Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The geek wake-up call

I've never been into comics the way some are, but I can certainly understand how an interest in a niche subculture can go from simple admiration to fanboy fanaticism. It's like that old bumper-sticker saying: "God: Please protect me from your followers." Uber-fans give the medium a bad name by, as Wolk says, letting their interests morph into a fetish, thus obscuring the reason that they got into it in the first place: for the love of the characters, the art, and the stories.
Even so, to this day, people talk about "graphic novels" instead of comics when they're trying to be deferential or trying to imply that they're being serious. There's always a bit of a wince and stammer about the term; it plays into comics culture's slightly miserable striving for "acknowledgment" and "respect." It's hard to imagine what kind of cultural capital the American comics industry (and its readership) is convinced that it's due and doesn't already have. Perhaps the comics world has spent so long hating itself that it can't imagine it's not still an underdog. But demanding (or wishing for) a place at the table of high culture is an admission that you don't have one; the way you get a place at the table of high culture is to pull up a chair and say something interesting.

So what do people who are committed to feeling like embattled outsiders do? Fetishize the object that symbolizes their difference from everybody else, naturally. The first wave of comics collectors were trying to preserve the past of their culture -- to rescue the ephemeral pamphlets that made up comics' fragile history from the quick and sure destruction they were intended for. They wanted to hold on to the pleasure their favorite comics gave them, and perhaps to understand how years' worth of stories about particular characters might fit together into a grander narrative than even those stories' creators imagined. There's something honorable about that.

1 comment:

G.I. Jeff said...
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