Our Comics Community, by Dennis O’Neil
Things are fanning out all over.
But before we go any further, let me explain and, while I’m about it, issue an OFA, or Old Fart Alert.
Back in the day – now you begin to understand the reason for the OFA – part of the fun of attending science fiction and comics conventions was seeing stuff like outtakes and blooper reels and old movies and especially old serials, entertainments virtually unavailable anywhere else. Another pleasure was listening to other fans who were In The Know reveal secrets, or at least semi-secrets, about the actors and artists and, yes, even writers whose work we enjoyed and was the raison d’etre for the whole she-bang.
Now…bloopers are shown on network television, as are outtakes, and one major international star has, for the last decade or so, incorporated them into the films themselves. And although nobody, to my knowledge, is showing serials regularly, a cable channel used to and somebody almost certainly will again and even if that doesn’t happen, these crusty old flicks are easily buyable, or rentable, or, maybe, available at your local public library. As for other kinds of old movies…Well, let’s just say that I’ve filled in some of the gaps in my appreciation of Rocky Lane, Lash LaRue, Wild Bill Elliott, the Durango Kid, and the indomitable Sunset Carson by watching the Westerns Channel from the comfort of my living room.
Insider info? It’s practically a national industry, only they call it gossip and push it at us on television and in the magazines I read in doctor’s offices. Push a lot of it, I might add. And most DVDs have material in addition to whatever movie’s on them and these, too, frequently feature gossipy tidbits, though never scandalous ones.
So: good or bad? I shrug. I dunno…
Back in the day – remember the OFA! – I worked for a small-town paper which focused on local news, much of it pretty mundane. With the arrogant mixture of youth and ignorance that permeated my psyche in those days, I inwardly sniffed. Who gives a flying flapdoodle about the Ladies Auxiliary Casserole supper when the world outside this little municipality was in turmoil? The answer: The Ladies Auxiliary, and their husbands and kids and aunts and uncles and the guy on Main Street who sells casserole dishes and… end of the day, a substantial part of the citizenry. They really care about this local stuff, in a way they can’t care about the Pentagon protests or the riots in Chicago or the rest of the national and international fuss because, even if it doesn’t affect them directly, they identify with it – it is, one way or another, a parcel of their lives, not abstract data about places they’ll never visit, people they’ll never know.
Which has exactly what to do with fans and old-time conventions? This, maybe: those fans were like the citizens of the town where I worked, a community that cared about sf and comics. Because it was sometimes scorned for that caring, the community closed ranks and was strengthened.
Now? It seems that everybody is into comics and/or sf, which has certainly been good for a lot of creative people, financially and in self-esteem terms. (We don’t have to eat Christmas dinner at the kiddie table anymore.) But I wonder how much of the community remains intact.
I just wonder, is all.
RECOMMENDED READING: Secret Skin, by Michael Chabon, published in the March 10 issue of The New Yorker.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow – among many others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Zen and Violence, reprinting the first six issues of his classic series with artist Denys Cowan, is on sale right now, the second volume, Poisoned Ground, will be on sale April 30, and his novelization of The Dark Knight will be available this summer, and you can pre-order them now.
Very wise, thou OF. In older days you had to do a bit of legwork to connect with the community and do enough reading to make sense of it. Today the high concentration level demanded by print (dare I say literacy) is no longer a barrier and a critical mass of serious attendees eventually created an event enjoyable by many sub-genre fans (say, cosplay) as well as fans who skate on the surface of the whole thing (moi).