“The biggest problem in comics is comic book fandom. By definition, the fan is single-minded, not interested in exploration and an open mind. This is dumbing down and deviation up.” – Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko wrote many essays in his later years about the destructiveness of the comic book industry and particularly that of fans. As one would expect, may people took exception to this, acting as if Ditko was somehow too wrong or too mean because of his words, but they missed the entire point of what he was saying, and it’s because of the single-mindedness in the quote above that they can’t get past their own hangups.
Ditko isn’t saying you shouldn’t like and enjoy art, obviously that’s not the case for a man who dedicated his entire life to pursuing it. But when it becomes a fan situation, it’s an obsession, a craze, in biblical terms it would be considered idolatry. That’s the problem with modern comic book culture where fans end up being something that stifles creativity rather than helps propel an artist further in creative works.
The fan wants everything to stay the same, the “illusion of change” as Jim Shooter often pointed it. New works have to be familiar, regurgitations of what came before in order for the fan to be satisfied. They’re never happy with anything new, anything non-derivative, anything created.
It’s a regression as Ditko often pointed it where a fan-man gets turned into a fan-boy, a childish display where they can’t have anything other than the way they want it. If the creator, the one working and producing art, makes even one misstep in terms of what the fan deems “right”, they’ll not only abandon the creator working, they’ll do everything in their power to try to torch and destroy their careers in online public forums.
That’s the world where we’re at today because fans treat works like they own them, rather than the creator owns their own art. It’s exacerbated and encouraged by the corporate copyright structure which propels this with different media properties, of course, and it brings out the worst elements of human nature.
It’s why over here I always try to cultivate readers and friends, not fans. Artists can’t put themselves into positions where they’re beholden to others with what they create, or they will not be creating art out of passion, which is where the greatest work is truly made.