The Summer of the Fanboy

Is it just me, or have we fanboys finally become the cool kids?

Marvel’s The Avengers has become one of the most popular movies of all time, joining the upper echelon of pop culture phenomenon like Star Wars,  Titanic, and Harry Potter in terms of worldwide contemporary appeal.  Batman has already been fused into our social DNA with The Dark Knight, and stands poised to do so again with July’s The Dark Knight Rises. Even Spiderman is getting a hip new update as well with The Amazing Spiderman and its sexier cast and dubstep music in the trailer. It’s been building to this for years now, as comics companies vie for the right to have their iconic characters included in moviegoers minds when they recall their favorite films. It’s uncanny how much the mainstream audience has gravitated towards comics culture and superheroes in particular, especially in the form of their film exploits. But, hey, we could have told you how awesome this stuff was a long time ago. And we tried. You just didn’t listen until the billion dollar blockbusters came along and you realized these stories are not just for kids; they are for everyone.

I don’t mean to sound like the  douchebag hipster comics geek proclaiming “I liked Avengers before it was cool”. Of course I liked it before it became a box office behemoth, but I only graced this world with my existence back in 1982, so unless you were one of the first to pick up a copy of Avengers #1 back in the ’60’s , hold your misplaced pride and be thankful. Thankful that when you buy some new comics on Wednesdays, you don’t have to keep them to yourself in order to avoid that glazed over, disinterested look in your girlfriend’s eye. She knows who Thor is now, and where he comes from. She knows that only He Who Is Worthy may lift the hammer.

That may not be a foreign concept to some of the younger fanboys and girls out there, but to those of us who have lived the majority of our geeky little lives sharing our passion with only a default group of a few other social outcasts, it’s kind of a big deal. Meeting on weekends, swapping Marvel trading cards, memorizing the intricacies of the comics universes through whatever second-hand comics my older brother blessed me with; those were the ways of a young fanboy, who can only dream of the day that these characters come to life on the silver screen. To attempt to engage a random stranger, much less a real live girl, in a conversation about Thor and Asgard was tantamount to social Russian roulette. There just wasn’t a demand for comics and superheroes in movies, and obviously in modern society it doesn’t warrant the public’s attention unless there’s a movie about it. Sure, there was Tim Burton’s Batman, but Marvel’s only big release until 1998’s Blade was Howard the Duck. Yeah, like I said above: Be thankful.

It’s always a good thing to bring people closer together through art and shared culture. As liberal-hippie as it may sound, it’s the truth. The Prime Directive in Star Trek is still a valid approach to life, despite its origin in science fiction. The Jedi Code is a bit of a Buddhist-rip-off, but it does promote inner and outer peace. These are concepts that ironically, kept me grounded as a child. The X-Men taught me about the importance of peace and acceptance of differences long before I was exposed to the real world’s racism and sometimes violent intolerance. Silly as it sounds, I do dream of a future much like Professor Xavier(even if I sometimes would like to invoke totalitarian peace like Magneto).Fast-forward through the Extreme Comics Craze of the 90’s, all the way to the summer of 2012. In theaters we have The Avengers, exposing the world to our lifelong fictional friends from all over the Marvel U. In a few short weeks we will get another vision for The Amazing Spiderman, and the completion of what could be the greatest trilogy of all time, when Batman’s legend ends in The Dark Knight Rises. The current anti-corporate greed movement across the world will be echoed to some degree in the final Bat-flick, so there’s some social relevance there. In the comics realm we have the Avengers vs X-Men super-event selling out and the sales are probably boosted by the Avengers film’s success. Recent announcements about gay characters in both Marvel and DC have gotten a bunch of religious nutjobs in a frenzy, as if that’s not a tired cliche, and that speaks to the fact that comics culture is becoming more relevant in popular culture and society as a whole. Remember when heavy metal was being targeted for kids doing stupid things? Then it was rap music. Then video games. All have gone on to become staples of life in the first world, an even in some second- and third-world regions. We should accept that we are no longer the social outcasts we once were. And the younger folks can be glad that they were born into a world in which these silly barriers and stigmas are less pervasive.

Of course science fiction/fantasy entertainment have been around for a very long time. And comic books have been through varying degrees of popularity since they became a thing in the early 20th century. But it really does seem like the stigma is being lifted before our very eyes. Call it a perfect storm of smart adaptations, trials and errors, advancements in special effects, and a gradual introduction to the culture over the course of decades. Some truly talented filmmakers have stepped up to work with some amazing casts, and minus the critically-panned Ghost Rider, 2012 seems to be shaping up into the best year ever for our beloved heroes as Batman, Spiderman, Judge Dredd, and the Men in Black all leap from the pages of comics. Science fiction/fantasy in a broader sense is also in full swing this year, as Prometheus and The Hobbit are poised to make a big box office splash as well. This is relevant because, as we all know, science fiction is often a precursor to science fact.

Science fiction and fantasy are often mirrors to ourselves and society, should we choose to use them. Heroism isn’t something found often enough in real life, and concepts beyond our own limited perception can be few and far between. I think it’s safe to say that the world could benefit from some deeper shared experiences, and as we fanboys well know, there’s plenty of that in our culture. We may get on message boards to bitch and moan about the details of our favorite fare, but we do in fact come together to do so.

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  • Steve Lemlek

    I absolutely agree with you, but i can’t help but fear the inevitable swarm of ‘youve probably never heard of them’ hipster who’ll storm the medium as their next thing to ruin

  • http://Bodyofageekgoddess.blogspot.com Tracey

    Great article, but can we please stop perpetuating the myth that women have no interest in comics? It might be true of your girlfriend – obviously it’s true iPod some – but it isn’t true of all of them. I once dated a guy who hadn’t even seen Star Wars (I know, I know, my bad) – does that mean men don’t like scifi?

    The whole ‘Avengers are so famous even your girlfriend knows who they are’ thing is a little insulting to the legion of female fans who have long read comics. For some of us it’s not just about the flashy movie and the hot guys* – we’ve been at this party all along.

    *not gonna lie, the hot guys are totally welcome. But still.

    • http://Bodyofageekgoddess.blogspot.com Tracey

      Um, *of some*. stupid iPad autocorrect.

  • Dane

    Tracey, I was speaking to the average experience. I have known many many male comics geeks in my time, and very few female. Insulting? They can get online and tell me so themselves, but alas there just aren’t enough that care to do so. You’re taking a stand on an ideal, and I appreciate that, but I was commenting on the way things actually are for most comics fans. And I did qualify the entire premise with “fanboys and girls”.

  • http://bodyofageekgoddess.blogspot.com Tracey

    Dane, I do appreciate that you qualified it: as I said, I thought it was a great article. But I also think you have to appreciate that the casual suggestion that women aren’t interested in comics / scifi etc is exactly what stops so many women engaging in the dicussion: they feel excluded from the outset, and many don’t feel comfortable trying to stick up for themselves in online forums (I know that UTF wouldn’t tolerate trolling, but I have seen, on many occasions, female fans derided for not being knowledgeable enough/the right kind of fan/being too touchy about sexism). If comics are set up as something ‘not for women’/’your girlfriend wouldn’t be interested until it’s a smash hit movie’ I think that sends a message of exclusion. I know that when I started writing in a way that specifically targeted female fans, I was met with a deluge of enthusiasm from ‘non-typical’ geeks, women who felt they weren’t welcome on a lot of sites.

    Thank you, though, for taking the time to reply to my comment.
    T

  • Dane

    Tracey, I am sorry if you felt like my example narrative is the sole cause of women not being into comics and getting into online communities. But, while I think that there should be an industry-wide attempt to create content and market more toward women, I refuse to even vaguely be suggested as a sexist person, perpetuating a sterotype simply by using a specific but easily-relatable anecdote to make my point. I would say stop making excuses for women who don’t want to commit to spouting their opinions in forums the way boys do. Never once have I seen a girl picked on or excluded simply for being a girl. In fact they are usually treated with more respect than most of us give one another

  • Dane

    Tracey, it seems like you were insulted, or at least insulted in represntation for female genre fans, and I was insulted by the insinuation that I was partly responsible for female fans feeling unwelcome. I would think there is a disconnect in our perspective(other than the obvious) and that dare I say, we may both be somewhat wrong and somewhat right. Maybe we can bridge that divide by writing a dual-perspective article, or a point/counterpoint discussion.

  • http://Bodyofageekgoddess.blogspot.com Tracey

    Dane, I apologise if you felt I was accusing you of being sexist; in no way was that my intention. Nor was I insulted by what I have said, several times, I thought was a grea piece, I simply meant to point out that it’s very easy to make a throwaway remark about what is your experience, and clearly the experience of some comics fans, and extrapolating that into something wider. While obviously I am not saying your piece is responsible for the exclusion of female fans, I do think – and, of course, you are welcome to disagree with me – that the cumulative effect of these generalisations is that women feel excluded from these kind of discussions and forums. I don’t think it’s a question of either one of us being wrong or right, more that these points do deserve open and occasionally robust discussion – as we are doing! So thanks for engaging, and, as I would stress, I wasn’t trying to imply you were being sexist, just that perhaps you hadn’t realised how one remark, how ever light heartedly you meant it, could be interpreted.

    T

  • Dane

    Thank you for clarifying Tracey. You did say that comments like that are “exactly what stops women from engaging in the discussion”. I would think that’s a bit of a stretch, as well as a casually-used generalization on your part. So, pot and kettle and so on.