Thursday, April 06, 2006

My baby's got a secret (Lilys' version, not Madonna).

One of the stranger things about becoming involved in “the industry,” even to such a small extent that I am – somewhere off on the edge of wherever the real industry professionals live, where they can look out with their jewel-encrusted binoculars at people like me, and watch as we dance as they throw us scraps of news or spoilers like Comics’ Own Dian Fossey – is that you hear things. Not voices, because that hasn’t happened for years, and I’ve never seen dead people no matter what anyone says, but little tidbits. Gossip. Rumors. Secrets.

Knowledge is power, of course, especially in a fandom like this, where people like Rich Johnston and whoever’s doing All The Rage this week are treated like celebrities not because of what they’ve done, but because of what they’ve heard from someone who knows someone who used to intern at Marvel. I’m not necessarily putting down that kind of behavior because, God knows, I’m as bad as most of them if not worse, but still… There’s this unusual emphasis put on secrecy and insider knowledge and “I know something you don’t know” in comic fandom that just seems to be taken as a given, these days, and it’s something that you suddenly become aware of when you know something that other people don’t.

First of all, when you realize that other people don’t know what you know – which isn’t always obvious, because sometimes you find out these things in such an offhand way that you only realize that most people didn’t know when it suddenly becomes public knowledge and causes uproar weeks later – then it’s not unusual to suddenly become overwhelmed by the incredible urge to go and tell lots of people just to show off. It becomes a potential status symbol, whatever this pearl of wisdom is, and there’s no use in having a potential status symbol that no-one else knows about. What kind of status does that give you? What use is that?

(There is a comic creator who is infamous for telling people secrets of upcoming big event comics, including his own. He sends emails to friends with art and scripts and plots even though he knows that he shouldn’t, because his publisher wouldn’t want him to let everything out of the bag, but still. It’s like he’s compelled to do it, to show how in the know he is. Those people who receive the emails with art and scripts and plots that they shouldn’t have but do send them to their friends, or at least send out more emails, hinting at what they know and what they’ve been told, and their friends get those emails and want to know more and feel jealous that they’re not as cool as their friends because they don’t know this comic creator and don’t get emails like that all the time. I mean, I’m jealous of those people because I don’t get emails like that all the time, and I don’t even really like the comic creator I’m talking about.)

(And there, I’m doing it already. Hinting at what I know, this rumor about the comic creator that I’m not mentioning on purpose because I don’t want everyone to know what I know. Well, that and the fact that I don’t think said comic creator would like the attention if I mentioned his name, and that doesn’t seem like a good way to suddenly appear on his radar… But I digress.)

The worst thing is having the greatest gossip and not being able to share it for whatever reason – Normally, in my case, because it wouldn’t be great for the person who shared it with me in the first place. Whenever that happens, I always read the rumor columns for weeks afterwards, waiting for the story to appear, for someone to spill, just so that I can say “Well, I knew that ages ago…” with a tone of practiced boredom. Before I started doing Fanboy Rampage!!!, back when I was entirely out of any kind of loop, I had this idea that Rich Johnston was somewhat psychically attuned to each and every piece of interesting gossip that had any comic-related interest at all. In my head, no matter what happened and where, he’d magically know about it and put it in a column for me to get my fill of semi-celebrity juice. Imagine my disappointment, years later and with my little pure heart twisted into something cynical and black, to go through Lying In The Gutters every week and fail to find the stories that I thought everyone knew about creators having bar fights with editors, or Machiavellian moves from creators trying to swindle and talk each other out of work. In cases like those, I always like to presume that Rich still knows about all those stories and more, and doesn’t share them to protect the innocent. Or his mates. It’s small lies like that that help me get up in the morning and make it through the day.

The sad thing about the secrets of the comic industry is that the ones that are genuinely secret are pretty dull, in the grand scheme of things. They’re the ones that rely on your fannish nature to be of any value at all, because otherwise you wouldn’t care about what happens at the end of Civil War or who the creative team on Action Comics is going to be. The truly amazing rumors and gossip don’t really count as secrets anymore, because they’re so good that everyone already knows them: which comic creator likes to engage in hand-to-anal activities with prostitutes dressed as his own characters, for example, or the so-infamous-they’re-almost-back-to-boring-again IM chats of certain other creators. They’re the truly successful rumors, the ones that don’t require a knowledge of certain comics continuity or backstory to understand, but in an industry and community as small as comics, they’re also the ones that just can’t be kept secret for too long because there just aren’t enough people or lines of communication for something like that to go around without it covering everyone sooner rather than later. It’s depressing and comforting, at the same time. I mean, it shows that, despite any and all divisiveness that you see online or hear about in hushed tones at cons, people all want to hear the same old shit. But at the same time, it also shows that I can’t lord it over anyone by telling them about underage hookers and men with beards who wrote the comics they grew up reading.

Life is so unfair sometimes.

And all of the above is what I do on the day when I find out something that I’d really like to share, but can’t, because it wouldn’t be great for the person who shared it with me in the first place. Well, I had to do something to keep myself busy.