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Notes From Higher Ground:
Brother Geek Comes Home By Christian A. Dumais
Brother Geek Monroe calls me from the airport between flights. Iím not home for this; Iím out preparing for his arrival by purchasing massive amounts of alcohol, so I'm greeted with four messages on my voicemail when I return.
Hereís the first one transcribed:
ďI just finished reading all of the new Captain America comics. I donít know if you know this or notĖitís crap. Sure, itís sugar-coated crap because of Cassadayís art, but itís crap just the same. I hate Cassaday because he fooled me into thinking itís good. The storyís so contrived, so cold, itís the antithesis to Marville. Whereas Marville tried too hard to be funny, Captain Americaís trying too hard to be serious. Itís like watching Dolph Lundgren doing MacBeth. It should be illegal for Cassaday to do anything else until Planetary is finished anyway.Ē (Incoherent mumbling) ďI think I want to die. I want to burn every American flag I see just so I don't have to relive the pain. It's Captain America for Christ's sakes! How can you screw up Cap? Good god, this book makes me hate this country! And another thing, if I see one moĖOh, I have to go. Bye.Ē
Brother is coming back from college for the holidays. I have to adjust my settings because his messages are a glimpse at the kind of conversations Iím going to be trapped in for a while. Not that it bothers me; itís just been too long since Iíve been in the geek mindset. Iím a geek. I want to say that I was a geek, but thatís simply not true. Once a geek, always a geek. Iíve learned to keep it minimal though; like herpes, I suppress it. Get a few drinks in me though, I can alienate an entire bar in less than an hour.
The way she moves the hair away from her face is sexy, like her dark eyes and lips. Sheís drinking the beer I bought her, even when she takes a sip, her eyes never move away from me. I make her laugh in the first five minutes; an honest laugh that tells me that sheís coming home with me tonight.
We take care of the mundane basics first, like where we live and what we do for a living, just to get a sense of grounding.
ďAnd thatís what I do,Ē I said.
ďSounds exciting,Ē she said with interest.
ďNo, itís really not.Ē
She pauses. ďI think when it comes down to it, no oneís job is terribly exciting.Ē
And out of nowhere, I blurted out, ďWell, unless youíre Batman!Ē Iím not finished saying the sentence, my mind is screaming, ďYOU FOOL!Ē
She gives me that quiet smile that geeks know so well, and her eyes start to move around the room.
The thing is, outside of the debauchery, Iím really not looking forward to Brotherís visit. Thereís been an unnecessary ingredient added to his personality of late. And itís not just him. Iím seeing it in the other geeks. Iím seeing it in the geeks scrounging the dumpsters for food and shelter; the ones talking to themselves in the subways; the ones selling themselves on the corner for rolled pennies just so they can afford another Marvel comic book.
The geeks are turning angry.
Hereís the third message:
ďChristian, you there? Where you at, man? AnywayÖwhatís with all these late books? The industryís the best itís ever been and no one can keep a schedule to save their lives. I donít get it, man. Look at Byrne write, despite his slow descent into madness, he knows how to keep a deadline. And Perez, heís been in the industry for eighty years now and he still understands how to put the work out there on time. But these new guys, man, I donít know. Theyíve no right to be drawing if they canít get their book in my hands when I expect it. And these writersĖwhatever. Thereís Ellis who knows how to write a hundred books a month except the one you actually want to read. Itís like heís playing a trick on us or something. I donít knowÖthere just used to be a time when there was such a thing as dependability. There used to be a time when it was about we wanted, not what they needed.Ē
Being a geeks not as fun as it used to be, not in these strange times. Itís lost its magical edge; what once felt like Pearl Jam feels like John Tesh. What happened? Where did it all go wrong?
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Thereíre lots of theories. Geeks are quick to point to the Nineties when the comic book industry fell into a severe coma. The decade started on a high note; there was rebellion and a movement. Comic book artists were on talk shows and commercials even. They became superstars. It was a fun time for the geeks. The next thing we know, theyíre killing off our heroes. And if they couldnít kill them, they crippled them...or even worse, they cloned them. It was enough to make the mainstream media take notice if only for a week or two. Strangers began to populate the comic book stores; pretenders who claimed theyíve been fans for years in the underground waiting patiently for the revolution to come. And when you pressed them on it, they acted like Jesus from that stupid footprints story, ďSon, Iíve been with you all along.Ē When the industry started to collapse under the weight of foiled-perforated-fold-out-gold-plated-now-with-velcro-chia-scratch-and-sniff-glow-in-the-dark-made-with-anything-but-paper-three-times-the-price-hologram-covers, people were fleeing faster than Ron Jeremy at a seminar on abstinence.
Most of the geeks sort of dispersed in the latter years of the Nineties. I was one of them. There was too much redundancy and I realized I was at my comic shop every Wednesday out of habit, not enjoyment. People like Brother kept at it though. They remained faithful, sat next to the industry and held its hand, talked to it, and prayed that one day it would wake up again. And did it ever.
The only problem is that when the industry did wake from its coma, the geeks could no longer recognize it. You see, thatís the part I missed; the transitional period of adjustment. By the time I came back, I assumed it was me, not the industry that changed.
The fact of the matter is, the industry is trying to evolve with a hardcore audience that refuses to. The geeks have become an audience of ungrateful bastards. And since itís nearly impossible to excite a reader into buying a book these days, the industryís philosophy shifted: If we canít excite the reader, letís piss him off instead.
The marketing of comic books these days are handled in a manner of contempt. Itís using negative karma to create even more negative karma. Donít believe me? Read the message boards. And if thereís nothing regarding a story to complain about, watch the posters turn on one another.
Hereís the deal, and this is something I tell Brother when he arrives around midnight. By this time, Iíve had a few White Russians and Iíve had a lot of time to think all of this through. We should be mad at so many other things, not comic books. Comic books are supposed to be fun, right? Despite all of the nonsense, they still are. But have you read the newspaper recently? Watched the news? The worldís gone mad. Priests are raping children. Mad dictators are running rampant. A billionaire living in a cave is trying to destroy America. Crazy people who claim to hang out with aliens are claiming to be making clones. Pop singers are dangling babies off balconies. Anthrax. A man-child President whoís been slowly taking away your civil rights, who makes the midget from Twin Peaks sound surprisingly articulate, wants to attack any country that so much looks at him funny (ďDid France just wink at me?Ē) while creating a missile defense system that may as well be the Death Star in how ridiculous it is. Thereís actually an Axis of Evil. Can you grasp that? An Axis of Evil! Iím pretty sure thatís worse than a Legion of Doom.
The world turned into a bad science fiction movie with everything but James Spader.
I tell all this to Brother after he gives me a speech about how Bill Jemas is the anti-Christ.
ďDo you understand what Iím getting at, Brother?Ē
Brother slammed his beer down on the bar, nodding his head slowly, and he said, ďI canít believe Rawhide Kidís gay! What the fuckís up with that, man?Ē
Geeks know anger; itís the feeling thatís replaced the magic they canít seem to recapture. We are acting like junkies trying to experience that first high. The industry knows this and theyíre using it against you. Itís almost as if the companies want to disown the fans so it can move on to a better clique. Maybe they need to. Maybe itíll be doing us a favor more than them. It might give us a reason to move on and focus on whatís really important in this world besides myths.
Either way, one thing seems to be perfectly clear in all of this: The industry knows its enemy, and it appears to be us.
Christian A. Dumais is a writer and editor in Tampa, FL. His work can be seen sporadically in TooSquare Magazine, Weekly Planet and various other publications; and every week at his website, www.legionstudios.com. Heís convinced his life would make a fascinating sequel. When he isnít writing, Christian is usually drinking and making a complete ass out of himself in public places.