You guys know Burning Man just finished up?
Maybe this is a bigger deal to me than it is to you, living in San Francisco as I do, but I’m plugged in to the creative community and I gotta tell you, human nature is the same no matter where you go or what you do or with what tribe you identify.
I’m going to assume you all know what Burning Man is, or, failing that, if you are reading this article you have a functioning computer with access to Google and can take a quick minute to plug in some ones and zeroes for your own edification.
Broad strokes: alternative culture beach party turned New Age chaos rave turned Mad Max cosplay turned mobile art installation circus sex drug desert prankster underground stargazer hot springs enthusiast mecca. It started down the street from my house in 1986 and moved to the playa in 1990.
And ever since the beginning of it, like DC thinking Marvel was ruining everything in the Sixties, to the B&W explosion of the Eighties, to the collapse of distribution and the rise of the Direct Market culminating in seventeen distributors going away and leaving Diamond holding the tightening bag in the 90s, to the rise of Independent publishers making OGNs a viable commercial category in the Naughts to whatever is happening now… everyone who was there for you a bit before thinks everything is ruined now, and it was better in the Old Days, and right now… RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND… it’s the End Times.
Burning Man moving to the playa ruined the whole thing.
It used to be a Solstice Ritual with an emphasis on community. But even that first one, a bunch of people showed up to see the bonfire of the Burning Man on the beach and ruined it.
Live music in the desert? Ruined it.
Pranksters and earnest seekers and performance artists doing their thing but having ravers show up? Ruined it.
Telling your friends about it until it became almost a religious pilgrimage? Ruined it.
Hippies and anarchists and bohemians all blamed each other until the tech bros started flying in on corporate jets. They ruined it.
Camps and butlers and WIRED and parents bringing children and FedEx trucks. Ruined it.
Groups and strangers and The Other and trespassers all make everyone defensive and paranoid. They ruined it.
First it’s here and then it’s gone and everything is ruined.
Things are in flux.
Different every year, every month; in the age of social media, a news cycle can last the time it takes you to burn a piece of toast. Different every hour. Outrage is here and then it is gone. But there are as many definitions of ruination are there are people.
I think Hollywood politics has ruined Star Trek, although there are plenty of people who disagree.
I don’t think anyone will ever draw Thor comics better than Walt Simonson’s run, so thanks, Walt; you ruined other artists on Thor for me, although late at night you can get me to agree Arthur Adams doesn’t embarrass himself.
I think dropping ice in single malt can ruin friendships.
So, sure, it’s human nature to choose sides and split into tribes and go, Red Sox, and Yankees suck, and all. People have been clotting together for whatever reason since we all came down out of the trees. That’s human nature, and it’s never going to change.
Which reminds me; back when Hector was a pup, the writer David Gerrold had a column in Starlog, and he finagled his way onto the set of Battle For The Planet of The Apes and wrote about the experience.
The thing that stood out to me was an observation he had about standing around filming, and breaks. Where actors and extras dressed as chimpanzees would hang out together between shots; guys dressed as gorillas, the same. Orangutans, sipping mai-tais and bumming smokes from each other. But they’d take off their masks, and there’d be white guys and African-Americans and whatever hanging out regardless of what they looked like, underneath. They were just all guys.
So that’s comics, 2018.
There’s a lot of turmoil… but there’s always been turmoil.
Comics is always getting “ruined” by companies or format changes or a wind change in taste… but there’s always some new outrage. Nobody’s ruining anything. You may not like one thing or another, but we’re all just smart monkeys under the masks. These days, no kidding, it sure does seem easier to point at another tribe and not want to share the waterhole.
If it isn’t how you like it, just drown it out.
Not by yelling louder, but by doing it better.