There was a time — not all that long ago, either — when the people who went to Comicon read comics. Not only did they read comics, they went to Comicon to buy comics. To get their favorite covers signed by their favorite artists. To meet their favorite writers. To find that special issue of Fantastic Four #12 they have been searching for their entire lives. Now… this contingent of the Comicon crowd probably makes up, what, 15-20%? Maybe? The Glorification of the Geek has not created more “geeks”, as it were. It has created a generation of posers (yup, I just used that term)… who at this very moment are ordering Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier trade paperback just to ruin the upcoming movie for themselves. They are not interested in the rest of his run, nor the context in which the character is presented in a series of flashback scenes previous to the 5th volume. My LCS guy recently told me that all the comic-book movie hype, the TV adaptations, the Glorification of the Geek, has not resulted in higher sales and income for his store. It has changed absolutely nothing in his business, the business of selling comic books and graphic novels. I was surprised by this, but I guess I understand now. The Glorification of the Geek exists as part of the larger cultural whole. It is CEO’s of media conglomerates figuring out how to make the most money off ancillary super-hero characters, fast food chains making multi-millions to send out tiny plastic Thor’s with each burger. Comic book culture — take away all the adaptations and blockbusters and video games — still exists in its own cultural microcosm.
A few nights ago in bed I made the mistake of flipping to G4′s coverage of Comicon. In roughly 45 minutes (it took for me to fall asleep) they talked about comics for about 5. A nice piece sure, but a 5 minute piece. But this isn’t what made me mad. What made me mad was when some massive douche (the kind of guy who you know was a heart-throb in high school, a frat boy in college, and has an odd fascination with Deadpool though he doesn’t read Deadpool comics; I’ll refer to him as MD from here on out) on the G4 payroll — I’m assuming failed/failing actor? — “interviewed” A Song Of Ice And Fire/Game of Thrones writer/creator George R. R. Martin. I immediately took to liking George personally because he said, “I remember when Comicon was a bunch of guys selling single issues of comics out of cardboard boxes.” Little known to MD, apparently, George is one of the best Fantasy writers of all-time. The languages, cultures, histories, geographies, styles he creates for his novels rival that of J. R. R. Tolkien in density and care. In fact, in the time MD spent with Mr. Martin, not one time did he himself mention or ask anything about Martin’s writing process, the next book of the saga, which writers inspired him, etc. MD ONLY wanted to talk about the HBO Game of Thrones. Which, don’t get me wrong, I fucking love. I also don’t read the Song of Fire and Ice novels. But if I were given a chance to interview a brain like George R. R. Martin, you better believe I would grill him about his craft, which he has so clearly perfected. MD acted as if their existence was futile. He even went so far as to ask, “Do you have any spoilers or anything you can tell us about the third season [of Game of Thrones]?”. To which Martin replied very sincerely and politely, “Well… there is a whole book full of spoilers in the form of the series’ third novel. Each season is based on a single book and the third is based on A Storm of Swords.” He wasn’t cynical about it, he gracefully took the opening MD gave him to mention: “I’M A WRITER. AND THIS THING YOU’VE BEEN BUGGING ME ABOUT, I WROTE THAT ORIGINALLY”. This was the only time Martin’s novels, or his craft/art, were mentioned at anytime during the interview. It took Martin himself to mention it. Of course, MD concluded his spectacular interview with, “Well George, from one geek to another, I thank you.”
Again, here the novels Martin writes exist in their own microcosm from the rest of popular culture. It’s as if, at least to MD and people like him, they don’t even exist at all. Or they’re not worth talking about. Which… ya know, it’s been that way with Fantasy novels for an eternity. Same with comic books and D&D and manga and fighting games and all the rest. The difference was that prior to the Glorification of the Geek these things were not lending themselves — or parts of themselves — to the mainstream for corporate interests and people like MD’s false sense of individualism. And the geeks, the real geeks, liked that. But why the fuck did I wake up this morning with all this on my brain? Well… if one traces the Glorification of the Geek backwards and attempts to find the source, or maybe just the springboard of the phenomena, one will find three things: the video-game industry surpassing the film industry in billions of dollars, the decline of new ideas, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men/ Sam Raimi’s Spiderman/ Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins. 2000, 2002, and 2005 respectively. There had been comic book movies before this, but these are what set the industry on a decade long run (we’re looking at maybe a 2-decade run) towards reboots, adaptations, and fresh starts. And the best of them all? Batman Begins. By far. X-Men originated it, Spiderman brought it to the widest possible audience, and Batman Begins made it… well, good.
So maybe, just maybe, all this shit is in my brain this morning because I’ve loved Batman since I was like 3 years old and I know that when I go to see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend I have to share the theater with people who enjoy things like American Idol, Kenny Chesney, and Dan Brown novels. Not that they don’t have a right to see it, or that I’m better than them. It’s just… there was a time when those three things were more important to them than Batman movies. And I’m counting the years as the pendulum swings back again.
[The Glorification of the Geek is eerily similar to what happened to "Grunge", which I should compare sometime.]