Thoughts On: Building Better Fanbases

lg-fp-228-cast

 

One of the most common complaints in the digital age and even before is how insane and down right toxic fandoms for everything from Comics to Cartoons, Film to television to video games can and have been.  One thing I always find myself wondering is why things are like this and really there is no easy singular answer to this question but today I will be doing the best I can to from my perspective point out the various flaws in the way we as both groups and individuals portray ourselves as fans.  So without further hesitation I ask if you will please humor me and see what you think, am I spot on or way off the mark?

 

 

I. The Psychology of A Fan

1: Fulfilling A Need:  Before one can ask what is wrong with fandom we must first ask why we become a fan of something in the first place?  There is of course no right or wrong answer, different people gain or lose interest in things for different reasons.  However in base psychological terms one could argue that we become a fan because we feel the thing we gain interest in fulfills a psychological &/or emotional need that was previously missing in our lives or was not present to a degree that we were satisfied with.  Whether it is  being inspired by superheroes, letting animation tug at your heartstrings or satisfying your adrenaline rush with certain scifi and horror franchises we all have our own reasons for partaking in the fictions we choose as they give us something we feel everyday life doesn’t and if we like what we partake in well enough, and if we feel it can help fulfill what we see as a gap in our emotional and psychological needs we will justifiably become a long time fan.

2: Obsession:  This is one step that every fan enters to some degree during their lives and it is arguably the most dangerous one to navigate through.  After we get our first hit of something we keep coming back for more, like an addict we can become increasingly obsessed with a character/series/franchise of choice to where it can consume every facet of our lives and we think about it every waking moment of our existence, we branch out from just casual enjoyment to a more hardcore endearment towards our new found obsession.  While this in and of itself is not always a bad thing and may just result in joining a forum or two, occasionally drawing some fan art, watching some Youtube videos and getting a couple of knick-knacks here and there for others and can become an extreme it can result in doing everything you do, every action being about or for this thing you now love to a point to where like any other addict it can interfere with your real life and the relationships with in it.  If left unchecked obsession can lead to an individual being unable to handle any form of criticism towards the thing they like taking a general critique of it as a personal attack on their honor and person which can lead to never ending ever increasing extreme and ridiculous arguments between different factions both within and outside of fan communities.  This is the most dangerous part of the fan life because it can easily lead fans to extremist levels of overreliance of the thing the love and lead them to be so out of touch with reality that they would openly threaten the life of another person for merely having a different opinion or viewpoint than them on it.  Thankfully though many of us grow out of this phase and slowly learn that not every negative word given is an attack on their person.

3: Control & Reconciliation VS Submission:

If you manage to wade through the sea of obsession you will eventually find yourself at the shores of sanity once more.  You can acknowledge that you are a fan of something, accept you may be a fan of this thing for the rest of your lifetime, but you also accept that it is merely an interest a hobby, just one part of your character and psyche and not the totality of your being.  You realize that it is OK if not everyone else has the same interests as you and that it is OK if people like the things you like for different reasons. You learn to control yourself and only indulge in excess content related to this thing you love in moderation over reasonable periods of time and within reasonable expense.   You know there will always be people that both like and dislike your thing and that’s OK.  However if you don’t eventually get to a point where you break free of the bright and shiny lights of obsession you in a way are submitting to something, letting this thing that doesn’t even exist on the same plane as you, letting a mere idea and dream, a metaphysical existence control you and your actions.  Instead of being a mere fan you are now a servant to this force with no will of your own and like a cultist you blindly follow it wherever it goes and whatever the hive mind of the community says.   This is a very dangerous path to tread down as it can stunt personal growth not only as a fan of something but as a person as well.  At the end of the day we have to stand tall and say that we control our interests and that they do not control us.

 

In closing while being a fan can be a very satisfying experience we need to like with any other aspect of our lives practice these things in moderation and sensibility.  We are the ones responsible for our actions both good and bad while participating in a fan community and no level of delusion or obsession can ever justify treating a fictional character or creature with more decency and respect than a living one.  We must learn to keep ourselves in check and not overact to every thing said about our interests we dislike.

 

II. Fixing The Cracks

 

  1. Acknowledging Alternative Views:  While it is true that many sites and critics will be purposely overly negative or unprofessional to rile-up controversy just to get easy clicks and advertisement we should realize that not everyone who has a view differing from our own is out to harm or demonize the things you enjoy, in the wise words of the great sage Linkara “Get over yourself internet, not everyone has the same interests as you!”

2. Putting The Pro Back in Professional:  The advent of the digital age has arguably caused critics both young and old to get a bit lackadaisical in their practices, far too many critics online and in print form have taken a more hostile and troll like approach to their job.  Given this smug sense of elitism has always existed in the profession to a degree but we have known for decades you can dissect a film or any work of art and storytelling without being cruel even if most of your conclusions of it are negative ones.  Critics may be getting paid or praised for their word but at the end of the day they are also a type of fan and it is important to be aware of ones own confirmation biases both positive and negative when going into a review and still trying to give everything you view an even shake and letting each individual work stand or fall on its own legs.

 

3. Talking about the issues:  Whether we like to admit it or not things like Toxic Masculinity, Mental Instability,  Exclusivist mindsets, Sexism, Racism, Homophobia and every other nasty part of human nature can and do butt their ugly heads into fan communities.  It is important we continue to discuss these issues and call out those guilty of these practices to help make a better and safer fan community for those from all walks of life.

 

III. Final Thoughts

Overall the points and topics presented here are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of human interaction and how fans and fanbases/communities view one another.  In truth you could write an entire series of books about the psychology of the various fanbases on the internet and it could take a lifetime to even get everyone on board to consider addressing the problems inherent in their communities but I do believe that if we are willing to acknowledge the faults both within ourselves and the communities both online and off that we partake in we can make better more professional, mature, caring and empathetic fans in the future.  Or who knows maybe i’m just a madman.

Rant: The No Good, Very Bad, Ugly Problem With Marvel Comics

 

 

b776ed5bf78f3810b0c691ae4b7a63a9

 

As many of you in the comics community are aware of by now Marvel has come under fire as of late for what by many have arguably viewed as fairly poor choices.  And I feel now is the perfect time to take a look in full at these bad choices and practices that have led the once prestigious publisher down such a dark and disturbing path.

 

  1. Never Ending Events:  This one is pretty self explanatory.  While it is true DC & Marvel have done event comics off and on for decades Marvel comics has become increasingly dependent on these big event comics over the course of the 21st century.  We have gone from having just one big event a year to two, to three to six.  After the success of events like House of M & Civil War Marvel comics became obsessed with event comics and over time their addiction has only gotten worse.  It has gotten to the point where one event will bleed directly into another without giving the reader or the cast of characters active in the event any time to breath or recover.  This is bad because not only can it lead to many a reader easily getting event fatigue which can make them lose interest in the books they are reading, but it also interrupts the natural flow of many titles narratives, new characters are thrown into events just to trick readers following set characters book into following the event and can cause readers of these newer characters to become angry or discouraged that the adventures of this new hero or heroine have been pointlessly interrupted to plug a big event which can lead into a drop of sales for a book some of which never recover their previous sales after event tie-ins.  The never ending events are also a strain on readers wallets as Marvel seems to ignore the fact that most comic book readers don’t have an endless well of finances made solely to spend on comics, we aren’t all Bill Gates you know!

 

2. Holding Stores Hostage: One of the most down right insulting moves by Marvel is how they hold stores hostage with their event comics.  No matter how much fans or retailers complain about the never ending events all Marvel says is “if you don’t want em, stop buying em” which is a flat out ridiculous and crude statement as Marvel very well knows that with them being one of the big two publishers along with DC they are half of what props up the industry, comic shops can’t just afford to stop selling Marvel comics, doing so would be a sure fire way to make a store go out of business, so stores are forced to put up with Marvel’s bullish attitude and order the bare minimum of each title for that crowd that will follow the publisher no matter what so they are able to continue to keep their businesses afloat, even if a good chunk of the books they order don’t sell and end up in the dollar bin or the trash.  The sad fact is even with the rise of popularity of indie publishers, DC & Marvel are still the companies that keep comics going and help stores stay in business, Marvel knows that and they take every advantage they can to abuse that fact, which for me makes them no better then a gang going into an old mans store and asking for protection money.  Its a flat out dirty tactic that is a complete mistreatment of the men and women’s who’s stores have been selling your products for decades.

3. Overshipping: Marvel has a bad habit of overshipping titles to stores at a rate anywhere as low as 10% or as high as 30%.  They do this to purposely artificially inflate their sales numbers and maintain that #1 spot to help make it look like they are doing better than they actually are.  like with the previous tactic this also hurts shops as it can have them stuck with even more books that won’t sell than beforehand.

4. Lack of Returnability:  Admitingly this isn’t solely a Marvel problem other publishers make their books none returnable at times as well, however this is even more damning for Marvel given as previously mentioned they severly overship books at times which makes the lack of returnability even more annoying to shops.

 

5. Everyone is To Blame But Me!:   It is not uncommon for an individual or corporation to look for a scapegoat to blame their failures on, however when it becomes a constant habit to blame everyone but yourself at every turn and deny or dismiss any wrong doings or criticisms it becomes unwearyingly unprofessional and unfair to those who have followed and supported you in the past.  Marvel will never admit they are wrong they will blame everyone else, the stores, the fans, the artists, diversity, critics, social media, everything and everyone except the man in the mirror.  It also doesn’t help they seem to encourage their writers to do this as well, as people like the highly infamous Nick Spencer has displayed this attitude quite frequently over the past year and especially over the past month!

 

6. The Disney Effect: No I won’t come in here and start screaming about how Disney is evil or anything like that, Disney like any corporation is not inherently good or evil and is only as much to either affect due to the people working at the company.  The problem with Disney and how it relates to Marvel is how the corporation has functioned for most of the 21st century.  The sad fact is that for better or worse Disney have become I.P. Hoarders between buying out Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012 the corporation has become determined to collect as Many I.P.s as they can to get even more of that sweet sweet easy money as they ride the pop-culture & nostalgia waves straight to the bank.   From a business perspective this may make sense, however the companies Disney buys out often end up floundering in one aspect, their ability to be patient!  Disney is a company that is used to being on top, they are used to being #1 and they are used to seeing quick results.  This however is not how every company defines success or how every company is able to achieve it.  Disney weather they wish to accept it or not has an unrealistic and short sighted view of success, they and many of the companies they own, Marvel included are far more focused on the short term than the overall long term success of a product.  This mindset has arguably caused an already impatient Marvel comics to become even more so over time, not only due to their own bad habits, but to please their parent company Disney.   Look in comparison to how companies like Warner Bros. & Turner do things.  Warner Brothers which is DC’s parent company like Disney has been around the block for quite awhile, they have had their highs and lows and known the sweet taste of being at the top as well as falling down and eating dirt.  Overall over the past 20-30 years WB has become accustomed to being in second or even third place in the never ending race of entertainment, because of this their various branches as well as their own parent Turner have learned to adapt, experiment and find out what does and doesn’t work for them, overall they are much more focused in what they can do to maintain a stability long term as opposed to short artificially created bursts of success to keep them up top.  Don’t get me wrong, they to can and have gotten greedy and impatient and we have seen the negative fallout from this, but for the most part places like Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. & DC Comics have learned to play it safe and maintain stable steady growth which is a model one could argue Disney, Marvel and the like have not become accustomed to practicing.

 

7. Lies, Lies, Half-Truths & More Lies:  Marvel Constantly lies & misleads readers on their plans or intentions with their books and characters.  While I can understand misdirection to keep readers intrigued or to not reveal an important surprise or plot-point later on in a storyline,  Marvel utilizes this practice far to often which gives readers much less reason to trust them.

 

8. Re-Re-Re-Relaunches and early cancelations:  Over the past 5 years marvel relaunches or releases new books from issue #1 so often that a first issue has become meaningless and the traditional ongoing format has become all but dead to them, this creates instability in the staying power of titles and many readers young and old alike especially those new to comics that Marvel is claiming to go after can easily become discouraged and flat out annoyed by this practice.  when a book you read is going to get canceled or relaunched after just five or six issues you don’t really have much reason to stay with it or trust the publisher to make a book that will be around long enough to find a steady reader base in the future either.

 

and finally…

Lack of Respect:  Marvel comics does not respect anyone or anything, while many companies are accused of it, they are obviously one that does indeed only care about and worship the almighty dollar!  They don’t care how many creators works they ruin, they don’t care how many groups of people they insult or harm with their books, they don’t care about the negative real world implications of their actions, weather it is turning Captain America into a Nazi in a time when fascism is on the rise all around the world thus giving actual fascists the ability  to use a symbol meant to oppose them as one to support them, or marginalizing and attacking already oppressed divers groups when their books don’t sell or attacking and cannibalizing the very industry they along with DC, EC and the like helped create.  Marvel will happily step on anyone and everyone just to make a buck, and it is this mindset and practice that makes them a truly horrible comic book publisher.

 

In closing, I know by now a lot of you will attack me and accuse me of just being a jerky DC fan boy who is trying to besmirch Marvel’s good name however I assure you that is not the case.  Growing up I didn’t care if a cartoon, comic or movie was DC or Marvel, I just wanted to enjoy my time with the heroes, I loved watching Spider-Man & X-Men just as much as Batman & Superman,  and the first superhero comic I ever bought wasn’t a DC book, but a Marvel one, an issue of Captain America in the late 90’s.  I don’t know what drew me to it, I knew nothing of the character back then, but over Batman or X-Men I chose an issue of Cap, and while it didn’t entertain me as much as the cartoon counterparts of superheroes at the time it did make me realize that superhero comics were still alive and well and from then on aside from the kids comics I already bought I would also get books like Justice League, Flash, Spider-Man and later on Teen Titans, Infinite Crisis, X-Men, etc.   And that is why this bothers me so much, DC & Marvel are the creators of heroes and the custodians of modern mythology they have an obligation to use their power for good but lately, it seems all they are doing is using it for evil.

 

And that my friends is why I for one cannot forgive Marvel comics for what they have done as of late whether it is the bastardization of Captain America by turning him into a Nazi/Fascist power symbol or the unfair blame put on diversity and crappy practices of the publisher, there is just to much dirt in the pie to make it worth eating.

506cbd058dcf646b17e4b920281c73f2.jpg