Hoo boy, it’s it a weird wild time to be a Marvel fan these days. I’m not saying that the Distinguished Competition don’t have their own share of disharmony, but with Joe Quesada on the defensive again, this time for the rather surprising cover to Heroes for Hire #13 due out in August, there can be that sinking feeling. That ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling. The fans get angry over a cover, the creators get mad at the fans for getting angry in the first place and where does that get anyone?
This past weekend I got a chance to go to the Star Wars: Celebration IV in Los Angeles. I’ve been going to cons of one sort or another since I was wee, just on the other side of the sci-fi tracks (I’m nerdcore enough to admit I have a perfectly good Romulan uniform in my closet), so it was kind of cool to see all the sights and sounds of how the other half lived. But we’re all here with a purpose and the con was aptly titled ‘Celebration’. One interest or another, everyone can speak the same language, whether that’s Klingon or Wookiee Speak.
And boy, is it a language. I have people almost every week come into the store and nervously tell me that they don’t know anything about comics because of that almost universal feeling that there is a certain amount of knowledge on something one must acquire before they are considered ‘a fan’. And it’s the respect paid to that knowledge, the ability to remember all of it and keep to it that puts us on the fine track to fandom. At the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed panel, I got a chance to listen to a portion of the design team and the story director talk about their new game and the biggest thing I was struck by (aside from watching a guy go through two walls with a Force push!) was how much at the service of the fans they were.
They practically revered the genre they were using to create this game and would remind the audience that their greatest obligations were to George Lucas and the fans. “Star Wars is so precious to us,” project lead Hayden Blackman said and listening to them talk, they almost sounded nervous presenting the rather daring new idea of the game’s premise. He also made the mistake of saying that the storyline for the game was set between movies 2 and 3, when he meant to say 3 and 4; not only did he correct himself and apologize, but called back to it later to jokingly ask the audience if he’d be fired. But in front of the fans, these guys were as humble and reverent towards the material as the people they were producing it for.
The line between fan and star is starting to blur, ask any Browncoated Serenity fan. When the ‘Flanvention II’ convention was canceled the very evening before it was to take place, leaving many fans showing up to an empty convention hall, the California Browncoats stepped up and organized a ‘Backup Bash’ on the spot though donations and hard work. Many star guests including actor Adam Baldwin and Morena Baccarin showed up despite cancellation to support the people who … well, supported them through their cancellation. I talked to some of the CA Browncoats at WonderCon this year about the film, Done the Impossible. A documentary about the fan uprising that ends in the “cookie” that is the major motion picture and how everyone got behind the little show that they believed in. And this isn’t just message board commenters, cosplayers or Joss Whedon fans, this encompasses the very actors who worked on the short lived TV show as fans themselves, passionate about what they got involved in to the bitter end.
At the same con, I got a chance to listen to the first part of the Star Trek Lives! panel; seeing the listing on the convention schedule brought a fond tear to my eye. Let’s face it, despite criticisms, fans like to see the object of the affections do well in the world. I’ll cop to the last Star Trek movie completely failing its audience and that most of Enterprise was rather disappointing. The people in charge worked as hard as they could but no much of that came through and fandom declined. But from what I heard in February, the old guard is gone and nearly completely replaced by, you guessed it: FANS. People who were so inspired by a sci-fi show from the 60′s that they got into the entertainment industry and are now on the other side of the TV screen, so to speak. IDW’s Dan Taylor is a huge Trekkie and now he’s helping to bring Star Trek comics back to the shelves.
David Tennant grew up with Doctor Who and was inspired by the show to get into acting. Now, he’s flying around in the TARDIS as his favorite childhood character’s tenth incarnation. My store manager, Hank Romero, has cut back his hours to devote himself to the film industry and has entered a huge contest for Harley Davidson. A long time pull customer, Ryan Claytor, is gearing up for a larger than life tour to promote his independent comic label. The line between fan and pro is rail thin and I count myself rather lucky to be able to say this, as a fan, on a popular internet news site.
The good folks over at the 4thletter! wrote an honest-to-God beautiful manifesto talking about comics and the blogosphere as a force for change and the power of our words, probably the best I’ve read yet. He notes the recent LaundryGate issue and how much change he would like to see in the comics he’s a fan of.
And I plan to write the comic I want to see. I’m going to make the [f&$#ing] comics, because if I don’t, who will? I haven’t done it yet, obviously. I’ve got the tools in the tool box, but I’m not as proficient with them as I need to be. Excuse? No. I can’t write the comic I want to read yet, so I will write it when I’m good enough to do so, rather than dashing out something half-way done.
I plan to be the trouble I want to see in the world.
If you are furious, direct that fury. If you are devoted to an art form or a story, step up and join in. Long ago (maybe not that long for some) Stan Lee started the Merry Marvel Marching Society, an inside company promoted fangroup that brought the people who read the books and the people who created the books a little closer than your average funny book company. They gave you a certificate, a giant-sized button, a little 33 1/3 rpm record that bore conversations with the Marvel Bullpen plus an inspiring theme song. Stan Lee explained in an interview seven years ago, “I like being friendly … I like being informal. I wanted the readers to feel that we’re friends. That we know each other… That we’re all sharing a pleasant, entertaining experience together.”
And he’s absolutely right. I propose a return to the glory days of the M.M.M.S. and when comic companies do something stupid with our characters and our stories, that it’s our responsibility to step up to the plate and do something. Whether that’s “make the f&$#ing comics” like the4thletter! says or something as simple as taking solace that this too shall pass and the comfort that one day, it’s going to be us in the driver’s seat. This is our fandom, our community. We belong.