Sunday, May 20, 2012

Social Networking in the Bronze Age of Comics

Doug:  As Facebook went public just two days ago, let's do a social networking time capsule.  I'm personally not on Facebook -- I always like to use the smart alleck answer that I really don't care if your cat has bunions.  And I don't.  Really.  Anyway, some time ago frequent commenter Redartz suggested (with minor editing by me) we do a post that goes like this:

said... How about a look at the social aspect of comic fandom? What first drew your attention to comics; were you a lone reader or was there a circle of friends with shared interest? Were you in FOOM, the MMMS, or another club? Were the companies' efforts to grab and expand your interest (think Marvel Value Stamps) successful?

Doug:  Last week we took a look at how you've been in and out of the comics habit/hobby.  Today we're going to personalize it just a bit more and ask you who those "significant others" were when you were a child -- were they cousins or siblings, schoolmates, or neighbors?  Were you an island in your comics-buying or did you know a lot of other kids who shared your interests?  Did you get together with specific friends to read and trade and draw and play Megos?  And how about those company marketing attempts?  We've discussed FOOM and such before, but so what?  We're all middle-aged and no one remembers anyway!  Talk about it again! 



dbutler16 said...

I totally, 100% agree with Doug about Facebook. I think we've gone from the Information Age to the Too Much Information Age.

I was never in any fan club as a youngster. I did have a couple of friends who were into comics, but they eventually dropped out and by the end of high school I was definitely on a comic book island and it's been that way ever since. :-( That's one reason I'm here, I imagine.

Edo Bosnar said...

I was pretty much in an island as well; I got into comics because my older brother (who wasn't into them at all) bought 2 comic books on a family vacation and then tossed them to me when he rather quickly became bored with them - and thereby infected me for life. Up to about the 3rd/4th grade, there were a few other kids in my class at school who were into comics, but none had my intensity, except for one other kid, although he was more interested in Conan and sword & sorcery in general than I was (and he had a cool dad who often bought Warren magazines for him). Even so, he lost interest by the time we hit 6th/7the grade, so I was on my own.
Since I grew up in pretty rural area between a rather small city and a really small town, there was no question of me getting in touch with wider fandom by way or conventions or anything, and I only discovered there was such a thing as comic shops when I was about 12. I had heard of Foom, but never subscribed, so the first fanzine type thing I read were the Fantaco Chronicles (with issues focusing on the X-men, Daredevil, the FF, Spider-man and the Avengers). That was the first time I ever saw entire magazines dedicated to commentary on comics, and I just ate those up.

Anonymous said...

Most of my classmates in second and third grade were Batman fans because of the then-ubiquitous TV series, but only two were fans of comics in general. We hung out together, traded comics, and drew our own homemade comic books. After they moved away, I was pretty much an island. By the time I was 10-12, I was outgrowing comics and moving on to other interests anyway. I came back to the hobby in the 1980's and enjoyed socializing with other fans during weekly visits to the LCS, but didn't attend conventions or join fan clubs. After that store closed, we drifted apart. And I was once again losing interest in comics. This time, it wasn't because of "outgrowing" them. It was because of the endless reboots and retcons, cynical marketing ploys, and ever-increasing emphasis on grimdark that made comics depressing instead of entertaining.

Redartz said...

I was fortunate; the friend who got me hooked on comics was just as rabid as I was. We frequented each other's homes and compared collections. His mother was a big antique buff, and took us to shops and flea markets. After college he moved away, but I believe he still maintains an interest in comics.

Once in college, I became friends with several other comic fans (it was Art School, after all). One of those friends rented a VCR (at the time an amazing luxury) and hosted a party featuring, among others, Kubrick's 2001. Over the years, I had a lot of peer support for the hobby!

Additionally, I did join FOOM, and got a huge kick experiencing comic cons. Today, I am on Facebook, but severely limit my posts. As Doug illustrated, there are limits to what others might find of interest. It has been helpful, though, to reconnect with those fore-mentioned friends...

Roygbiv666 said...

I was born in 1969 in a town of 15-20 thousand.

By 1974 I was buying and reading them. One guy at elementary school was a big Marvel fan and introduced me to comic bags, boxes, and the Overstreet Price guide (seems like 1979). Not too many other comic fans that I knew of in town. I was the comic nerd.

There was no comic shop in town, for that we had to go to Halifax, an hour south, which seemed like a long distance.

I never wrote to a letter column, but did have a question answered in DC's "Daily Planet" Ask the Answer Man column (how much was some issue of the Atom worth) - I cannot for the life of me find the issue though. If anyone happens to stumble across it (Roy Johnson, Truro, NS) lemme know what issue it appears in.

By 1985 I was deciding to put them aside as per the "put away childish things" nonsense. Came back in the late 1990s as a sort of comfort food for getting through tough times.

Wait, what was the question?

Anonymous said...

Well my brother and I were always comics fans even from a young age. Most 'normal' kids I knew only loved Archie comics rather than Marvel/DC which I preferred. Apart from my textbooks there were always the adventures of Thor, the FF ,X-men, Hulk, Spidey and others.

Growing up in Trinidad I always thought of comics fans as some sort of small, clannish cult; we were rabid fans who though small in number were quite serious in our collecting.

Now that I'm an adult I realize that there were always people who loved comics but they probably weren't as visible as the small group of people I hung out with. As another blogger said, you can use the very same Facebook to connect with other fans who share your quirky hobby. It's only then that you realize that your small cult is actually a large mass of thousands of fans! (Disclaimer - I'm not on Facebook but on twitter, but that's another story)

I'm one of those persons who believe that it's not the technology that's inherently good or bad but rather in how you use it. Depending on how you use it, dynamite can be both useful and destructive as well.

Dunno why, but I prefer reading good old fashioned dead trees paper comics as opposed to digital comics. Excelsior!

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Most of my friends were not into comics the way I was, but they liked them to some extent. But other kids in school -that was a different situation. Once it was discovered I liked comics (and Star Trek, a whole other story) I got hassled mercilessly. But it didn't deter me. Marvel had always managed to make me feel like I belonged to something, and that only increased when I joined FOOM.

A few years later, I discovered the Comics Buyers Guide, back when it was a weekly newspaper. Through it, I found a pen pal who I eventually met and became friends with. Funny thing -we recently re-met via Facebook! It is good for something, although I agree it is often filled with self-serving trivia.

I also went to comic and sci fi conventions and met a lot of other fans. Even if these were passing acquaintances, it was still heartening to know that I was not alone in my interests.

I find it oddly validating to see The Avengers is a massive hit. I guess I was actually the coolest kid of them all -and forty years ahead of my time!


david_b said...

Not a fan of Facebook, yet I find my Mrs coming up with great photos/stories of family members far away.. Not a member, and it's funny my wife calls BAB and megomuseum 'my facebook..', and to an extent, she's right. Not much care regarding cats with bunions, either.

As for growing up, my first comics came to me when I live on a small farm outside Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. When I moved into Beaver Dam, there were a few grocery stores, a pharmacy and a gift shop. No classmate interaction until later that year in 5th grade, making friends with another kid named David, who's church pastor family were living across town, 20 min by bike. We had VERY similar interests in comics, Marvel/DC, and he had a good amount of Megos, vehicles, you name it. It was my mom's joy to have my spend time at friends houses who had all the toys, so she didn't have to buy as much.. I only had a half-dozen Megos, but between David, and another friend who had all the Trek Megos David and I never had, it was a fun couple of years. David's mom thought Trek was 'too adult' and wouldn't let him watch it, instead he was a fan of the Irwin Allen series.

After that, collecting was alright for some limited continuity, but a lot of passion was lost when my friend David moved away. We reconnected by mail when we were both in college 6 yrs later, and he'd send me a few comics he was getting rid of, which was cool..

Other than that, never had any 'Big Bang' comaraderie or hangouts at LCS... Mainly a lone wolf in the wilderness.

Fred W. Hill said...

I was essentially an island when it came to comics collecting as a kid. I was the eldest of 3 brothers (of whom one was about 10 months and the other 6 years & 4 days younger than me) and we were a Navy family that moved around quite a bit. Although my middle brother and I both got into reading comics, by the time we were 8 & 9 our tastes had significantly divirged as I was more into Marvel superhero comics and he was more into stuff like Tarzan when it was published by Gold Key; Harvey's humor comics or, later, Kirby's Komandi & OMAC. I had a few childhood friends who were also into Marvel but it was always the case of finding we had a mutual interest in them rather than influencing one another's tastes. Only much later, reading The Comics Journal shaped some of my adult tastes in graphic literature, aka comics!

Inkstained Wretch said...

Like the others here, I was kind of an island. I had a few friends that were into comics, but none as much as me and they drifted away after a few years anyhow. And the guys who ran the local comics shops were the living embodiment of the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy ...

That's why I like this forum so much. Literally for the first time in my life I can talk to and hang with fellow enthusiasts, if only in cyberspace. So thank you Doug & Karen for maintaining this site!

Garett said...

I was the comic guy amongst my friends, although a few also read them. I traded with my friend Troy, so we'd get to read double the number of comics we bought. I always thought about writing a letter to DC/Marvel, but never quite got around to it.

In the last 10 years I've connected with more intense fans, at the comic shop I mentioned a couple days ago. Saturday mornings I'd go and meet up with the regulars, buy a few comics, chat...many were artists of one kind or another. It was a great club, music playing, getting recommendations about different comics. One guy was a teacher, and brought comics in for his students. Two were local cartoonists. So over the last decade I've had more of a comic community than I had as a kid! The shop closed in 2010, and every time I drive by the location I take a look over, just to see if he's somehow re-opened. Luckily BAB has arrived in the nick of time!

Garett said...

Oh and I think Facebook is great! It's allowed me to reconnect with people I hadn't seen in years. Also nice to see the news each day from friends/relatives I don't see that often in person.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

Unfortunately I was alone in my comic book collecting. It was the only thing that kept my sanity while I was growing up. I did subscribe to F.O.O.M. and had all the Mego action super heroes. I had to sell all my comics to get my car repaired, however I still have my Marvel Essencials and old paperbacks. I am an avid 1970's comic book fan. Jack Kirby being may favorite artist. I still am facinated how Stan got all the glory while Jack Kirby created the look and style of all the characters. It wasn't Stan's wonderful writing I wanted to see each month. It was Jack Kirby's art that got me to buy the comics in the first place!

Doug said...

To those of you who said "thanks" for the BAB blog, we're throwing it right back atcha! You read, you respond -- for us, that's what makes it a fun place.

I've always seemed to have a friend in my life who likes comics, although during the high school years when I was out of collecting I am pretty sure I didn't know anyone who was into comics. Sharing the hobby with someone else is pretty special, and that's one thing I like about this place. I only wish there was a way for us to trade or even buy/sell in a trusting environment here. I've always thought that a comics library would be the coolest idea.


david_b said...

Long.. Live.. BAB.

Redartz said...

Amen, david_b! This is a great place to visit; a gathering of friends! A smile every day...

Edo Bosnar said...

I'll third the general love-fest pile-on for BAB.
And Doug, love the comics library idea. Too bad it's kind of unworkable for us.

pete doree said...

Well, we were lucky, we had a little comics community in our town: there was me, David( who only bought Marvel ), Andrew ( who was always the first to try out new & interesting stuff-He bought Neverwhere, Stewart The Rat & Sabre long before anybody else ), Dean ( who would never swap you anything good no matter how many Atlas' you offered him ) and Sean ( Phillips-who now draws Marvel Zombies / Criminal )
It never even occoured to us that we could actually go to conventions or anything like that ( they were in America, weren't they? ), and we were all still bullied at school, but we didn't care.
We just used to swap comics, and between us all, managed to buy everything that came out each month
( if I missed an issue of something, somebody would've bought it & lend it to me )
I was the only one who joined FOOM, though later we all read Dean's copies of BEM ( a UK fanzine )but that was it for connecting with other fans. Again, no idea that was even possible.
Me, Sean & Dave did our own comics like everybody else ( 'The Kids Of Rec. Road' See Sean's blog )
So thinking about it, we seem to have been really lucky compared to other fans!

Me, Dave & Sean do all go to conventions now obviously ( making up for lost time, and of course Sean has to go ) but the others sold their collections years ago ( and not to any of us, the gits! )

Rip Jagger said...

I had some buddies who also got comics when I was in sixth grade, but they faded out on the hobby as I stayed on board.

One shining moment I remember mightily was once as a young teen when I was sitting in a local eatery with a copy of the latest Conan in my mitts, one of the last ones by Barry Smith, and a twenty-something guy I did not know came over and asked me if that was a Conan comic I was holding. He took a keen interest in the book, bid me adieu and I never saw him again.

But he showed me that I was not alone in the comic book world, there were other flesh and blood folks who knew of it. A few years later in college I met many such folks, but in my little Kentucky hometown they were rare indeed.

I try to show such interest in things kids are enjoying, and sometimes I can tell the mere mention of their hobby by an adult can help validate what they do. It's more important than we know.

Rip Off

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