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Five Star Friday

Also, All Superhero Readers Are Socially Retarded Dorks Who've Never Kissed a Girl

Sigh.

Everything seems to be bugging me these days.

This, for example: an NPR blogger backhandedly giving a recommendation for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics.

Hey, spreading the word of Sandman is always a good thing. It’s a great comic for fantasy readers who don’t think of themselves as comics readers (folks like my beautiful wife, for example). It’s a complex, layered and utterly absorbing work about the power of human imagination, dealing with your difficult family members, and the reasons why we tell each other stories and why we listen to them. It featured artwork by some of the best cartoonists and illustrators of its era, people like Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Charles Vess, Kelly Jones and loads of others besides.

And, I guess, it has a reputation. Or its fans do, anyway.

The blogger in question, one Glen Weldon, tosses off gems like this:

The Book’s Premise: (Included here in case your circle of friends does not include even a single person who listened to Morrissey.)

and:

It’s not fair to judge a work by its fanbase, of course, no matter how insistent (and/or overfond of Egyptian eyeliner and deep cuts from the Tori Amos catalog) they may be.

Sigh.

I mean, painting with an overly broad brush is fun and all, but…must you?

I love Sandman. Like many, many other comics fans of about my age, it was one of the very small handful of comic books that made me realize there was more to comics as a medium than the X-Men and Batman (not that there’s anything wrong with the X-Men and Batman). I’ve never in my life worn eyeliner. I can’t think of any circumstances in which I would voluntarily listen to Morrissey. I wear black t-shirts sometimes, but not exclusively. I’ve never bought anything at Hot Topic and it seems like a fairly safe guess to say that I never will.

It’s a funny sort of recommendation Mr. Weldon gives. He wants to tell people to give the book a try, but he wants to make it clear that he’s not one of those people, with their black nail polish and pleather pants and bad black dye jobs. It’s not fair to judge a work by its fanbase, but hey, nothing could possibly be more fun than being all judgmental about the (at least slightly fictitious) fanbase itself!

Seriously, whether all Sandman fans are creepy Goth weirdos or just, y’know, “intelligent bipeds capable of understanding comics who like Sandman,” as Gaiman himself wrote, why does it matter? Why can’t you just talk about the comic and leave the snarky too-cool-for-school asides out of it?

I also don’t really get Weldon’s assertion that Sandman’s “barrier-to-entry is remarkably high.” What’s so hard about it? You go to the library or bookstore, pick up the book with Sandman and a big “I” on its spine, and you start reading. What’s so hard about that? You start reading it, and either you like it or you don’t. I mean, literate, intelligent and multi-layered as Sandman may be, we’re still not exactly talking Finnegans Wake here, y’know? I disagree with the assertion that it doesn’t get going until Book VIII, “The Kindly Ones,” but that’s just quibbling about the book itself. Still, Book I features “The Sound of Her Wings,” a very fine story. Book II features “Tales in the Sand” (a great story in its own right and crucial for the set-up of the excellent Book IV, “A Season of Mists”), and “Men of Good Fortune.” Book III features “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and the World Fantasy Award-winning “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” And if the aforementioned Book IV doesn’t hook you, there’s no way you’re sticking around for four more volumes to get to “The Kindly Ones.” I think you’re either going to like it early on, or you’re not. And if you don’t like it, that’s fine, but that’s not the same thing as it being impenetrable or having a remarkably high barrier-to-entry.

None of which means it’s okay to be a wanker about the book’s ostensible fans.

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