Comicdom's Paradox Of Friendship & Hatred

By | Tuesday, September 04, 2012 Leave a Comment
Well, there's been more than fair amount of bullshit going on in comicdom lately. Probably no more than usual, I suppose, but a lot of it has been thrust into the limelight the past week or so. A lot of it has been surrounding misogynistic man-childs hating on women because they're women, but there's also been the whole "well, you shouldn't be taking kids to Dragon*Con in the first place" business, and I also got caught up in a chat with Christopher Wanamaker (America's Greatest Otaku winner) about how 'otaku' is still used as a barbed insult, even by some anime and manga fans.

I want to stop and say something trite like, "Can't we all just get along?" But that'd be naive and futile.

I've done a lot of research on comic fans -- heck, I've literally written the book on it! -- and I still find it difficult to wrap my head around the seeming paradox at play here. At their core, comic fans get together to form a community. They all get something similar out of an aspect of the medium -- whether it's identifying with a specific character, or learning a broad code of ethics, or finding really neat costume designs to try to make real, or whatever -- and they used their shared interest to connect with others.

But even within that group, there's all this in-fighting and jockeying for being in a 'better' position than others or whatever. It's as if these individuals are actively looking to form bonds with people but subconsciously pushing them all away at the same time.

It should go without saying that every individual has their own agenda they're pursuing, and not everyone is going to place the exact same value on the exact same set of ideals. But people seem to think that my agenda, because it's different than yours, is necessarily at odds with it. Which it isn't. If your goal is to make a million dollars, great. More power to you. If my goal is to make a million dollars, how does that impact you? It doesn't. There's not a finite amount of money in the world; more is being created all the time. Unless part of my goal is specifically to make a million dollars by taking it away from you then the two goals are perfectly compatible with one another.

Let's look at it from a comics perspective. What if your goal is to draw Amazing Spider-Man and my goal is to draw Amazing Spider-Man? There's only one Amazing Spider-Man book to draw, so we can't both achieve that goal, right? Wrong. Setting aside that there are usually two artists who draw the book every month (penciller and inker) there's also been more than a few instances where the book featured back-up stories by a separate creative team. And, more significantly, both goals don't have to be tied to the same timeline! You could draw ASM for a few years, and then I could draw ASM for a few years. Both goals achieved without any impact on the other.

Or in fandom. I don't know exactly how you might quantify any goals here, but let's say you want to be King High Muckity Muck of your comic circle, and I want to be King High Muckity Muck of my comic circle. Even if we have overlap in our two circles, they won't be identical, so there's still no competition!

The only goals you might have that someone might legitimately be at odds with would be ones where you're specifically try to piss on other people, and cause problems or angst for them. In which case, you can just fuck off. You've got ZERO right to infringe on other people's pursuits, and the people you're screwing with then have every right to kick your sorry ass out of the community that you so desperately are hoping to cling to.

In some respects, I'm pretty lucky to be on the outskirts of comicdom. I'm out here, doing my own thing, and not many people are looking my way in the first place. I largely fly under the radar of everyone, including trolls, so I don't have asshats harassing me or attacking my blog. I'm grateful for that. But there's no community here either. No community means no audience for the assholes, but it also means that anyone looking to become part of a larger group has to do so elsewhere.

And there's the paradox again.

I wish I had a conclusion of some sort. It's pointless to ask everyone to be nice one another and just abide by the rules you learned in kindergarten; if that worked, we wouldn't be having this broader discussion. And it seems overly cynical, even for me, to just shrug and say, "Well, there's gonna be some assholes out there..." I'd like to think the recent efforts of Ron Marz and Mark Millar help to point out that maybe being a dick isn't all that much fun after all when you find yourself in court. Somehow, though, I think Wil Wheaton's Don't Be A Dick Day will need to be an active reminder for a lot of people for many years to come.
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