Notions Preconceived Can Lead to Utter Madness
I really don't know where the hell we are.
1. Once upon a time there was the comics blogosphere. Lots of smart and funny people who created blogs to write about comics. It was really cool. Now, though, it's... well, it's not over, because many of the titans of the field are still keeping on keeping on, just like always. But it's not the same. Was it ever as much of a community as I thought it was? Or maybe it was and I was just never in it? Maybe it still is and I'm still not in it. Which I can live with. But... I don't know.
2. Let's do this theoretically.
Here we have a comics company, So Cool Comics. Their flagship title is We Are Not Born, and it's a very good comic book. The primary creator on WANB is a person with the initials ZZ. ZZ is generally liked and respected and is strongly identified with both WANB and So Cool.
Here's the problem, though: it turns out that a little while ago ZZ did a very bad thing to a person with the initials QQ. QQ is also generally liked and respected, not that that matters, but just to set the scene. The thing ZZ did was very traumatic for QQ, and QQ is not doing so great in dealing with it. The facts of this event have all come out and there is no controversy as to the truth of them. ZZ has apologized and, so far as we know, taken lifestyle steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again; ZZ and So Cool have issued statements, legal avenues have been pursued to their conclusion, and QQ has gotten as much satisfaction out of the situation as there was available. The thing that happened has finished happening, and everybody's best understanding is that ZZ isn't going to do anything like that again. The only thing that hasn't been resolved is that QQ is still having problems and does not feel like things have ended well, but QQ is getting appropriate help and there's no way anything else is going to change.
As for WANB, ZZ is still in charge of it, and it's still as good as ever, although there's nobody else working on it who could be perceived as being on QQ's "side", to the extent that there can really be sides in this. And... looking back at some of the early issues of WANB... some of the stuff that a couple of the characters say... it seems a little creepy now if you read them in the context of what happened between ZZ and QQ. But that could be just us.
So where does all this leave us? Like, you and me us, the readers or potential readers of We Are Not Born.
Trick question! It doesn't matter where it leaves us, because the only really important thing here is QQ coping with the consequences of ZZ's mistreatment. Who the hell cares about us? Including us! This is the fate and health of a person we're talking about here, and everyone else can sit down and shut up.
Okay? We clear?
And that's it. That's the bottom line.
Except of course it's not. Oh, for QQ it is. But QQ's course of action is straightforward here: get better and find a way to move on. Easier said than done of course, but at least everyone understands that that's what the deal is, even if we don't fully grasp what goes into it.
But we, the fans, are in a much more comfortable but less well-defined position. It's not at all interesting or important, really, except that it's our position and we have to figure out what to do in it. Just because nobody gives a crap what we do doesn't mean that we know what to do.
Here are some of the questions facing us. Do we continue to read We Are Not Born? Or any comics published by So Cool? Can we continue to like ZZ? Do we forgive ZZ?
And my problem is I honestly don't know the answers.
Take the last question, 'do we forgive ZZ'.
On the one hand, forgiveness is generally regarded as a good thing. Not just a good thing, but a necessary thing: without forgiveness, we might as well have the death penalty for every crime. If the penalty box only has a one-way door on it, eventually we'll all be in there.
On the other hand. Where the hell do we get off forgiving ZZ? ZZ did a terrible thing! That QQ still isn't over! And that's okay with us? If we forgive ZZ, then that's a signal that we don't care about QQ, that ZZ might as well do the same thing again to somebody else, that anybody might as well do the same thing again to somebody else. It's also a signal to people similar to QQ that we are not going to be there for them if ZZ or whoever does something bad to them going forward. Forgiveness is... well, isn't it a lot like permission?
There are a lot of dead ends in this discussion. "Well, wouldn't you want someone to forgive you, if you were in that situation?" If I was in that situation? I wouldn't dare hope for forgiveness from anybody. I suspect I would not accept it if it were offered. But, again: easy for me to say. "You have to separate the artist from the art." Well, you can't. Or else, you have to. I don't know.
There's really only one thing I am confident of in this discussion, and that's that saying, "Well, screw it, everything's just terrible, I guess," is wrong, whether it leads you to rejecting everyone or disregarding any reason to reject anyone. That kind of cynicism is a privilege that's better not being exercised; not everyone is in a position to disengage and it's exactly the people who can who generally shouldn't. Let's stick with it, let's keep our hands on the wheels of our judgment, and if we get it wrong, then we'll know for next time. I guess. I don't know.