Picture an angry comics fan. He’s sitting in front of his computer/web-cam and he’s raving on about the fact that his favorite character from the past twenty years has been “desecrated” in the latest issue. We’ve seen this guy (or gal in some cases) many times. He’s a mainstay of comic book fandom, lampooned in movies and TV and perhaps misunderstood by the mainstream. The ranting comic book fan has become a bit of a cliché, truth be told, but without him the comic book world would feel perhaps a little emptier. I don’t mind this guy, generally speaking. Truth be told, the industry sort of thrives on the passionate debate among fans about what happens to their favorite characters in their beloved books. These are soap operas when is all is said and done, so people have strong emotions associated with the characters. Simply put, to passionately pontificate is part of the game; always has been and probably always will be.
But while I enjoy a spirited Facebook comment thread or a well-conceived YouTube video opinion as much as the next guy, my recent encounter with a certain vociferous fan on YouTube has left me feeling compelled to rant against the ranters, to call out the fans who seem to simply voice disgust and spew bile in place of actual opinions. I’m talking about the fans who get so angry and red-faced about the choices made by comic book writers that they feel compelled to post lengthy opinions that are little more than diatribes about how much something “sucks.” The poster who inspired this column actually claimed that he was, shall we say, “violated” by issue #700 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Violated.
Saying that something simply “sucks” isn’t really much of an opinion. Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely comics that have left me thinking “Well, that sort of sucked,” but to throw out a blanket statement that something just sucked is to invite ridicule. So to those who are inspired to voice their opinions with the help of social media, I would suggest that you come up with concrete reasons for your opinions. To be simply annoyed by the choices made by comic books writers, creators, artists, etc. just isn’t good enough. Sure, modern technology affords anyone with a computer and a webcam to be a snarky web superstar, but without an actual basis for what often feels like disgust for disgust’s sake, your web fame is likely to be short-lived.
I’ve never actually tried to write a comic, but I do write for a living and let me tell you, it’s a grind. Imagine having homework every day and night of your life and you’re on the right track. That’s what being writer is like; you slice open your brain on a daily basis and attempt to bleed out ideas, things that will be entertaining to the intended audience. Writing comics is difficult and writing good comics is even more difficult. So to just say that something sucks or that the writer is lame really doesn’t do justice to the effort that was put in on the side of the writer. I guess what I’m saying here is that if you’re intention is to rage against the Marvel machine when it comes to comics and blast out your thoughts on the quality, crappiness or otherwise, then I’d advise thinking out an actual opinion before you take to the “interweb” and post eight minutes of self-indulgent hatred.
The ranting, angry comic book fan isn’t going anywhere, nor do I want him or her to disappear. I like the fact that comics come out each week and people have strong opinions about what happens to these fictional characters. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just a bit embarrassed when I see grown men pounding their fists like Mussolini about the fact that their favorite superhero was killed off in a way that “sucks.” If there’s one thing we know about killed-off comic characters, it’s that they’re coming back; maybe not next issue, maybe not in the next six issues, but rest assured, the choices made by a comic writer today will summarily be undone in the near future. So with that in mind, I say to the knee-jerk reactionaries who threaten to cancel their subscriptions and then call for the heads of comic writers who are simply trying to keep things interesting, relax and enjoy the show. You’re rising to the bait and without well-formed opinions to bolster your rage, you look silly to the rest of us.
Gabe Roth is a TV writer trapped in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.