Creator/Fan Interaction

Ah, the topic of whether it’s a good idea for creators and fans to directly interact has once again been raised.

First, Loren at One Diverse Comic Book Nation sets an excellent example. He had some concerns about dialogue that could be interpreted as racist in a Batman comic written by John Ostrander. After spirited discussion on blogs, Loren asked Ostrander directly at his site, which led to greater understanding for all. (Link no longer available.)

I suspect, aside from the direct interaction and Loren’s very polite approach, another important factor was the location. Many creators are more comfortable in venues they own or control, because they know there’s only so much they have to put up with. I don’t blame them — there’s a lot of overreaction in the unregulated net. It’s easier to discuss potentially touchy issues in a space where you feel comfortable. Of course, that depends on the creator and the kind of environment they’ve built, too. Some won’t tolerate alternate viewpoints on inflammatory issues, while others just want to have a place for fun, light-hearted goofing off.

In contrast, at Tangled up in Blue, the poster tackles Chuck Dixon’s hypocrisy. He thinks superhero comics should be suitable for children, and thus they shouldn’t include gay characters or other sexual subjects. This is hard to reconcile with his work, whether it involves unwed teen pregnancy or his odd views on how to prove Connor Hawke is not gay.

I present these rants because they’re funny, but also because they’re a very different kind of communication. They’re not intended to open discussion with the writer or change his mind — they instead want to show others why he’s wrong. They’re entertainment (sometimes along the lines of “I laugh because I dare not cry”), not convincing debate.

Last, there are those cases where everyone, fan or pro alike, would be better served if creators would shut their mouth and get off the net. This time around, it’s Reggie Hudlin (scroll down to comment #4 and following). I know, those of you who’ve been following his history aren’t surprised that he reacts so badly when his writing is criticized, especially his treatment of Storm.

Ragnell does a terrific job responding to his defensiveness.

11 Responses to “Creator/Fan Interaction”

  1. one diverse comic book nation » The Great Black Panther/Storm Debate REDUX Says:

    […] Anybody who is a reader of PopCultureShock, or Ragnell’s Written World or Johanna’s Comics Worth Reading, might have noticed that there is a lively and spirited discussion going on in regards to the republishing of my entry “2006: The Year That Was In Diversity In Comics.” […]

  2. Chad Anderson Says:

    Those rants were funny, but the funniest (I thought) was another quote from Dixon that Tangled Up in Blue points out:

    For the most part, writing the liberal POV is easy whether you’re a liberal or not. Liberals are impassioned and passion is easy to write. Conservatives approach things more practically and seldom speak in slogans or platitudes so they’re views are harder to express in bites.

    What? Not saying both parties aren’t guilty of this, but what?

  3. Gail Says:

    I often feel it’s sort of obnoxious when a creator drops in on a thread about his or her work (I obviously have done it many times myself, too). Just the act of posting can change the tone of a thread considerably, and, I don’t know, it does seem that it’s asking for any negative comments to be reconsidered. It’s a bit disingenuous sometimes. Readers shouldn’t have to clean up their comments because an involved creator might be reading.

    That said, I’m proud of the fact that I never ban, delete, or censor anyone on my own boards. If I myself say something stupid, it gets left there unedited for everyone to mock. It’s a bit of an asspain sometimes but I do think it’s preferable to the creator sites where you get banned or censored for not being appropriately adoring.


  4. Lyle Says:

    Not long after I started participating on Usenet, Deja News came along with its permanent archives of newsgroups. After a little thinking, that got me to apply a rule to my internet communications — when writing about people always presume that someone reading it will forward it to the person you’re discussing. (And in one case, it did turn out that someone was forwarding what I — and a few others — were saying about a couple of comic creators on a private e-mail list to the creators in question.) I try to make sure I don’t write things that would make me uncomfortable if I found out the wrong person read them. Words on the internet are so easily spread and kept.

    I don’t succeed in this rule every time, but I find it’s kept me from saying many things I’d regret later.

  5. Tamora Pierce Says:

    Not being noble like Gail ;-D I have dropped in on threads, but I don’t expect people to go all polite on me and I do expect to debate strongly and be debated strongly. Maybe I should keep to my own zone, except, since I’m new to this and don’t know how big I’ll get as a comics writer, I don’t have a space just for comics fans to talk to me. And I try not to come in insulting the person whose post I’m answering, even when I disagree. The getting vehement part happens only when the other person gets nasty, and I only respond until it’s clear the other person isn’t listening. I’ve learned comics fans are fervent, which is the good and bad of them. It also means debate gets you only so far with some.

    At the same time, I do like talking about work with fans, because I think it’s a way to pick up ideas and explain things that arean’t always as clear as you thought they were. Open discussion is how all of us who like comics enjoy them on another level.

    I thought Loren did a great job for a massive subject, and I’m pathetically grateful he didn’t get around to the hooraw about Tim’s and my writing of Latin heroes! Instead of jumping over one blogger who’s trying to cover all areas of diversity, why doesn’t Hudlin do a 2006 round-up on blacks in comics, and cover the subject to his heart’s content?

  6. Nat Gertler Says:

    Readers shouldn’t have to clean up their comments because an involved creator might be reading.

    Perhaps not, but it’s good for folks to be reminded from time to time that the creators they’re talking about (and they often do address the creator rather than the work) are real people that may exist beyond their insulting suppositions.
    (I’ve been known to be in threads on my work, but not to tell anyone they were wrong not to like it. I’m much more likely to correct facts. The best example that comes to mind was when someone posted about an issue I’d written as being “22 pages of odious nonsense” or somesuch, and my statement was that it was 27 pages.)

  7. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Thanks for directing me to Loren’s post. I’m really glad it had worked out that way, as I had given up hope that reasonable discourse could occur (nothing against the bloggers involved or Ostrander). It was particularly frustrating as I was the guy who posted to Ostrander’s message board, which made things worse for awhile. Signs I need to get back to doing interviews?–one blogger referred to me as a “fan”. Here’s hoping Dirk Deppey updates folks at Journalista, as his blog was the first one to make me aware of the situation and when last he left it “…John Ostrander digs a hole.”

  8. Johanna Says:

    Gail, you bring up a good point. The common criticism of online discussion is “those people say things they wouldn’t say to the creator’s face” — but depending on the group and its location, why should they assume they’re facing that person? Of course people take a different tone when BS’ing with friends (I envision a comfy basement couch) than when they’re presenting in an auditorium, say. There’s a whole bunch of different areas and types of interaction, and there should continue to be.

    And yeah, the unexpected drop-in certainly does change things. Some start fawning, some get more rough (I think in an attempt to demonstrate that they’re not cowed), and some try to treat the creator as another participant, with respect but not deferral. That last one is hard, though, given the other two groups.

    Lyle, excellent rule — there’s always someone forwarding, and the more emotional or personal you are, the more likely they’ll do so. I can’t write if I envision the person I’m writing about reading it, but my long time on Usenet taught me to always be ready to defend my opinions to anyone.

    Tamora, I’ve been very admiring of the way you’ve approached all this. You do seem to be ready to participate as an equal, which is a pleasant throwback to the way things used to be more often.

    I miss those days sometimes, where it was assumed everyone had something valuable to contribute instead of being more “us/them”.

    And yeah, that’s a traditional internet response: if you think something should be done that hasn’t been, well, do it! Don’t start demanding that other people contribute the way YOU think they should.

    Tim, write more!

  9. Tamora Pierce Says:

    >> You do seem to be ready to participate as an equal, which is a pleasant throwback to the way things used to be more a screaming newbie to this side of the comics industry, and I know it–though I like open discussion in the book side of my life, too. I just think it makes for a better overall experience for everyone involved. Plenty of people come away learning something, particularly me, which is the main thing I care about.

    My biggest fear as a creator of any kind is that I’ll go stagnant and end up repeating myself over and over. You see it happen all the time, in all of the arts–someone will reach a certain stage, and stop growing, stop introducing new ideas, stop stretching. S/he’ll just keep repeating her/himself for the rest of her/his career unless a major, transformative shakeup remakes her/him. Talking with other creators, critics, and fans is the best way I know to keep elastic and to keep bringing in new ideas and points of view, which is why screaming at people is so counter-productive. The person you end up hurting is yourself, in the long run.

  10. one diverse comic book nation » THE SHORT STACK: Diversity On The ‘Net - January 4, 2007 Says:

    […] Honestly, what they teaching at Harvard these days? by Ragnell from Written World, Creator/Fan Interaction by Johanna Draper Carlson from Comics Worth Reading and Lost in Translation: Wrapping it up by Chris Boyd from Paperghost – All three of these entries are really about creator/fan interaction. Johanna looks at three different moments of recent interaction. She sites my own interaction with John Ostrander and how we were able to have a civil conversation that came to some sort of resolution in the end. She also talks about how some bloggers have chosen to interact through pithy or witty venting on their blogs, such as Mary Borselino did about Chuck Dixon. And, then she talks about how some creators can get on the defensive when criticized, such as Reginald Hudlin. Ragnell writes a fantastic open letter addressing Hudlin’s defensiveness. Chris talks about how his blog was made for “shoot from the lip” blogging as a way of expressing himself and that his interest wasn’t in finding resolution, per say, with John Ostrander, but letting off his own steam. I know that I’ve gotten several comments and e-mails from people thanking me for taking the high road with some of the creators I’ve recently dealt with, but I chose these entries because I also want to say that, while I choose to find dialogue, I think every blog has its own voice. If people want to vent or rant or do whatever, there’s room for all of it. We blog about our passions and that’s what is important in the long run. Every movement is defined by contributions from those who take more cooperative approaches and those who bring strong and unmovable voices. That’s what makes the blogosphere so great. […]

  11. Gail Says:

    “Not being noble like Gail ;-D”



    Tammy, I’ve done every stupid thing, every amateur mistake there is on the net, usually many, many times.

    I just regret it sometimes afterward. :)

    And thank you again for the lovely book!





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