March 12th, 2009 at 12:08 am

No Comment, FTW

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Five million comments and reviews of Watchmen hit the blogosphere last week, and the only thing most of them could agree on was the writers’ fascination with the size of Dr. Manhattan’s fission pole. Personally, said member didn’t strike me as being particularly big (see old joke with the punch line “Your mama’s spoiled, son”); the commentary did, however, add fuel to my suspicions regarding a lot of the attitude on display behind so many of those anonymous handles…
NO CLASS, NO CLUE, NO SPINE: There are a few blogs out there with comment threads that are actually worth reading, either due to judicious administration or the fact that those particular sites tend to deal in subject matter that doesn’t attract the developmentally halt and emotionally lame. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the intelligent contributions come from people who maintain their own sites and have to organize their thoughts on a regular basis; one can disagree with their positions and still appreciate the fact that they’re trying to say something more substantive than “Whoever we’re talking about today is a dick.”

(There’s one category of commenters not included in this critique: the parade of sycophants who turn up on the personal sites maintained by writers and artists. They live to rub up against perceived greatness by making meaningful contributions like “Love it! More, please!” – which is pathetic but harmless. They get a pass today.)

The same can’t be said for the majority of comment threads, which too frequently turn into gathering places for nasty little dumbasses.

The situation certainly isn’t limited to the comics sites. Surf the general news sites and blogs and you’ll find a staggering number of people who feel compelled to pointlessly append comments slandering Democrats, Republicans, religions and entire racial groups onto stories about fashion or archaeological finds. But even that daily parade of mainstream Jukes and Kallikaks pales in comparison to the braindead sniping without a cause that marks a large percentage of comics blog comments.

The Platonic ideal of said sniping showed up in last week’s mass tantrum responding to a pair of posts on Christopher Bird’s The subject was Marvel writer Peter David’s perceived role in shutting down the Scans_Daily group on LiveJournal, and the howls of deprived fanboys rose to the skies in one massive cracking tenor.

Boiling with impotent nerd-rage over the loss of their pirate site, they dogpiled on Peter D. for having objected to people uploading his stuff without permission and saying nasty things about him. Apparently, David had been engaged in an ongoing flamewar with some of the Scans_Daily readers for some time – being a pro doesn’t automatically make you a grownup – and finally got fed up enough to complain to Marvel about the unauthorized scans. The story has it that Marvel then complained to LiveJournal, who pulled the plug on Scans_Daily.

Of course, Scans_Daily quickly found a new berth elsewhere, but that didn’t stop the tide of quivering vilification. In a trend reminiscent of the “I love Watchmen, so Alan Moore can crawl off and die” comments preceding release of that movie, a lot of commenters who went out of their way to dismiss David’s work did so by revealing the kind of painstaking knowledge that can only be gained by having slavishly followed his career.

Miles and miles of posts, and hardly a thing was revealed about Peter David, though a lot of folks managed to give away more about themselves than they likely intended. To be sure, some commenters did an admirable job of presenting reasonable arguments for both sides of the situation, but they were drowned out by the amateur snarkmeisters and sociopaths-in-training. (Note to the former: We already have an Abhay Khosla, and his stuff is funnier than yours because he’s smarter than you.)

But the single most telling comment came from one respondent who burst in with the exasperated cri de coeur: “Jesus Christ, typing Fuck You Peter David on the internet is not the same thing as personally insulting him.”

No further comment seems necessary.

Steven Grant’s 3/4/09 Permanent Damage column, hopping on the week’s Watchmen trend to deliver some intelligent perspective on the themes and legacy of Moore and Gibbons’ work.

THE WEEK’S MOST UNEXPECTED SHOUT OUT: Scott’s Classic Comics Corner column on the Comic Book Resources site, with some long-overdue love for Dell Comics’ inimitably oddball early ‘60s zapgun series Space Man.

THE WEEK’S SWEETEST POST, HANDS DOWN: Marv Wolfman gets a letter from Jerry Siegel.

Next week: Watchmen having been beaten to death, the blogosphere crosses its legs and moves on. (Okay, probably not.)

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