Fanboy Rampage

One thing that's pretty clear about comic fans: They're an easily outraged bunch. Maybe their outrage is justified — or even <a href="">a human reaction, according to scientists</a> — but the number of angry blogs and message boards and Facebook posts about comics gives evidence to just how fired up some comic fans can get. <p>Obviously, you can only paint an interest group with only so broad a brush, but there are certain things that seem to upset a <i>lot</i> of fans. And there are plenty of recent events that have inspired rants — from DC's de-powering of Superman to the ramifications of Marvel's <i>Secret Wars</i>. <P>So with all that in mind, Newsarama is counting down its Top 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Comic Fans Riled Up.


Retcons are common in comic books. But when retcons are used to explain away stories that were <i>previously</i> in continuity, comic fans have a tough time accepting it. And when we say tough time, we mean there will probably be blood. <p>While some fans might be willing to accept Nick Fury looking more villainous thanks to the retcon in <i>Original Sin</i>, other changes over the years have fans screaming Hulk Smash — whether it's the fact that Xorn wasn't <i>really</i> Magneto (but was actually Xorn's brother pretending to be Magneto pretending to be Xorn), or the rebirth of Jason Todd (because Superboy-Prime punched a crack into a wall), or even the elimination of Spider-Man's marriage because of a deal made with a demon. <p>These days, retcons are less common — reboots and changed timelines are all the rage — giving comic companies the ability to avoid changing the past by simply starting over with a new future.


Fans might get excited when publishers announce major events, but in today's publishing atmosphere, bloggers and online commenters have been throwing around the term "event fatigue" to describe the feeling that stories don't resolve… they just lead to another event. <p>After Marvel and DC both filled their release schedule with tie-ins during <i>Secret Wars</i> and <i>Convergence</i>, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio admitted the problem in a recent Newsarama interview as he said, "One of the things you always hear from fans is that there are too many events, and too many things that are tied together. I have to agree that sometimes our stories get so interconnected and intertwined that it's hard to read one without reading 20."


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>Yet the plethora of superhero films that are hitting the big screens have tempered the outrage a bit, as fans get used to the changes. After the heated online fan discussion about Perry White in <i>Man of Steel</i> being played by black actor Laurence Fishburne, fans were a little more accepting when Marvel announced that black actor Michael B. Jordan was cast as the Human Torch in <i>Fantastic Four</i>. <p>But a lot of fans didn't give the <i>Iron Man</i> franchise the same flexibility, reacting negatively when the third movie's "twist" changed Marvel's villain, the Mandarin, into a bumbling idiot. Fans are still upset that Ben Affleck played the red-headed and blind <i>Daredevil</i> (whose onscreen origin included, to fans' dismay, a criminal's death) — so much so that the movie is often cited when fans complain that he's playing Batman in the upcoming <i>Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice</i>.


We tread lightly with this one because, well, this does tend to get quite a reaction among some fans. But social media outbursts in recent months seem to focus on the unflattering portrayal of sexual minority characters.<p> Although most fans wouldn't mind seeing more sexual diversity in their comics, it should be clarified that only certain portrayals will avoid controversy. For example, when a well-liked transgender character <a href="">showed up in <i>Batgirl</i></a>, the reaction was positive. But when the same comic book featured a <i>villain</i> in drag who surprised Batgirl, the reaction was so immediately negative that <a href="">the creators issued an apology</a>. <p>Similarly, a writer who was lauded in 2012 for his <a href="">addition of a homosexual Green Lantern in <i>Earth 2</i></a> was recently attacked for his inclusion of a not-well-rounded-enough-for-some-fans transgender character (and again, another character's surprise) in <i>Airboy</i>. And also again, <a href="">an apology followed</a>. <p>Even a writer who helped introduce one of the first positive transgender characters in superhero comic books (in 1992's <i>Legion of Super-Heroes</i>) has <a href="">caught heat</a> for the should-we-be-laughing-at-this portrayal of a male-inside-a-female-body Guy Gardner in <i>Justice League 3001</i>. <p>So although comics are getting to the point where LGBT characters are more common, the audience can get plenty pissed about certain types of portrayals.


Yeah, that's a broad title, considering a lot of changes in comic books go unexplained. But in the case of loyal comic fans, who know all the details of their favorite characters' pasts, not knowing or understanding those changes is akin to torture. <p>And it's exactly where DC finds itself since its reboot, even four years later, 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. Walk into any comic book 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.


It's becoming the trend in stories about superheroes — most recently evidenced by the ramifications of <i>Secret Wars</i> and DC's we-erased-the-<i>Crisis</i> ending of <i>Convergence</i>. <p>Heck, even the movie industry is going at it — in less than 10 years, we've seen multiple versions of Spider-Man, Superman, the Hulk and Punisher, with a new Batman coming soon. <p>When something isn't working — or the story seems to be finished — or someone sneezed too hard or something — companies and/or writers just start over, either discarding or ignoring the last creative team's work. <p>That's all well and good in some storytelling media, but in ongoing comic books? That are supposed to be, you know, ongoing? Let's just say, fans are getting a little heated over it.


For the last few years, a hot topic on the angry comic book blogosphere has been women in comics. And that includes female characters, 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="">started a website called Women in Refrigerators</a> that bemoaned the all-too-frequent use of female characters as disposable plot devices. 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 solely for the sake of challenging male superheroes. <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><I>Earth 2</I> writer Tom Taylor used the term in 2013 when he told Newsarama he was "unfridging" Lois Lane — in other words, bringing her back to life from an allegedly meaningless death. Woe to the writer who kills a woman (or even creates any character solely to kill them for motivation of the "hero") on a comic page flippantly. Watch out writers — the "Women in Refrigerators" phrase will get whipped out quicker than her blood can run onto the floor. And scandal will follow.


We're still reeling from the angry reaction to DC's re-introduction of Wally West, from the familiar redheaded Flash to a teenaged person of color. It follows a couple other memorable changes: DC's announcement in 2012 that a Green Lantern would go from being a straight character to a gay (which spurred a huge reaction in the mainstream press), and Marvel's addition of a half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man in 2011 to heated fan reaction. <p>It's an ongoing issue that <a href="">Newsarama explored in detail in 2011, when a lot of feathers were being ruffled</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." <p>Apparently, that matters to a sect of comic fans. <p>Even Dan DiDio, co-publisher at DC, was careful to temper his language when asked about diversity a few years ago. "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 comic books, even something that resembles a complete surprise will get many fans worked up as they label it a "deus ex machina." <p>Never mind that comic books 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="">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."


Let's face it: The comics community, particularly the <i>online</i> comics community, has become a lot more female over the last couple decades. But for some reason, it's taking publishers awhile to change the type of imagery it slaps on the covers — and sometimes the interiors — of its comics. <p>When Starfire was introduced to the New 52 with barely any clothing — and dialogue that implied she was sexually promiscuous (and seemingly, a little mentally vacuous) — readers of both genders expressed concern, and the company's relaunch itself had <a href="">fans and creators alike</a> wondering why more women didn't work in comics. <p>But recent allegations about sexism on comic book covers — like <i>Teen Titans</i>, <i>Spider-Woman</i> and, <a href="">more recently, the pulled-before-publication <i>Batgirl</i> cover</a> — have practically led to wars between creators, bloggers and commenters who disagree about what constitutes a sexist image. <p>Whatever the outcome of the current topic, the issue isn't going away anytime soon, and many female comic readers (and there are a <i>lot</i> of us) are hoping someday the discussion will be archaic because comics will end the objectification of women that was previously all too common.

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Piss Off a Comic Book Reader

Date: 22 September 2015 Time: 12:00 AM ET