Everyone who takes pleasure in reading comics can call themselves a fan. And even though you might not agree with their particular tastes in comics, they’re all welcome to the club. There are so many comic fans out in the world that there’s plenty of room for everybody, regardless of whether you’re partial to superheroes or romance or funny animals or yaoi or any other genre. Rest assured that there’s a group of folks out there who enjoy the same type of comics that you do, and would be thrilled to chat with you about it. Of course, that’s where complications begin: finding those others whose tastes and passions compliment your own.
When I first announced on my blog that I was writing this book, in an attempt to ensure that I didn’t miss any significant points, I tried to solicit ideas from other fans on things they would like to see included. One person responded that I should probably decide whether to focus on fandom before or after the Internet really took hold because of the vast difference it had made. But my research had already shown that, while the Internet has indeed made a huge impact on the ability for diverse fans to get together, it hasn’t actually changed the fundamentals of their behavior. Fans were arguing about whether Superman was stronger than Captain Marvel as early as the 1940s; kids would trade comics during the Great Depression so that they could all share the same enjoyment from the same stories and talk about how great they were with one another; George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strips were so popular in the 1910s and ‘20s that a Washington, D.C. speakeasy illegally began appropriating the title character’s name and likeness to attract customers.
The ability for communication throughout the world has improved dramatically over the past century and promises to continue doing so. There are more means than ever to get in touch with other people, and form communities with them so that everyone within can share the same pleasures of the same comics. But, as has always been the case, miscommunications do occur and, with more venues possible for communication, that also means more venues possible for miscommunication. But that shouldn’t take away from the very positive idea of reaching out and sharing your passion for something you enjoy with others. It connects you with others in a positive and self-affirming way. Fans are out there, not so that you have someone to tell what you thought about the latest issue, but so that you have someone to share your life with. Perhaps not as deeply or intimately as a spouse or significant other, but sharing an aspect of your life that makes up part of your very self-identity and reinforces all the best traits within you.
There have been and will always continue to be disagreements within fandom as a whole. With hundreds of thousands of comic fans in the world, it would be impossible to get them to all agree on anything. But precisely because there are hundreds of thousands of fans, it’s easy, even necessary, for them to break into smaller groups that are more closely knit. That’s really the key to fandom: to find those people who enjoy the same types of things in comics you do and enjoy the time you can spend with them. Share your passion, your joy, with others and they’ll share theirs with you.
I’ve presented here a model with which to view comic fandom. It’s certainly not the only model out there, and it’s not necessarily the most “correct” one. But it’s one that seems to work well as I personally look at fans. I see the arguments that erupt and the divisions between groups of fans; I see the unethical and sometimes illegal acts some fans take; I see the tensions between what fans want their favorite characters to do and what the creators themselves want to do. But I also see the friends who rally around another fan who just lost her job; I see the schoolmates whose creative energy feeds off one another as they plot out new story ideas; I see introverts connecting with a larger community in a way that was simply impossible for them without comics to act as a bridge. It’s about people. It’s about feeling empowered to be yourself and having that feeling validated by those who care about you.
I love comics. It’s a wonderful medium and I’ve enjoyed reading comics my whole life. But I love comics fandom more. And I hope to spend the rest of my life a part of it.
Comic Book Fanthropology examines the questions of who and what comic fans are. What prompts them to join fandom in the first place, and why do they so often choose to remain a part of it throughout their lives? The specifics of comic fandom have changed since its hesitant beginnings in the 1920s and ‘30s, but the fans themselves have not. Whether they’re interested in superheroes or in shōjo manga, whether they express themselves in letter columns or through costuming, whether they enjoy minicomics or webcomics, Comic Book Fanthropology explains who they are.
From November 27, 2009 until January 18, 2010, I serialized the main body of content for Comic Book Fanthropology here. Completely free for everyone to read. I'm leaving it online for people to reference and browse.
"That's crazy! Why should I bother to buy your book then?"
The online version will not have any of the interior artwork, Marvel Vice President Tom Brevoort's Foreword or any of the Fan Profiles. I'm also betting that most people won't be keen to read the whole book online and those that are probably wouldn't have bought a copy anyway. Plus it might just provide a sufficient enough sample to convince someone unfamiliar with my work to pick up a copy.
So, feel free to start reading below and, if you like what you're seeing, you can find links to purchase paperback and hardcover versions of the book on the left.