You Are In Good Company

I found the Academy Awards awfully frustrating this year.

It wasn’t because of who the winners and losers were. I didn’t even see half the nominees until this Saturday, and I was still weighing whether or not Winter’s Bone was my favorite of the bunch as I was watching it lose. I didn’t have any dogs in this fight. It wasn’t because of the Green Goblin and Catwoman, either, although the ability to fast forward was so crucial that Tivo could cut their best ever commercial just by showing thirty seconds of the opening with a caption that said, “See?” (I’m not kidding: you all owe David Letterman an apology, right now.)

No, the thing that frustrated me happened in hour six, when the ceremony put a spotlight on the magic of movie music and cut to—of all the people on earth living or holographic they could have interviewed about movie music—President Obama. Never mind the fact that he said his favorite movie tune was “As Time Goes By.” Yes, I am positive that not a week goes by without President Obama popping in the earbuds and cranking up “As Time Goes Effing By.” I’m sure it’s the Jimmy Durante version from the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack. He certainly wasn’t given that song by the White House Communications Director because it sounded better than his original choice, “You’re the Best” from The Karate Kid. But never mind. As I listened to the Leader of the Free World orate about movie soundtracks, all I could think was, “Is this really the best use of his time? I mean, he agrees to do this, and yet the White House never even returns my call? He’s been dodging me since inauguration day.”

I’ve been “trying” to interview President Obama for iFanboy on and off for two years now. More specifically, I have been “trying” in the sense that I am not really a journalist, don’t have any White House press credentials, don’t know how to get White House press credentials, don’t know who to ask about any of this, and occasionally send an earnest, carefully worded e-mail to the account that gets auto-filed in an intern’s Outlook folder named “Crankedy Cranks.” My level of skill and professionalism in this matter is such that when someone recently suggested I tweet him, I thought, “That is the best lead I’ve had in ages. We’re gonna crack this whole thing wide open!” If you guys want to start a Betty White Facebook gambit or something, well, by all means.

I keep (doing my version of) plugging away because, in case you haven’t heard, Barack Obama is our first Comic Book Fan in Chief. He doesn’t send the motorcade down to Wizard’s Wagon for his weekly fix every Wednesday or anything, but it was widely reported during the election that he grew up collecting Spider-Man and Conan books. (I feel compelled to mention that Ronald Reagan was an avowed fan of Stan Lee’s Spidey newspaper strip, but I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove there. You can look all this up.)

To someone who grew up knowing exactly two other people who read comics, one of whom publicly denied it like it was an extramarital affair with ailing livestock, this sort of thing is tremendously satisfying. There’s a certain validation in hearing that successful people have things in common with you. I’m sure there were plenty of kids who stuck with the saxophone after Bill Clinton showed up on Arsenio. (Whatever else Bill Clinton inspired people to stick with during his time in office, I choose not to contemplate at this time.)

It’s not just the president, either. Lately, it seems like all sorts of people in any number of fields quietly follow comics. It’s been a while since Joe Quesada popped up on The Colbert Report, but I see things online. Pop culture at large and This Thing of Ours seem to intersect quite a lot lately in a hopeful way, a way that has nothing to do with Robert Downey Jr. or Christian Bale. Nothing widespread at the Watchmen level, mind you. Just subtle things. Stand-up comics I respect drop in a reference to Galactus or Uatu out of nowhere, and surprising people in the crowd laugh. FX picks up Powers as a pilot, and Bendis gets a congratulatory tweet from SNL’s Seth Meyers. A Daily Show staffer retweets Warren Ellis. Rashida Jones from Parks and Recreation talks up her (quite good, by the way) comic Frenemy of the State on Conan (not the Conan Obama collects; my pumpkin-headed TV cult hero Conan).

Not to mention the Walking Dead Effect. I’m still trying to figure out what that’s going to be. I couldn’t even guess.

This doesn’t mean there’s a growing underground comics movement or anything—I get most of this stuff from Twitter and, well, the people I follow on Twitter are the kind of people I’d follow on Twitter—but it does sometimes seem to me like even as the industry is dyyying and the books are getting into the hands of fewer and fewer people, they’re still pretty great people.

The question is, of course, whether any of those people could ever make comics cool or contagious again. Finding out the president reads Spider-Man comics is enough to get a lot of people to buy exactly one comic, the Spider-Man one with the president in it. Part of me thinks that Conan could visit Bruce Timm every week and Jimmy Fallon could highlight the Marvel iPad app another eleven times as Colbert interviews their editor in chief about the next big event, and we would always still be up against the insurmountable obstacle of making the average person want to read. Hell, Conan’s had a hard enough time getting people to watch television.

Still, it’s nice to know that when I participate in the Wednesday ritual, I’m in good company. It feels like a cool community to be a part of. Besides, even if it’s not exactly model U.N., I like to be able to say to my kids, “Read your Spider-Man! You might be president one day.”


Jim Mroczkowski would like to thank the Academy, although he doubts anyone in the Academy would feel snubbed if he forgot to thank them. “Hey, I voted for you, and not even a thank you? Pompous jerk,” they probably would not say. He said a lot of things like this last night on Twitter.


  1. Excellent column as always. Over the past two or three years I’ve noticed almost every show I watch has at least one comic fan as a writer. I think Mad Men is the only show I’ve seen in the last few years that has never referenced comics.

    Also, I’ve read a similar mention of Letterman from at least 8 people i follow on twitter. What do I owe him an apology for. Forgive me but I only watch Conan and Jimmy Fallon.

  2. @RoiVampire Letterman hosted the Oscars in (I think) 1995. He didn’t take it seriously, and at the time a lot of people said he did a terrible job. Those incorrect people saw how good they had it in ’95 last night.

  3. @Jimski  Ah yes, I thought he said something about Franco and Hathaway that people took offense to. I think it would have been better if Franco and Hathaway had both been sober or at the very least been on the same drug. Still, they worked the sound of Wolverine’s claws into a musical number. That has to count for some kind of thing, right?

    all kidding aside i liked them as hosts. it’s a thankless job that requires an 8th grade reading level and the ability to wear a tux. I think in a few years when Will Smith’s offspring are carted out to host we’ll all be saying how good we had it this year because we had hosts who actually knew what it was like to audition for something and not make it. it builds character.

  4. Good article.  When I randomly go see stand-up, comics are brought up a surprising number of times and it’s never to bash them.  I love those random validations of this great hobby of ours.

  5. I’m actively choosing to understand that, in this article’s last sentence of the second to last paragraph, it is Conan the Cimmerian has really been trying his damnedest to get me to watch TV. I like to imagine he works for the marketing department of a major television network. That makes me happy for some reason.

    In any case, way to bring the optimism, Jim.

  6. Roivampire-

    You owe letterman respect- b/c withought him there wouldn’t be a conan or jimmy fallon – (jimmy fallon- really?)


  7. @ericmci  i think you mean Carson. Yeah, I’m pretty sure without Johnny Carson there wouldn’t be Letterman or anyone else you mentioned.

  8. @RoiVampire And without jack paar or steve allen there would be no tonight show and without jackie gleason there would be no etc etc. Seriously we could go all day with that.

  9. we know President Obama well, helped him get out of a fix once. we’ll put in a good word for you if you like.

  10. I can’t even begin to imagine the Right Wing rhetoric sh#t storm if Obama ever did an interview with a comics site. It would be entertaining seeing a bunch of senators make really stupid statements about comic characters though. 

  11. Nice article but I dont know how anybody could possibly have the patience to watch Conan and Fallon…so many ad breaks on your yankee TV! 

  12. @kidCharlemagne  The DVR is a life-changing invention. Life-changing.

  13. well withought Carson- yes-

    But the type of “late night” humor is letterman 

  14. @Jimski- But of course

  15. Hate to piss in everyone’s lunch: