[Game On.]

Note: I've written several things since it, but consider this blog a direct follow-up to Game Over.

...

I hate hypocrisy. I suppose that's nothing original to me, but it bears mentioning, because it's one of the most consistent and important parts of my life. And since what I'm about to say may be construed by some as hypocritical, I've taken a lot of time to figure out how to say it, and while I might not have nailed it, hopefully I'll have done at least my best to convey why I don't see myself as a hypocrite -- that the possibility of me being called one weighed into my decision to say it anyway.

If I ever pursue a course of action which is inconsistent with something I've said (particularly something I've published), I strive to make sure that it's a matter of progress rather than regress, that where I'm going is a step forward from where I've been rather than a setback to a prior position.

Over the last few days I have had some very choice words to say about Marvel. Actually, I've had such words for them for a long time, but those words in particular were a bit more concrete. Their implications, resounding. And they weren't, as I recently pointed out, the first of even their kind; I'd approached swearing off Marvel before on abuse terms and then promptly regretted it.

This time, I'd like to say the difference was my fervor, but it wasn't. No, the real difference was audience, and in particular solidarity: my post accomplished more than establishing my ire with the company; it established the commonality of the brutal Marvel experience. In the mouth of a guy who has barely been reading comics for four months, folks who've spent their whole lives reading comics found their own feelings put into words.

I suppose one might argue that in a way, me choosing to read Marvel comics after all -- and especially any time soon -- would undermine all that. But I think the opposite may be true. I think by uncovering how widespread this issue is, and getting so many people to say "good point, you're right," I discovered something which legitimately needs to be addressed and resolved, something which could only ever be changed from within, with a strong voice that is informed enough to know what it's talking about, with firsthand knowledge to lend specificity to its claims.

What I realized, in a roundabout way, is that Marvel fans needed a voice like mine speaking out on their behalf more than they need me to boycott the books -- books which, ironically, many who agreed with and supported my own declaration still plan to buy and read themselves. If they can agree with what I said and still justify buying Marvel comics, why can't I?

I knew going back to Marvel was a possibility for me. And that is why I left a very clear backdoor within the words of my declaration: the countdown/continue analogy was more than mere metaphor; it was the acknowledgement that I hadn't committed permanently to the end of this "game."

Who among us has not said, in various ways, "I hate this game," "screw this, I'm done," "this game sucks," when confronting a difficult or unfair opponent, only to a moment later overcome the challenge after trying again in spite of ourselves, and perhaps even recommend the game to a friend? It happens in games. It happens throughout life. As one commenter noted, doing things which piss us off is hardly unique to the process of selecting comics. Why should coping with that be okay everywhere else, but not here?

I have allowed myself to be an emotional victim in my relationship with Marvel pretty much since the beginning. And the thing I finally realized is, if I'm going to be miserable pining after the books I'm not reading, then my boycott hasn't changed anything for me, because Marvel still has the power to make me feel unhappy, even when I'm ostensibly asserting myself. And that is just stupid.

So today, I'm putting in my final two quarters. I've read the strategy guides, and I have a better idea of the trials and tricks this particular game involves. I think I may be able to beat this game, but as with anything in comics, that's a long-haul proposition, because it's going to take a lot of time, and it's going to take a lot of support. But I think if there really are people out there who are tired of being abused by Marvel, and still love Marvel characters, they can be rallied together. Their voice can be heard. They can make companies like this (I haven't forgotten my DC friends) listen, but it won't happen through individual boycotts or laughably-unsupported petitions.

I'm not saying I'm a leader. I'm still quite wet behind the ears. But clearly I'm onto something which people can get behind. And none of us want Marvel to die. We just want Marvel to be better, to lead better. They depend on their fans for survival. I say it's about time those fans began discussing a way to exploit that and make something happen. And I want to be part of that. Which means I want to be able to be, and stay, a fan, throwing full weight behind the good Marvel does and turning my rants up to eleven when discussing the bad Marvel does.

So many people claim to have been inspired by comics, to be better people because of them and their community. If today's comics are failing to provide that kind of inspiration or hope, we shouldn't quietly cancel our pull lists or curse about it to ourselves on message boards and irrelevant blogs. We should find more effective channels to amplify our opinions and DEMAND something better.

As Dan Slott, the man who continues to find new ways to kill Peter Parker, boldly declares all over his social media, "haters gonna hate." If that's all we can do -- be predictably angry, but little else -- then maybe his smugness is justified. But even if a guy like Dennis Hopeless mocks it, we do have power. Fan outrage DID get Gail Simone her job back. But only because that outrage gained traction, and made itself indisputably known.

I'll be honest. I don't know what sort of channels I expect to find, or how much support I can actually rally. I don't know if I can convince people to drop books they might enjoy for a greater good -- though that hasn't stopped me from trying before. I don't know what "winning" looks like because, like I said, I'm new to this -- but the fact that I'm new and said something right away and had old-timers respond "finally, someone gets this" suggests that my newness isn't going to preclude doing something useful.

If nothing else, I have never felt so strongly about something and then just let it go away. I will find a way to win this "game" if such a way exists. And if one doesn't, and I find myself beaten back down to the Game Over screen?

Well, like I said, I'm using my last quarters. There's no back door this time.

Thanks to everyone who has responded to me in the last week, regardless of what side of the aisle you were on. I hope those who supported me are able to still do so; if not, I understand. Meantime?

Game on.

18 Comments
18 Comments
Posted by evilvegeta74

Honest post! Thumbs up!

Edited by Ravager4

Well that didn't last long.

Posted by akbogert

@evilvegeta74: I appreciate it. I know I'll be bothering some people, but as you note, I am simply trying to be honest.

@ravager4 said:

Well that didn't last long.

It was indeed a short chapter. But I'll strive to emphasize that I've moved on to a new chapter, not gone back to the one before it.

And there will definitely be changes in my behavior/writing about them, make no mistake.

Posted by Ravager4

@akbogert: My question then is whether or not you care what happens to X-23 in that book I won't mention by title anymore. As you've already put it, no matter what the outcome, her character is pretty much ruined for at least a good while, unless something truly mind blowing happens at the end. But since you're so sure that you favorite character is going to be destroyed, why move on so quickly unless whatever happens to her won't affect you? Doesn't make sense to put in your last two quarters this early, if once that book ends and Laura is ruined you'll be taking them out again.

Posted by evilvegeta74

@akbogert said:

@evilvegeta74: I appreciate it. I know I'll be bothering some people, but as you note, I am simply trying to be honest.

@ravager4 said:

Well that didn't last long.

It was indeed a short chapter. But I'll strive to emphasize that I've moved on to a new chapter, not gone back to the one before it.

And there will definitely be changes in my behavior/writing about them, make no mistake.

And you did a great job at it!

Edited by akbogert

@ravager4: Like you point out, I have already come to grips with Laura's loss. She's already dead in my mind -- not in an ongoing series.

The fact that I've identified that truth and still have a desire to read suggests that no, it doesn't affect me as strongly as I expected it to. I think it's perfectly fair to question how or why that's true, but insomuch as it is true, there's no sense pretending otherwise.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

It doesn't matter how much people complain, how many petitions or twitter rants type up, in the end if you give it money it will grow and it will spread.

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Edited by Ravager4

@akbogert: Well, I guess I go back to being the lonely, character-attached extremist again. Maybe it's because I'm a writer that characters mean so much to me, I don't know... but either way, when someone kicks shit in my face, I don't generally keep coming back for more, especially when I know they'll happily do it again.

@jonny_anonymous: Yeah, that's the thing. It doesn't matter what you say or how you feel. If you keep giving a company money, they'll keep doing the same thing. In the end it's all about the money for them. You'r deluding yourself if you think that if you speak up enough, things will change. The Simone thing was a rare exception, not even close to the rule, and there were things going on there behind the scenes that we don't know about. Big companies like that, Marvel as the prime example, do not care what you think, so long as they make money.

Take Peter Parker for example... I believe it was Slott who was joking about how, after SSM #9 came out, his days were numbered, and made light of how much it was going to piss fans off. Neither he nor Marvel cares about that. At all. People are buying it, so they're gonna continue to keep pissing in your oatmeal, all with a big grin on their faces while doing it.

Posted by akbogert

@ravager4: Understandable. This isn't the first time you and I haven't seen eye to eye on things, and I'm sure it won't be the last. If you can be happy without Marvel in your life, then I'm happy for you. But after a couple days it became pretty clear to me that I was still going to be angry, I was still going to be upset, and because I already cared for a lot of Marvel characters, my boycotting the company wouldn't save me from pain when I found out what happened to them. I'd only be shielding myself from the good. The bad's going to get through regardless.

There's no way for me to stay in a vibrant comic community, getting daily news and updates and discussions about Marvel characters and stories, and not become bitter and resentful. And I don't want that, not if I can help it. At least staying a reader keeps me in the loop of the uplifting stuff the company does.

@jonny_anonymous said:

It doesn't matter how much people complain, how many petitions or twitter rants type up, in the end if you give it money it will grow and it will spread.

That is quite true. The question, really, is the antecedent to "it."

Posted by Ravager4

@akbogert: *shrug* and I get that, to an extent. Was just nice knowing I wasn't the only one of that particular mindset, and wasn't overreacting. While it lasted, anyway. I just hope that whatever "good" you find isn't eventually ruined like so much before it... even if that seems likely.

Edited by akbogert

@ravager4 said:

@akbogert: *shrug* and I get that, to an extent. Was just nice knowing I wasn't the only one of that particular mindset, and wasn't overreacting. While it lasted, anyway. I just hope that whatever "good" you find isn't eventually ruined like so much before it... even if that seems likely.

It does indeed. On the other hand I suppose I'm going to be trying not to get as attached as I let myself be before... and the loss of passion is definitely unfortunate. I liked being able to invest myself completely in characters. So while on the one hand I have less to lose, on the other I have less, period.

And honestly, I feel like it should bother Marvel to know that there are people who have strongly negative feelings about them that are/used to be big fans, and that the reason for the negativity is because they are fans. "Haters gonna hate," but I'd say what you have here is more a case of lovers being made to hate against their will. I know you said earlier you think it's delusional, and in the interest of honesty it could be. I have faith enough in myself that I will realize that's the case if it really is the case (hence the "If nothing else..." paragraph). But I'd rather have hope that things could be better, and at least give it a try, before truly throwing in the towel on something that has managed to deeply affect me even in so short a period of time.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for redemption stories.

Posted by Ravager4

@akbogert: I've had my hopes crushed too many times already *takes shot* sigh... I figured out a long time ago that these companies aren't going to redeem themselves (If they were going to, OMD would have been retconned by now, for example). But that's me. It's almost nostalgic seeing someone like yourself trying to hold on to what little hope they have left. Reminds me of me a year or two ago.

Posted by akbogert

@ravager4: I suppose time will tell, my friend.

Meantime, next round's on me.

Posted by Pyrogram

You know. A part of me, a little part of me, thinks this has no point to arguing and people are taking this too seriously, forgetting its only a comic. But then, This is all pretty fun, aint it, something good as happened out of all this crap writing! Nice blog!

Posted by Saren

Comic book fans have varying degrees of agency regarding things like this ---- and most of the time, it's not a very promising degree of agency. Marvel's Editor-In-Chief, for instance, has gone on record as stating that most of the unpopular decisions that fans complain about are still around because people are willing to pay money to read more material in that vein ---- basically, if you don't like it, don't buy it, but since sales are good enough despite the complaints, you must like it, right? But the thing about that kind of logic is that it doesn't work with all characters. Characters like Spider-Man and Batman are always going to enjoy sales that are far more solid in comparison to characters like, say, Moon Knight and Green Arrow, because they're extremely popular characters with large enough fanbases to ensure that sales will be decent even if a fairly sizable portion of readers stop reading. Dan Slott's smugness isn't so much the result of readers being fans of his writing, it's mostly because of the ridiculous disproportionate number of readers who are fans of Spider-Man and will follow him through thick and thin even if the writer turns him into a murdering jerkwad. It gives him a sense of security that most writers don't have. Gail Simone's case is slightly unique in that her fanbase has an extremely prominent online presence compared to most writers', and she had the support of numerous other writers from all over the industry who sided with her and publicly stated that they thought firing her was a stupid decision----- and additionally, I believe there were some backdoor DC politics involved as well.

Hopeless isn't as lucky as Slott or Simone. He doesn't have the security of writing a top-tier character --- with the exception of maybe X-23 thanks to her association with Wolverine and the X-Men, all the characters he's writing are culled from various titles like Runaways and Avengers Academy that have never been exceptionally popular, so the size of the fanbase isn't as big a factor. He's nowhere near as popular or well known as Simone is, either. So I suppose fan outrage could affect the title if editorial isn't firmly set on seeing it through no matter what. It's been advertised from day one as something that was going to have fans of these characters howling, so they simply might not care seeing as it seems the reactions are expected. I honestly wouldn't know what channels you could follow on this, because I've never done anything like this before. If I really hate a title or sense that it's going to be something I really hate, I just drop it then and there. I stopped reading Avengers Arena after Arcade blew up Mettle in the first issue ------ preferred not to see Hazmat and Finesse meet similarly pointless ends (is Finesse even in AA? Can't remember).

As for redemption stories ---- those titles that I dislike but don't completely hate, I hold on to for redemption. Stormwatch is pretty much the best example from the new 52. It took characters that I loved and butchered them beyond belief, and I was immensely frustrated at how badly Milligan was writing them. But I kept reading just to catch glimpses here and there of the characters I used to love, and it's sort of paid off now: DC finally realized what a trainwreck the title was, and gave it to Jim Starlin (someone whose writing is practically the industry standard for cosmic space adventures and the like) to reboot completely. Starlin's first two issues have been more engaging for me than the last 18 issues before it that Milligan and Cornell wrote. Same goes for Detective Comics; it started out boring as hell, but I kept reading and now it's in the very capable hands of John Layman.

I am still waiting for someone to kick Levitz and Nocenti of World's Finest and Catwoman respectively, however.

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Posted by TheAcidSkull

@citizenbane: well what you say is true, but The fans are also the problem in this case, because of their love for the character, they won't be able to stop buying the title, meaning it won't get canceled. i believe that if one truly loves a character they must be able to stop when needed to, even if it means missing out on whats happening.

And thats really irresponsible on both marvels and Dc's part too, they think about money, which for a company is fine, but when they completely ignore the fans and do whatever the hell they want , it's not only arrogant but idiotic just look at spider-man? as you said slott is using the fact that peter has a lot of fans to his advantage. sometimes i think there are only few who actually wants fans to be happy , like waid.

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Edited by akbogert

@citizenbane: Thanks for the input. I think you're quite right -- there are some situations which truly are hopeless, those "too big to fail" situations. Spider-Man may have a large devoted fanbase but he's got so many casual readers following him that it's unlikely that Marvel's decisions there will ever be undone by a protest. All that means to me is, sadly, I'll never get into Spider-Man, because he's too much of an emotional trap. Heck, even the Ultimate universe (which was my first exposure to Parker) wasn't safe for him, and that arguably has a smaller following.

You've brought up the best reasons for and against having optimism when it comes to Arena. Marvel's callousness seems particularly shocking. So the question becomes "what level of backlash did they anticipate, and is there a point we can take the outrage to where it will make them finally say fine, we'll back down?" One of the biggest problems for that series is that while there are a ton of angry people, there's no unified voice or direction. There were petitions here and there, a lot of angry blogs and letters, but it was all over the place and unconcerted. Many people were selfish (this was something I pointed out in my first CV blog, the one about not remaining silent) and basically said they were okay with the book as long as their favorite lived -- which means that a lot of people who could have rallied together and flat-out refused the series ended up fighting with each other instead.

So I'm not sure whether any protest could work to end that book, but I know for a fact it won't happen unless everyone with any stake in those characters works together and doesn't include a caveat in their denunciation of the book. Add to this the fans of the characters who have been willing to buy the book anyway (all the while -- and this blows my mind -- saying I was right and they too were upset), and you have a really crude justification for Marvel's behavior. They've found a way to not just touch a nerve but actively torture it, and get people to put up with it anyway.

Anyhow, best of luck seeing your favorites redeemed. I haven't heard anything good about Nocenti's Catwoman so I'm guessing that's your best shot :)

And P.S., Finesse isn't, but Reptil is.

Edited by Auralaria

This also reminds me of something sociology taught me. About rallying. But I locked mu notebook in a box for the time being, and I'll have to find it.