Saturday, December 4, 2010


I was on the bus the other morning, watching this guy: he’s about halfway down the vehicle, standing right in the middle of the aisle. It’s a full bus, and people want to get past because it’s all getting a bit tight up front.

But this guy – he’s not letting anybody past. He won’t say why, all he’ll give is a resolution to stand still. Eventually somebody barges past him and he takes a step back, but he wasn’t giving in until he absolutely had to.

He was completely oblivious to the fact that half of the people on that crowded bus thought he was a complete dick, and he gave no sign of any reason for his weird and pointless selfishness.

Did he just have a bad day and couldn’t take any more? He looked completely calm. Maybe he was just another average arsehole in a world full of them.

I bet he likes comic books, I thought.


It took me a long, long time to get over the way some comic readers could be intentionally obnoxious about their favourite medium.

I didn’t see my first example of hideous fanboy entitlement until I went to my second comic shop ever in 1992. I was 17. I just wanted to buy the latest Jim Lee X-men comic, but got stuck behind somebody at the counter giving a lecture on how awful the Infinity Gauntlet was.

I was tempted to tell him how much I’d enjoyed that comic, but I was too amazed at how deliberately unpleasant the Gauntlet hater was as he pontificated about the vileness of the comic, and how everybody involved, including writer, artist, editor, colourist, letterer and the company itself deserved to be beaten, and how he had the brass knuckles to do it.

Eventually he ran out of breath and waddled off to moan about something else, and I managed to get my X-fix. Within a few months, I would be giving up the X-Men entirely, but I have never got over my fascination with comic jerks. I can’t stop watching them.


It’s hard to put an exact definition on the average jerk, because we’re all repulsed by different things, but we know it when we see it.

It’s a loud arrogance, boorish and rude, often sexist and crude, with an enormous sense of self-importance and entitlement. It can be a physical thing, but it’s more about a personality than any bulk, which makes it perfect for the safe anonymity of the internet.

It’s a singular lack of empathy, even for the people who create their favourite entertainments. (Who cares about industry people losing their livelihoods – how is it going to affect my monthly Superman fix?) It’s an absolute unwillingness to acknowledge any point of view different from their own, and the derisive ignorance of these mental blinkers.

It’s taking offense at anything that possible disagrees with their own perspective, while possessing the thinnest of skins. It’s waving away disdain at their own crude efforts at funny as humourless. It’s the inability to notice when you’re really, genuinely pissing somebody off.

It’s just being a jerk.


Sometimes I can be the biggest jerk of them all, but I’m trying real hard not to be.

Back when we’re all figuring out the world, it doesn’t take us long to work out some people are purely out for themselves – most of us figure out that some people are just selfish, foolish and loud while we’re still kids.

But I was genuinely surprised – and continue to be surprised – by how some comic books readers could be complete dickheads. I just couldn’t understand how people who had grown up reading Superman comics failed to pick up on his central themes of justice and fairness and compassion and friendship.
How can people read stories about superheroes standing up for the little guy, and then turn out horribly sexist, racist and homophobic bile?

And unlike people who actually like to be surprised by their entertainments, they go into fits when a comic or television show or movie doesn’t turn out exactly like they wanted it to. It’s actually quite easy to stop reading or watching something that is guaranteed to infuriate. You just don’t.

What’s wrong with these people? How come they keep doing these things? Why do I care?


This is why I care - because after all that, this is my big shame – I fucking love this shit.
I find it genuinely entertaining when somebody goes apeshit because a comic book wasn’t what they wanted, and am constantly amused by the worst excesses of obnoxiousness.

Even though I know it’s not good for me, I still get a kick out of reading the worst comic book readers can come up with. Even though I can feel real despair at the alarming reactions to innocuous news and views, it still makes me laugh.

As long as things don’t get too personal, which is always the most distasteful part. Resorting to physical insults is just adolescent. And you can’t just have different tastes to other people, you must just be stupider. Everyone is smarter than everyone else.

I get a weird kick out of reading scathing reviews of comics I genuinely love, that call me a goddamn idiot for daring to like something they don’t. Trust me. I genuinely enjoy Mark Millar’s comics, and I’ve had to walk it off and calm down after bravely anonymous people have labeled me as a moron who only likes his stuff for the blood and tits.

I’ve read the Eltingville stuff dozens of times. I love it when Dorian Wright points out massive cases of undeserved entitlement in the comic community, and I’m consistently interested in Kevin Church’s examination of epic retail douchery. I can’t get enough of it.


They’re everywhere, of course, not just in the tiny, insular and comfortable world of comics. Go into any online community of gamers or role-players or Twi-hards, and there are the same sorts of trolls, saying the same sort of shit.

And it’s bigger than that, and there are more than enough jerks in the general public arena. Part of my day job involves reading over comments left on a news website, and I can honestly say it’s the most depressing and downbeat part of my day, as I choke on the rampant sexism, racism and homophobia.

This type of behavior has been taken to the most extreme levels by the use of the internet, allowing any loudmouth to share his views with the world, no matter how stupid or ridiculous they look for saying them.

But I have seen the worst examples of fanboy fuckery in comic shops in the real world. Maybe there is something about the form that attracts these type of people, maybe the closed-off and insular nature of the medium encourages people to act like arseholes. Maybe they just think they’re the heroes in a fantasy of their own creation, and everybody else is just stupid bit actors in their grand story.

Or maybe it’s just because I spend a large amount of my spare time reading comics, and even more time reading magazines and reviews and previews and interviews about comics, so I can’t help noticing it.

And I can’t help seeking it out.


And even though I am still entertained, even though they still make me laugh with their obtuse obnoxiousness, I still don’t get it. A basic level of politeness isn’t an anachronism, it’s a vital part of keeping a modern civilization from falling back into selfish barbarism.

We all have to get along. You can’t go picking fights in the real world without suffering for it, and we should be able to handle it when things don’t work out the way we want, or when people disagree with us, or when we just have a bad day.

If we can’t talk about the things we love without acting like a jerk, then maybe we just need to try harder, and let people walk past us to the back of the bus.


Jesse Farrell said...

Years ago, one of my then-girlfriend's young nephews was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of Autism. Suddenly all his peculiar and sometimes offputting behavior- rote repetition of arcane facts, obsessive need for a specific order of events in his entertainment and in his conversations, and a general obtuseness toward the concerns of others- had a name. It was a real thing, he wasn't just being a willful little jerk.

And just like that, they became his quirks instead of insufferable traits. Sure, we'd try to wrangle his social ineptitude, and his rage when you went off-script as he was reenacted his favorite TV shows was frustrating, but we realized he was communicating with us as best he could and we tried to do the same for him.

Whether correctly or incorrectly, I see so much of the same behavior among superhero fans (because, let's face it, it's primarily us superhero fans who have the jerk traits you describe) that I armchair diagnose many of them as having Asperger's. Am I right? Probably not all the time, and I don't mean to paint all people with Asperger's with the same brush, but I bet it accounts for much of the obsession with orderly continuity, repetition of stories and themes, and what can be seen as insensitive or even boorish behavior.

Of course, some people are also just fucking assholes.

DeBT said...

This is what made the Fanboy Outrage blog such a hit before it collapsed under its own weight. We seriously need something like it in these dire times.


Bob Temuka said...

Oh man, I forgot to mention Our Valued Customers, I found it the other day and went back and read every single comic in one go. It was fascinating.

A mate of mine told me the other day that everybody has a little bit of Asperger's in them, which seems to make it more of a human condition than a syndrome.

I guess we can all be a bit antisocial every now and again, but I just don't get how people feel the compulsive need to offload it on other folk. If I'm in a shitty mood, being a dick to other people isn't going to make me feel better.