Dennis O’Neil: Friendly Fandom Family
I didn’t know about organized comics fandom until 1964 when I interviewed Roy Thomas for a Missouri newspaper, and that was only a month or two before, under Roy’s aegis, I became a comics professional. And I wonder: if fandom had existed in, say, the 1950s in the roughly the same way it does now and if I’d had access to it, would I have joined?
I don’t know. I’ve liked comics and science fiction and related stuff since I was a kid, but I’m a margin guy, not a joiner. If you discount a rather dismal stint in the Boy Scouts, a year in Junior Achievement, and several years as a member of my high school speech club, my organizations have either been therapeutic or professional. The Academy of Comic Book Arts burst on the scene in the 1970s and then gradually faded to black to live on only in memory and as a Wikipedia entry. I joined The Writer Guild East, and finally and briefly, The Science Fiction Writers of America – those were the professional clubs and if there’s another, I’m not remembering it.
But being a fan might have been fun, so who knows?
What prompts this stumble down Memory Lane are the items I’ve been reading off my computer screen lately, not only about comics’ splashiest progeny, superheroes, but about comic books themselves – newsy tidbits that once would not have been fodder for the news maw but might not have interested anyone who was not a fan.
So: has fandom infected the masses?
Well, thanks for a lovely woman I once knew who had a connection or two to the world of the fan, I came to realize that this world offered much more than opportunities to immerse oneself in a cherished art form. It provided camaraderie and a private quasi-mythology for the initiates and a context in which to meet people who could become important to you, and that emphatically does not exclude possible mates. Finally, fandom provided an excuse to get out of the house and go places, mingle, party, and have an old-fashioned good time.
In other words, fandom offered some of the same benefits as religions, lodges, amateur sports, alumnae organizations, veterans organizations, yacht clubs… In some respects, fandom belongs among those groups and others of their ilk. It gives us a pleasurable way to heed one of evolution’s commandments: Find your tribe and belong to it.
But when millions share a fairly intense involvement with an art form and it has morphed into Big Business, can those millions be considered to be a tribe? Doesn’t tribal membership require some measure of exclusivity?
Wiser folk than I, please take note and provide an answer. Meanwhile, for those of you who want superhero fixes and don’t want to be part of a megahorde, may I suggest that you limit your involvement with the genre to comic books? There aren’t a tremendous number of comic book readers – heck, of any kind of fiction readers – around these days, so if it’s exclusivity you crave… don’t count on running into me.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks!
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman