<i>by Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor</i> <p>One thing that's pretty clear about comic fans: They can sometimes be an ornery bunch... or at least the vocal ones can. <p>Just look at the number of blogs and message boards and Facebook posts about comics and particularly <i>negative</i> or <i>outraged</i> posts and it becomes clear just how fired up some comic fans can get. <p>Now you can paint a group of diverse people with a similar interest with only so broad a brush, but there are certain things lots of fans do share in common. <p>With ongoing controversy on both sides of the <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/topic/watchmen">Before Watchmen</a>, vocal negative reactions for series like <i>Avengers Arena</i> before even the first issue is out, and debate and polarized reactions to Marvel and DC's relaunches, Newsarama is counting down its Top 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Comic Fans Riled Up. <p>Click on the "<b>Start Here</b>" button on the upper left to begin the countdown. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
Retcons are common in comic books. But when retcons are used to explain away continuity errors, comic fans have a tough time accepting it. <p>And when we say tough time, we mean there will probably be blood to pay. <p>Fans can be forgiving about little glitches, like when Martian Manhunter's story about being a Justice League member suddenly changed, or when Batman's former Robin Tim Drake was no longer called Robin (adding "Red" in hindsight). But the big problems arise when comic writers get a little wild with their explanations of continuity glitches. Then again, they can do that because...well, this <i>is</i> comics. <p>I mean, come on... when you have aliens, ghosts and flying men, why can't it follow that it wasn't <i>really</i> Magneto under that Xorn mask, but was actually Xorn's brother pretending to be Magneto pretending to be Xorn? And sure, Jason Todd died, but in a world where Superboy-Prime can watch reality from behind a glass wall, couldn't his punch also crack that reality and bring characters back to life? <p>Uh... maybe not. <p>But whatever the explanation, the word "retcon" is usually met with a type of disdain reserved for few other things in comics, except maybe...
Kudos to all the manga fans out there, because they've had an uphill battle when trying to sell those wares to American comic book fans. <p>For many die-hard superhero fans, the words "manga-inspired" might as well be accompanied by an insult of their mother. The response is often just as violent. <p>All the ire probably stems from the fact that, about 10 years ago when the Japanese "manga" style was the hot new thing, many American comic book companies tried to tap into what they thought was a gold mine. Manga spin-offs and imprints started popping up everywhere, with manga interpretations of many tried-and-true superheroes. <p>Some fans were so angered by the "invasion" of manga-inspired art into superhero comics that they revolted against anything even resembling the style. And some of them still do. As <a href="http://www.cracked.com/funny-5082-top-5-worst-alternate-reality-stories-in-comics/">one blogger recently put it</a>, "Marvel MangaVerse made me drop the company altogether for <i>years</i>. I still haven't completely forgiven them."
Hollywood has to tread lightly with this one, because it's a very fine line. There are, apparently, plenty of small changes to comic book characters that are OK to make for the movie adaptations. Jarvis the butler as a computer? OK. Joker's smile made by scars instead of chemicals? Alright. <p>But other changes are seen by some as comic book blasphemy. <p>The obvious example of the changes going too far is the 2004 film <i>Catwoman</i>, where the Batman villain had a different name, origin and... well, she didn't even reside in a universe where Batman existed. And don't even get us started on how outraged many GL fans were when rumors of a Jack Black helmed <i>Green Lantern</i> movie surfaced. <p>While this summer's <i>Dark Knight Rises</i> ended up appeasing most fans despite a few changes, Warner Bros. has been fighting an uphill battle with its upcoming <i>Man of Steel</i> film. First, there was a heated debate among fans about the casting of African-American actor Laurence Fishburne as historically Caucasian editor Perry White. Then the earliest shots of Superman's costume for the film had fans bemoaning everything from the textured fabric to his lack of red bloomers. <p>Marvel's <i>The Avengers</i> was released with very few changes to its beloved comic characters, and fans enthusiastically supported the movie. And while the X-Men franchise had previously sparked outrage by "muting" fan-favorite character Deadpool, the upcoming <i>X-Men: Days of Future Past</i> seems to be playing toward fans, relying on <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/film/stewart-mckellen-x-men-days-of-future-past.html">two fan-favorite actors</a> and a well-known comic-inspired story. <p>Has Warner Bros. been taking notes as it plans 2015's <i>Justice League</i> movie? If the <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/film/justice-league-rumor-batman-gordon-levitt.html">rumors about fan-approved Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Batman</a> are true, maybe they're learning.
No, we're not talking about the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon comic. <p>It's the comic books that take an "issue" and explore it from a character's point of view. <p>Some of the most respected writers in fiction wrap their plots around thinly veiled stands on socio-political views. <p>But in comics, it has to be thickly veiled. <p>In fact, hidden would work better for some. <p>Fan outrage over preachy comics probably reached its height in 2008, when the U.S. presidential election had comics like <i>DC Universe: Decisions</i> exploring superhero politics, and characters like <i>Savage Dragon</i> taking sides. <p>While the 2012 election didn't see as many political comics, the current <i>Spawn #225</i> was waiting to see whether Obama or Romney would be president before it featured one of them in the story. That seems to be OK with fans, as it didn't really take sides. <p>As Geoff Johns <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/geoff-johns-talks-aquaman-110329.html">told Newsarama last year</a> when we asked about the potential for environmental issues in his <i>Aquaman</i> run: "Aquaman cares about that, and it's central to who he is. But you have to be careful not to be preachy."
Yeah, that's a broad title, considering a lot of changes in comics go unexplained. But in the case of loyal comic fans, who know all the details of their favorite characters' pasts, <i>not</i> knowing not understanding is akin to torture. <p>And it's exactly where DC finds itself since its reboot, as the publisher has slowly been revealing drastic changes in the history of several iconic characters and timelines that don't seem to add up... but it hasn't yet explained how those changes happened. Even the #0 issues that DC released in September didn't address all the questions. Walk into any comic shop, and you'll surely hear someone ask, "How could Batman have three Robins and a 10-year-old son fathered by a villain's daughter when he's only been a superhero for a little over five years?" <p>That type of unexplained continuity change is enough to make some comic fans' heads explode. <p>If anyone understands the importance of explaining details for a change, it's the people behind Spider-Man and Mary Jane's marriage elimination. For most of the "Brand New Day" era of Spider-Man, fans wouldn't recognize even the best of the storylines because... well... there were <i>still things not explained</i>. <p>You might as well strap them down so their forehead is under a dripping faucet.
It's often said that there are no new stories, but only new ways to tell them. Nowhere is that more applicable than in comics, where each passing year means it is tougher and tougher to come up with a new challenge for ongoing characters like Batman and Spider-Man and other characters who have been starring in their own monthly comics for decades. <p>Yet there are some comic fans that seem to have very little patience for anything that even <i>smells</i> like a repeat. <p>One of the most common negative responses to the promotion of a new comic is... <p>"Oh, that's just like _________." <p>Followed by the dismissal of said comic for... gasp... resembling another story. <p>The complaint is so common that Keith Giffen addressed it head-on <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/keith-giffen-threshold-new-52-series.html>when we talked to him about "The Hunted" story in his new comic <i>Threshold</i></a>: "I know a lot of people will look at 'The Hunted' and say, 'Oh, you're just doing a science fiction version of <i>The Hunger Games</i>.' But I'm going even farther. I'm doing a science fiction version of <i>Battle Royale</i> and giving everyone a gun. That's the basic structure of 'The Hunted.'" Over at Marvel, Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker's <i>Avengers Arena</i> has been compared to those same stories and have played up the similarities on several covers. <p>Some authors and experts on myth have claims there are no new stories. Only new ways of telling them. But try telling that to a comic fan.
For more than a year now, the hot topic on the angry comic book blogosphere has been women in comics. And that includes female <i>characters</i>, who have had a tough go of it over the years. <p>In 1999, now-famed comic book writer Gail Simone and a handful of friends <a href="http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/">started a website called Women in Refrigerators</a> that bemoaned the all-too-frequent use of female characters as disposable plot devices. <p>By disposable, we mean women were being killed in comics. A lot. Like, chopped up and shoved into refrigerators. <p>And according to the website, it appeared the women were being killed and suffering other indignities (see left) for the sake of challenging <i>male</i> comic heroes. <p>It didn't take long for the phrase "women in refrigerators" to catch on. And the idea became ingrained in the minds of comic fans. <p>Nowadays, woe to the writer who kills a woman on a comic page flippantly. The "Women in Refrigerators" phrase will get whipped out quicker than her blood can run onto the floor. And scandal will follow.
We're treading lightly here, because wow.... the reaction to DC's announcement that a Green Lantern would go from being a straight character to a gay one spurred a huge reaction in the mainstream press, as well as comic fans. The addition of a Arab Green Lantern in September got a more muted reaction, but DC has made it clear that more characters will have their race and gender changed to add diversity. And Marvel's addition of a half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man last year received heated fan reaction. <p>It's an ongoing issue that <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/2011-hot-button-superhero-diversity-110112.html">Newsarama explored in detail last year</a>. at the center of the controversy is not whether there should be characters of color, but instead whether they're characters of color for the "sake of diversity." And at the center of the controversy is not whether there should be characters of diverse ethnicity and sexual orientation, but instead whether they only exist for the "sake of diversity." <p>Apparently, that <i>matters</i> to a sect of comic fans. <p>And we're not the only ones treading lightly. Even Dan DiDio, co-publisher at DC, was careful to temper his language when asked about diversity last year... <p>"What we've always said is that we don't want to push this in," he said," so that it feels natural and the fans come on board if it's part of the overarching story not a 'program.'"
Sure, this literary device can tick off readers of just about any fictional story, but in comics, even something that <i>resembles</i> a complete surprise will get many fans worked up as they label it a "deus ex machina." <p>Never mind that comics have a long tradition of using the device. For years, Batman's utility belt, or Reed Richards' handy devices would act as clever little surprise saviors. And magical characters like Doctor Strange and Phantom Stranger were always around for a quick, last-minute save. <p>But maybe that's the problem. Because comic fans have been reading so many stories over the years that anything surprising can be upsetting to the point of outrage. <p>As <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/bill-willingham-2-fables-110726.html">writer Bill Willingham once explained to Newsarama readers</a>, "one of the operative elements of deus ex machina, which is looked upon in writing as a cheat to readers, is that it comes out of nowhere."
This one could actually just be called "deaths," because if it's a comic fan's favorite character, it'll be near impossible to make that death "meaningful." <p>But really, the more hurried and unexplained a death is, the worse the outcry from fans of the character is. <p>And the higher the quantity or more violent the destruction, the worse the reaction. Whether it's a whole slew of Avengers members in <i>Disassembled</i> or a bevy of Titans in <i>Infinite Crisis</i>, the response will be predictably angry. <p>But a new, related problem has arisen since the latest trend of "rebooting" comics: Characters <i>disappearing</i> instead of dying. Talk to a Wally West fan about characters dying, and they'll probably say it's better than the character just being eliminated from the universe's entire history. <p>Of course, there's always a chance the "disappeared" characters can show up later (as <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/flash-writing-team-daniel-west-gorilla-warefare.html">it appears the Flash writers might be hinting about Wally</a>). And at least this time, with a reboot behind them, writers don't have to come up with a new way to bring them back from the dead.