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Fan Entitlement Or When Do You Not Give the Baby Its Bottle? Or I Toss The Words Pander And Self Indulgent Around Like I’m An Actual Critic! Or… Something.

by  in Comic News Comment
Fan Entitlement Or When Do You Not Give the Baby Its Bottle? Or I Toss The Words Pander And Self Indulgent Around Like I’m An Actual Critic! Or… Something.

This pretty hilarious controversy gave me a springboard to talk about comics fandom and problems I have with it. I always like it when two of my nerdy hobbies can coverge like that. Of course, most of my schemata eventually lead to bitching about fanboys. Sure, I’m a fanboy myself, but I had paradox absorbing crumple zones installed, so I no longer have to worry about my hypocrisy being life threatening.

In any hardcore fandom, you run in to the kind of reaction Blizzard’s getting for daring to introduce too much color in to their new Diablo game. Seguing completely in to the actual subject of this site, because I’m not Hatcher and can’t get away with doing whole columns on old genre fiction or whatever, this kind of fan entitlement is pretty common place.

The internet, being nerd Israel and all, breeds this kind of thing in any field of interest, but comics fandom is already prone to this kind of thing. On a certain level, you can write it off as the lunatic fringe; your K-Boxes; people you can look at and say “at least I’m not that guy.” People who make your nerdiness feel less embarassing by comparison to. Empty voids of humanity. Have I demeaned the guy enough?

So, you know, I can feel a little sympathy for Dan Didio when the mob calls for his head for… something. I can’t even remember why at this point. And I don’t care enough to check. Which I’ll get back to later. Tim O’Neil wrote a good post calling for perspective on the Didio situation. I find it pretty hard to argue with, although I don’t particularly have a dog in the fight as far as DC goes, as long as Grant Morrison and Frank Miller comics continue at their usual pace of production and Darwyn Cooke pops in every once and awhile to make mediocre scripts look amazing. Also, should I stop using the phrase “dog in the fight” in light of Michael Vick’s fate?

At the same time, while I can be bemused by people who call for the heads of editors (or baseball managers, or game developers, or people in any job who steps on the toes of rabid fans, for that matter), I can’t entirely be sympathetic to DC and Marvel whenever the hardcore crowd gets their Superman underoos in a bunch over something. It’s not because they’re monolithic corporations. I can spare a tear for those, and in fact plan on selling my soul to one as soon as I get an apporpriate offer (the current going rate; a free CM Punk T-shirt and some DVDs).

No, it’s because Marvel and DC have eaten out on the frightening devotion of their most ardent fans for as long as they’ve been in the form we recognize them in. You can’t pander to a group of people the way DC and Marvel have, especially since Stan Lee upped the ante in his singular style, and not expect them to get angry, especially when you do things patently designed to piss them off, banking on the fact that they’ll buy stuff they hate anyway, out of inertia, to mitigate the nerd rage. Killing off the Giffen-DeMatties Justice League is the best actual example I can come up with in this case, although the plot out of 90% of recent mainstream superhero comics can be jammed in there pretty easily if you’re so inclined.

Also, there’s the thorny issue of art and commerce to consider; that comes somewhere in the middle. Whether you consider Final Crisis art or not, it’s also a product, one being sold by DC Comics to a group of customers who expect certain things from it. While fan outrage at not getting the story they want, or were promised in hype they really damn well ought to no better than swallow by now, is tedious, you can’t ignore the fact that there is an audience out there outside of people looking for Christ symbolism reading this thing. I’m not saying Morrison should tailor his story to them, far from it; him doing whatever he wants is the whole draw of FC to me (had to get that Father Cronin mandated devotional to GM in there somewhere before he let me have another glass of the Flavor Aid). I’m just saying that when you pander to an audience enough, you’ve set up a certain amount of outrage from them. Or something about audience expectation and how much responsibility publishers have to meet it. Hell, I lost sight of the point a couple hundred words back. How does Abhay pull of this stream of consciousness crap?

Bearing all that in mind, on some level, my resentment of a lot of the hardcore fandom element in anything I have interest in has as much, if not more, to do with me than them. I’ve never been in to petitions or activism or boycotts for anything, much less comics. On a certain level, I envy people who take to the internet with pretend slings and pretend arrows to throw at people they don’t know over decisions they’re jerking their knees at, because I’ve never been able to work up that kind of enthusiasm about anything. I touched on that a little here in the context of pro wrestling, actually, and yes that was a shameless attempt at cross promotion, thank you very much.

If you can extract anything from any of this, well, you’re a better man than I. I know I had some sort of point going in, besides plugging my IP work. Even I’m not that elaborately self indulgent. Or am I? And if I am, is that art or pandering? How self indulgent do you have to be before you can call yourself an artist? I know who I can ask; that bald Scottish guy we all agreed to praise unceasingly on pain of death when we started writing for this site! I guess I’ve been defensive enough about Graeme’s (Gram? Graham? Grimm? Can’t be bothered to look) comparing us to an infamous mass murder (suicide? Can I start that dumb debate up again?) and really ought to heed Brian’s “go home” signal by now. So, uh, Curran out!

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