A post from my Marvel blog of years ago in which I talk about the tipping point at which a particular series becomes popular.
Before I start in on today’s topic, let the record show that it was Jim McCann who at the Reading Circle a week or so ago made the point about the question of the believability of magic being largely a matter of semantics, as outlined in my last blog post.
All right, so here’s another larger issue conundrum to grapple with: why is it that when something hits a certain threshold of popularity, if becomes fashionable to bash it?
Certainly, there are those series or programs or entertainers or what-have-you that lose their edge once they hit the big time, where there’s an obvious qualitative difference between what they did on the way up and what they’re doing now that they’re on top. But I don’t think the situation is as simple as that-and I think it has a lot to say about our own sense of self.
Everybody loves finding that strange niche thing that really speaks to them in some personal way. This is especially true among comic book readers, contingents among which preach the gospel of Quasar, or Spider-Girl, or Black Panther, or whatever. We love to find that cool flavor that’s a bit off to the side that gives us a very specific kind of a hit. This is particularly true at the point where we’re becoming a little bit bored or jaded with the mainstream.
Now, typically, one of two things happens when this occurs. Most often, the title in question has a small but very devoted following, but not enough to keep the series viable over the long haul, and it goes away. And then, for years afterwards, its hardcore devotees ask for more of it, and hang on every scrap of an appearance by its leading characters. But the opposite happens as well-the series develops a broader, larger following-and then, seemingly suddenly, it isn’t any good any more. It’s lost that special quality that defined it for us in some almost-intangible way. And, in fact, the more popular it gets, the more embarrassed you get about admitting that you like it, or liked it, or ever liked it.
Is this all just a function of each of us wanting to feel special, like an insider that’s smarter or more in-the-know than the average person? Or is there more to it than this? And why is it that the most popular things in pop culture are almost always the ones that are ridiculed and torn down by the most hardcore devotees (including those that once loved it, in many cases)? Beyond that, why does it become fashionable? Is this simply a way for those people who are more cynical and worldly and faux-sophisticated to maintain their interest and connection to a particular thing while seemingly standing in opposition to it? I don’t know the answers, but it’s a fascinating question.
I think there may actually be two issues here that I’m dancing back and forth around, so depending on what shape my thinking takes over the next day or two, there may be more on this matter in the days ahead.