Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comic Geeks

I was reading this post at The Beat, and it gave me a moment of pause. Apparently comic fan Steve Marmel has taken exception to how some of the newer, non-comic-fan attendees regard the Con. And how it chaps his hide.

Really, I was with the author until:

I love this form of story telling. For those of us who weren’t the “winners” in high school, there was always something wonderful about comic books (or gaming) because those were morality tales where good and evil was clear, outcasts were respected…

…the good guys won, even if they weren’t popular.

And the San Diego Comic Con is their super bowl. Their prom. Their homecoming. If you don’t know that Wolverine is supposed to be short, and that Batman doesn’t kill, you are a welcome guest. But somebody let YOU past the velvet rope, not the other way around.

I've mentioned a few times before how I don't really understand the constant reinforcement in comics of jocks picking on geeks and other convenient stereotypes.

The post says so very, very much about comics, their fans and their creators. The fact that Marmel so closely relates his love of superherodom to a painful adolescence doesn't really do a lot to shake the image of the lonely comic geek living in Mom's basement, or why the rest of the population looks at us comic fans a bit cockeyed. How many years on and this guy isn't just romanticizing outsider status, but he's drawing a clear line to some sort of moral superiority?

Do we ever really escape high school?

And is it really the majority of comic readers who felt they were having a rough time of it between gym class and Algebra? Or is it just Con attendees?

Look, I'm not going to try to play up my vision of myself at age 17 one way or another, but I certainly never felt drawn to comics because they reflected some way in which I felt I'd been kicked to some social curb. But in some ways, I feel like Marmel is speaking for comic geeks and he's making a lot of assumptions that have nothing to do with my reality.

When I use the term "comic geek", I use it lovingly. Because "fan" doesn't really do it, and enthusiast makes it sound like I should somehow be using model glue and be wearing lures in a fishing hat. Calling myself a comic geek is co-opting the derogatory and owning the term, stripping the words of the negative. I know my fellow comic geeks are folks of all different stripes, of different backgrounds and with several different brands of social dysfunction. Some of them living in a world where squeezing into a homemade Flash costume when you are far from a Barry Allen physique makes the costume less than practical. Others are folks who wouldn't be caught dead in a unitard.

Does that make it okay for the Hollywood suit to show up and roll his eyes at the guy in the Flash costume? Well, if comic fans want to see comics come back out of the basement, they're going to have to know that not everyone embraces the spirit in which such a costume is donned.

The thing is, I do agree with many of Marmel's points. It's probably right to be suspicious of the suits there trolling like sharks, trying to figure out how to, literally, exploit an as-yet-unsigned comic property for development in some other medium.

But as long as the geeks keep couching things in terms of some hurt feelings from 10-20 years ago, the longer the stereotype of the guy in the ill-fitting Green Lantern t-shirt will persist. And as a guy with a closet full of Superman shirts, I'm not asking anyone to change how they're living, but I am suggesting that Marmel quit worrying about something as ludicrous as high school popularity and working through some misplaced mix of entitlement and persecution complex.

Comics have always taken heat for their black and white morality portrayals, so when I see someone pairing their LOVE of guys in white hats vs. guys in black hats, juxtaposed, perhaps unconsciously, with their own feelings regarding the suits as "bad guys", and outcasts living in a world where they get the respect they deserve...

Many people are geeks in one way or another. And, honestly, people who aren't geeks sort of creep me out in a Stepford Wives sort of way. What kind of a life are you living if you aren't passionate about something for yourself, be it comics, airplanes, hunting, movies, lawn maintenance or even some crazy-bizarre conspiracy theory you're trying to propagate? And many of those guys and girls you sneered at in high school... they weren't so bad (and some of them were)... but, honestly, who cares?


Anonymous said...

You're just feeling good about yourself because you won Outstanding Male Drama Student our senior know you weren't a geek in HS.....maybe this guy Marmel wasn't quite as cool and can't seem to quite let it go. :)

Michael Corley said...

I could not agree more. I was techically a "nerd" but only in the strictest sense. I was only on the soccer, football and track team, a weight lifter, hiker/camper/rock climber and black belt in tae kwon do.

Oh, and I like video games and comic books. Sheesh.