The Gold Standard #54: Cynicism in fandom

I’ve been going along with a lot of random, random crap lately. Not to the point where I can’t write this column, but more like….I’ve been swamped with work, especially here on the site, and in real life, and yeah. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately, and things aren’t going exactly as I had intended them to. I had a plan set in motion that would have helped my personal financial situation, but it didn’t work out. No fault of my own, I mean, alright, there is some fault as I figured that it was a done deal, but it really was a situation outside of my control. I’m not a miracle worker. Everything I do I give a hundred and ten percent to, and sometimes it works in my favor, but I understand that not everything can always go the way I want it.

The other night I was driving home from my cousin’s house and I was doing my current favorite thing, I was listening to a shoot interview on my iPhone…Christian Cage’s to elaborate. And as he gets to talking about the end of his tenure in the WWE, he got to talking about how he didn’t want to leave after he began to hate his job, that he never wanted to look back on his time there and be bitter. He left on his terms, before he was burned out, and it made him a happier individual, he didn’t allow himself to become a creature of bitterness. In retrospect, his leaving on his own terms is most likely why it was so easy for him to return several years later, he harbored no ill feelings.

And to complete the trifecta, I have a friend, one who doesn’t need to be named or elaborated too heavily on, who has a great wealth of knowledge about comics, but a single event left him so jaded that he hasn’t read a DC comic since the 1980’s. No, he’s not Pulse Glazer, but his problem wound up similar. He got jaded, he got angry, he got bitter. He got to the point where looking back just ticked him off. That’s not a place you ever want to be.

So what does this all come down to? Well, before I get into the meat of this, let me give you a quote by a great man, said in times of anger, resentment, and bitterness.

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism ā€” it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Do you recognize it? It’s a quote by Conan O’Brien, said on his last night of the Tonight Show after he was unceremoniously replaced by Jay Leno during a complete and utter debacle. I’m not going to get into it save for to admit that I’m Team CoCo, and that the last time I watched Jay Leno willingly was WCW Road Wild 98.

Conan had the job of his dreams, one he had spent years working to be ready for, one that when he had it he made the absolute most of it. It was ripped away from him just after the first half of his first year was over, for faults not truly his own, but that he was given blame for. But what did he do? He made the most out of it. He had two weeks left on his show, and he made them funnier then he’d been in months, he quit pulling his punches. And when he left, what did he do? He started a coast to coast comedy tour and signed up for a new show once his no-compete ends. He could have harped his anger and bitterness, about how he was screwed over and his career suffered because of network executives and a big chinned jackass, but he didn’t.

He gave us a wonderful comment on cynicism, and he left us with a smile.

I had a girlfriend a few years ago, we were together for a year, most of it was long distance, and when we finally had a chance to be together without states and timezones separating us, she dumped me for another guy. Because I wasn’t a student at the same college as she was, and she felt that hurt her social status. I was mad, angry, bitter. I hated her and everything that related to her. And then a few years later I woke up one day, looked myself in the mirror, and realized that I had been throwing myself away, hating someone that probably didn’t care if I lived or died, much less how I felt about her. I swore at that moment that I would never grant that kind of power over me to anyone again. That I would never let myself feel that way for someone, the bitterness I would spew at the slightest mention of her name, the burning anger and hate in my gut when I thought of what she did.

I let it all go. And I bet I could stand right next to her today and not even recognize her, and I kinda like it that way. I’m a happier individual, I’m in control of my life and my emotions, and nothing I do is based around feelings I had for someone I haven’t spoken to in years.

But what does this all have to do with comics?

I got back into comics seven years ago. Among the books I came back to reading were Joe Kelly’s JLA and Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men. Two books I bought on combination of the titles and characters, but neither for the creator. In both cases I held on for as long as I could, and unfortunately with X-Men, I lasted up until Austen was yanked off of the line and let go from Marvel, and then I sat through Claremont on X-Men. I followed JLA through their rotating writers, including Claremont and Byrne and their horrific vampire story.

And then I dropped both books. I dreaded the release of both, I hated what was being done in them, and it bothered me. I would spend more time bitching and moaning about how bad these books were then I would singing the praises of what I liked, and that’s not who I wanted to be. You see, the more I get on the warpath, the harder it is to get off of it. Many are like that, to be honest. Once you get ranting it’s easier to just keep doing it.

When Bill Willingham wrote Robin, and wrote it into the ground, I read the entire thing. I didn’t give Beechan a single issue, and the only reason I came back to the Boy Wonder was Chuck Dixon. When I didn’t like Judd Winick’s Batman, I dropped it and didn’t come back until Robinson (and later Morrison).

I read Superman/Batman under Loeb, and while I might rag as much as I can on him and his ineptitude, the book was entertaining under him. The follow-up arc about aliens being evil got three issues and the only time I’ve bought an issue since was the Batman Beyond annual a few weeks ago.

When I find myself getting cynical, I let go. If a book is driving me to the point of frustration, I let it go. Green Arrow/Black Canary got four issues out of me, Moon Knight got seven, Willingham’s JSA got two issues before I dropped a book I’d been reading since #48 of the previous volume, without falter.

I don’t want to walk into my shop, see the new releases, and find myself angry over a book to the point where I refuse to read it. I have one of those, and I regret it. I wish I could read Spider-Man, that One More Day hadn’t soured me off the franchise completely. I mean, I sat through Sins Past and The Other, but One More Day did me in. I saw something I loved stripped down and hatcheted away and I didn’t want to be a part of what came next. I love Spider-Man, but I just can’t read it. There are times when I definitely wish that I did read it, stories like American Son piqued my interest to unquenchable degrees, but I couldn’t do it. I still can’t.

Cynicism drives fans to the point where they don’t want to be fans anymore. It makes them regret their enjoyment, it makes them focus more on what they don’t like then what the truly do, and eventually it leaves them incapable of seeing the good. When you’re cynical everything sucks, and if something doesn’t suck off the bat, you’re definitely going to find some reason as to why it does.

That’s not what we, as fans, should be. We’re fans, what does that mean? It means we enjoy and support our medium of choice. It means that we like comics, we like the characters, we like the concepts. And if we don’t like them then why are we focusing on them?

I used to regular comic book message boards, but it got to the point where there were more topics telling me why something sucked then there were telling me something was worth a chance. I knew at any given time how bad a Jeph Loeb book was, but nobody had a word to say about Booster Gold. I knew that people couldn’t stand Teen Titans after the One Year Later jump, but nobody wanted to talk about how much fun Invincible was. That’s not fandom, that’s cynicism. That’s focusing your time and effort into finding things that you don’t enjoy, and then putting more time and effort into explaining what is wrong with them to the masses.

I gripe all the time, I’ve written countless blogs about how much I hated One More Day, about how much I hated Secret Invasion, etc etc. But you know what else I’ve done? I’ve tried to bring the things I truly enjoy to the table as well. I gush about Peter David’s X-Factor, about how Peter Tomasi is one of my favorite breakout writers, about how Sterling Gates Supergirl run is great, but how Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl is the one of the best new books DC has launched in the past few years. When I write my reviews, I try to pick books that I enjoy. Ever wonder why I don’t write many reviews of books that score under a six on my ten scale? Because I’d rather tell you about what’s good and worth your time, what I think others will enjoy, then I would tell them about what I think they won’t like.

It would be so easy for me to come out every week and write reviews for the worst books of the week; the Hulk’s, the Teen Titan’s, the JSA’s, the JLA’s, half of the Deadpool’s, most of the Ultimate line. It would be so easy to just log in every day and write a rant about how these books are what’s wrong with comics, about how nothing is good and right and how I hate them and everything about them. But I don’t. I don’t even hate most of them, but after polling a few people those are what came up as books they didn’t enjoy. They also said they’d be less likely to read reviews about how bad they are, as they already know that.

Being positive is the real difficulty, finding what you like, focusing on what you like, trying to encourage others to do the same. I never want to be the guy to say that people inherently are unhappy, just like I disagree with the notion that people are inherently evil. We’re all wary, we’re all cautious, but I truly believe we all want the same thing. To enjoy the things we claim to like.

I love comics. I love the industry. I love just about everything about it. Yes, I complain, yes, I’m cynical, and yes, by this point you’re probably thinking I’m a bit of a hypocrite as I have personally devoted much time to voicing my complaints in the past, and I surely will again in the future. But at the end of the day I love comics, and I’m never going to let a few gripes turn me bitter. I’m never going to be the guy who looks back in ten years and talks about how bad things had gotten, about how I quit reading comics because of a few events that were minor in the long scope of things.

I want to remember that I’m the guy who quit the Avengers because of Disassembled, but who eventually regained their interest and made it a point to buy the trades and hardcovers to cover what I’d missed due to my own bitterness. I want to remember that I’m the guy who bought Spider-Girl until the end and enjoyed every issue, not that a book that I love wasn’t able to survive.

I want to remember that I’m a Kyle Rayner fan who remembered one day that he loved Green Lantern, and became a Hal Jordan fan because of it.

I want to know that I love comics, that I love Marvel and DC, that I love Image and IDW and Dark Horse and Boom and Dynamite.

I want to take joy in the fact that being positive, that staying upbeat, that focusing on the good and the great and the enjoyable will only lead to more enjoyment on my part.

I want to take pride in my fandom. And I do.

The Gold Standard

Tags: , ,

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!