The most dangerous weapons cut both ways.
Online fandom has successfully mounted its throne as the premier archenemy of the comics industry. Any self-respecting villain has an angle, a clever gimmick that makes their continued existence a clear and present danger to their bright, unsullied adversary, and ours, well ours is anonymity. Wrapped in this comfortable blanket, we are quite literally whoever the hell we want to be. Create a persona, dive into the information super highway, and pollute it irreversibly with your strange ideas and borderline notions. You can’t be traced. You can’t be caught. You don’t have to take responsibility. You are what you say you are. If I tell you that I’m a young black male named Brandon Thomas, offer a little photographic evidence, and wax philosophical about haters, blueprints, and Marvel Comics…does that make it true? For all you know, I’m some middle-aged white dude that figured the perfect Jedi mind trick was to adopt an identity that no one would expect. Nothing is what it seems in here, and some of us like it that way.
What other segment of entertainment/pop culture offers a consumer the opportunity to digest a creative work, enter a loose community under an established alias, and provide commentary ranging from insightful to inane that’s only one click away from the visionaries that inspired it? The high level of fan accessibility has sponsored an environment where creators are only an e-mail transmission away, and a rabid fanbase is under the impression that it’s their right to access nearly every facet of the process that leads to words appearing on a printed page. I had an argument with a friend who believed it was our God-given permission to know if Stuart Moore’s exit from the Marvel editorial office was as amiable as Bill Rosemann made it out to be. What the fuck is that?
With every hiring, firing, resignation, or promotion, some message board erupts with irrational chatter. Some asshole, operating from the comfort of his mother’s basement, dances an electronic jig when someone loses their job, claiming that it was rightfully deserved. The promotion of DC editor Eddie Berganza was greeted by dozens of outcries denouncing the decision, supporting their venom with “conclusive” proof that Berganza is chiefly responsible for the creative vortex that online pundits believe the Superman titles have been trapped in for the last few years. The internet has made us strong, and it has made us experts.
And it’s all very necessary.
For every two dozen ‘first posters’ and ‘I HAVE AN INSANELY BIG COCK’ user names, there is that voice that would otherwise go unheard. Not everyone has their head wrapped impenetrably in their own ass, and is pleased to speak for the sole purpose of enjoying their echo. Creators are also reaping the benefits as hot projects are electronically injected into the vein of the reading audience months before completion, building anticipation and the all important ‘buzz’ factor that indicates what we should be reading. The necessary filtration almost proves worthwhile, an acceptable cover charge for truly experiencing what this whole situation can offer. Still, a fully functioning bullshit detector is something that we all must keep at the ready.
And it’s in this veritable circus that I decide to write a weekly column.
Complicating matters, ignoring the fact that everyone and their grandma has one of these things now, is that not so ulterior motive that my platform comes with. From the very beginning, I intended this little enterprise to chronicle the exploits and hopeful success of an aspiring writer. This places me in a very precarious position, with an archive of potentially crippling missives only a brief search away.
I am compromised, people. Have been from the beginning.
This isn’t merely referring to the fact that I don’t passionately attack creators and projects that strike me as utter nonsense, or take aim at the ‘haters’ every seven days. The reason pieces like Haters Be Hating, The Blueprint, Truth Hurts, and The Inconsistencies work at all (at least from my understanding) is because they’re emotionally valid. I don’t “rage against the fuckin’ machine” every week, because that’s not how it works. There’s nothing worse than some irritable bastard swearing at people for no reason week after week after week after week. If you hate everything, if everything smells to you like a pile of shit…then get out. You’re wasting our time, you’re wasting your time, and you’re full of shit anyway. False spite is transparent and people will stop paying attention when they realize you’re merely ‘sampling’ an identical beat and attempting to construct a full soundtrack from it.
However…there are a few articles that will never be written, despite the internal feelings of the bug in my ass. The most overrated comics writer? Nope. The three creators that need to hang up their tights before their embarrassing efforts gain sentience and trap us in the realm of infinite apathy? Won’t see it. I could answer the question of who is truly responsible for the less than stunning sales of the Superman titles, but I won’t. Barring a column that lampoons the industry for means of comedy and satire, which my man J. Hues accomplishes weekly over in Rolling With the Punches by the way, you’ll never know the truth behind the preceding questions. Now, I could cite my polite and kind nature for this, and to a point this is true, no reason to be a complete dick, but you know why I’m not completely willing to place my cock on the block…because if someone cuts it off…how am I gonna blow that lower back out when the time comes?
Mark Millar, in a recent edition of his The Column on CBR, made a comment that online columns have to be anti-establishment to maintain any degree of credibility. And he’s right. You can’t give a flying fuck. You say what needs to be said and walk away. This is reason one that Warren Ellis’ Come In Alone will continue as the rightful benchmark by which the majority of us shall be judged. Not only did he say what needed saying, but based on his position within the industry he didn’t have to give a fuck. For any potential employer that he pissed off, there were still five remaining that wanted to talk exclusive contract. Reason two was because he made it seem so cool. Reading Warren’s weekly thoughts was somehow important. He made it that way. Come In Alone is one of the reasons there’s an Ambidextrous. Simple as that.
With a new year in the crosshairs, the question must be posed: are my aspirations causing me to sell-out? Would this platform be an entirely different animal without that little voice that forces me to be conscionable, ever aware that the next person to click the link may be in the position to one day offer me work? Or could it be that my caution has increased my effectiveness, forcing me to choose appropriate and worthwhile targets? Has the danger of becoming measured by one’s online persona, and the determination to join the twenty percent of online chatter that actually means something kept me honest? And from this point does it become even more difficult?
When I finally do secure work within the industry (crossing fingers) does my living room become littered with eggshells? I’m not Ellis, I’m not Millar, and the leverage I hold is almost nonexistent. But you can’t feel sorry for me. Because I’ve met several cool people both within and without the industry, garnered some positive comments, and proved that this is about more than ‘breaking-in’. Seventy nine down and I’m not even close to done. I need you…and will prove that you need me. If I’m even who I say I am. At the end of the day, with 2003 firmly upon us and the finish line within reach…
…you’ll just have to trust me.
The New Hotness:-
Daredevil #40 (Brian Michael Bendis/Terry Dodson/Rachel Dodson)
Somewhere around page two, I realized this book would end up here. For those that haven’t been following (shame on you), the last two months of this title have found a Man Without Fear fighting in an arena that has proven just as dangerous as a Hell’s Kitchen street corner. Matt Murdock is defending a former costumed hero accused of murder, and he’s losing. By the end of page two, as the prosecutor completes his closing statement, you’re instantly struck at the frightening range of Bendis. This is The Practice, this is Law & Order, and it’s disguised as a superhero comic. Sometimes justice doesn’t work. Sometimes the ordinary people encompassing a jury are rightfully distracted by outside influences, coloring their judgment. Sometimes the media goes too far. And even a man with enhanced senses can’t read the absolute motives of strangers. I’ve said too much already, but there was only one way for this story to end, and Bendis doesn’t back down. It doesn’t hurt his case that the Dodson’s enjoy a stint as the guest art team, and make even a courtroom look beautiful. Marvel released three Bendis comics this week. If you know what’s good for you, you have all three. This is the one you save for last.
Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules #1 (James Sturm/Guy Davis)
This almost didn’t make it. Sturm engages you from the outset with a quartet of strong and likeable characters making their way through a typical day, who coincidentally share the names and likenesses of Marvel’s first family. You’re struck by eerie similarities and notable differences, as Davis’ pencil renders an environment appropriate for a quaint period piece. It wasn’t until the concluding text piece that this work was pushed over the threshold for me. This is the purported biography of the four people that became the source material that birthed the Fantastic Four. Because the concept was based on actual events you know? In what stands to be the largest hoax since The Sentry, James Sturm and Marvel have offered an untold chapter that explains how things came to be. And it’s off to a great start, whether or not the whole thing is true proves irrelevant. It’s different, and therefore…it’s found a home. Can’t wait for more.
Random things: Last week was marred by all sorts of holiday dealings, so it stands to reason that in the ensuing wake, a brand new Ambidextrous slipped past you. Check out The Objectives for what’s to come in 2003. Thank you.
What else? Oh, Warren Ellis’ new SCARS series from Avatar contains the most disturbing panel of artwork I’ve ever seen. No joke. Not for the faint of heart. And isn’t the news that Brian Wood is penning a monthly series for AiT/PlanetLar just about the most exciting thing that 2003 has offered? And any man that doubts that former Legion penciler and future Avengers artist Olivier Coipel isn’t really the next big thing should check the backs of this week’s Marvel releases. Four pages from he and Geoff Johns’ first issue. I told you this man was going to rock the mic. I told you.