Friday, August 29, 2008

An Introduction to Comics Fandom, Part One

OK, so in trying to figure out a logical starting point for this blog, we figured that it might make sense to provide an introduction of sorts to various factions of geekdom. Now, geekdom certainly isn’t limited to gaming or comics collecting, but those are the two hobbies that the humble proprietors of this blog know the most about. So, to continue on with our Introduction to Fandom Week here at Exfanding Your Horizons, here’s a little segment we’d like to call:

Demystifying Comics Fandom: Honest Answers to Real Questions

What follows are some basic true and false questions pertaining specifically to comics collecting, but, as you’ll see, you can pretty much insert any other geeky hobby into pretty much any of these questions. (I know, it’s sad but true.)


True or False: All comics fans are unemployed and live in a basement. And they smell.

False! Some are, in fact, allowed to live above ground, amongst other human beings, and some are even capable of acting within the accepted norms of society!

Seriously, though, this is the one stereotype we geeks may never outlive. Comics movies abound, and every studio in Hollywood wants a piece of our favorite writers and artists and the work they create. Yet, here we are, still classified as these socially inept, unkempt, and frankly, smelly, individuals. Personally, I hold down a good job and I shower regularly. And, I played baseball at a Division I college. So, there! I seriously hope this stereotype annoys you as much as it annoys me, because we Fanpeople get a raw deal most times. And, yes, I have now made “Fanpeople” an accepted part of the lexicon.

True or False: “Civilians” are eaten alive at comics conventions.

True! I mean, False! Actually, comics conventions are a totally unique, dare I say beautiful, place where people of like minds can come together and—OK, OK. Sorry. I can’t—I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.

Comics conventions can be as bad as it gets, people. But, and I say this honestly; the next time (or the first time!) you attend a con, go with an open mind, go with a plan in your head, and most importantly, just drop any and all airs of self consciousness you may feel. Now, let me be brutally honest here for a second. When I started in this hobby a few years ago, just going to my LCS (that’s “local comics shop” for you newbies!) made me feel pretty self conscious and aware. I’d hurry inside the door when I got there, grab my books quickly, and try to cover my face when I’d leave, hoping that no one I knew would pass by and discover my shameful, comics loving secret.

I mean, really, I’d heard all the stories about the bridge trolls that dwell in such places, but I have to say; I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that there were only one or two bridge trolls at my LCS, and neither of them was all that harmful. Anyway, back to conventions (or, as we hipsters say “cons”). Now, the problem with cons (see, pretty hip, right?) is the simple fact that, because there are just more people at any given con than there are in an LCS at any time, the proportionate number of bridge trolls increases. BUT, and this is a big, important BUT: the regular human being to bridge troll ratio at any con is going to be somewhere around 5 to 1, so us regular old comics dorks (that’s any of us sans homemade Wolverine claws, by the way) handily outnumber our *ahem* base-of-a-bridge-dwelling brethren.

So, in conclusion, if you’ve never been to a con, just suck it up and go! I promise, there will be something (most likely several things) there that you’ll really enjoy. And you’ll likely want to attend another one. Maybe in another post, we’ll run down the list of some of the different types of cons that are out there. Trust me, from San Diego on down to the smallest independent comics convention, there’s something for everyone.

True or False: Collecting comics makes you fat.

False! Eating incredible amounts of fried cheese while reading comics makes you fat.

True or False: The Internet fans are a microcosm of the entire comics fan base, and their demands must be met to ensure the well being of any given publisher.

As you may have guessed from my subtle sarcasm above, this is 100% False!

Look, Internet fans are typically the most vocal of the comics fan base, and the vitriolic message board posts they leave in their wake are staggering and mind boggling. If you don’t like something, write something that’s better. Or, discuss why you didn’t like something in a civilized fashion. (For any of you vitriolic Internet fans that may have stumbled here accidentally, civilized means “Don’t throw feces at someone. Under any circumstance.”) Just because you (well, not you you, I’m talking about the crazy Internet fan, remember!) didn’t like the latest issue of Batman, it really doesn’t mean that DC Comics should fire everyone involved and start from scratch. Is it frustrating when one’s favorite character is portrayed differently than one would like? Sure. Is it tough to swallow when one’s childhood hero is depicted differently than he or she was in the 1980’s when they were fondly read by a then-10-year-old-but-soon-to-be-crazy-Internet-fan? Uh, I guess it could be.

But these characters have been around for decades. Doing the same thing over and over makes for stale comics. And, methinks, it’s a prelude to certain forms of madness. Characters change. Writers and artists change. Just go with it. And, if you just can’t fathom a Spider-Man without organic web shooters (or with!), or a super model wife (or without!), or a dead (or living!) Gwen Stacy, well then don’t buy the book. It’s your right. But don’t attack the creators for “ruining your childhood” and demand their immediate expulsion from a company. That’s just silly.

So, to recap, Internet fans don’t have very much say in what happens at any publisher, nor should they (typically that’s left up to professionals). Internet fans are a minority of the readership. Granted, they are a VOCAL (and crazy—don’t you dare forget crazy!) minority. But a minority, nonetheless.

That’s all for today’s segment, folks. But, stay tuned for An Introduction to Comics Fandom, Part Two, coming very soon! And be sure not to let this topic stop here! We want to hear from you! What did you think of the post? Are you an angry, raging fanboy and want to punch me in the face? Well, please do so (metaphorically) in the comments!

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