I suppose this'll fall under the heading of "I'm Not As Clever As I Thought", but oh well. So yesterday I read this post, and it got me thinking about why fans don't give up on books sooner. I'm all set to do a post, when I notice that Mike Sterling at Progressive Ruin touched on the topic on Monday. Damn and blast! But screw it, I'm running with my post anyway, because I think I go in a slightly different direction from him.
So the question remains, why do we keep reading books we're not liking? Being a bit of a pessimist and cynic when it comes to people, my first thought was we enjoy suffering. So basically we'd rather read a book we hate and complain about it, than read a book we like and rave about it. I don't think that's true because a) I don't think you take up a hobby or interest with the goal that it will hurt you (with some exceptions) and b) that's depressing, even for me.
I think Mike hits on part of it in his post, that we form attachments to characters or titles, and we hang on because we believe things will turn around, they'll get better again. I've looked through my comics, I know this. By all rights, I should have dropped JLA after the story where J'onn unlocks his true Martian and nearly destroys the world, because it's the last one I enjoyed, but I kept going another 20 issues, because I figured things would get back to that level. Oops. At least I got out before that Harras story. The trick is, that's a case of there being a previously established enjoyment level that the reader wants to see reached again. What's the deal with a book like New Avengers, which granted, I thought had a good premise, but never really got into it strongly? I think the answer lies in similarities in the mentality of comic readers and sports fans.
In sports, there are the fans who have that one team that they root for. They've followed it for years, whether because it was the local team, or the one their parents cheered for, or whatever, and they have a strong attachment to it, no matter how bad things go. Look at Cubs fans. I read their blogs, there are people who've been suffering with that team since World War 2. Heck, look at me. This year marks the 13th season I'll be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals. Talk about your exercise in futility. Like the New Avengers, there was never really a moment of awesomeness to make you believe this was really something good. I mean, the first year I rooted for them they went 7-9, and they've only beaten that record twice in eleven seasons since. I've seen them win a playoff game, only to see the QB throw 24 interceptions the next season as they crash and burn. There isn't really that past reservoir of goodness for me to draw hope from. Just like with New Avengers. So what keeps us coming back?
I think it's a matter of pride. I've been asked, usually by my father who rooted for the Cardinals when they were still in St. Louis, why I stay with them, and I tell him that I know that one day the Cardinals are going to be good, and when that happens, I want to be able to say I never bailed out on the team, that I stayed through good and bad. Let's be honest, that's just idiotic. I mean, why would it matter? What, I don't want to be lumped in with the bandwagoners, who would have started calling themselves "fans" in the last two months? It shouldn't matter, but it does.
Comic fans, develop that kind of strong connection to a character, or a team, or a writer/artist, and we refuse to give up on them. We want to continue to give our support, even when they aren't really earning it. It distinguishes us as 'true' fans, and not the *rolls eyes sarcastically* trend-followers, who just buy whatever Wizard tells them to. We're the ones who can sit there and say 'Yeah, well I kept buying the book even through the Ronin arc.', and get the suitably impressed gasps and nods. Which is probably pretty dumb, since the people following the "hot" books probably find it much easier to drop what they don't like, saving themselves considerable distress and annoyance.
So, that's what I've got. Thoughts? Impressions?