By Superherologist - February 22, 2008
As part of the ERIICA Project (Empirical Research on the Interpretation & Influence of the Comic Arts), Dr. Travis Langley (a.k.a. Papa Llama around here) conducted a series of interviews asking comics creators and other entertainment industry pros about fan behavior. At WonderCon in San Francisco, he spoke with a number of comics professionals, beginning with the guy who killed Superman.
Okay, my name is Mike Carlin and I am the Senior Group Editor at DC Comics. I killed Superman a few years back, so you psychologists might have something to say about that. And it’s okay to record this.
Q. What has surprised you about fan behavior?
Mike Carlin: Nothing because I used to be a fan. I’ve been going to conventions since I was a little kid, my mother used to take me to the conventions, and I’m used to it. I am surprised that fans haven’t really changed over the years. I think that the material has changed over the years. The comics have changed, there’s obviously more sophisticated comics out there, there’s more different kinds of comics, but it still seems to draw in the same kind of person, which is a person who really takes the fantasy worlds very seriously. I would imagine that video games have fans up the same alley and gaming fans are also very similar as well. So I guess that it surprises me that there are still so many similarities to what I, and before me, Roy Thomas, thought about comics.
Q. How has fan’s behavior changed over the years?
Mike Carlin: Well, I think the fans’ behavior hasn’t changed so much as the immediacy of the venue they have the internet in particular. It’s a place where people can instantaneously share their loves or loathes about any material that has come out. And it’s usually, in most cases, more negative than positive.
Q. It’s easy to spit them out.
Mike Carlin: It’s faster and may be honest, but it’s done so behind a mask. Nobody’s putting their name out there, they’re wearing their secret identities with their screen names, and they’re not necessarily saying what they would say to any creator’s face if they bumped into them at a convention. So I think that that venue has opened up a lot of behavior that might have been there in the back of the comic book shop or the comic book club, but it’s so in the world that it becomes a little more real that obviously factors in more than I wish it would.
Q. So you’ve been doing this for a while, at this point in your career what does it take for you to feel or act like a fan? Who does it take for you to go, ‘Oh my god’?
Mike Carlin: It’s always a thrill to me to go up to Sergio Aragones and go, ‘Hey, Sergio,’ and he knows who I am. That’s always going to matter to me. It’s not so much with comics, though. You know, that kind of stuff is fun. I’m into Saturday Night Live and Kids in the Hall and Second City Television, so if I bumped into any of those guys here at a convention, that would be a thrill for me. A lot of those people in Hollywood are showing their faces at these things, so I do get to bump into them more often than not and that’s a thrill.
Q. Yeah, I get to interview surprising people like Bobcat Goldthwait. Of course, his answer (to the question on what surprises him about fan behavior) was ‘I’m surprised anybody recognizes me now.’ So how do you handle when fans are rude?
Mike Carlin: It depends. Sometimes I’m rude back. It really does depend. Obviously it’s in my interest to not start off rude, but if somebody is hassling me or a line of fans who like something and they are being more contrary or negative than they should be, I’ll let them know that they shouldn’t be so rude. Sometimes that doesn’t go over so well or sometimes they get it.