Our Pal Val (she's the one on the right in that pic) posted a Mother Of All Rants last night in which she goes off on the insular, self-referential, and petty nature of the comic blogosphere. How she's stopped reading any number of comic blogs because it's just gotten frickin' old, seeing the same discussions repeated over and over, hearing the same arguments with just different players. How "news" not infrequently sounds like high school gossip. And, of course, you can't blame her one bit because the comic blogosphere IS filled with exactly that kind of nonsense.
But the thing is: that's not new.
Even in the pre-internet days of comic fandom, people were engaging in flame wars and re-hashing the same discussions over and over again. In the days before comic fandom, science fiction fans were doing the exact same thing.
The earliest work specifically on fandom that I've personally read is All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, Jr. It discusses the history of science fiction fandom up through the 1950s, then having the decade-out perspective from 1969. What struck me about the narrative was that, if you were to go back and change the names and dates, it would read almost exactly the same as a history of comic book fandom. And if you changed the references from mimeographs and fanzines to blog feeds and message boards, it would read like a contemporary report on the current outlook for fandom.
There are exactly the same types of interests that bring people together, and it's exactly the same type of inter-personal relationship skills that give rise to conflicts. People are reaching out to other people and trying to make substantive, emotional connections via a shared common interest: in this case, comic books. But all these people are all individuals, with different histories and different perspectives and different emotional levels of development and different agendas. And the more people you bring together, the greater the likelihood that some of those elements will run in direct conflict with one another.
I've seen the same thing played out in miniature with my band. We all came together because we all enjoy playing music, but conflicts began to arise as we got into specifics. What direction should the band go in musically? How exactly should a song be played? How should we run practices? How well should we know all our songs before we'd be comfortable playing in front of live audiences? How should we market the band?
Now, no one's able to say what is "right" or "correct" in those types of situations. We've all got our own opinions, and each one may be totally valid for each one of us as individuals. And, likewise, each one may be totally invalid for anyone else.
The same holds true for comic book fans on the internet. I've been a part of online comic fandom for over a decade and, after a while, I got sick of seeing the same questions and discussions over and over again, just like Val. It got to the point where I'd just started answering online questions with just a URL pointing back to the first time I'd answered it. But that was me being snarky. A lot of those questions, I don't doubt, were being asked for the first time as far as some people were concerned. I don't have any interest in re-hashing the "Is Lockjaw a dog?" bit yet again, but it could well be something that a kid who just read a copy of Thing #3 is thinking about for the first time. And they have every right to ask that question and look for an answer.
But as we grow older, we move beyond our comfort zones. And as we leave those comfort zones, we also need to leave behind the things that try to drag us back into them. I only visit my old message board haunts once a year or so any more. Any more, I just scan the headlines on Newsarama and rarely dive into any of the articles. There's nothing wrong with what's in those sites, but to me it just smacks of "Same shit, different day."
Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, "Insanity: the belief that one can get different results by doing the same thing." If you keep going back to the same places and expect to see different things, you're either nuts or deluding yourself.
And, ultimately, that's one of the (several) reasons I started this blog. The topics I wanted to see discussed weren't being brought up, by and large, so I decided to tackle them myself here. (And, to little surprise, the topics I bring up here generate very little discussion. Which would partially explain why I couldn't find them anywhere else!) The further beauty of writing my own blog is that, even if I get tired of the general internet discussion, I can forge my own direction with it. It is my blog, after all!
What it boils down to is not being beholden to the masses at large. I can, and frequently do, take cues from the internet blather, but just use those notions as springboards for other ideas, not as a topic in which I can parrot my earlier sentiments. Good on you, Val, for refusing to get dragged back into outgrown comfort zones.
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