Take Your Best Shot!
Comic books and comic book fans will always have their detractors, and with the advent of social media, it has never been easier for them to take their shots. This is a time when comics are at the forefront of entertainment. Movies, Television and comic books themselves are talked about in pop culture more now than probably any other time in history. With an explosion in popularity comes the expected rise in negativity. People will try to take something they don’t understand and reduce it to something beneath them. We’ve all heard it: “Comic books are for children”, “Grow up and read a real book”… these are not a new lines. But why? Whats the point of the hate? Comics aren’t hurting anyone. Adults that enjoy comics aren’t reaching out and making you read them. So why the hate towards comics and comic fans?
First lets look at why people hate anything? Sometimes its fear or jealousy. Sometimes its inferiority. But almost ALWAYS its ignorance. When I was a kid I HATED math. I didn’t understand it, so I started to hate it. Teachers would explain to me that I was going to need math when I grew up but like a child I would say “no, I’m going to be an artist I don’t need math”. I would lash out and say math was stupid as a way to separate myself from it. I continued to HATE math well into my 20’s, just didn’t understand it. Now after years of trying to figure out bills and life in general I’ve come to love math. I understand some of it, not all, but I can appreciate the rest. Its a natural reaction to dismiss something you don’t understand but its an immature reaction to hate something that you don’t understand.
Comic Books are an art form, and art is commonly misunderstood. The artist might have a mood or feeling they are trying to convey, but the viewer may not know the artist’s intent. Then the viewer makes their own interpretation. As an artist I always enjoy when someone misinterprets my intent. Its doesn’t mean I’m wrong or they’re wrong its just another view that maybe I didn’t see. Art is something that is subjective and with that comes criticism. That is the point of art, to evoke emotion in one way or another. That means there is going to be love AND hate. If a piece of art “speaks to you” like the white painting spoke to Wilson Fisk then you feel like you KNOW that piece. You feel like you are connected to the piece.
I’ve been into comics pretty much my whole life. I felt a connection with the characters. I loved to draw, so I enjoyed all the different covers. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s comics were for kids that weren’t very good at sports or had a hard time socializing, at least that’s what it seemed. (You can check off both those boxes for me) If you had a comic book out at school some of the “cool” kids might have made fun of you by calling you names like nerd or dork or geek.
The Comic Community
Fast forward to today… Now people are using these terms because it IS cool. Best Buy has the Geek Squad. The television show Chuck had a take on that called the Nerd Herd. The comic book movies, and even television shows like The Big Bang Theory, have made it cool to be a nerd, geek or dork. But still there are people that want to put down the comic book community. People want to reduce it to nothing more than a child’s medium.
Its easier to dismiss something than it is to accept it because to accept it means you may have to try to understand it a little bit. And when something you’ve dismissed is growing so big around you, that it may make you lash out with some kind of hate speech. That way, you can degrade it to make your dismissal of it valid. The funny thing is, when you try to lash out at something, you really only validate the thing you’re trying to dismiss. The bigger comics get the more hate we can expect to be targeted towards us. Stan Lee spent his entire adult life bridging gaps. Whether he was pointing out racial or gender inequalities through his art or just showing that his form of art was for everyone young and old. He did it with such passion and charisma that he became a target. He was the target of of the haters, the doubters or just the people without an imagination. But he was also the target of a lot of love and admiration.
When comics were new, people dismissed them. As time passed comics gained popularity but were still regarded as something for kids and teens. Today comics are a larger portion of pop culture than ever before with ages young and old. The popularity, the love, has never been greater. That love is the target. Some people don’t understand why we love comics. That’s fine. The bigger something gets the larger target it becomes for people to try and knock it down. I think we should embrace the role of being that target. We are used to the arrows and laser beams. Its our badge. Instead of getting upset at those who sling we should just laugh and say “Good one, what’s your point?”