Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Why I Am Not A Fan…

Posted in comics, Doctor Who, music, politics by Andrew Hickey on December 19, 2008

I was going to post some more Batman/Final Crisis stuff now (I may do later), but looking through Google Reader briefly I came across pillock’s post on ‘the art-comix crowd‘, a response to some inanity that has been posted to the All-New All-Lobotomised Blogorama – now with 5000% more content about ‘geek demographic’ TV!

Apparently someone on there has been saying that (this is from Pillock’s paraphrasing) Kirby, Ditko, Morrison, Moore, and Spiegelman are all much the same sort of thing and all ‘overrated’ compared to giants of the form like, presumably, Ed Benes or Brian Bendis, and that people who say different are ‘art comics’ snobs.

Now, I like superhero comics. A LOT. I buy a lot of superhero comics, and wouldn’t spend the money I do on them were I not getting some enjoyment out of them. But while I can enjoy something like Trinity on some level, I accept that it is not as good a comic as Alice In Sunderland or Fate Of The Artist or Doonesbury or Calvin & Hobbes or Achewood or Ghost World or Jaka’s Story or Lost Girls. Not only do I not get as much enjoyment out of it as I do out of those things, it is just *not as good* by any critical standard I can think of.

And that’s the thing that makes me a ‘non-fan’ – applying critical standards. It doesn’t matter what they are – it’s the fact that they exist at all that seems to bother some people. The fact that someone can have an actual reason for liking what they like. And it’s not just (or even mostly) comics fans that this bothers. I remember someone on rec.music.beach-boys ten years or so ago used to have a .sig that read “there are *NO* bad Beach Boys songs”.

Really? None? Not ‘Loop De Loop Flip Flop Santa’s Got An Airplane’? Not the cover version of The Times They Are A-Changing where the band keep on shouting stupid comments? Those are precisely as good as God Only Knows, are they?

Of course not – because fandom isn’t about quality. It’s about brand names. Which is why we use the same word to describe people who follow sport teams as we do for people who follow bands, or TV shows, or whatever. I’ve had ‘you’re not a true fan!’ hurled at me by people over and over again, always for the same reasons – I’ve said Keepin’ The Summer Alive is not a very good album, or that nuWho is so different from the show I loved that it’s not something I bother to watch (Jennie gives a very good summary of why that is here ) – in other words I’ve used some discrimination. I’ve liked things because they contain qualities I like, rather than because they have the label ‘Beach Boys’ or ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘JLA’ on them.

So fine – I’m not a ‘true fan’. But I would argue that the ‘true fan’ – the person who praises everything, who takes the slightest criticism as a deathly insult, who thinks that the mere existence of some kind of critical standard is a slap in the face – is the reason for things like Star Trek: Enterprise or Mike Love’s solo album or Countdown or Monty Python’s Spamalot. If you can sell people any old shit so long as it has the brand name on, then there’s no incentive to actually try harder.

And if you’re thinking now that there’s a connection here between this post and Jennie’s recent post on Liberal Conspiracy, that there might be a political meaning here… well, you may think so. I couldn’t possibly comment…

4 Responses

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  1. Bots'wana Beast said, on December 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I’m actually interviewing pillock just now – should be up at the weekend – and, yeah, my position is fannish to the extent I’ll take any decent excuse, be it Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction, JHW3, Quitely, to read corporate-owned superheroes, many of whom I do have an abiding childhood affection for. But yeah, Ed Beans.

  2. Andrew Hickey said, on December 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Looking forward to reading that.
    And I don’t even need a decent excuse – I’ll quite happily read mediocre, competent Superman or Green Lantern or Flash comics. I just won’t pretend they’re anything other than mediocre, and sadly there are very few superhero comics right now that *even* rise to the mediocre…

  3. Jennie said, on December 19, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    * snuggles *

    Thank you for this.

  4. [...] many people in ‘fandom’ (a group of which I emphatically do not count myself a member ) have real trouble with this. If someone points out, say, that in Star Wars how heroic a character [...]


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