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The Wednesday Waffle Issue #27: Gatekeeping.

A genuine opinion based Waffle this week - but if you want to have a bit of a browse around the comics that came in for today's New Comic Book Day you can:


Before we get into the opinions though, some sad news was announced last week:


Si Spencer, 1961-2021

We are saddened to hear of the death of writer Si Spencer. Like many veteran British writers his name isn't as well known as it deserved to be. Si Spencer was a stalwart at the Judge Dredd Megazine for many years, responsible for creating beloved series such as as ‘Harke & Burr’ and ‘The Creep’, as well as ‘The Returners’, which graces the pages of the current Megazine.

A good Sheffield lad, Si was inspired to write by his secondary school English teacher, Viv Nicholls, and eventually discovered 2000 AD and other titles such as Warrior. He got into creating comics with Sideshow, a self published comic he produced with artist Adrian Dungworth.

Professionally he got started on the more adult oriented 2000AD spin-offs Revolver and CRISIS! Before moving on to edit the much missed Deadline comic/magazine. He also did some TV work, writing for such BBC staples as Grange Hill and Eastenders - and ITV's The Bill.

A meeting with Shelly Bond led him to work on the Books of Magic series for Vertigo amongst other titles, and then back across the pond to the Megazine.

Our sincere condolences go out to his friends and family. He will be missed.


Adrian Wassel's tweet about Gatekeepers

This is a train of thought that was started specifically last Wednesday by this tweet (which I saw literally as I was tweeting about last week's waffle...) from Adrian Wassel, Editor in Chief of Vault Comics, all 'round good egg and (to date at least) the only publisher who ever rang me personally to find out how his company could work better with retailers.

It's something that I find myself thinking about a lot though, because I spend more time on social media than is really healthy and I see a lot of gatekeeping.

You don't have to spend much time on any social media page attached to pretty much any geeky topic, be it comics in general, specific comics series, Sci Fi movies or shows, gaming, whatever - hang around for a couple of minutes and you'll soon see it.

Somebody asks a question, or ventures an opinion and the comments immediately go off on one. Let's use the above example. Comics letterer extraordinaire Taylor Esposito reacted to the announcement of the new Batman '89 comic (see last week's Waffle...) with genuine enthusiasm - tweeting that he's love to work on it because Michael Keaton's first outing in the suit was "why I got into comics".

In response somebody felt the need to impose some negativity into what has started out as a genuine expression of joy to say "Huh weird I got into reading comics from reading comics".

Now, some of you might be thinking that Wassel and myself are a little extreme in our reaction to this. "Surely", I hear some of you thinking, "this is just a dude responding with their own experience?" But I have a habit of reading in a tone of voice, and I don't appreciate that dude's tone. Frankly, there's a sneer in it.

Seems to me that what the guy is saying is "Oh, you got into comics through a movie? Well that means you're not as pure a comics fan as me, because I just went straight into comics!" and I can't stress enough how much I hate that attitude. Speaking personally I also got into comics through reading comics - specifically 2000 AD.

Aged about fourteen I was on a three week work experience placement. In those pre-phone days I needed something to entertain me during my lunch break - I couldn't keep a paper back book open while I was eating, so I bought a copy of 2000 AD because it opened flat on the table. The next day I bought a copy of Amazing Spider-Man because it was the eighties and you could still buy US comics in newsagents.

The rest is history.

But one of the most enthusiastic of our regular customers is a young mum who got into comics because she went to see the movie Venom with her husband. For him, it was just date night going to see the action movie that happened to be on at the cinema. For her though, it was the start of a journey into comics that has led her to discover not just Venom comics but all kinds of comics from all kinds of publishers, both mainstream and indie.

I know other people who got into comics because they used to make their own. Others who started reading their older siblings old comics, or found a box of their Dad's in the attic.

The way one person got into the medium is no more or less valid than the way any other person got into it. It just isn't. It doesn't matter how people find comics. All I care about is that they do.

And then there's the fandoms where people insist that some fans aren't "True Fans".

The worst for this are probably Star Wars and Doctor Who, perhaps because they've both been running for a long time and have had several distinct iterations. (Trek has a similar problem, but less obviously). Spend any time on any fan page for either of these franchises and it won't be long before you see an example of this behaviour.

Somebody will express a positive opinion about one of the prequel or sequel Star Wars films, or about a particular story or series of Doctor Who only to be instantly pounced on by people who not only can't stand that somebody likes a thing that they also like, but in a slightly different way, but can't find a way to keep their outrage to themselves.

Say anything positive about the most recent examples of either Star Wars or Doctor Who and you'll have a metric shedload of people telling you that they "hate the modern stuff, it's all woke political crap now" and that "real fans" don't watch anymore as a result.

Comics are no better. Somebody on a Marvel Comics group - and not a group that focusses on the classics, but one where the discussion is pretty much exclusively about the latest releases - went on a rant the other day about how they didn't bother with modern comics because they were all "woke Libtard crap" that were full of "forced diversity" and "leftist propaganda".

The clear implication is that these people believe that people who like modern comics, or modern Doctor Who, or the Star Wars sequel trilogy don't like them because they're fans of those things. They seem to think that we're in fact really just fans of left wing politics which we're somehow forcing the people who make these things to inject into the franchises with the express intention of running the said franchises into the ground.

To be honest I have never really understood what the definition of "woke Libtard crap" is, but I do understand what is generally meant when people talk about "forced diversity". What they mean is that they're seeing an increase in comics with central characters who are women, or ethnically diverse, or belong to religions that aren't Christianity, or LGBTQI+, and they don't like it.

And again - they're perfectly within their rights to not like it. If they don't want to read about such characters, they can still read comics featuring big white dudes punching other big white dudes. Those comics still exist. The new Ms Marvel being a Muslim teenager from New Jersey doesn't mean that the old stories featuring Carol Danvers have ceased to exist, and it certainly doesn't mean that other tall, blonde women with super powers and a costume based around swimwear don't still exist.

The bottom line, surely, is that being a geek is about loving the things you love and letting other people do the same. There is no right way or wrong way to be a fan. If you like any part of Star Wars, even if it's one of the bits I can't be doing with (looking at you, prequels...), then you are a Star Wars fan. If you like any part of the massive amount of stuff that features Batman then you are a Batman fan. Even if you like Batman and Robin!

And so on. And so on.

I'm allowed to hate The Phantom Menace and love The Last Jedi. Other people are allowed to love The Phantom Menace and hate The Last Jedi. Other people are perfectly allowed to love both. We could all get together and explain what we dislike about them (for the record, mostly trade negotiations, midichlorians and that interminable podrace) and what we like about them (again, speaking personally, Ade Edmunson, and the final showdown. Everything to do with Canto Bight can do one though...).

And we can disagree, and perhaps acknowledge that there are things we like about the things we hate (Ray Park's fight choreography) and things we hate about the thing we like (the afore-mentioned Canto Bight). That's the kind of fun discussion we used to have. Before the dark times. Before Social Media.

We can have that again. We just need to be less judgy. Chances are if you don't like an instalment of a franchise you enjoy it might not have been made for you, but aimed at a different audience entirely. Just let it be and love the things you love, and refrain from yucking other people's yum.

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