What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…
I didn’t grow up reading comic books. There were reasons: I’ve been reading, and a fast reader, since I was probably 4, and comic books were not a good return on my tiny book allowance. Also, I didn’t grow up in an urban setting. Books were hard to come by, and I clung to them. Clung to them bitterly when the time came to move and I had to thin them down to the necessaries over and over through life. Also, I grew up in a very religious household, and there were books I just wasn’t allowed to read (although I will say that comics were never on the verbally forbidden list – that dubious honor went to two authors when I was allowed free range at the library. I was not supposed to read Robert Heinlein or Danielle Steele. I never bothered with the latter. The former… well, how do you think I wound up here?). So to recap: I was a bitter clinger to my books, my Bible, and my guns (ok, my parent’s guns, which yes, I was taught to shoot). Stay with me, here, I’m going somewhere.
It wasn’t until I was nearly a full-grown adult that I first came across, devoured, and loved, a graphic novel. That would be Art Spiegelman’s iconic Maus. Now, there’s a man who understands the evil lurking beneath the surface of some men’s hearts. I can’t say, however, that I then went on to reading comics and graphic novels, because that’s not true either. I wanted to at points – when the first Avengers movie came out, I was smitten. But when I went to my friends and asked how best to find a collection of the writing/art that led to the movie, they hemmed, hawed, and finally told me: don’t bother. The comic book world, it seems, is so recursive that unless you’ve been immersed in it since a very early age, trying to catch up is only going to be confusing and frustrating and it’s not worth the time and effort. Even my daughters, who were huge DC fans and collected comic books any time I took them near a comic book store or used bookstore that had some to leaf through… they have outgrown them, it seems. Too many changes to the worlds, characters killed, characters violently wrenched out of shape by creators who suddenly decided they weren’t the right gender, or color, or… instead of introducing original characters and teaching the readers to love them, too, the characters of the wrong orientation (be that sex, race, or what-have-you) had to be erased and replaced with the flavor du jour. You can see how readers would hate this, yes? And as a mother, I’m horrified by the message it sends to younger readers.
Which (somewhat) leads us to the present day, and me being vaguely aware of a kerfluffle surrounding comics and comic creators. It’s the same old story. Creators who won’t bend to the current political scene in publishing are being blacklisted and de-platformed. I sympathize. I stepped out of the mess after having waded into the fray of Sad Puppies, because it was literally threatening my children in a vulnerable situation. But I have been quietly observing. I was amused to see a couple of my friends and colleagues on the ‘blacklist’ that was circulating, since neither actually write or create comic book art. The same old nonsense. But then today I was struck with a sudden schadenfreude. You may remember a review I posted here some time back? The herky-jerky one? That was three years ago, but you know, I’m feeling a bit like Cassandra today.
I was on Twitter this morning. Rarely have you seen a more wretched hive of villainy and scum, yes, yes. However, it’s occasionally useful for finding the breaking news in more, ah, obscure topics. The buzz today is that Chuck Wendig of Star Wars infamy has been fired. For being rude and generally antisocial. Now, if you read that post I linked above, you’ll note that his style has been for years that of insult and attack. So what’s changing? Is anything changing, or did he simply become too gross even for the socially conscious crowd?
I can hope that the industry is finally – FINALLY – seeing that marketing by attacking and belittling fans just doesn’t work. I’m a very hopeful sort. It’s kept me going in some dark places. The cynical side of me thinks that it’s not that, it’s just that poor ol’ Chuck is the wrong color and gender and they decided he was a liability no matter how hard he licked their boots. It’s sad, actually.
But this is why I don’t read the comics. Or horror, for that matter. I like hope. Hope is the bright shiny thing that keeps me going through the valley of the shadow of death. Hope, and friendship. I’m grateful I’ve got excellent friends who pointed me in the Indie direction, so I never had to worry about being the wrong color, the wrong religion, or worst of all: I never had to abase myself to use my ‘victimhood’ to get a leg up in the publishing industry. I’ve been able to grow a fanbase because, well, I like people. The mob is ugly, and wicked. People individually are amazing and I love to talk to them and learn about them. Why would I jump on Twitter and degrade them, scream at them to shut up because I didn’t like their politics, and so forth? I’ll call for consequences for bad behaviour: that is essential to a civil society. But I’m also a proponent of justice, and even when something bad happens to an enemy, I’ll be sad for them and their family. I hope they learn, and become better people like puppies taught not to piss on the carpet. I can hope.
Off topic this week: I have a free book for you all. I’d say to enjoy, but this is another of my Halloween horror stories, and it’s a very emotional tale of a woman in an impossible situation who risks everything she has left for the sake of friendship. Memories of the Abyss is free October 12 through the 19th. If you’ve already read it, I beg a favor of you, to share the link with friends who may enjoy it as well as you did.
(Header Image: “Fog Angels” digital artwork by Cedar Sanderson)