Big Sexy Arune.Com

Monday, February 21, 2005

Nerd Bling- The Love Of Super-Heroes (Part 3)

I'll be saving the comic book "must-read" list for a later date, as there's some ground to cover here and not much time to do it in.

If you're a comic book fan and admit it to someone, chances are you get that look. And if you're not a comic book fan and have talked to someone who is, chances are you gave them that look. The "Oh my god, you'll never get laid 'cause you spank it to pin-up posters of Supergirl" look. As we've discussed previously, the comic book medium is viewed as some childish genre as opposed to a full fledged artistic medium to express emotion. One need only read Maus or Scott Pilgrim to see the emotion in comic books. While the former is a study of discrimination & the Holocaust, the latter is a fun filled tale about love and the lengths we go to have it all, while being oblivious to our own stupidity.

So what's wrong about being a comic book fan?

Note that I'm not talking about the crazy, nutso fans whose lives were "destroyed" or their "passion" was "forever harmed" (their words) by Spider-Man gaining organic web-shooters in the films. In the comic books, Peter Parker somehow managed to create the webbing on his own and fund this research and as the fanboys assert, it stretches credibilty for the spider bite to imbue Parker with webbing ability. No, it isn't unrealistic for a teenager to be bit by a radioactive spider, which should kill him, and gain super strength, super speed and a vague spider-sense. No, the unrealistic part is that Peter Parker can shoot webbing out of his wrists because god knows when most people get exposed to concentrated amounts of radiation, only good things happen such as hair loss and death. Yeah, these fans are a tad scary, but this is the same of any sports fanatic or film buff who goes too far- the key is moderation.

The segment of comic books fans that I'm trying to shed light on are the ones similar to any regular person. We all have our likes and dislikes, way of relaxing and entertainment preferences. As an artistic medium, comic books are no less valid than books, music, television or film. We're all able to appreciate some aspect of those mediums, even if we're not interested by the technical aspects of the mediums, and society considers those mediums to be "cool." So it's interesting that the comic book medium, which involves both the interpretation of visual and lingusitic cues (thus creating the unique "language" I mentioned), is so trivialized in general.

Why is this appreciated less than those who guzzle beer as they watch sports? Or those who garb themselves in a plethora of sports team related apparel? Or those who have to see movies on their opening weekends and have huge DVD collections? Or those who, as mentioned before, gather to watch American Idol in large groups?

Simple answer: there's no difference.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with liking super-heroes. It neither harms anyone nor does it encourage any inappropriate behaviour or lines of thinking. In fact, super-hero comics are full of clearer sets of morals and direct ways of embodying them (in part due to the simplistic hero origins). They encourage "noble" and "heroic" behaviour, along the way providing many opportunities for the reader themselves to debate what is truly right and what is truly wrong. I'm sure you'll find lots of people in the public service sector who've been inspired by these tales, either as a child or as an adult (perhaps even both).

This is re-affirmed by the popularity of comic book films in recent years. People like heroes. We like to be inspired. Even the Seth Cohen character on Fox's The O.C shows that the mainstream is adapting to this comic popularity- when else can you remember the most popular character of a popular show being openly obsessed with comic books and the show devoting significant air time to that obsession?

Perhaps people are so surprised and/or put off by the love that some show for the comic book medium because they don't understand the medium. They don't know the "classics" or the "language" being spoken, whether it be panel structure or talk about the strength of Adamantium vs Nth Metal. Comic books have gone from mainstream media available in grocery stores to a product available in select locations across the country. This is not only a shift in business, but a paradigm shift for people outside the fan base or industry- now comic books are like music and you need a little information to be "in the know." There are a lot of ways to learn about current music and a lot of different flavors of music available every week. The same is true for comics on the holiest of days for fans, the day we call Wednesday, but the difference is that the neurotic, obsessive comic book fans are often the ones "civilians" encounter in trying to approach the medium. Then there's a difference in product availability- there's only one Jay Z album, for example, a year and that's not hard to get into. But if you try and get into the X-Men, for example, you have a couple of dozen comics about them every month, meaning over 200 comics a year to get the "full" X-Men picture.

Once again, the companies aren't fostering an open environment to attract new readers and that in turn causes some to write off the medium and the fans themselves. There's a reason that France and Japan have accepted comic books in the mainstream- perhaps it is simply the lack of diluting the product with too many concurrent releases of product with the same characters. It's no wonder that comic fans seem odd to the outside world- why the hell do we need to see 15 adventures of Wolverine every month at $3 a pop? And why do we obsess over "continuity" errors more than story "quality?"

Not all of us do. Not all of us need every comic with Superman's cape making a cameo. Some of us do but just because they're the loudest, doesn't mean they represent us all. Comic books are a medium. Fans are as unique as the medium. Just remember that the next time you're eating nachos in front of the Super-Bowl, guzzling beer and preparing your "sick day" excuse for the next day, that you're no better or worse than the guy walking into the comic book store and getting excited at a new volume of GTO.

Special thanks to Comics Continuum for the above images.

Coming Soon:
- "Must Read" list of comic books
- Why the current comic book industry isn't appealing to me
- A spotlight on AMC
- Further additions to "Why We Fight"