Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Then and Now: How Fanboy Perceptions have Changed:


 Comic book fans are a fickle lot, it’s true. One minute you can be a popular enough artist to afford a mansion and rare autographed baseballs, the next minute your artwork is tagged “eye-bleach” by the same people who used to read your comics. One minute you’re considered one of Marvel’s most essential villains and the #1 foe of one of their most popular heroes, the next minute you’re called a racist stereotype, a minor villain at best and used as a joke in a major motion picture.
 However, fickleness can also have its unexpected upsides. One minute you’re a forgotten supporting character in a Dracula comic no one under 30 has heard of; next minute you have your own billion dollar film franchise and are more well-known than Spider-Man on an international level. One minute you’re the most maligned cartoonist in America and the subject of countless memes; the next minute everyone comes out in support of you Capra-style after you get pranked by some douche in a yellow hat at comic con.
 And so on the cycle goes, who knows in which way?
 So let us take a look at how the sands of time have healed wounds, wounded heels and buried once beloved creators, characters and movies; some deservedly, some not.
 Jack Kirby:
 How fandom used to see him:
 That ex-Marvel guy who drew a bunch of comics where everyone had square fingertips, big buck teeth and were covered in squiggles.
 How fandom sees him now:
 Christ incarnate, beloved and infallible creator of Superman, Captain Marvel, every single Marvel character ever, oh and the Romance genre.
 Rob Liefeld:
 How fandom used to see him:
  The epitome of everything that went wrong with comics in the 90s with his traced art, terrible anatomy, bad perspective, stolen poses and poor storytelling abilities. Someday his work will be shown in schools that teach sequential art as a way not to do comics.
 How fandom sees him now:
  An unjustly maligned unique stylist who broke away from established model sheets, helped stick it to the Big Two by founding Image and defied gender norms by giving Captain America breasts. Someday his work will be studied alongside that of Fletcher Hanks and Moebius; hailed as the product of one of the medium’s great eccentrics.
 (I wish I was making this up, but sadly, if you look around, you’ll find that defending Liefeld these days has become the new equivalent of wearing lenseless glasses, drinking Pabst and watching My Little Brony: Aspergers is Tragic; doing so gains you instant hipster/indie cred)

 Carl Barks:
How fandom used to see him:
 That guy whose Donald Duck comics were better than other people’s Donald Duck comics.
 How fandom sees him now:
 The single greatest writer of children’s literature since Lewis Carroll.
 If you no agree, you will be burnt at stake in glorious People’s Republic of [some European province that doesn’t use vowels].
(Seriously, there are actually places in Europe where people subscribe to reprints of Barks comics from birth to death and make them mandatory reading)
  Stan Lee:
 How fandom used to see him:
 Crazy, egotistical, flamboyant but always loveable Uncle Stan. A man who helped to aim comics at a slightly older readership, gave artists credit and made celebrities out of them at a time when doing so was unusual and helped to redefine the superhero genre forever.
 How fandom sees him now:
 'A greedy, talentless hack who never gave anyone credit ever and never did anything but sign his name to other people’s work; all while tying virgins to railroad tracks, kicking puppies and drinking the blood of babies!
 It’s all true; I read it in some post from a guy called kirbyluvver69 on the Comics Journal and Marvel Masterworks forums.'
(Isn’t it funny how the people who bash Lee, whose worst sin was not giving credit for co-plotting, couldn’t give less of a damn about Bob Kane, who really did screw over his collaborators and erase their contributions?)
Will Eisner:
 How fandom used to see him:
 The man who elevated the medium of comics to an art form and created storytelling devices at least 40 years ahead of their time that modern creators are still trying to catch up to today. One of the few creators who can be appreciated both by the average superhero fanboy and the indie/arthouse crowd.
 How fandom sees him now:
 ‘OMG! He drew a supporting character that was a racial stereotype, back in the 40s, which no one else ever did! RAAAAACISSSST!!!!!1!!’
Alan Moore:
 How fandom used to see him:
  A dark, mysterious sorcerer who held a diabolical influence over the Romanovs and was the cause of all of Russia’s ills. Some said he was in league with the devil himself and that he never truly died.
 How fandom sees him now:
  A highly eccentric, but mostly harmless oddball who possessed little political power and, for all his faults,  was undoubtedly an ally of the Romanovs and about whom most of which is known comes from accounts written by his enemies; accounts which most serious historians agree are of dubious veracity.
Grant Morrison:
 How fandom used to see him:
 That guy whose Vertigo comics were really, really freaky and whose Batman comics were just plain wrong.
  How fandom sees him now:

The best thing to happen to Batman since Neal Adams.
Neil Gaiman:
 How fandom used to see him:
 A brilliantly accomplished writer inside and outside of comics who has truly elevated the art form to literature with his wry humor, poetic prose and dark fairy-tale sensibilities, justly being the only comics writer to win a World Fantasy Award and gain a following of celebrity fans such as Norman Mailer, Tori Amos and Jonathan Ross.
  How fandom sees him now:
 ‘Goth kids read Sandman LOL.’
(Could be worse though, Scans_Daily thinks he's the mastermind behind a conspiracy to oppress transwomen---because of a comic he wrote in the 90s that he has since apologized for)
Mark Evanier:
 How fandom used to see him:
That guy who wrote Groo.
 How fandom sees him now:
 Plato to Kirby’s Socrates.
Kevin Smith:
  How fandom used to see him:
 ‘An ingenious independent filmmaker whose films accurately capture both geek culture and post-college angst with a style that, for all his constant pop culture jokes, is uniquely his own.’
How fandom sees him now:
‘Geek sell-out! And he made Batman retroactively piss himself. HACK!’
(While I’m not much of a fan of Smith’s post-Dogma work, I feel sorry for him over how he’s gone from being the face of ‘hip geeks’ to having more ‘fake geek’ accusations thrown at him than any overweight cosplayer ever has)
 Christopher Nolan:
 How fandom used to see him:
  Greatest director of his generation! First person to truly make a great film based on a comic with no pandering to kids! The new Kubrick!
 How fandom sees him now:
 OMG U GAIZ! He produced a Superman movie where Superman snapped Zod’s Neck! HACK!!!!!!

The Joker:
 How fandom used to see him:
‘Greatest villain EVAR! I only read Batman comics for him! Killing Joke rules! Why so serious? LOL.’
 How fandom sees him now:
‘OMG why hasn’t Batman killed him yet? Overused villain! Killing Joke is misogynistic! Ledger wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t died LOL.’
 Doctor Doom:
How fandom used to see him:
 How fandom sees him now:
 Ultimate Spider-Man/Peter Parker:
 How fandom used to see him:
‘Best hero in comics! The definitive depiction of the character, superior to the Lee/Ditko original and a far more mature and likeable character than his 616 counterpart!’
 How fandom sees him now:
‘They’re replacing him with a black character? Ugh---Good, I never liked him anyway! He’s a Mary Sue, a whiny brat, and [insert fan-phrases that have lost all meaning here] I hope he never comes back! If he had a corpse, I’d spit on it!'
 How fandom used to see him:
 ‘Greatest villain EVER, maaan! Most X-treeeeeme character in the Marvel Universe! They should just kill Spider-Man off and have him take over, ‘cause he’s KEWL!’
How fandom sees him now:
 ‘Oh god, how could I have had such shitty taste back then?’
Black Adam:
 How fandom used to see him:
 How fandom sees him now:
‘Best villain EVAR dudez! Better than Venom!’ So Badasssssss:
 (It’s kinda funny how so many fanboys claim to like Captain Marvel because he represents a more innocent time, yet they themselves have championed this eye-gouging, generic evil twin/anti hero to the point that he has become the face of the franchise).
 How fandom used to see him:
 One of comicdom’s great characters, a forerunner of all anti-heroes to come who has managed to remain a vital character decades later because he can be used as either a hero or villain at the drop of a hat.
 How fandom sees him now:
 Marvel’s Aquaman/Black Adam rip-off.
(I wish I was kidding about people who think that.)
 Mr. Freeze:
  How fandom used to see him:
 A second rate Captain Cold:
 How fandom sees Captain Cold now:
A second rate Mr. Freeze.
 Swamp Thing:
  How fandom used to see him:
 “Swamp Thing is truly a work of art. There will never be anything like it—now or in the future. So it too will soon fall from its present perch on top of the comic industry. All things must come to an end, and I only hope when the Swamp Thing declines that it is something else, something that is so totally different it is phenomenal, will rise to even loftier precipices, where it too will totter in greatness for its lifetime” (actual letter from Swamp Thing #10).
  How fandom sees him now:
 "Swamp Thing sucked and no one liked him until Alan Moore LOL."
 (Again, I wish I was kidding.)
 How fandom used to see him:
 That horn-helmet guy who fights Thor and was the first Avengers villain.
 How fandom sees him now:
 ‘OMG Tom Hiddleston!’ *Fangirl squee*
(Sometimes I wish I’d never written this)
 Superman: The Movie (1978):
 How fandom used to see it:
 The gold-standard for superhero films, with a timeless performance by Christopher Reeve, an impressive four act structure, and a John Williams score that never fails to make the most hard-hearted soul get misty-eyed.
 How fandom sees it now:
 ‘LOL the effects have dated.’
 Batman (1989):
 How fandom used to see it:
 ‘A brooding masterpiece of neo-expressionistic filmmaking by the most innovative director Hollywood has ever seen, and which has redeemed the character after the stench of the Adam West show. Nicholson’s performance as the Joker will never be topped. The only downside is Michael Keaton’s boring turn as Batman.’
 How fandom sees it now:
 ‘Just a more violent version of the Adam West show made by a Goth sell-out hack and marred by unfunny Nicholson mugging. Michael Keaton’s performance is brilliantly underplayed though, and the film’s saving grace.’
 (Seriously, I do kinda like how fandom has warmed towards Keaton in recent years)
 Batman and Robin (1997):
How fandom used to see it:
The epitome of suck.
How fandom sees it now:
 ‘A cult classic! You fans take things too seriously! This movie is a masterpiece because…uhhhh…neon….doesn’t take itself seriously…uhhh…homophobes don’t like Schumacher….something something.’
 (Seriously, watching people try and defend this turd as anything other than a so-bad-its-good film is cringe-inducing, especially the “You don’t like it because Schumacher’s gay!’ crowd. These people are in for a rude awakening over the fact that you can’t just force something to become a cult movie)
Swamp Thing (1982):
 How fandom used to see it:
It was lame, but at least you got to see Barbeau’s tits…
 How fandom sees it now:
Yeah, Barbeau’s tits really were the best thing about it.
 (No argument here)
 Fantastic Four (1994):
 How fandom used to see it:
 An unreleased film which well-deserved being unreleased.
 How fandom sees it now:
 Bad, but still a better FF movie than the ones that actually made it to theaters.
 (No argument here either)
 Hulk (2003):
 How fandom used to see it:
 “Not enough action, too much talk, obvious CGI, stupid hulk dogs.”
How fandom saw it’s sequel in 2008:
“Too much action! Not enough talk! Hulk isn’t as endearingly fake-looking! And where’s the first film’s sense of fun with things like the gamma dogs?”
(I hear this a lot on IMDb)
 So whether for good or for ill, that’s how things have changed. Hope you enjoyed the list, and who knows how things will change in just a few years?


  1. Oh, jeez. I leave this blog alone for two measly weeks, and suddenly a gem of a post just pops up...

    For a minute there, I actually thought you were going to go ahead and defend Bob Kane. The circles of the 'net I run in, people dump ten times as much hate on him as Stan Lee's ever gotten. Even Chris Sims, who wrote an entire column defending Lee, basically sneaked in a few potshots at Kane.

    I was legitimately surprised to see the whole Morrison entry, though. Is "Morrison = God of Batman comics" still Gospel amongst most fans today? I'd think that the in-thing to do would be to call him overrated (while flocking incessantly to Scott Snyder, who I seriously can't see as being much different).

    Still, I agree that Barks and Kirby are a little too worshiped these days - especially when Barks at his worst could be just as racist as Eisner was ("Voodoo Hoodoo", anyone?).

    Heh - not too long back, I actually made a post on tumblr discussing how I wasn't really bothered by Smith's whole "Batman pisses himself" scene, mainly because the first time I learned of it was in an interview where Smith was desperately trying to defend it. I, too, kinda feel sorry for the guy.

    Plot-wise, I do agree that Batman '89 was more or less just a more violent version of the Adam West show (I can't really blame Burton for this, though, since WB Studios apparently had him on a very tight leash and kept demanding rewrites to make sure that the film didn't stray too far from DC's party line). Honestly, I'm rather annoyed by how the #1 line of defense for Nicholson's Joker is "it's more faithful to the comics!", when most of that faithfulness was entirely superficial (like it's that much of an effort to give him lethal laughing gas and a joybuzzer? Come on).

    And on Batman & Robin... I seriously think its main issue was that it tried too hard to be both silly and serious, and wound up succeeding at neither. How can we enjoy the sheer lunacy of Bat-skates when there's an "Alfred is wasting away from cancer" subplot weighing down the laughs? How can we properly appreciate Freeze's loss when his tears literally freeze on his cheeks?

    ... and I'm honestly curious. Was the 2005 FF film actually that bad?

    1. It's me, by the way - lego_joker. Long time no see!

    2. Sorry for not replying earlier, personal stuff's been going on. Heh.

      I'd never defend Bob Kane, because he actually did do the kind of things others have only been accused of, and worse. And sadly, the majority of fans (and Wikipedia) still believe his hoopla about himself, so nothing has really changed regarding fan perceptions.

      >Voodoo Hoodoo

      I don't want to sound like I'm saying that there aren't people who are genuinely offended by Eisner's work, but the excuses the same people who condemn Eisner for Ebony will make for Barks regarding that story (and Herge for 'Tintin in the Congo') have convinced me that the majority of Eisner bashers are like the people who search for plot holes in Citizen Kane; they just want to feel smarter than academics by pointing out flaws.

      Either that, or they view The Spirit as a superhero comic, unworthy of being in the same league with their oh-so serious Duck comics.

      >Batman and Robin

      The Alfred-subplot and Ah-Nuld's attempt at pathos (to be fair, he himself isn't that bad in that scene) are the reason I've never bought the "it's just a fun movie people shouldn't take seriously" argument, especially the people who are trying to push it as the new Rocky Horror Picture Show.

      >Was the 2005 FF film actually that bad?

      Evans is great as the Torch, Chiklis is great (if a bit too cuddly) as The Thing, Alba actually tries hard to prove she's more than eye candy (and doesn't entirely fail) but otherwise the best thing you can say about it is that it's not offensively bad or tries too hard to be adult. The guy playing Reed acts like a boring straight man from a romantic comedy (think Dean Martin with none of the charm), and Doom comes off as a low-rent villain from the Torch's solo series like the Beetle or Plant-Man. It's just a completely 'meh" film.

      The Corman movie really IS much more satisfying, despite having none of the 2005 film's advantages in either effects or acting.