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.