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Secretly (because, really, how would it look if this got out?),
many of the folks who toil daily to bring you your comic books really
could not care less about what you think. And by "you" I don't mean the
"audience," because entertainers need an audience to entertain. Almost
by definition. If you're producing something for public consumption,
chances are you wouldn't mind hearing some applause now and then.
No, by "you," I mean "Internet users."
Let's say you spend some time on any of the numerous message boards or
discussion groups or email lists devoted to comics. I mean, if you've
found your way through the wilds of the web to be reading this little
missive into the ether, the chances are pretty high that you check those
things out, yes?
One of the things I like best about these things is that, sitting in
your office, drinking some coffee, you can join a cocktail party where
you can hear everyone at exactly the same volume. The Internet. Man,
Whole businesses have arisen around this method of interpersonal
communication. Whole companies have completely changed their way of
doing business, based on the immediate feedback of their core customers.
But the comic book industry? The publishers with the greatest market
They think that if you have the time and inclination to devote so much
energy into that radical deconstruction of The Hulk's id, then, QED,
you're a froot loop who obviously should be ignored, because, really,
don't you have better things to do? I mean, of course Thor is
stronger than Superman, right? He's a god.
If you've been reading these a while, you may remember me mentioning
that late in 1991, I found myself on the set of Star Trek: The Next
Generation as writer of a special MTV was filming on the release of
Star Trek VI. The guy shooting on the set for the special was Rob
Legato, who, at the time, I think, was the main special effects
coordinator and second unit guy. Anyway, my pal Rick and I were on the
set during the shoot, and were trying really very hard to be
professional, because, you know, WE WERE ON THE BRIDGE OF THE
ENTERPRISE. But in between set-ups, I chatted with Guy Vardaman, who was
Brent Spiner's stand in and lighting double. The cool thing was that Guy
was just a big ol' Star Trek geek, too, and very much enjoyed
that his day job involved walking around with pointed sideburns, and he
loved talking to guys like us who paid so close attention to their work.
At one point, I may have gotten a little geeky, though, because at lunch
Guy brought Rob Legato over with a stack of mail. Rob read one such
earnest missive off the top of the pile, undoubtedly from a serious
young man in the Midwest, taking Paramount to task over some continuity
glitch from a few episodes before. At the end of this overlong screed,
Rob looked up and waved his arm around in a grand but exasperated
gesture and said, "It's just a TV show."
And I think that's what's going on at the big companies. Before the
advent of widespread Internet use, they had complete control over the
public perception of their product. Any audience feedback an outside
observer would see was mostly relegated to fanzines with a limited
circulation, the odd thing like >Amazing Heroes or Alter
Ego, or commentary in the letters pages of the comics themselves.
Mostly, that'd be an easy thing for companies to stay on top of.
Now, any malcontent can post up any damn thing they want on a website,
and have the same accessibility to a potential audience as, say, an
announcement of new work on Neil Gaiman's blogger, and, further, to the
uninitiated, have the same apparent weight and import.
You can see where the only sane response to so much untended
opinion-spew is to just consider it all crap and get on with the
Now, that's not to say that people aren't listening. It's just that to
those trying to pay attention, sometimes it's a little difficult to find
the prize in the big box of Cracker Jacks that is the Internet.
Hopefully, you've found more toys than un-popped kernels in the past
year's worth of these columns. I sure do appreciate your
See you around.
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Of course, most answers to simple questions you may have about me or my
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Cannon Message Boardthat I post nowhere else. Although maybe not as
much as I used to.