MARTHA THOMASES: Sex and Comics and Rock and Roll
When I started out in comics in the late 1970s when dinosaurs walked the earth, the comic book business was like a small town. It was possible to be at least a nodding acquaintance of all the major players on the publishing side, and quite a few of the retailers as well.It was a small town – a small town scattered around the world. And like all small towns, there was always gossip.
Gossip, being gossip, is often nothing but lies. However, I’ve always found it fascinating because 1) I’m petty and shallow and 2) even untrue gossip reveals something about our feelings for the person involved.
Back in the day, the gossip was a particularly heady mixture of sex, drugs, and the kind of behavior that can only be the result of hideous self-loathing and bad brain chemistry. People would date, cheat, marry, divorce, hook-up, stalk each other – the usual.
And then there were those who were less usual. I don’t know if the stories were true, but they were fascinating: Freelancers who lived in their cars because they couldn’t manage their money, as opposed to freelancers who lived in their cars because they worked for scumbags. People who were such hoarders that they couldn’t walk from one room to another. The editor who did so much coke that they’d find this person dancing on the desk. The editor who had sex in the elevator on way to the office. The freelancer whose wife, looking for him, screamed into the phone so loudly that you could hear her across the office, even though she was out of state.
There is something both charming and small-minded about this kind of gossip. The small-mindedness is obvious. The majority uses gossip to keep everyone in line, obeying the rules. The charming part develops from the fact that we all knew each other and, for the most part, cared about each other.
Today, comics is a bigger business and a bigger scene. There’s more money at stake, and the stories (true or not) have changed accordingly. Now we hear about the men whose marriages fell apart because they were having affairs with their publicists. Or maybe they left their wives for an actress on the set of the movie based on their books. Or maybe it’s a coke habit. The same vices are involved, but the rise in status ups the ante. People (thankfully) can afford to go to rehab. They can afford to pay child support. The problems might grow with the money available, but so do the solutions.
There’s also a different tone. There is more envy, and, as a result, more a note of satisfaction when the person being discussed can’t handle success. It’s meaner.
We aren’t living in that small town anymore where we care about each other. We’re not even in Kansas anymore.
Martha Thomases, Dominoed Dare-Doll, has been a comic industry publicist for two decades, and no client ever made a pass at her. The stories she hears make her wonder what’s wrong with her.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman