Random Reflections: The Relationship Between Creators and Readers

At the risk of sticking my nose in other people’s business, I was struck by an exasperated-sounding Internet rant penned by current Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott which was seemingly inspired by a wave of complaints directed at Slott by various critics around the web.

Only in the Internet age can a writer/artist instantaneously reach thousands of people with an emotional response to critics. The fact that Slott “tweeted” the link to his rant over the weekend is even more indicative of how evolving technology has affected the relationship between creators and their audience. When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first introduced Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15 nearly 50 years ago, could you imagine them buying ad space in a newspaper or billboard responding to people who thought that Peter Parker was too young and immature-looking to be a superhero, or that a teenager with “spider” powers was just a cheap rip-off of some other character? Of course you can’t, because that would never happen.

That’s not to say that Slott shouldn’t have publicly said what he did, but it’s a tad uncomfortable all the same to see such pushback from a creator. Granted, Chasing Amazing has a relatively nonexistent readership compared to the larger sites who were the likely targets of Slott’s ire, but I’m not shy about my opinions regarding ASM and Spider-Man comic books in general. Am I one of the Internet “Goldilocks” Slott is referring to – those who can never really be satisfied? Should I be self-conscious when I bring up that I’m still not happy about the fact that Spider-Man lost his Spidey Sense or that as much as I like the “Spider Island” storyline right now I still have concerns that the series could be bogged down by too many guest appearances and crossovers. I scoff at what I call industry “gimmicks” like variant covers and polybags. But am I being critical for the sake of being critical?

In the age of the Internet and instant communication methods, do we owe comic book creative teams a little more patience and perhaps and little less hysteria when  a writer introduces a major change for a character or when a current storyline reminds us of something that was done years ago (to bad results)? So far, I’ve physically read through two ASM Spider Island issues and a handful of crossovers. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions mentioning past storylines like Maximum Carnage and the Clone Saga (which I view in a negative light).  Perhaps I’m being a bit narcissistic in making the criticisms that I make – something that I wouldn’t hesitate to say is a problem for many people who declare themselves to be “critics.”

But I also question why anyone who is the head writer or illustrator for a major comic book title like ASM would care enough about his critics to publicly rant and then tweet the results online. Granted, in the case of Slott, he ends his rant by saying confidently that he’s doing the best he can do and we can all either love it or hate it. But setting up that “right” attitude with a few paragraphs of exasperation only serves to validate, or worse, instigate Slott’s critics. Personally, I don’t need to know how proud Slott is of his own work. I’m going to assume he’s going to do the best job he can possibly do or else I’m sure Marvel would replace him with someone who’s going to be more inspired. Slott’s a writer for one of the best-selling comic book series on the market – of course he’s one of the best. As readers, we owe him at least that little benefit of the doubt.

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