Off The Panel: Inclusivity In The Comic World
A friend pointed this out not too long ago that there is a divide between the comic readers and the rest of the world. There is no other way to say it isn’t easy to be a comic fan today, even with the growing interest and popularity of the characters. With that growth you see the intensest peaking, but there is a defensiveness that also grows as we want to feel like we aren’t losing ourselves to the mass audience. Of course there is a reason to be defensive when the interest is not as accepted worldwide to be taken seriously, there are some who show some sincerity and may be shoved off for not knowing as much as the basics.
This all stems from the wide acceptance of comics through media. Movies, TV series, apparel you name it and what goes on in the very books we read is plastered all over it. With that we start to see a growing community of people who realize their admiration for these heroes and want to know more. Now how they do so is up to them, though increasingly we see that through the movies. Movies that take from the books and do something big with then that the general audience finds entertaining. Then the same being done through live-action TV series which are starting to do the same at a quickening pace. So where’s the problem? Pretty simple which is the idea that these stories and characters we love are exactly as you see adapted. Keyword adapted because it is never the actual thing, we try to keep that in mind though it is very hard, and yet the general audience might take that for the real thing. Shun the books as something secondary with not a single care for gaining more knowledge of these characters.
Some might call it aliteracy to an extent. Towards comics that is because when we see these adaptations the intent was always that the growing fans may come to love these stories enough to pick up the books, yet that doesn’t mean it will happen for everyone. That is not to say everyone is like that, there wouldn’t be a climb in sales if that were the case entirely. The divide you see comes from the passion comic fans have and that not being taken seriously. Something may be portrayed incorrectly and that might bother you, but what is the reaction you get? “Why does that matter?” A question that stings for the fact that you are being questioned about how much that means to you. Makes you feel second string when you’d think you are the main focus. The character portrayal, story accuracy, origin, costume design, actor/actress all things we could disagree on and be told that it shouldn’t affect us as much as it does.
This also applies to comics as well. 2013 brought about a change which has made many new reader friendly. Meaning that the publishers took time to create points in these stories that are more welcoming to new fans who did not have the time to play catch up. Even as it was a great move for all the companies financially and brought some popularity to characters that were B or C listers, problems were still found with it. Marvel NOW!, All-New Marvel NOW!, Must Read Valiant, The New 52, all created easy accessible points of entry for new readers, and yet with those points of entry older readers felt that they are given the run around when some stories take a step back instead of progressing. Of course not everyone feels this way, but you can see how that might be frustrating for those who find it bothersome knowing they have to wait for their books to pick up again on progress due to having to get new readers up to speed on what they need or should know.
With that said comes the most important part of this discussion which is what we can do instead of losing ourselves to feelings of anger towards everything we feel that might offend us. If someone says something inaccurate about a hero or book? Inform them on what they should know. If someone doesn’t like a hero because of the movie and misunderstands them, showing the difference between the movie and the book. Give them a reason to go out and buy the books so the person can grow to like that character better. If someone gets into a debate with you on facts of a hero they haven’t followed for some years, catch them up on what they have missed since then. If you are asked a question and its something you feel is obvious, realize that person won’t know what you know and answer without looking down upon he or she. Most importantly, if someone asks you “Why does it matter?” when you have a problem with an adaptation, you show them the passion you have for these books and why it should matter to you to express how it affects you. Properly that is.
If someone shows clear interest in what you read, help them to feel welcome into the comic community. We are known to be a hostile group, to each other as well, and it’s probably about time that this view of us changes as the outside world becomes more aware of the world we invest our time and money in. I myself fall prey to that defensiveness that comes with being a comic fan and its something I’d plan on changing because it helps no one in the end. Makes it harder to enjoy the books, movies, TV series, and deep down you know that the best thing you can do for yourself is to have people you can share in that excitement. You’d be surprised how many want to talk about this stuff and just need to find the right crowd willing to speak of it in a friendly manner.
Just a little food for thought as the year goes on.