Catch-up time: Scans_Daily was, until today, a Livejournal community where fans posted and discussed scanned excerpts of comic books. I’m pretty sure it began (in 2003, according to Google’s cache of the userinfo) as a spinoff from some other community along the lines of Depp_Daily where fans posted and discussed photos of male hotties. In the time I followed it, S_D’s volume grew to the point of dozens of posts per day, and I had to “de-friend” it to keep all my other friends’ posts from getting choked out.
Today Livejournal suspended the community. It’s unlikely to return in that form. Brian Cronin has a piece up on CSBG@CBR, suggesting that writer Peter David may or may not have had something to do with it. Peter David posts an account of his involvement. Johanna D-C’s round-up includes a link to writer Gail Simone’s thoughtful response. [Edited to add: Brigid Alverson has another interesting response].
A lot of fans are responding to the news with accounts of how S_D persuaded them to buy comics they otherwise wouldn’t have. That’s the case for me — I followed the community from something like 2004-2007, and I certainly wouldn’t have shelled out $50 recently for the American Flagg! hardcover if not for a Scans_Daily post by Warren Ellis pointing out various formal innovations Chaykin used on a single page of the first issue (the “1996!!!!!!!!!!!!!” page). During that time I was also director of the Reed College Comic Book Reading Room, and a fair amount of our $4000 annual budget was influenced by the online chatter on S_D and the blogosphere.
When I started working for Top Shelf, I posted an excerpt of Alex Robinson’s Lower Regions (a Top Shelf book) to the community. Since it didn’t feature Green Lantern and Aquaman humping each other, it wasn’t a wildly popular post, but it caught some attention from RPG gamers and Alex Robinson fans, and Alex himself showed up the comment thread to interact with them a little bit.
A friend (in a private post) grumbled today about the dismissive attitude of certain commenters (“oh well, it was full of bitching and slash anyway”), declaring that reaction to be part of a broader discomfort that many male fans have with the feminine form of fandom. In response, she more or less said “a man in S_D feels like a woman in a comic shop.”
[Edited to add: I should clarify that the comments below use S_D as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion — I admit I haven’t visited the community in at least a year, and I can’t defend or attack whatever it may have become recently, or the reasons for its removal.]
I remember being pretty shocked at the culture of S_D when I first discovered it years ago. It was a thriving community of fans interacting with superhero comics in an entirely different manner than I was used to. But it didn’t feel like “this is how they do it on the internet,” it felt like “this is how they do it when women are in charge.” I soon decided that superhero-comics-fandom (as represented by S_D) was a subset of fandom as a broader entity — that these folks were performing more or less the exact same practices (fanfiction, slash, icon design, roleplay, claiming) on Green Lantern that were being performed on Harry Potter and Stargate Atlantis and every other entertainment property in the world, to some degree.
And it felt weird. I recognized these characters and these images, but they were looking at them in ways that I had never imagined. It felt, now that I think about it, a lot like visiting a Sunday service at the black church across town (part of the annual swap that our churches held on MLK weekend, our token response to MLK’s observation that “at 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and ‘Christ has no east or west,’ we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation”). We were reading the same book, but in a vastly different manner.
It’s remarkable to me how segregated superhero fandom is. There’s “masculine” fandom (largely on message boards?) and “feminine” fandom (largely on Livejournal), and seldom do the twain meet.
I’m not very interested in superheroes these days one way or the other, but I appreciate what fans see in them — both kinds of fans. It seems to me that other sorts of fandom have been able to integrate themselves more successfully — despite the fact that anime and manga are explicitly categorized as “for girls” and “for boys,” they seem to coexist peacefully at conventions and online, and there seems to be a great deal of overlap. Contrast that with your standard comic shop or convention.
I think there are valuable tools and insights to be had from both of these approaches to the material, and I do wish for a little more intercommunication.
Edited again to add: Lisa “Ragnell” Fortuner has some passionate but helpful thoughts up on Robot 6, summarized in a comment to her own post: “This is a matter of legal murkiness, not gender hostility. One you react to by decreasing your profile or just ceasing your activities, while the other you react to by increasing your profile and stubbornly continuing your activities. Surely, you can see the difference here and the disastrous potential.”