The time of change is upon us.

The initial signal was a tickle upon the spine after hearing “record-breaking weekend” and “Spider-Man” uttered in the same breath. The secondary indicator was the news of Free Comic Book Day and its resounding success in certain segments of the comic retailing community. These two events, coupled with the recent flood of mainstream media attention confirmed something often cast into doubt in regards to the comic industry…the people can see us behind the stained glass.

Our tiny segment of modern pop culture has successfully bent the ear of the masses, and hopefully they’re finding good stuff to listen to. The wave of optimism may evaporate by the end of the present week, and the countless moviegoers that checked out Spider-Man and visited their local franchise on FCBD may never be seen again, but the industries’ creators, retailers, and fans would be foolish not to enjoy the success of the past weekend.

However…there are a few things we must attend to when the buzz wears off, steps necessary to ensure that the recently enlightened become the devoted following without tripping over the detritus that we are sometimes capable of emitting. But first things first…about this great movie…

Go see Spider-Man. The movie lives up to the hype, operates effectively on several levels, and bottom line…is well worth the ticket price. Ignore the naysayers that are shitting themselves over the minor (and I mean minor) alterations Sam Raimi was forced to perform in order to keep the running time somewhere beneath four hours, and enjoy a good laugh at people who have nothing better to do than to identify inconsistencies in continuity, and post them on websites, genuinely excited at their final tally. (Life get one ) Anyway…the movie is the shit.

Tobey Maguire is so much better than you would ever believe, Dunst is believable (though I’ve yet to find a moment where I would call her attractive, except for the scene taking place in a rain-soaked alley. I’m a guy…sue me.) Dafoe is creepy without retreating into camp territory, and barring a few scant moments where he looked like a villain from an episode of the Power Rangers, the Green Goblin was carried off quite well. The script bounces between moments of heartfelt sincerity and cornball dialogue from “your friendly neighborhood” that evokes the spirit and swagger of any decent Spidey comic. (If you can keep a straight face while experiencing the antics of a Spider-Man comic but complain that the movie was corny…we’re all laughing as your argument falls into a very dark hole.)

You will find yourself immersed in a living comic book. And you will be confident in the knowledge that for once…these dorks in Hollywood got something right.

If you’ve seen it once…go see it again. If you’re one of the poor unfortunate readers overseas who gets all the movies after the studs in North America :), be prepared for a pleasant surprise. It’s good. Better than anyone probably expected it to be.

Which presents the question…what does this mean for the comic industry? Coupled with the aggressive media push that we’ve been watching unfold from a number of comic publishers these past several months, and the explosive increase in foot traffic that some stores experienced on FCBD…let me be the fir—well—let me speculate that this could be the beginning of something very important as the industry continues to mend itself from the damage done during the mid-nineties.

But…and I hate to do this…well…no I don’t…but some of you have to leave. There are forces that exist primarily to drag the industry into its lowest depths, proclaiming the entire time that they wanted to “save comics.” As we emerge from the cocoon of ambivalence that we’re slowly penetrating, there are people that can’t come with us.
In the words of Martin Lawrence…you ain’t gotta go home…but you gotta get the hell out o here.

We all have a responsibility to desert those that speak of problems, only to exist as one, and unite as an art form (that like any other art form) has its inconsistencies and problems, but at the end of the day…show up for work, perform admirably and go home, only to return the next day and do it all over again. Because they love the game, because they have something to say and no one else can say it like they can, and because they honestly give a shit.

Let’s not fuck this up ladies and gentlemen.

The creative community is doing an excellent job. From the vantage point of a consumer, I have almost no complaints. There are a lot of quality books from companies big, and some not so big, that are telling stories that people would care about…which is the point of any segment of entertainment be it movies, television, music, or comics…if people care about the things you’re saying…victory is imminent.

I care about what a lot of my Wednesday stack is saying. Some are supposed to make you think, and some exist to drive your adrenaline to uncomfortable levels, and both spectrums are valid and necessary for the greater good. There is this segment of fandom that condemns the use of the superhero, frowning upon it as our eternal embarrassment and a factor that is single-handedly dragging us into oblivion. Right. Okay.

Never let anyone tell you your work has no value. Give ’em the finger and keep going. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing comics about superheroes, spaceships, or dancing fuckin’ bunnies, your job is to tell the best damn story you’re capable of producing, and doing it again in rapid succession. In the words of Peter Parker from Ultimate Spidey, “Everything else is just noise.”

A good story is never disposable. Fuck what they say.

There’s also a segment of the creative community that feel the only way to elevate their own status is to systematically shit on everything else that everyone else is doing. Fuck them too. If the industry is such a dire place, filled to abundance with drivel, where the only fully functioning light is your own…we are you here? Every girl in the party is ugly…leave and stop complaining about it already. It’s fine to comment, critique, and periodically bash, but when everything coming from you is excessively and passionately negative…one is forced to wonder whether you’re being genuine, or just manufacturing more fodder for your online and professional persona.

If this stuff is crawling up your ass so bad…remove your ass from the equation. Change the game. Deliver mail. Be a dentist. Just don’t make comics and then complain that everyone but you sucks balls. It’s immature and annoying. Quit it.

The retailing community must come to play as well. In a way, they almost have the most difficult job as they are the purveyors of the knowledge, and without their shops none of this stuff would function properly. They are tasked with locating this knowledge, fired at them from all possible directions, dispensed by companies with differing policies and often conflicting temperaments.

However…you gotta pay the cost to be the boss. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and as a customer looking to spend the hard-earned dough on these little monthly pamphlets, and having visited numerous establishments over the past several years, here are some of the factors that will influence whether I will spend the majority of my money within your walls. You’d be surprised how easy these things are.

Keep your damn store relatively clean. Most stores have a limited amount of floor space and it only helps your case if things are clear and easy to navigate. You don’t have to be able to perform surgery on the main counter, but I went into a store one time (it shall remain nameless) that smelled almost exactly like shit. A week later and it still singed my nosehairs. This is unacceptable. Take care of your shit. Air fresheners. Plug-Ins. Visit your local store and resolve this problem.

The only thing more frustrating than a store that smells like shit…is one that doesn’t have shit. Keep it stocked. New issues. Back issues. Trade paperbacks. I’m not insinuating that you have to keep every single trade available in stock, but on Wednesday afternoon, if you sold completely out of the new JMS issue of Amazing Spider-Man…you need to order a little better. And if you happen to be sold out of a particular issue…offer to find me one. Everyone makes mistakes…prove that frequenting your place of business wasn’t one of them.

Which leads into a small diatribe on service. Be friendly to the people giving you money. Talk to them, recommend things, if you don’t care about this stuff…pretend. Offer discounts to people that subscribe. Do what you live and live what you do.

This is why I’m sliding my credit card every Wednesday at my local shop, because they get everything right and care about doing so.

And what can be said about the fans? Be passionate about these things. Calm down about this stuff. Do everything all at once.

Fandom is fiercely protective and loyal to the characters that they enjoy reading about, sometimes bordering on the obsessive, forgetting that these are fictional characters.

Fictional.

Characters.

When one must focus their penchant for the suspension of disbelief on the violent and acidic opinions of people that call themselves comic fans, something has gone terribly wrong. I like X-Men too. But if someone presents a view of the property that I hadn’t considered before, I’m not going to automatically discredit it, form an outreach group and begin writing letters to the editor complaining that I dislike their recent handling of Cyclops. It’s just not that serious. There must be a line drawn somewhere is this realm where nothing truly exists.

Don’t believe the hype. Bill Jemas is not the devil. Neither is Gareb Shamus. Neither is Todd McFarlane or Rob Liefeld. They’re just guys doing what half of fandom wishes they were doing. Stop hatin’ and read the comics you like, don’t read the ones you don’t. There’s a lot of choices out there, and it’s ridiculous that some people refuse to realize that not everything is for them.

It’s all up to us people, because frankly…we know better than they do. We’ve got it and they want it…they just don’t know it yet. There are few people out there that would discard a good comic without at least flipping through the thing, but if we want the masses to pay attention to us…we need to be on our best behavior.

Let’s get the creators doing what they do, the retailers acting responsibility, and the fans unclenching a bit and let’s do the damn thing.

Peace,
Brandon Thomas

Next time: Episode II will have hit, and I will have seen it. If might take some doing, but look for the next Ambi. slightly early. I’m mulling over two possible titles. The Next Episode (I TOLD YOU SO. I SO FUCKIN’ TOLD YOU SO) or possibly The Next Episode ( I TOL—OH. OH SHIT. Nevermind.) Find out what happens as Ambidextrous goes to a galaxy far, far, away for the next installment…

 

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