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Comic Book Fans' Kryptonite: Faulty Assumptions

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire July 6, 2012 at 9:45AM

They drive so much of angry fanboy discourse.
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"The Amazing Spider-Man."
"The Amazing Spider-Man."

I write this blog out of a small home office. Two of its walls are covered with four bookshelves; one of those bookshelves is filled from floor to ceiling with graphic novels. Strewn about those graphic novels are assorted Spider-Man action figures and a couple plush dolls. On the wall adjacent hangs one of my most prized possessions: an original piece of art from "Spidey Super Stories" #8, a back cover ad encouraging readers to watch Spider-Man on "The Electric Company," the early 1980s PBS children's show that, as an infant, helped teach me to read and introduced me to the character whose exploits I would follow for the next thirty years. In other words: I love Spider-Man and I always have -- and if I haven't stopped loving Spider-Man by this point, I probably always will.

That's why the situation I found myself in last week felt so surreal. I'd reviewed "The Amazing Spider-Man" for ScreenCrush and, to my surprise and disappointment, didn't care for the movie. And then to my smaller surprise and bigger disappointment, comic book fans began to attack me for it. I was called "pissy" and "an idiot" and "not a real critic." Several people insisted I had wanted to hate it all along because the film was a reboot. One guy said I "eat Chinese penis for breakfast" which is an absurd exaggeration of my eating habits.

It would not be an exaggeration to call watching Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" in 2002 the culmination of a lifelong dream. I saw it in the theater three times (there may or may not [or may] have been tears in my eyes the first time). I would call it a borderline orgasmic experience, but that would be disgusting. Accurate, but disgusting.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" gave me none of that. It has a few moments of visual bliss -- as a hardcore Spidey-dork, how could I not get excited about 3-D web-slinging POV shots? -- surrounded by a lot of uninspired repetition from Raimi's "Spider-Man." To be totally, brutally honest, during long stretches of this movie I was bored. And this is a Spider-Man movie! That should be impossible.

As a comic book fan, I've grown accustomed to buying the same stories over and over. My collection holds at least three different versions of Spider-Man's origin: the original tale, in a reprint of "Amazing Fantasy #15," a mini-series from the 1990s called "Spider-Man: Chapter One," and the early issues of a fabulous (and still running) ongoing comic called "Ultimate Spider-Man," first published in 2000, that successfully reinvented Peter Parker as a 21st century teenager. "Ultimate Spider-Man" is a reboot, and it is fantastic. The problem with "The Amazing Spider-Man" is not that it's a reboot, but that it's a bad reboot, more a rehash than a reimagining.

Maybe I didn't convey that well enough in my review. Or maybe some comic book fans, worried about potential spoilers, skimmed the piece and didn't process any of my arguments. Either way, a small group of readers were livid, and they went on the attack. 

I don't have a problem with anyone disagreeing with something I write. I love when commenters respond to my articles in rational, intelligent ways. But these comments were not rational or intelligent. Everything wrong with them -- and everything wrong with the way these comic book fans treat people who voice opinions they don't like -- can be summed up in one word: 

Assumptions.

Angry nerd commenters (commentnerds?) assumed that since I didn't like "The Amazing Spider-Man" that I must hate Spider-Man altogether. They assumed that since I didn't like this reboot that I must hate all reboots (guess I have to throw away my copy of "Batman Begins"). They assumed that since I didn't talk about the comic books in my review that I must never have read comic books and don't understand how they work.

Their assumptions extended from my review to the movie itself. They assumed something they read in a publicity interview was more accurate than my description of the finished film. They assumed that the hypothetical movie they've imagined in their minds is better than the actual one I've seen with my eyes.

So much of angry fanboy discourse on the Internet is fueled by faulty assumptions. The phrase "see it and decide for yourself" is kryptonite to these folks -- all decisions must be made in advance according to the commentnerd hive mind. Any deviation from the party line must be shouted down, belittled, rationalized, and dismissed. I didn't like this reboot hence I didn't want to see any reboot hence I eat Chinese penis. At that point the conversation is over -- and the movie hasn't even come out yet.

That's what I want: a conversation. I want to have long, intense conversations about Spider-Man (oh God, how I want to have long, intense conversations about Spider-Man). Tell me I'm wrong. But see the movie first. Then we can actually discuss whether this is really a super story about Spidey.

This article is related to: The Amazing Spider-Man, Internet Commenters


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