Oct 09

Why Do I Bother Logging In?—How the Internet is Trying its Best to Kill My Love for Comics…and Humanity

True story time.  I love the Internet.  I do.  I mean, without it I’d never be able to do things like this, or stay in touch with friends around the world, or see prodigious amounts of pornographic material that periodically cause me to wonder what the hell is wrong with Japan.  I’m thinking somewhere along the way, and this is just a theory mind you, that someone mistranslated the word “testicle” as “tentacle,” and it all went downhill from there.

Poor Chun Li.  That’s no way to treat a Street Fighter.

To be fair, neither was this…

But tentacle banzai ninja upskirt delights notwithstanding, there’s a part of the Internet that seems to fill me less with horror, and more with rage.

As Holden put it in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, “The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.”  Now add comics, books, tv, and politics to that and you’ve got a complete picture and can see where I’m going with this.

There are two things on the Internet right now that cause me to question logging in, spoilers in headlines pertaining to comic books, and people.

That’s, uh, a LOT of the Internet, isn’t it?

We’ll get to the first item in a little bit, but for now let’s get into the people.  For the sake of both my sanity and the overall theme of this site being one of a pop culture variety, I’ll leave out politics for the most part except to say I’ve stopped logging into my regular Facebook account in recent weeks because I tired of my news feed being filled with one sided and idiotic half (at best) truths about presidential candidates.  End of story.

I’ve studied it for over 15 years, I’ve lived it, I’ve published a damn book on it.  Next asshat to print the bullshit that Bush single handedly destroyed the economy and lied about Iraq intelligence, or that there are secret files on how Obama is not a citizen and how he wants to sell our country in the name of Islam is getting punched in the kidneys.  It’s just that simple.

I found myself quite fed up with provably false statements propagated by people who had no interest in learning anything that would dare upset their myopic worldview.  So that left me with comic book websites and this.

And I was fine with that.  Notice I said “was.”

Did you know that Bush killed each of these kittens so Obama could give their skins to the Muslim Brotherhood? It’s true. I read it on a Facebook meme.

Being the comic book nerd that I am, while on Facebook, I like to check out the sites for Comic Book Resources and Newsarama just to see if there are new tidbits of news pertaining to my favorite escape from reality that I’d like to talk about.

But have you ever tried to engage in a rational discussion on a comic book forum?  Yeah.  It’s like every negative stereotype of comic book fans somehow get drawn to them and multiply like someone forget the directions and fed them after midnight after dousing them with a bucket of water.

But, Overlord Baserap, what exactly do you mean?  Good question.  Allow me to regale you with my recent experiences on our friend, the Internet.

Gather around, children. I’ve put it to music.

There appears to be a list of usual characters that crop up in nearly every Internet conversation—there’s the guy who’s clearly too cool for comics but feels a need to weigh in anyway if only to tell all the “sheeple” how not cool they are; the guy who finds a hidden agenda in every character or event like trying to “force” diverse characters on the public; the perpetual victim who sees a concerted plan by the industry to intentionally malign a sex or ethnic group due to some larger conspiracy; the one who hates everything but won’t give concrete examples why and accuses everyone of being an apologist; the one who loves everything but won’t give concrete examples why and accuses everyone of being a hater; the spambot posting something about the appropriateness of young women dating senior citizens; and the rest of us, who are left wondering at what point we thought this was a good idea to get involved in the conversation in the first place.

Based on the dramatis personae, you can imagine how conversations have gone pertaining to things like DC’s decision in the DCnU to turn original Green Lantern Alan Scott from a middle-aged heterosexual with two grown kids into a younger and unmarried homosexual hero.

Yes. Like this exactly.

It’s chaos at best.  And not the good kind of chaos that will accompany my inevitable rise to power, but the kind that causes you to be stricken blind from sheer stupidity.

I love comic books.  That’s no big secret.  And I love to discuss them.  But the key word there is discuss.  Not yell about, not argue, not act like my life depends on them, but discuss them.  Sure, there can be the spirited, though friendly, debates on things like whether Superman or Hulk would win in a fight, or the actual merits of making Alan Scott gay to diversify the line while ignoring that the son they’ve erased from existence was already gay so all they did was an addition by subtraction in essence.  But when DC announces that there’s going to be a new Arab American Green Lantern and you’re trying to discuss it and you’ve got to instead wade through the ones crying about a force fed agenda on the part of DC or ranting about how there needs to be diversity because DC intentionally cancels all minority led books for no reason as opposed to low sales, you start to go mad.

And we all go a little mad sometimes, right?

Never, ever, under any circumstances—and I can’t express this enough—get into a conversation on female comic characters on some sites.  No good will come of it.  Because, invariably, the ones who have something insightful to add will be shouted down by people who see a hidden plan to eradicate women and accuse anyone and everything of being sexist, by people feeling the need to be offended on behalf of others, and by actual sexists who decry all female characters as inferior to the males.

It’s a smorgasbord of stupid, every damn time.

Similarly, avoid racial issues.  Why?  Because they tend to draw out knuckle dragging racists who can’t stand to see a non white character as anything other than a PC token that’s trying to force its way into their whitewashed world, and those who try to turn everything into an issue about race.  Hell, I saw a review of an X-Men related book recently that suddenly turned into a rant on how there were no black writers employed by Marvel which had exactly nothing to do with the comic book in any way, shape or form.

“And speaking of spaghetti, my house has a porch.”

So,now I keep my Facebook activity to www.NerdtopiaCast.com and www.ForcesofGeek.com related fun.  Why?  Because this community is fun.  We laugh together, we cry together, we have pillow fights and do our hair together.  All right, so I made that last part up, but, hey, that’s no fault of mine.  I’ve totally floated the idea.

The thing is I vaguely remember a time where I could have at least a semi-rational discussion on a wide range of topics now deemed “controversial” in the not too distant past, so what in the name of Elvis happened?  Did I miss something?  A memo, perhaps?  I don’t know.  But whatever it is, one can only be verbally attacked so many times for having the temerity to like or dislike something before going, “You know what?  I’m washing my hands of this silliness,” or the perhaps less mature, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”

Screw it. It’s mature enough.

But I mentioned it wasn’t just people trying to suck the fun out of my comic book enjoyment, but sometimes websites themselves.

A while back, for www.ForcesofGeek.com, I wrote an article about spoilers and how when the issue of Fantastic Four where they killed a main character came out last year, I went way the hell out of my way to avoid having it spoiled because even national media outlets like USA Today were running articles on it with blatant disregard.

Now before I even go any further, I’ll come right and say that, yes, this is nothing to get worked up about and it absolutely falls into the old “First World Problems” motif.  Why even say that?  Because inevitably, as I’ve learned from the blasted Internet, the second you say something in a public forum like, “Man, I wish this pizza I ordered didn’t arrive cold,” some well intentioned hipster who hated your cold pizza before it even got to your table has to down the room with something like, “Yeah.  That sucks.  You know what else sucks?  Child slavery.  And they don’t even get pizza, cold or otherwise.  And they never got any comics to be spoiled.  Think about that next time you complain about your service.”

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean.  I know you’ve encountered Captain Fauxstache before.  And, like me, you’ve likely wanted to hit him with a shovel.

Perfectly understandable.

Yeah. We’re gonna need a bigger shovel.

So, sure, in the grand scheme of things, comic spoilers are not on the same level as some Nike sweatshop in East Whatthefuckistan but forgive me if they irk me nonetheless.

Back when Captain America #25 came out, I had zero idea Cap was going to be killed.  The morning the issue was released, I turned on my computer to check my email on Yahoo! and right there on the front page was a headline about Marvel killing off Captain America.  Right on the goddamn front page.  Really?  This was three full hours before the stores even opened and the surprise was killed.

When they said there’d be a death at the end of the Fantastic Four arc, Three, I went into hermit mode, hiding out like an Ayatollah put a fatwa on me, unplugging myself and avoiding it all costs because I’d be damned if I was going to let the one fleeting joy of a genuine surprise escape me.

And I won.  So screw you, Internet.

Before the release of Avengers Vs. X-Men #11, I did the same thing.  And won again.

Ha! That’ll learn it!

But then in mid September, there was a headline that revealed the punchline to a teaser that had been percolating for weeks pertaining to Captain America in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, the day before the issue came out.

The best part about that—and, yeah, I’m calling you out, Comic Book Resources—was that it had the spoiler in the headline on their front page so that if you were just visiting the site it was staring you right in the face and if you clicked on the article, because why not at this point since they’d already blown it, the first sentence was a disclaimer about how what followed was spoilers for the next day’s issue of Ultimate Comics Ultimates and not to read any further if you didn’t want it to be spoiled.

Wow, thanks, guys.  You put a spoiler warning after the spoiler.  Good work.

They put their writing into practice here.

Comics have lately turned into a game of which company can out-controversy or out-scoop the other more than ever thanks to the Internet.  It’s great getting an interview with a writer about some hints of what they have in the pipeline, but more and more, it’s becoming a series of press releases to push storylines or characters that will garner publicity without taking into account whether the story will be any good.

One need only look at the much publicized gay wedding in Astonishing X-Men between long gay mutant, Northstar, and his boyfriend, Kyle.  Marvel hyped the event as if they wanted credit for doing something they should have been doing all along—ie, including characters from all walks of life because, newsflash, gay people exist in real life and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t translate to fiction.

But the story itself was barely there.  Kyle as a character was one-dimensional at best, who barely had more than a dozen or so appearances beforehand, and the wedding was thrown together amongst two or three other plot points and seemed to be forced into place with the intent of selling a comic more than promoting equality and telling a meaningful story.

Sure, a business should look after its bottom line, but let’s not pretend they started a trend—Archie comics had a gay interracial marriage months prior that broke sales records for them.  Marvel, not to be outgayed, called their gay interracial marriage and raised them a gay interracial, interspecies marriage.  Beat that, Archie.

Sure was a pretty looking scene, though.

The book predictably sold well.  But where are sales now?  Less than what they were before the issue came out, so that big sales spike they touted as showing how the event could sell was a blip manufactured by headlines and press releases.  Contrast it to about ten years ago where DC’s Wildstorm line had two male heroes, Apollo and Midnighter, marry with no fanfare.  Their issue didn’t get a huge spike, and the book and characters continued as if nothing had happened because it wasn’t a spectacle; it was an organic evolution of the two characters over the years that made total sense for the overall narrative as opposed to Marvel shoehorning the story to coincide with Gay Pride Month with absolutely zero prelude in their previous appearances that Northstar and Kyle were in any way ready for marriage.

Nowadays, in an effort to drum up controversies, or rather nontroversies, Marvel and DC especially feel a need to see just how far they can go to prove their inclusiveness and, in doing so, allow spoilers of big issues leading long time fans to have key plot surprises ruined just so that a Johnny Come Lately who is only rushing to buy a copy because he thinks it’ll be worth money and has no intent to continue collecting can inflate the sales.

I get it, businesswise, but that doesn’t mean I like it.  And I want  a more diverse cast of characters because, hell, that just makes things more interesting.  But does it always have to come with fanfare and screams of, “Look at me!  Look at how topical I am!,” followed immediately upon people looking, “What?  What are you looking at?  This is no big deal.”

Dark Horse Comics did the same in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, making a huge deal about Buffy being pregnant and deciding to have an abortion.  They let it sit a few months, made waves, inspiring debates and arguments—and then copped out it because, SPOILER ALERT, it wasn’t Buffy but really a Buffy robot that thought it was real, I shit you not.

“Um, did you try Control-Alt-Delete?”

Print comics, sales wise, are not what they once were, so, yes, a business has to take advantage of things like the Internet to drum things up, but when they do it in such decidedly divisive ways, when they do it with little regard for the fans they already have instead of the unproven phantom fans they are going after, it kind of sucks the fun out of the surprises and shocks we used to have.

Sure we knew Superman would die in the Doomsday storyline, but we had no idea Hal Jordan was going to lose his shit and kill the Green Lantern Corps as a result of the fallout.  When Guardian of Alpha Flight died in one of the first issues of that series, it was a genuine holy cats moment.

I guess it wouldn’t bother me as much if comics got the same respect from the press as movies.  I mean, you’d never see a movie review headline say, “Wait Until You See the Dick on the Chick in The Crying Game,” or, “Rosebud Proves a Silly Name for a Sled.”

So why throw out Captain America’s fate before the comic even hits shelves?  Why ruin months of trying to piece together clues in a series with a headline that doesn’t even try to hide the spoiler?

At least here, it was pretty self evident.

Is the Internet really going to kill my love for comics?  Nah.  I’m just being dramatic, perhaps overly so.  But try it out for yourself.  Go to a comic website with a message board and just watch.  See how many spoiler type things are in headlines that make it almost impossible to check other aspects of the site without seeing them.  You’ll get jaded, too, pretty fast.

I’ve been reading comics for a long time and the old timer in me will have to be content in spreading good cheer here with you loyal readers and inhabitants of Nerdtopia.  Because you folks are the answer to the question, “Why do I bother logging in?”

Thanks for letting me share (and occasionally rant) with you every week, and I hope you stop by again.  Unless somehow you’re one of those people who do the things I’ve talked about in which case I’m gonna have to chuck a shoe at you.

Fair warning.

Pictured: The Great Shoe War of 2008, started by someone spoiling a racial and political internet meme.

Charles J. Baserap
Former Officer, US Secret Service
Author, An American at the Crossroads
Columnist/Editor, www.NerdtopiaCast.com
Columnist, www.ForcesofGeek.com

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