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CSBG Archive

Friday in the Age of Availability

Patton Oswalt wrote an article for Wired not too long ago where he postulated that, because everything of interest to geeks and nerds in pop culture is now available all the time, geek culture was dying or needed to die or something like that.

I don’t particularly agree with his thesis. (Truthfully, I’m not at all sure Mr. Oswalt genuinely feels this way — he’s a comedian, after all, and he probably was amusing himself at the internet’s expense.)

However, I’m the same age, or actually a little older, so I grew up in the same Age of Inaccessibility that Mr. Oswalt did. Which got me wondering.

Now, I’m not interested in debating Mr. Oswalt’s proposition. I’m more interested in testing it. Are we genuinely living in the Age of Total Availability of Everything Ever? Is everything I was reading and watching in– oh, let’s say March of 1978– now accessible to everyone?

I don’t mean at a used bookstore or a back-issue bin. I’ve been picking through those places my entire adult life, that’s nothing new. No, I mean readily available in trade paperback or DVD or whatever, as a new retail purchase. That’s the challenge.

March is just a random month, but I picked 1978 because that was a big geek year for me. I consumed a LOT of books and comics and movies. I was a junior in high school, which meant money — I had a part-time restaurant job– and, more importantly, mobility, because I had friends that drove. (Often on weekends my friend Joe and myself would go drive around looking at music and book stores. Joe says that picking me up at my house was like “driving the getaway car,” and it was. My family was such a mess that I don’t know what the hell I’d have done without Joe to escape with…. and nerd culture to escape into.)

Anyway. March of 1978. Let’s break it down. What comics were on my pull list then?

…trick question, I had no pull list. There weren’t really any comics retailers then, certainly not any near me. But here’s what I pulled off the spinner rack.

From DC:

Batman #300. I wasn’t really reading the Bat books regularly, but I couldn’t bear to completely leave them be.

Not a bad story, but not a GREAT one, either.

This one I got because it was an anniversary issue, but also it was drawn by Walt Simonson, who I remembered fondly from Manhunter, and it featured Robin in his cool Adams-designed outfit that I remembered from an issue of Justice League, many years ago.

Is it available today? Yes it is, in volume two of DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #105. This was not the legendary O’Neil-Adams era, obviously, but the considerably less legendary O’Neil-and-whoever-was-around-the-office run.

Not Green Lantern's finest hour.

In this case, it was O’Neil and Alex Saviuk, never a favorite artist of mine, and worse, the inks were by Vince Colletta, who is legendary but not in a good way. O’Neil’s story is baseline-competent, but that’s all. I bought this because I’d really loved the first few issues of the GL/GA revival O’Neil had done with Mike Grell, but I was about ready to give up. I think this one or maybe the next one was my last for a while.

Is it available today? No. Although there’s a slim chance it might make the next Showcase Presents Green Lantern, I’m not sure exactly where the cutoff is there. I think it probably will just miss it.

Action Comics #484. “Superman Takes A Wife!” It was a big anniversary month for DC.

I was not taken in by the Earth-2 dodge, of course, but I liked Earth-2 stories and this was a good one.

I was not really a big Superman guy — but I was a big Earth-2 guy, I loved the old JLA/JSA crossovers, and anything having to do with that parallel world idea, I was always up for it. (I’ve never really understood how it got to be such a hated concept. “Too complicated to follow” is always the reason people give, but no one seemed to actually ever have any problem following along with the concept. I read my first Earth-2 story when I was eight and I had no trouble.) Plus, this was a fill-in-the-historical-blank kind of story as well, and my inner geek loved that stuff too.

Is it available today? Yes it is, in the collection Superman in the Seventies.

That was it for DC. Before we get to the Marvel books I got that month, let’s take a quick look around the rest of the landscape.

Television: I wasn’t watching as much TV as I used to. The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman were both winding down, and though Hawaii Five-O and Rockford Files were still going strong, I’d kind of lost interest. Likewise with both Charlie’s Angels and Starsky and Hutch. (1978 was also the year that Starsky & Hutch came under a lot of pressure to tone down the violence, and without the violence, it wasn’t any fun to watch. At least, it wasn’t any fun unless you wanted to indulge your slash-fiction fantasies, but let’s not go there.)


I'd lost interest in these by 1978, but I'd come back to all these shows again later in the home-video era.

We were just starting to really get into Saturday Night Live, and it was becoming a regular thing for me and my friends to gather at Joe’s house on Saturday nights to watch it. Plus, our local PBS station was running the half-hour episodes of Monty Python at eleven so it was a natural lead-in to Saturday Night Live. (When Eric Idle or Michael Palin hosted SNL, we completely geeked out over that.)

Our regular Saturday late-night double feature, thanks to the local public television station putting Python on at eleven. Whoever programmed the PBS outlet in Portland back in 1978 was one smart cookie.

Elsewhere on the SF/nerd front, Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter had morphed into the modern-day version and moved to CBS. The original Battlestar Galactica didn’t exist yet, but The Man From Atlantis had gone to series and gotten so silly that I’d given up. The disappointing Logan’s Run had been canceled in January. The big event for me was that in March of 1978, The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby went to series. I was very pleased about this, I really liked the two Kenneth Johnson TV movies that had aired.

The Hulk we own; Wonder Woman, we only have the first Nazi-fighting season. But all seasons of both shows are available, and pretty cheap, too.

All of these TV shows are available in their entirety on DVD today except Man From Atlantis and Logan’s Run.

Even in 1978 I knew these were lame, but I watched them anyway.

And even those are available in a limited way — Logan’s Run, the TV series, exists as a pay download from Amazon Unbox. And the 1977 Man From Atlantis pilot — the only part of it really worth watching anyway — is on DVD courtesy of Warner Archive.

Books: This is harder to pin down, but bearing in mind that Joe and I had begun our tradition of driving around looking at bookstores and stuff, I believe that in March of 1978 I’d just discovered pulp reprints and spin-offs, including Byron Preiss’ Weird Heroes.


Very nerdy reading, still. In 1978 I was all about the series paperback stuff.

I was very into the reprint series that were coming out at the time, particularly the Shadow paperbacks with the Steranko covers and the Conan books edited by L. Sprague deCamp. And because I’d read Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage biography, I was busy chasing down everything else he had written about the Wold Newton family. Best of all for teenaged geeky me, Marvel had just launched its series of original novels that month, beginning with Spider-Man in Mayhem In Manhattan.

Are those books available today?

Wellll… yes and no. If you have a credit card and access to the internet you could clean up the whole list in about twenty minutes, and not for that much money. But you’d be buying used. Most of these books appear now in completely different, revised editions.

Not the SAME as when I was a kid.... but the stuff is still out there.

You can get Conan, but with the Carter/deCamp pastiches removed. You can get the Shadow, but not with the Steranko covers. (The Doc Savage reprints from the same company, though, do occasionally throw us 1970s kids a bone by using a James Bama cover every so often.) You can get new Spider-Man prose originals, but not Mayhem in Manhattan. Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton-related books are coming back into print one by one, often with revised and updated introductions (for example, The Adventure of The Peerless Peer is scheduled to come out in a new edition from Titan Books in June.) And so on.

Does that qualify under the terms of the challenge, “new retail” only? Technically not, I suppose, but I’m going to say, “Close enough.” Put it this way — if sixteen-year-old Joe and I were to go driving around to retail bookstores today on the same sort of hunt for nerd reading that we were on in 1978, there’s plenty of the same material out there. (Somebody should really straighten out the rights to the Byron Preiss stuff and get that back in print, though, particularly Weird Heroes.)

Movies: 1978 was a big movie year for me — Superman with Christopher Reeve, Animal House, Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (yeah, I know, still a little bitter about how that turned out), I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Foul Play, Good Guys Wear Black…. all of them released in 1978. And all of them available on DVD. (Yes, even the Bakshi. Surprised me too.)

Really kind of amazed to see some of these on DVD.

But none of them were out as of March. In March, the only then-current movie I made it a point to see (and own today) is Gray Lady Down.

Not a monster hit or anything, but I've always liked it.

What about the really ephemeral made-for-TV stuff? Can you still find that?

Offhand I can think of two TV-movies from 1978 that are prized by nerd collectors. The television Dr. Strange came out in 1978, though not until fall. And KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park premiered that year. Both are convention bootlegger evergreens, but they’ve both had legitimate home video releases as well. So I’d say yeah.

And in December of that year, we got The Star Wars Holiday Special, legendary in its sheer awfulness. Also a convention bootleg favorite, and I’m pretty sure it’s downloadable… though probably not legally.

Dear God, WHY?

Fans are continually fighting for a legitimate home video release and I understand that there is actually going to be one, though the reason escapes me. It if does indeed get one, I think that will pretty much slam the door on the availability-of-everything-ever question as far as film is concerned.

Let’s wrap up the comics. In March of 1978, I picked up these titles…

From Marvel:

Howard the Duck #25 and X-Men #111.

Well, of course I got both of these. Sadly, I was unable to hang on to them... sold 'em in college, I think. Sigh.

Nothing really to add to the REAMS AND REAMS of stuff that’s been written about these two series, except that yeah, they really were that good. And both Howard and the X-Men are available in Essential collections.

I also picked up Doctor Strange #29 and The Defenders #60, but I was rapidly growing disenchanted with each of them.

Both of these were bought more out of habit than anything else.

Neither one was anywhere near the glory days of just a couple of years before. Doctor Strange was a fill-in by Roger Stern, I think, slotted right after Jim Starlin had wrapped up some typically psychedelic Starlin thing with the In-Betweener. (Despite his rep, I never found Starlin’s stuff to be as ‘trippy’ as Steve Englehart’s, on either Captain Marvel or Doctor Strange.)

And The Defenders was the final chapter of the three-part Devil-Slayer story by David Kraft, chiefly notable for all its Blue Oyster Cult-themed Easter eggs planted throughout. (I owned the Agents of Fortune album and thus spotted most of them, which made me feel a bit smug, but there wasn’t much of a story surrounding the in-jokes.)

Both of these are available in the Essential format. The Doctor Strange is in volume three and the Defenders is in volume three of its own series, as well.

I’d let go of a lot of Marvel books by that point, partly through attrition and partly because our distributor was never really very dependable. Sometimes the books would be there and sometimes not. So if it was something on the bubble and I missed a couple, I’d let it go. Otherwise, I absolutely would have bought Fantastic Four, What If?, Savage Sword of Conan, Kull, Avengers, Godzilla, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Tarzan, Ms. Marvel, and Rampaging Hulk.



I totally WOULD have bought all of these if I hadn't been distracted by girls or something.

Looking at all these covers, I am pretty sure I missed them, but I remember buying issues of each of those series both before and after, so I was kind of trying to keep up. We were still in the age of catch-as-catch-can distribution, and though it was easier to stay caught up than it was when I was little, it still took work — and I wasn’t putting as much work into it. Probably part of it was just getting out more… and suddenly finding out it was possible to talk to girls, as well.

But here’s the amazing part. I’ve been able to catch up with almost all of them, because almost all of them have come out in the Essential format or — in the case of What If? and Kull — as full-color trade paperbacks. Either they’ve been reprinted already or, as in the case of John Carter Warlord of Mars, they’re scheduled to come out soon. (Fantastic Four and Avengers haven’t quite caught up to 1978 in the Essential program, but the next volume of each will cover these.)


Goddamn but I LOVE living in the Age of Availability.

With one exception. As far as I am aware, there are no plans afoot to reprint Marvel’s Tarzan. No idea why this is, or why Dark Horse seems committed to plowing through all the Jesse Marsh Tarzan stuff from Dell first, but there it is.

Nevertheless, allowing for the one exception, I think it’s safe to say that these comics are available or will be soon.

Now, that is an amazing batting average of beloved comics, movies, TV and books from my youth that I could walk into a Barnes and Noble and either pick up off the shelf or have special-ordered. (But I really don’t have to, because I have the internet and a debit card.) I tried a couple of other random month-and-year selections and got similar results for everything up to roughly 1983 or so. After that it becomes a little dodgier with the comics, but books, TV and movies are all just as accessible, everything from the early sixties to the present day. And I expect comics to catch up soon.

Here’s the really interesting part. It’s only geek stuff… science fiction, superheroes, fantasy, action-adventure. If your thing is romance, or situation comedy, or actual Literature, you’re out of luck, you can’t find nearly as much from that era that’s re-packaged for new audiences. Taylor Caldwell and Arthur Hailey ruled the paperback scene when I was a kid, but both of them are long gone from the public consciousness now, their best-sellers fallen out of print decades ago. One-season television flops like The Waverly Wonders or even Emmy-winning shows like Kaz or My World And Welcome To It don’t get DVD releases– but failed one-season SF/fantasy shows like The Night Stalker and Firefly and Nowhere Man are DVD evergreens. If your taste runs to genre fiction… well, congratulations, because we now own the world.

I’m sorry, but I remember how underground this all used to be, how furtive I had to be sneaking it past my parents — and comparing then to today, that leap to public acceptance is practically miraculous from where I’m sitting. When I set out to write this and really see if I could find new copies of everything, I was not expecting to do anywhere near as well as I did. (The movies and TV, especially, astonished me. I mean, seriously, KISS Meets The Phantom??)

As far as I’m concerned, that makes right now the Golden Age, and I don’t really give a damn how many Johnny-come-latelies I share it with. Hell, today I have a six-year-old godson to share it all with and what that means is that I get to see the magic happen for him, all over again. Believe me, if you got to watch that you’d think it was awesome too. In fact, last weekend Phenix and his mother got comped into the new Green Hornet movie and it really amused me to think of the fact that — thanks to the all-access world we live in now — this six-year-old boy spent the entire ride to the theater explaining who the Hornet and Kato were to his mother. That’s the Age of Availability in action.

I was there then and I’m here now and with all respect to Mr. Oswalt, now is a hell of a lot better. The only downside to any of this is that all these books and DVDs threaten to crowd us out of our home. Believe me, that’s a problem I’d have loved to have back in 1978.

See you next week.

89 Comments

I think you’re unintentionally kind of making his point. The article is saying that with endless consumption options and opportunities, it becomes all about the consumption to a degree never before in history. For consumers, it IS a golden age, and I think in his article he totally acknowledges that. But with so many opportunities for consumption and so many more things available to consume, no one ever takes time to reflect, dwell on what they read, get inspired to create their own art, they just move on to consuming the next thing.

You saying that your house is running out of room to fit things I think is exactly the type of result Oswalt had in mind. It becomes a compulsion, a pathology. And I’m not downing you, because I had the same problem with regular books. I have compiled more books than I could read in a lifetime and I never have time to really pause and reflect on any of them like people in the past probably did.

One update for you Greg- according to TVShowsOnDVD.com, a complete set of Logan’s Run: The Series will be available on DVD later this year from Warner Bros. MOD program:

http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Logans-Run-The-Complete-Series/14913

I think a good analogy is a shark. If a shark stops moving and eating it dies. I feel like for a lot of collectors its become the same way: just move on to the next thing as soon as you obtain the last thing. Everything is increasingly disposable and forgettable.

Exactly, T. With such ridiculous availability, nobody takes time to analyze and reflect. And worse than that, all this material has made a lot of people lazy. It seems like more and more people think reading a wikipedia plot summary is close enough to reading or watching whatever book or movie being discussed at the time. They don’t want to retain it, either, and as soon as the discussion is over they move onto the next “hot” topic. So the shark analogy is apt, only they don’t even hunt for food anymore, they just have to open and food will fill their mouths. The new wave of psuedo-nerds bum me out.

nice argument. there greg for have to agree with your views. and Logans run is in deed finaly coming to dvd. as for the star wars holiday special Lucas has made it clear he does not want the thing on dvd he is ashamed of it . unless he is going to include it as a extra on the blue rays that thing getting a legitimate dvd release. would be a sign Lucas has finaly either lost his mind completly to okay the thing being on dvd legaly.

While I got the gist of Oswalt’s article, and I can appreciate the points T and Daniel T made, I’m with Greg on this one – this is kind of a Golden Age for me as well. Especially when we’re talking about comic books, I can’t believe how much great stuff from the 70s/80s (and all points before and after) are available in some sort of reprint format.
And the point about this only pertaining to geek or specific genre culture is really true – “James at 16″ was another highly regarded TV series that I remember from 1978 which, as far as I know, never had any kind of home video release, and certainly nothing available today (kudos, by the way, for remembering Joe Namath’s obscure, very short-lived sitcom).
Also, Greg said: “Whoever programmed the PBS outlet in Portland back in 1978 was one smart cookie.” No kidding. I also liked the fact that not long afterward, the local NBC affiliate started airing Second City Television right after SNL.

The other thing you’re not taking into account Greg is that your formative fan years were during the time Oswalt was talking about, where things weren’t as accessible. So you had time to develop those passions, to really reflect on all those things, read with a real attention span. So now as an adult who has developed those old-school fan tendencies, the uber-availability is a true asset to revisit your fandom.

But think about the kid who is actually becoming a fan for the first time under this system. He may never end up developing a deep, nuanced connection to any of this stuff. He’ll have a much bigger breadth to his fandom sure but the depth will be negligible. Your godson is still an experiment, it’s still too early to call him a successful fan. He could easily end up moving through a 100 phases by the time he hits 21 and not one will stick.

According to DCComics.com, Showcase Presents Green Lantern V5 ends with #100 –

http://www.dccomics.com/dccomics/comics/?cm=17257

Back when all this pop cultural stuff was ephemeral– the comics, the TV shows, the hacky novels– and especially when the home video market didn’t really exist– audiences could move on and discover the next thing. But now, consumerism has mired us in the past. This is both a good and a bad thing, sure– I love giving myself a beautiful education in film without having to leave the couch– but it’s also making us complacent, nostalgic, fat, and lazy. Metaphorically (and literally, after eating all those pork cracklins on the couch).

Appreciating and reflecting on past entertainments is great, yes. You’d think the availability of all this stuff would prompt less remakes, reboots, and retreads, as well– but apparently not. There is no need for The New when we can fall back on The Old. Where is the angry revolution of The Young? Buried in its iphone-pod-ass-scratcher or whatever. And I say this as a young guy with the ambition to create– but no motivation, because, check this out, Rocko’s Modern Life and the Larry Sanders Show are streaming on Netflix!

Oswalt, and those of you agreeing with his view on the negative impact of the new availability on fandom, are officially old people yelling at the youngsters to get off their lawn. Officially. I made seal so we can stamp your old person paperwork.

Here, let me sum up what he said: “Kids today suck. They’ll never be as good as we are.”

More availability means more opportunities for in-depth specialization for those with the personalities to pursue specialization. So, instead of just Comic Book Guy at your local comic shop, we now live the era that includes the internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims and other people like him. Sure, he has a solid base of geek culture, but the dude knows way too much about Batman specifically – in no small part because he can easily access almost everything about the character in this era. Arguing that this new possibility is a bad thing is like arguing accumulating enough knowledge about medicine to make neurosurgery a full time specialty is a bad thing. It’s absurd.

The freakish specialist grows out of that person’s personality. It doesn’t disappear just because the availability of knowledge available goes from scarce to everywhere.

I’m with T in here, and some comments on the original article did have a good point, that what we have now is the product of the geek culture of the late 70s-early 80s: D&D and superhero nerds have processed their earlier passions to new mainstream stuff like LotR movies and made this stuff newly available, but this stuff is now reprocessed and easily available already. Young people in their formative years will have more trouble geeking out on this stuff because, well, it is everywhere and there is always more of it, no reason to develop a deep relationship with any of this stuff.

Now is the golden age of the 70s-80s geeks who get to revisit their nostalgia doses and also get new stuff which speaks the same language. But what drives the 00s-10s geeks and what is it they will be processing?
I hate to say it but when it comes to the question of The Kids vs The Man, you have become The Man.

But think about the kid who is actually becoming a fan for the first time under this system. He may never end up developing a deep, nuanced connection to any of this stuff. He’ll have a much bigger breadth to his fandom sure but the depth will be negligible.

I didn’t understand this argument when Mr. Oswalt made it and I don’t understand it now. The idea of liking something a lot somehow being proportional to the difficulty involved in getting it just isn’t there for me, sorry. To me it makes more sense that you become a fan of something based on its merits, or based on whatever personal connection it has for you. It’s not because you had to walk ten miles through the driving snow to get a copy of it. The earliest fan connections I made, the things that hit me where I lived, came from television — superhero cartoons, adventure shows. Network TV was free and available to everyone. Those things led me to the library and the drugstore spinner-racks… and collecting started for me THEN, not now. I’ve always been sort of pathologically acquisitive about it. It’s why I enjoy our bookscouting adventures, the hunt itself is fun for me. That doesn’t go away because now I have Amazon and cable television and a debit card. It just changes. I assume younger collector-type fans have different hunts…. but I am sure they HAVE them, I see my students talk about them.

And speaking of my students, that’s why I don’t buy this, either:

Where is the angry revolution of The Young? Buried in its iphone-pod-ass-scratcher or whatever. And I say this as a young guy with the ambition to create– but no motivation, because, check this out, Rocko’s Modern Life and the Larry Sanders Show are streaming on Netflix!

Pfft. That just makes you lazy, Bill, I’m sorry. I’m spending this whole weekend assembling the first Young Authors prose anthology that my 6th and 7th-grade writing class produced, I spent last week producing my cartooning students’ latest book, and I am currently advising two high school seniors who are producing original graphic novels as their senior projects in order to graduate. I live in a town with a thriving ‘zine culture and there are all sorts of creative DIY new-media outlets bursting forth all over the place.

I’ll tell you what I tell all my students — if you want to create something, don’t sit on your ass waiting for inspiration, because it will never come. Inspiration is what happens when you are already at work on something and suddenly you see how to do it better, or working on this project suddenly crystallizes into a brilliant idea for another project — but it almost always comes when you are working on something. You have to budget work time. Period.

Like I tell my Young Authors kids on their first day, “Look. This is work. Don’t kid yourselves that it’s not. You have to enjoy actually doing it – because if all you care about is the fun of being done, well, you never get done. You have to genuinely like the process of chipping away at a block of words until it comes out as your story, because there’s not really any money in this, there’s no fame, not very many people even READ any more. And in here there’s not even grades. So if you want out, tell me now, no harm, no foul. But if you don’t, then starting next time, we will be making a real book.”

I started with nineteen kids. I expected half of them to drop out after that. But I only lost one. And I’m busy putting the first anthology together right now. So I’m just not terribly concerned about the Youth of Today not creating. I have seen enough of them out there to know that all they need is an outlet.

There’s always been two kinds of fandom — the kind who Make Stuff and the kind who Collect Stuff. The fact that there’s more stuff today for Collectors doesn’t automatically mean that suddenly there are fewer fans out there Making their own.

It’s not really about walking ten miles in the snow and similar physical difficulties (though I wouldn’t rule out a certain romantic appeal in that either), it’s about time, more exactly downtime. About waiting for the show to come on the television, or the comic to be in that spinner rack, and ruminating what has happened and what could possibly happen, and it doesn’t work when one is just clicking the next episode on the DVD or turning a page on the Essential or Showcase. Waiting forces people to Make Stuff.
Yeah, collector mentality works now better than it did in 70s and 80s. And I don’t think people who Make Stuff are disappearing, but I doubt that many will be sticking around on stuff like this, because why bother? There’s plenty of it already. Creativity fills voids.

So, what will those manga kids and slash fiction writers come up with?

And I don’t think people who Make Stuff are disappearing, but I doubt that many will be sticking around on stuff like this, because why bother? There’s plenty of it already. Creativity fills voids.

So, what will those manga kids and slash fiction writers come up with?

Well, I disagree, but there doesn’t seem to be much point in just saying it. I have about a zillion anecdotes accumulated from fifteen years of teaching comics and writing and ‘zine-making and so on, but it’s all anecdotal.

But what you are describing is exactly the same winnowing process that takes place in every writing class ever. People who quit because it’s hard or it cuts into their video game time were quitting for more or less the same reason back in 1978, too. I know, because I was in writing and journalism classes with them.

So what exactly are we supposed to be mourning here? That people don’t pause and reflect? Is that supposed to be a new phenomenon? People en masse are generally reluctant to ‘ruminate.’ What’s that got to do with…. well, anything? How is that relevant to the fact that now I can get my favorite 1970s comic in a trade paperback? There’s no causal link there that I can see between the two.

internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims

I say this can’t be proven unless there is a Batman-off in the… offing.

And I agree, Greg, I am totally lazy. I need to create more, rather than consume more, which is what I’ve been doing for, damn, a couple years now. There’s so much cool stuff out there, I’ll never be able to consume it all– so I should probably stop trying and Do The Work. My Loose Ideas folder needs to start turning into Things That Exist.

I have no excuses. I’m just complacent, and complacency is the enemy.

Oswalt had a line in the article that went like this:

Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?

In last week’s piece you said:

The Cape is essentially stitched together from about a dozen other superhero/crimefighter/masked-avenger shows.

Coincidence? IMO not. I think for scripted shows, things like the Cape are the future. Just endless mashup and remix culture. I don’t think people will stop writing and just become purely consumers. I just think they’ll be lazy because all they’ll be doing is thinking about the next thing they want to consume rather than reflecting on things they’ve seen and pondering what new places it can be taken.

It’s the intellectual equivalent of pathological hoarding. I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it, I don’t blame the new fans, I don’t deify the old fans, I don’t even attack the system…I think all of it is just the inevitable march of progress. I do think we should remain aware of it though.

T.’s right, and I think people aren’t grasping that point. People ARE creating all the time, but so much of it isn’t new, it’s just referencing the old stuff. To keep referring to Sims, I love reading his thoughts ABOUT comics, but his actual creations aren’t all that interesting, because it’s just stuff from his childhood that he thinks is awesome thrown into a blender. It’s energetic but empty. Even someone like Morrison, who used to be about coming up with tons of new ideas, has recycled old ideas for some time now – he does it better than most, but it’s one of the most frustrating things about reading Morrison these days. That’s why I get annoyed with creators who have the ability or even the wherewithal (whether financial or other leverage) to do something new and simply don’t. That sucks.

internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims

I say this can’t be proven unless there is a Batman-off in the… offing.

Heh. Wasn’t my branding idea. Although I will note I googled the phrase to make sure I got it right, and Chris is a good chunk of what came up. :)

My apologies to Greg and the everyone else if I was too trollish earlier. Oswalt’s article managed to really irritate me when I first ran across it. The man creates as well as critiques. I’m disappointed in him that he assumed that the obsessive behavior of the otaku is a product of the environment rather than a feature of percentage of humanity. The broader range of geek stuff available now just means the otaku will obsess over a more specialized niche of the stuff.

Still, Oswalt seems to be of the camp that enjoys his stuff more if everyone else scoffs at it, so I’m pleased if I can contribute to his sense of persecution.

Before I manage to go completely off the rails again, I would like to say thank you to Greg for this specific article. I haven’t managed to comment on it here until now, but I would like to say that the survey of what was new then but still available now is pretty cool.

I think for scripted shows, things like the Cape are the future. Just endless mashup and remix culture. I don’t think people will stop writing and just become purely consumers. I just think they’ll be lazy because all they’ll be doing is thinking about the next thing they want to consume rather than reflecting on things they’ve seen and pondering what new places it can be taken.

It’s the intellectual equivalent of pathological hoarding. I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it, I don’t blame the new fans, I don’t deify the old fans, I don’t even attack the system…I think all of it is just the inevitable march of progress. I do think we should remain aware of it though.

Well… you have a valid point, but I don’t think it’s the point you THINK it is. What you are describing is what I think of as “the fanfic defense,” or “the homage defense.” Where the thief says “I meant to do that.”

But, see, that’s ALWAYS been with us. Robert Bloch started by wanting to be H.P. Lovecraft. Isaac Asimov was trying to be John Campbell. Stephen King’s first published anything was “I Was A Teenaged Graverobber” for a Marv Wolfman fanzine. Finger and Kane came up with Batman by trying to do the Shadow in comics. Right now I’m putting together my middle-school kids’ anthology and I’m looking at just a pantload of teenage magician, Harry-Potter-but-not, stories.

This is how everyone starts. Your output is derived from your input. The idea is that you keep hammering away and gradually you develop craft and skill and a voice of your own. Eventually Dean Koontz isn’t Stephen King-lite any more, he’s Dean Koontz. Etc.

The difference is that it’s now acceptable to defend your heavily-influenced, not-quite-stolen thing by claiming it’s a tribute. But no matter what, eventually you still have to show that it’s worth coming back for on its own, or it goes away. Does Mystery Science Theater 3000 have such ardent fans because people love the culture it’s mocking and they’re all in on the joke, smug together in their expertise? I don’t think so. I think it’s because those fans love the comedy of the people writing it, as a stand-alone thing.

The only difference is that today, it’s maybe more permissible to defend your derivative thing by claiming that it’s homage, or pastiche of a fine old tradition, or…. whatever. So you see more people doing it.

Sure, we should be aware of it. But it’s that awareness of what’s come before that created the homage defense in the first place. Liefeld uses it because he knows he’ll get caught. Rich Buckler never bothered. That they both got work is not any sort of sign of the death of creativity; there’s always derivative crap out there. It’s just Sturgeon’s Law in action, to my way of thinking.

T. and Burgas make some really good points, but I’m inclined go with Hatcher’s positivity. The fact is, 99% of everything is crap. And the truly unique, groundbreaking stuff tends to get ignored and appreciated only much later on. Pastiche and parody have existed since Cervantes wrote Don Quixote. It’s possible that the humongous mass of cultural ephemera can make all subsequent entertainment and art increasingly insular, fan-driven, and alienating… or the reverse, turning the fan mentality into a mainstream approach to creation. In the first place, I don’t think that either of these outcomes is necessarily a bad thing. In the second place, it has always been the nature of art to respond to, encompass, and transform what has come before it. The preponderance of so much old pop culture available to reference may even revitalize today’s creators… though we’d have to filter out the crap first, I’m sure we’ll find some gold somewhere. And that’s pretty much how it’s always been.

Referencing the past is not a bad thing in of itself. Maybe you’re just not reading the right stuff. I don’t know Chris Sims’ work, so I have no opinion there, but why pick on one bad example when you can also find something good? Just to pick an obvious example, there’s Kate Beaton. Her work is often highly referential… but it’s good. And yeah, she does reference geek culture, at times. Finally, highly referential creators are clearly trying to appeal to a specific audience, not a mainstream one. If you don’t like their work… well, you probably aren’t meant to.

I’m looking at just a pantload of teenage magician, Harry-Potter-but-not, stories.

Okay, a couple of hours later and I’m taking a break…. there’s a lot of teen paranormal romance stuff too. But Abby’s spy story and Genevieve’s girl teen-detective thing show real promise.

I keep flashing back to when I was in sixth grade and wrote a four-page EPIC about a tough spy guy who foiled an evil scientist creating an army of mutated plants. I was channeling Napoleon Solo and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA in about equal measure.

“If you tried to assemble this collection yourself, you’d spend hours and hours and spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, but call now…”

Sorry, that’s what came to mind.

I’ve been pimping this for a week or so, but over at http://www.srbissette.com , he and Dave Sim had an exchange of views on self publishing and such. I know Dave is definitely in the same camp you are, Greg. To be blunt, shut up and work. That is, Bill and I should stop whining about how hard it is to DO stuff, and just DO IT.

Ah, Bill does make me feel better, that I’m not the ONLY one in this predicament of not DOING and too much CONSUMING.

Oh, and the Bissette thing, I mentioned more because at one point, Bissette did discuss working with Byron Preiss before he died. It sounded like the rights with his stuff are VERY screwy.

Not entirely sure what you’re getting at about MST3K. I know I love it because it the comedy goes low AND high within a minute, and the references go all over the place. I might not get all the jokes, but the depth of humor makes me laugh.

I’m definitely a hoarder, and I know I keep acquiring stuff without consuming it all first. I have comics I’ve owned several years I haven’t gotten to reading yet (the complete normalman trade was a girlfriend ago, and I still haven’t read that…). I’ve been working on being better with reading and filing and storing my comics, but it is work. (Plus, I’m so OCD about HOW I read my stuff, it’s not even funny.) I also have so many books, CDs, movies that I just don’t have time for, and I feel like I NEED to get them out of the way before I do my own stuff.

Maybe I need the mantra that “Hatcher’s students HALF MY AGE produce more stuff than I do! Get to work, monkeyboy!” (Mind you, I’m being self-recriminating, and mean no sort of offense to your students.)

And, and… Hatcher’s column went up before Burgas’s? Are the planets still in their orbits?

Not entirely sure what you’re getting at about MST3K.

That it’s its own thing, people like it for itself, it doesn’t blow hot and cold depending on which original piece the show happens to derive from that week. Could have said it better.

Maybe I need the mantra that “Hatcher’s students HALF MY AGE produce more stuff than I do! Get to work, monkeyboy!” (Mind you, I’m being self-recriminating, and mean no sort of offense to your students.)

You really should get to ECCC one of these years and see the kids in action. They are extraordinary.

And, and… Hatcher’s column went up before Burgas’s? Are the planets still in their orbits?

I had it written almost a week ago and set it to time in this afternoon. Because I have the deadlines for Young Authors and the alumni fundraiser book screaming down at me like a runaway train and I knew that something was going to have to give if I let the column slide till the weekend too. End of the semester next week and these writing class kids have put WAY too much into their stories for me to screw up producing the books… and Katrina is putting the final touches on the digital color for the fundraiser’s cover this weekend as well. Hoping to go to press on both by Tuesday.

Anyway, I wanted the column out of my hair so I got it done early. Right now I’m giving myself ten minutes or so of internet screwing-around before going back to trying to get the Young Authors PDF pages to impose properly for a booklet print… sigh. Editors never get the fun jobs.

Greg, this is lovely. I think the best point you move is watching your godson’s face light up as he discovers all these comics, TV shows, etc. I have nieces and nephews, and my partner has a godson, and watching them get excited as they talk to me about Star Wars or Spider-Man is a real thrill, and in the end that feels like the point (or at least a major point) of fandom- -not just our own pleasure, but passing on that pleasure to others. Maybe it’s the professor in me, but it simply doesn’t make sense to me to get upset about/smug about greater access. And I too have students writing papers, making films, drawing their own comics and writing screenplays, and having access to movies, comics and TV is a fuel for their inspiration, not a hindrance.

Yeah, I think I agree with you on MST3K. I’m a fan mostly of the Sci-Fi eps (since that’s all I’ve seen…), and there are certainly ones that aren’t as good as others, but what the Best Brains crew DOES with the movies is the same ep to ep.

That would be a cross country trip to ECCC for me, but someday… Maybe when I’m finally productive, it’ll be a con I’ll have to get to…

Congrats to the kids for producing the works, and good luck to you in getting it all printed up.

Actually (and feel free to answer some other time when you’ve got time), does that generation feel that it’s not “real” until it’s printed on paper, or do they figure it’s “real” online? I admit myself to being more biased towards things in print rather than online, but I realize in this day and age, I’m old at 31.

All stories are built on stories that came before– this has been true since Homer was yammering to whoever would listen, since the first caveman grunted to his neighbor about the one that got away, and was thiiiiis big. Having more stories than ever before available to us at the touch of a few buttons does, in theory, provide the most amount of inspiration for future creations than has ever existed, etc, etc– our limits are approaching infinity, to vaguely recall something from high school math class. Is there such a thing as critical mass when it comes to pop culture? I don’t know– I just keep phrasing the two sides of the argument in different ways over and over.

I do think all this “availability” is going to lead to the doing-away of ownership, as opposed to just paying to access things– “permanent rentals,” if you will. But that’s another argument.

What’s all this “pause and reflect” talk? When I was young, I watched several hours of TV in a row. If nothing new was on, I watched repeats. I bought and read comics once a week, then reverted to paperback SF novels. I read those continually, especially on weekends. If I ran out of my own books, I borrowed library books.

In short, there was no media consumption downtime. Except for school and rare get-togethers with friends, it was pretty much nonstop. Change “school” to “work” and the statement is still true today.

I don’t know if anyone else sat around pausing and reflecting, but I sure didn’t. If you were an avaricious reader and viewer in childhood, you probably still are. If you weren’t then, you probably aren’t now. The amount of available reading and viewing material doesn’t change the equation.

PBS in Oklahoma (it’s called OETA and it broadcasts the same signal from four stations around the state) also showed Monty Python before Saturday Night Live around that time. (Except they showed it at the current time of 10:00, because, as everyone knows, Saturday Night Live begins at 10:30.) I can’t remember for sure when it began, but around this time they also started showing Doctor Who at 9:00, so Saturday nights were even more fantastic. A few years later, they moved Doctor Who to 10:00, and since they always showed two thrity-minute episodes together, it meant that you had to miss the first half-hour of Saturday Night Live for a couple of years in the early ’80s. But it was worth it.

Is the KISS Meets The Phantom DVD the US or European version? I’m told there are a few differences. Supposedly, the European version used songs from the solo albums as background music in some scenes.

I was going to respond about the “no time for reflection” argument made by a few commenters, but Greg’s responses and especially Rob Schmidt’s pretty much summed up what I wanted to say, and much more articulately at that.
So thank you Mary for steering the thread back to a topic I love: Kiss Meets the Phantom – probably the worst movie I’ll ever admit to liking (and which I thought was so awesome when I was a kid). Anyway, as far as I know, the only non-bootleg version of that film available on DVD is on Kissology vol. 2, and it is, apparently, the “European theatrical version.” I still can’t believe that cinematic atrocity played in theaters outside of the U.S.

Is the KISS Meets The Phantom DVD the US or European version? I’m told there are a few differences. Supposedly, the European version used songs from the solo albums as background music in some scenes.

Disclaimer: I only saw it when it originally aired, largely because I liked the Marvel KISS comic that Steve Gerber wrote. And even then, in my far less jaded and critical youth when I was capable of mounting a defense of even the Peter Hooten Dr. Strange, I thought the KISS movie was execrable. (As did the band themselves, I am told.) So I only know about its cult status from seeing it occasionally displayed at convention bootlegger stands.

Which is why I was shocked to see it included as part of Kissology Volume Two. But it is. And I gather it’s the European version.

Speaking of bootleggers, I have also been told this afternoon that Legends of the Superheroes (including the roast) is now available from Warner Archive. I have to wonder how many people who bought that thing over the years, legitimately or not, actually knew what they were getting. Even I won’t go THAT low.

EDIT — and Edo got there ahead of me, but yeah. What he said.

Yeah, on the back of some DC comics (like Scalped 44), there’s an ad for the Warner Archive with the Roast and stuff, and some other neato stuff, and a special online discount code.

I heard about it coming out on Mark Evanier’s blog, where he mentioned that Jeff Altman was the Weather Wizard. As he’s a fave comedian of mine, I probably HAVE to see it at some point. Evanier also had a neat story about how it was Hanna (or Barbera) who sold the Roast to the network, but were unclear as to what it was that the network was saying, yeah, we’ll air that.

“Are we genuinely living in the Age of Total Availability of Everything Ever? *Is* everything I was reading and watching in– oh, let’s say March of 1978– now accessible to everyone?”

Nah, it’s not the Age of Total Availability of Everything Ever. Because nobody’s gone and scanned and made all the old fanzines and APAs available for purchase or even free downloads yet, and I doubt they ever will given the dynamics and logistics involved in attempting to do such a thing.

I’m not even sure there’s complete collections of many of the APAs out there even in existence to make such collections with. And I know you, Greg- you’re an APA and fanzine nut. You can’t possibly tell me you wouldn’t want a complete run of works like CONTEMPORARY PICTORIAL LITERATURE, CHARLTON BULLSEYE, APA-5 or CAPA-ALPHA, for examples, just to have the early works of so many significant comics creators as pre-professionals to look at from a historical perspective. To show your students that yes, even the best had to start somewhere.

So there’s that theory debunked once.

Then, you’ve got all the indie comics. I could take all weekend typing up examples of books I want from the 1980s and 1990s that aren’t ever going to be collected and I *have* to hunt down the back issues.

So there’s that theory debunked twice.

And the TV shows / specials / films from the 1970s and 1980s? Hurm…. Gemini Man? Project U.F.O.? Combattler V? That anime TOMB OF DRACULA movie from 1980? The Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle cartoon from Filmation? Rentaghost? Salvage 1? Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends and The Incredible Hulk cartoons from the 80s have never been officially cllected as a complete set, either. There’s probably a bunch of stuff out there that either don’t have official or complete availability out there. Greg. (Though I’m sure if you hunt for bootlegs they’re around.)

Strike three for the theory.

So I think we can safely say we’re quite a long ways from Total Availability of Everything Ever.

Louis, speaking of 80s and 90s indie comics, am I the only one that liked the mini Straw Men from the late 80s/early 90s from Innovation (or whoever put it out)? The local library had someone donate a bunch of comics, mostly from the 80s, mostly indie. It’s where I discovered Trollords, Stig’s Inferno, Transit, and they even had some of the 2000 AD stuff with Zenith in there. But Straw Men was very creepy and odd. The artist also did Now’s Dai Kamikaze.

Anyway…

Louis points out how everything isn’t QUITE totally available. He also points to the 2 main “culprits” in this: indie publishers who don’t have the time or resources to digitize their stuff (hell, they only were xeroxing some of it back in the day) and big corporations owning (and bickering over) the rights to certain projects that still haven’t seen the light of day. Big example: 60s Batman TV show.

And hell, even with burn on demand DVD services from Warners and whoever else, you still don’t have EVERYTHING because it does require discovery, care, and other resources from someone to preserve and present things. You’ve got companies like Blue Underground preserving some “grindhouse” type films. And there are still neat discoveries here and there, like the latest iteration of Metropolis. But we won’t EVER have EVERYTHING.

But we’re pretty far along in getting as close as possible.

Another problem, preservation. (as I just said, Travis!) Not only are old movies easily lost if not preserved, old paper is, and the microfilm craze of the (what, 70s?) destroyed tons of newspapers. And just think about all the 5.5 inch floppies that have info on them you can’t get at. So preservation and storage medium are also obstacles to HAVING EVERYTHING.

And you’ve got the time trying to preserve everything balanced with the time to create new stuff, and it just puts people like Bill and me into a tizzy.

> CONTEMPORARY PICTORIAL LITERATURE, CHARLTON BULLSEYE

I’ve got a full run of these, scanned (and a full run of the latter in print form). A few years back, Bob Layton encouraged their digital distribution, and they popped up on some Yahoo Groups.

> So there’s that theory debunked once.

Not quite. I’d say that we’re not in an age of total availability, but, through digitalization of media, and access to online sellers and eBay, we’re moving toward a time of almost total availability.

Not quite. I’d say that we’re not in an age of total availability, but, through digitalization of media, and access to online sellers and eBay, we’re moving toward a time of almost total availability.

The stuff is out there. You have to know people. I watch my friend Kurt working on his history books for TwoMorrows and he’s got quite the network of folks who mail him scans of the most insanely obscure things. And there’s all sorts of torrent sites, etc. But I was trying to keep it to legitimate retail, just to see if it was possible. It is a shame about the indies — I think I said the early 1980s is when it falls apart for comics, and that’s when a LOT of the really good ground-level indie publishers were hitting their stride. I didn’t expect EVERYTHING… but the fact that you can get so MUCH of it, retail, still is pretty staggering.

Hell, I couldn’t have even written the column if I didn’t have the equivalent of Mr. Spock’s library computer to tell me exactly what was going on in March of 1978. I was able to look up comics on the GCD, TV schedules on a bunch of fan sites, book covers and dates at Fantastic Fiction and the SF Database…. I hope you all don’t think I did all that from MEMORY.

The only that I… well, not take exception to, but kind of wanted to point out about your article, is that you ask whether or not everything truly is available, and then go through some examples, but if you ignore legalities and ethics (which I think it’s fair to say a TON of people do, when you look at torrenting site numbers), EVERYTHING is out there available for download, even novels. I know your criteria was “as a new retail purchase,” but that’s really starting to shrink as the pre-dominant means of how many people acquire this type of stuff.

The younger generation (and by this I mean those with the means and capability to acquire their own things, probably between about 10 and 24 or so) seem to thrive on this, whether it’s harmless stuff like watching youtube clips or viewing free episodes of South Park via Comedy Central/Comedy Network, or by swapping burned copies of their favourite shows, or by downloading as much stuff as they can possibly get their hands on and consuming endless hours of it. My 23 year old sister-in-law does this. A lot. She has plenty of favourites, and those favourites last about a month or so… but that might just be typical of her personality. The current atmosphere in entertainment and media certainly feeds to that side of her, though, she’s always pushing forward, looking for new stuff, which can be good, but I do feel that a bit of something gets lost there.

Then again, maybe it’s good for the geeks in all of us to get fed different types of things, rather than obsessing over the same two or three Star Wars/Transformers/Batman fetishes that had fed the toys and cartoons and comics industries over the past 8 decades or so.

If everything is available, then WHERE’S MY MANIMAL DVD, HATCHER?!?!?!?!? Tell me that, smart guy!

I’m also bummed that Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet is out of print. That kind of blows.

If everything is available, then WHERE’S MY MANIMAL DVD, HATCHER?!?!?!?!? Tell me that, smart guy!

“Well, I know a guy could maybe hook you up….”

….actually, believe it or not, a friend IS sending me the entire series The Master with Lee Van Cleef.

Oh, man, I watched the pilot of The Master with Demi Moore back in the day. I don’t think I ever saw the rest of the series, though. That’s awesome.

How about doing a list of how much of that stuff has been rehashed?

Eric:

I just named those as examples. It’s nice that those two you cited (CPL, BULLSEYE) are apparently available. I certainly can’t find them, but I’ll take your word for it; just because one can’t find it doesn’t mean it’s not out there.

Travis:

I am not familiar with Straw Men, off the top of my head. I do remember Stig’s Inferno, Transit, and TrollLords (in fact, Scott Baedersteadt’s doing all new TL stuff, and you can get the entire original run in TPB from him directly, I believe; I just saw him last October at a show we were both guest creators at).

“We now live the era that includes the internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims and other people like him. Sure, he has a solid base of geek culture, but the dude knows way too much about Batman specifically – in no small part because he can easily access almost everything about the character in this era. Arguing that this new possibility is a bad thing is like arguing accumulating enough knowledge about medicine to make neurosurgery a full time specialty is a bad thing. It’s absurd.”

Meh, we had experts like that long before the internet. I used to be the official go-to guy on the UNCANNY X-MEN; I’ve long since forgotten more than most people would ever want to know about the series, but back in 1986, I was so into the series I wrote a 300 page book on the history of the title from 1963 to the then present (which at the time took you through about UNCANNY #202-204 and the launch of the X-FACTOR series), complete with biographies on all the characters and creators who’d worked on the book. Imagine the hell I went through pre-internet looking up all that information, writing to Marvel asking questions about Lee, Kirby, Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Claremont, Byrne, Cockrum, Paul Smith, Romita Jr., et. al. having to go from shop to shop looing for articles on them, on the series, getting the official index to X-Men and the original Marvel Universe books in back issues and getting the then all new revised Deluxe editions as they were coming out… I was obsessed back then (14 years old). I probably retained my trivial knowledge through about age 25, a few years out of college and having quit the X-Books at UNCANNY #300.

Nowdays I don’t think many people actually retain all the info, because you can just look it up online. Oh there’s guys like Mark Waid or Kurt Busiek who have that encyclopedic instant recall of trivial knowledge, I suppose, but a great deal of why they possess that ability is because they’re constantly in use of it as writers themselves. For most geeks, that’s not the case.

I turned 15 in the fall of 1978 and it scares me to see how many of those books I had and shows I watched back then – including some of the very same paperback editions.

Of course, I wasn’t buying new then, so I don’t know that I would hold to the buy new requirement now. Some of my best memories are of going to “The Bookshelf” in Parksville BC back then and rummaging through their bottom shelf of nickel comics. I never knew what I would find, but what the heck, they were only a nickel and even then that was pretty cheap.

The only that I… well, not take exception to, but kind of wanted to point out about your article, is that you ask whether or not everything truly is available, and then go through some examples, but if you ignore legalities and ethics (which I think it’s fair to say a TON of people do, when you look at torrenting site numbers), EVERYTHING is out there available for download, even novels. I know your criteria was “as a new retail purchase,” but that’s really starting to shrink as the pre-dominant means of how many people acquire this type of stuff.

Exactly. As someone who uses torrents (but only for stuff not legally available) I have to concur.

funkygreenjerusalem

January 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I’m with Greg – there’s no downside to this.

People always ripped off from the past regardless of the availability – even back when you could only see something the once, they referenced it and copied it – pop has always eaten itself.

As for spending time and reflecting after reading a work, why are we so sure this has changed at all?
Is there any evidence of this, even anecdotal – because it sounds like a hell of an assumption to me.
I used to re-read everything over and over, but when I started earning money, I brought more and more, so didn’t read everything at once – is this a loss?
Because when I was re-reading those books, I was wishing I had the money for others.

I think people are just having a gripe to have a gripe – time moves on, things change.
Go with the flow, don’t be a wally romanticizing your past as being better than the current day – don’t be the knob saying vinyl sounds better.*
No one in the future is going to be looking back with sorrow on the days before everything was available to read whenever you wanted it, so why bother crying you’ve got it better than anyone’s ever had it before?

*The crackles are nice and remind us how it used to be, but that rumour got started due to some of the initial CD releases having bad transfers – Led Zepplin in particular – where as testing proved CD’s sound better.

I grew up loving the old classic comic-strips. They’re available today in a way that they never were before, and are usually published in a higher quality format than they ever were before. And I can’t for the life of me afford very many of them. So yes, in a way, it is a golden age, but in another sense, the material is still inaccessible.

We now live the era that includes the internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims and other people like him.

Meh, we had experts like that long before the internet.

Since I’m arguing with Oswalt’s thesis that technology today means there will be no more experts, noting that there were experts before the internet neither boosts his point nor undermines mine.

Nowdays I don’t think many people actually retain all the info, because you can just look it up online.

That’s exactly what people said when writing was invented. “If they just starting writing things down willy-nilly, people will quit using their memories!” If it did not happen back then, the invention of the internet did not make it any more likely that humanity will use less of their ability to memorize. Easier access to information does not make one stupider. If it did, a PhD degree holder standing in a college library would be measurable stupider than one just sitting around at home. Education does not increase the raw potential of a person’s intelligence, but it does make a person more expert in the subjects they study. Thus easier access to information (like the having the internet) makes it easier to be educated on a subject which makes it easier to be an expert. THAT is was Oswalt is wrong.

casual comics reader

January 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Who cares? Like what you want and don’t worry about what others think or how “popular” or available it is.
It literally doesn’t affect you.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I remember the animated LOTR, and being impressed with the animation at that time.

Imagine my profound disappointment when I saw the animated sequel to that one. What happened there?!? That was awful!

funkygreenjerusalem

January 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I remember how good it was before penicillin!
Back then a sickness made a man stronger, and cut out the weak – any infection made a man face death, and that built character, character that’s sorely lacking today!

Wow. You’re old like me. I remember buying all this stuff too.

Oh and the Peter Hooten Dr Strange was great. It deviated from the source material but it was still a tight, well written! fantasy film with-for 70s era TV-decent special effects.

Fitzpatrick– there was no sequel to Bakshi’s animated Lord Of The Rings. He had intended to make one, but it never happened, because of lack of funding I’ve been told.
You’re probably thinking of the Rankin-Bass version of Return Of The King. They had done an animated version of the Hobbit for TV about a year or so before Bakshi’s Lord Of The Rings was released. A few years later, they did Return Of The King for TV with the same art style and the same actors (for the characters that appeared in both). I’m told, and it seems most likely, that they only did the third book because they assumed that Bakshi’s version could take the place of Fellowship Of The Ring and The Two Towers. Or it could be that the rights were not available because of Bakshi’s recent film, but that doesn’t seem likely since the same characters are used and I would assume that Bakshi had acquired the rights to the entire story, and if Rankin-Bass could get the rights to the last book it was probably because Bakshi had already let his rights lapse or something.

funkygreenjerusalem

January 23, 2011 at 2:17 am

Or it could be that the rights were not available because of Bakshi’s recent film, but that doesn’t seem likely since the same characters are used and I would assume that Bakshi had acquired the rights to the entire story, and if Rankin-Bass could get the rights to the last book it was probably because Bakshi had already let his rights lapse or something.

I’ve not seen the Bakshi version, but wasn’t he going to try to do it in two films?

I’m pretty sure that was the case, because he couldn’t secure funding for even the idea of three.
(They tried to do a similar thing with Peter Jackson, but changed their minds once the studio got another studio to co-fund).

All the talk that people in the past were more into reflection or introspection… part of me wants to agree, and put the blame not on availability, but on widespread addiction to television and the Internet. But I also think that a lot of it is nostalgic bullshit by us old farts, and Oz and Greg are right. There is Sturgeon’s Law, and the 90% in the past that was crap tends to be forgotten, while the 90% of the crap of today is harder to ignore, so the past looks a lot more golden than it is. This includes people’s personalities, probably. Me and my friends probably were dipshits with no attention span, just like the youth of today, though it would be tempted to think otherwise.

Thinking about it a little more. I don’t think there has been a decline in creativity in pop culture, I think there has been an increase in the standards we all judge stuff. Let’s look back at the 1960s. When Roy Thomas did a lot of repurposing of his Golden Age and Pulp Age heroes, most people didn’t complain that Thomas was just throwing old stuff in the blender, because most people didn’t have ready access to the old stuff. Nowadays, we fans have seen everything (or we like to think so), and we are so much harder to please.
.
We fans are much more demanding, because we’re more genre-aware.
.
Another phenomenon that I see a lot of. I do think we have a lot of good stuff being produced in the form of TV shows and comics and novels. Generally, there are more TV shows right now that are appealing to me than when I was a teen. But with ready access to everything that came before, all the good stuff that is being produced now is sort of lost in the shuffle.
.
Maybe I’ll end up agreeing with T. in a roundabout way. Because there are so many new TV shows and comics that are interesting to me now, and because I can readily access anything – past and present – that looks interesting, I am more likely to devour them all quickly and proceed to the next thing, and none of them will make a deep impression on me, while in my teenage years, I’d fixate on the only two or three good things I could find, while being forced to subsist on mediocre stuff most of the time.
.
Hmmmm… I still prefer today. True, if you’re forced to eat crap most of the time, then your few good meals will make an even better impression on you. But I still prefer to eat gourmet meals all the time, even though I often forget how lucky I am.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 23, 2011 at 7:31 am

@ Mary Warner: Your knowledge never ceases to astound me! Are you sure you’re not Canadian? ;-)
But, you’re right about the Bakshi not doing the sequel, I couldn’t remember who did that one. I did remember that Bakshi never did the follow-up on the LOTR. I wished he did, because that first film was gorgeous work.

“As far as I am aware, there are no plans afoot to reprint Marvel’s Tarzan. No idea why this is, or why Dark Horse seems committed to plowing through all the Jesse Marsh Tarzan stuff from Dell first, but there it is.”

Dark Horse tends to do things chronologically.
They’re currently reprinting every John Carter/Barsoom comic from the Jesse Marsh Dell run thru DC, then Marvel. (Curiously, they leave out the Golden Age material from Dell’s “The Funnies”.)

As to “everything being available”, when they put out the Batman and Green Hornet 1960s tv series on DVD, then you’ll be able to say it.

If I can weigh in this late in a long thread, then I would like to say that I can see both sides.

On the one hand, the best comic creators of the late 80s and 90s tended to be British. Reading interviews with them suggests that the relative scarcity of American comics encouraged their creativity. For example, there is no doubt in my mind that banning Big 2 superheroes would result in a wave of new creations that better reflected the modern world.

However, (unlike Greg Burgas) I am uncertain that would result in anything better.

Whether you call it remix (or adaptation, or inspiration, or whatever), taking an old idea and making it your own has been around for a long, long time. STAR WARS was a remix of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, Akira Kurosawa’s HIDDEN FORTRESS and a handful of other influences. Kurosawa was doing a remix of American Westerns and traditional Japanese stories. German expressionism had been previously remixed with American Crime Novels into Film Noir. I could go on and on.

William Shakespeare only appears to have written two entirely new stories. One of which (A MID-SUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) did not include entirely new characters. HAMLET was a re-make. I can easily imagine that the Elizabethan version of the Internet was claiming that The Globe theatre was out of ideas when that was announced.

Whether you call it remix (or adaptation, or inspiration, or whatever), taking an old idea and making it your own has been around for a long, long time. STAR WARS was a remix of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, Akira Kurosawa’s HIDDEN FORTRESS and a handful of other influences. Kurosawa was doing a remix of American Westerns and traditional Japanese stories. German expressionism had been previously remixed with American Crime Novels into Film Noir. I could go on and on.

I agree there was always a bit of remixing, inspiration, homage, etc. in art. But there was a balance of original contribution, or taking the inspirations and combining them in an ingenious way to become more than the sum of their parts, or become something totally different. We can call this creative alchemy, and the seams don’t show.

I’m not saying that the homage or taking from inspirations is something new, I’m saying that the extent of the laziness with which it is currently done is new. RIght now it’s done in a way that to me has little original contribution from the writer, or what parts the writer does contribute originally are nonsensical and filled with plot holes, like when Jeph Loeb writes. The seams totally show. You can tell where one influence begins and the other ends. Whereas before it was seamless and you had to look and analyze to see the full extent of influences.

funkygreenjerusalem

January 23, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Whereas before it was seamless and you had to look and analyze to see the full extent of influences.

Not really.
I’d just say the audience wasn’t as aware.
Now that everything’s available, we can see where it all comes from, so we know that’s what’s going down.
The Star Wars homages aren’t that subtle if you’ve seen the sources.

Jeph Loeb was a top selling writer in the 90′s/early 2000′s.
Many take the stance, like yourself, that all he does is reference old events and key moments, to make his stories larger and seem more exciting – and we can all point to a number of writers who have done this.
Surely, having the originals ready for all to read would actually cut down on this – if people have equal access to the original and the nu-take, then the newer ‘reference comic’ is going to seem poor and shoddy.
In the past, all fans had was synopsizes, so if you went to a key location, or called up past events, it could seem epic, even if it wasn’t.
These days, people can be more well read than the writer of the original, therefore, the writer will have to work harder to write a story that makes big splashes.

It’s almost like there’s no downside to having everything available forever at once!

I say almost, but really, there just isn’t.

[...] and watch them. A familiar topic, but I thought the author did a good job. Then there’s this column, in which the author looks back at the SF & related shows/books/comics of March [...]

I’m not saying that the homage or taking from inspirations is something new, I’m saying that the extent of the laziness with which it is currently done is new.

I keep seeing this argument and I just don’t get it. First of all, the fact that we catch it faster would imply that hacks would try harder to disguise their hackery, not that they’d make less of an effort.

Secondly, it’s just not so. Look at the barbarian/Tolkien fantasy wave that swept through paperback fiction in the 1970s, or the wave of Mack Bolan knockoffs. Or the wave of smirky super-spy movies and TV in the wake of Goldfinger, or the wave of blaxploitation movies in the wake of Shaft. Or the wave of caped night-stalking vigilantes that hit pulps in the 1930s in the wake of the Shadow. Or the wave of campy super-heroes that hit comics and TV after Batman in 1966. Or the wave of asskicking nearly-naked bad-girl comics in the 1990s. To suggest that today’s version of that kind of wholesale swipe is somehow more blatant or lazy just tells me that you’ve probably never actually seen an episode of Mr. Terrific, or maybe Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off (not to be confused with Shaft’s Big Score.)

What’s different is that today we have the internet. Period. And all that means is that those of us who like this stuff are getting pickier, bitchier, and generally harder to please, because we talk to each other all the time and can compare notes on decades of pop culture. The fact that I was able to link to examples of people writing about all this ephemera — several from right here at CSBG — is what’s changed. The rhythm of popular fiction really hasn’t.

Not sure if anyone’s still responding, but I forgot to check back in this comments thread.

Greg sez: “But I was trying to keep it to legitimate retail, just to see if it was possible.”

I think one of the issues we’ll soon be facing though is that media providers are starting to acknowledge the back channels as a legitimate means of distribution. With storyworlds as deep and old as those found in comics, I think companies will necessarily start relying on scanners and think of them less as pirates and more as folk preservationists who can provide both the ephemera and the context of back issues. Even without the issues themselves being scanned, DC & Marvel can both rely on fandom to annotate, contextualize, explain homages, etc., through digital means, as well as provide general overviews of almost century-old characters through crowd edited documents like wikis.

I guess I’m looking at this less as an issue of sales, and more of a cultural issue — the hunt is not always to fill in the physical spot in your collection, but to fill in that gap in knowledge. Now the answers to the most minute trivia are only a Google search away, and annotations of issues attempting to draw from comics’ long history are annotated online before Wednesday is even over. It changes the comics reading experience. Imagine Morrison’s Zur-En-Arrh Batman coming out in a pre-internet age. A reader would have been required to do some detective (no pun intended) work, whereas now, they can rely on others to locate each issue’s meaning for them.

I agree with Greg.

Another reason why the past always looks more golden than it was: all the rip-offs and mediocre stuff Greg mentions, it all gets forgotten, while the good stuff survives the test of time to become classic. And nowadays people only remember the classic, so it’s clear that the past only had classic movies, classic novels, classic comics, right?

I agree with Greg.

Another reason why the past always looks more golden than it was: all the rip-offs and mediocre stuff Greg mentions, it all gets forgotten, while the good stuff survives the test of time to become classic. And nowadays people only remember the classic, so it’s clear that the past only had classic movies, classic novels, classic comics, right?

I agree there has always been derivative crap and that only the good stuff stands the test of time. My feeling though is that derivative crap so outweighs the good stuff that almost NOTHING of today will stand the test of time.

For example in the early-to-mid 80s in a short time we had so many superhero classics in a short time: Born Again, Simonson’s Thor, Stern and Romita’s Spidey, Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Batman Year One, Byrne’s Man of Steel, Perez’s Wonder Woman, Claremont and Sincwiecz New Mutants, The JLI, Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, etc. The 90s had less classics, as most of the market was flooded with derivative work. There were some gems like Starman, Morrison’s JLA and Waid/Garney Cap, but considering the sheer number of titles produced, the proportion was far less. Now look at the comics of the 2000s. How many classics came out of that era, compared to total amount of comics produced? How many will really be relevant and debated and picked apart in 10 years. I’m willing to bet we’ll still be spending more time discussing Watchmen in 10 years than we spend analyzing the 10 most classic superhero storylines of the 2000s COOMBINED.

I think this is because the signal-to-noise ratio has gotten so out of whack with people overloading themselves with consumption and illegal hoarding that no one has time to do the reflection, rereading and contemplation needed to really elevate a work to classic status anymore.

Let’s take music: which albums of the last 10 years will rise to the status of universally-agreed-upon classic iconic albums? What is the Purple Rain, White Album, Sgt. Pepper, Thriller, Graceland or Private Dancer of the 2000s? Nowadays an album is lucky if it stays culturally relevant 10 months, much less 10 years.

I agree there has always been derivative crap and that only the good stuff stands the test of time. My feeling though is that derivative crap so outweighs the good stuff that almost NOTHING of today will stand the test of time.

I think that the signal-to-noise problem is actually the other way.

The last ten years have actually yielded a pretty decent list of superhero classics. It is just that DC and Marvel pump out so much garbage that it gets lost in the shuffle. To me, the ’00s yielded twice as many great (or nearly great) comics as the ’90s. It is just that very few of them came within an on-going run of a monthly title. If you are reading 2-3 well-regarded trades per year and ignoring continuity right now, then you are a pretty happy camper.

Dammit, Hatcher, you just HAD to pick the year I became a true fan, didn’t you? :D

It was in 1978 that I found out American comics (in English) were available here (Puerto Rico) as well as in their Spanish editions. At first I tried to ignore them since I hardly spoke English at the time, and besides in a year or two I could get the translated versions, right? However, there were too many comics that never got translated -mostly Marvels, for some reason I have never found out- so I actually forced myself to learn better English just to read them. And since you could not get those comics by trade (which is how I got most of my comics before) I was doomed to buy them, and thus eventually became- a collector. :P

Now your article has me dwelling in nostalgia. I happen to have enjoyed mostly the same stuff as you did (though mostly in Spanish) with the exception of paperback novels since, as I mentioned in another column, the first novel I bought happened to be pornographic and it really turned me off from reading any more until around the mid 80s.

Personally, I’m VERY happy about the availability of stuff, new and ancient, these days, for me and everyone else. I’m (for once) not going to join the ongoing debate about whether it’s a good or bad thing for creativity (I just don’t feel like arguing tonight) I’ll just mention how happy I am that I can revisit stuff I once loved that I believed would be too hard if not impossible to find only two decades ago. :)

think that the signal-to-noise problem is actually the other way.

The last ten years have actually yielded a pretty decent list of superhero classics. It is just that DC and Marvel pump out so much garbage that it gets lost in the shuffle.

I’m confused. Isn’t this along the lines of what I’ve said.

You make a lot of good points, T.

But I think the lack of memorable comics in the 2000s among the more famous Marvel/DC titles is mostly due to editorial decisions. Characters and creators in those comics are cogs in the crossover machine, and they all blur together after a while.

I think plenty of comics from the 2000s will be remembered in the future, but they’re mostly outside of the main continuity of Marvel and DC. Probably things like FABLES and THE WALKING DEAD. Or ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Perhaps RUNAWAYS and NEXTWAVE. Even a bit more inside continuity, stuff like INCREDIBLE HERCULES and IMMORTAL IRON FIST, the secondary characters that are better able to escape crossovers.

That’s a good point Rene. People are probably saving their best work for creator-owned stuff.

or stuff outside main continuity I meant also add.

@ T.:

I am sorry if I was confused. My first reading was that you were saying that no Big 2 superhero stories from the last decade would endure. If you are saying that no on-going, in-continuity superhero stories will endure, then that is tougher for me to quibble with.

Using that criteria, my candidates are:
1. Brubaker on CAPTAIN AMERICA
2. Bendis on DAREDEVIL
3. Ennis on THE PUNISHER
4. Brubaker & Fraction on IMMORTAL IRON FIST
5. (a) Simone on SECRET SIX
5. (b) Morrison on BATMAN

None is a slam-dunk and (interestingly) none has one artist intimately associated. In fact, the best runs by an artist is a totally different list. Also, Marvel hasn’t dominated a decade like this since the ’70s.

People are still commenting on this thread?

Dean, I don’t think you’re going to have much luck convincing T. that the stuff on that list is good. The list looks solid. However, it sounds to me like his bar for good has gotten pushed higher and higher over the years as he’s read more and more, and less and less of the perfectly normal range of new story product strikes him as innovative and exciting. Mind you, I’m not inside his head, so my analysis is just shy of worthless, but I’ll still predict a solid ‘Meh’ as his response.

T., in a mass market medium, there is a sweet spot where innovators, knock-offs of the innovators, and the audience with disposable income meet. That audience is not a hardcore audience that follows the same genre for decades. Usually, they’re in their twenties, so they’re short on decades to begin with. Even in this internet age of infinite availability, a dedicated reader can get well ahead of where the rest of the audience is at in terms of craving novelty within a genre. If you’re still reading this thread, on this website, this many days after the original post, I can assure you that you’re much better read than the audience that most superhero titles are being sold to. I know I am. Trust me, there isn’t a slower pace of innovation right now; we’re just not in the mainstream audience anymore.

I’d also rant that most of the new talent developed in this decade did webcomics instead of direct market or newspapers, but the fact is that very little innovative superhero stuff came out of the webcomic community. Of the 105 webcomics I follow, only five are superheroes and two of those are comedy strips rather than dramatic. Certainly, very little made it to the top of the field money-wise. I think most of the new talent hellbent on doing superhero stuff was still engaged with the direct market, even with the limitations of having to work within a market dominated by the Big 2. It’ll be interesting to see how the next decade works out with the emerging digital download market making drama comics more viable on the internet. The next Atomic Robo will almost certainly emerge from there rather than the comic book stores.

(I’m following 105 webcomics? How the heck did that happen? I felt like I’m following like 60, max. But I stopped to count, and yup, 105).

Yes, I forgot to include Brubaker on CAPTAIN AMERICA and Ennis on THE PUNISHER. Those two runs certainly will be remembered. Simone on SECRET SIX can achieve cult status too.

I am a little less sure of Bendis’s DAREDEVIL. Personally, I like the run. But I think DAREDEVIL is a book that people judge with very high standards. The shadow of Frank Miller and all.

Grant Morrison’s BATMAN… I see lots of flaws in it, but what the hell. Morrison’s X-MEN had flaws too, and it seems like it will be remembered as a seminal run.

Dean, I don’t think you’re going to have much luck convincing T. that the stuff on that list is good.

I believe the stuff on his list is good. If you reread my comment I didn’t say there were no longer good books. Just that they appear with less frequency and they have more trouble achieving legendary classic status than books in the past because people have lower attention spans and there’s too much stuff competing for people’s attention, both because of a glut in new product and a glut of old available product.

As well as a glut of blogs, websites, secondary materials, etc.

You guys have all made some good points, though. Given me some things to mull over.

Fair enough T. Not being inside your head makes it does make it easy to be really wrong, thus my fig leaf of a disclaimer on my speculation.

I should also note that the classic is a label that gets applied to a work after its been out for at least a decade. It gives a chance for the stuff that was just popular at the time for it to lose its audience, and the stuff that wasn’t popular but beloved by creators and other tastemakers to spread to a long term audience.

@ T.:

Ok. I am sorry that I misunderstood. It is pretty difficult for new stuff to break-through now that it is competing with everything, ever. Ten years ago, re-reading Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR required effort (or real pre-planning). Reading Lee-Kirby beyond the first few issues was essentially impossible. That is no longer true. It makes me disinclined to bother with Hickman’s.

@ Rene:

Trades allow you to cherry-pick Morrison’s run and the high points are awfully high. It is hard for me to imagine that people won’t be reading THE BLACK GLOVE Grant Morrison & JH Williams III in ten or twenty years.

I also think a part of the problem here with me, and this could be why I read more merit to Oswalt’s article than many other people, is because I’ve come across variations of it articulated much better in other sources, mainly in a book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death and in Huxley’s brave New World. In fact, maybe Oswalt’s article taken on its own at face value really isn’t that great or thought out and I’m just projecting all the great arguments of those books onto the article.

In keeping with a comic site, here’s a powerful synopsis of the book in 4-page comic format done by web cartoonist Stuart McMillen. I highly recommend people take the few seconds to click the link and read it, it’s short but thought-provoking, even if you end up disagreeing with it:

http://www.recombinantrecords.net/docs/2009-05-Amusing-Ourselves-to-Death.html

A written synopsis of the book is on Wikipedia. I don’t want to add a 2nd link or else the comment will end up being caught in a moderation filter.

Unlike Huxley I don’t think of it as some grand conspiracy by the “powers that be,” be it the government or the corporations or anything. I just think it’s a natural effect of progress. But I do worry about both how addicting it all is (and I say this as a fellow addict) and how all this technology and entertainment and endless distraction is affecting the neurology of our brains.

Long thread, but interesting angles discussed. First, the summer of ’78 was when I turned 13 and got serious about comics, so you’ve hit a very nostalgic spot for me, although I was more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. And in fact, it’s the nostalgia issue that I want to comment on.

I think that greater accessibility will tend to downplay nostalgia more than it will build it up, although not entirely. As long as the original source material was inaccessible or difficult to access, consumers mainly rely on second-hand information about it. But when anyone can access the original material, they can see for themselves how good or bad it really is.

Sure accessibility makes it easier for creators to borrow and swipe from older material, but harder to please consumers who can discover for themselves exactly what was borrowed or swiped. Ideally, creators can see what was good and bad and learn what makes some old classic good, while a piece contemporary to the classic is largely forgotten.

Sure, everybody’s got some nostalgic feelings for what they grew up with. While I agree that Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta were not great artists, I read so many stories with their artwork that I find it hard to condemn them too much. John Calnan’s version of Batman will stick in my head for the rest of my life, no matter how much I may appreciate Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, or Michael Golden’s versions.

But I can now look at stories from practically any time in Batman’s publishing history, just as I can look at movies and TV shows from practically any period. I can see those early Charlie Chaplin shorts from 1915 on dvd and decide for myself how good a filmmaker he was, even see his progression as a filmmaker from the teens through the 1920′s. Early Hitchcock movies on dvd have given me an appreciation for him that I never had while growing up. My appreciation of what occurred well before I was born can hardly be called nostalgic.

Finally, while greater accessibility to all this material may initially seem overwhelming, it also makes it easier for people to review, grade and classify this material for consumers, who can be guided towards material they will like, and waste less time on material that they won’t like. The next big breakthrough after information availability is information sorting, and while technology will help, it will require a very big, human, subjective touch and thoughtfulness that no computer program can accomplish.

Google, Amazon, Netflix, and others are working on ways to sort out available information and provide suggestions and recommendations, ways to filter out the unwanted information so that the end-user doesn’t have to wade through a sea of irrelevant crap.

I also think a part of the problem here with me, and this could be why I read more merit to Oswalt’s article than many other people, is because I’ve come across variations of it articulated much better in other sources, mainly in a book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death and in Huxley’s brave New World. In fact, maybe Oswalt’s article taken on its own at face value really isn’t that great or thought out and I’m just projecting all the great arguments of those books onto the article.

Almost certainly. Because those other gentlemen are concerned with how we weigh and process information, period. I don’t think it’s a terribly new argument — and I think that horse left the barn decades ago anyway, because commercially-minded, market-driven media just isn’t going away. As soon as TV figured it could profit off news programming that was pretty much game over, I think.

But Oswalt’s argument isn’t that argument at all. He says he wants geek culture to be a key club for aficionados again because he can’t stand the idea that some yuppie jerk at the gym might know as much about Star Wars as we do without putting in the years of research. It’s about us not being special any more.

Which is not a new argument either, it dates back to the idiotic “Fans are Slans!” thing that was making the rounds of SF conventions a few decades back. What that whole thing boils down to is a defense mechanism for nerds that have been picked on by bullying jocks once too often. Growing up where I did, I understand that impulse, believe me, but it’s absurd to rationalize it the way Oswalt does. You have to recognize it for what it is and get over it, because the world actually hasn’t stigmatized fandom in that way for years now. When the San Diego Comic-Con is recognized as THE happening place to be and gets the kind of fawning TV coverage it’s gotten since 2000 or so, it’s time to let it go.

Almost certainly. Because those other gentlemen are concerned with how we weigh and process information, period. I don’t think it’s a terribly new argument — and I think that horse left the barn decades ago anyway, because commercially-minded, market-driven media just isn’t going away. As soon as TV figured it could profit off news programming that was pretty much game over, I think.

But Oswalt’s argument isn’t that argument at all. He says he wants geek culture to be a key club for aficionados again because he can’t stand the idea that some yuppie jerk at the gym might know as much about Star Wars as we do without putting in the years of research. It’s about us not being special any more.

Reread the article. That’s not quite true. Yes he discusses the elitist attitude of geek culture as key club for aficionados. But he also spends half the article discussing how we weigh and process information. I think the former argument offends you so much that you don’t notice he’s also making the other argument, but reread it. It’s there.

For the record, I agree with you that the former argument based on elitism is dumb. That’s why I told funkygreenjerusalem in another thread that I only agree with 50% of the article. The elitist angle was that 50% I disagreed with.

Let me add that I’m guilty of the opposite offense. I so liked the half of the argument I agreed with, I gave the other 50% probably far much more of a free pass than I should have.

T. the site for the link is down, and Google cache isn’t giving me anything useful for it. I’ll look for it again later. However, even without reading it, I’m highly skeptical of any argument built that concludes that the next generation of humanity will be measurable less capable than the current one. Since those arguments can be traced all the way back to our earliest written records, they also have a long recorded history of being wrong. Oh, it’s still possible we’ll nuke ourselves or have a lead pipe problem that we missed and we’ll suffer a serious decline. It’s just that the argument that easier access to information will be our downfall is too big of a jump for me to take it seriously.

Now it is true that interacting with any medium does rewire your brain. The term most often used for that is literacy. I just can’t bring myself to fear it.

Despite my sustained disagreement, T., thank you for (and everyone else still around) for the exploration of topics on this thread.

“Now it is true that interacting with any medium does rewire your brain. The term most often used for that is literacy. I just can’t bring myself to fear it.”

Interesting look at this very idea, with historical context: Walter Ong’s “Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.”

Now it is true that interacting with any medium does rewire your brain. The term most often used for that is literacy. I just can’t bring myself to fear it.

ha, as some1 with teenage relatives who rite like this im not 100% sure the net helps every1 read or write better lol smh :D

i kid, i kid

One downside to the age of Everything Available All the Time is we’re overrun with dilettantes. Comic-Con is a prime example. In 1985, it was a comic convention of about 15,000 people. Today it’s a comic convention of about 15,000 people with 140,000 movie fans, movie industry functionaries, lookie-loos, hangers-on and others all standing in the way of the quarter bins, clogging the aisles and taking up space.

What was great about being a geek in the ’70s and ’80s was the subversive nature of it. It was, as you say, underground. With that underground nature comes fraternity. As a friend of mine put it, “we know the smell of our own.” But when every third imbecile is wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt, and most of them think it’s from an upcoming movie, how do we find each other through the noise and static?

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