Marvel NO: Redux…Two?

I have to admit, I’ve been extremely encouraged over the last couple weeks by the responses I’ve received from people on a variety of the things I’ve written. I never really know for sure where the line between “sobering observation” and “eye-rolling emo pity party” is, and I know I’ve danced on and over it before. So whenever I post something negative, and receive feedback from people which says, in effect “thank you for putting into words the things I’ve been feeling for a while,” it serves as a sort of justification that I’m not just moping for the sake of it in my own subjectively awful haze. Sometimes things actually do suck, and sometimes I identify them accurately. That’s pretty nifty.

On the other hand, it does make attempting a change of heart or finding a middle ground rather difficult, because people who stand by you and cheer you on for taking a difficult stance may feel betrayed if you ever take a less extreme stance down the road. Words like backpedaling and compromise become loaded with a stigma, which is unfortunate because it should be praiseworthy for a person to admit they went a little too far. The alternative is being goaded into a corner and making indefensible statements that you don’t even personally believe in, maybe never did.

I wrote “Uncanny Marvel NO.” in a fit of passion, incensed at the notion that…well, I think it’s fairly blatant what had angered me to anyone who read it. It served a purpose. It spoke my mind and it said a lot of things I consider very true. And because it was a response to someone else, it was timely, and I can’t know for sure what waiting a few days would have done to my clarity or my arguments.

Still, I do wish I’d gone back and read the previous “Marvel No” entry first.

Because I would have discovered a shocking parallel between the events that led to yesterday’s blog and the events that led to the Redux one. In both I noted the cyclical, abusive nature of my relationship with Marvel. But whereas Uncanny Marvel NO encapsulated my resolve not to let myself remain a victim no matter how much I want to keep reading Marvel books, Marvel NO: Redux encapsulated the weakness that follows the declaration, and the very crawling back I called inevitable in Uncanny. It encapsulates precisely how I feel today, seeing people talk about how fantastic today’s new issue of All-New X-Men is, being reminded that that awesome all-female X-Men book comes out in a few weeks, and wanting almost desperately to just say “screw it” and go ahead and end my little “boycott” before I’ve even begun.

I’m actually a bit terrified at my own self-awareness. I wrote this the first week of January, but I may as well have written it this morning:

Here I am, having teetered on the edge of actual — that is, clinical (and I know the signs, because I’ve been there before) — depression because of what Marvel is doing. I’ve had, comparatively, the highest-profile split I could have. And yet rather than saying “good riddance” and moving along, I find myself actually wishing I’d said nothing, glancing through the proverbial store window at the latest Spider-Man or Deadpool stories, and knowing deep down that I’ve already given up. Everything I said last week was true, and that’s not enough to keep me caring.

So what, right? This is no great moral victory or loss. I think we can all roll our eyes a bit and say, “well, that just happened,” and then a month from now I’ll be talking about this great thing Chris Yost is doing in Scarlet Spider, and none of us will think twice about it.

Yes. This is precisely how I feel. “Everything I said…was true, and that’s not enough to keep me caring.”

No one was watching when I wrote those words in January. A lot more people were watching yesterday. Many of them voiced their support and solidarity.

And as I sat there today, wanting to renege, I started to ask myself some questions. “No great moral victory or loss,” I said in January. As I mull it over, I ask myself: so if, after all this ranting and discussion, I were to just give up right now and continue reading Marvel comics as if nothing had happened, what exactly would that mean? Would it make me a hypocrite? Or is there a line between hypocrisy and a changed mind? Or has my mind not changed at all, just my resolve — and if that’s the case, is weakness the same as hypocrisy if it entails not being able to follow through with what you planned to?

Furthermore, whom would I be letting down? Myself? The people who stood up for me and agreed with me? Both? Neither? And if I’m hurting myself, why is it that I don’t care nearly as much about that as I do about looking like a liar? If people supported me because they wanted to see me do what made me happy, then wouldn’t they support me regardless of my decision? Or was my abuse parallel so shockingly accurate that I only think reneging will make me happy, but in fact I really am setting myself up to be abused for years to come?

This seems so ridiculously unimportant because it is, at the end of the day, a matter of whether some random guy living in a suburb decides to buy a couple comic books or not. This isn’t the same as domestic abuse. But from a psychological perspective I can’t help but wonder how different it actually is. Confronted with the reality of my situation and the duplicity of my desires, it’s still taken everything in me today not to give in. I’ve even spent some time trying to reinforce my decision by making it clear in various contexts that Marvel is no longer in the picture for me. But tonight, sitting here, I wonder if that was all just a hideous case of denial, and before I knew it I was looking through Facebook pictures of my ex through rose-tinted glasses. Maybe it’s because of that tint that I can’t see the bruises that are still on my arms from yesterday’s fight.

I’m at the point where I legitimately don’t know if I want resolve to go through with my boycott or an okay to surrender and run backwards on my own word. The only thing scarier than that reality is the fact that my acute awareness of it doesn’t make it any less of a reality. And suddenly I realize that an abuse victim isn’t a victim because they don’t know they’re being abused, but because they don’t have the strength to get out of the situation. Recognizing that kind of weakness is hard, and it’s a vulnerability — particularly because it involves the tractability of my word — which is honestly very difficult to own up to.

The excuses I made for myself a few months ago still sound incredibly attractive, maybe even flat-out true. Acknowledging the ultimate futility of one person boycotting a company as large as Marvel, I suggested pursuing creators whom I respected regardless of the books they were writing or the companies they were working for. One easily produces a ridiculous hypothetical situation for making that sound easy: if my best friend were to start writing X-Men, would I really refuse to read it because it was a Marvel property?

That’s not going to happen, but the principle remains intact: supporting the person who’s producing the work and trying to remain blind to the entity which ultimately has the power to make them stop or change what they’re working on with impunity.

So I return to the spirit of the protest. With Arena it was to try to pressure Marvel into changing its course. But this is more like an addict trying to wean himself off of a life-controlling substance. The thing itself may not be innately harmful, but overexposure or dependence definitely is. So if my boycott isn’t a moral one so much as an endeavor to protect myself from harm I could have avoided by not growing too attached, then it would not be unreasonable to permit myself “safe” stories — contained arcs, for example, or maybe even stories with characters who are already dead and thus I don’t have to worry about them being ruined just after I’ve come to love them.

Or if I could simply cauterize my emotional connection a bit — get myself to the point where I, like the many who have either ridiculed or simply been disappointed by me, could appreciate a story without caring so much when things went badly. In the abusive relationship analogy, it’s a matter of either walking out, or (if I am capable) refusing to let myself be a victim — asserting myself, becoming stronger, and not letting Marvel have all the power over how I feel at any given time. If I can stay happy in spite of the bad, or stay angry (when it’s useful) in spite of the good, then a life-long cold turkey diet is hardly necessary. I don’t know. I really don’t.

I know most people don’t care but out in deference to those who did speak up on my behalf I feel compelled to let people in on my (long-winded and scattered) thought processes and at least acknowledge that I feel more conflicted about it than my original words might have let on. And I guess to some extent it’s also a cry for help, a petition for advice. I have no way of knowing just how much stock anyone out there put in what I said. Maybe no one really cares. But I’d hate to look like a turncoat to someone who just got really excited to finally have someone fighting on their side. And I’d hate to make a decision which ultimately allows me to get more hurt down the road, and look back, and know that I could have prevented it.

I said yesterday that this was probably my last chance, and that if I got over it “Marvel would own me for life.” So I guess the question is, was I right? Is it possible for me to assert myself here and maintain some form of relationship? Or will I doom myself to submission by lessening the hardline nature of my originally-proposed stance?

I’m serious. I honestly do not know.

Set Your Watch & Warrant On It

It’s crazy to think that it has been — let me verify — almost three weeks since I last posted here* while sitting alone in a student union building 400 miles and a seeming lifetime away. The fire I spoke of hasn’t had a chance to erupt, but then the embers have heated rather than cooled, so this still isn’t exactly a story of failure.

The last few weeks saw me more or less focused on a single thing: the GRE. It actually got to the point where I no longer cared how I fared on the exam because even a complete bomb would be outweighed by the sheer relief of no longer bearing a doomsday clock over me every day. Despite all the people saying not to worry so much about the test, I couldn’t help but remember the words of one advisor who saw my performance as the true determiner of my eligibility for the funding I’m relying on. Those words still echo, still have me contemplating a retake. But I’m not ready to reset that clock. If another GRE is on my horizon, it’s at least a little bit distant, and will never resume its place in the forefront of my mind.

That space is now, as it were, available for rent, and that’s where this post (or, more accurately, the mental gymnastics I need to go through to articulate anything here) comes in. A month ago I promised something concrete. Not mere musings of a plan but something definite, something predictable, something to which I could be held accountable. That means more deadlines, it means measure of performance, but also productivity and a refusal to backslide like so many times in my past.

Admittedly, there is one complicating factor. The thing to which I must dedicate myself the most over the next couple months is the sort of thing not easily quantified or externally expressed: the grad school search. It will probably take me a week or two before I understand what that process looks like and how to streamline it in a way where goal-setting makes sense (i.e. “check x number of sites per day,” “contact x number of faculty per week,” etc.).

It’s worth noting (as I did to a friend the other day) that this is my first college search proper. I broke all the rules when it came to Grove City College: I didn’t look into the programs, the school’s reputation, the faculty, the job placement statistics, etc. I also didn’t look at any other schools. Not one. I read one brochure, visited one campus, applied early decision, got accepted, and attended for four years. In retrospect I am incredibly blessed. My failure to look at or apply to so much as a single other school means had GCC not taken me, I’d have been going to community college for at least a year. I can’t expect that sort of providence this time around, which means I’m starting from scratch at something most people have at least taken a trial go at once in their lives. Suffice it to say: if you’ve been through this process (particularly recently), I am very, very open to advice.

That said, I promised myself that coming home one last time would only make sense if I truly took advantage of the opportunity it afforded me to actually develop as, well, a real person, learning to shop on a budget, to cook for myself (or a family), to handle repairs and maintenance on things like my car. Perhaps my biggest challenge has been, and will continue to be, proper balance of leisure time. I am prone to excess and fixation, a reality both debilitating and ultimately untenable. There’s nothing wrong with, say, Borderlands 2, but there is something wrong with having played it for 26 hours in the past week (thanks, Raptr) at the exclusion of any other game, movie, book, or, say, going for a hike or (hello?) writing a blog or two.

The best way I can see of making myself diversify is if there is some external measure of success for others to see. If the only consequence of failure is letting myself down, then I’ll probably fail because, in the interest of honesty, I’m inured to that particular consequence. So, less because I think the world cares for my opinions and more because putting them out there forces me to have opinions, I am officially going to commit to the following:

  • 3 devotional posts per week (MWF)
    • EDIT (10/22 5:03 p.m. EST) – I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I don’t have nearly enough insight to warrant this one in particular. I am modifying this to be once per week, on Tuesdays, and I’m still not sure what I thought this would look like.
  • 1 album per week (published Mondays)
  • 1 photo-shoot per week (published Wednesdays)
  • 1 film per week (published Thursdays)
  • 2 books per month (published on the first and third Fridays)
  • 2 games per month (published on the second and fourth Fridays)
  • 1 game-culture post per week (published Sundays)

Now, I am also considering doing a weekly vlog. Those few of you unfortunate enough to have been subjected to my previous vlogging attempts will either be pleased (yay, schadenfreude time!) or petrified (oh god why please no) at the prospect. Still, I think it would benefit me greatly to develop the skills associated with the process, regardless of the level of success the finished products actually reach. Video editing and webcasting are huge and growing aspects of the Internet (particularly of the gaming community), and while I don’t have any plans to acquire streaming tech in the near future I think having a general working understanding of how to write for and produce a several minute video would be quite useful. If nothing else, it might improve my ability to achieve brevity.

Speaking of which, I haven’t done that today, and if you’re still reading I’d just like to thank you. If you’re actually looking forward to any of this, please let me know; historically, I tend to do better work when I believe other people care.

This publication process begins now, which means keep your eyes on (or, dare I say, subscribe to) Deus Ex Ludus for Sunday’s post. Monday I’ll post thoughts on anberlin’s new album, Vital.

Cheers!

*To be fair, I did write a fairly lengthy post on faith, games, and time travel last week.