Pleasing the Fans

Greg at Comics Should Be Good takes on the question of fan involvement with superhero comics. I’ve read (and said) a lot on the subject myself, but I still found some new content in his remarks.

the sense I get from reading the editorial output of the major publishers is a vague mixture of fear and contempt… as though they think of us collectively as a big stupid animal that might bite them if not kept safely placated. Worse, I think that attitude’s probably deserved in most cases. I think it was Mark Waid that said writing for comics was the only profession where every one of your customers thinks they can do a better job than you. The criticism I see on the net, over and over, is that companies don’t think of the fans, they don’t listen to the fans, they are mean to the fans, they are screwing the fans, they are always doing something awful to the poor fans. Honestly? I think the fans probably had it coming.

He goes on to elaborate on this idea in an unexpected way, pointing out that contrary to fan perception, the companies *are* reacting to fan complaints, because sales spike when people froth.

The first commenter makes a good point, too, mentioning that movies and sports have similarly rabid fans. Is it a coincidence that all three of those fields are stereotypically male-targeted?

Most of the other comments risk becoming a bit too self-congratulatory, of the type “I’m a fan but not like THEM”. It’s hard to analyze or comment on the situation without risking self-loathing or finger-pointing.

15 Responses to “Pleasing the Fans”

  1. aaron dumin Says:

    Sigh… Things were much more civil in the days of letter columns.

  2. Johanna Says:

    You mean back when they edited or made up letters? :)

  3. David Oakes Says:

    Hit the nail right on the head there, Johanna. I mean, it’s not like you ever see rabid fans of “Female Targeted Media” like Soap Operas or Brittany Spears.

    (On a more serious note, outside of Soap Operas and “feeling fresh” commercials, is *any* aspect of Pop Culture that is “Female Targeted”? Even Spears and Cosmo are about trying to make women be the women that men want. It’s pretty easy to say you aren’t abusing your power when you aren’t given any…)

  4. Johanna Says:

    Now you’ve got me wondering… of all the stalkers in movies and TV, how many were male vs. how many are male in real life, roughly?

  5. Lyle Says:

    Unless you count them as soap operas, I’d add romance novels to the list.

  6. Lea Says:

    “it’s not like you ever see rabid fans of “Female Targeted Media” like Soap Operas or Brittany Spears.”

    Hang out in the right places and you will.

  7. aaron dumin Says:

    “You mean back when they edited or made up letters? :) ”

    Yeah. Good times…

  8. David Oakes Says:

    “Now you’ve got me wondering… of all the stalkers in movies and TV, how many were male vs. how many are male in real life, roughly?”

    I think that depends a lot on how we are defining “stalker”, and what era of TV/Movies we are talking about. Is Kitten’s crush on the boy next door or girl’s screaming for Ricky Nelson “stalking” or merely “fandom”? Do you have to go all “Fatal Attraction”, break into their Coneticut house while they are away, or is it just enough to send unwanted gifts or e-mails?

    My first thought, based on nothing but gut, is that there are more female “stalkers”, sending letters professiong love and engaging in rich detailed fantasies of a non-existent relationship. (And even then I would only say 60/40, or at the most 70/30.) However, it’s the male stalkers, more prone to “ownership” fantasies and violence that get mentioned because, well, someone ends up dead. (And note that it isn’t just young actresses who get killed, but also male guitar players blamed for breaking up a favorite band.) Where do we really draw that line between “Secret Admirer” and “Stalker”? Violence is certainly on the far side of the line, but is that where it starts?

    (And of course this is in and of itself a sexist analysis, assuming that women are less likely to make death threats. I certainly wouldn’t bet my life on it.)

  9. Lyle Says:

    Hm, I was presuming that David was being facetious when he said that, you can definitely find rabid fans of “female-targeted media”, I’ve seen it with soaps and romance novels. (Over in soap fandom mentioning the name of producer Jill Faren Phelps is the comic equivalent of starting a discussion on the value of the TMK Legion. There’s a lot of haaaaate directed at her. I’d say she’s the Ron Marz of soaps, but with a longer list of offenses.)

  10. James Schee Says:

    I sometimes wonder if the way fandom has such easy access to one another on the internet has caused the changes.

    I mean used to fans interacting was a rare thing done mainly through letter columns, fanzines and conventions. So like when meeting that friend or relative out of the blue you try to talk about the really good things you’ve been doing, accentuating the positive.

    Now fans can talk to each other on a daily basis, and going “This book is great!” and “Yeah isn’t it?” isn’t quite as interesting as talking about things you don’t like and ‘debating’ the minutia.

    So buying comics that has things a fan doesn’t like, can probably be (at least subconsciously) more entertaining than only buying one they’ll like. Because you might get 5 minutes of enjoyment out of the comic you like, but hours of yelling about one you don’t.

    (Which yes, boils down to fans can be idiots at times, who deserve the scorn tossed at them.)

    Oh and on the other thing. At least the premise I got got from the commercials, never watched the show, of Felicity seemed a bit scary to me. Because if you switched that up with a guy doing what she seemed to be doing, and it would have been looked at very differently I think.

  11. Mickle Says:

    What Lea and Lyle said. Reading about the dust-up at the most recent RWA convention was quite entertaining.

    I think the bigger difference is that female targeted media, like romance novels or soap operas, are less likely to be talked about in the mainstream press the way sports or even comic books are. The fans certainly have opinions, but fewer people in power care about the same things they do (or aren’t ashamed to admit they do), so their opinions are mostly invisible to the rest of the public.

  12. Paul O'Brien Says:

    All fandoms are basically the same. Comics fans are no more rabid or unreasonable than any others. (Which is to say, they ARE rabid and unreasonable, but not to an exceptional degree.) What makes American comics different is that the hardcore fans form a disproportionately large segment of the audience – the casual audience was driven away years ago and is now returning to Japanese comics, not American ones.

    Historically, I think it’s been true for decades that Marvel and DC react to downturns in the industry by focussing excessively on their core audience, which is how we came to this position. They’ve driven everyone else away. DC is trying to get out of the box by expanding into different areas; Marvel does seem to be increasingly guilty of producing superhero comics which frankly aren’t very good, and then blaming the fans for “not getting it”.

  13. David Oakes Says:

    “I’d say [Jill Faren Phelps]’s the Ron Marz of soaps.”

    That’s just…


    I mean…


    OK, OK, I am better now. To even be in a position to make that comparisson, whew. Thanks Lyle, that image is just what I needed.

    Now the question is, who’s the John Byrne of Soaps?

  14. Lyle Says:

    Now the question is, who’s the John Byrne of Soaps?

    I’d like to correct my previous statement. :D Marz’s fans can argue that his GL was commercially successful, while JFP is blamed for putting three of the five shows she’s managed firmly on the road to cancellation (with one eventually dodging that fate). Bryne is blamed for mismanaging long-running franchises more often than Marz.

  15. Joshua Macy Says:

    I’m dubious about the notion that it’s the rabid fans that are causing the current crappy comics, and that if the fans would just shut up and stop being goaded by the publishers into buying comics they hate then the current publishers, editors and writers would straighten out and produce good comics. As I see it, if they’re not producing the best comics they can, it’s all on them.




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