I’ve finally had it. I just can’t take it anymore. Effective immediately, there’s some online comics columnists I’m deleting from my bookmark and reading lists.
It’s not that I don’t agree with their points and positions; in many cases, we’re actually on the same page on matters creative, social, and political. What I have a problem with is their takes on history and their grips on reality.
Once upon a time, having a column meant writing for a print publication. Becoming a columnist meant that an editor or publisher thought you had something to say and the chops to say it. And it meant there was someone there to reality check what you were saying.
Nowadays, all that having a column requires is an internet connection (to which I offer myself as Exhibit A in support).
Of course, everyone’s entitled to their opinions…no, strike that: Everyone’s entitled to their informed opinions. Oh, you can have any opinion you want. Man and dinosaur coexisted on an Earth that’s only 6000 years old? The 1969 moon landing was an elaborate hoax? One race is inferior or superior to another? Someone else’s sexuality is anybody’s business but their own? You go, girl! Science says you’re wrong, but the Constitution says nobody can stop you from saying it anyway. I myself hold a lot of opinions that fall outside of the mainstream and if I want to be able to express my thoughts freely, I’ve got to extend that same right to you.
But as entitled as we are to our own opinions and beliefs, we ain’t none of us entitled to our own facts.
Facts are called facts because they’re, y’know…factual. They are true independent of anybody’s opinions or beliefs. You can believe wet is dry or up is down all you want, but the believing doesn’t make it so.
All too many of these columnists regularly want us to believe that the Pacific Ocean is just a big pile of sand. I’m not talking about their opinions on the current output of modern mainstream comics either; there are plenty of people who sincerely like what Corporate Comics offers for sale these days. I don’t, but I can easily agree to disagree there. Taste is a personal thing; I’ve tried to raise my son not to wrinkle his nose in disgust because someone likes something he doesn’t. In the case of taste, there are no facts, just individual preferences.
What I’m talking about are the manipulations of the facts, those indisputable bits of reality on which personal taste or opinion have no bearing. Some of them have been and/or still linger around the fringe of the business, and everything they write involves claiming credit for some part of whatever it is they’re writing about. A recent entry by one on the current state of comics made casual reference to a catchphrase which, oh by the way, the columnist coined; forget that it’s been in common usage far longer than their time in the industry. Another spends the entirety of his/her columns spouting the most blatant self-promotion that I’ve yet to see backed up any actual product or production. Yet another was present at every major intersection in the post-Silver Age comics industry and was, it seems, instrumental in changing the course of history at every turn.
Whatever the person, place, or thing mentioned, they discovered him/her/it or are somehow responsible for its creation, popularity, or success. There’s one who starts every sentence with, “Did I ever tell you about the time when I…(fill in the blank)?” DC Comics VP Bob Wayne gained a whole new slew of respect from me on one such occasion when he interrupted that opening line by asking, “Is this the story where you’re the hero?”
I’ve been in the comic book business since 1975 and was in the room–or least the neighborhood–when a lot of the events related for personal glory in these columns were taking place. In many cases, I know the people who actually made the decisions or set the policies for which these guys now take credit. In some instances, the actual decision-makers have died, leaving the field clear for historic revisionism; in others, the policy-makers would never think to pound their chests and brag about their accomplishments. Believe it or not, at the time they did what they did, it was because it was either the right thing to do for the industry or the talent, or was just plain old good business.
Yes, we all write our own stories (I’m writing mine right now) and the tendency to make ourselves the hero is always there; I’ve done it myself, I’m sure…hell, aren’t I the high-minded seeker of truth in this story? But in a year when I’m constantly being bombarded by political messages from both parties saying they’re unfailingly right and the other guys unfailingly wrong, I’m tired of having to deal with the same sort of factually-challenged self-aggrandizement when I’m reading about comic books.
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What online columns and sites do I read? So as not to end on a total downer, here are a few of my favorite things:
My old pal Tony Isabella provides an entertaining look into comic books old and new, along with some brutally honest insights into his personal life in his daily Bloggy Thing. It doesn’t hurt that Tony’s been quite generous in his reviews of my own humble creative efforts, but that’s just icing on the cake. Speaking of pals who don’t fail to entertain, Rob Kelly takes on all things King of the Seven Seas in his Aquaman Shrine (and an assortment of other interesting comics blogs which you can click through to from there). I also recommend the blogs and/or websites of Bob Greenberger, Bob Rozakis, Mark Evanier, and Todd Klein, as well as Mark Waid’s site, where he’s breaking some new ground in self-publishing and online comics.
For news, you can’t beat Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat, Rich Johnston’s Bleeding Cool News, and Comic Book Resources, while for snarky mockery of comic strips, I head on over to The Comics Curmudgeon. And when I’m hankering for a dose of good old-fashioned mimeographed and ditto’ed fanzine goodness, I make a beeline for Chain Letters For Disturbed Children.
And, because Danny Fingeroth demanded it: Don’t Believe Everything You Read, Part I!
Tags: Aquaman Shrine, Bleeding Cool News, Bloggy Thing, Bob Greenberger, Bob Rozakis, Bob Wayne, Comic Book Resources, Comics Curmudgeon, Heidi MacDonald, informed opinions, Mark Evanier, Mark Waid, reality, Rich Johnstone, Rob Kelly, The Beat, Todd Klein, Tony Isabella