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I love comic books, too. They’re awesome. I get plenty worked up sometimes about what goes on in the pages of my favorite books because they’re not doing it right! I get it. I’ve devoted countless hours to these characters. Heck, I’m the guy who ran a New Warriors fan site for years, tracking the chronological order of every random appearance, no matter how minor. And I did it completely without irony! So I get the emotional investment we have for these characters.
I also get how fun it is to use social networks. I use Facebook a lot, and Twitter, too, and it’s easy to get riled about something you see posted there. There’s no ‘dislike’ button to click so sometimes you just have to vent. And sometimes it feels like a regular old “how could you?!” just isn’t enough, that it just doesn’t get across how deeply you disagree with a plot development.
Regardless, none of that justifies sending threats. Dan Slott has received some extreme reactions to the leaked details of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 that go so far beyond normal fan griping that I wondered just what could’ve provoked such a backlash. So I reviewed the leaked information, and I have to say my response was, “That’s it?“
I’m not saying you can’t hate the story (or more accurately, in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man #700, someone’s weak description of the story). I don’t love it, but it’s not significantly more offensive than any other status quo shake-up that happens in comics (and invariably gets restored). Superhero comics are serialized storytelling, so they’re going to goose things now and again. Either you decide to see how it plays out or you cut your losses and spend your money elsewhere. And sure, pitch a fit about it: Complain to the creators, to the editors, to retailers, to fellow fans. You might even win them over to your position. However, death threats are only going convince someone you need psychiatric help or a visit from law enforcement, whether or not you meant it as a joke.
The response is no better than those who flipped out over a panel referencing the Tea Party in Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Captain America a few years ago (the writer ended up shutting down his public email address). Or the rumored death threats that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby received for creating Captain America in the lead-up to U.S. involvement of World War II. Yes, comic creators receiving threats isn’t really a new thing, but the immediacy of social media seems to have heightened it. Editorial cartoonist Matt Bors was inundated with offensive attacks when news outlets like CNN misreported the identity of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School as his older brother, who happened to be Facebook friends with Bors. Those sending the threats most likely weren’t comics fans but instead people worked up into a frenzy by their favorite rabble-rouser of choice. However, it doesn’t matter whether the sender is a fan or not, the results of how the creator’s life is affected aren’t any different.
Simply put, the changes made to the fictional life of a comic book character — even one as beloved and iconic as Spider-Man — aren’t worth threatening the real life of the creators behind them.