Monday, April 24, 2006

Just The FAQs: Hate-A-Rama

Those of you in the New York area know it’s been pretty crappy for the last few days, so I might as well take advantage of the pathetic fallacy and air a few minor grievances. Think of this as my “Milk Maids” moment.

Q: So, who do we hate?

A: Oh, there’s plenty to go around, but I want to start with the “copycat callers.”

Q: Copycat callers?

A: You know, the people who can’t dismiss every new project as a copy of something else. It’s usually Marvel Zombies or DC Dimwits (we need to come up with a better name for these guys) who do this, as part of their ongoing dick-measuring contest. Just this weekend, I saw some yutz at Newsarama…

Q: Why do you even bother reading the threads there?

A: Schadenfreude. Anyway, he insisted that Sentinel Squad O*N*E was a ripoff of Greg Rucka’s OMAC.

Q: That defies all logic.

A: I know that and you know that. But this is the kind of thing I have to deal with. I really hope Bill Willingham isn’t planning to have the Shadowpact fight any super-zombies soon, because I just know where that discussion will lead.

Q: I sense a lead-in coming.

A: Yeah, I hate Zombies and Dimwits, too. It’s a nerd version of dumbass sports rivalries, which I also hate. Marvel/DC, Coke/Pepsi, Windows/Mac, I don’t give a damn. It’s consumer loyalty, which is just nationalism dressed up in post-modern clothes (which it bought at The Gap). To paraphrase Bill Hicks, “Am I proud to be a Sears customer? I didn’t really have anything to do with it. My parents shopped there, that’s about it.”

Q: I miss Bill.

A: We all miss Bill. What’s really sad is when retailers play that game. There’s a guy, you may have seen him around Newsarama or the Pulse, who I guess thinks Marvel killed his dog, because every time the sales numbers for a month are posted, he’s posting in the thread about how this is a clear indicator that readers and retailers are fed up with Marvel’s stupidity and not buying into their stunts. What’s really depressing (in terms of my faith in humanity) is that he uses the same argument each time of assuming his store is a perfect representation of the industry in microcosm; if he’s not selling through copies of, say, New Avengers, then no one is, and anyone who posts differently is a liar and an idiot. Not that he’s a whore for DC, he just spends all his time hating Marvel, so DC looks good in his reality by default.

Q: Wow. The “Comic Book Guy” is real.

A: Real and multiplying. But we’ll move off from that. Another group that gets my goat is the Nostalgic Fundamentalists. These guys treat the comics they read when they were kids the way Southern Baptists treat the Bible: by holding unwaveringly and violently to a twisted and scary interpretation of them. It’s the kind of devotion that would make God an atheist, or make Jack Kirby join the Concerned Parents of America. Weisinger’s Superman, Claremont’s X-Men, even the goddamned Cloak and Dagger miniseries, are inviolable screeds. Any deviation or new idea is heresy, not because it’s bad, but because it’s new. These are the people who want Superman and Lois Lane’s marriage erased from continuity, who demand that Beast go back to looking like an ape and Emma Frost go back to the Hellfire Club, who still think Barry Allen is going to be the Flash again one day, who hate the new Battlestar Galactica because Starbuck has tits.

Q: Is there something wrong with appreciating the past?

A: No, but there sure as heck is with superimposing it on the present. Why judge a comic today by how exact a copy it is of a comic published in 1987? That’s not even continuity, that’s stasis. So I’ve no truck with that lot; not an imaginative thought in their heads that wasn’t put there by someone else when they were ten.

Q: Who else?

A: Well, there’s a type of creator-fan interaction that really gets my goat. A creator will show up in a discussion, and among the usual stuff of “loved your work on Punching Guy” and “hey, where did the design for Fap Lass’s costume come from?” there’s the guy who asks what the creator thinks of Continuity Development X in a book he used to write.

Q: What’s wrong with that?

A: Intrinsically, nothing, but it’s always asked in a leading manner. Phrases like “ignoring continuity” and “so-and-so’s out-of-the-blue retcon” are frequent. The subtext is clearly, “I hate Continuity Development X. Don’t you, an authority on the subject, agree with me, and thereby validate my position?” The intent is to gather ammunition for future debates about the topic. Some creators (Kurt Busiek’s one) are able to brush it off and answer politely without giving the trolls what they want, but with others, their answer (usually in the negative) can derail the thread into a silly series of rephrasings of the question until the creator gets fed up and leaves, likely never to return.

Q: Got examples?

A: Read the interview with Schultz in the back of the first Complete Peanuts volume for a really good one. Not continuity related, but the same sort of question about the art-vs-commercial comics debate.

Q: Anyone else?

A: Just the Irish, but that’s less a comic book thing and more a “quit bogarting all the hot redheads” thing.

Q: Damned Micks.

A: Too right.

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