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Committed: Comics Should Be FUN

I feel that I ought to be thinking of something to write about that I’m really worked up about over comic books, but I can’t. Comic books are fun, I like them a lot, love them even, but I don’t have it in me to get really furious up about them right now. A lot of my friends who write about comic books are vehemently arguing about something… I’m afraid I don’t know what it is all about. In general, people seem to get very worked up about comic books and I’m beginning to wonder why. After all, wasn’t this created to be a disposable medium, a bit of fun to spice up a day? And isn’t it that very disposability that makes them so open to diverse, free, unfettered creativity?

When I read the abusive comments that fans throw around over their differing opinions about comic books, I find it difficult to understand the level of vitriol and anger that is being expressed. I begin to wonder what else is going on for people when comment sections are filled with violent threats to strangers, after all, unless someone is actually working in the comic book industry and having actual work problems, what is in a difference of taste, that merits such fury and aggression?

This is probably naive, but the comic books I love are fun for me, whether or not other people agree with me. When my friends laugh at me for liking an artist or writer that they don’t, I don’t care in the least. It could be that I’m just not used to this environment. After all, up until 4 or so years ago, when I was first asked to begin writing about comic books, I didn’t pay any attention to online discussions. It wasn’t a willful decision, it is just that because I’m self-employed, I feel like time online outside of work is time when I could be working. So I didn’t read reviews or forums, and offline I was relatively uninterested in other people’s opinions too, I rarely even took recommendations from store owners. When I started reading comic books as a little girl in the UK, it was in a era when the medium was far more openly despised and so out of necessity I was reading in a bit of a vacuum, just reading what I found on my own. Nowadays that habit of browsing on my own and reading whatever I find has continued and pretty much stuck.

I think the last time I unintentionally wrote something divisive was over a year ago, since then I’ve done my best to keep things light. Actually I always did before as well, but somehow I still occasionally instigate a deep and impressive rage from the odd very vociferous commenter. Realistically I expect at some point I will incite ire again, I’m really not sure how or why. This is meant to be fun.

The level of aggression and furious personal attacks thrown around in interviews, articles, and comment sections on comic book articles is consistently shocking. Over the 4 years or so that I’ve been writing about them, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to avoid reading about comic books. But reading too much of this stuff sours it. In the same way that I avoid watching too much reality tv (because I don’t need any encouragement in finding humanity unpleasant), I really just want to stay out of it. Like everyone, I can get stuck into watching “Hoarders” or some other insanity, because 10 minutes of some poor woman who’s stopped using a toilet because she wants to keep her poop in bags in the spare room (or whatever) is actually pretty mindblowing), but when the cleaners start find the corpses of multiple “lost” cats it quickly becomes depressing. Similarly, I’ll dip my proverbial toe into reading the odd comment sections to check out the tone, but things can get very strange very quickly. Lately I’ve noticed that many people who comment on my weekly column here, do so via email, or on social networks and because of the personal connection engendered by Facebook, Twitter and Google+, those comments are generally of a similar tone to conversations I have with friends in real life. It would be nice if, even if we’re commenting anonymously on a website, we could all assume that the person who wrote the article is another human being, whether we agree or disagree, and treat them accordingly.

Plenty of my friends and colleagues disagree with my opinions on comic books (and all sorts of other, more life-threatening issues), but I will never threaten physical injury because I disagree with their opinion. That will never happen. It has happened to me though, and frequently happens to my colleagues, particularly the female ones. This is not okay.

I like my comic books and I liked them just as much for the 30+ years that I was reading them without being able to talk about them, online or otherwise. I just bought what I fancied and enjoyed it. Most of the time, I still do. When Brian Cronin talked to me about writing these Wednesday columns, he noticed that I don’t write about news, that I don’t pay much attention to the “insider” talk about the comic book industry. That isn’t an accident and it surprises me that so many people do otherwise. Working on designing comic books themselves now, I make aneffort to focus on the joy of the medium, because knowing too much about how the sausages are made takes some of the fun out of it. I do my best to focus on the comic books themselves, to read the comic books which catch my eye and appeal to me and reserve the bulk of  my debates to real-life, where people treat each other with a modicum of respect. This way the comic books continue to make me happy, much more so than reading about them ever has.

Note: All pics are from cuteoverload.com which is an excellent antidote to bad moods, about comic books or otherwise.

12 Comments

This is the most inane and ridiculous piece of trash that I cannot believe anyo…uh…I mean, good job! :-)

But, seriously, clearly I was joking with the first comment and I’ve seen every bit of what you’ve described. I myself have been the recipient of many an attack, sometimes about comics, other times because I’m a published author with a book on terrorism and policy about being an Independent during these politically charged times. So, I’ve been called a warmongering fascist by the Left for supporting the war and not backing illegal immigration, but an unAmerican traitor by the Right for not supporting torture and for backing gay marriages.

I can’t seem to win! lol

But with comics, I sadly too often see the same level of vitriol or worse. I frequent the CBR and Newsarama Facebook pages and comment and I’ll never understand, especially with the sales figures, how and why so many people feel the need to be so venomous as if they somehow receive a prize if their favorite company owns the market share in a given month, or how many people with topics such as a gay wedding or whatever can only fall on one side–if you like it, you want society to crumble because it’s evil; if you don’t like the story you’re a bigot and want all gays dead–or how quickly people start getting outraged over even imagined slights, as if there’s a conspiracy afoot that they’re somehow privy to. X-23 got canceled? Obviously it’s because Marvel hates women and they made sure the book failed. Ultimate Peter Parker is dead? Obviously the PC Elite forced Marvel’s hand.

You’re right, Ms. Harris. Comics SHOULD be fun, and they still are…so long as you can filter out the ones that try and ruin it for the rest of us. ;-)

Best to you,

Charles J. Baserap
Former Officer, US Secret Service
Author, An American at the Crossroads (Amira Rock 2010)
Columnist (Danger Rooms, Theater of the Absurd, I Was a Teenage Meteor Freak), http://www.ForcesofGeek.com

I am enraged by your shameless exploitation of helpless nonhumans to make your point, and helpless CHILD nonhumans at that. It’s like something Victor von Doom would do.

Cue outraged comments about how unfair to Victor von Doom that statement is.

I agree with you, Sonia, that you often wonder why some people even read comics with some of the negative and destructive things they say about creators or a certain book. It also makes it hard for people wanting to give comics a chance to get into the hobby if the people who claim to love the medium keep trashing it.

I much prefer when a reviewer can give as much of an objective review as possible. Sometimes they may say that a story or idea did not work for them but for those who like (whatever), this may be something they would enjoy.

All the naysayers, if they can’t constructively state why they did not care for something other than “it sucks,” do not deserve to be paid attention to and if you personally like a certain writer or artist, who cares what that negative person says. Comics need more love, less hate!!

Who can stay mad at baby animals? I know I can’t.

And I totally agree. Walking into the LCS today reminded me just how fun comics can be.

Amen. There’s nothing more fun than comics unless, of course, it’s an issue of More Fun Comics. We could all do to remember that.

When you bravely put yourself out there to share your opinion, you set yourself up as a target for catcalls, insults, or worse. I don’t know if it is jealousy or a nuance of human nature to be critical for criticism’s sake or some sort of malady.

It raises the question of whether it is better to write and have no one comment or withstand the drubbings and appreciate those compliments and actual discourse that actually occurs.

Whatever you do, keep writing and be true to yourself.

Charles J. Baserap

March 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

@Tony V: I agree, and honestly, it’s something I wrestled with when I had my book published. You write a sci-fi or fiction book, the worst is people don’t like the plot or style or genre. But writing something as charged as politics, I actually lost people I thought were friends because of my stances.

But, honestly, I wouldn’t trade it, and I, like you, hope Ms. Harris keeps writing and stays true to herself. Screw the haters, to put it plainly.

I hope there are recipes to go with those pictures….

I kid, I kid!

Yeah, I tend to take the comics stuff a little too seriously and sometimes forget to just enjoy it. And I also find that when I analyze comics (or anything) too much I tend to suck the life out of it. That’s why when I was in college and writing as many papers as I could about comics stuff, I started falling out of love with them (for awhile). Various ups and downs since, but finding CSBG has been great, because for the most part, the commenters are intelligent and we have fun here. I like that.

Jake Earlewine

March 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Sonia, thanks for the sweet photos and kind sentiments.

I don’t think all comic books need to be fun. That’s putting limits on the medium. Should a comic book depicting the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima be fun? Should a graphic novel which tells the plight of the Native Americans (indians) be fun? Should a comic about the Holocaust be fun? There are wonderful “comic books” about all three, and I could whip out many appropriate adjectives trying to describe them, but “fun” isn’t one of them.

Regarding the rage and vitriol on the internet, I always keep in mind:

(1) Some of these rude attacks are by kids. Who knows, that vile post might’ve been made by a 10 year old.
(2) If I may “profile”, a large percentage of comic book addicts may not be the most mentally healthy, well-adjusted members of society…
(3) Internet communication is the poorest form of communication. Many people are not good communicators — some can’t write what they mean, and some misinterpret what they read. Miscommunication leads to misunderstanding leads to argument.
(4) Some people have a lot of anger stored up inside, and the internet is the only place they feel safe to release it.

(5) Some things do merit anger. I’m angry about Bendis disassembling my Avengers. I wouldn’t insult him or wish him harm, nor would I wish bad things on anybody that likes Bendis’s bloated, flatulent writing. But I’m angry because Bendis destroyed one of the loves of my life — the classic Avengers. I’m angry because the most recent casualty of Bendis — the Hawkeye I grew up with — is being replaced by the Ultimate version of Hawkeye. And I know it’s just a matter of time before Nick Fury becomes black, like the Ultimate version, which the movies favor. (And I love Samuel Jackson and the movie Nick Fury, but must every 616 character be replaced by the Ultimate-Bendis version?)

I have expressed my anger in a healthy way. No one was harmed. And yet any little punk may come along and call me a “Hater!” or post some other rude, ignorant comment. To him I say, “It’s okay to be angry. Anger is a healthy emotion, as long as you express it in a healthy way. Anger leads to action.” (Even if that action is simply to stop buying Bendis comic books or Marvel super heroes.)

People often take differences of opinion as personal attacks or challenges, particularly when dealing with hot-button topics. They feel the urge to declare their ideological stance and put down their perceived opponents. Combine that urge with the anonymity of the Internet and the lack of social graces we comic book readers are known for, and you get the nastiness that can make message boards turn ugly. It’s unfortunate, and I would like to think it can get better. Hopefully, the people who act immature don’t get what they’re looking for by trolling and end up leaving.

I think in terms of debating on the Internet, there are really three camps:

1) there are the people, probably the majority, who don’t think the things they should enjoy should be so much of a source of conflict, and really dislike these arguments in most forms;

2) there are the people who are compelled to rage against people’s views because they have anger issues, and these people often have the most divisive views, like, say, sexism;

3) there are people (like me) who genuinely enjoy spirited debate, and especially enjoy shutting down the people from group 2, but often don’t realize that they’re enabling the people from group 2 and upsetting the people from group 1.

Anyway, at this point I try to seriously measure what fights I pick, and I try to save most of my debating for real life, where I can have a better handle on the way my words are affecting people around me. I’m not the best at it, and still end up contributing to some serious comment-thread mosh pits, but do as I say, not as I do.

sandwich eater

March 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I agree that comics should be fun; but I think that the more you obsess over something the less you tend to enjoy it, and the more passionate your negative opinions become. To illustrate my point consider the generation of fans that grew up with Star Wars. Instead of just dismissing the prequel trilogy as mediocre films some of them act like the release of those movies was a crime against humanity.

I dropped a graphic novel class in college before it even began because I was afraid it might ruin my ability to read comics just for fun. Sometimes I feel dread instead of excitement for something I want to like. I felt this way about the last Star Trek movie. I just wanted to get the experience of seeing it over with, although I ended up liking the movie.

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