With Further Ado #304: Same as it Ever Was : Toxic Fandom

There were a few online conversations recently that discussed the nature of Star Wars fans. On one side of the argument, Star Wars fans are categorized as crabby and inflexible, disliking all of the official recent adventures. On the other hand, there’s a school of thought that corporate owners “just don’t get it”, and that they are ruining the property with their clumsy attempts with new material.

And sometimes it gets really nasty.

Toxic Fandom is – unfortunately – a real thing. Conversations, forecasts, and analyses can quickly become judgmental, angry and ugly. Maaaan..I miss the old days when everyone was friendly and nice.

But wait! That might not have been quite the case. Maybe there never were any “good old days” when fans were happy, kind, and complacent. Here’s why I think that.

This past weekend, a comic shop near Buffalo, NY had an amazing sale of a longtime fan’s treasures. He had recently passed, but quite obviously had amassed, and hopefully enjoyed, an astounding collection. I rescued quite a few Avengers items from this “unveiling” sales event.

No, no, not those Avengers. These were books and fanzines all about the 1960s TV Avengers, from the UK. This weekly show was extraordinarily popular, and is still fondly remembered by folks like me. It mixed the prim and proper genteelness of British culture with the violence and sexiness of spy thrillers.

One of the absolute gems I rescued was an issue of an Avengers fanzine called En Garde. These mid-sixties fan-run “magazine” – I use the term loosely – was edited, assembled and copied by one fan who would then send all the copies out to this list of 600+ other fans – for seventy cents each.

Kind of like a Reddit community or Facebook group, but printed on paper.

This issue is like a time machine. One can almost picture folks sending their typewritten contributions to the editor though the mail, and then having him hover over a Xerox machine. Featured in En Garde #5 are fan illustrations, including two by Gene Klein, who would later become Gene Simmons of KISS.

Getting to the point, there were a LOT of nasty bits from angry fans in this issue.

For example, just like today, some fans adamantly preferred the older episodes:

“Who has ’Americanized’ the English show THE AVENGERS? The first two shows of this season have been so far below the quality of original shows that it’s ‘ unbelievable* We want THE AVENGERS back, but only in the same form as before.

Who wants second-rate when first-rate has been proved available?”

It’s hard, for me to, to understand that some fans are upset the show switched to filming in color! (Or colour, as it were.)

“The obvious visible change in the new series, of course, was that it was in colour. With the increasing- demand for colour programming on CBS, TV,
the series was literally forced to adopt production in colour in order to make the stateside sale. This is not the place to go into a detailed technical discussion on the differences of the techniques of filming in colour as opposed to black and white, but suffice it to say that there are differences.”

Another fan commented on the recent Avengers paperback novelizations:

“Just read “The Afrit Affair’, in the Avengers paperback series by Berkley. Pretty good for a change. At least it read better than the things by that idiot Garforth, He had absolutely no real feeling for the series.”

One fan, SF 16535 of Canada, had some interesting observations of comics and comic-cons of the day? And keep in mind that old fashioned typewriters didn’t have spellcheck. Not that I’m making excuses for this guy:

One of the first people I saw while I was down at the Con was Jim Steranko of Marvel Comics. He is the fantastic writer and artist who puts out tie[SIC] comic ”SHIELD” Since taking over the comic, Steranko has introduced a love interest for the hero, Nick Fury, She is tall, good-looking, deadly in a fight, and a top shot. She also has this one name problem as she is only known as “The Countess”. Now she is probably as close as we are going to get to having the AVENGERS in comics. A nice idea, though.

I also talked to Danny O’Neill, who has just taken over writing WONDER WOMAN. He plans on doing away with the young ladie’s superpowers, and giving her a crash course in judo and gung-fu, Then add “mod” (skin-tight) clothing and a private eye and away she goes. Sound familiar? This transition of hers is just starting and the comic is still available in the stands.

Together these two comics are bringing back the completely competent females as per Mrs. Peel. Maybe we should keep an eye on them.

I’m not the only one who finds these fascinating. (By the way, that brilliant Copra creator, Michel Fiffe does too!) If you want a deeper dive, there’s a site that scans and shares these old fanzines. Here’s the link for this one: https://fanac.org/fanzines/En_Garde-Schultz/eng05.pdf .