By John Byrne
Do you know this guy?
He calls himself a comicbook fan, but he is highly suspicious of any title that appears outside the genre, usually superheroes, with which he is most enamoured.
He claims to be a superfan and expert on some characters, yet knows nothing of their history or continuity before he started reading the book(s).
Despite the above, he will argue long and hard, one might say obsessively, about story or character points he thinks are vital and indispensable, yet with no real awareness of their context in the full tapestry of the character or title.
He complains loudly about how "boring and predictable" stories have become, yet does nothing to avoid sources from which he can find out vital story points months in advance of publication. In fact, he actively seeks out these sources, in order to remain "in the know".
Being "in the know" is vital to his self-proclaimed position as an expert, and he will seize upon and repeat any wisp of gossip he can find, the better to display his "insider" status.
While complaining about the "boring and predictable" nature of comics, he will state flatly that any change would be an improvement, yet he will howl like a scalded cat if a change is not exactly what he thinks it should be.
He considers comics to be his private preserve, and anything that alters the status quo must appeal to him, and solely to him, and the needs and/or tastes of others (especially others closer to the target audience) are of no consequence. (See the next Point.)
He thinks superhero comics, created as juvenile fiction in the mold of Tom Swift and Nancy Drew, should address "adult" issues on a constant basis. He has "grown up", so they should too. He finds the sex lives of the characters fascinating, for instance, and feels the books would be greatly improved if more of this activity occurred "on camera."
In step with the above, when meeting artists at Conventions, he will ask for nude drawings of his favorite female characters. Often in compromising positions.
And as long as the stories are "grown up," the characters should be. He will insist that aging the characters is important to their "growth," though as with Point One, he really means only since he started reading. He is, after all, the same guy who will say that Superman is "dull" and, at scarcely more than 30 (comicbook time) "too old." He will insist that Peter Parker should be "at least" 26, while sidestepping the fact that the aging-in-real-time he thinks is so important would make Parker well past 50!
He bides his time, waiting to see how others react to a new title or talent, so that he can state his own "opinion," the opposite of the prevailing view.
Listening to him hold forth on the state of comics, the characters, the talent, the stories, the whole state of the superhero genre, you might walk away thinking "And this guy says he likes comics??"
Have you seen this guy?
Sure you have. Throw a stick in your average comic shop, and you'll hit six of him.
The problem arises if you see him in your mirror. . . .