I was recently reminded of the differences between a person’s online persona and their real-life personality during an online kerfuffle I was pointed to that involved Spider-man writer Dan Slott.
Now, I think very highly of Dan’s writing, and we have had some pleasant email exchanges in the past. Like many pros, I knew he had had some rough online exchanges with readers online (I count myself in that group). But I didn’t really know the details except some people I trust were very disappointed.
A while back, I got the opportunity to go to Australia for a couple cons, and Dan Slott and Ethan Van Sciver were there, so we spent a lot of time together. And Dan comes across as one of the kindest people ever, very generous.To a fault, really. I promise I’m going somewhere with this, by the way. :)
One day at the con, a guy stood in Dan’s line, between Ethan’s line and my line, and when he got up to the front of the line, he said something really horribly rude right to Dan’s face. I don’t recall the words, but it was very strong stuff. He had stood in line just to say how much he hated Dan’s Spider-man AND that he hated Dan personally, as well, for that reason.
It turns out that he had been posting genuinely awful stuff about Dan (because he didn’t like Dan’s Spidey work) for a long time. Dan knew instantly who it was (we all have a few people like that). Now, only the weeniest of pros freaks out when someone doesn’t like their work. But when someone follows you around, trying to get others to hate you, it just gets a little weird.
Anyway, Ethan, who has zero patience with rude people, looked over at me, and we expected a bit of anger. Instead, Dan was incredibly patient and kind. He defended his work, but he did so graciously, he didn’t respond to insult with insult.
The guy kept going. He just kept insulting Dan. I am patient with that stuff, but even I was baffled. Nice people waiting in line while Dan takes all this time with a guy who is REALLY being a jerk? Ethan was getting VERY impatient.
I finally said to the guy, “Listen, Dan gets it, you don’t like his book. Noted. Move on and let other people through.”
Ethan was ready to throw the guy out if need be.
But Dan kept talking to him, the guy eventually admitted he’d been overdoing it, and DAN HUGGED HIM AS HE LEFT.
The guy left smiling, Ethan and I were baffled. :)
Now, I am not defending whatever Dan did online. I don’t know all that story to do that. But the real human being Dan seemed to be ridiculously patient and kind the entire week I spent with him, even when facing people who genuinely seemed to bear him a serious grudge over his writing of Spider-man.
I thought it was pretty impressive.
I have seen pros be jerks to readers, both online and in person. I’ve been a jerk to a reader more than once myself, when they have been really aggressive or misleading (in my opinion…doesn’t make lashing out right, either), or if they have said ignorant things about race, sexuality or gender, as happens sometimes.
But I have also seen endless kindness from pros to readers and vice versa. It does seem like the internet makes people more confrontational and dismissive in both directions.
One of the MOST joyful things in comics is getting to talk with readers at cons, and I’ve seen many pros go out of their way to brighten a reader’s day.
I’ve been rambling, but I’m always happy to hear of GOOD interaction between pros and readers, whether its online or in person.
So, my question to you is…do you have a story or anecdote from a time when a comics pro (or genre personality, whatever) was kind to you, or generous, or helpful? Was there a time when someone whose work you admired ever brightened your day personally?