraid you'll just have to chose to believe me or not. I can understand if you don't as you do not know me from Adam.

1/13/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Mordechai Luchins said...

"No, comics fans are not special or unique in this regard. Anything that generates fan interest is subject to it to a degree, and some are worse than others."

This is true, but with most other interests, that's the fringe. With comics, that's more of the core.

1/13/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

This is true, but with most other interests, that's the fringe. With comics, that's more of the core.

I don't think so. I believe you are specifically talking about comic fans who are not only internet connected but actively vocal on internet message boards. The majority of comics fans do not have internet connections. The majority of those with connections do not read comics message boards. The majority of those that read the boards do not actively participate.

Here's an easy experiment. Go to your favourite message board and count the number of active names. Then take a look at the registered list for that site. If the first is much higher than 1% of the second I'd be surprised.

1/13/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Morts said...

Actually, I'm also basing my hypothosis on time spent at comic book conventions, working at comic book stores, interacting with pros, etc.

1/13/2006 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

Aside from not enjoying being called a liar,

I'm not calling you a liar, I'm saying that you are supporting your argument with unverifiable evidence. If you don't see the difference then this is perhaps indicitive that you may be taking all this a tad too personally.

1/13/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger mapletree7 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/13/2006 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger mapletree7 said...

OMFG.

Here and here.

1/13/2006 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

Actually, I'm also basing my hypothosis on time spent at comic book conventions, working at comic book stores, interacting with pros, etc.

Fair enough. I can only assume that American fans are considerably more extreme than I have seen evidence of and British fans are, by comparison, a haven of civility and good nature, (if lacking in hygene skills).

1/13/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Morts said...

Mapletree:

I mentioned the person from my blog as an example, not so that people could go there, find the thread, and then come back here and mock him. Poor form, sir or madam.

Marionette:

Ahhhh.

Good point madam! I should have specified that I was merely talking about US fandom and that I am not in any way capable of discussing any other fan culture.

1/13/2006 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger mapletree7 said...

An example is only an example if you actually provide it, morts.

1/13/2006 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

When does fandom become obssession? In my mind, it's when one's devotion to one's hobby/ craft/ object or person liked interferes with one's ability to function normally.

While calling super-hero comic books "canon," or wondering how the latest Teen Titans fits in with established continuity, may not be considered "normal" outside super-hero comic book fandom, such terms and musings do not interfere with being able to go about one's daily life. The more extreme examples do. That's why I can't lump copiously illustrated Legion slash fanfiction together with noticing a continuity glitch in X-Men, or even expressing displeasure with said glitch in a public forum.

The "this creator needs to DIE!!!!!" contingent may be vocal, but I can not see them as representative. If anyone has any sort of data that says otherwise, then fine. In my experience, I've been to comic book conventions, and never witnessed such behavior (although I know it does occur; see HEAT). The extreme does not define the mean.

1/13/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Erech said...

Oh, look what you went and started Mordechai ;)

I owe you an email btw, damnit. I'll do it this weekend!

1/13/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"I'm not calling you a liar, I'm saying that you are supporting your argument with unverifiable evidence. If you don't see the difference then this is perhaps indicitive that you may be taking all this a tad too personally."

From someone who took such umbrage at the use of the word "just," that's funny.

Also, while I accept that you didn't *mean* to call Morts a liar, the phrase "Come back when you have some actual facts" does lend itself to that interpretation. I'm reminded of Zero Mostel in "The Producers:" "'I'm sorry I caught you feeling up the old lady.' Thank you, Mr. Tact."

1/13/2006 08:07:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

Crazy fans and stuff still do not change the facts.
The Direct Market was created in response to fandom. The Direct Market has been in decline since the 80's. Only the early 90's "boom" artifically softened the blow. This same boom made Marvel and to a lesser extent DC secure that they did not need to depend as much on newstands. The newstands cut and ran after the boom died out. Now there is a Direct Market in serious trouble because all it did for decades was to preach to the same choir.

1/13/2006 10:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The newstand took off comics for the simple reason that it made more sense to them to have a 5 dollar magazine in the stands instead of a 2 buck comic. Just maximizing the profit they could make from their space.

I think distribution is the biggest challenge facing comics today. Marvel did a deal with 7-11 to distribute some of their comics there, DC and Dark Horse have included comics in their Batman Begins and Sin City dvds. Hopefully more of these kinds of deals can be done to raise awareness of comics in the general public.

And comics fans are good already. I would not presume to judge an entire fandom for a few whackos.

Queo

1/14/2006 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What superhero fans bring to it that no one else does is the irrational, obsessive rage

Look, I've seriously been called a dyke and threatened with bodily harm for expressing an unpopular opinion about a college football team. Never once has anyone committed battery on me for an opinion about a comic book.

This sort of 'Oh, our crazies are the worst kinds of crazies, they can't lead functional lives, why can't they see that it's just a hobby?' attitude strikes me as a really unnecessary sort of linedrawing designed to split 'good fans' from 'bad fans' and help the 'good fans' feel better about themselves. Whatever. Any popular activity (pro sports fandom, knitting, you name it) attracts obsessive freaks along with more balanced people. And anyone writing actual essays about a subject has gone well beyond just having meaningless escapist fun with it and needs to accept that it's a serious interest of theirs.

P.S. Writing slash isn't incompatible with leading a normal life. It certainly doesn't have to take more time than following baseball during the season.

1/18/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger MacQuarrie said...

While calling super-hero comic books "canon," or wondering how the latest Teen Titans fits in with established continuity, may not be considered "normal" outside super-hero comic book fandom, such terms and musings do not interfere with being able to go about one's daily life.

Well, the specific question in this case was wondering how the latest appearance of Captain Carrot fits in with his established continuity. This is absurd on its face because Captain Carrot is a humor/satire series, not a typical superhero book. Since any given storyline is likely to be a parody of any random element of pop culture, and comedy trumps continuity every time, it's a stupid question to ask. It's a funny animal book about dogs and bunnies and ducks who bear superficial resemblance to late-1970s celebrities, created for the express purpose of making fun of comics and other such stuff.

It's supposed to be fun. Remember fun? We used to have that in comics a long time ago.

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